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U.S. Hits Russia With New Sanctions; Trump Team Sends Interview Counteroffer To Mueller; Lawmaker Accused Of Insider Trading On Drug Company; California: 16,000 Structures Threatened By 3 Wildfires; Argentina Senate To Vote On Legalizing Abortion. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 9, 2018 - 01:00   ET



[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, forced to act. Washington imposes sanctions on Russia. Punitive measures required by U.S. law for the Kremlin's role in the attempted assassination of a former Russian agent in the U.K. Despite opposition from the Catholic Church and Pope Francis Argentine Senate will soon vote on a bill to legalize abortion. But even if it's defeated, this decades-old issue is not expected to go away. And later under the list a little ball multiplex with record low rating so the Academy Awards ceremony, the Oscars are planning some changes trying to relate to those people who actually go to the movies. Hello, thanks for joining us, I'm John Vause and this is NEWSROOM L.A.

Russia will soon be hit with new U.S. sanctions not for election interference but rather for the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. Once U.S. intelligence found the Kremlin was behind that attack, Washington was legally required by law to impose sanctions. And as CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports, a second round of tougher, harsher penalties might be coming should Moscow fail to convince the White House that it won't use chemical weapons again.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These sanctions were now it's pretty late on Wednesday night by the State Department essentially what the State Department is doing is it's saying that Russia violated international law for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom earlier this year. Now, we know that the Russians have always denied being behind that attack but we also know that the United States, the United Kingdom and many of their allies don't buy what the Russians are saying. So these new sanctions are being put in place under what is called the chemical and biological weapons and warfare Elimination Act of 1991.

Essentially what could happen under all this is that once all these sanctions get into place the State Department is saying could be around August 22nd that in the first phase of these sanctions that certain goods might be banned from being exported to Russia, mostly electronic goods that could be banned there. And it's a second round of sanctions, it could be much tougher actually could be put into place around three months later that could actually see a downgrading of relations between Russia and the United States possibly even restrictions on the Russian national carrier Aeroflot flying to the United States and other measures as well.

Now, whether or not that's going to happen obviously will depend on what the Russians do and also whether or not to the United States really wants to get tough on them on this issue. But of course, it also comes at a time when many in the United States are wondering what exactly the relations between Trump and Putin administration are like. Of course, President Trump speaks very highly of Vladimir Putin after that summit in Helsinki and we just had Senator Rand Paul here in Russia who met with top-level Russian officials saying that he wants better relations.

So the Russians surely after these new sanctions have been put in place will be very angry about this. We haven't got any comment officially from them yet but we do expect that they will comment, be quite angry in the not-too-distant future. Fred Pleitgen, CNN Moscow.


VAUSE: Robert English is Director of the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California. He joins us once again here in Los Angeles. Robert, thanks for coming back. OK, the Deputy Representative to the U.N. for Russia tweeted this. "The theater of absurd continues, no proofs, no clues, no logic, no presumption of innocence, just highly likely, only one rule blame everything on Russia no matter how absurd and fake it is. Let us welcome the United Sanctions of America." OK. Beyond this one defiant comment from one government official, is there widespread concern within Russia about the impact these -- this round of news stations which take effect August 22nd will actually have on this economy?

ROBERT ENGLISH, DIRECTOR OF THE SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Of course the government Putin and those close to him will be concerned to put on this kind of bravado and whether it's mocking in that fashion that you just read or simply saying well shrug this off we can deal with it, the outward response will be tough. But yes behind the scenes there is growing concern. The Russian economy is only now recovering after a disastrous couple of years following the imposition of Crimea related and other sanctions right? Oil prices have been up, incomes are finally starting to grow and suddenly the sanctions in April which wiped out a lot of wealth and it basically destroyed some serious Russian commodities companies now followed by this.

And the government doesn't know where the money is going to come from, right? They're trying to raise their retirement age, raise taxes, wildly unpopular domestically and they show that sanctions are biting and another round of sanctions, real concern.

VAUSE: OK, so that's the sanctions that they know are coming, even word of possible sanctions, this bill before the U.S. Congress which would end up basically stationing Russian sovereign debt. The Washington Post published those details on Wednesday and that was enough for the ruble to take a tumble. And what they're talking about here with this sanction should it get through Congress, should it be passed there's a little bit of this. But this round of sanctions could actually end up you know, triggering a collapse of the banking sector. Is this possible?

ENGLISH: I don't think it's likely. It is possible but I think on this one something we have to bear in mind is that our European allies may not be with us, right? They, of course, deal directly with Russia. They trade much more with Russia. They are heavily dependent on Russia for natural gas and other commodities even with the sanctions that have dampened trade and something that would -- could result in just sharp curtailment of all trade, even banning flights from Aeroflot, downgrading diplomatic relations. They're going to say, guys, like let's look at China, look at Iran, look at all of our adversaries around the world. This is a little out of control. They join with us up to a certain point in wanting to bring Russia you know, behavior back in line with international norms but this might be a bridge too far for them.

VAUSE: Because we hear from the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who to talks about you know, the toughest of all sanctions ever to come out of the you know, the United States but ultimately there does seem to be a point where they do more harm than good and if you collapse the Russian economy and you lose the Europeans, then those sanctions tend to just be essentially backfire.

ENGLISH: And don't forget also the Europeans are little less self- righteous than we are. They say, America you've got a point. Russia shouldn't be meddling in elections. They shouldn't be doing these things. They shouldn't be taking out their enemies on foreign soil. After all, they could have done it when he was in their prison. But then they say, and you Americans, however, we're still dealing with a huge refugee crisis all triggered by George Bush's invasion of Iraq, we're still dealing with Libya, that came under Obama and Hillary Clinton. You know, you messed around in the Russian elections back in the 90s. You're not exactly a saint yourself so they're not going to be with us sort of legally all the way.

HAYES: You know, the U.S. does not exactly have clean hands in one of these issues. With regard to the current sanctions required by U.S. law for the Skripal attack of a nerve agent which was used in the U.K., these were not initiated by President Trump. They were required by law because these are chemical weapons. So could the U.S. President -- could he have intervened in any way? Could he have actively stopped these sanctions from being placed on Russia?

ENGLISH: So maybe he could have before the Helsinki summit but he's so weakened himself and he's done this again and again that his hands are tied. It's just politically impossible for him to defy Congress to not follow through with something that's in law or a congressional resolution. He's brought this on himself and it's just a remarkable self-inflicted would. This is the president who wanted to improve relations with Russia and every time there's a glimmer of hope of putting something in the past he fouls it up and he inflames the -- even his own party, much less Democrats.

VAUSE: We also have to keep in mind we're 60 days away, more than 60 days away just over from the midterm

elections here and the base the Republicans, they're not exactly the biggest fans of Russia, certainly not compared to the President. We've heard from Russia here continually denying this attack carried out using the nerve agent on the Skripals. We heard that denial just last month from President Vladimir Putin.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: Since you've mentioned the Skripal case, we would like to get some sort of documents and evidence about it but nobody gives it to us. The same thing as the accusations with meddling into the election process in America.

VAUSE: OK, is there any doubt at all that Moscow was behind the attack and is there any doubt that President Putin at least knew about it.

ENGLISH: It's very interesting you ask the question that way. I'd say on the first point was Moscow behind it apparently not, right? There's just too much intelligence, too much agreement by senior serious people but the connection to Vladimir Putin personally ordering it versus his general awareness and some senior military official, let's say military intelligence who have been known to have a special animus against any former agent who betrayed them and have been known sometimes to act without permission, you could say a semi- rogue agent, that's fully possible. Some of the election meddling clearly happened at a lower level where and again the Kremlin might have said go ahead have some fun, mess around not realizing what they were causing. So -- but Putin can't say that can he? He can't --

VAUSE: Yes, he's too tough, too strong.

ENGLISH: He can't admit that there could be elements in his own government who aren't waiting for orders and are actually trying to force his hand. That would be an admission of weakness so in a strange sense he cannot defend himself even if he has a defense.

VAUSE: Or in some quote that American term he has plausible deniability perhaps.

ENGLISH: Absolutely.

VAUSE: Good to see you. Thank you so much.

ENGLISH: Thank you.

VAUSE: Thanks for going back. Ok, let's move on here. Now Donald Trump's legal team may have just made their last counteroffer negotiations over an interview by the President with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller lawyer. Lawyer Rudy Giuliani did not reveal any specifics but he wants the issues settled and wants it done soon.


RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: We do not want to run into the November elections so you back up from that this should be over with by September first. We have now given him an answer. Obviously, he should take a few days to consider it, but we should get this resolved.


VAUSE: David Katz is a criminal defense attorney and the former Assistant U.S. Attorney here in Los Angeles in California. David, good to see you again.


VAUSE: This is a little bit surreal. On Wednesday, you a situation that Rudy Giuliani was appearing on a radio show hosted by Donald Trump's other television lawyer Jay Sekulow. Here's an exchange. Listen to this.


JAY SEKULOW, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: Ultimately this is the President's decision but he -- we're hopeful that he will take the advice of his lawyers as this process continues to mature.

GIULIANI: Absolutely. It's his -- it's his decision both as an individual and as the President.


VAUSE: OK, we know that in the past Giuliani and the other lawyers have said they do not want the President to sit down talking one-on- one with Robert Mueller. The President said he wants to do it because he thinks he can essentially get in there, you know, argue his case better than anybody else. So what happens now?

KATZ: Giuliani himself called this a possible perjury trapping. If he has that mindset and the President's lawyers seem to have that mindset I still do not believe that this sit-down is ever going to take place. But the President has to appear especially to his base to look like a tough guy who's willing to sit down and answer questions. So I think he puts that out through his representatives but I don't think it's going to happen. And if you want a negotiation to fall apart, obviously one way to do that is to keep asking for things that you know are not going to happen and it's also not going to happen I don't think soon because there's a rule that you're not supposed to do anything and Mueller follows this rule within 60 days of the elections. So they're about to run out of time right now and it's August.

VAUSE: OK, so does that then mean that if the President's team essentially you know says no, does Mueller then issue a subpoena?

KATZ: Well, the President could be subpoenaed. Nixon was subpoenaed for tapes, Clinton was subpoenaed for testimony, the Supreme Court ruled even a Conservative Court ruled that the president, President Nixon had to comply. They ruled eight to nothing and of course that was the beginning of the end of Nixon's presidency. VAUSE: OK, so if it does get to this whole subpoena issue, there is a

subpoena issue that is uncertain about what the law is. Here's Jay Sekulow again on the time all this would taken legally and the response that they would exactly set in process should Mueller go this route.


SEKULOW: If you get a subpoena, you follow what's called a motion to quash. That will be argued at the District Court, then it would go to the Court of Appeals, then it would go to the Supreme Court of the United States, a subpoena for live testimony has never been tested in court as to a President of the United States and there's a lot of language articles and precedent against that.


VAUSE: OK, so ultimately what you can be looking at here is this issue going before the Supreme Court which is the Supreme Court which potentially has two justices on the bench chosen by the President at the center of an issue which they would be siding. With those two justices, I don't know, would they recuse themselves in any capacity? What would happen?

KATZ: I don't believe that those two justices would recuse themselves. I believe that one reason that it may be that they're picking Kavanaugh is precisely because he's written on this subject or review articles saying that the president should not be inconvenienced because of the need for him to attend to his official duties during his presidency. Now, of course, he was on the star group that took the exact opposite position and mercilessly hounded, subpoenaed, questioned Clinton and forced Clinton eventually to an impeachment trial but that's at least what they're saying.

VAUSE: Right. So we have a situation quite possibly that the Justice hand-picked by the U.S. President will be deciding on the fate of the U.S. President.

[01:14:52] KATZ: Well, this may be a major issue in the confirmation battle over would-be Justice Kavanaugh. But if you take Gorsuch, for instance, Gorsuch while he was picked and got Merrick Garland's seat.


KATZ: The one that they never had any even hearings about that was stonewalled completely by the Republicans. But there's no reason why Gorsuch would have to recuse himself. Having said that there were eight conservative and moderate judges, a justices on the Supreme Court who decided that President Nixon had to comply with the subpoena. So, there is hope even with this group.


VAUSE: The different time -- different time. OK, one case which they probably will not drag on it seems, this is Congressman Chris Collins. He's been charged with seven counts of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud -- wire fraud, making false statement. He's accused of having insider information about negative clinical trial tests which were carried out by Australian Biotech Company.

He then found out this information whilst at a picnic at the White House. And it was from the White House that he then called his son, Cameron who had stock in the company. OK. Not only -- so, if you look at the timeline there, this does seem to be a fairly open and shut case. They don't have wiretaps, they just have the timeline of offense.

KATZ: Well, when I was the head of the Southern California Fraud Task Force here, one of our components was the Securities and Exchange Commission. And I saw some good cases, but this seems to be a slam- dunk case.

VAUSE: Right.

KATZ: Now, his lawyers may be great, they maybe have a plan to pull a rabbit out of the hat. But it sure looks like a very strong case because it's against the law to tip inside information. Let's assume for a second, this one congressman did not sell his own shares. But to tip off its --

VAUSE: A family member, his Son. Yes.

KATZ: It's a family member and another person close to him. And for $900,000 in losses to be saved and the timeline is terrible because it's non-public material information, it's traded upon, and then, a day or two later, the public is advised that this trial has not gone well for the M.S. drug that they're trying to develop. And the stock crash is 92 percent. It loses 92 percent of its value.

All the other poor suckers were wiped out, but they came out of it OK, didn't they? The -- this congressman's family.

VAUSE: Yes, government's family, they indeed. He has denied any wrongdoing, we should say that. He also plans to stay on the ballot after the midterm elections.


REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Because my focus is to defeat the charges in court, after today, I will not address any issues related to innate immune therapeutics outside of the courtroom. As I fight to clear my name, rest assured I will continue to work hard for the people and constituents of the 27th congressional district of New York and I will remain on the ballot running for re-election this November.

Thank you very much and have a great night.


VAUSE: OK, Collins was the first member of Congress to public support then-candidate Donald Trump. So, and you know, keep that in mind because this indictment isn't exactly unexpected. The House finding an investigation ultimately concluded that there was substantial reason to believe he violated rules standards of conduct and potential -- potentially federal law.

He was a guy, according to the Washington Post who boasted about making millionaires with his stock tips. And all this was back in October. I mean, we're always a year on since that health -- House ethics investigation.

KATZ: Well, I believe this is the same stock that caused such a problem for price who had to resign --


VAUSE: Whom the health and human secretary -- yes.

KATZ: Yes, had to resign as secretary. And just on top of that, it's a -- it's a situation where as you say the House Ethics Committee which is supposed to be a watchdog said there was substantial evidence. But they didn't do anything.

Only today, the speaker finally asked or finally removed him from a key committee that he's on. But this is really a startling sequence of events.

VAUSE: There's -- certainly, there is a trend either within those -- within the administration who very close to the administration. You know, Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp as looking more like an infinity pool right now with what's going on.

KATZ: Well, there sure seemed to be a lot of swamp creatures, still left in the swamp and some of them seem to be propagating and proliferating.

VAUSE: OK. David, we'll leave it at that. Good point to end on. Thank you.

KATZ: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, next here on "NEWSROOM, L.A., a deeply Catholic country is considering a revolutionary act regard to woman's right. To explain what is happening in Argentina at this hour.

Also, prosecutors say, this compound at New Mexico may have been a training ground to turn children into a mass killers.


[01:22:11] VAUSE: In California, more than 16,000 structures are under threat from three major fires. And it'll be weeks before the largest blaze in the state's history is under control.

The Mendocino Complex Fire has burned 1,200 square kilometers, destroying almost 120 homes. And outside Los Angeles, 20,000 residents are under a mandatory evacuation order as another fire burns in Riverside County.

A 51-year-old man is facing arson charges for that place. Let's go to Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera with more on this. And you know, these fires is getting worse every year.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Getting worse every year, getting worse every decade, every century, and it just continues hereto snowball as a result of not just the heat job, but also the wind and the low relative humidity.

So, you're in Los Angeles, pretty big place, right? 1,300 square kilometers, we're getting very close to that now as far as how big this Mendocino Complex Fire is. We show you some scenes, of course, but it's difficult sometimes to wrap your head around the enormity of what is going on in California, and that is what we're talking about there.

The size of Los Angeles that's how big this fire is. And it's not the only one, of course, that we're tracking as the biggest, but so far, still, 18 large active fires with thousands upon thousands of fire personnel attacking each fire.

And then, they're having to deal with this. That's just a warm July, the hottest ever July, the hottest July in this century, the last century, and the one before that since we've been keeping records. That is quite something there for the state of California. A record that we did not want in the middle of all this mess.

Look what's happened, annual average as far as how many fires they get from the 80s, to140, to the 90s, at 160, and now we're averaging upwards of 250 large fires in California.

You see the trend here, I mean, it doesn't take much to figure out what's going on, right? The planet is getting hotter, and these droughts continue to get longer, and the heat continues to bring us the accommodation of conditions that just make it unbearable for a firefighting efforts, and for containment too will be rather slow.

There's a forecast, mid to upper 30s over the next several days, really nothing is significant here. What I don't see is a big wind event which is important, of course, because that could spread embers, kilometers away and start new fires. So, record heat, not just in the U.S., but again, as I widen out global wide, this is a problem we have across the entire planet.

Here in Europe with a record heat across North Africa and into Asia, of course. Japan seeing one of their hottest summers at so far. And then, we've got the major wildfires that are ongoing. And coming up next hour, I'm going to dive into Australia. Specifically, New South Wales because we are dealing with an extreme drought entire state there as we continue with a very little rainfall.

And I don't see it much relief, but we'll break that down for you coming up next hour, John.

[01:24:55] VAUSE: OK, Ivan, we appreciate the update. Thank you.

Well a woman's right to an abortion is about to be put to the test in one of those Catholic of all countries, Argentina. Since June, there have been large demonstrations both for and against after a bill to decriminalize abortion narrowly passed the lower House of Congress.

Its 2:00 a.m. and (INAUDIBLE), and Senators are still debating the bill right now which would allow abortions through the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Argentina's president says while he opposes abortion, he will not veto this bill should actually pass the final hurdle.

The Argentine Senate has actually been debating all this for hour, still not clear if or when a vote will go ahead. But already a majority of Senators have indicated, they will vote against it. More details now from CNN's Rafael Romo.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Those against were dressed in blue. Green was the color of choice for those in favor. Both supporters and opponents of a bill that would legalize abortion in Argentina up until the 14th week of pregnancy, took to the streets in massive numbers.

Protesters surrounded the Senate building in Buenos Aires, the capital where lawmakers were engaged in the same fiery abortion debate that has divided Argentina.

"Today, I feel like never before that I'm part of a wide sector of our people who defend life in general. From the moment of conception and until death," this conservative legislature said.

Current laws allow the procedure only in cases of rape or when the mother's health is at risk. Those in favor of the bill say that has to change.

"I'm here because I no longer want to accompany my teenage students to have abortions in secrecy," this teacher said.

"The bill should be approved because we shouldn't try to keep on hiding reality," this supporter said. "Abortions won't stop just because we have a law banning them."

But in this still, deeply Catholic country, the birthplace of Pope Francis, the church, and conservative groups have mobilized like never before to strongly oppose legalization. The pontiff issued a letter in March as the abortion debate began, urging Argentines to make a contribution in defense of life and justice.

"Abortion means society has failed, we believe it is a false solution to our country's problems, to women's problems." This protester said. The bill was narrowly passed by the lower House of Congress in June. But as it prepares to hit the Senate floor, analysts say, it faces a very uphill battle.

The battle over abortion in Argentina has also galvanized women's rights groups, elsewhere. Protestors strode out, but the consulate of Argentina and Barcelona also dressed in green.

Those who die in secret abortions are women chanted protesters during a march in Mexico City. In Latin America as a region, only three countries have broadly legalized abortion. Cuba, Guyana, and Uruguay.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri has said that while he personally opposes abortion, he will honor the outcome of the Senate's vote. Rafael Romo, CNN.


VAUSE: Time now for a quick break. And when we come back, Canada's Prime Minister firing back in a very Canadian way in the country's feud with Saudi Arabia. You're watching --


[01:30:57]VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

The United States has announced new sanctions against Russia in response to the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the U.K. back in March. The U.S. says Russia violated a chemical and biological warfare law. Russia denies any involvement in the poison attack.

Senators in Argentina are expected to vote in a few hours on a bill that would legalize abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Just having this vote though, is a significant development in the mostly Catholic country, which is also the birthplace of Pope Francis. Argentina's president says he will not veto the measure should it pass.

In the Middle East, talk of a long-term cease fire was interrupted after Israeli Defense Forces exchanged fire with Gaza militants for hours along the border.

The Palestinian health ministry says three people were killed during Israeli air strikes.

A growing number of countries are siding with Saudi Arabia in its human rights dispute with Canada. The Russian foreign ministry says Riyadh has the right to decide its own internal issues and doesn't need criticism from quote, "a moral superior".

The latest details now from John Defterios.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR (on camera): Saudi Arabia has taken what can be described as a diplomatic club and is pounding Canada with wave after wave of tough measures.

There were two more aggressive actions coming from Riyadh. Saudi patients under care in Canadian hospitals will be moved outside the country, and "The Financial Times" reporting that banks managing assets on behalf of the Kingdom have been instructed to divest Canadian holdings. That means there's been six measures in total including the removal of the Canadian ambassador from Riyadh, suspension of trade ties, Saudi college students in Canada relocated, and Saudi airlines flights being suspended.

The sharp response is just the latest hurrah by the young Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. He's led the economic embargo against neighbor Qatar, is fronting a coalition in Yemen, and adopted a much tougher stance against rival Iran -- all this while he's trying to welcome investment as part of his Vision 2030 Reform Plan.

Middle East tensions are high, but his regional backing remains firm. Wednesday, allies -- Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain -- all put out statements of support against external interference by Canada.

Then there's the Trump factor. The Crown Prince may feel more emboldened to challenge Canada with the close ties he's forged with the U.S. president.

John Defterios, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: For more now on why Saudi Arabia has gone all DefCon 1 on Canada, CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier is with us now from Washington. Good to see you.


VAUSE: Ok. Let's pick up on that last point from John Defterios. Not only could the Saudi Crown Prince be feeling empowered because of his close relationship with the U.S. President Donald Trump but Washington traditionally a friend and ally of Canada has made it very clear it's staying on the sidelines in this dispute.

DOZIER: Yes, it has made it clear that it wants Saudi Arabia and Canada to sort this one out amongst themselves. And you can see why, if you look at the Trump administration's foreign policy, since it took office.

Jared Kushner, the President's adviser, is a close friend of the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Sultan. They speak regularly. That is supposed to be a very warm friendship.

And Saudi Arabia's essentially the U.S.' lynchpin in terms of foreign policy across the Gulf. They're relying on Saudi Arabia to prosecute the war in Yemen against the Iranian-backed Houthis and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. They're also relying on Saudi Arabia just as an offset to Iranian influence in general and to help fund the coalition fight against ISIS and rebuilding in Iraq.

[01:34:56] So, it's kind of like they will say these things in private, but publicly they don't want to shame the monarch or the prince or rock the boat.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, Canada -- with that in mind -- is reportedly asking Britain to try and mediate this dispute but we've heard from Saudi's foreign minister who said on Wednesday, just don't bother. Listen to this.


ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Regarding mediation, there's no need for it. Canada committed a grave mistake towards Saudi Arabia and it needs to fix that mistake. And Canada knows exactly what it needs to do in this regard.


VAUSE: You know, apart from the fact it sounds incredibly passive aggressive; like my mother saying, you know what you've done, you know what you've got to do to fix it. You know, what is in it here for the Saudis to take this hard line?

DOZIER: Well, they tried this twice before with Germany and with Sweden. They were upset at human rights criticisms, and they kicked both of those ambassadors out. Apparently, that didn't produce the result they wanted, so this time, when Canada stepped out and tweeted about this, that was possibly the foreign minister's biggest mistake, because a lot of Saudi Arabia is on social media, so would have seen something like this.

So, they've responded with this incredible all pistons firing blowback that a lot of Saudi watchers are saying is over the top and smacks of tyranny rather than a measured response to criticism from a trading partner and some time ally.

VAUSE: Ok. And so, let's go back and look at that tweet -- that egregious act from the Canadians which started it all about a week ago. The Canadian government put out this tweet. It was concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi. "We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists." And that's it.

You know, it's kind of a statement that the U.S. may have issued in the past when, you know, the U.S. actually cared about human rights.

DOZIER: Well, the Trump administration did release a pretty strong report last year which listed Saudi Arabia's various sins including detention of people unlawfully, torture, abuse of prisoners, but they put it inside a State Department report. So I think if Canada had even released this from the foreign ministry's podium, that would have been different than putting it in this -- that would have been different than putting it in this context in a very public way.

But you know, from the U.S.' perspective, what they've done is they've said these kind of things behind closed doors because they need Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince's reforms to succeed.

VAUSE: Ok, well, look out, because the Canadian prime minister -- he's had enough. He's not going to take it anymore. Here's Justin Trudeau. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTINE TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We continue to engage diplomatically and politically with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We have respect for their importance in the world and recognize they have made progress on a number of important issues, but we will, at the same time, continue to speak clearly and firmly on issues of human rights at home and abroad wherever we see the need.


VAUSE: Ok, you get the idea. But you know, if Canada was a character out of "The Simpsons", it would be Ned Flanders. You know, it's the boy scout of international diplomacy. But you know, it was just a couple of months ago when there was this verbal knife fight between Trudeau and Donald Trump over who said what in private at the G-7.

You know, there's been a few other sort of dust-ups internationally, recently as well and then, of course, now this head kicking from Saudi Arabia. Is Canada paying the price here for being the, you know, the nice guy in a world which has sort of gone mean?

DOZIER: Well, just possibly, but when you look on this on both sides, both from Canada's perspective and from Riyadh's perspective, this is a risk that they're each willing to take. They're not major trading partners. And Saudi Arabia is like number 20 of the partners trading with Canada.

So, they can stay in this deep freeze for quite some time and not pay too much of a price in terms of their own populations. And each stand for their principles, which is important, with each of their populations back home.

VAUSE: Yes, it just seems like it came out of nowhere, escalated in, you know, with lightning speed, and clearly no one really knows where this is all going to go at this point.

But Kimberly -- thank you so much. Great to see you.

DOZIER: Thank you.

VAUSE: The awful discovery in New Mexico of nearly a dozen starving children living in squalor was abhorrent. Then it got worse when a child's body was found. Prosecutors say the adults who were arrested there had a dark and sickening motive.

[01:40:01] We have details now from CNN's Scott McLean.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): There are five defendants in this case, and they each are facing 11 counts of child abuse. And in each of the five criminal complaints, it reads, in part, "Additionally, a foster parent of one of the 11 children stated the defendant had trained the child in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings. Should the defendant be released from custody, he poses a great danger to the children found on the property as well as a threat to the community as a whole."

It is important, though, to point out that at this point, it is merely an accusation. This has not been proven in court. The defense lawyers, he says that -- look, all five of his clients has pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, and he says this should be taken with a grain of salt because he doesn't believe the prosecution actually has definitive evidence to back up this claim.

Now both the property owners and the sheriff's office say that they did find guns on this makeshift compound or a bunch of handguns. There was also an AR-15 and a couple of rifles as well.

We also went out to the property. We found plenty of ammunition lying around as well as a shooting range that looked like it had been used quite often. It had homemade targets. It even had a tire berm at the end of it though it is not uncommon by any stretch for people who live in these remote areas to own weapons.

Now, we also spoke to the father of Lucas Morton. He is one of the adults who was found on this compound, one of the five defendants in this case. He framed things quite differently. He says that this was group of peaceful people who had gone out to this remote area to build a homestead, to make a new life away from the rest of the world.

He says their only problem was that they didn't have the resources, the money or the experience to do it right or to do it safely.


VAUSE: Thanks to Scott McLean there for that report. We should note a pre-trial detention hearing for the five defendants is set for Monday.

A short break. When we come back here -- high expectations in Lebanon as it looks to medical marijuana to try and help the economy.


VAUSE: Syria's first lady has been diagnosed with breast cancer. We've got (INAUDIBLE) a photo of Asma al-Assad receiving medical care with the president seated next to her. Good news for Asma al-Assad, the tumor was discovered early.

[01:44:59] No such good fortune for almost half a million people who, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, have died because of her husband's civil war.

The British prime minister is taking her former foreign secretary to task over his remarks about burkas. Boris Johnson wrote a newspaper column saying Denmark was wrong to ban the burka but he also said the traditional Islamic garment was oppressive, ridiculous, and made women look like letter boxes and bank robbers.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think Boris Johnson used language in describing people's appearance that's obviously caused offense. It was the wrong language to use. He should not have used it on the key issue about women's ability to wear the burka if they choose to do so. That should be a matter for a woman to choose.


VAUSE: Well, the burkas and full-face coverings have been a controversial issue in Europe. France is one country which has already banned the clothing.

To Lebanon where marijuana has been an illicit cash crop for years -- untaxed and unregulated. But now with the country facing some big financial problems, the government is considering legalization of pot for medical use to help a struggling economy.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has details.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A carpet of cannabis sprawls across Lebanon's Bekaa Valley -- a forbidden crop but perhaps not much longer. The government is considering legalizing marijuana cultivation for medicinal purposes -- music to the ears of this farmer who asked that we not reveal his identity.

"If only the government knew its value," he says, "it's like another petroleum." He shows us around the fields, singing the praises of a plant farmers have grown in this red soil for generations.

"This is not a drug, I tell you, a thousand -- 1,500 times," he says. "Cocaine, heroin, those are drugs. This is the herb of happiness. My friend says when he smokes a joint, his wife becomes a princess, the world shines, life is beautiful."

Other crops like tobacco and potatoes are increasingly difficult to grow as the climate here becomes dryer. Under these difficult conditions, weed works.

Lebanon has been struggling through a prolonged financial crisis and export of the country's famed cannabis, better known here as hashish, could lift the struggling economy.

(on camera): The fact is, hashish is the most logical crop to grow in this area. It requires very little in the way of inputs like water and fertilizer, and they don't use any pesticides. And as the farmers will tell you, the profits are fairly high.

(voice over): While some conservative elements oppose any form of legalization, Lebanese officials are certainly proud of their pot.

RAED KHOURY, LEBANESE ECONOMY AND TRADE MINISTER: Many, many specialists, they have studied our -- the quality of this cannabis, and they say that it is one of the best in the world.

WEDEMAN: Economy and trade minister Raed Khoury is blunt about the benefits for a country deeply in debt.

KHOURY: It can provide around $400 million to $800 million of revenues to the country.

WEDEMAN: as a solution to financial woes, Lebanese grass may be greener, yet activist Gino Raidy is concerned that the country's many recreational users won't benefit from the buzz.

GINO RAIDY, LEBANESE ACTIVIST: So the worry now is that if they legalize it for export for medicinal purposes, it will are remain the same status in the criminal justice law in Lebanon which means the thing the government might be making a lot of money off of is still illegal for locals and they still get in trouble for it.

WEDEMAN: But for many others, these buds smell like money.

Ben Wedeman, CNN -- in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.


VAUSE: Well, in Thailand, another happy ending for some of the boys and their soccer coach rescued last month from a flooded cave. Four of the 12 were stateless but were granted Thai citizenship during a special ceremony. One is a 14-year-old Myanmar refugee. He helped communicate with British cave divers during the rescue.

A short break. When we come back here on NEWSROOM L.A. 90 years old and looking for a makeover -- what is Oscar doing? Why is Hollywood so upset? And who cares?

Back in a moment.


VAUSE: Breaking news out of Buenos Aires right now. Senators have rejected a landmark bill to legalize abortion by a vote of 38 to 31, two abstentions. That's not exactly a complete surprise. Argentina is deeply Catholic, the homeland of Pope Francis.

Still, the issue has galvanized large demonstrations on both sides here after the bill narrowly passed the lower house of congress in June. It's an issue which has been going on for decades in Argentina and is unlikely to go away despite the defeat in the senate.

Well, the Oscar for most popular film goes to -- that could be a line which you will be hearing at the future of the Oscars as the Motion Picture Academy has announced a new category. It's seen as a way to try and get audience-pleasing blockbusters into the mix but the decision is being mocked by some actors and many within the industry.

For more, Rebecca Sun, senior reporter from "The Hollywood Reporter" is with us now. Ok. Good to see you.

REBECCA SUN, SENIOR REPORTER, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": Good to see you. VAUSE: OK. The biggest issue with this new category -- the popcorn Oscar -- here's actor Rob Lowe. It's a little dramatic. "The film business passed away today with the announcement of a popular film Oscar." Ok.

SUN: Such an actor.

VAUSE: Exactly. Calm down -- Rob, it's Ok. Writer and journalist Mark Harris made this observation. "There is already an award for popular films. It's called money." That I agree with.

Many sort of disagree with this. What they're saying is ok, you get this really good movie like "Black Panther" which is both a critical success and a commercial success. What happens? Does it get the best popular film thing and misses out on best film? It gets second best here or what?

SUN: Yes. So the academy had the issue of follow-up clarification immediately saying that movies are eligible for both but just because something's eligible for both doesn't mean that the voters, whoever they are, whether they're academy members or the public are going to say, you know -- you know what, let me spread the wealth. I'm going to give "Black Panther" my popular vote so I'm going to save my Best Picture vote for another movie, you know.

VAUSE: For the worthy one.

SUN: Right, exactly. It creates this sort of asterisk for whoever wins the most popular film. Is that going to seem, like you said, sort of a second best? Is it like the people's choice award of the Oscars?

VAUSE: It's still an Oscar though, at the end of the day, right.

SUN: Yes, but it's not going to be like Best Picture.

VAUSE: Right.

SUN: It will still -- it won't have that credibility.

VAUSE: Ok. So this is all about making the Academy Awards, you know, more relatable because if you look at the films which have won Best Picture over the past seven years -- we've got them -- "Shape of Water". Oh, my God -- I still struggle with that movie. God, it's awful.


VAUSE: I mean, you know. That was this year. But you know. And then you look at the highest-grossing films -- "The Shape of Water" comes in at number 46, ok.

So obviously there's this huge disconnect. But look at the top ten highest-grossing films of all time taking into account inflation. They either won or were nominated for Best Picture, except for "Snow White", which had some kind of honorary Oscar. But that latter one, the ten all-time grossing films -- they came out 20 years ago or later. So, is this disconnect something which we've just seen more recently?

SUN: In part, it's because studios, the major studios that are investing like, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars into making films are increasingly just investing in franchises -- you know, these super hero movies, big action blockbusters, and they're no longer making those, you know, mid-budget dramas that really play broadly. You know, the "Forrest Gumps" that are both very, very commercial as well as critically acclaimed.

And so it's sort of what the output has sort of fragmented and you're losing the middle class of films. You know, I think that could change. I don't think it's necessarily a permanent trend, especially as you're seeing those so-called popcorn films really increase in quality.


SUN: You know, Ryan --


VAUSE: Yes, writing and acting --

SUN: "Black Panther" --

VAUSE: -- so much better.

SUN: "Black Panther" is a great example of a movie that was universally well-praised and undeniably a blockbuster movie.

VAUSE: And "Wonder Woman" too.

[01:55:01] SUN: And "Wonder Woman" which, you know, it did miss out on getting a best picture nom which some people think might be -- this is a reaction to that.

VAUSE: Ok. They've also decided as part of these changes to keep the telecast to three hours. Let's see how that works out but, you know, I think that's a good idea and all this is basically, you know, because they're also going to sort of turn out some awards during the commercial breaks. That's how they're going to keep the time down.

All of this is, you know, because they've basically got to do something because they're losing viewers and they're losing young viewers like they've never seen before. This year, a record like, 26 million people in the U.S. watched The Academy Awards. Four years ago, it was more than 43 million.

So I guess, you know, is this enough to keep people watching The Academy Awards?

SUN: I mean it's weird because some of these -- this recent changes that they announced today seem like a bridge too far for a lot of people. I mean I think announcing an entirely new category whose qualifications are still very murky -- how are you going to decide what's a popular film? Is it going to be based on box office? Is it going to be based on budget?

VAUSE: Cost versus revenue -- that kind of stuff, yes.

SUN: Right. It's all very ambiguous. Is this going to turn it into, like, the People's Choice Awards? And it's not like -- I mean if it really was based on popular films, the People's Choice Awards would be the most watched awards show on TV and it's not.

The Oscars still stands for a level of prestige that these rules seem to be watering down.

VAUSE: I just wonder if people will just going to stop going to the movies. They're just going to stop watching the Academy Awards. But here's part of what the governors (INAUDIBLE) to the Academy members. "We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The board of governors took this charge seriously."

Ok. So in terms of trying to attract younger viewers, it seem like all these changes they're talking about, that's an old person's idea of what they think a young person wants to see.

SUN: Yes. I think that, you know, with the Academy over the past four years, you know, or since Oscar's so white has really opened up its membership and that's been an area of a lot of controversy. Some people thinking you're inviting too many people too quickly; some people haven't really established their relevancy.

But that's the kind of change that over time will naturally lend to a broader range of movies being nominated. I don't think they really need to include this sort of bludgeon of a rule change on top of that.

VAUSE: Yes. And it has only been a couple years since they increased the number of best pictures from five to like --

SUN: From five to 10.

VAUSE: -- to 500 -- yes, it seems.

Rebecca -- thank you.

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

The news continues on CNN after a very short break, but not with me -- with Rosemary Church.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers --