Return to Transcripts main page


Russia Investigation; California Wildfires; European Heat Wave; U.S. economy; World Leaders Gather in South Africa; Trump Threatens Turkey; Chilean Officials Admit to Questionable Adoptions. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired July 28, 2018 - 04:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Two tales of the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer. The U.S. president denies knowing about it ahead of time but his former attorney says that is a lie.

A now deadly fire is tearing across Northern California, destroying homes as firefighters battle to contain it.

And a CNN exclusive: a woman whose family says she was stolen as a baby is reunited with her parents after 36 years. That is all ahead here.

Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen and CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: Our top story, U.S. president Donald Trump fighting back against the latest accusations from his former attorney, Michael Cohen. The president on Friday again denied having prior knowledge of a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between his top campaign advisers and Russians.

According to our sources, Cohen says the president knew about it. If Cohen is telling the truth, it could be problematic for the White House. There are at least 20 instances over the past year, in which Mr. Trump and his advisers have said Mr. Trump was not aware of the meeting. Here are just a few examples.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST: Did you tell your father anything about this?

DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: It was such a nothing. There was nothing to tell.

JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Here's what happened Donald Trump Jr. put it all out today. It's all out --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you know at the time that they had the meeting?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn't know anything about the meeting.

SEKULOW: Let's focus on what the president was aware of. Nothing. He was not aware of the meeting.

TRUMP: It must have been a very important -- must have been a very unimportant meeting because I never even heard about it.

D. TRUMP JR.: I wouldn't even have remembered it until you start scouring through the stuff. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.


ALLEN: This meeting took place almost two years ago. It is easy to forget how the whole story unfolded and also easy to forget how the Trump camp has repeatedly changed its story about what happened that day. For more, here is our Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On June 3rd, 2016, in an e-mail from publicist Rod Goldstone, Donald Trump Jr. is promised incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

His response, "If it's what you say, I love it," especially later in the summer.

Six days later, Don Jr. met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower. Joining him, Trump's campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

When "The New York Times" broke the story last year about the secret meeting, Don Jr. didn't initially disclose the intended purpose of the meeting. Instead, he said the purpose was to discuss the adoption of Russian children.

But the very next day when "The Times" broke the news that the president's son was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Don Jr. issued a statement saying, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were supporting Ms. Clinton. He also said the lawyer changed the subject to adoption.

Two days after the story broke, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders denied the president had any prior knowledge of the meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did the president learn that that meeting had taken place?

SARAH SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY: I believe in the last couple of days is my understanding. KAYE (voice-over): The next day on FOX News, Don Jr. told Sean Hannity his father was unaware of the meeting.

HANNITY: Did you tell your father anything about this?

D. TRUMP JR.: No. it was such a nothing. There was nothing to tell.

KAYE (voice-over): That narrative worked until it didn't. The story would soon unravel. The morning after Don Jr.'s denials on FOX News, the president's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, told CNN this.

SEKULOW: The president was not aware of the meeting, did not attending the meeting and was only made aware of the e-mails very recently by counsel. I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the president.

KAYE (voice-over): A week later, a strong denial from the president himself during this taped interview with "The New York Times."

STEVE SCHMIDT, GOP STRATEGIST: Did you know at the time they had the meeting?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I didn't know anything about the meeting.

SCHMIDT: But, you know --

PRESIDENT TRUMP: It must have been a very unimportant meeting because I never even heard about it.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No one told you a word, nothing?

I know we talked about this on the plane a little bit.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Nobody told me. I didn't know anything. It's a very unimportant -- it sounded like a very unimportant meeting.

KAYE (on-camera): If that's true and the president didn't know anything about it as he says, how does he explain what happened next?

"The Washington Post" reported last July that the president himself decided to say the meeting was about adoption and dictated the misleading statement Don Jr. gave "The New York Times."

The paper said the president dictated the statement aboard Air Force One --


KAYE: -- the day the story first broke on his way back to Washington from the G20 summit in Germany.

KAYE (voice-over): Then in January this year, the president's lawyer, Sekulow, suddenly contradicted earlier claims he and the White House had made that the president was not involved in drafting his son's statement. In a letter to special counsel Robert Mueller, Sekulow said, the

president dictated a short but accurate response to "The New York Times" article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump Jr.

After reports emerged that President Trump had actually drafted his son's statement, Sarah Sanders went into damage control mode because of her own earlier statements about the timing of the president's knowledge of the meeting.

SANDERS: He certainly didn't dictate but, you know, he -- like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestion like any father would do.

KAYE (voice-over): Still, the denials about whether the president knew continue.

In September last year, when Don Jr. was asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee if his father knew about the Trump Tower meeting in advance, he told senators, "No. I wouldn't have wasted his time with it."

And that might be true and, chances are, Robert Mueller wants to find out -- Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


ALLEN: Many questions about the meeting that took place two years ago. We'll analyze that more in a moment.

But let's talk about potential current meeting with Russia. Russian president Vladimir Putin says he is ready to visit Washington. The White House, however, has pushed the invite to next year. Mr. Putin also informally invited the U.S. president to Moscow but says any meeting between them must be under the right conditions.

What might that be?

Sam Kiley joining us from Moscow.

Hello to you. First of all, these two leaders seem keen on building their relationship but perhaps it couldn't come at a worse time.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in many ways it suits the Russians perfectly to have this sort of inconsistency in Washington. On the one hand, of course, you've got the president's people under investigation for alleged collusion with Russian hacking attempts and the indictments of 12 Russian agents.

And then on the other, you've got something approaching a bromance between the two presidents, with Vladimir Putin repeatedly coming to the aid in terms of public relations of his rival or alleged supposed rival Donald Trump.

So yesterday at the BRICS conference in Johannesburg, for example, the Russian president went out of his way to say that the interesting thing about Donald Trump is that he makes good on his campaign promises, that that was an unusual characteristic of a modern politician, and was praising him. And then went on to say that, of course, he would be delighted to

visit Washington and had, at some earlier stage, the implication being, although we have got no evidence of it, maybe Helsinki, could have been earlier meetings when they met, there had been this informal invitation to Donald Trump to come to Moscow.

Now that would be a huge coup in the atmosphere or in the dispensation in which Robert Mueller's investigation is still ongoing or may have just been concluded. Who knows.

But that would be a terrific coup for the Russians to bring the American president to Moscow. But there is a sense also among Russian commentators that this has gone a bit too far. There are people now, TV hosts and political programs, saying openly that Donald Trump behaves as though he smells like a KGB agent.

ALLEN: Right. One has to wonder about the optics of Donald Trump there, visiting the Kremlin. We'll wait and see when that day comes, if it indeed does. Sam Kiley, thanks so much.

Well, let's talk more about these developments with Leslie Vinjamuri in London, she is head of the U.S. and America's program at Chatham House.

Good to see you. Always appreciate you coming on.


ALLEN: At this point can you imagine a scenario for a Trump-Putin followup summit in the new future?

What benefit would that serve?

VINJAMURI: Well, I think it would raise a lot of questions right now. Of course, the reaction to this summit was certainly not favorable in Washington. It is even not clear that it did much good for the president more generally, although the Republicans are obviously staying with him.

I think that there is -- when he gets too close to Putin, I think there is a bit of a question -- and certainly Americans, even Republicans, I think were skeptical and not pleased to see him seemingly siding with Putin over intelligence agencies.

But I think especially, in light of the current question mark, surrounding whether he was at that meeting in June 2016 and the drilling down on this investigation, that it is not a --


VINJAMURI: -- good time really for pressing forward. But nonetheless this president seems tremendously keen to press forward and having other meetings. He is holding -- he is a bit more cautious right now but we'll wait and see what he decides to do.

ALLEN: Indeed. Let's talk about former Trump confidant, lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who is claiming that the president did indeed know about that infamous Trump Tower meeting with the Russians.

If that is accurate, how significant might that be?

VINJAMURI: Well, again, first of all, there is a question of whether it is accurate and we're hearing mixed things on that. We'll have to again see what is determined on this.

But it certainly raises a very serious question, not only why is it that President Trump so fiercely has said that he was not aware of that meeting until long after the fact and that he wasn't -- that he certainly didn't sanction it going forward, why has he held to that line, why is he trying to cover up?

And it obviously raises a very serious question about collusion. But I think the other perhaps even more significant question surrounding this is the one of politics.

We're heading up to a midterm election and there is a question of, at what point will or whether it will ever really shift how Trump's base feel about this, how Republicans more broadly feel about the president.

At the moment, the investigation and much that surrounds it is being seen outside of Washington as something that is a distraction, that is taking up too much energy and too much time. We aren't seeing a lot of attitudes shift amongst the public with respect to whether they do or don't support the president, at least not visibly.

If this comes out, it might begin to increase people's reluctance, who have been on the fence a bit more, as to whether to support those Republicans who continue to support the president as we approach those midterm elections.

ALLEN: The midterm elections just seems like a complete toss-up when you consider all the things that are on the plate or next to the plate or that may come on the plate, does it not?

But you mentioned something about the president and he is really owning the narrative, though, hasn't he. Say what you want, he sticks to his PR campaign.

And he has really been relentless in blaming others and saying this is a hoax and don't believe anything you see or hear, listen to me. And for the most part, his supporters march on with him because he just continues to hammer that point.

VINJAMURI: He owns the narrative within a particular segment of the American population. And, again, this is the thing that is really important to understand about the United States today, is the degree to which it is divided amongst the public, the degree to which it is partisan in Washington.

So the president owns the narrative but in a segment of the population.

And the question is how significant is that segment and will those more moderate Republicans begin to take a step back?

They are not with him on the support, the blind support, for Putin and for Russia. But they have been with him on the question of the significance of this investigation. But that could start to change, if it looks like the president was actively supporting or colluding with the Russians on the presidential campaign 2016.

ALLEN: The president has gotten a lot of heat for the tariffs, the trade war that he has been launching around the world.

How do the allies now see this Russia investigation?

How closely is it being watched?

VINJAMURI: Oh, I think if you -- if you're sitting in London, as I am, in Europe and beyond, people are watching this. I think there is a confusion, sort of a lack of understanding as to why it is that Americans don't universally take this more seriously.

I think a lot of people see this as clearly below the standard that you would expect of an American president. But on any number of dimensions -- you raise the question of tariffs.

Obviously Juncker was in Washington last week and that meeting turned out, at least in the short term, more favorably than many expected. So there are a number of dimensions on which, around the world, we're not seeing coming out of the White House from the president, from people around him, what one would expect.

So the Russia investigations are yet another dimension. And certainly I think that Helsinki summit was a moment when many people thought that it was beyond the pale of what you would expect from an American president, to really challenge the authority of --


VINJAMURI: -- his own intelligence agencies when sitting next to Putin.

But there are so many dimensions right now that I think the Russia investigation is one that has been the primary focus has been within the United States.

ALLEN: We always appreciate your insights, Leslie Vinjamuri, thank you.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

ALLEN: One final note before we move on to other news. And you can file this in the small world category. Look who shared a gate Friday at Washington's Reagan National Airport.


ALLEN (voice-over): Seated on the left, yes, that is special counsel Robert Mueller. On the right, a short distance away in a teal shirt, Donald Trump Jr. No indication the two men were aware of each other or that they interacted but came close.

Ahead here, a deadly inferno engulfing homes, this one in Northern California. But it is just one of dozens of devastating fires across the world right now. We'll have more about it coming up here. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.





ALLEN: Devastating news for many places across the country, more than 80 massive wildfires are burning across the United States, 80. One of the biggest is the Carr --


ALLEN: -- fire in Northern California. Two people have died and two children and their great-grandmother are missing after their home went up in flames. Paul Vercammen has that story.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flames swirling and high winds and hot temperatures wreaking havoc on the Northern California landscape. The aptly named Carr fire which officials say was first sparked by a vehicle has ravaged the region since Monday doubling in size over the course of the week and it's still growing.

Deadly and out of control it is charred some 45,000 acres and dozens of structures as firefighters try to contain it. Neighborhoods scorched as smoke and fire climb through hills fueled by the dried landscape.

DOMINIC GALVIN, LOST HOME IN FIRE: No idea what we're going to do tomorrow. Hell, we don't know what we're going to do tonight.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Dominic Galvin and his wife Silvia never imagined they'd see their house like this.

GALVIN: We didn't think the fire was going to come here, so we didn't really take things out like everybody else that was scrambling like at the last minute to take things out when they saw the fire on the ridge.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Officials say more extreme temperatures are in the forecast and will only continue to make this fire all to more worrisome. It is one of several major blazes burning across the state and one of some 89 across the country.

JONATHAN COX, CAL FIRE: This is that new normal, that unpredictability, the large explosive growth fires. VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Leaving firefighters working to control the flames and limit the damage as residents race against the clock to evacuate their homes -- Paul Vercammen, CNN, Redding, California.


ALLEN: California, over and over again, we see this every year.


ALLEN: Euro Tunnel says extreme heat in Southeast England is causing very long delays for people traveling under the Channel to France. This is just another way the brutal heat wave there is making life miserable for people in Western Europe.

And it is not letting up. It is also increasing the spread of wildfires in Sweden, just like it contributed to the deadly fires in Greece last week. Erin McLaughlin takes a closer look.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fires have gone but the devastation remains. An eerie silence has fallen in this Greek village, where houses once stood, now they're just charred remains. Nothing was spared. Authorities believe arson is to blame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the first time in 38 years of --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- my service seeing so much catastrophe from a fire.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): As the blaze tore through the coastal village of Raffina (ph), many sought refuge in the water. But many didn't make it. Dozens died, almost 200 were injured.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I feel a pain in my heart, a very heavy load, a very big burden.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Greece is not alone. Across Europe, tinder dry conditions, combined with a scorching heat wave, are stretching emergency services to the limit.

In Sweden, a fire front continues to burn out of control. Even the country's air force has been deployed to help, dropping a bomb to try to starve a nearby fire of oxygen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It is not something we've done before. So we've been working closely with the rescue leader and we have done meticulous calculations.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Germany, too, is dealing with its own fires, including one which forced the closure of a major motorway. But its emergency services are also being deployed in other ways. Amid sweltering temperatures, firefighters in Cologne are being used

to water the trees, while in Berlin, the water cannon usually reserved for riot control has been brought out, this time, though, to keep the heat at bay -- Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.


ALLEN: We have some good news for you. The U.S. economy is skyrocketing but, however, the economists warn what goes up must come down. They have a new warning on the numbers. We'll share that with you ahead here.

Also China has its eyes set on Africa, what more free trade could mean for its ambitions there. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.





ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories.


ALLEN: New data shows the U.S. economy grew at its fastest rate since 2014. In the last three months, the annualized U.S. GDP was 4.1 percent. That surge is a result of a number of factors and let's look at them.

Business investment rose as companies invested some of the money they saved from tax cuts. Consumer spending and government spending both increased. And counterintuitively, concern over a trade war helped, too.

U.S. exports rose as foreign buyers stocked up on American products before they were hit with tariffs. If the economy grows at 3 percent for the entire year, it will be the highest growth since 2005.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: During each of the two previous administrations, we averaged just over 1.8 percent GDP growth. By contrast, we are now on track to hit an average GDP annual growth of over 3 percent and it could be substantially over 3 percent. Each point, by the way, means approximately $3 trillion and 10 million jobs.


ALLEN: Let's take a look at how these numbers stack up against the last three administrations. George W. Bush hit a 6.9 percent growth rate in 2003. And then the Obama administration reached 5.2 percent. And Bill Clinton's economy back in 2000 hit a 7.8 growth rate.

That was then but this is now. Earlier we spoke with financial expert Monica Mehta about how to look at the current economy.


MONICA MEHTA, ECONOMIST: I think there are two big things that people should be looking at. One is what is going to happen with these tariffs and what will happen with trade wars. I think that is actually the biggest risk factor that we're facing for the markets and for the economy.

And it can just be as little as the threat of a trade war that can make people and businesses pull back.

The second thing is interest rates. So what will happen to interest rates, are they going to continue to go up?

And at what point do short term rates get higher than long term rates?

That is what we call interest rate inversion. When that happens, almost for the last 40 years, you see this very predictable pattern of the stock market hitting its peak within six months and then another six months after that, bottoming out. It's almost like clockwork.


ALLEN: Let's look at this from a global perspective. The U.S. is threatening more tariffs but the presidents of Russia and China are promising the opposite. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping were both at a BRICS summit in South Africa this week.

The leaders signed a joint declaration promising open and inclusive trading. For years, China has sought better economic and military ties in Africa and President Xi is capping off an Africa tour, arriving Friday in Mauritius.

For more on this, I'm joined now from Johannesburg by Colin Coleman, managing director for sub-Saharan Africa and partner at Goldman Sachs.

Thanks so much for joining us.

We'll begin with President Xi Jinping of China kicking off this year's summit, critical of the U.S. for escalating tariffs on foreign products.

Is the trade war hurting emerging economies, those of the countries present at the meeting there?

COLIN COLEMAN, GOLDMAN SACHS: There is certainly concern amongst African leaders, including the South African president and his government, that South African emerging markets are potential collateral (ph) going to experience --

[04:35:00] COLEMAN: -- potential collateral damage from a potential trade war between the Goliaths in the global economy, being China and the United States. And that was expressed strongly this past week in both bilateral China-Africa meeting between President Xi and Cyril Ramaphosa and in the BRIC summit itself.

ALLEN: But is there is a way that major emerging economies, the ones that are gathered there, could actually benefit from trade tensions?

Are there ways to work around it?

COLEMAN: Well, it is very difficult because the macro impacts of rising interest rates in the United States, which you touched on in your introduction, stronger U.S. dollar means that investors are going to tend to withdraw from emerging markets and focus on the U.S.

And that creates a very difficult backdrop for countries like South Africa and other African countries. But the big opportunity for the African nations is to create an environment for Chinese manufacturing which is going to be displaced out of China as their wages increase to get effectively put into African economies.

So countries like Ethiopia are focusing on that, South Africa is thinking about export processing zones and industrial hubs to attracting manufacturing opportunities, not just from China but from all countries.

So there is, let's call it, an ongoing revision of policies with a view to, how do we take advantage of or deal with the challenges of the global tensions.

ALLEN: Right. So in some respects, is that helping Africa?

China has particular interest in investing in Africa and perhaps looking for new ways to do that, to circumvent what is going on with the United States.

COLEMAN: Well, I would say, if you just take a step back, it is already 12 years since the African presidents converged on Beijing for the 2006 summit. It is also, by the way, 10 years now, exactly a decade, since the formation of the BRICS, which saw the standard bank investment by ICBC for $5.5 billion, exactly 10 years ago, which I was closely involved in.

So you've seen an ongoing attempt by the countries to take advantage of this unfolding African focus of the Chinese. I must say, the last few years have been particularly hard for Africa because of the commodity environment, the oil price going down to below $40 at various points.

But as it has come back to its current levels between $70 and $80 a barrel, the commodity countries, the oil-producing countries in particular, have managed to stabilize; currencies have stabilized.

And so the environment for diversification from that stable point and the use of surplus oil funds is now back on the agenda, I guess. And the concept of sovereign wealth funds and mineral beneficiation (ph) and industrial diversification, including manufacturing, in partnership with countries like China and other BRICS countries, is very much on the agenda.

ALLEN: So the BRICS countries, how does the United States compare to, say, China's commitment to invest in Africa?

Where is the United States in this?

COLEMAN: Well, there was a recent visit by the head of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to South Africa, where they were investing -- looking to invest around a billion dollars in South Africa, which is positive.

But you contrast that against the Chinese pledge, if not actual investment, of $14 billion including a $2.5 billion committed loan to the state electricity utility, which is much needed at this point.

So it feels like the United States, certainly over the last decade, has upped their focus as government to government on African nations. But China is extremely tilted into the African relationship. And in terms of volume of trade, investment and commitment, they dwarf the United States at this point.

ALLEN: Last question.

Are you more optimistic than pessimistic about investment in Africa?

COLEMAN: It is certainly --


COLEMAN: -- something that is attracting global attention. And as we enter into a renewed phase of African growth, more toward 5 percent, I think we will sustain that interest. So, yes, I'm optimistic about the future for Africa, if African nations get their houses in order.

ALLEN: And they seem to be. We thank you so much. Colin Coleman of Goldman Sachs, thank you for giving us your time.

Yet another powerful media figure is accused of sexual misconduct. We will have details on the allegations ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM.




ALLEN: The U.S. president is threatening to impose large sanctions on Turkey if it doesn't permit an American pastor to return to the United States. Andrew Brunson is under house arrest. On Wednesday, he was allowed to leave jail. He was arrested in 2016 in a crackdown after the attempted coup in the country.

He says he is not guilty of charges including espionage and having terrorist links. Now a senior U.S. official says President Trump asked Israel's prime minister to help secure Brunson's release with a prisoner swap. Turkey says they never made any kind of deal.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There has been a working group that was established to address and resolve the outstanding legal issues between the U.S. and Turkey regarding both the Brunson case and the Attila (ph) case, the jailed banker in the United States.

Nothing has been reached there now. So anything that's been negotiated is being done under that working group. And there has been no such deal as was reported in this newspaper.

And our understanding is that there is a lack of coordination between the White House and the State Department, because it seems the White House's remarks came --




ALLEN: "The New Yorker" magazine is reporting sexual misconduct allegations against one of the most powerful men in U.S. television, CBS chairman and CEO Les Moonves. CNN has not independently confirmed the allegations.

The article cites incidents of unwanted advances, intimidation and retaliation involving six women. Author Ronan Farrow discussed his story.


RONAN FARROW, "THE NEW YORKER": They all continue to fear retaliation. Janet Jones, the writer you just mentioned, describes him calling her afterwards and threatening her and saying these sort of things that appear to be cliches to us.

But obviously coming after a work meeting and after an alleged assault like this, are very serious and frightening, like you'll never work again. And she and these other women were still frightened to come forward but said they were doing so because they wanted to expose what they feared was a culture of impunity. And that could protect other women if it's reversed.


ALLEN: Moonves responded saying this, here is a quote, "I recognize that there were times, decades ago, when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes and I regret them immensely.

"But I always understood and respected and abided by the principle that no means no. And I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone's career."

CBS' independent board of directors says it will review the claims and then take appropriate action.

Disney and Lucasfilm have announced the cast list for "Star Wars: Episode IX" and it includes a major surprise but don't worry, it is not Jar Jar Binks.





ALLEN: A woman born in Chile but raised in the U.S. has been reunited with her birth parents. She knew she was adopted but she did not know her family says she was stolen. They weren't the only victims. Rafael Romo reports on Chile's children of silence in this CNN exclusive.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): There were no words, only tears of joy. It is the hug that Celia Rojas Cordoba (ph) wishes she could have given her daughter 36 years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been waiting my whole life to find my mother.

ROMO (voice-over): Alisa Clare Cohen (ph) grew up in the United States with her adoptive parents. Cohen (ph) says they were always forthcoming about her adoption and the country she came from.

ALISA CLARE COHEN, ADOPTEE: The story I was told was that my family had essentially never meant to keep me.

ROMO (voice-over): But she says she always wondered if she had truly been abandoned, as her adoption documents state. She contacted Chilean authorities in February to ask for help in finding her biological parents.

She got the answer she was hoping for, her biological parents were still alive and very eager to meet her. Her biological mother says she never intended to give her up for adoption.


(Speaking Spanish).

ROMO (voice-over): Cordoba (ph) says she had a very difficult labor and nearly died.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish). ROMO (voice-over): During that time, she, her husband and other members of the family asked employees at the state-run hospital about their daughter but they never saw her again. Chile was living under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and Cordoba (ph) and her family feared that asking too many questions would put them in danger.

COHEN: With the politics at the time and adoption not being regulated until years after I was adopted -- and looking at the social worker who processed my adoption, there are a lot of things -- elements of it that were just incomplete and inconsistent with what I was told.

MORGAN (voice-over): Chilean government officials today say there were so many questionable adoptions back then that authorities now have a name for babies like Alisa.

ROMO: They are called children of silence. They're babies who were taken away from their biological parents in the '70s and '80s, in many cases without their consent or knowledge, and given to adoptive parents.

Those children now in their 30s and 40s and are asking questions about their origins and about a secret that was kept from them for four decades.

ROMO (voice-over): CNN has documented several cases of adoptions like these, including that of Travis Tolliver, who was also raised by American adoptive parents and didn't meet his biological mother until he was 41 years old.

TRAVIS TOLLIVER, ADOPTEE: I was wanted, you know. I wasn't given up willingly like I thought for all these years. So that makes my heart feel wonderful.

ROMO (voice-over): In 2015, Chilean authorities named a special prosecutor to begin investigating a list of these so-called irregular adoptions, a list reported to include nearly 600 families.

Constanza del Rio heads an organization that helps families find each other and has an even larger list.

CONSTANZA DEL RIO, SOCIAL WORKER: We have 3,000 people that are looking for them. These are adoptive people and families that are looking for these babies that were stolen from them.

ROMO (voice-over): She says, during those decades, there were entire mafia stealing babies from impoverished families to profit from their sale while the Pinochet government looked the other way or simply ignored victims.

DEL RIO: Who is responsible for this?

Doctors, midwifes and --


DEL RIO: -- social assistants that were looking for poor people to stole their kids. Because we need to understand that these kids were sold. This is not for good -- this is -- wasn't for a good thing. They were mafia, selling babies to outside Chile.

ROMO (voice-over): There were always be unanswered questions. The hospital where Alisa Clare Cohen was born no longer exists. And the same goes for the adoption agency. For now, it doesn't matter.

ROMO: How do you feel right now?

COHEN: Happy. Very happy.

ROMO (voice-over): Her adoptive parents passed away a few years ago, so she says her Chilean family and an adopted sister are all she's got.

COHEN: My mom, this is my family. You know, I think it is just -- you always want to know where you came from.

ROMO (voice-over): Neither one of them speaks the other's language. But the love between a mother and her child, they say, knows no barriers -- Rafael Romo, CNN, Santiago, Chile.


ALLEN: At least it has a good ending, doesn't it?

Actress Carrie Fisher is gone but her legacy as princess turned General Leia still lives on. Disney and Lucasfilm have announced she will appear in "Star Wars: Episode IX." The producers will use outtakes the actress shot during "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" before her death two years ago.

This newest installment of the space saga starts filming next week. It is expected to land in our galaxy in December 2019. And you can bet you we'll be talking about it until then.

The second hour of NEWSROOM begins with the our stories right after this. Please stay with us.