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California Wildfires; Flooding in India and Laos; Pakistan Election; Cohen's Public Breakup with Trump; Omarosa Pens Tell-All Book on Trump White House. Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired July 29, 2018 - 00:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Parts of Northern California going up in smoke as wildfires lay waste to entire communities. Two children and their great-grandmother have now been confirmed dead. We'll be with the California Department of Fire Protection in a moment.

Rescuers fighting through rain and mud in remote parts of Laos, looking for survivors from a dam collapse earlier this week.

Former cricket star Imran Khan wins Pakistan's general election, defeating the country's two main political dynasties. He'll still need a little help to form a government, though.

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


VANIER: This fast-moving deadly wildfire in Northern California is torching everything in its path. Police say they have never seen a blaze like this before. The Carr fire has scorched nearly 33,000 hectares.

It leveled entire neighborhoods and forced tens of thousands of people to flee. More evacuations were ordered when the blaze nearly doubled in size overnight. High temperatures and erratic winds are fueling these flames that have already taken five lives.

Dan Simon has more on the latest victims.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We now have the first confirmed civilian deaths associated with this fire, 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe and her two great-grandchildren, 5-year-old Emily Roberts and her brother, 4-year-old James Roberts.

They were in a house and were unable to leave as the flames raced through their neighborhood. We're told by a family member that Bledsoe called her husband at work to say that the fire was getting close and he needed to come back as soon as he could. That was the last anyone had ever heard from them.

The family checked hospitals. They checked evacuation centers and then late this afternoon they got word that the bodies had been recovered.

In the meantime, you can see where we are. This is called the Keswick Estates subdivision. If you look around, you can see that nothing is left. Whole neighborhoods have disappeared as a result of this fire.

Unfortunately, in terms of the outlook over the next few days, things do not appear to be getting better. This fire is just 5 percent contained, the weather remains hot, triple-digit temperatures today and over the next several days. Humidity is low.

And then at night the wind really gets going. And so firefighters fear that there could be more destruction -- Dan Simon, CNN, Keswick, California.



VANIER: We're on the line now with Cal Fire deputy chief Scott McLean.

Could you describe what the warning system is, the protocol for residents in those areas?

How do they know when they have to leave their homes?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CAL FIRE: There are several different things in Northern California used by the local law agencies. In this case, it's the reverse 9-1-1. Others, Lake County to the west of us, is what's called a residential (ph) program.

These can be set up on you cell phone as well as your hard line.

VANIER: So reverse 9-1-1, means they get a call from you or from the department saying it's -- ?


MCLEAN: Yes, it's from law enforcement.

VANIER: Is the biggest fire the Carr fire still growing right now?

MCLEAN: It is. The stats just came in this evening. It's looking like 83,800 acres are being reported with still 5 percent containment. The fire continues to grow and it's now moving to the north and more to the south.

VANIER: Is it growing at the same rate as last night over -- the reporting is that over the last 24 hours, it doubled in size.

MCLEAN: Right. It was at 48,000-plus acres evening before last. And then this morning it came just over 80,000 acres because of the (INAUDIBLE) making in different directions in different areas.

VANIER: So what's the priority at this hour?

And right now, it is 9:00 pm local in California.

What do the firefighting teams have to do now?

MCLAUGHLIN: Keep in mind that, over the last several years, fires have been acting as if they were burning during the daylight hours at nighttime. We used to have a little time where we could assume that the fire, because of the lower temperatures at night, higher humidities, the fire would do what we call lay down and become less active.

That way we get onto those firelines a lot closer, get those lines in at night that needed to be done to mitigate the progress of the fire.

Nowadays, those fires are burning just as aggressive as they do during the daytime. So what we do is we pick a point to make a stand. Make sure we get out ahead of the fire so we're going to be (INAUDIBLE) large lines and then --


MCLEAN: -- in some cases we can actually fight fire with fire and burn off that vegetation between the fire and the lines we put in.

So there's a lot of things that take place right now.

VANIER: So just so I understand how it works, when you say pick a point to make a stand, so you're going to choose one area, you're essentially going to draw a line in the sand or in the forest and say, well, the fire can't go past this line.

Is that what I'm understanding --


VANIER: -- devote your resources?

MCLEAN: Right. It has a lot of components come into play. We're not going to do something, what we call midslope because that fire is just going to roar up that hill and go through and go under and around anything that we put in its way.

So we might take a ridgetop and work on the lee side. You might wait for the fire to come into a meadow or into valley where we get those resources in there that we need. And it's easier to cut line in those area and easier to set fire in those areas (INAUDIBLE).

So it's an all thought-out process, whenever the winds can be predicted, once the weather can be predicted, what resources do we have. So a lot of -- like I said earlier, items, a lot of items, a lot of thoughts come into play.

VANIER: All right, Scott McLean, deputy chief of Cal Fire, thank you so much.

And our thoughts go out not just to the communities that are affected but also to the firefighting community. There have been several deaths your own community. And they're out there, trying to save lives. So --

MCLEAN: They're still fighting the fight.

VANIER: Absolutely. Our thoughts go out to them and to you. Thank you very much.

MCLEAN: I appreciate it. Thank you.


VANIER: So Scott McLean, the deputy chief, was explaining that terrain is one of the major factors in how you fight these fires or at least contain them. One of the other key -- perhaps the key factor is weather.


VANIER: Monsoon rains are triggering deadly floods in Northern India. Authorities are telling Reuters that at least 60 people have died and dozens have been injured since heavy rainfall.

Lighting (ph) and flooding began on Thursday. Monsoon rains are a lifeline for farmers across India. But they can also be deadly.

Military and rescue workers are trying to reach more than 3,000 people trapped in flooded villages in Laos. They are also searching for more than 100 people who are still missing after the catastrophic collapse of a dam. Dozens of people are dead. Thousands of homes are destroyed. CNN's Paula Newton has the latest.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Babies are carried to safety from a remote village. Soldiers wade through the water looking for survivors. Tractors are used to evacuate people to higher ground.

Rescue efforts continue following the collapse of a hydroelectric dam in Southern Laos on Monday. Many are feared dead or are missing and more than 6,000 people are now homeless.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was looking for my elder brother and younger brother. They went back to our old house to pick up something from the village but they weren't back by noon. I was --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): -- panicked and worried I wouldn't be able to find them.

NEWTON (voice-over): The dam was still under construction when it buckled, releasing 5 billion cubic meters water, causing massive flooding and sweeping away homes and roads.

One of companies working on the billion-dollar dam project, South Korea's SK Engineering, has been helping in the relief effort. The country also dispatched a 20-person disaster relief team to assist with providing blankets and clothing and also helping the injured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no big hospital around there and there is a little liftings of so (ph). We are going to open a medical office to see the patients. And also we are cooperating with a provincial hospital to some practice of there.

NEWTON (voice-over): More than 3,000 people are still awaiting rescue, according Laos state media but the damage isn't confined to Laos. The government in neighboring Cambodia announced the evacuation of 25,000 people from their northern border, where waters are rising to 12 meters -- Paula Newton, CNN.


VANIER: And at least 10 people were killed when a strong earthquake struck an Indonesian island east of Bali and not far from a volcano. Local officials say a citizens of Malaysia is among those killed. The magnitude 6.4 earthquake caused significant damage, as you can in this video.

The tremor had a shallow depth of about 7.5 kilometers. U.S. officials say the impact should it be relatively localized. No tsunami advisories, fortunately, have been issued.

The path to power looks clear now for Imran Khan but he's not Pakistan's prime minister yet. Why the cricket legend faces new political challenges -- when we come back.




VANIER: Let's get the latest from Pakistan after Wednesday's general election. We had been waiting for the results. Election officials say Imran Khan's Movement for Justice Party won the most seats in Wednesday's election.

Khan declared victory days ago but doesn't have an outright majority. He's still set to be prime minister but it does look like he's going to need allies and build a coalition. Khan rose to fame as a cricket star and he's seen as being backed by the military.

It's been one of the main criticisms of his campaign. Many of his rivals say the vote was fixed and they are refusing to concede the results.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The all-parties conference has unanimously and totally rejected the election held on July 25th. We do not consider this election to be the mandate of the public but a robbery of the people's mandate.

We reject the claims of those people who claiming victory as a result of this election and we do not want to give them the right of governance.


VANIER: Michael Kugelman is a senior associate for South Asia at The Wilson Center. He joins me now.


VANIER: Michael, what is Imran Khan's Pakistan going to look like?

He promised a lot during his campaign.

MICHAEL KUGELMAN, THE WILSON CENTER: Oh, yes, he's promised the moon. He's essentially said he's going to eliminate corruption, that he's going to create millions of new jobs and do all kinds of ambitious things.

I would actually argue that we really need to keep our expectations in check as to what he can do. For one thing, he's never held national power and neither has his party. He's going to face a very angry opposition because many of the other political powers in Pakistan have alleged rigging and fraud at the election.

He's going to have a lot of trouble pushing through even modest initiatives, much less these ambitious ones that he's promised. So it's really hard to say exactly what he's going to do. But I think we really have to keep our expectations in check.

VANIER: Yesterday on the program we actually heard from one of Imran Khan's ex-wives, Reham Khan, who's also a journalist. She's very critical of him as a politician and she says he doesn't live up to his own standards of anti-corruption and anti-cronyism.

Do you think to some extent he may have duped his voters?

KUGELMAN: I do think there is something to say for the fact that, if you look at the various civilian leaders that have run Pakistan in recent years, there clearly is a lot of corruption.

Compared to them, Imran Khan, like everyone else, certainly has his blemishes, I'm sure. But, you know, he projects himself as incorruptible. He may not be 100 percent incorruptible.

But compared to these other types of leaders that Pakistan has seen coming from its major established parties, you know, he really is a breath of fresh air. I think that was his big message and it really won over a lot of the supporters.

So I don't think he was duping people in that sense.

VANIER: In that case, why wouldn't he be able to clean up public institutions and to fight corruption?

Why do have to keep expectations low, then, as you were saying?

KUGELMAN: Corruption is something that can't just be eliminated at the snap of a finger or the flick of a switch. It's going to take decades. In a country like Pakistan, where it really is entrenched and of course Pakistan is not the only country where this is the case.

You know, he's -- he's inexperienced. He is someone who is, naturally, unproven but he's also known to be rather unpredictable and mercurial. And another challenge he will face is the powerful military in Pakistan. He is very close to the military.

But at the same time, the military expects its civilian leaders to be pliable and to defer to the army in many contexts. Imran Khan is the not the type of leader that would want to defer to higher authority.

So I think there could be potentially some friction, which could make his work all the more difficult to carry out effectively.

VANIER: That's going to be a very interesting dynamic to watch. You know that one of the biggest criticisms of Imran Khan and his campaign was he was seen as the candidate favored by the military.

Why would they want him as prime minister as opposed to any of other two parties, that had run the country for decades?

KUGELMAN: That's a good question. I would actually argue that Imran Khan may not be the best-case option for the military in the sense that, again, is he unpredictable. He's not pliant. Military may not be able to trust him.

But for the military, the main objective was to ensure that the previous party, the PMLN Party, run by Nawaz Sharif, did not return to power simply because the army clashed repeatedly with Nawaz Sharif, who had been prime minister previously in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif did a number of things, such as accusing the military of not doing enough to crack down against terrorism.

That really angered the military. So the military simply did not want an electoral outcome that would result in the PMLN returning to power and I think the military saw Imran Khan and his party, the PTI, which is the most popular party, outside of the PMLN, really saw the PTI as the best possibility to ensure that we wouldn't be seeing another five years of PMLN rule in Pakistan.

VANIER: Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at The Wilson Center, thank you so much for joining us.

KUGELMAN: Thank you.

VANIER: Coming up, long-time Trump confidant Michael Cohen breaks from his old boss. We'll discuss why he is doing it and what risks it poses to the president.




VANIER: The dramatic falling out between President Trump and his long-time attorney, Michael Cohen, now appears irreversible. One of Mr. Trump's lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, says the president's legal team and Cohen's legal team have stopped sharing information, including documents and witness interviews.

The mechanism for such cooperation is known as a joint defense agreement or JDA. But Giuliani says the JDA between the Trump and Cohen legal teams has not been in effect since Cohen hired a new attorney last month.


VANIER: Larry Sabato joins me now. He is director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and a friend of the show.

Larry, for a while, Michael Cohen was really quite discreet but now he's deliberately grabbing the headlines, signaling that he could be a threat to the president.

Why is he doing this?

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: I think he felt abandoned and this is classic behavior by someone who is being investigated by a tough crew of prosecutors and recognizes that, if he doesn't play his cards right, he could be in jail for a very, very long time.

VANIER: Now Cohen says that Trump knew about that infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting, where his son went into a meeting, expecting to receive dirt on Hillary Clinton from the hands of a Russian lawyer.

If this is proven true by Michael Cohen or someone else, where does that leave Donald Trump?

SABATO: Well, it leaves him having lied about something very, very important. And normally that would matter for a president and a presidency. But, of course, not for this president. It simply joins the hundreds, if not thousands, of other lies and misrepresentations that he's told since the day he was inaugurated.

So I don't think it will hurt him in a public relations sense. His base, his cult is set. They're with him. What happens with the prosecutor is another question entirely.

VANIER: But does it show intent to collude on the part of the Trump campaign?

SABATO: I think it does. Of course, the problem for prosecutors is collusion is not crime. So you have to find something else if you're going to give Congress enough information, potentially if there's a Democratic House, to impeach Trump. But there's not a Democratic House. There's no chance of that happening, whatever is produced.

VANIER: It might not be a legal crime but it still sounds like a political sin. I know you said he's bulletproof with his base but he needs a bit more than his base if he ever wants to get re-elected.

SABATO: That's certainly true. Depending on the structure of the candidacies in 2020, if there are three or four major candidates -- and there could be -- then he'll need a lot less.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't think that he would welcome this. I think he would look for opportunities to prove Cohen wrong.

What I think we're all waiting to see is what does Cohen have to corroborate this claim. He says other people were there. I suppose he could name those other people. Then they could be interviewed by the special counsel if they haven't already been.

But that is not a smoking gun.

VANIER: I want you to listen to Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his shifting public pronouncements about Michael Cohen over time. Listen to this.


RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP ATTORNEY: He doesn't have any incriminating evidence about the president or himself. The man is an honest, honorable lawyer.

I expected something like this from Cohen. He's been lying all week, I mean, or for -- he's been lying for years.


VANIER: So before, it was Michael Cohen is very honest. Now it was Michael Cohen's always been a liar. I'm no lawyer but that doesn't sound like he's mounting a great legal defense.

SABATO: No, you get the impression that he comes in relatively unprepared to many of these interviews. He enjoys them, he's done them for decades. But I don't think it always comes across always terribly well.

I'll tell you why Giuliani is representing Trump, they're two of a kind. They have the incredible mental ability to separate what they're saying today from what they said yesterday or what they'll probably --


SABATO: -- say tomorrow. You know, most people have a difficult time doing that.


VANIER: Kind of like a superpower, you say then. All right. We'll --


VANIER: -- we'll settle for that. Larry Sabato, thank you very much.

SABATO: Thanks so much, Cyril.


VANIER: Here's a name you haven't heard in a while: Omarosa Manigault-Newman. She abruptly lost her job at the Trump White House late last year. By some accounts, she was even escorted from the grounds under less than dignified circumstances.

Well, predictably, she has written a tell-all book about her experience. CNN's Jeanne Moos has looked into it and word of mouth doesn't exactly scream best seller.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No more nodding at the president's words. No more smiling alongside him. Omarosa is on the attack with "Unhinged."

When she left the White House she said --

MANIGAULT: It is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.

MOOS: Profound wasn't how the publisher described it. A stunning tell-all and takedown, explosive, jaw-dropping.

UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: She said she has a story to tell, I'm sure she will be selling that story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she will. I'm fully sure.

MOOS: She sold to it for under a million dollars, a source tells CNN. As for the title, it's word Omarosa once used about a fellow contestant.

MANIGAULT: Jen's losing it. You know, she's just completely unhinged.

MOOS: "Unhinged" might be aimed at the White House, but as one tweet put it, full props for the title for her autobiography.

Online commenters competed to convey the degree to which they couldn't care less.

I can't wait to not read this. I will be first in line to not buy this book. You lost me at Omarosa.

But it wasn't lost on Omarosa that teasing out nuggets about her White House experience on "Celebrity Big Brother" could stoke interest.

MANIGAULT: Like I was haunted by tweets every single day. It was not going be OK. It's not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you vote for him again?


I feel like I just got freed off of a plantation. Hallelujah.

MOOS: Unfortunately, we don't have any advance excerpts from Omarosa's book, but one commenter imagined this sneak peek. Me, me, me, me again, more me.

Remember Omarosa's immortal words?

MANIGAULT: Every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.

MOOS: She may have to bow a lot after "Unhinged" is unveiled next month, though the president seems proud when his detractors hang unhinged on him.

TRUMP: He's totally.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody kicks Omarosa out the White House.

MOOS: -- New York.


VANIER: And we bow down to Omarosa's marketing acumen.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I've got the headlines for you in just a moment.