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Pope Francis Heads to Ireland amid Sexual Abuse Scandals; CFO of Trump Organization Granted Immunity; John McCain Stopping Brain Cancer Treatment; Tropical Storm Lane; Zimbabwe Court Confirms Mnangagwa's Victory. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired August 25, 2018 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Pope Francis heads to Ireland as the church sex abuse crisis rages and he is set to meet with survivors.

Plus as the U.S. president's fortress of loyalty begins to crumble, many are wondering if he can face legal troubles.

Tropical storm Lane is weakening but flooding in Hawaii is still a major concern and rain continues to pummel the island.

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


VANIER: Pope Francis is on his way to Ireland, expected to land in Dublin in about two and half hours. When he gets there, he will find an odd mix of celebration and anger, celebration at the World Day of Families, where he'll be speaking Saturday evening, and anger over decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups at the hands of Catholic priests and church leaders.

CNN senior Vatican analyst and editor of "Crux," John Allen, waiting for the pope to arrive in Dublin.

John, it is just...

It is interesting that the pope would be doing this visit to Ireland just as there is this new scandal breaking out in the United States -- we saw the grand jury report, coming out of Pennsylvania -- because Ireland is one of the countries -- if you had to pick one, where scandals of church abuse and scandal cut the deepest. Tell us about that.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SR. VATICAN ANALYST: You're absolutely right, Cyril. It is a chilly morning here in Dublin and I think to some extent, the atmosphere here is a bit chilly as well, awaiting Pope Francis when he lands. You're right, I think if you had to pick one country in the world

where the church's clerical sexual abuse scandals have been the most intense, cut the deepest, so to speak, it would be Ireland.

You have to remember that historically the Catholic Church here has operated virtually every school in the country, every orphanage, every hospital, every institution. Parishes have been the center of neighborhood life. The church has formed life inside families.

So there is almost no one in this country who doesn't have in their own family a survivor of abuse; in other words, the pain and legacy of this scandal is ubiquitous.

So when people here see what they have seen in recent weeks, you mentioned that blistering grand jury report in Pennsylvania in just six diocese in that state, more than 300 predator priests, more than 1,000 child victims over a 70-year span.

And most think that is just the tip of the iceberg. When they watch what is happening in Chile with revelation after revelation of sexual abuse by clergy and cover-ups by those in charge, the rage that elicits, the sense of betrayal, is just profound.

Look, the pope, when he gets here, is going to draw large and enthusiastic crowds. Tonight, he will celebrate a festival, families in Coke Park in Dublin, Catholic families from all over the world will be there. For many of them, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There will be great joy.

But you shouldn't mistake that for indifference or denial about the challenges that the church faces. The head of the theology faculty at the national seminary has a piece in one of the Irish papers this morning, Cyril, in which he says that the acid test for Pope Francis is whether he imposes accountability in the Catholic Church, not simply for the crime of sexual abuse but for the cover-up.

I think most people here are expecting him to address that.

VANIER: All right, John Allen, the pope should be landing in Dublin on about two and half hours, John, thank you.

U.S. president Donald Trump asked during the 2016 campaign, "If you are not guilty of a crime, why do you need immunity?"

Well, a key figure in Mr. Trump's innermost circle has now been granted immunity in the federal criminal probe of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.

Allen Weisselberg is chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. His connection to the Trump family spans decades, going back even to the president's father, who initially recruited him. He is also treasurer of the Trump charity and he has prepared Mr. Trump's tax returns, the very same tax returns Mr. Trump refuses to make public.

CNN's Athena Jones has the latest. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In what could be a new blow to President Trump, sources tell CNN Trump Organization money man Allen Weisselberg granted immunity to cooperate with --


JONES (voice-over): -- federal prosecutors investigating Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty this week to breaking campaign finance laws and implicated Trump in his plea deal.

TRUMP: Replacing George this week is my chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. And you think George is tough. Wait until you see Allen.

JONES: Weisselberg, the company's chief financial officer, seen here on an episode of "The Apprentice," has worked for Trump for decades.

As one former employee put it, "He knows we're all of the proverbial financial bodies are buried, every sale, every deal, anything and everything that's been done." And he personally gave Trump updates on these matters.

A source familiar CNN Weisselberg's interview with investigators took place weeks ago and focused on Cohen and the hush money payments to two women claiming to have had affairs with Trump, which he denies.

COHEN: And, I spoke to Allen about it, when it comes time for the financing.

JONES: Weisselberg figures prominently in the secret recording Cohen released last month of a conversation he had with Trump two months before the 2016 presidential election about payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

COHEN: And, I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with...

JONES: Another person mentioned on that tape, "National Enquirer" chief David Pecker, a longtime friend of Trump's who also received an immunity deal from prosecutors.

According to "The Wall Street Journal," Pecker backed up details Cohen spelled out in his plea deal, telling prosecutors Trump was aware of the deals at the time, despite claiming to know nothing about them.

Making matters worse, "The New York Times" reports the Manhattan district attorney's office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company executives in connection with Cohen's payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Trump's legal team declined to comment on the Weisselberg news, but Trump made it clear what he thought about immunity deals during the campaign. TRUMP: And if you're not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for?

JONES (voice-over): Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


VANIER: Let's talk to CNN legal analyst, Carrie Cordero.

Tell me, Carrie, about Allen Weisselberg, Mr. Trump's money man.

Is it a gamechanger that he is talking to prosecutors?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's certainly a significant development in the overall investigations but we don't know exactly how significant it is yet, because we don't know the specific contours of his immunity agreement.

Right now, based on the information we know publicly, it seems his immunity is limited to the specific charges that Michael Cohen, the president's previous personal attorney and close advisor, pled guilty to. And those are specifically campaign finance violations, as well as some other financial crime related charges Michael Cohen pled guilty to.

Right now, we understand Mr. Weisselberg's cooperation to pertain to that specifically; whether or not he is talking to the government about more topics, we simply don't know at this time.

VANIER: Because he is the man who is said to have been in the middle and to still be in the middle of all of Mr. Trump's financial dealings, whether they're business related, the Trump Organization, the Trump charity and the he's also the one who filed the president -- or the candidate, at the time, his tax returns. So he's supposed to know everything.

And you are telling me we don't know if he's going to disclose information about any of those other things?

CORDERO: Any of those other things, right, so he obviously has been a close advisor and financial advisor to the president and the Trump Organization for decades, as I understand it.

If we've learned anything from the trial of Paul Manafort, which just concluded recently, in which he was found guilty on eight counts of crimes, we know how devastating the testimony of financial professionals, accountants, other insiders who are handling the finances for individuals can be, because that trial was based on documentary evidence and on the testimony primarily of accountants and others who were handling those financial documents.

So the position that Mr. Weisselberg was in certainly provides him a position of knowledge and understanding. And the question that is on the table as far as what we know publicly, is whether or not he is talking to investigators about issues more broadly than the payments to the women, as alleged in the charges regarding the campaign finance issue.

VANIER: But if he got immunity, does not that mean he might've had legal risk or legal exposure?

And that therefore, the prosecutors sort of hold him and they can ask them what they want?

CORDERO: It does imply that. Someone usually is granted immunity because they are -- they have information to provide and they are at risk themselves with some type of legal exposure.

So the way the Michael Cohen plea documents and information -- we call the document that was filed in court by the prosecutors -- the way that reads is that --


CORDERO: -- there were several individuals involved in making these payments, which constitute the campaign finance violation. Michael Cohen was one; Mr. Pecker, the individual who was with AMI, the "National Enquirer" company is another. Mr. Weisselberg appears to be another unnamed person in those documents. And there's Individual 1, the person described as Individual 1, who we now know is the president.

VANIER: Is it possible at this stage to try to figure out, read the tea leaves and understand what the biggest legal threat to the president is?

CORDERO: There are a few things to unpack there. So in terms of a legal threat to the president, the prevailing view is that a sitting president, based on prior Justice Department legal opinions, can't be indicted and charged and tried with a crime here in the United States.

So that is one threshold. Now whether or not he could be charged with crimes after he would leave office, whether or not a pleading document or he could be listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in a particular crime, and that could constitute the basis for an impeachment inquiry, those are the different mechanisms through which he could face exposure.

Another area that is of a lot of interest here is whether or not he's the subject of an ongoing obstruction investigation out of the special counsel's case, based on all the steps that he has taken to try to suppress the investigation over the course of the last year.

VANIER: Carrie Cordero, CNN legal analyst, thank you very much.

CORDERO: Thanks.

VANIER: Mr. Trump ended his tough week by getting tough on North Korea. On Friday he canceled the secretary of state's trip to North Korea, set for next week. Mike Pompeo's trip was just announced on Thursday and Mr. Trump tweeted that he asked Pompeo not to go to North Korea at this time, because he feels there is not sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Pompeo spoke with South Korean foreign minister, who called the

cancellation regrettable. It could leave the president of South Korea isolated when he visits Pyongyang for meetings next month.

U.S. Senator John McCain has halted his medical treatment for brain cancer. The 81-year-old was diagnosed with the disease last year, after brushes with skin cancer over years.

Since his family announced his decision, messages of support have poured in from across the political spectrum. Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks about what goes into making this tough decision.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, I think this is probably one of the toughest decisions a patient along with their family and doctors have to make, deciding to no longer pursue treatment.

In the case of Senator McCain, you may remember that it was 13 months ago, it was July of last year, when he was first diagnosed. He had this blood collection that was behind his left eyebrow.

When they drained that blood collection, the surgeons, they found this tumor, they found evidence of a tumor. They looked at it under the microscope and found that it was, in fact, a tumor known as a glioblastoma or a GBM, it's often called.

This is an aggressive brain cancer. It's one of the most aggressive. It is a tumor that starts in the brain, as opposed to being a tumor that starts elsewhere else in the body and spreads to the brain.

And I can tell you, Cyril, I started my training in neurosurgery some 25 years ago now. And over the last quarter century, we really haven't made significant progress in increasing survival with this particular tumor.

That gives you an idea of just how challenging it is to treat. We know the senator underwent conventional therapy, radiation, chemotherapy. And it -- these things take a toll on the body.

This becomes the question: the risk-benefit analysis, is the treatment working?

Can I continue to tolerate the treatment?

If not, is it time to stop the treatment?

And I'm sure those were the discussions that were taking place among Senator McCain's family and his doctors, in trying to figure this out. But I can tell you, Cyril, probably one of the most challenging decisions that I think any family, any patient really ever has to make. So we are all thinking of Senator McCain and certainly wishing him well -- Cyril.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: And that was Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Last year, Senator McCain appeared on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." Jake Tapper asked him about his legacy.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: My last question for you. And I hope I don't run this clip for another 50 years.

But how do you want the American people to remember you?

MCCAIN: He served his country and not always right. Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors but served his country. And I hope we could add honorably.

TAPPER: I think that we can say honorably. Senator John McCain, it's always great to have you here. Do not be a stranger. There's a seat for you any time you want.


VANIER: Surf's up on the streets of Hawaii, dangerously high, the latest on --


VANIER: -- tropical storm Lane's path -- when we come back.





VANIER (voice-over): So Hawaii is not out of the woods yet. Hurricane Lane has been downgraded to a tropical storm, that is the good news. But it is still hammering the islands.

What you are seeing on the screen is the bad news. This was the scene on the big island Friday and there is more to come. Lane is set to bring more than 1 meter of rain to some areas, already triggering floods and landslides. The storm surge is expected through the weekend.



VANIER: For more on this, I'm joined on the phone by Coralie Matayoshi. She is the CEO of the American Red Cross Pacific Islands region. So she can tell us about the efforts to help people who are in need of being helped, rescue efforts, if they are warranted at this stage. Coralie, first of all, what is the situation right now?

CORALIE MATAYOSHI, AMERICAN RED CROSS: As was stated, we are still really worried about the flooding possibility and there are still high winds, I can hear it outside. But Hawaii is the most isolated population on the face of the Earth so we have to take this seriously.

And because we live on an island and have limited warehouse space, we get just-in-time restocking and supplies in stores. So we urge residents to bring a 14-day supply of food and water in their disaster kit.

As soon as we open our shelters on Wednesday, we had about 300 evacuees. And last night we had 1,500 people on all the islands. Oahu, the big island; Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kauai.

And we had an unexpected thing, in that at 3:00 am in the morning, a fire broke out and we had to evacuate our residents to another evacuation center. Then we had about 1,600 people in 36 shelters today.

VANIER: What is the rain like right now that you can see?

MATAYOSHI: You know, I am in Honolulu right now and it's not raining that hard right now but it is still going on the Kona side of Hawaii and it's making his way on Maui and Molokai and Lanai. So we are just waiting right now on Oahu, for it to hit.

VANIER: You're telling people to have two weeks of food and water with them?


VANIER: Does that mean you are anticipating that they may be unable to reach a store or be reached by any kind of aid for up to two weeks?

Yes. In Hawaii, because we're isolated and we rely on just-in-time stocking of supplies, there is actually hardly any food on the shelves. People bought all the water and toilet paper and everything.

Because if the harbors and airports were to go out, we would not be able to get a supply fast enough for people to use. And so that is what we recommend in Hawaii. On the mainland, on the U.S. mainland, it is like three or five days, because you can just drive trucks to bring some supplies.

That is why it is really scary in Hawaii because we are so isolated.

VANIER: What are the constructions like, because, for any natural disaster, the quality of people's homes, the quality of the buildings, is a huge factor?

MATAYOSHI: Yes, it is, that is why, in 1995, the laws were upgraded. The regulations were upgraded to require hurricane straps on homes. But if it was built before 1995, it is single wall construction. That is going to require more people to go into shelters. And there

is limited shelter space and people care about their pets and everything.

So we have been trying to get people to fortify their own homes and look for a safe room in the interior of their home, so that more people can shelter in place.

VANIER: All right, Coralie Matayoshi, thank you so much for joining us on the phone and fingers crossed. We hope for the best for everyone in Hawaii and all the islands, thank you.

MATAYOSHI: Thank you.

VANIER: Now to Zimbabwe, where a court has ruled unanimously, confirming Emmerson Mnangagwa as president but that is not enough for the main opposition leader, who called his loss in the July election fraudulent and illegal. CNN's Farai Sevenzo looks at Zimbabwe's political turmoil.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is duly declared the winner of the presidential elections held on the 3rd of July.

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the moment Mugabe's successor was confirmed as the winner of Zimbabwe's contentious July elections. The MDC alliance immediately rejected the judgment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This society is divided. It's divided clearly by half. It remains to be seen what the president declared as the winner can do. This is the same, very same government that has run down this economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Zimbabwe is open for business.

SEVENZO (voice-over): For months now, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been desperately trying to rebrand the country and his Zanu-PF party as a party of freedom and business.

In his first election, however, he faced stiff competition from the MDC alliance, whose huge numbers at election rallies failed to translate into outright victory on voting day. A few weeks before the judges had their say in today's ruling, MDC alliance supporters took to the streets, fearing the election had been rigged.

And this is how the army reacted. In just one August day, Zimbabwe went from being open for business, to the Zimbabwe defense forces opening fire on unarmed protesters. Mnangagwa called for a public inquiry and blamed the opposition for six deaths and 14 injured, accused them of inciting the protests.

EMMERSON MNANGAGWA, ZIMBABWEAN PRESIDENT: We (INAUDIBLE) condemn the MDC alliance inspired violence, post our free and fair elections.

SEVENZO (voice-over): With this new constitutional court ruling, Mnangagwa's presidency has been confirmed by the law.

But the question is, is Emmerson Mnangagwa in charge of Zimbabwe?

Or is it the army that is in control?

Another question that will continue to hound his presidency. And a nation that had been holding its breath to move on from the Mugabe era, will move on now with Mnangagwa as president at the helm of the same economic problems and international sanctions still in place -- Farai Sevenzo, CNN.


VANIER: So public or private?

Tesla says that it will remain a public company, according to its founder and chief executive, Elon Musk. In a blog post, he attributed his decision to shareholder wishes. Musk says it is just too complicated to turn the electric carmaker it into a privately owned company.

The billionaire says he wants to focus on making Tesla's first mass- market car, the Model 3. Earlier this month Musk stunned shareholders after tweeting that he was considering taking the company private.

That led to stock losses and lots and lots and lots of questions, even reportedly from the Securities and Exchange Commission. But he now says he wants to remain public, we have the answer.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I've got the headlines for you in just a moment. Stay with us.