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U.S. Supplied Bomb that Killed 40 Children in Yemen; India Flooding; Pakistan Inauguration; Trump White House; Funeral for Genoa Disaster Victims. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired August 18, 2018 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Munitions experts make a disturbing discovery. The bomb that killed dozens of children in Yemen earlier this month was made in the United States.

Plus deadly flooding and landslides in India claim more victims.

And more U.S. intelligence officials come out strongly against President Trump's decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA director, John Brennan.

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


VANIER: We begin this hour with a CNN exclusive report on the Saudi- led airstrike earlier this month on a school bus in Northern Yemen. We have been following this story closely. And CNN has now confirmed that the bomb that killed as many as 50 people, 40 of them children, was supplied by the United States.

I have to warn you, Nima Elbagir's report does contain disturbing images.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Every day Zaid al-Hamaranz (ph) visits the graveyard where his two little boys are buried. Today he brought their 5-year-old brother along. He's all Zaid has left.

ZAID AL-HAMARANZ (PH), FATHER OF CHILD KILLED IN BOMBING (through translator): People were screaming out the names of their children. I tried to tell the women it couldn't be true, but then a man ran through the crowd shouting that a plane had struck the children's bus.

ELBAGIR: On August 9th, he filmed his class on the long awaited school trip, a reward for graduating summer school. Within hours, it had all gone horribly wrong. A plane from the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition struck a bus carrying them. Dozens died. Some of the bodies were so mutilated identification became impossible.

All that's left are the scraps of school books, warped metal and a single backpack. Eyewitnesses tell CNN this was a direct hit in the middle of the market.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I saw the bomb hit the bus. It blew it into those shops and three bodies clear to the other side of those buildings. We found bodies scattered everywhere. There was a severed head inside the bomb crater.

ELBAGIR: This video of the shrapnel was filmed in the aftermath of the attack and sent to CNN in contact. A cameraman working for CNN subsequently filmed these images for us.

Munitions experts tell CNN this was a U.S.-made mark MK-82 bomb weighing in at half a ton. The first five digits there are the cage number - the commercial and government entity number. This denotes here denotes Lockheed Martin, one of the top U.S. defense contractors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're at the forefront of design that makes this real.

ELBAGIR: This particular MK-82 is a pave way, a laser guided precision bomb. It's targeting accuracy up to a particular point of pride for Lockheed Martin. But with an arms deal with Saudi Arabia sanctioned and contracted out by the U.S. government.

So why does this matter?

Because the devastation inflicted by the MK-82 is all too familiar in Yemen.

In March, 2016, a strike on a market using this similarly laser guided 2,000 pound MK-84 killed 97 people. In October, 2016, another strike on a funeral hall killed 155 people and wounded hundreds more. Then the bus attack on August 9th, where they're still counting the dead.

The U.S. doesn't just sell arms to the coalition in its battle against the Iranian-backed rebel Houthi militias, it provides intelligences, help with targeting procedures, mid-air refueling. President Obama blocked sales of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia over human rights concerns. Six months later under the newly elected Trump administration, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, overturned the ban.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Look, there is a balance that needs to be struck. The president also noted that the Saudis have a right to defend themselves. They were being attacked from across the southern border by Houthis who were being aided by Iran and were launching rockets and missiles.

And what I would tell you is that we certainly had under the Obama administration deep concerns about the ways the Saudis were targeting. We acted only those concerns by limiting the kind of munitions that they were being given and stridently trying to argue for them to be --


KIRBY: -- more careful and cautious. ELBAGIR: Saudi Arabia denies targeting civilians and defends the incident as a legitimate military operation and a retaliatory response to a Houthi ballistic missile from the day before.

When asked to comment on CNN's evidence, coalition spokesperson Dukyel Maliki (ph) told us, "The coalition is taking all practical measures to minimize civilian casualties -- every civilian casualty is a tragedy," adding that it would not be appropriate for the coalition to comment further while the investigation is underway.

The U.S. wouldn't comment on the origins of the bomb but the State Department is calling for a Saudi-led investigation, which the U.S. Defense Secretary supports.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Wars are always tragic but we have got to find a way to protect innocents in the midst of this one.

ELBAGIR: Ozama's (ph) cell phone footage is all that his father has left of the two boys, their last happy moments. Ozama's father isn't optimistic that an investigation will change anything. In a country where loss has become commonplace, they aren't even praying for justice anymore, just peace -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.


VANIER: The worst flooding in Southern India in almost a century has killed hundreds of people, many of them in the past 10 days alone. It's a devastating scene right now in the state of Kerala as fast moving flood waters rise faster than people can actually escape them.

We're also learning that Kerala's international airport has extended its suspension of all flights until August 26th due to runways being submerged. Here's CNN News 18 reporter Radhika Ramaswamy.


RADHIKA RAMASWAMY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The state of Kerala has seen unprecedented flooding this year. In fact, I'm in one of the worst affected areas in Kerala, this is (INAUDIBLE) district.

This is called Afundula (ph), this is a small town here. As you can see behind me, this entire place is completely flooded. Rivers are all flowing down and overflowing bridges which is why several districts in the state of Kerala, are under water.

As of now rescue and relief operations are going on, several agencies from the center are doing the rescue operations via the army, navy, coast guard or the NDRF and even local police officials and fire rescue teams are doing these rescue operations for the last couple of days.

But the fact remains that this rescue operation has become enormously challenging because thousands of people are still stranded in many of these islands and in many of these isolated places and their homes are completely flooded. People are standing on terraces calling out for help. So that is the

kind of devastation that we are witnessing. Now the challenges that we are facing, I will just show you the situation here right now. This place is completely flooded and I will take you through the challenges that the officials here are facing in terms of relief and rescue.

Several challenges, be it the landing area for boarding, be it the flow of water which is extremely heavy. Because of that, none of these boats are actually going into the places which are severely affected because of the heavy flow of water as well as lack of landing and the other lack of structure.

So therefore, what the state requires is more services from the vendor, more armed forces to really come in and do the rescue and also chopper services. There are chopper services in several areas but more choppers are required.

Right now Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been holding talks with the state government and has assured all the help to the states but at this point, things are quiet. Many thousands still stranded. We will have to see how this evacuation(ph) is going to pan out in the days to come.

For CNN "NEW DAY" in India, this is Radhika Ramaswamy reporting from (INAUDIBLE).


VANIER: Great report there. As Radhika was pointing out, often the hard thing when you have these national disasters is actually getting access to the people who need the help the most.



VANIER: Staying in the region, Pakistan has a new prime minister. Imran Khan has been sworn into office just a day after Pakistani lawmakers elected him. The former cricketer turned politician now leads a nation facing deep economic troubles as well as security concerns.

Journalist Ben Farmer joins us now from Islamabad, Pakistan.

Ben, Imran Khan promised so much to so many during the campaign.

What did he say Pakistan would look like under his leadership?

And can he deliver that?

BEN FARMER, JOURNALIST: Imran Khan, who's been sworn in today as prime minister, has been campaigning for 22 years to become prime minister and to lead the country. Over that time, he's been a largely anticorruption campaigner, making promises that he will clean up Pakistan, that he will transform the judiciary, that he will transform all of government. And those are pretty tall promises. And he has raised expectations

very, very high on the campaign trail. So among things he said he would do is he would crack down on corruption. He would improve health care. He would build world class hospitals. He would build world class universities to improve education.

He would make sure there was accountability. He spent years and years complaining against the dynastic political elites in Pakistan, complaining that it looted the country of its wealth and stashed it overseas in foreign property and foreign bank accounts.

So after campaigning for all these years on these issues, there really are high expectations. And the country is now waiting to see. Now he can't talk about it. Now he has to deliver.

VANIER: And now is the time to act, absolutely, starting today. Ben Farmer, thank you very much, reporting live from Islamabad in Pakistan. Thanks.

At this hour, Turkey's Justice and Development Party is holding its annual congress as the country's currency continues to plummet. Its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is expected to speak within an hour. Gul Tuysuz joins us from is. She got a closer look at that.

Gul, Erdogan is somebody who really likes to project strength, always has.

Is he in a position of strength right now?

GUL TUYSUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He has always said that his position of strength, his power comes from the Turkish people. And since this ongoing spat with the U.S., he's really taken to his supporters and come out in fiery, defiant speeches and basically has been trying to rally the people around the flag because that really is at the base of what -- where he gets his strength from.

And today we can expect to see a bit more of that, that same kind of fiery and defiant speech, saying that Turkey will not bow down to U.S. threats when it comes to the economy.

But having said that, that's what he's saying domestically. But internationally, globally in terms of the economy, Turkey is in a very difficult position. The Turkish lira has been losing --


TUYSUZ: -- value precipitously and really has been affecting the economy here. But again there Erdogan has been very defiant. He's been saying that Turkey has other options, that it's not beholden to the U.S. in terms of trade ties, that it has the option time to go looking for new markets for new trade partners, whether it be Russia or China.

And we've seen that some of his calls from his other international partners have been coming through. Qatar, for example, pledging to bring in $50 billion into the Turkish economy. But having said all of that, Turkey is in a very tough position economically. So if any of that is going to be enough to hold back this tide of economic crisis, is something we just don't know at this point.

VANIER: All right, Gul, thank you very much for your insights. Definitely look out for what Erdogan will say at his speech in a about an hour or so. Because anything he says could potentially move markets when they reopen. Gul Tuysuz, reporting live from Istanbul, thank you.

A national security issue or just a way to divert media attention?

We'll get an expert's view on why the White House plans to revoke more security clearances.

Plus victims from Italy's bridge collapse will be remembered at a state funeral. But some of the victims' families there will boycott the event. We'll explain why. Stay with us.




VANIER: President Trump is facing more rebukes from former intelligence officials for revoking the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan. A letter from 60 -- that's right, 60 former CIA officials says the country is weakened when a political litmus test is tied to these security clearances.

That comes on top of a statement from 15 former CIA directors, deputy directors and a Director of Natural Intelligence as well, all of them serving under both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to the 1980s.

They say the president's actions are politically motivated and that they stifle free speech.

"The Washington Post" is also reporting the White House has already drafted documents revoking clearances of more people that the president feels should be punished for criticizing him or playing a role in the Russia investigation.

That same report says the White House is considering rolling out those revocations in such a way as to distract from negative news cycles.

What is Mr. Trump saying about all this?

He said that revoking Brennan's clearance was not done to silence him.


TRUMP: If anything I'm giving him a bigger voice. Many don't know who he is. I like taking on voices like that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: -- evening, former director Brennan spoke out strongly, saying that Mr. Trump is, quote, "drunk --


VANIER: -- on power," and abusing the powers of the office.

Let's bring in political analyst, Michael Genovese. He is president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University and author of "How Trump Governs."

Tell us a little bit about that, about how he governs in this particular instance.

Why is the president doing this?

MICHAEL GENOVESE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's lost control of the spotlight.

VANIER: Has he?

GENOVESE: And for him, it's tragic. It's focused on Omarosa. It's focused on other issues. He needs to reclaim control so I think he needs the spotlight. He wants the spotlight. And this puts him in a position where, if he, for example, takes away Brennan's security clearance, he looks strong. He looks powerful. He look like he's acting.

But remember, this is only the beginning.


VANIER: But he admits -- sorry to cut you off. But he admits -- we just heard him -- that it doesn't silence his critics.

GENOVESE: No, it's not going to silence his critics. But it will try to put them on the defensive by making them look bad, by saying they've wronged and I'm going to correct the wrong. I'm the one who's taking on the deep state, this conspiracy against me.

The deep state is just the establishment and what you've seen is the establishment fight back, 60 ex-CIA agents, seven ex-CIA directors and many assistant directors. And so the president may have overplayed the hand and that is why the establishment, not the deep states, is fighting back.

VANIER: Has he, though?

Because has he really overplayed his hands because this feels like political theater. We see this. Donald Trump does or says something that abruptly and brutally breaks with protocol.

And then some member of the establishment, as you call it -- it could be the media sometimes, now it's former White House -- sorry, former intelligence officials -- push back strongly and we have this back and forth and then in the middle of it, the political balance doesn't really change.

GENOVESE: We don't know that it's not going to change. Every day is a different story. Every day is a different arrow that he shoots and one that shot back. What is going to hit and what's going to stick?

And I think what you see is that the president is making more enemies than friends. And the cumulative effect of that may be to drive some mainstream Republicans against him and, number one, the midterm elections could suffer. Number two, the Mueller report will come out. And if he starts hemorrhaging support there, then he begins to lose control of everything.

VANIER: One argument that I'd like you to address, especially for our international audience, because it's not like this in every country around the world, the White House argues these former intelligence officials shouldn't be political pundits. They shouldn't on TV.

Some of them are on our air, on CNN, passing judgment on the president.

Do you agree or disagree with that?

GENOVESE: Well, who better to talk about these things?

Who knows more?

Who's been at the table when, for example, just today, the rear admiral McRaven, who was the guy who was in charge of getting bin Laden. He gave a scathing letter against the president.

But these are the people who've been --


VANIER: He actually said, "Revoke my security clearance. It would be an honor for my clearance to be revoked."

GENOVESE: That's right. That was a little bit of a staged event. But, still, it shows you the power that the president has to repulse certain people while he also attracts others. And so, the question is, in the political balance, does Trump gain or lose?

I think he loses in this because the establishment now is turning day by day against him.

VANIER: The criticism of the president's, some of that criticism, is that this is a slide toward an authoritarian style of leadership.

Do you think that's fair?

GENOVESE: I don't like to use that term. I mean, he's following, to some extent, the authoritarian playbook by attacking the media as the enemy of the people, by attacking the establishment that has the credentials to upend him. So he's taking a pre-emptive strike. Is it an authoritarian set of


I would not go that far. Certainly I understand the people who say that. It does appear that he's following some of that playbook. But I think it's a little premature to say that.

VANIER: There certainly is a lot of theater involved. Michael Genovese, thank you for joining us.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

VANIER: I want to take you to Italy, where some of the victims from Genoa's bridge collapse are being remembered at a joint state funeral this hour. These are live images from the Genoa Convention Center.

Reuters reports some families are boycotting the state funeral, protesting the negligence that they claim caused the bridge to come down. Burial services for four of the victims were held Friday in the town of Toredo Greco (ph). CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau joins us from Rome. She has got more details on this. She's been covering this story.

Tell us a little bit about the reaction to the funerals. Obviously some of the families had funerals yesterday on Friday. And the reaction to this, I gather, has been fairly negative.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's quite controversial. Only 18 victims will be represented at this state funeral and those --


NADEAU: -- who decided not to participate say they don't want to be part of a parade of politicians. There will be the head of state. There will be the new prime minister, the leaders in government.

And while these state funerals are generally part of parcel of a natural disaster, those victims say this wasn't a natural disaster. This was a manmade disaster. And another part of the controversy, of course, is that there are still bodies under the rubble. And until and unless they pull all those bodies out, those people waiting for their own victims feel a little bit slighted in this -- Cyril.

VANIER: Yes. That's just very hard to imagine that the funeral is going on while some of the bodies are still under the rubble.

There's been a lot of finger-pointing since the bridge collapsed.

Who do Italians say is responsible for this?

NADEAU: I think negligence is the overriding factor in this. Everyone who's been affected by this, whether it's the people who live under the bridge, even the citizens of Genoa, this beautiful Italian port town, which now is marked by this tragedy, feel they've been let down. They feel that bad maintenance, that austerity-driven cuts and just

government that didn't care when they had been complaining for years and years that there was a problem with this bridge.

We've heard report after report that chunks of cement have been falling off this bridge onto the people, the houses that are below it, for a long time. And there's a lot of finger-pointing. But they're going to need to clear that scene yet.

They haven't taken all the bodies out. There's still four people known to be missing and there could be others. They don't have an exact number of cars that were on the bridge at that time.

So it's still very much an open recovery effort. But a lot of people are pointing to this as really a crime scene. And they want answers.

VANIER: Yes, it's a very sad story indeed. And the rescuers, as you were telling us, are still trying to cut through that thick concrete, trying to get to some of the people who are missing, see if they're under the rubble.

Barbie Nadeau, reporting live from Rome, we appreciate it. Thank you very much.

One more thing to tell you: funeral arrangements are now set for music legend Aretha Franklin. She died Thursday of cancer at age 76. A private ceremony for friends, family and invited guests will be held in two weeks. That's August 31st at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple.

Afterwards, she will be entombed at Woodlawn Cemetery. The public will be able to pay their respects during a two-day viewing on August 28th and 29th. A tribute concert is also scheduled for November. That's worth noting.

Thank you very much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I have got the headlines for you in just a moment.