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Syrian Government and Russia Appear Read For Idlib Assault; Family Honor His Legacy; How McCain Saved Ernest Hemingway's Havana Home; Australia's Catholic Church Priests Won't Report Confessions; Trump's Latest Twitter Tirade on the Media; Trump: Amazon, Facebook, Google Maybe in Anti-Trump Situation; Duke and Duchess of Sussex Attend "Hamilton" Gala. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 31, 2018 - 01:00   ET



[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, final showdown. The Assad regime prepares to go all the way against the last rebel stronghold even though millions of civilians will be caught in the crossfire. Turning up the heat, the U.S. President lashes out at his own Justice Department again calling the Russia investigation illegal and disgraceful and warning he may soon get involved. And in Australia, the Catholic Church agrees to almost every recommendation from a Royal Commission to the clergy sex abuse but rejects one call for priest to report cases of abuse they learn during confession.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Nice to have you with us. I'm John Vause, and this is NEWSROOM L.A.

We begin in Syria where a final military offensive on the city of Idlib looks imminent. Russia and pro-Assad forces are massing troops in the area, it's the last major stronghold for opposition forces. Both al-Qaeda-linked militants and rebels are dug in among three million civilians raising fears of a huge desktop. The U.S. is also warning Syria not to use chemical weapons hinting at consequences including military action. But Russia's Foreign Minister says it's the U.S.-backed rebel groups which are planning to use chemical weapons.


SERGEY LAVROV, FOREIGN MINISTER, RUSSIA (through translator): Another such provocation is being prepared in order to hinder the anti- terrorist operation in Idlib. And we having our facts on the table through our defense ministry and foreign ministry clearly and firmly warned or western partners, don't play with fire.


VAUSE: Well, for more I'm joined by CNN's Military Analyst Retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona and Kenan Rahmani Advocacy Manager of the human rights groups The Syria Campaign. Colonel, we'll start with you. It does look to be the final all-out offensive in this civil war which is going on for seven years now. Listen to what Syria's Foreign Minister had to say.


WALID MUALLEM, FOREIGN MINISTER, SYRIA (through translator): The decision of Syrian authorities is to exterminate al-Nusra in Idlib and we will go all the way.


VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) al-Nusra which is known as what they were al-Qaeda in Syria, he's essentially referring to all rebel fighters in Idlib. So given there's three million people in that province, what does going all the way eventually look like?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, you know, John, you know as the Syrian government has mounted their offensive over the last two years, they've always laid siege to an area and then offered the fighters the opportunity to right -- relocate. That relocation has for the most part been to Idlib province.

Now we're in Idlib province and there's nowhere else for them to relocate. So this is the final battle. This will be the showdown. There will be no more relocation. So the fighters will have an opportunity to surrender or they'll have an opportunity to fight to the death. They will not be able to stand up to the Syrian forces. The Syrian forces are backed by the Russians and Iranians. We know how this ends. We just don't know when.

VAUSE: And all of this is leading to an ominous warning from the U.N. from the special envoy to Syria. Listen to what he had to say.


STAFFAN DE MISTURA, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA: There is a perfect storm based on warning, counter warnings which is gathering around and you to the dilemma which is a true dilemma on how to defeat terrorists in Idlib and at the same time avoid affecting a huge number of civilians.


VAUSE: So Kenan, to you, it may be a dilemma for the U.N. and aid group but there's no such dilemma keeping the Russians and the Assad forces up late at night. They're not worried about this a bit, right?

KENAN RAHMANI, ADVOCACY MANAGER, THE SYRIA CAMPAIGN: Not at all. I mean, the core issue here is that the Assad regime and Russians have used al-Nusra as an excuse to go after every area in Syria, even in areas where there was virtually no al-Nusra presence like in Aleppo in late 2016 where hundreds of thousands of civilians were put under brutal siege, hospitals were bombed systematically, white helmets were targeted and that was all with the very small presence of al-Nusra present in Aleppo City.

Now, they're using the same excuse again but it's going after a much larger civilian population, three million people and we know how brutal these tactics are. They're going to go after hospitals, they're going to go after white helmet, they're going to go after the humanitarians that are saving lives.

VAUSE: And Kenan, if you look at how this all worked out, you know, Colonel Francona touched on this, you know, every time there was a siege and a surrender and a negotiation there was always a bus to Idlib which is why some people are saying you know, in Syria, in Idlib, it's like they were sent there to die.

[01:05:11] RAHMANI: Yes, I remember talking with civilians when I visited Idlib last time and they saw this happening two years ago that civilians were being bused to this area, and now the fears are for the worst that the regime will resort to using chemical weapons as it has many many times in this conflict or it will continue to use barrel bombs and very, very destructive warfare in which the civilians will pay a very, very heavy toll. What will happened in Idlib will be unlike anything we've ever seen before and Syria Syrian civilians are horrified at what comes next.

VAUSE: And Colonel Francona, this jihadi group which controls the province that is reporting out there not surprisingly they have no plans to surrender which clearly makes a situation for civilians even more deadly, even more dangerous.

FRANCONA: Yes, of course, and they're going to fight -- they'll probably fight to the death. I mean, death to them is a welcomed end but the other people in the area maybe not so much. And Kenan is exactly right. You know, this is going to be a bloodbath like we haven't seen. We talk about chemical weapons. You know, I think the Syrian government would be really stupid to use chemical weapons. It would trigger a response from the West that they don't need.

And there's no real reason for -- there's no military reason for the Syrians to resort to the use of chemical weapons, they don't need it. They've got sufficient firepower with the Russians behind them that they could take the province without using it. And why you know, trigger reaction the west when you don't need it. It only complicates things. So I would be surprised if the Syrians used chemical weapons. But I've been wrong before.

VAUSE: Yes, that's the thing about it, you just never know, that there's not a lot of logical reason behind it. But Kenan, just to you, the U.N. among others calling for humanitarian corridors be open so that civilians could be evacuated. For Assad, that just seems unlikely. And even it does happen, I think that we looking on (INAUDIBLE). So even if they do open the humanitarian corridors you know, which is unlikely, where they evacuate too?

RAHMANI: That's exactly the question. There's nowhere left to evacuate people who at point you know, there's really nothing left for us to do but to wait and see. This regime is absolutely brutal. The Russians will violate all kind international norms. Maybe they won't use chemical weapons, maybe they will. Unfortunately, in the past, they continue to use despite (AUDIO GAP) international community.

They will continue to barrel bomb hospitals, they will continue to target civilian areas, and who will -- you know, unfortunately, people don't pay enough (AUDIO GAP). But the last target of the Russian and Assad regime militaries will be al-Nusrah or it will be the terrorist organizations. They will go after the nodes of civilian life that keeps civilian population (INAUDIBLE) and that's how they will retake the area and we can only pray that the international community, that the U.N., that Staffan de Mistura come up with some stuff to prevent this horrible, horrible blood --

VAUSE: Kenan, we're having few troubles right now with your connection but yes, I look -- yes let's at the U.N. does something but you know, seriously they've done nothing over the last seven years so I mean, here clearly, that's one hope but it's not one to take to the bank right now. Colonel Francone, Kenan Rahmani, thanks so much for being with us.

Well, U.S. President went after his own Justice Department at a campaign rally Thursday night in Indiana. He also boasted about the economy, he defended all his (INAUDIBLE), talked about his efforts to put coal miners back to work. Of course, the environmentalist came in for it, Democrats, the media, and you know, Hillary Clinton, she (INAUDIBLE) the woman as well. But the President held some of his abiding criticism for the Justice Department.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now. But people are angry people are angry. What's happening is a disgrace.


VAUSE: Joining us now political analyst Michael Genovese, President of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University and the author of How Trump Governs. Is it out on Amazon? Can we buy it online?

MICHAEL GENOVESE, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL POLICY INSTITUTE: You can bite anywhere in stores all over the country. It makes a great gift. Ask for it by name.

VAUSE: OK, at all quality bookstores. OK, let's get back to this theme for Thursday attacking the Justice Department by Donald Trump. Before that rally and before that warning, that ominous warning he ought to get involved, Trump said the Russia investigation headed by Robert Mueller is essential -- essentially illegal.

This is the reporting from Bloomberg. When reporters asked if he would comply with a subpoena from Mueller, Trump said I'll see what happens, adding, I view it differently. I view it as an illegal investigation. The point though here is that so far every legal challenge to Robert Mueller's authority in this matter has been knocked down by every court and most recently by a judge, a federal judge appointed by Donald Trump. This has no basis in reality as so many things often don't have a basis in reality when it comes to President Trump. [01:10:28] GENOVESE: And I think this is the fifth time a judge has

in one way or another legitimized investigation. But the President's acting like a wounded caged animal and he's asking like he's desperate and if you think it's bad now, next week remember Bob Woodward's book is coming out. That is just going to -- it's frightening the President, it's going to cause all kinds of ripples in the White House.

VAUSE: So we need to reset our clocks by the release of you know, various tell-all books I guess. You know, the President also told Bloomberg that the beleaguered Attorney General is whipping-boy Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III will still have a job at least until the midterm elections this November. Trump has made no secret of the fact he blames a lot of his legal problems with the Russia investigation because Sessions in the early stages recused himself of all things Russia. That led to the appointment of Robert Mueller and this is what the President said to Bloomberg.


TRUMP: I just like to have Jeff Sessions do his job and if he did I'd be very happy. But the job entails two sides, not one side.


VAUSE: The President's definition of what's equal and what's both side, I mean there should be only one side really here and that is what is -- you know, the right side of the law. But we just got a very gigantic clue there from the President that midterm elections in November six, Sessions will have his job, November seven he's gone.

GENOVESE: Yes, he probably ought to start packing now because that was not what you'd call a ringing endorsement. I mean, that was -- that was a very clear signal but he sent that signal for weeks even months. The problem is if you appoint the new Attorney General, could that person be confirmed. That's very doubtful because to elicit a yes vote even from some Republicans, you would have to make some promises that the President doesn't want you to keep.

VAUSE: And he's making this move now it seems to be ramped up lately because what he seems to have a lot more support from Republican Senators to get away with this and so he's been lobbying behind the scenes?

GENOVESE: I think there's a weariness on the part of a number of Senators and they're finally saying let's just give in to it, he's going to do it, so why not just make the best of it. But I still think it will have a backlash. I still think that -- you have to remember, Attorney General Sessions has been actually quite effective at implementing Trump strategy better than almost any of his other appointees. But he gets under the President's skin that he won't save the President's bacon because of this inquiry.

VAUSE: This is a little bit out of left field but I kind of think it says a lot about where the President is are on his priorities because it was bad news on Thursday for federal workers in the U.S. The President has scrubbed a pay increase, it wasn't a big increase but have been negotiated and agreed to. Donald Trump says it's because the company -- the country rather can't afford. Here's part of the letter he wrote to Congress. We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course. The federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases.

Just put that in context. This pay increase would have cost the budget $25 billion this year. The President also this year signed off on a record $716 billion defense spending bill. His wall is estimated cost anywhere between $20 and $70 billion and then there is the tax cut which went mostly to the very, very wealthy at a $1.4 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years. So they can't afford $25 billion for hundreds of thousands of federal government employees but all these other things, they're good to go.

GENOVESE: Well, he seemed to become a fiscal conservative at last and this would be a small dip in the bucket compared to all of these spending. And he's cut taxes increase spending and the math doesn't work. But you also have to remember that for some reason he sees the federal employees as an enemy --

VAUSE: Right.

GENOVESE: -- as he sees the deep state and most people who read. And so I think you know, in this case the president finds that he can dig into people who he thinks are digging into him. It's a cheap shot but it's the President taking one.

VAUSE: Yes, OK, well you know, the only thing Donald Trump hates more than those fake news stories it seems is actually paying for those fake news stories. You have a report coming up on this. It seems that Don Trump and his former lawyer now convicted felon Michael Cohen were working to try and buy all the dirt which has been gathered on him by the scandal rake the National Enquirer. And seems there may have been a lot it an entire vault, in fact, only the parties never reached a deal.

CNN's Gin -- Brynn Gingras -- sorry, has all the details, having one of those nights.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight the New York Times reporting that Donald Trump and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen once discussed a plan to buy all stories the National Enquirer had collected on Trump going back to the 1980s. That discussion was strongly hinted at in a secret audio recording made by Cohen and released exclusively to CNN by his lawyers in July.

[01:15:03] MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: All of the stuff, all the stuff.

GINGRAS: On that tape, Trump and Cohen heard discussing setting up a payment system to American Media, Inc., the National Enquirer's parent company.

COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David.

GINGRAS: David, is David Pecker, the head of AMI. Pecker had a cozy relationship with Trump, and to protect him, Pecker would dig up the dirt on Trump often paying for the stories, and then bury them in a practice called Catch and Kill.

The Associated Press reports unsavory stories were kept in a safe at AMI. And according to the New York Times, that safe contained decades of material on Trump. Like his marital woes and lawsuits, lists of sensitive sources and tips about alleged affairs.

Cohen and Trump even discussed a backup plan just in case Pecker, the holder of the secrets was no longer around.

COHEN: It's all the stuff -- all the stuff.

TRUMP: Yes, I was thinking about that.

COHEN: Because here, you never know where that company, you never know what he's going to be --

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct.

GINGRAS: Trump and Cohen also mentioned Trump Organization CFO, Allen Weisselberg in their plans to pay for the information.

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

TRUMP: So, what do we got to pay for this?

GINGRAS: The Times reports that Trump never did buy all of the stories from AMI. But in his guilty plea last week, Cohen admitted to working to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Two women who alleged affairs with Trump.

Cohen also said the payments were directed by then-candidate Donald Trump. Trump denies those affairs. Both Pecker and Weisselberg helped the government with this case against Cohen in exchange for immunity. With the immunity deals, it's unclear what other secrets they may now be sharing with federal prosecutors.


VAUSE: Thanks to Brynn Gingras for that report. But, Michael, back to you. I kind of want to juxtapose all this dirt and scandal surrounding Donald Trump in another major story on Thursday, and that was the memorial service for the late Senator John McCain.

And especially the tribute he had -- he received from the former Vice President Joe Biden. Here was some of it. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It wasn't about politics with John, he could disagree on substance, but there are underlying values that animated everything John did. Everything he was, he could come to a different conclusion. But where he'd part company with you. If you lacked the basic values of decency, respect.


VAUSE: You know, a lot of people made the observation that he was speaking directly to Trump, but what I'm curious about, what does it say about this Republican Party, a party which has embraced the values of Donald Trump while rejecting it the values of John McCain?

GENOVESE: It speaks very poorly I think to where they are, and to the quality of character of their leadership. We've seen editorial after editorial by Republican saying, let's bring back the soul of the party -- let's reclaim the soul of the party.

But Donald Trump has managed to sweep in and utterly dominate. And I think, you know, you see the contrast and when Biden didn't mention Trump's name but the contrast is breaking. Especially, without mentioning his name because you see a man who had -- who -- he was deeply flawed. But McCain really lived a life for others.


GENOVESE: And you see it -- you know, that the president -- you know, it's the kind of thing if you're talking to your son you say, that's the kind of man you should try to be like.

VAUSE: That's right.

GENOVESE: Not this guy.

VAUSE: McCain, also admitting a mistake or a fault, whatever was a strength. Trump's sees that as a weakness.

GENOVESE: Well, I think his sort of house of cards would collapse if he admitted any fault, any mistake any error. He is very weak, I think quite fragile and that's why you see him so rattled and so shattered by what's going on.

He's had a terrible summer and as I mentioned, the Woodward book coming out next week. I think, is just going to blow the lid off.

VAUSE: Yes, this is a guy with credibility. It's not like a Michael Wolf book which has questions. Very quickly, Trump was asked -- you know, about his reaction over the last couple of days to McCain's passing, and if he missed a chance to unite the country. This is what he said.


TRUMP: We had our disagreements, and they were very strong disagreements. I disagreed with many of the things that I assumed he believed in. But with that being said, I respect his service to the country.


VAUSE: I mean, just to wrap it up here, what do you think of that?

GENOVESE: Very little, very late, didn't seem sincere. I think the previous several days, his silence, and his anger spoke volumes. This was what he had to say what he should have said from day one. It's humiliating to the United States.

VAUSE: Michael, thank you.

GENOVESE: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Well, next here on NEWSROOM, L.A., he loved Hemingway but despised Cuba's communist government. Even so, when they call for help, John McCain answered, saving Hemingway's home, a literary artifacts and national treasure.


[01:22:13] VAUSE: Well, the U.S. State of Arizona has said farewell to its six times Senator John McCain. His body has now arrived in Washington and will lay in state at the U.S. Capitol in the coming hours.

On Thursday, McCain's family and friends for all sides of the political spectrum had gathered for a memorial service. We have more details from CNN's Nick Watt.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A flag-draped casket, a grieving family, and a Baptist service.

Arizona's final farewell to her favorite adopted son. A eulogy from a political foe and personal friend.

BIDEN: My name is Joe Biden. I'm a Democrat. And I love John McCain.

WATT: McCain in death, keeping bipartisanship alive.

BIDEN: That's who John was, and he could not stand the abuse of power. Wherever he saw it, in whatever form, in whatever country.

He'd always loved basic values, John, fairness, honesty, dignity, respect, giving hate no safe harbor, leaving no one behind and understanding it as Americans were part of something much bigger than ourselves.

WATT: Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals also spoke, he and McCain, mutual fans.

LARRY FITZGERALD, JR., WIDE RECEIVER, ARIZONA CARDINALS, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE: I'm black, he was white. I'm young, he wasn't so young. He lived with physical limitations brought on by war. I'm a professional athlete. He ran for president, I run out of bounds. He was the epitome of toughness and I do everything I can to avoid contact.

I have flowing locks, and, well, he didn't. How does this unlikely pair become friends? I've asked myself the same question. But do you know what the answer is? That's just who he is.

WATT: Readings from two of McCain's seven children, Andrew.

ANDREW MCCAIN, SON OF JOHN MCCAIN: I have fought the good fight.

WATT: And Bridget, adopted as a child from Bangladesh.

BRIDGET MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven, and the time to be born and the time to die.

[01:25:01] WATT: And the recessional, are very appropriate.

Members of the public invited into the church and lining these streets in nearly 100-degree heat as the motorcade passed at the airport. A final farewell from the state he loved, the state he made home, courtesy of the Arizona Air National Guard.

Then, a final flight towards Washington, a trip McCain made so many times in 35 years representing the state in the nation's capital. On board, 18 family members among them, Cindy, the seven kids, and four grandkids.


VAUSE: Nick Watt reporting there. And there are two things about John McCain, you may not know, he is a huge Hemingway fan who's also extremely critical of Cuba's communist government.

But as Patrick Oppmann reports, when McCain was asked to help save the home of his favorite writer, he answered the call even if that meant working with the regime he hated.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From his time as a naval aviator to his three decades in the U.S. Senate, John McCain was a cold warrior, a fierce critic of communism. Whether in the former Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, or Cuba.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR: This is a cruel, oppressive, repressive government that has condemned their people to poverty. You know that if -- why didn't cast to empty out his political prisoners, why doesn't he allow free election?

OPPMANN: Part of McCain's hatred of communism came no doubt from the mistreatment he suffered as the POW after being shot down during the Vietnam War. To keep saying while in solitary confinement, became recited to hold passages from his favorite book or his Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. A classic novel of heroism despite the odds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to really know him, his favorite book is For Whom the Bell Tolls. The protagonist in that goes to fight end war. It's a hopeless cause, and yet he gets his life for it.

OPPMANN: Flash forward, decades and thousands of miles away in communist-run Cuba. Hemingway's home named the think of Finca Vigia where he lived for over 20 years was falling down.

Hemingway left shortly after Fidel Castro took power. Just as the U.S. was about to impose a trade embargo on the islands. In his hurry, he abandoned first editions, manuscripts, and a house full of the writers most prized possessions. A treasure trove that was in danger of being lost forever.

MARY-JO ADAMS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE FINCA VEGIA FOUNDATION: It was mold and mildew. The papers here are original. They are priceless and they were in danger of demonic from the climate.

OPPMANN: In the 2000s, a group of Americans and Cubans joined forces to try and save Hemingway's house. But found the State Department under then-President George W. Bush wasn't issuing the travel licenses, their restorations needed to work on the island still under the U.S. trade embargo.

Some of the Americans had heard that John McCain was a devoted fan of Ernest Hemingway's, and they hope the Senator could aid them in their quest to restore Hemingway's Havana home. Even though it meant that they would have to team up with the Cuban government, who John McCain had no love for.

At a meeting with McCain, the restorationist found while his hatred of communism was still strong, so, was his admiration for Hemingway.

MARTY PETERSEN, FORMER BOARD MEMBER, FINCA VIGIA FOUNDATION: He detested the Cuban government but he loved our project. He didn't think that politics should get in the way of what we were trying to give up. And he agreed to call then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and ask her to basically call off her dogs and issue a license.

OPPMANN: The licenses came allowing American experts to work with their Cuban counterparts and save Hemingway's home and papers.

Today, in Hemingway's house, the project that McCain helped continues. So that future generations can themselves be inspired by the famed writer's tales of courage and sacrifice. Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.


VAUSE: We'll take a short break, when we come back, should priests report cases of child sex abuse admitted to them during confession. That's one of the recommendations from a rural Commission in Australia. But the Catholic Church there has said no. We'll explain why in a moment.


[01:31:45] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

We'll check the headlines this hour.

Russia's foreign minister warning the West not to play with fire. This, as a Syrian government assault on the rebel-held stronghold of Idlib looks imminent. Both Russia and the U.S. warning each other and their proxies against planning any chemical attacks.

U.S. President Donald Trump went after his own Justice Department at a campaign rally on Thursday night. Apparently referring to the Russia investigation he said what's happening at the department and the FBI is a disgrace. And if it doesn't get straightened out he'll get involved.

The body of Republican Senator John McCain will lie in state at the Capitol in Washington in the coming hours after an emotional memorial service in his home state of Arizona. There will be three more days of ceremonies in Washington before he's buried on Sunday.

The two-time presidential candidate and Vietnam War hero died last week of brain cancer.

The Catholic Church in Australia is pushing back on a recommendation from a royal commission calling to priests to report cases of sexual abuse admitted during confession. The church says the seal of the confession is non-negotiable.

CNN's Alexandra Field joins us now live with more on this.

You know, the church has pretty much accepted every recommendation that they've been given here by this royal commission. Why not this one?

ALEXANDER FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And many of the recommendations will go on to the Vatican. They say that that's how these recommendations need to be dealt with and essentially processed.

As for this recommendation they say that they cannot lift the seal because it would infringe on religious liberty. That is their response to a recommendation that was put forward in a report that was released some nine months ago nearly. It was part of a sweeping investigation into sexual abuse in Australia's institutions.

They concluded that countless thousands of children had been abused and it made a number of recommendations aimed at the church. This was a key recommendation. The church says it cannot follow the recommendation.

Here are some of the reasoning that they gave earlier today.


ARCHBISHOP MARK COLERIDGE, PRESIDENT, AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE: Australian priests and the lay faithful are deeply committed to both child safety and the seal of confession, which we hold to be inviolable.

This isn't because we regard ourselves as being above the law or because we don't think the safety of children is supremely important. We do.

But we don't accept that safeguarding and the seal are mutually exclusive. Nor do we believe that abolishing the seal will make children any safer.


FIELD: In fact, the Church says that abolishing the seal would make children less safe because currently priests can work in their capacity during confession to encourage people to self-report. By lifting the seal they said that people would have less trust in confessions and might not come forward as frequently as the Church says that that can happen right now.

The Church also went on to say that the fact that they won't lift the seal should come as a shock to no one, but certainly it is inspiring some outrage. This quote now from a children's advocate in Australia who says "I think it's appalling that the Catholic Church is not putting the safety of the Australian children as their number one priority. If you want to live under Canon Law, go back to the Vatican. The cruelty to the children is very disgusting. There should be more spotlight on the psychological damage to them."

[01:34:59] Again, the Church says that they are following some 98 percent of the recommendations made in that report. They've admitted that they were slow in some cases to respond after learning of the widespread assaults that had happened within the Church. But they say that the Church is learning, that it is changing, that it has learned -- John.

VAUSE: Alexandra -- thank you, appreciate that. Alexandra Field, there live for us in Hong Kong.

Next up here on NEWSROOM L.A. first it was fake news, it's all fake news, it's fake news. And now it's fake search. The latest target of Donald Trump.


VAUSE: Well, Donald Trump went on another early morning Twitter tirade on Thursday lashing out at all the usual suspects, fake news media, the Russia investigation. But those who have been following Donald Trump say this has been his method for many years.

But Brian Todd reports it's all getting a little worse since he became president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have plenty of things to discuss.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Even for President Trump this was a prolific tirade. On Wednesday night and Thursday more than a dozen tweets -- his angriest ones targeting the media. Quote, "I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the media is. The hatred and extreme bias of me by CNN has clouded their thinking. Whatever was left of CNN's credibility is now gone."

CNN's issued a strong statement saying, quote, "Make no mistake Mr. President, CNN does not lie."

Now, those who've chronicled Donald Trump for years say they believe he's feeling enormous pressure after a series of body blows in the Russia probe.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": It's obvious that the President feels cornered. I think he feels besieged. When the President is cornered, and certainly this was true of him in business, he did lash out angrily. He would use whatever means were at his disposal to attack and diminish those he considered to be enemies.

TODD: It's a trait that biographers say Trump has long had, going back to his days at military school but which was sharpened by a ruthless mentor, a legendary New York lawyer known for his brawling style.

MARC FISHER, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMPH REVEALED": He learned this lesson from his mentor Roy Cohn who told him never let others set the stage for you. Always be out there. If you're hit, hit back 100 times harder. If you're under pressure, if you're feeling cornered, you need to be viewed as the aggressor.

TODD: But biographers say they believe Trump is now worse than ever in this regard because of his isolation in the White House to the point where he's embracing new conspiracy theories.

One of Trump's new tweets slams NBC. Quote, "When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia they were hurt badly." A reference to an interview last year after Trump fired James Comey.

TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

[01:40:04] TODD: There's absolutely no evidence that NBC's tape was doctored. Asked to explain, the White House offered no evidence.

The President has done something similar in the past. Take the Access Hollywood tape.

TRUMP: And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

TODD: Even though he admitted and apologized for his remarks.

TRUMP: This was locker room talk.

TODD: "The New York Times" later reported Trump told a senator we don't think that was my voice. So it begs the question, is the President inventing his own reality?

D'ANTONIO: Either he is losing touch with reality and is no longer reliably present in the real world or he is cynically manipulating both his followers and the rest of us to consider something that is patently untrue.

FISHER: He wants to sow some doubt among his followers, at least make them question could this really be true? Maybe it's not true. It dissipates the impact of the material that has him feeling cornered in the first place.

TODD (on camera): Trump biographers are now worried about the future consequences of these tirades, especially ones where the President might distort the facts or outright lie. They say that if he pulls that during a terrorist attack or another national emergency it could hurt Americans' ability to get the real and crucial facts about that situation at a time when Americans are going to desperately need the facts.

Brian Todd, CNN -- Washington.


VAUSE: "Los Angeles Times" columnist Michael Hiltzik joins us now from Seal Beach in California.

Yes, the boy who cried wolf, huh? It's unbelievable.

MICHAEL HILTZIK, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, that's always been the danger, that his lies would catch up to him at a very inopportune moment for all of us.

VAUSE: Yes. You know, the world according to Donald J. Trump is a very different place to where most of us live.

Here are a few examples, you know, across, you know, a number of different topics. On Monday for example when talking about the trade deal with Mexico here he is. Listen to this.


TRUMP: This is one of the largest trade deals ever made. Maybe the largest trade deal ever made. And it's really something very special. The two countries were able to come together and get it done.


VAUSE: Yes, except it's not. And then there's his tweet on North Korea. You remember this. He put this out a few months ago. "Just landed a long trip but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There's no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. Maybe Kim Jong-un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future."

Ok. Well, that all went, you know, up in flames.

And then there was the tweet, you know, where he was claiming an overall approval rating of 52 percent which is just non-existent and not true.

Then of course, he was answering this question about White House counsel Don McGahn and the 30 hours of testimony he gave to the Russia investigation. It's a doozey. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any concern about what he said to the Mueller team?

TRUMP: No. I knew he was going also as you know. I had to approve it. We didn't claim executive -- but no, I don't have to be aware. We have -- we do everything straight. We do everything by the book. And Don is an excellent guy.


VAUSE: We do everything by the book and he said it with a straight face. So look, does he believe this stuff? I mean, it's one thing to spin and to inflate. What's this?

HILTZIK: I think the potential that people have for self-delusion is very strong and when you are president you are in a bubble anyway. Normal president, a traditional president knows to surround himself with people who will challenge him from time to time and try to keep him tethered to reality. We don't believe Trump has anybody like that.

In fact, the reports we're getting are that he's got fewer and fewer people around him of any character. And of course this is really a danger because he's in a very important position and we want him tethered to reality.

Not only that, we want him to have credibility with the American public because the time will come that he needs to exercise that credibility for everybody's good. And he doesn't seem to really have any desire to build up that credibility among people who aren't now in his base.

VAUSE: The thing which I always find amazing is that, you know, you can brag about a trade deal, call it the biggest ever and you can debate it. There are, you know, objective facts which you can't really debate but he does.

Like listen to this. This is him with the interview with Lester Holt of NBC News last year explaining why he fired the director of the FBI.


TRUMP: He made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.


[01:44:57] VAUSE: And then he tweets this out, a baseless allegation first against CNN but then says "Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly." That never happened. I mean this is provable stuff.

HILTZIK: Yes. I think you put your finger on a certain pathology here. Pathological liars -- and I'm not necessarily saying that Trump falls into that category. But you know, our viewers can make that decision for themselves. But as a species, pathological liars often lie about things that are provably false and that everybody listening to them knows is false and they lie anyway.

There's some other impulse at work. And the fact that he would go ahead and start raising questions about a videotaped interview that everybody can look at for themselves is certainly odd. And it should be a matter of concern for all of us. But he does that -- whether he's doing it as a defensive step or for some other reason we really just don't know.

VAUSE: You know, it seems maybe when you look at some of these tweets, if you actually read them with the exact opposite meaning, it kind of works out. Like for example, when he puts this out, "Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner had nothing to do with the so-called pushing out of Don McGahn. But fake news media has it purposely so wrong."

So maybe we should read it "Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner had everything to do with the so-called pushing out of Don McGahn. The honest news media has it so right."

When he tweets "The only thing James Comey ever got right was when he said that Donald Trump was not under investigation." Maybe that should say the only thing James Comey ever got wrong was when he said the President was not under investigation.

You know, can we apply this formula to pretty much everything Donald Trump says?

HILTZIK: Well, I think that's probably the way to bat. But I think what we have to keep in mind is if you want to take the most charitable, rational explanation -- what he's trying to do is create a narrative for his base.

The core delusion that he's operating under may be that his base is large enough to prevail if he runs again in 2020, to prevail for Republicans in November -- what have you. But he's creating a narrative that they can -- that his core followers can keep a grip on. So he's satisfying them.

Now, once again, thinking about traditional presidents, they tend to know when they come into office that their task is to expand their base beyond the core base that got them elected so that they have popular support for the policies that they want to pursue and the legacy they want to create for themselves.

Trump has done exactly the opposite, since we're talking about opposites. He's -- not only has he focused on that base that got him elected, but he seems to be doing a lot to shrink that base. And that's not -- political scientists will tell us that that is not really a wise thing for a president to do if he wants to get his policies passed.

VAUSE: Yes. It's like bizarro world that he will (INAUDIBLE) matters -- really confusing at the moment. But Michael -- as always, thank you so much.

HILTZIK: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: Well, at a campaign rally just a few hours ago the President said he won't allow them to control what people see and read on the Internet. By them he means Google's machine. It's the same unfounded claim he made earlier in the week when he alleged without evidence that Google's news search results are rigged and biased against conservatives.

And now Republican Senator Orrin Hatch is calling for regulators to reopen an investigation into Google. It comes at the same time Donald Trump has been strongly hinting that Google, Facebook, and Amazon may be violating antitrust laws.

But when asked by Bloomberg news about the possible break-up of the tech giants he said, quote, "I won't comment on the breaking up of whether it's that or Amazon or Facebook. As you know, many people think it's a very antitrust situation, the three of them."


Scott Perry, founder of the L.A. Tech Digest or Snapchat 101 -- I don't really know what that means. He kind of hedged his bets a bit. But ok. So, you know, first it was fake news. You know, now you've got fake search. And you know, now we've got oh, shock, what a coincidence, Orrin Hatch wants to reopen an investigation which closed about five years ago or something into Google. And you know, the market share and these antitrust possible violations.

SCOTT PERRY, FOUNDER, L.A. TECH DIGEST: Well, I mean, you know, I think more than anything, Donald Trump is just hurt because whenever you go through the search terms imbecile, idiot, loser, or moron his image is the first thing that shows up on Google in the search for all those.

Now, ironically, when you look up "moron" on Google Elizabeth Warren shows up before Donald Trump but I can almost guarantee you Elizabeth Warren is not losing any sleep over that whatsoever.

VAUSE: And that's an important distinction to make. And why is he Googling himself in the predawn hours I guess is the other question.

[01:50:01] You know, one of the biggest problems that we have, at least the way I see it for Google is that the algorithm which returns all of these search results is essentially a secret. No one knows how it works. There's no transparency.

It does not actually necessarily mean that there's something nefarious going on, there's something wrong with it. It just means that at the end of the day we have to take Google's word for it.

PERRY: Well, and it is a proprietary black box. It's a secret sauce, a special recipe that they don't allow others to know because either competitors will take advantage of it, or people will want to game that system. But you know, when you do search for a lot of things, a lot of legitimate news sources do show up. And I'm sure one of the portions of the algorithm is giving certain sites a letter grade.

Let's say, you know, legitimate news sources get an A or an A-plus. Really good blogs get a B or a B-plus. And then it just goes out from there to like, you know, grandpa yelling at clouds, you know, like a D-minus.

So from there, of course, the more extreme things are not going to show up in the algorithm, or show up in the search results. And also the search results are based on what type of traffic that site gets. How many other people are linking back to that site? How many other legitimate sites are linking back to the site?

VAUSE: There's enough information out there for us to get a good idea that Google is essentially being honest about this when it says there's no political agenda.

PERRY: Right. Right. I mean it is a search algorithm. I mean it's not like they're having human beings actually pick this stuff for you to an extent because there are so many articles that come out -- I mean there's thousands of articles that come out on a second by second basis.

VAUSE: Ok. Despite all of that a growing number of conservatives, they share the President's belief. A recent poll found 65 percent of self-described conservatives both at social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are purposely censoring conservatives and conservative' ideas from their sites.

In the same report which Axios quoted this poll, they have a Trump operative saying it's risen to the level of being an emotional or gut issue with conservatives like guns, immigration. It's an issue that's here to stay.

How does Google and all these other, you know, social media platforms satisfy conservatives without actually doing what the conservatives don't want them to do, which is rig the search results?

PERRY: Well, I mean if you're talking about a scholarly conservative where you're having like a real dialogue about issues based on their beliefs, that's a respectable thing. But when you're talking about these far right, far left extremists on either side talking about things, they're sending up negative signals to quell that message from being distributed.

Even amongst my own peer group I have to like tone it down amongst my friends and a lot of them that lean left could be like dude, what are you doing with your life, why are you posting so much about this negative energy when there's other stuff to be talking about, you know?

So I'm sure there's enough signals within those algorithms to say all right, let's tamp than down a little bit and show some more puppy dogs and kittens and sunsets and focus, you know, on the real issues and the real articles instead of these opinion pieces that come out.

VAUSE: Well, like all these criticism of, you know, the lame-stream media in the 90s had led to the creation of, you know, the conservative Fox News Channel which has done untold damage in so many ways. Don Jr. was asked if it would be a good thing for conservatives to have their own social media site. He actually said -- conservative social media site -- let's do it, he said but what I would prefer is take one of the two Silicon Valley conservatives and let them start it. Then I'd help promote the platform and be all over that. So he doesn't want to start it but he wants to back it up.

But there is already kind of a right-wing version of Twitter out there. And it's called Gab. It's been around for, you know, two years. If you think Twitter's a nasty place check out Gab. That's where like white nationalists and Nazis go. And they pick up Breitbart and, you know, Alex Jones supporters and call them snowflakes for being so liberal.

PERRY: If you've got a group that's so extreme that they're making fun of Alex Jones and Breitbart, that's pretty extreme. I mean there are areas for people of extreme views to share their opinions but privately.

VAUSE: So, you know, Gab -- it's never caught on. It's lost popularity. So this is like -- you know, there is a reason why these things are called mainstream, right?


VAUSE: So if they want a conservative platform -- they don't need it really.

PERRY: Yes. I mean it's like -- I mean there is a conservative social network out there. It's called the comments section of Breitbart.


PERRY: I mean really it's like if you want to convene with people of a shared mindset they're there. But now if they want a legitimate social network, you know, they can -- they can enlist Peter Thiel. They can enlist Palmer Lucky. They can bring in the 100 conservatives within Facebook to actually build this thing out and actually have this. But they also have to find advertisers and then they have to like actually filter this stuff out and do all the things that Facebook and all these others do to like really regulate it and make it a well-run machine. And that costs a lot of money.

VAUSE: But when it's done the bubble will be complete. Good to see you. Thank you.

PERRY: Thanks.

VAUSE: Ok. Next up here on NEWSROOM L.A., Prince Harry takes to the stage. He does something no one expected including himself.


VAUSE: So what could be better than the Donald Trump baby blimp? What about a bikini-clad balloon resembling the mayor of London, kind of resembling? Protesters have been given the go-ahead to fly their blimp above Westminster this weekend. It's all because they believe Sadiq Khan has not done enough to fight crime in London. So they're putting this gigantic whatever you want to call it into the sky to draw attention to their cause. They will certainly draw attention -- that is without doubt.

It was date night on Wednesday for Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, attending a West End performance of "Hamilton". And there the prince briefly broke into song With "You'll Be Back" from the show's King George which is about his sixth great grandfather.



That's definitely not going to happen.


VAUSE: And when we say briefly -- we meant very, very briefly. "Hamilton" is a very successful musical, in case you've been living under a rock. It mocks the British monarchy. Even so the young royals say they're huge fans. And this performance raised money for the Prince's HIV charity. Harry described it as absolutely incredible.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

Stay with us. The news continues right here on CNN after a short break.