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North Korea Relations; Trump Warns Evangelicals; U.N. Chief Condemns Rohingya Persecution; Yemen in Crisis; Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Scandal; Russia Plans Largest Military Exercise in Decades; Former POW McCain Honored in Vietnam. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 29, 2018 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, U.S.-South Korean military exercises no longer on hold as nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang appear to stall.

One of the world's most persecuted minorities takes center stage at the U.N. Many now demanding action and accountability for the generals in Myanmar, who carried out a policy of genocide against Rohingya Muslims.

And after riding social media all the way to the White House, Donald Trump now complains the Google machine is rigged. The Twitters are censoring conservatives.

Welcome to our viewers all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.


VAUSE: Relations between Washington and Pyongyang continue to sour with the U.S. announcing joint military exercises with South Korea will no longer be on hold. Just over two months ago, President Trump suspended the joint drills without first consulting with senior administration officials or regional allies like Seoul and Japan.

This comes less than a week after a letter was sent to the White House warning negotiations over denuclearization were in jeopardy and nuclear and missile testing could resume. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Tuesday the suspension of military drills was never meant to be open-ended.


GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good faith measure coming out of the Singapore summit. We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises.

We will work very closely, as I said, with the secretary of state and, what he needs done, we will certainly do to reinforce his effort. But this time, there is no discussion about further suspensions.


VAUSE: Paul Carroll is the senior adviser at the Nuclear Disarmament Group N Square, from San Francisco.

Paul, good to see you. Thank you for joining me.

PAUL CARROLL, N SQUARE: Good to see you, John. Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: Look, we heard from General Mattis yesterday. You know, he seemed to sort of hedge. It wasn't an indication this was all going to return back to the days of open hostility and name-calling and that kind of stuff. He said no plans at this time to suspend the next military drills. He had no plans to suspend the last joint exercises with South Korea.

So I guess is this a done deal?

Should we expect these military exercises to take place some time in the next couple of weeks, maybe month or so?

CARROLL: Well, I don't know that they're that imminent. Let's keep in mind there are typically two large joint exercises each year and they happen in the summer and in the late spring.

So for Secretary Mattis to say what he said today, I think it's actually more --


CARROLL: -- he's protecting his own rear flank, when he said at this time, he's not sure what his own boss, President Trump, may say or do in the near future.

And so my read on his statement is that he's reminding us all that the suspension of the exercises after the Singapore summit was just that.

It was a one -- one episode of showing a good faith effort. It was never meant to be, we're never doing war exercises again. And so I think it's just a statement more for domestic audiences and putting the Secretary of Defense's own policy and current plans on record.

VAUSE: Is there genuine unhappiness and maybe even justified discontent from the Koreans at this point?

There's an issue here which they are justified to be unhappy with.

Or is this standard negotiating tactics that we've seen before or is it a bit of both?

CARROLL: I would focus less on the tone of what they're saying and more on the substance of it. And, you know, not to be too flip about it, but many observers, during the Singapore summit, myself included, were very clear that the statement coming out of Singapore was extremely vague. And it had four key elements, one of which was about the armistice and

getting to a peace treaty. And that is something the North Koreans have always wanted and that's their fixation and their focus.

Several items down the list was the U.S.'s fixation and focus, which is disarmament of the North. Our own diplomats and, frankly, president didn't really understand or appreciate the nuances and the differences in emphasis.

And so for the Koreans to send what is allegedly a sternly worded letter to Secretary Pompeo and the president, it's less about how it was conveyed than what was conveyed.

They are not buying the --


CARROLL: -- current line in the sand that we have drawn, which is to say, we're not going to do a thing until you give us a lot. And the North never plays that way.

VAUSE: OK. So if we're looking at exactly what happened with the summit, is essentially the lesson here, the end result is negotiating in reverse, having the summit before you actually work out the details, maybe isn't the best idea.

CARROLL: Well, I certainly was in that camp when the summit was happening, particularly given the sort of over-the-top theater of the summit.

But if you had asked me, you know, a couple of weeks after, the good news is, secretary of state Pompeo, a senior administration official, was given this portfolio, was given this task.

And he seemed to be following through. He seemed to be filling out the ranks, more so than his predecessor with some, you know, basically adult supervisors in the State Department to manage and continue the momentum of the negotiations.

And let's keep in mind, even though this letter is alleged to have been, you know, sternly worded, at least we're still talking. And so that's a good thing.

So to say, you know, you shouldn't start at the top and come down, it's certainly unconventional. It was certainly out of the box. I don't think fundamentally that's the problem. I think fundamentally the problem is the absolute disconnect and misunderstanding of Washington and Pyongyang.

VAUSE: OK. We're going to wrap it up here. But clearly the hope is that this is a roadblock as opposed to a closed road. Paul, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

CARROLL: Yes. My pleasure.

VAUSE: With me now here in Los Angeles, Democratic strategist Caroline Heldman, author of the new book, "Sex and Gender in the 2016 Presidential Election."

And Republican strategist Charles Moran.

So I guess sex and gender did play a role.



VAUSE: So I everyone you to go out and buy that book. Good reading, I'm sure.

Let's talk about what happened with these talks between U.S. and North Korea. The joint exercises appear to be back on. Here's how the U.S. president described those drills just over two months ago.


TRUMP: You know, I wanted to stop the war games. I thought they were very provocative but I also think they're very expensive. We're running the country properly. I think they're very, very expensive to do. We have to fly planes in from Guam. That's 6.5 hours away. Big bombers and everything else. I said who's paying for this?

I mean who pays in order to practice?


VAUSE: According to the Pentagon, the Freedom Guardian exercise with South Korea, the one that was postponed or suspended, was estimated to cost the U.S. about $14 million, a little more than the now canceled Trump military parade.

But the question is, Charles, simply by using the same words as the President of the United States, the U.S. military could soon be engaged once again in what is a provocative act on the Korean Peninsula.

CHARLES MORAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, part of this is being provocative, letting South Korea and North Korea exist in this state where, you know, North Korea has got to hold up to their promises.

Again, those four principles coming out of the summit were, just as Secretary Mattis said, this was not necessarily supposed to be something that was a long-term hold-off on those war games. President Trump clearly enunciated one aspect of a consideration about the cost of doing that.

But that's not the only consideration. Again, part of -- I think President Trump's overall strategy -- and you see this strategy with a lot of different things, trade negotiations, where, you know, he'll lay out the table but he's not afraid to walk away from the table and say, hey, if you guys don't hold up your end, I'm going to come back on the concessions that I gave you.

And one of those concessions was discontinuing the war games. VAUSE: Caroline --


VAUSE: -- is this a teachable moment for Donald Trump?

HELDMAN: Well, I don't think he's somebody who wants to learn from his mistakes and the only consistency with Donald Trump's foreign policy is the absolute chaos with which he practices all of this.

He has very little understanding. What we're talking about here is denuclearization or a peace agreement that never existed. So nothing could fall apart and it is a ruse for us to talk as though there was somehow some agreement.

There wasn't an agreement. There was some general rules written down. There was nothing that was actually decided upon. Every expert said this from the Left and the Right, who knew anything about how these agreements are made.

So Donald Trump just got played by, you know, a Millennial dictator of a rogue country. And he seems to be the only one who doesn't know this.

VAUSE: That's just the kind of negative story, Caroline, that Donald Trump would not like to see turning up on his Google search of Trump news. Just part of what the president sees as bias and negative reporting, which is an overwhelming part of Google's Search apparently. And apparently it's all Google's fault. Here's the president.


TRUMP: I think what Google and what others are doing, if you --


TRUMP: -- look at what's going on at Twitter, if you look at what's going on in Facebook, they better be careful because you can't do that to people. You can't do it. We have tremendous -- we have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in and you just can't do that. So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they're really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful. It's not fair to large portions of the population.


VAUSE: OK. So after possibly Googling himself earlier on Tuesday morning about an hour before dawn, the term "Trump news," he blasted off some fairly angry tweets because the search results that came back, according to the president, he thought were deliberately skewed to show untrue fake news, negative stories about him.

Now this theory, if you like, first appeared over the weekend on a right-wing blog. There it is. By Monday night, it was just fact by the time it reached the FOX Business network. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Google blatantly suppressing conservative media outlets from Americans searching for Trump. On the site takes you interesting places; 96 percent of the results from national left-wing media and the first 100 results CNN appears most frequently, 21 times followed by "The Washington Post" and NBC. That is tough going.


VAUSE: OK. So Charles, Google News is dominated by the mainstream media. This study, which first appeared on PJ Media, the blog, considered "The Wall Street Journal," "The Economist," "Business Insider," every outlet from Reuters to Bloomberg as being left- leaning.

So if you think that is actually accurate, then, yes, you probably do think all those Google results are skewed and left-leaning. Or you could be delusional.

MORAN: I think President Trump is setting the table for a larger conversation that's going to be happening and that's going to be the next round of congressional testimony. Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook is going to be there. There's going to be some people from Twitter making an appearance. The CEO of Google declined the invitation.

I would probably say that that may have been one of the things that prompted President Trump to actually speak out specifically about Google.

But let's also remember that Google is one part of Alphabet and Alphabet owns things like YouTube.

And YouTube has been consistently criticized for pulling down very fair, very balanced content. One example, Prager University and some of their webinar series, pulling this down and labeling it, you know, either fake news or not credible.

I mean so there is a consistent story. And if you even listen to some of that congressional testimony, that precedent is set and is probably the framework for President Trump's comments leading into the next round of congressional testimony.

HELDMAN: Absolutely not. This is a free speech issue. So it's one thing if Donald Trump wanted to say, you know, 126 million Americans were manipulated by Russian bots on Facebook and Russians planted stories on Facebook during the election and deal with that.

It is quite another to say there is bias and somehow he's going to be regulating the content, which is rich, coming from a man who doesn't use a laptop and who obviously was on someone else's laptop and their algorithm came up with some decent, credible news stories instead of some of these --

VAUSE: Because that's how the algorithm works.


MORAN: Let's talk about the shadow banning that the president of Twitter admitted was going on in --


VAUSE: I would do a fact check here because what happened is the boss from Twitter -- because Twitter is a nasty place. Twitter is the ghetto, nasty place of social media. So to try and deal with that, they put in place basically a program which would take care of all these nasty comments and basically put these people in a time-out for a week.

You've been a bad person. Your account is gone for a week.


VAUSE: It seems that behind closed doors, Donald Trump is a lot more worried about the looming midterm elections than when he's out in public.

He told a closed door meeting on Monday night at the White House, when he was meeting with evangelical leaders that the November midterms will be a referendum not just on him but also, he said, "It's a referendum on your religion. It's a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment. They will overturn everything that we've done and they'll do it quickly and violently.

"When you look at Antifa, these are violent people. You're one election away from losing everything that you've gotten.

Merry Christmas, right?"

"You couldn't say Merry Christmas."

Actually, you could say Merry Christmas. This is all sounding like a very desperate president.

MORAN: The violence is something that we see. Antifa, the violence that the Left is --

HELDMAN: That is a myth. Antifa violence is a myth. If you want to --



MORAN: I'll even back this one up. My alma mater on September 11th a couple years ago, there were people pulling flags out of the ground on September 11th


HELDMAN: It's not the same thing to be a Nazi and punch a Nazi. Just like it's not the same thing to be a pedophile and to punch a pedophile.

MORAN: But the Left doesn't care. They don't care about the rights. They don't care about the amendments of the Constitution.

(CROSSTALK) VAUSE: This claim that the president is putting out there that, without him, there will be violence. Everything will be terrible. If he gets impeached, the stock market will crash and we'll all be poor, that somehow, without him, we're all destitute in this urban ghetto sprawl, surrounded by violence with no money.

HELDMAN: He has inspired violence, whether it is the homeless man who was beaten by the two men who said they did it in his name, or the 200 percent approximately increase in hate violence that's been tracked since his election, or Heather Heyer or, you know, the infant who just died because she got an infection in ICE and the violence of ripping children from their families.

It is rich for folks on the Right to engage in this level of violence and then get upset when you have people pushing back against Nazi fascism. Again, not the same thing to --


MORAN: -- group to throw names, to drop bombs and to literally drop bombs as we were seeing in --

HELDMAN: Heather Heyer.


HELDMAN: Heather Heyer was murdered by a Nazi, Charles. There's nothing you can say. Nothing you can say.


VAUSE: I should have started on that topic because we could have gone for a very long time. Good to see you both. Thank you so much.

HELDMAN: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Well, the United Nations is calling for accountability for human rights atrocities in Myanmar. But two members of the Security Council are standing in the way. We'll have details on that in just a moment.

Plus did a cover-up of predator priests go all the way to the Vatican?

What Pennsylvania's attorney general is telling CNN. That's after the break.



[00:20:00] (MUSIC PLAYING)

VAUSE: The U.N. is calling for Myanmar's leaders to be held accountable for one of the world's worst humanitarian and human rights crisis. The secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, says the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims is horrendous. CNN's Richard Roth reports.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Despite a devastating report out of Geneva by the U.N. accusing military leaders in Myanmar of genocide-style intent, the U.N. Security Council failed to hold anyone accountable at a meeting in Myanmar. No surprise, considering big power divisions regarding Myanmar.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said, the Myanmar leaders in general should be held accountable.

NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We are now all armed with the devastating eyewitness accounts of the Rohingya which lead us to the following conclusions. Children, babies, women and men suffered unspeakable crimes.

The attacks were planned, premeditated and coordinated. The perpetrator was the Burmese military and security forces. The whole world is watching what we will do next and if we will act.

ROTH: The reason the Security Council has not yet acted, China and Russia, blocking any attempt to refer this issue to the International Criminal Court for prosecution. China's Deputy U.N. Ambassador said, now is not the time to put pressure on the leaders of Myanmar.

WU HAITAO, CHINA DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. (through translator): Given the current situation, the international community should cherish the hard-earned progress and develop (ph) understanding to the great difficulties faced by the countries concerned and continue to provide constructive assistance instead of simply putting pressure on them.

ROTH: The government of Myanmar has rejected the findings of the U.N. Commission. U.N. ambassador broke down emotionally at one point when discussing a terrorist attack that Myanmar said rebels are responsible for and he disputed the findings of the report.

HAU DO SUAN, MYANMAR AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: This action raises serious question about the objectivity, impartiality and sincerity of fact-finding mission.

ROTH: Western countries have been unable to convince China and Russia to act on Myanmar. The U.N. had its Goodwill Ambassador for Refugees, Cate Blanchett, appear at the Security Council table.

CATE BLANCHETT, ACTOR AND UNHCR GOODWILL AMBASSADOR: Together we need to change the future of Laila, of Yousef, of Gosaha (ph) and of the Rohingya living in Myanmar, in Bangladesh and beyond. There are no shortcuts. There are no alternatives. We have failed the Rohingya before. Please, let us not fail them again.

ROTH: The U.N. secretary-general said U.N. member countries should seriously consider the findings of that U.N. report and he urged Myanmar to cooperate. But member countries have heard those pleas for months -- Richard Roth, CNN, the United Nations.


VAUSE: Well, torture, rape, child soldiers and thousands of civilians killed in the crossfire just part of the horrors of Yemen's civil war, according to a panel of United Nations experts, who found all sides responsible for violating human rights and possibly committing war crimes. More now from CNN's Nima Elbagir.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A damning report by the U.N. panel of experts on Yemen, listing a litany of violations.

They believe, they say, that both parties to the conflict, both the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel militias, are guilty of suspected war crimes. These, they say, range from recruitment of children under the age of 15, disproportionate use of force that could constitute war crimes.

They also say that the violations documented by the panel of experts are horrendous and they include sexual violence, which is vast in scope and horrific in nature.

The Saudi-led coalition spokesman has released this statement in response. He says, after a legal review, the coalition will take the appropriate stance regarding this matter and it will be announced.

This all comes at a time when the Department of Defense has been ratcheting up its pressure. There have, we understand, for some time, been concerns about the specificity of the targeting of the U.S.- backed Saudi-led coalition.

In fact, that's one of the things that the panel of experts specifically picks up on, saying that the majority of the civilian casualties in Yemen's three-year civil war are caused by aerial attacks.

This is something that has been of huge concern in the Pentagon because of course much of the weaponry used in those aerial attacks is supplied by both the U.S. and the U.K. The U.S. secretary of defense --


ELBAGIR: -- General Mattis, speaking, said that their report for Saudi Arabia was not unconditional.

JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We are constantly reviewing what support we are giving, yes. We also had an army lieutenant general in Riyadh almost immediately following the early August tragedy to convey our concerns and ask for a swift and complete investigation.

It is not unconditional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): What is the condition?

MATTIS: That they do everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life and they support the U.N. brokered peace process.

ELBAGIR: So where does this leave us? Many of those we are speaking to in both the U.S. and U.K. are throwing their heads to the September 6 talks in Geneva where the parties in the conflict are expected to meet for the first time in two years to try and hash out at least a framework for a peaceful negotiation.

But there is a concern that if the findings of the U.N. panel of experts aren't backed by real concerted action, aren't backed by some sort of security council resolution, that this opportunity will be allowed to fritter away -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.


VAUSE: New allegations that a cover-up of sexual abuse by priests in the U.S. went all the way to the Vatican. Pennsylvania's attorney general, Josh Shapiro, says he doesn't know if Pope Francis knew specifically but he says the Vatican did.

This comes just two weeks after an investigation found hundreds of predator priests abused more than 1,000 children.


JOSH SHAPIRO, PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: These predator priests raped little children. They abused children. Bishops knew about it and covered it up. They lied to parishioners.

They lied to the public. They lied to law enforcement. And then they wrote it all down. They documented all the facts. Oftentimes, they shared those documents that were in the secret archives with the Vatican.

So for the representative of the Vatican to say somehow this is new information, I would just say to him and to all people in Pennsylvania and across the United States, read the report.

I have evidence that the Vatican was aware of it. Once the Vatican learned of it, I do not know whether the pope learned about it or not. As a prosecutor dealing with facts and evidence, I'm not going to make a statement, nor am I going to attribute something to the grand jury that is not in the grand jury report.

We're going to stick with the facts and the evidence. As to what the Vatican -- who in the Vatican knew, what the pope knew, that's an answer that only they can provide. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So in response, the Vatican asked if the prosecutor was referring to an incident outside of the investigation, adding, "We'll wait to see that before commenting."

Unprecedented in size, scale and sheer firepower, Russia plans to hold its biggest military exercise next month.

But why now?

This is the biggest since the Cold War.

And what's the point?

And he spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Now that country is paying homage to the late U.S. Senator John McCain. More from Hanoi ahead here on NEWSROOM L.A.


[00:30:00] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. We'll check the headlines this hour.

Some members of the U.N. Security Council demanding Myanmar's government and military be held accountable for atrocities against Muslim Rohingya. The council met after an independent report accused top military leaders of genocide. Myanmar says it was cracking down on terrorism.

U.S. President Donald Trump is promoting an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about Google. He's alleging search results on their website are rigged against Conservative views. Google denies the accusation and says search results are determined by algorithms which consider a number of factors.

A new study has prompted the governor of Puerto Rico to change the official death toll from Hurricane Maria. The government now says nearly 3,000 people have died after the storm hit late last year, up 46 times higher than the official count. Researchers at George Washington University did that study at the government's request.

Russia is set to stage its biggest military exercise since the Cold War era. Hundreds of thousands of troops and about 1,000 aircraft will be deployed to Siberia next month, and once long-time rival, China, will also take part in these drills, which will simulate large scale warfare.

The Kremlin defends the size and the cost of these war games saying, despite the economic problems at home, spending on defense is justified and necessary.

Well, for more now on what all this actually might mean, Director of the USC School of International Relations, Robert English, is with us. Good to see you. Thanks for coming in. ROBERT ENGLISH, DIRECTOR, USC SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: Thank you.

VAUSE: This is, sort of, I don't know, seemed to come out of nowhere in some respect because the last time, you know, Moscow did anything like this, it was, what? 1981, Zapad-81, or East 81, I probably said that wrong. You know, but this was the days of the Soviet Union. You know, East and West, were locked in the Cold War.

So what -- why is Putin doing this now? What is he hoping to prove? What does he have to gain?

ENGLISH: It costs less to stage a big military exercise like this, to show your strength and resolve, than it actually does to purchase new weapons and train with them. The Russian defense budget has actually been going down in recent years. That's not something Russia wants to advertise.

So whenever there's a new weapon or something on the drawing board, there's a lot of hype. This is another kind of hype, showing determination, showing strength.

But, John, you know, 300,000 infantrymen running around, a bunch of tanks charging across fields, they're preparing for World War II.

VAUSE: OK, back to the future. OK. The location of the exercises means that Moscow is not required to notify the west. It doesn't have to invite observers from Europe. But there are reports that military attaches have been invited to see this.

So clearly, you know, Putin and the Russians want, you know -- a few people and a few countries out there to take a closer look. Is that a fair assumption?

ENGLISH: Yes, we're not exactly sure what that means. On the one hand, it's, you could say a decent gesture. They don't want to be criticized for doing this in secret.

VAUSE: You know, that's a pessimistic view.

ENGLISH: The pessimistic view is we've got something new to show and we're going to rattle the saber, and if we have coverage, that's a little scary, so much, the better.

VAUSE: OK. So, as we've heard from the United States president, war games are not cheap. He complained about the joint military exercises with South Korea. So presumably, the bigger they are, the bigger the price tag for these games. Still not quite the same as, you know, buying and training on new weapons.

But the Kremlin was specifically asked about this on Tuesday, during a regular briefing, and why, you know, Vostok '18 have to be so big. Dmitry Peskov said the country's ability to defend itself in the current international situation, which is frequently quite aggressive and unfriendly towards us, is absolutely justified and has no alternative. But I found that statement to be, you know, a little bit off base. I mean, first of all, it doesn't ring true. And secondly, given the state of Russia's economy, is there likely to be any kind of domestic outcry at the cost of these games given, you know, the life, you know, the quality of living for so many Russians right now?

ENGLISH: There could be. Certainly, there will be in the more liberal western-leaning, European-oriented, highly educated segment of society. But i think for ordinary Russians, Putin knows his people, and he knows what he's doing.

And so, the gain from showing strength, showing we're prepared, that if anything the west throws at us, we can throw back at them. That outweighs any concern that this is expensive. Don't forget, Putin is playing another game with that on the economic front.

[00:35:12] Tension reform is highly unpopular. That basically means raising the retirement age a lot. So, proposals were announced back in May that, for example, men, not age 60, but 65, right? Women from 53 up to 60, a huge jump, this population's been furious, 90 percent disapproved.

It's being blamed on Prime Minister Medvedev, and now, Putin has announced he's going to take a closer look. He's going to come in and he'll cut it by a few years and he'll be the hero even though it was his program all along.

VAUSE: Oh, and says, welcome to the United States, with those ages of retirement. OK, let's finish up with some of us have been calling the largest Russian naval deployment to Syria, since Moscow intervened in that conflict in 2015.

Apparently, there's already this build-up off the coast. Other ships are on their way. We had a similar build-up two years ago. The defense used reports the main difference between the two groups are their capabilities. The two ships that led Russia's last major naval deployment in Syria were the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and nuclear-powered battle cruiser Peter the Great.

Thank you very much. Kuznetsov is basically -- it's a -- it's a sinking barge. I mean, it's terrible. You know, it's --

ENGLISH: Exactly right.

VAUSE: It's a museum. But what we have on these new ships which are heading there are the Kalibr missiles and apparently that gives them a great bigger capability and, you know, potential strike zone than the previous flotilla which went there.

So, why the need for the greater firepower, why the need for the greater number of ships, what's this all about?

ENGLISH: We don't know what kind of operation may be planned. But, again, focusing on the public relations side, invest in new weapons. You mentioned the Kalibr cruise missiles, they're not as good as what we have, but they're a huge step forward for Russia, so some demonstration. Many of these missions can be performed with traditional aircraft sorties that are already there.

But the choice to do it this way, allows, again, a dramatic demonstration, a deployment, and then some use of new weapons. It's not really about battlefield efficiency; so much as it is about demonstration of strength. It's some of both, but especially the P.R. side, I think, is really important.

VAUSE: Kalibr. OK, I'll remember that one. Robert, thank you so much.

ENGLISH: You're welcome.

VAUSE: As always, great to have you with us. Coming up here, former U.S. Senator John McCain being honored this week, in Vietnam, where he was a prisoner of war for more than five years.


VAUSE: U.S. senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham were colleagues, but more than anything else, they were very close friends. They did a lot of things together. They travelled the world together. They shared similar viewpoints on the world, and in many ways, Graham always looked to McCain as a leader, a role model. He hoped so many could learn from. And on Tuesday, he said goodbye to his friend.


[00:40:03] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is going to be a lonely journey for me for a while. I'm going to need your help. And the void to be filled by John's passing is more than I can do. Don't look to me to replace this man. Look to me to remember what he was all about and try to follow in his footsteps. If you want to help me, join the march.


VAUSE: And in Vietnam, they're paying their respects as well to the son of an admiral who was shot down, imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam, during the war there. CNN's Ivan Watson has more now from Hanoi.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Truc Bach Lake, in the heart of the Vietnamese capital. On October 26, 1967, a U.S. naval aviator named John McCain, splashed down here after a surface to air missile hit his plane while he was on a bombing mission.

This monument has been erected to commemorate that North Vietnamese military victory. And after Senator McCain's passing, people have been laying flowers here and other tokens of respect, including cigarettes, money, a can of beer.

After his capture, John McCain was brought here to the Hoa Lo prison, better known as the Hanoi Hilton. It's now a museum. He rejected offers for early release, saying he didn't want preferential treatment due to the fact that his father was commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.

During his time here, some 5-1/2 years as a POW, he says he was subjected to torture, solitary confinement, forced to sign confessions until his release in 1973. In the decades after that, however, John McCain made many return trips to Vietnam.

Here's a photo of him on one of those visits. And he became a powerful and influential voice lobbying for the resumption of peaceful diplomatic relations between two former enemies. The U.S. embassy in Hanoi has extended a rare and unique honor to Senator McCain, opening a book of condolences here and opening that to the public.

And among the visitors have been some high-level Vietnamese officials, one of them, a deputy prime minister who has described Senator McCain as a symbol of a generation of lawmakers and veterans who have helped heal the wound between Vietnam and the U.S. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hanoi.

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