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Trump: Attorney General Should End Russia Probe; White House: It's Not An Order, It's An Opinion; President Mnangagwa Urges Calm After Deadly protest; Even Rare Footage Captures Life Amid The Rubble; Video Shows Aeromexico Flight 2431 Crash; White House Doubles Down on Insults of Press; California Fires Consume Area the Size of Los Angeles; Royal Jewel Thieves Escape on Motorboat in Sweden. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 2, 2018 - 01:00   ET



[01:05:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, opinions or order? Donald Trump says the Attorney General should end the Russia Investigation. The White House says it's just some guy venting exercising his right to free speech on Twitter. Also calls for calm as violence erupts after Zimbabwe's election, a landmark vote which many hopes would bring a new start for a troubled country. And a view from above of the suffering and destruction of war. The end result of a Saudi-led military offensive on Yemen, a country isolated from the world and under siege. Hello everybody! Thank you for being with us. I'm John Vause and this is NEWSROOM L.A.

Well, to many it seems so simple in plain sight for all to see the U.S. President committed the crime of obstruction of justice calling on his Attorney General to end the Russia investigation. But the White House says it's not an official presidential order, just the opinion of one American exercising his First Amendment right of free speech. CNN's Jeff Zeleny begins our coverage.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. It's my great honor to be here today.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump dramatically escalating his attack on the Russia probe today explicitly calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to shut it down. After railing against Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigations for more than a year --

TRUMP: Total witch-hunt.

ZELENY: The President has taken an extraordinary step further by asking to end an inquiry that involves him. "This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this rig witch-hunt right now before it continues to stain our country any further," the President saying on Twitter. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defending the President's statement saying he was offering his own view of the investigation.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: It's not an order, it's the President's opinion and it's ridiculous that all of the corruption and dishonesty that's gone on with the launching of the witch-hunt.

ZELENY: But the President's call to end the investigation took his criticism to a new level. The special counsel is already looking into Trump's tweets as part of a potential obstruction of justice probe.

SANDERS: The President is not obstructing, he's fighting back. The President has stated his opinion.

ZELENY: Yet it's an open question where presidential opinion ends and a presidential directive begins.

When he tells you something as a member of his staff, how do you know if it's a directive from the President or if it's simply his opinion?

SANDERS: The President makes it pretty clear when I'm having those conversations with him.

ZELENY: The President's lawyer Rudy Giuliani echoed the defense.

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: He's established a clear sort of practice now that he expresses his opinions on Twitter. He used the word should, he didn't use the word must and it was no presidential directive to follow.

ZELENY: The President has been furious at Sessions since the spring of 2017 when he recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.

TRUMP: The Attorney General made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself.

ZELENY: Succession stepped aside, the Russia probe is overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He was not mentioned by the President today.

Does the President know that Jeff Sessions can't stop the investigation as he directed Rod Rosenstein too?

SANDERS: The President is very well aware of how the process works. Once again, he's stating his opinion.

ZELENY: Now, Sessions for his part had no comment on the President's latest tweet. He, of course, has become very practiced in insults from the White House here. One other matter, Rudy Giuliani saying it's time for Bob Mueller to put up or shut up, important to note one of the delays in all of this President Trump has yet to decide if he will sit down for an interview with the special counsel. That is one of the factors that has drawn this out even longer. Jeff Zeleny, CNN the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Well, for more let's bring in our panel, Political Commentator and Host of the Mo'Kelly Show, Mo'Kelly, Republican Strategist Charles Moran and Criminal Defense Attorney David Katz. OK, in case anyone missed the White House talking point of the day, once again here's Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on that tweet from her boss.


SANDERS: It's not an order, it's the President's opinion. The President is stating his opinion. There's no reason he shouldn't be able to voice that opinion.

The President stating his opinion -- got clarified this about ten times now. It's the President's opinion.


VAUSE: OK, Mo, when that opinion that comes from the leader of the free world with the President the United States, the guy who sits in the Oval Office, it tends to carry a whole lot more weight and authority than something you and I might tweet out and with that comes if not a legal I guess, commitment, it also comes with a kind of a moral and a response -- a moral responsibility as well.

MO'KELLY, HOST, MO'KELLY SHOW: Yes, we could look at his previous opinions and tweets how they negatively and adversely affected companies on a stock market. Obviously, the world listens to what he has to say whether we agree with it or not. But this also speaks to why he will not sit down for an interview and his legal counsel doesn't want to do because he's so undisciplined and will speak whatever is on his mind even if it comes to his detriment.

[01:05:15] VAUSE: OK, David, what are the legal ramifications here especially because we know that David -- that Robert Mueller is actually looking into the other tweets that the President has put that in particular to do with Jeff Sessions as well as James Comey and what he was thinking around the time and also his intent?

DAVID KATZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, this could be obstruction of justice. When I was Assistant U.S. Attorney, I would look at a target or subject like President Trump and I would say what's on his mind. What's he trying to do is he just expressing his opinion. It seems more likely that what's on his mind is to try to impede the investigation of himself and of his family and associates. And then the question for obstruction of justice is the intent, that's enough, the bad intent the corrupt intent and asking what's on his mind and then in terms of him not talking or giving a statement. I guess the fear there is that he might commit perjury because he'd be under oath.

VAUSE: We'll get to that in a moment, but about a month before Sean Spicer left the White House Podium to disappear into oblivion, he didn't clarify one very important legal point when it comes to presidential suites.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, the President is the President United States so they're considered official statements by the President United States.


VAUSE: So Charles, technically you know, between this tweet out it seems may be the equivalent of putting out a presidential statement, you know, with the seal and the gold lettering and everything else that goes with that basically for the President saying the Attorney General should shut down the Russia investigation or witch hunt. I mean, would that make a difference to you if you came out in that form (INAUDIBLE)?

CHARLES MORAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I know everybody's trying to squeeze these things together and make them touch but it's not there.

VAUSE: I'm just saying this is --

MORAN: I know -- I see -- I see the trying to bridge the gap but it's not there. And Sarah Sanders said it, Rudy Giuliani has said it. We're at a place -- clearly, President Trump is frustrated with the situation. He is going to his preferred tool of expressing himself Twitter to do this but he knows that Jeff Sessions can't shut this thing down. He's recused himself of this. He did not direction order to the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General. Again, this is a -- this is a very raw expression of the President's frustration on the you know, investigation.

VAUSE: Explain to me -- OK, explain to me why this investigation is a stain on the country as the President said. I mean, you look at the number of indictments, the Russians have being called in. This is an investigation into the hacking of the very fundamental basis of democracy.

MORAN: It's an investigation which needs to happen. We've got to get to the bottom of it. You know, the amount of corruption -- excuse me -- the interference that the Russians were conducting while President Obama was president, probably while President Bush was president, the president -- the Russians have been trying to influence our elections for decades and decades that Soviet days. We need to put our fingers on this. There's -- the Russians are still trying to interfere in our elections today.

What the Democrats are trying to do and especially with an election coming up is trying to co-mingle this investigation with Russian interference in our elections, with President Trump either benefit from this or being a part of it. He is not everything we have seen. Robert Mueller moved forward with in terms of the indictments have done, have not touched President. They've touched the Russians, they have brought even you know, the Paul Manafort situation which again you know, tax evasion which is a crime and should be punished, but again the President see -- I think the President is expressing his frustration against what the investigation is versus the way that this is being spun in this narrative of trying to weed President Trump of his legitimacy around -- KELLY: Can we get a president to express the same level frustration

about Russian meddling? Can't we get a president who's going to focus primarily on protecting --

MORAN: In the my back of my mind, I keep hearing Barack Obama saying you know, to Mitt Romney just missing him saying you know, you need to get your mentality.


MORAN: I'm seeing -- I'm seeing the words from President Obama dismissing in totality --

KELLY: But the only problem is he wasn't under investigation.

VAUSE: Yes, let's go to (INAUDIBLE) because to Charles' point about this investigation because we keep hearing this all the time. This investigation should focus on the Russia part of the year the election, the meddling. It's got nothing to do with Donald Trump. He hasn't even been named. I mean, we don't know what Mueller's got. We know that a lot of people around Trump had actually been charged and are under investigation, have been called in to testify. So you know, these two things are not mutually exclusive are they?

KATZ: We know that there has been Russian interference. What Special Counsel Mueller is supposed to figure out is whether there was coordination between the Trump campaign and that Russian interference. And then he's supposed to see whether there was obstruction of justice that occurred with the (INAUDIBLE). And he seems like he's following his mandate and he's doing exactly what he's supposed to do, the amount of time that Mo is taking is not a very long time. My investigations took longer than this and I didn't have all the blowback and all the hassle by being tweeted every day and put down every day like Mueller is by Trump.

[01:10:11] VAUSE: Yes, it's interesting because if they can't shut it down because it seems that politically Donald Trump can't do that. The next best thing to do is to call time.


GIULIANI: We believe that's the investigation should be brought to a close. We think there at the end of it. They should render their report, put up -- I mean, I guess we were playing poker but now we can put up or shut up. What do you got?


VAUSE: OK, so one year, two months, 17 days ago Mueller was appointed as a special counsel, compared to Benghazi query, the process just over two years, Watergate a year and three months and Nixon resigned from office after the release of the recordings that had him talking to his staff ordering them to stop the FBI investigation, and the Mack Daddy of them all, Whitewater, six years and nine months. So Mo, finally to you, Republicans have patience it seems when the Clintons are being investigated, not so much patience when it's Donald Trump. KELLY: Well, this is all the politics of it but there's also a P.R.

strategy. This is about delegitimizing this investigation in the eyes of the American people because ultimately when Robert Mueller does come forth with this report or recommendations, it's going to be left up to the people to decide and then Congress will either act or not act but specifically Republican Congresspeople will be reflecting what their constituencies are feeling about the investigation. And if anything, this P.R. campaign provides cover for the Congresspeople.

VAUSE: And just with regards to the investigation so far, David, when we look at the number of indictments, where Mueller is, they've already -- you know, the trial of Manafort is already underway. Where does that stand your experience with sort of other similar special counsels?

KATZ: Well, I think Mueller has made very significant progress. He's obtained a lot of indictments. He's obtained three or four guilty pleas and he seems like he's going with a very even keel. You know, he's I think got a big stick. He doesn't have a lot of -- he doesn't talk tough. He doesn't respond, he can't. But I think the indictments are coming. As you say the Manafort trial is going forward and it looks like he has a very strong case.

VAUSE: As Zeleny mentioned, this could wrap up very quickly if the president actually sat down one-on-one with Robert Mueller. Once again, here's the President's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.


GIULIANI: But still negotiating. We have a stop negotiating with them. The most recent letter they sent us a proposal. We responded to their proposal. They took about ten days and yesterday we got a letter back. Now we're in the process.


VAUSE: OK, CNN is reporting Mueller continues to seek the interview but the pace of discussions continues to proceed glacially, two additional sources told CNN. The sources said it seems Mueller is willing to do some response in writing but they would still be an in- person interview. The Special Counsel seemed like he wanted to get some combo, some agreement. The sources said the ball is now in Trump team's court. The sources would not say how long the lawyers would take to respond. So, Charles, Donald Trump is never going to sit down for an interview with the Special Counsel investigators, isn't he really?

MORAN: The President is being advised not to by his -- by his White House you know, counsel, most likely by his external counsel. I don't think we're going to see a situation where the President is going to be -- going to be interviewed by the Special Counsel. Again, I don't believe that the President is the focus of this -- I don't believe that the President is the focus of this investigation. I mean, with the other investigations that you just referenced, there were crimes being committed by the sitting President United States. Weren't -- that's not the situation that's going on. (CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: That's the investigation is underway. Whitewater was real estate deals that way back to the 70s.

MORAN: This situation that the special prosecutor -- the special prosecutor is looking at right now is Russian interference in the election --

VAUSE: And obstruction of justice which followed.

MORAN: And through that, we do not -- the investigation, the indictments, even as much as the Paul Manafort, this has all been on the periphery. We haven't seen anything -- there's no real smoking gun.

VAUSE: Mueller is like a submarine. He you know, he surfaces every now and then. We get a glimpse of what they got, then he sort of goes deep again and we sort of have no idea then you know, we see a little bit more later on. So at this point, to say you know, there's nothing there is this incredibly premature.

KELLY: Yes, and excuse the analogy and metaphor but I'll say, if you're going to go after a mob boss, you don't start with the mob boss, you get the low-level guys on the street and have them tell you about what they know about the organization and then you start working your way to the mob boss. For them to say they want to speak to the President means that the President's testimony is central and key to what Robert Mueller is trying to do it doesn't mean that it's everything but it's something. And I don't believe that you were to ask for an interview unless you're ready to subpoena if he doesn't want to sit down.

VAUSE: David, could Mueller wrap this up without a one-on-one interview with Trump?

KATZ: He absolutely could and that's probably what he's going to have to end up doing because for eight months he's tried to sit down and have an interview with Trump and just have his questions answered.

[01:15:00] And the Trump side wants written questions, they want to be in and around and eventually, they have to give the President a subpoena and that's, of course, a big constitutional crisis and battle. If he gave the President a subpoena, the president resisted it and it went to the courts. That would not be --


VAUSE: You mean, the conservative-leaning court now with what is it -- which is about to have like an overwhelming number of Republican opponent --


KATZ: The conservative -- the conservative leading Nixon court noted eight to nothing that Nixon had to comply with the subpoena. That's the risk for Trump, but the risk for Mueller is what if he goes to a conservative court like that and Mueller loses? Can you imagine how he'd be lampooned by Trump?

VAUSE: Yes. Ok. We'll leave it there. Interesting times as always. So, guys, thank you so much. Appreciate your being with us. Well, a solemn ceremony in Hawaii. Marked the return of what's believed to be the remains of American servicemen that's killed on the Korean War.

The U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was there to pay his respects. Pyongyang gave the U.S. 55 cases of remains last week in South Korea. Just moments ago, President Trump tweeted this.

"Thank you, Chairman Kim Jong-un for keeping your word and starting the process of sending home the remains of our great and beloved missing fallen. I'm not at all surprised that you took this kind of action. Also, thank you for your nice letter. Look forward to seeing you soon."

Meantime, the U.S. defense official says North Korea provided only a single dog tag to help identify the remains. Could take forensic experts years to actually make official identifications.

Results from Zimbabwe's presidential election creeping on within hours. International observers say, the delay there is undermining the election's credibility.

Protests erupted Tuesday after officials announced the ruling party won a two-thirds majority in parliament. Bringing accusations of vote-rigging from the opposition. Police say, at least, three people have been killed during the unrest after soldiers at the fire. Zimbabwe's sitting president is now calling for calm.

He tweeted this, "At this crucial time, everyone should desist from provocative declarations and statements." He says, "Everyone must demonstrate patience, and maturity, and act in a way that puts the people and their safety first. This is now is the time for a responsibility, and above all, peace.

Joylene Malenga is a teacher in Harare, she joins us now we spoke with Joylene, earlier this week who is smiling then but I'm wandering Joylene, how are you doing now? Because the day is just starting out there. Would you say the worst, the violence is now over?

JOYLENE MALENGA, TEACHER, ZIMBABWE (via skype): You know, I think yesterday was an isolated incident. And because -- you know, that by and large, the country has been quite peaceful as we're waiting for an election result.

VAUSE: So, you don't see a repeat of what happened in 2008 when there was a dispute in election?

MALENGA: You know, a repeat to 2008 is actually one of the things that we really, really don't want. As citizens and as a country, we don't want to go back at the -- at the dark part of our election history. And you know, it also led to voter numbers being down in 2013. I just think that the tension yesterday possibly is more a show of how desperate we are for cooperation. We need the results to come out, and we need to start moving forward as a country.

VAUSE: Yes, given how peaceful and orderly voting had been just a day earlier, were you taken by a surprised -- I guess not just by the outbreak of the violence, but also the intensity of the violence and the military response?

MALENGA: I think -- I think, yesterday seems to have escalated so quickly. And of course, the military response was surprising, in a sense. Because, you know, we put a police force that is quite an effective right police squad, and has proved competent in past protests.

So, (INAUDIBLE) yesterday. That's kind of deepest wondering if there's something more to this? Should we be looking deeper into this? All was -- you know, as the best the police from a spokesperson state where they were then, they rights talk about the military. Anything that they call the military, and because they were overflown by protesters.

VAUSE: I guess one of the reasons why there is so much tension in Zimbabwe is because a lot has been riding on this election, ever seen as -- you know, turning point for Zimbabwe, but if there are questions about the legitimacy of the result and of the voting procedure in itself, it could mean an end to any hope of a financial bailout from the international community, and that would be devastating.

I think we may have some problems to Joylene there. Unfortunately, we've lost her, but we've been in regular contact with Joylene there. First, when Robert Mugabe was forced from office, and of course, those days of hope. Then, on Monday with the election, as well. And the -- of course, we've had, the violence and the aftermath.

Just very quickly while we have you, Joylene. I mean, that there is so much riding on this election if you're still with us. It -- you know, if this vote is considered to be I guess, rigged, or corrupt, though the violence continues, that could ruin the country's chances of a -- of a bailout for the international community. And that could have very serious consequences.

[01:20:21] MALENGA: Oh, absolute -- absolutely, but I think at the moment, it's still a bit premature to write off election results. You know, we've been hearing a few comments here a theme from the observers but nothing has actually been (INAUDIBLE) that would lead us to believe that we're -- we don't have a credible election at this stage.

VAUSE: Very quickly, under Zimbabwe's law, the results of the presidential vote have to be announced by Saturday. Clearly, the sooner that announcement comes the better. Will it come today, you expecting it? And I guess, what the both sides say when it comes to accepting the outcome of that announcement?

MALENGA: I think, both sides was so confident of here -- of a victory. That at the moment they actually not talking about what -- about how they would behave. Should the other side win? And yes, yesterday, according to the Electoral Commission chairperson, she said that they were ready to announce the presidential result.

But there were a couple of legalities that legal formalities that had to be carried out first yesterday. So, we all hope here today, which we, we should be hearing something.

VAUSE: Well, Joylene, we wish you all the best. Thank you for giving us an update there. And I guess you know, hopefully, this is the end of violence and if not, stay safe. Thank you.

Next stop on our NEWSROOM L.A., an aerial look of what the U.N. calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Also, astonishing images from Mexico where a passenger captured these terrifying moments when an airliner crashed in Durango, shortly after takeoff.


VAUSE: Striking new images from Yemen's capital where the catastrophic toll of the city has endured after three-year bombing campaign by the Saudi-led coalition. The U.N. calls the war on Yemen, the world's worst humanitarian crisis with more than 22 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, along with photojournalist Gabriel Chaim, able to give us a rare look of the devastation.


[01:25:06] NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Startlingly beautiful, but plagued by silence and suffering. This is a rare window onto the trauma of besieged Sanaa.

Cut off from the outside world increasingly, it's stories untold. Playtime among the trash, Homes stripped of their dignity and shelter. Life has persisted here up on the plateau of Yemen's capital, despite a stranglehold around it tightening.

Houthi rebels that overthrew the government here claimed it as their stronghold, and together with the Saudi-led coalition besieging the city, a restricted media access to it.

With photojournalist, Gabriel Chaim was showing around its wreckage. Were Salim said the Saudi missile killed 13. 10 from his family three years ago.

"Uncle Hafella used to sit outside, but on that day, they went inside the house. We weren't sure whether he was inside once the missile hit. We had to wait an hour or two before we entered to get all their bodies outside.

I live meters away, and if the missile hit my house, we would all be martyrs too." Human Rights Watch accused the Saudi-led campaign here of 85 instances of unlawful air strikes which the coalition deny. Here, a few months ago, airstrikes apparently hit a gas station part of a bid to starve the capital of fuel and everything else transport brings. Leading to protests outside the United Nations building here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of the world to know what happened in Yemen, and no -- any country, they didn't do anything for Yemen, they didn't do any helping. All have been in Yemen, they did -- at it is that no one care about us.

WALSH: Here, one of the more devastating air strikes in 2016, led to criticism over the U.S. assistance to the coalition. On the Grand Funeral Hall, where at least a 155 were killed as thousands gathered. (INAUDIBLE) al Hamadi barely survived.

"I still have difficulty hearing after the blast. There were bodies all over under this rubble. Some bodies were completely burned. The strike affected all of Yemen, it's printed in my memory, the scene."

Even Kawkaban, one of Yemen's architectural and historical jewels is not spared. Named after two stars that gleamed from inside its walls, the pair of palaces. There is little escape here, and little desire within the outside world to do more than watch the brutality unfold. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


VAUSE: It's being called a miracle after an Aeromexico jet crashed shortly after takeoff. Somehow, all on board survived. CNN obtained cell phone video from one woman who recorded the moments just before and after the crash. Here it is.




VAUSE: Ashley Garcia recorder those images on her cell phone she was one of at least, 66 U.S. citizens on board. Then, she spoke to CNN about surviving the crash.


ASHLEY GARCIA, SURVIVED PLANE CRASH: Honestly, it was something that I would have never imagined. It's always been such a big fear of mine and friends like actually have happened it's just insane. Like when it was happening, I really just felt like this is can't be true -- this can't be true.

But I've always been someone just like, if something happens like I just I don't know why I just record it. Like I need the evidence of something happening which is why as soon as like I got off, I knew I would be safe, I pulled on my camera, and I was like, I'm going to record this like I have to have proof of like everything that happened.


VAUSE: Authorities have retrieved the cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., President Trump's supporters let loose at a rally shutting down and abusing reporters, making obscene gestures, and Donald Trump seems to endorse the mob mentality.


[01:32:21] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

The White House is defending President Trump after he tweeted that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III should end the Russia investigation. Press secretary Sarah Sanders says it's just his opinion. It's not an order. Critics call it another example of the President obstructing justice in the investigation.

Zimbabwe's president has called for calm after deadly protests broke out following Monday's election. Police say at least three people were killed when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators. The protests erupted after it was announced the governing party had won a two- thirds majority in parliament. The result of the presidential vote has not been announced.

And astonishing images from Durango, Mexico where a passenger captured these moments of the crash of Aeromexico flight 2431. All 100 people on board survived the terrifying incident. Authorities have retrieved the voice and flight data recorders.

Despite repeated opportunities, the White House refused to condemn the actions of Trump supporters at a rally Tuesday night in Florida. Families (INAUDIBLE) of abuse of journalists, in particular CNN's Jim Acosta.


CROWD: CNN sucks. CNN sucks. CNN sucks.


VAUSE: And the President seemed to endorse the behavior by retweeting the video which was originally posted by his son, Eric.

And here's the explanation why from press secretary Sarah Sanders.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We certainly support a free press. We certainly condemn violence against anybody but we also ask that people act responsibly and report accurately and fairly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one was being violent last night and you had people trying to yell over them, preventing them from doing their jobs and yelling that their network sucks on live TV. Does the White House support that or not?

SANDERS: Look, while we certainly support freedom of the press, we also support freedom of speech and we think that those things go hand in hand.


VAUSE: And we should note that's the fourth time in just over a month Sanders has held a White House briefing.

Michael Hiltzik is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and columnist for the "Los Angeles Times" and he joins us now. Good to see you -- Michael.


VAUSE: Ok. Here is a little more from Sara Sanders on where the administration stands when it comes to freedom of the press. Listen to this.


SANDERS: We fully support a free press but there also comes a high level of responsibility with that. The media routinely reports on classified information and government secrets that put lives in danger and risk valuable national security tools. This has happened both in our administration and in past administrations.


[01:35:01] VAUSE: That seems to be yet another asinine statement from Sanders. What is she talking about?

HILTZIK: Well, asinine is right. Look, whatever she's talking about it has nothing to do with the display that goes on at Trump rallies. And Trump is condoning of this sort of behavior just shows that he's got no character. He's got no class. He is trying to gin up sort of a Nuremberg-style reaction.

It has nothing to do with freedom of the press. It has nothing to do with the way he -- I should say it does have a lot to do with the way he's being reported on. He thinks the way to get back at that is to rev up his supporters to yell and scream and act violently toward the press.

It's really inappropriate. It's not leadership. It's not presidential. It's -- and as I said, it just shows a total lack of character and a lack of morality.

VAUSE: It's a little more than that too, though, because the President, like every other president before him swore an oath to protect the constitution. The constitution guarantees the right of a free press, you know. And this isn't breaking news here. But once again Donald Trump seems to be willing to trash the very fabric of this country for his own political gain.

HILTZIK: Well, that's true. He and his minions hide behind this notion of free speech with freedom of the press. That's really not what this is about.

He's attacking the press at every stage. He calls the press -- he calls us the enemy of the people. And worse, this is really dangerous in a period when we have had five journalists murdered in their newsroom in Annapolis. He didn't say anything about that. He didn't express condolences until I think he was forced to out of embarrassment.

He's not a leader in this sense. And I think he's leaving a vacuum of leadership in this entire country and certainly in the White House.

VAUSE: You know, it's been, what -- more than a year since February 16 last year since the President has actually held an official news conference solo. He's taken a few questions briefly when he's been appearing with world leaders. That happened on Monday with the Italian prime minister.

And that was interesting -- the first journalist he called came from a pro-Trump conservative Web site. And here's the question.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Saagar -- please. Saagar Enjeti -- thank you. "Daily Caller".

SAAGAR ENJETI, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "DAILY CALLER": Thank you, Mr. President. To follow up on what you were saying about the shut- down, sir. Are you saying that you would be willing to shut the government down in September if it does not fully fund $25 billion worth of your border wall?


VAUSE: The follow-up was, "Sir, how good looking are you today?" I mean what a softball. I mean of all days, you know, the news on that day was, you know, incredible.

HILTZIK: Look, a responsible president, a responsible leader subjects himself to responsible questioning (AUDIO GAP) is transparent with his policies and is not afraid of defending his policy in the rough and tumble of journalists' inquiry. This President does not do that.

He calls on the sort of house news organizations. He will be interviewed on Fox because he doesn't get hard questions. He gets verbal balls of yarn. And I think it speaks to whether he's got any intellectual -- he has shown that -- yes, I can't imagine turning to Donald Trump for any sort of responsible leadership at this point.

VAUSE: Yes. I'm going to try one more question -- Michael. We're having a few problems with our connection.

But, you know, this is in large part what happened in Tampa on Tuesday is about a lack of civility and a lack of respect. That's something Sarah Sanders knows a lot about when she was refused service at a restaurant and the reason for that was, as stated by the restaurant owner, is because she lies for the President.

Again, this is Sara Sanders from a couple of months ago.


SANDERS: -- healthy debate on ideas and political philosophy is important. But the calls for harassment and push for any Trump supporter to avoid the public is unacceptable.


VAUSE: You know, it seems to this administration, civility is a one way street.

HILTZIK: Well, as I've written, civility as it's used by people like Trump and Sarah Sanders is a weapon against free discourse. It's not what they're talking about. This is the most uncivil administration, certainly in my memory. It has lowered the level of discourse in this country to rock bottom. And for them to talk about civility, given the language that comes out of the White House is really just preposterous.

[01:40:00] VAUSE: Yes. And many things are preposterous it seems for the last year and a half. But Michael -- as always, it's great to see you. Thank you.

HILTZIK: Nice to be here. >

VAUSE: And for the record, here is a closer look at a few of those at the Trump rally on Tuesday, you know, the ones who want to make America great again. They're mostly white, often angry with the media. There they are.

And then, of course, there was a gentleman in the crowd. He was raising his middle finger, shouting "Stop lying, stop lying." He yells it right into the camera.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop lying. Tell the truth. Stop lying. Tell the truth.


VAUSE: And here is someone's daughter we're about to see, maybe even someone's mother. She raises the middle finger there. And then for good measure, I think we get both middle fingers, shouting, "You suck. You suck." Oh mum, how could you?

This was just a brief moment from Tuesday night's abusive hatred and the anger. It lasted much longer than that. And all of it was encouraged by the President on Twitter and Sarah Sanders outright refused to condemn it.

Up next as firefighters battle dozens of wildfires in the western part of the United States, California's governor is now warning the destruction from these fires will only get worse.


VAUSE: Well, in California, strong winds, high temperatures and low humidity are forecast for the rest of the week, slowing efforts to bring wildfires under control. Sixteen of the largest fires have now burned an area larger than the entire city of Los Angeles.

An update now from CNN's Nick Watt.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The fire still burning, 115,000 acres and counting, and local people now counting the cost.

Tens of thousands who were evacuated from their homes, some now allowed back but others from the worst-hit neighborhoods, not yet.

(on camera): Do you know what condition your house is in?

PRAETHA REDDY, RESIDENT: There's nothing left. It looks more like a bomb hit it.

WATT (voice over): Praetha Reddy and her husband snapped this picture as fire approached.

(on camera): You think it will help to actually get back and see it?

REDDY: Yes. If they'd only let us in and, you know, have it sink in.

WATT: I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

REDDY: It's been hard.

WATT (voice over): and the official word, these wildfires will only get worse.

[01:45:03] GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: We're in uncharted territories. We haven't had this kind of heat condition and this can continue getting worse. We have to apply all our creativity to make the best out of what is going to be an increasingly bad situation.

WATT: More than 90 fires burning right now across the west putting a strain on manpower.

MIKE MOHLER, BATTALION CHIEF, CAL FIRE: The term we hear, it's new normal. It's is not new anymore, this is the normal. And it's not a season, it's year-round.

WATT: Here at the Carr Fire, two firefighters have lost their lives; others lost their homes but never stopped working

DAVID, CAL FIRE: I don't feel that I did anything special, it's just once I saw my house gone, it was -- there's going to be plenty of time to go back through the remains and see what we can salvage.

WATT: Many firefighters are working 24-hour shifts. Rick Johnson just clocked off.

RICK JOHNSON, CAL FIRE: The temperatures that we've been dealing with hundred-plus degrees and single-digit temps are relative humidities. So yes, it's been hard.

WATT: Right now 16 wildfires burning across California -- 13,000 firefighters on the lines.

(on camera): The Carr Fire here now getting towards under control. Still a long ways to go but there are 15 other fires burning across California and 13,000 firefighters on the lines fighting those blazes.

Nick Watt, CNN -- Redding, California.


VAUSE: We have more now on the forecast with meteorologist Pedram Javaheri at the CNN International Weather Center. So again, not great for the next couple of days.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Not for the next couple of days but I think a big time improvement again going into early next week. I want to show you this because upwards of 93 large active fires, one across the state of Minnesota, one across the state of Texas, 91 west of that -- much of it, of course, across the southwest on into the state of California where 20 of them (INAUDIBLE) you notice from far southern California to far northern California we have active areas of live wildfires. But again, the trend is going to shift. We're going to begin to see cooler temperatures, increased humidities. I would expect by this time next week, this fire is at least mostly contained across this region of northern California.

And you take a look, the forecast does bring us down to 36, and maybe even 34 or so degrees come Sunday afternoon. So we will go below average after one of the hottest Julys on record. Not too bad a way to start the month of August, but it is going to be short-lived.

Take a look at it as far as the pattern, of course, we shared this statistic with you from the 80s to the 90s, to the 2000s we've seen an increase, a pretty marked increase in large active fires across the United States. And we know that recent studies have shown, of course, this pattern is not expected to shift unfortunately in the next coming decade.

We know 2017 was the hottest non-El Nino year on record. (AUDIO GAP) on record are related to El Nino as it signals a warmer trend. But how about the top ten hottest years on record? Nine of them have happened since 2005, most of these also being El Nino years. So pretty incredible to see a non-El Nino season in 2017 begin to come into the hottest territories. But we know so far this year Japan, they said the hottest record just outside of Tokyo was 41 degrees a couple of weeks ago. South Korea most recently reaching into the 40- degree range, setting records in Seoul in particular and also Pyongyang, hottest temps ever observed.

Pakistan, we've had one of the hottest years on record in May 2018. We know dozens lost their lives due to the extensive heat that was in place. And the most recent study here showing with this that through 2070 -- now data suggests that places such as the northern plains of China which would include places such as Beijing and also some 400 million residents across that region of northern China could potentially, John, be unfit for a human population to reside because of the extreme amount of heat expected in that region.

You know, a very fertile landscape in that area, a lot of irrigation and the study believes that all of the moisture from the soil there and the increased heat is going to result in an unfit environment for human lives that region.

VAUSE: Incredible. Pedram -- thank you again.

JAVAHERI: Thank you -- John, yes.

VAUSE: Well next here on NEWSROOM L.A., as it turns out, stealing priceless royal jewels is not so hard -- smash, grab and run. In a moment, more on the heist being called the Swedish job.


VAUSE: The manhunt continues for two thieves who pulled off an incredible heist in Sweden, stealing the royal jewels. Two crowns and a golden orb were stolen from a cathedral on Tuesday. The thieves made their getaway in a speed boat.

Anna Stewart reports on what some are now calling the Swedish job.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It was a daring daytime heist that could have been written by Hollywood -- priceless royal jewels stolen from a cathedral in regional Sweden. Two thieves making their getaway on a speed boat.

While police have launched a massive manhunt for those responsible, so far they've had no success. Authorities are appealing for public help and have released this photo of the 17th century jewels which originally belonged to former Swedish monarchs Karl IX and Kristina.

Police say the thieves smashed the church display case and made off with the two crowns and one of the orbs. No one was hurt.

The cathedral had been open to the public from 10:00 in the morning. The robbery happened just before lunch. (on camera): According to local press reports, one witness saw two people running away from the cathedral, towards a waiting boat prompting police to search both on land and sea to find the perpetrators.

(voice over): The dean of the parish says while the jewels are valuable, it's their cultural significance to Sweden's history which is more important.

The heist has echoes of a daring robbery in Venice earlier this year when thieves mingled with visitors to an exhibition before brazenly making off with gems from the Qatari royal collection. In that case, the jewels were never recovered.

Anna Stewart, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: Scott Selby joins me now. He's author of "Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History". Scott -- it's been a while. Thanks for coming back.

SCOTT SELBY, AUTHOR: Thank you very much.

VAUSE: We don't get these sort of big jewel heists all that often although they're probably more common than people realize.

Well, let's start with this one. Ok. This all went down on a week day, around 12:00, broad daylight. Two guys presumably smashed open a glass display cabinet setting off an alarm and off they went in a speed boat on a lake. This wasn't open water --

SELBY: Yes, on a lake.

VAUSE: -- this was a lake.

So just by this won't have a good day. So at end of the day, it sounds like it glorified smash and grab. Surely it shouldn't be this easy to steal the royal jewels of Sweden.

SELBY: You're right, it really shouldn't. It's just that these were particular ones that were in this cathedral because the king and the queen were buried there 400 years ago and they were later displayed there. So the thieves took advantage of the fact that this cathedral happened to have these very valuable items there.

So it's very strange. It's not like going to England where the crown jewels are in one place.

VAUSE: Right.

Ok. It does raise other questions, like did they have some inside help? The "Washington Post" reports that in 2012, a friend of the royal family was convicted of stealing royal jewels worth more than $120,000 which he had purloined from a private apartment belonging to Princess Kristina, the sister of the king. So in the past you've had situations where, you know, someone with access to the royal family has decided to do a little bit of extra work on the side. Could that be a similar situation here?

SELBY: It's always possible. But in this situation I don't think the job was really that hard. It just was that they took advantage of the fact that these items happened to be here. They just were in this cathedral -- it's a beautiful cathedral. There are some people there for a lunch event.

They're just -- all you had to do is just smash and grab them, as you said. They then took two stolen bicycles, went down to the lake and they took off in a motor boat. Some people are saying that they might have been jet skis, which is even cooler. So that's all the kebab (ph).

The hard job, of course, is moving the goods afterwards.

VAUSE: Ok. It's good to know because -- because, you know, the jet skis that would make a really good scene in a movie. And if this was a movie, this is the end of act one.

These guys have got probably the hardest part to come. They're going to try and sell the stuff. That's not easy.

[01:55:00] Local media reported back in 2013 a crown and scepter used in the funeral of Sweden's King Johan III was stolen from some place I can't pronounce. "They subsequently turned up in two large rubbish bags at the side of a highway following a tip-off to police.

Ok, apart from being the easiest royal jewels in the world to steal over there in Sweden, the point is there is not a big market out there for someone who wants two gold crowns with precious stones and diamonds and an orb, right. So what are their options?

SELBY: That's a great question. So there's a lot of theories about that. So right now the police in charge seem to be thinking that this might have been a job to order. Like in some movie where there is some sort of rich person somewhere that paid these thieves to do this particular job.

VAUSE: Because they want to play the king of Sweden or something.

SELBY: Exactly. But I think it's much more likely that it's a crime of opportunity. Somebody noticed hey we could get this thing very easily.

And the big question is what they do with it. And that's when you get caught. The job itself is easy. It's moving the jewels that's hard.

VAUSE: Ok. So if they can't sell the jewels as they are -- I look at it they've got three options. They can dump it which means the entire exercise was pointless. They can melt it down, sell the gold, sell off the stones and the precious diamonds, that kind of stuff. Or option three, they can ransom it because the police have said that this is all about Sweden's national heritage. SELBY: Yes.

VAUSE: These items are priceless.

SELBY: They truly are. And they're insured but you can't really take care of something like that. So it could be ransomed. In the U.S., things have been used to trade for a better deal if you get in trouble with something.

I think the most likely is they'll just melt it down and that's heartbreaking.

VAUSE: Couldn't they -- couldn't they have just robbed a jewelry store to get the same result with a lot less risk.

SELBY: Honestly, it would be lot more risky to rob a jewelry store.

VAUSE: Right.

SELBY: Jewelry stores are going to have all sorts of security to get in and out of there.

VAUSE: Ok. This crime seems so kind of 1950s and "Ocean's 11" or something. But the big picture, it's big business in Europe especially in France. You remember that case a year ago that just -- we covered (INAUDIBLE) knows the jewels in France from that hotel heist which involved Kim Kardashian.

SELBY: Yes, there is a heist with Kim Kardashian that we talked about before. There was one at the Carlton Hotel. There's been a number of them in Cannes. That involves smash and grab but at a much higher level. People bringing, you know, cars, smashing in, getting things, getting out.

VAUSE: Why Europe, though? Why is this so common in Europe?

SELBY: Europe is really common because there's all these ancient things that are there that are not well-guarded. You're not going to find crown jewels in America. There are all sort of very high-end shops and also there's so many legal jurisdictions. So once you cross into another border, it's much harder to get caught.

VAUSE: So basically, there's a lot of good stuff to steal in Europe.

SELBY: Oh, for sure. The best.

VAUSE: It's good to know. Scott -- thanks so much. Good to see you again.

SELBY: Thank you. You too.

VAUSE: Appreciate it.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles I'm John Vause.

The news continues on CNN. Yes, who's that guy who you don't see very often? Michael Holmes, and he's in Atlanta.