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Trump Team's Defense; Boxing Helps Overcome Past; Trade War Escalates with China; Family Killed in Wildfire. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 1, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In this case it would be hacking and dissemination of hacked material interfering with our election and so forth.

Rudy knows better and it is sad to see him in this way really sullying what was once a reputation for being straight and law abiding.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: So, to the Paul Manafort case. This is first out of the box. The fruits of the Mueller investigation. It is a conventional tax evasion case involving the president's former campaign manager with ties to Putin's Russia because of working for Yanukovych in Ukraine. But this is a judge and a case where the suggestion of some kind of link between the campaign and Manafort is specifically not being made, which Trump allies would say, see, has nothing to do with this. That's accurate.

BEN-VENISTE: Yes, it is. It's accurate. It's a crime that is alleged that Mueller investigators came across in the course of doing their investigation and it's entirely within the scope of his responsibility. So he's not to turn a blind eye, nor is the Justice Department, to credible evidence of tax evasion, money laundering on a grand scope. And the evidence -- anecdotal as it is -- about the life- style, the ostentatiousness of having clothing such as has been described, multiple homes, an inventory of oriental rugs, et cetera, et cetera, is probably going to resonate with the public who will ask why this close associate of the president is now being defended by the president as having been unfairly selected for prosecution and it's also going to shine a light on the fact that our president, unlike every other person who's run for the highest office of our land, has refused to produce his own tax returns. And there should be no amnesia on the part of America as to what Mr. Trump is hiding by refusing to produce his tax returns. So I think all of that will be in focus with this prosecution.

GREGORY: Let me ask you about your experience, actually not in Watergate in this instance, but on the 9/11 Commission, because I think it's really interesting. We've talked this morning about the Russians seeking to potentially interfere again in the midterms and what we've learned about what they did in 2016.

The 9/11 -- I actually don't think comparing 2016 to 9/11 is appropriate. You can have that debate. We don't have to have it here.

But what I do think is appropriate is that what we learned from 9/11 is that it was a failure to imagine what could come next. Say after attempting to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993 was part of the problem in terms of government response. When you hear that the light is blinking red again given your 9/11 experience, what do you worry about, about what could be coming from Russia in terms of interference?

BEN-VENISTE: Well, this analogy was drawn by the president's own director of national intelligence, an office that grew out of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. And to ignore the existential threat to this central feature of our democracy, that is open elections being exploited by a foreign power which -- whose interests have been adverse to our own is existential. We need to arm ourselves, protect ourselves and treat this as the threat that it is.

GREGORY: And do you think specifically when you -- when you apply that experience to what we're seeing now, what specifically the government ought to do, what presents itself?

BEN-VENISTE: Well, first of all, we need to be quite clear in identifying, as our intelligence community has, that the Russians were behind this intrusion. The evidence is that it is continuing and we need to put a stop to it.

What has been the one thing that has gotten the attention of Mr. Putin and his allies, and that is sanctions --


BEN-VENISTE: Levied against the oligarchs and those closest to Putin. In fact, that could be the motivation for why Mr. Putin put his intelligence resources toward defeating Hillary Clinton and getting Trump elected. So let's do that some more. Let's be vigilant in protecting our electoral process.

[08:35:05] GREGORY: Right.

Richard Ben-Veniste, always good to get your perspective.

Thanks, Richard.

BEN-VENISTE: Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, David, so China is now responding to the latest move from the U.S. in the escalating trade war. How is Beijing fighting back?

GREGORY: But, first, a domestic abuse survivor uses Thai boxing to overcome her past. Her story in "Turning Points."


CASEY LYNN: I'm Casey Lynn, a Muay Thai boxer.

Muay Thai boxing is Thai kick boxing. You're allowed to use knees and elbows and clinch.

When I got into Muay Thai, it was never about self-defense. What I wanted to do was build my trust in men again

I'm a domestic violence survivor. I dated this guy. It started deteriorating and he threatened to kill my family. And he started hitting me. And then he pulled out a revolver and threatened me and he stocked me for like a year and a half. I got out of it because he robbed a place and went to jail.

Coming out of a domestic violence attack, walking into a gym where men hitting other people and like very few women is -- it was a big, big hurdle.

When I first started sparing, all of the abuse flooded back to me. But, in that moment, if you hit back, that just makes you a fighter.

I'm an amateur level fighter. I've fought over the U.S. and in South Thailand and then also in Bangkok.

Fighting has helped me overcome the things I've been through in the past.



[08:41:17] GREGORY: The Trump administration is now threatening to escalate its trade war with China again. Beijing now accuses the U.S. of blackmailing and pressure after a source tells CNN that pending U.S. tariffs on China could be significantly higher than first announced.

CNN's Alison Kosik is here with more on this.

Hey, Alison.


So those trade tensions between the U.S. and China hitting a new high this morning. And right now there's no sign that either side is willing to give an inch. China now vowing to take countermeasures on the news that the Trump administration is considering more than doubling tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent.

The move putting pressure on Beijing to return to the negotiating table or up the ante. A Chinese official encouraging dialogue and calling unilateral actions counterproductive. The potentially steeper tariffs could go into effect as soon as next month, but a source familiar with discussions says the move is not finalized and could change. The U.S. has already imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods and China responded in kind.

President Trump says the tariff tit for tat will eventually open up markets, which may be the end game, but so far it is destabilizing well-established markets.

As a stopgap, the administration announced a week ago it's preparing a $12 billion emergency aid package for farmers caught up in the trade war, but the move has been panned by many Republicans as just a short term fix.

David and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Alison, thank you very much for that.

So, if you were watching NEW DAY yesterday, you saw one of the most heartbreaking stories ever. You know that these fires -- wildfires continue to rage in California. And we met this grandfather who had lost two of his great grandchildren and his wife and how he was trying desperately to get back to the house. So he is here with us next to explain this devastation and why it's so hard to get out.


[08:46:51] CAMEROTA: More than a dozen wildfires are still raging across northern California this morning. The wildfires have killed at least eight people so far, including three members of one family. Seventy-year-old Melody Bledsoe and her two great grandchildren, four- year-old Emily Roberts and five-year-old James Roberts died in their home on Thursday. Melody's husband, Ed Bledsoe, and his granddaughter, Amanda Woodley, join us now.

Ed and Amanda, we are so sorry for your loss. We heard, Ed, your story, and it's just the most haunting, heartbreaking story that we've ever heard. I mean that you were on the phone with your five-year-old great grandson James as the fire was moving in.

Can you tell us what happened when -- you went to the doctor. You left the house to go to the doctor. Did you know how close the wildfires were at that moment?

ED BLEDSOE, LOST WIFE AND TWO GREAT GRANDCHILDREN IN WILDFIRE: Yes, the fire was a couple of miles away from my house. It was plum across the river. It wasn't nowhere near my house. And they didn't give no evacuation notices or nothing. They just -- when I -- my wife called me and I took off back up there and when I got up there, there was traffic blocking the road all the way. But I got out and run towards the house. And I got down there and some guy was blown over by the fire. I helped him get out. But I still went down there and they stopped me and wouldn't let me go in. It -- it was my babies and my wife. I should have been laying on there with them.


BLEDSOE: I should have -- I should have went regardless of what anybody said. The fire was just -- just a big old fire tornado and they were -- and the fire didn't come across down towards my house. It came around the river and come in behind my house.


BLEDSOE: And the fire wasn't on the ground. My son lived next door. They pulled up to get out. Gary Baldwin (ph) and when he opened the door to get out, his hair caught on fire -- CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

BLEDSOE: And burnt all the hair off his arms and took his breath.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

I mean, listen, Ed --

BLEDSOE: So he got back in the car --

CAMEROTA: Ed, I don't mean to interrupt, but I just wanted to stop to say, you know, everybody understands that feeling, your sentiment of your guilt or your devastation and feeling like you should have been there, but you can't fight nature. I mean this is too powerful. These are still ranging. You could not have done anything. I mean that's what, you know, that's what all of us want you to know. This is too much. It's overpowering families.

Amanda, can you explain to us for those of us who luckily don't live in a wildfire zone how hard it is to escape? What it is like when it encroaches in on a house?

AMANDA WOODLEY, LOST GRANDMOTHER, NIECE AND NEPHEW IN WILDFIRE: Well, the anxiety, I mean it's just -- it's really scary.

[08:50:04] And from what Gary was saying, he tried to get out and the tornado was hovering over the house. It hadn't even hit the ground. It was just a tornado fire over the house. And it took him a minute and a half to catch his breath and he tried everything he could too. So there was nothing anyone could do and --

BLEDSOE: And my son, Brian Bledsoe, he was coming up to fire on the other side. Drove through a big old flame.

WOODLEY: And we had family on the other side trying to get in.

BLEDSOE: His wife was just screaming because the fire was around them and she made him back up, which he should have anyway. He couldn't -- there wasn't no way he could have got into my house or -- it just sucked the roof off the house and the walls fell out and the roof went right back down on them. And --

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. I mean that's what we can't -- that's what those of us who have never lived through a wildfire can't understand is the tornado of fire that you're describing, that it's over your house, that it's spinning around your house and that it could take the roof off of your house. I mean these are things that our imagination can't even deal with and that you all just witnessed.

WOODLEY: We've never seen it. We've never seen anything like it. There's always wildfires every year, but we've never seen it come into town. We've never seen anything like this.

BLEDSOE: Well, all the fire was across the street about a mile. You couldn't even -- you could just see the smoke. You couldn't see no fire. And it was on the other side of the Sacramento River. And we had a dam and a big old like a lake in there. And so that's where they was watching to see if the fire was coming across and it never did come across there. It went down the river and come around -- come in behind us. And it just got us. It just -- it just -- I talked to Junior and he just knew I was going to get in there and get him. He just -- he just said, grandpa, (INAUDIBLE), I'm holding on to Emily and grandma. He said, we're waiting for you. He said, don't go in the back door, it's on fire. Come in the front door. I said, I'm on my way. I'll be there. I mean, just -- don't -- don't worry, grandpa's here, I'm right down the road a little bit. I said I'm -- I'll be there. And I just wanted to comfort him best I could. Just --

WOODLEY: We can't imagine what grandma was going through staying calm. I mean that's so brave. I don't think -- I mean how can you stay calm and, you know, Grandpa, you lulled them to sleep for their final time. It was peaceful. They just went to sleep. And you calmed them until they went to sleep. And I realized that yesterday and that eased my heart a lot yesterday.

BLEDSOE: But I'm their protector. I should have had my -- but I should have taken care of them.

CAMEROTA: Oh, Ed. Ed, I think that -- I think Amanda's right. I think the fact that you were on the phone with them and that they heard your voice and that you were keeping them calm and there's nothing that you could have done when you got back to the house or had you been in the house. I mean look at what you're describing, what all of your relatives --

BLEDSOE: I should have laid on top of them and protected them.

CAMEROTA: Ed, listen --

BLEDSOE: I could have laid down on top of them and kept them out of the fire.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I understand, Ed, and --

BLEDSOE: I could have done anything.

WOODLEY: Nothing you could have done, papa.

CAMEROTA: And then you would have died, obviously, Ed.

BLEDSOE: I should have -- I should have -- (INAUDIBLE). I could have maybe my big old fat body would have protected them until the fire went out or something.

CAMEROTA: Oh, Ed, I don't -- I don't think that that's how it works, you know. But I do think, Ed, that you make a good point, that there were know evacuation orders. I mean you -- how would you have known to get everybody else out.

BLEDSOE: Yes, there was nothing.

CAMEROTA: You were watching the wildfires. I mean how do your -- are your --are your neighbors all evacuated now? BLEDSOE: Well, all --

CAMEROTA: Why weren't there evacuation orders?

BLEDSOE: No, there's -- there's six people perished in it by my house and two Caterpillar drivers died and a firefighter died up there in it, it was so terrible.

WOODLEY: I believe at that point even the professionals were like this is a beast and I --

BLEDSOE: Those professionals --


BLEDSOE: Some of them were down the road a little ways, but they -- they got them, too, I guess.

WOODLEY: Yes, it just took -- I mean it just got out of hand so fast.

BLEDSOE: It just --

WOODLEY: It had its own weather system. It just --

BLEDSOE: The ground --

WOODLEY: It's just tragic for everyone and we're sorry for the other family, too, that lost people.

BLEDSOE: My son said the --


BLEDSOE: My son said the grass wasn't on fire, just the trees were, getting sucked up in the air and burning and -- and it just -- he said when he opened his doors, the leaves hit him like somebody was slapping him.


[08:55:00] BLEDSOE: He said he just got out and burnt his hair and his -- it burnt all the hair off his arms and --


CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

BLEDSOE: Caught his hair on fire on his head and it started sucking his breath out, so he got back in his car and tried to get out. He did get out.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. It's unimaginable. I mean what you're describing is so vivid for the rest of us because, you know, those of us who've never lived through a wildfire imagine a house fire. We know house fires. And sometimes, maybe if you're lucky, somehow you can get out a window or you can go out a door. But with a wildfire, what you're describing, I mean hearing you, Amanda, say that it has its own weather system, and that it's -- it's a tornado, it's a fire tornado all around your house. And there's no escaping from that. And it's ripping the roof off of your house. And you are just completely helpless to that level of mother nature.



CAMEROTA: And, Ed and Amanda, we are praying for you. we're praying for your family.

WOODLEY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: I want to point out to our viewers, you have a Go Fund Me page. It's on -- we're going to put it on the screen there. It's a Go Fund Me page. It's up to more than $50,000 so far. And, of course, all of this is to help your family and your great grandchildren. Do you want to say a last word, Ed?

BLEDSOE: Hey, I want to tell you something. I want to thank everybody in this (INAUDIBLE) country for their support --


BLEDSOE: And love for every -- not just us, but for everybody. They -- people are so outstanding and so loving and I just want to thank them all. I want to hug them all.

CAMEROTA: Ed, and they want to hug you.

BLEDSOE: I just --

WOODLEY: They do.

BLEDSOE: I just can't --

WOODLEY: They do.

BLEDSOE: I want to thank them all. I want you to tell them all how much I love them and thank them for all their support.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Ed Bledsoe, Amanda Woodley, everyone is playing for you, everyone is sending love to you and, of course, thinking of your four-year-old great granddaughter Emily Roberts, five-year-old James Roberts and your wife, 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe. Thank you for sharing your story.

We'll be right back.


[08:59:59] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. 9:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. So glad you're with us.

Moments from now, Mueller versus Manafort day two. The gloves are already off in that Virginia courtroom where the former Trump campaign chair is accused of hiding millions of dollars to avoid paying taxes.