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Civilians Safety in Danger in Idlib's Retake; Hanging by the Thread; Catholic Church Haunted by Decades of Abuse. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 31, 2018 - 03:00   ET



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN HOST: Syria pledges to exterminate the Jihadist group Al-Nusra in Idlib as a final showdown for the province looms. And the U.N. warms a humanitarian crisis maybe in the making.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN HOST: An uncertain future. Embattled U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions is hanging on despite some of the harshest criticism yet from his boss.

ALLEN: And yet, another star faces allegations of sexual assault. This time, it is French actor Gerard Depardieu. We are live in Paris with more about that.

HOWELL: And live from CNN world headquarters Atlanta, welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen, and this is CNN Newsroom.

HOWELL: And we begin this hour with the war in Syria where a final offensive on the city of Idlib it appears to be imminent. Idlib is the country's last major rebel stronghold and Russian and government troops are amassing their forces.

Here's what Syria's top diplomat said in Moscow on Thursday. Listen.


WALID MUALLEM, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The decision of Syrian authorities is to exterminate Al-Nusra in Idlib and we will go all the way. We say that the priority is to consolidate with any local groups that wish to do so. We will exert all efforts to avoid civilian casualties.


ALLEN: The U.S. isn't buying it. Some three million people live in Idlib province, and there are fears civilians will again be slaughtered. The U.S. says Damascus might even use chemical weapons. Russia says actually it's U.S.-backed groups planning a chemical strike.

Let's go now to CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He is covering this for us from Moscow. What is the back-and-forth over chemical weapons, Fred, and why in the world would chemical weapons be used here at the end of this war?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean why is certainly a question that I don't think any of these big, big players in the Syria conflict, Natalie, have been able to answer or really want to answer.

One of the things that the Russians are saying is they believe that there are groups in Idlib province that have already begun, as the Russians say, bringing chemicals into that area.

The Russians are saying they believe that these groups want to stage what they call false flag attacks to try and get the Americans -- or to draw the Americans into this conflict and possibly attack the Assad government.

Now, the Russians are saying that to a certain extent is already happening. It's been very interesting to see the messaging coming out of Moscow over the past couple of days, really over the past couple of weeks where they keep saying an attack might be imminent.

They have evidence this is going on. They now say that they've already gone to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons and prevented them with evidence as well.

But you're also, of course absolutely right to point out the U.S. in no form buying that at all. They say that while America doesn't have evidence that the Assad government may be plotting chemical attacks, it is something that the U.S. fears could be done. And the U.S. says that there will be a response to this.

So really you have the whole conflict about Idlib ratcheting up on two fronts essentially. On the one hand, you obviously have the imminent, possibly imminent attack in itself, which is something that of course the international community and the U.N. is very concerned about.

But then you also have this -- I wouldn't call this a standoff between the U.S. and Russia, but certainly a ratcheting up of the rhetoric and a back and forth in this conflict of words between the U.S. and Russia and of what might be a very, very divisive battle coming up in Syria, Natalie.

ALLEN: Right. And these civilians that could be in harm's way, they just have nowhere to go. Is that it, Fred? They're surrounded?

PLEITGEN: Yes. I mean, they're pretty much surrounded, and they can't get out to the north through Turkey at this point either. So essentially right now, the fate of these people, if you will, are essentially in the hands of five key players.

It's obviously the groups that are on the ground in Idlib province and we have heard that there are still negotiations going on between them, the Turks, possibly the Russians and the Syrian government as well.

And the Syrian government itself which has been amassing troops in that area. We heard before from the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. And then you have the three key players in that area, which is Iran, Turkey, and Russia.

Of course, first and foremost, Russia because it does hold many of the cards of what might happen next.

And there's a summit set to take place in Iran on September 7th when all of these key powers -- the presidents of these nations, Putin, Erdogan, and Rouhani are going to get together and essentially try to hammer out some way forward for Idlib.

How could an offensive there start before that? Certainly that is very possible. One of the things that the Russians pointed out yesterday is they're going to hold large scale naval and military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, which means that the Russians will have more military hardware in that area than they do anyway.

[03:05:06] This morning, the Russians came out with another statement saying that there's going to be 26 warships in the area, and they also say strategic aviation will be there as well, Natalie.

ALLEN: It is such a horror to think about. Fred Pleitgen for us in Moscow. Fred, we thank you.

HOWELL: The United Nations special envoy for Syria says that Syria has the right to want rebels and terrorists out of Idlib, but not at the cost of a humanitarian disaster. Listen.


STAFFAN DE MISTURA, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA: No one, no one doubts, and I don't see anyone doubting, except themselves, perhaps, that Al-Nusra and Al Qaeda are terrorists and that terrorists identified by the U.N. need to be defeated.

There is and it can't be no justification in order to fight rightfully terrorists to not avoid using heavy weapons in densely populated areas.


HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with CNN military analyst General Mark Hertling. General Hertling, it's a pleasure to have you on the show.

Look, this is impending. The Syrian army backed by Russia. The signs are clear of what's to come. Are you concerned about what we could see here? Devastation at the same level or worse than what happened in Aleppo.

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You know, I'm going to say worse, George. First of all, thanks for having me on.

It is -- there have been several warnings conducted not only by the Russian foreign minister, Mr. Lavrov, but also by the Russian ambassador to the U.N. about what might happen, how they've been preparing the world for going along with the Assad regime and the Iranians to get rid of what is considered the last problem area, and that's Idlib.

But I think we've got to remember too that this is kind of a fascinating trend line because over the last year, year and a half, other immigrants from other cities throughout Syria have been somewhat herded from one city to another in terms of migration, and Idlib is the last place they've gone.

So while it is a hotbed of terrorism activity, both Al Qaeda and Al- Nusra and also you could include elements of ISIS in that, an estimated 10,000 or more terrorist fighters, you also have about three million or so citizens of that city and immigrants that have migrated to that city.

Knowing the Russian and Syrian way of war, they don't seem to be really precise in their attacking of terrorists. So I think we're going to see continued barrel bombings, bombings of hospitals and schools, indiscriminate use of dumb bombs, and not a whole lot of attention paid to the safeguarding of citizens. I also think unfortunately we may see the use of chemical weapons again.

HOWELL: I want to talk more about chemical weapons in a moment. But first talking about the people, the civilians there in Idlib, the U.N. special envoy for Syria trying to avert what could ultimately lead to widespread massacre of civilians there, hoping to provide the safe passages for people to escape before any offensive on Idlib.

The greater question here, we're talking millions of people here. Where would they go? How would they be treated?


HOWELL: And how would safety be ensured?

HERTLING: Well, that's the key question, isn't it, because as they've evacuated other towns throughout Syria, as the Syrian and Russian armies have gone in, they have made corridors primarily to Idlib, believe it or not. This was the last refuge.

And so as you said, the U.N. envoy, de Mistura has said he wants to go there, help create corridors, but the question is where would the migrants now flee to? They've had an unbelievable humanitarian crisis in that city. Thousands of tents put up by the U.N. and other refugee agencies. So you have millions of people who have migrated there already. So it's going to be problematic.

HOWELL: At this point, Turkey seems to be the only nation calling an attack on Idlib a red line, mainly due to what would be an inevitable refugee crisis on its borders. And western powers seem to be on the sidelines unless chemical weapons are used here. What are your thoughts about the west, the United States? Should the U.S. be on standby here, or should the U.S. get involved?

HERTLING: You know, we've received warnings from the Russian foreign minister and the Russian U.N. ambassador. They have both said, we are going to conduct this operation. Getting involved would be a very poor move on the part of the west, and specifically pointed to the United States.

And I think we have to point out too that the Russians have moved somewhere intelligence estimates say between 15 and 25 ships into the Mediterranean Sea. Some of those are cruisers, cruise missile shooters, submarines that could shoot cruise missiles, and anti-air defense measures.

[03:10:10] So, if chemical weapons are used and the U.S. or western forces are looking to do a retaliatory strike against Syria's forces for the use of those weapons, I think we're going to see some real challenges in terms of the deterrence given by the Russian forces.

So that sets a whole other set of parameters on this whole issue, and at the same time you're going to see that humanitarian crisis it's not only going to just affect the region, George, but it's also going to potentially affect Europe with close to a couple million more immigrants fleeing that combat zone.

HOWELL: All right. CNN military analyst General Mark Hertling, thank you so much for your time and perspective today.

HERTLING: All right. Thank you, George.

ALLEN: We will of course keep a close eye on Syria.

Well, President Trump has a warning for his own Justice Department.

HOWELL: At a campaign rally in the state of Indiana, he said that what's happening in the department of the FBI, he said it's a disgrace, and if it doesn't get straightened out, the president said that he would get involved.

ALLEN: In an interview with Bloomberg News earlier in the day, the president called the Russia investigation illegal and blasted his attorney general for not investigating Hillary Clinton.

HOWELL: Our Jim Acosta reports the day started in true Trump fashion with a Twitter tirade.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR White House CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is on a rant. His latest fixation, his outgoing White House counsel Don McGahn. In a morning tweet storm, the president insisted the rigged Russia witch hunt did not come into play even a little bit with respect to my decision on Don McGahn.

Mr. Trump's complaints about the coverage of McGahn's departure comes one day after he claimed he wasn't worried about what his long time aide told special counsel Robert Mueller's team in the Russia probe.


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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not at all. I knew he was going also, you know. I had to approve it.

ACOSTA: And you're aware of what he said?

TRUMP: 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.


ACOSTA: The president tried to knock down reports about McGahn's exit, tweeting, "I like Don, but he was not responsible for me not firing Bob Mueller or Jeff Sessions. And Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner had nothing to do with the so-called pushing out of Don McGahn.


TRUMP: We're doing record business.


ACOSTA: The president who is suddenly running low on West Wing lawyers during a critical time in the Russia probe is widely expected to tap White House attorney Emmet Flood to replace McGahn.

One sign that the president is feeling the pressure, his attacks on the news media. Mr. Trump tweeted, "I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the media is and the other people."


TRUMP: This was an excuse.


ACOSTA: The president is falsely accusing NBC of fudging an interview with Mr. Trump from last year when he admitted that he fired former FBI director James Comey because of the Russia investigation.


TRUMP: 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.


ACOSTA: The next firing for the president could be Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Not only is Mr. Trump discussing that prospect behind the scenes, his allies are talking up the idea.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think he wants an attorney general that he has a better working relationship with. I like Jeff Sessions. But I mean, how smart do you have to be to understand this, this is not working?


ACOSTA: Adding to the sense of angst, sources close to the White House tell CNN some of the president's advisers have explained to him that Democrats are champing at the bit to hold hearings and possibly impeachment proceedings should they win control of the House of Representatives in the midterms.

Every news story is going to instigate a subpoena. It would be really miserable said one source. A perfect storm said another.

But it seems Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be staying at his post at least for now. President Trump told Bloomberg News that Sessions won't be leaving the administration until at least the November midterm elections.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

ALLEN: Much to sort through here. Peter Mathews is again with us. Political analyst and professor of political science at Cyprus College. He's in Long Beach, California. Peter, thank you as always for being with us.

So the president continues to be on a tirade of sorts against his own Justice Department. Let's listen to what he just said.


TRUMP: But our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now. And at some point -- I wanted to stay out, but at some point if it doesn't straighten out properly, I want them to do their job. I will get involved, and I'll get in there if I have to.



ALLEN: What's he talking about there, Peter, do you think?

PETER MATHEWS, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, CYPRUS COLLEGE: He wants them to lay off of the investigations on him, and it's just unconscionable because I've never heard a president talk so condescendingly and such dictatorial fashion to his own Justice Department and the FBI.

[03:15:07] It's very remarkable, Natalie, and I think he's very paranoid about what's going on with the Mueller investigation and what they're finding out and he wants to stop them one way or the other.

He might even fire Jeff Sessions after the election. If he does that, I think it's going to have a lot of repercussions in a negative way because obstruction of justice is what he's facing in many ways. And if any kind of corrupt intent is established, that's a problem for him.

I think Mr. McGahn was part of the interview process where he could have revealed information to Mr. Mueller that establishes corrupt intent to obstruct justice on the part of the president.

ALLEN: Yes. And you mentioned Mr. McGahn, his White House counsel, who spent 30 hours with the special counsel. What do you make of the announcement that he will be leaving?

MATHEWS: Isn't that crazy? I mean look at this. One after the other, and it looks more and more like the president is determined to get rid of people who in any way tell the truth about him and his campaign and what might have happened during the White House couple of years that could implicate the president.

He wants to wipe them off the picture completely, and I think it's going to backfire on him. Certainly his hard core supporters will love it as they are. You saw at the rally in Indiana today. But the majority of Americans will not put up with this and they're going to hopefully influence Congress in the right way, and I think there's going to be an attempt to elect a Congress that will do the right thing and pursue investigations on this matter.

ALLEN: With Mr. Trump's former fixer cooperating, that's his attorney Michael Cohen, with the head of the National Enquirer, Mr. Trump's top financial official getting immunity here, what might happen next? What will you be watching for as this just continues to march on?

MATHEWS: I'll be waiting primarily till right after the election when I think Mr. Mueller will probably wrap up his inquiry and finally make a report and a judgment and then take it to Congress. And it will be up to Congress to decide whether or not to act on those accusations if they're there and true and valid. And then perhaps put Trump through impeachment and then finally removal.

But for that you have to have enough members of Congress who will do the right thing regardless of party. Right now we know the Republican Party and the members in the House and Senate are in lockstep with each other and don't want to in any way do what Congress is supposed to do. So I'm looking for that. It will probably be after the election when we can really see what might break loose.

ALLEN: Yes. And meantime, we have the president going on the attack with that NBC tape that everyone has seen for months and months. Of course he always attacks the media. And his base loves him despite his baseless claims. Do you think that they will stick by this president no matter what he says and does? At some point will people start to break from him?

MATHEWS: I think the vast majority of his base, maybe even 95 percent will stick with him. But his base is fairly narrow. It's only about 35 percent solid support among the electorate. And it's still going to stay with him, I believe, all the way to the end.

But there will be enough, 5 percent or 10 percent will peel away perhaps if something really egregious is revealed, like some sort of real not collusion but actual corrupt investigate -- corrupt action by the president might have had in the campaign with Russian help. If that becomes revealed completely, then he might see a larger chunk of his base pull away. But I think the vast majority will stick with him to the end. But

we'll see. We know what happened to Richard Nixon. Many of his people that supported him left him toward the end as well.

ALLEN: All right. Peter Mathews, we always appreciate your analysis. Thank you for joining us.

MATHEWS: My pleasure, Natalie. Thank you.

HOWELL: Allegations of cover-up by -- of sexual abuse by priests is front and center for the Vatican. Now abuse survivors are demanding the U.S. government investigate.

ALLEN: Also the Catholic Church of Australia says it will not require priests to report child abuse if they learn about it during confessions. Why one top Catholic leader says it will not make children safer. We'll look into that as well, coming up here on CNN Newsroom.


ALLEN: The demands are growing for an independent investigation of a cover-up of sexual abuse by priests in the United States. The attorney general of Pennsylvania says he doesn't know if Pope Francis knew about it but that the Vatican certainly did.

HOWELL: His investigation found hundreds of priests abused at least 1,000 children over decades.

CNN's Rosa Flores reports survivors of sexual abuse have taken their demands to the Vatican embassy in Washington.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Survivors from three global organizations came here to the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C. holding pictures of themselves as children to show the age at which they were abused by clergy.

Now, they came here asking for transparency and accountability and asking the United States Department of Justice to get involved.

Now, all of this comes on the heels of the Pennsylvania grand jury report and also the release of a letter by a former nuncio, Carlo Maria Vigano. In that letter, he implicates Pope Francis, and that's why these survivors were here at the embassy, because the files to prove what Vigano says in that letter are somewhere between this nuncio and the Vatican.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all want to find out what's going on. We're not going to be able to find out what's going on unless he releases McCarrick's file. He can do that. He's the pope. It's his embassy if it's in there, and he needs to release it because we've got to clear this up but fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FLORES: This is an issue that is dividing bishops across the United States. On one side, you have a bishop in New Jersey saying that the allegations in this letter are innuendo, and yet there's a bishop in California defending the allegations.

And meanwhile, back here in Washington, the cardinal at the center of this storm is saying that he does not plan to resign, that he plans to stay in his post.

Now, these survivors that were here, where they're calling for the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl. They're not asking for the pope to resign. They're asking the pope to act.

Rosa Flores, CNN, Washington.

HOWELL: In the meantime, Australia, the Catholic Church has refused to require that priests report child abuse when they learn about it in the confessional.

ALLEN: They're refusing that. The country's top Catholic body says it accepts recommendations of a government investigation, but the seal of the confession is not negotiable.

HOWELL: Let's go live now to Brisbane. Brendan Smith is a reporter with Sky News Australia and joins us now live. A pleasure to have you. Tell us more about this. What has been the reaction so far to the Catholic Church saying essentially we can abide by the 98 percent of this report, but the other 2 percent when it comes to protecting children, well, that's a no-go.

BRENDAN SMITH, REPORTER, SKY NEWS AUSTRALIA: that's right, George. Well, the church says that lifting the seal of confession wouldn't be appropriate. And they say it would actually discourage victims and perpetrators from confessing to abuse.

[03:25:04] Now while saying this, the church did say that it has the utmost respect for the law and doesn't believe it is above the law.

But of course after this was released in the media today, it caused absolute controversy here in Australia. Social media really is blowing up. We have thousands of people commenting on our threads here at Sky News. People saying that it's not a disgrace to the church, why lift to the deal of confession. And one person even likened the Catholic Church to a criminal cartel.

HOWELL: Suggestion has been made that breaking the seal would somehow make children less safe. Can you explain that suggestion?

SMITH: It will really just be a test right now of the church when they really do implement these changes. There have been a number of recommendations made throughout this royal commission.

It did recommend that all religious leaders or ministers who have been convicted of a sexual offense should be removed from the church. They also took on the recommendation that there should be a national office for child safety and also celibacy should be voluntary. Ultimately, it's really up to Pope Francis and the Vatican to

implement the majority of these recommendations. So only time will tell, George, once they do recommend these and put them into practice.

HOWELL: And, look, this is all coming off of a very busy weekend in Ireland with the pope for sure, where scandal, the scandal of predator priests was thick in the air. Does this news from your nation does it put more pressure on the Catholic Church? Is there a sense that that's happening from this?

SMITH: It will undoubtedly put more pressure on the Catholic Church. It really brings the church back into the spotlight even more so. It has said that it will ensure there will be an abuse-free future. It has thanked all of the victims and survivors of this horrific child sex abuse. It does say that it will not happen again.

They have been very insistent on that. They've been insistent that it will be far more transparent into the 4ture.

And George, today is really a step forward for all of those victims in Australia and undoubtedly across the globe to really start that healing process. Thousands of people and agencies were involved in this landmark royal commission. So today is a good day for those victims but still plenty of work ahead.

HOWELL: Reporter Brendan Smith with Sky News Australia. Thank you so much for your time and the reporting.

ALLEN: Here in the U.S., an emotional send-off from the State of Arizona. Now Washington gets ready to remember the war hero. Two-time presidential candidate and longtime Republican Senator John McCain.

Also thousands of people, saying good-bye to another warrior. A woman whose powerful voice demanded respect. Remembering Aretha Franklin.

Stay with us.


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: Welcome back to our viewers around the world. We appreciate you tuning in to "CNN Newsroom." I'm Natalie Allen.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour. Russia's foreign minister is warning the west not to play with fire. This as the Syrian government assault on the rebel stronghold of Idlib looks imminent. Both Russia and the United States are warning each other and their proxies against planning chemical attacks.

ALLEN: U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his own Justice Department during a campaign rally on Thursday night. Apparently referring to the Russia probe, he said what's happening in the department and the FBI is a disgrace. And if it doesn't get straightened out, he will get involved. HOWELL: In Australia, top catholic leaders say they accept 98 percent

of the recommendations of a government inquiry into child sex abuse, but the church refuses to require priests to report child abuse when they learn about it during the confessional.

ALLEN: The state of Arizona has bid farewell to its longtime Senator John McCain, and now Washington will have its chance. McCain's casket arrived in the capital Thursday ahead of a weekend of public memorial services and then a burial at the U.S. Naval academy on Sunday.

HOWELL: Before that, family and friends from both sides of the political divide came together to celebrate this war hero and self- described maverick. Nick Watt has this report.


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


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



And I love John McCain.

WALLACE: McCain in death keeping bipartisanship alive.

BIDEN: That is who John was. He could not stand the abuse of power wherever he saw it, in whatever form, in whatever country. He was always about basic values, John. Fairness, honesty, dignity, respect. Giving hate no safe harbor. Leaving no one behind. And understanding that as Americans, we're part of something much bigger than ourselves.

WATT: Larry FitzGerald of the Arizona cardinals also spoke. He and McCain, mutual fans.

LARRY FITZGERALD, PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL, ARIZONA CARDINALS: 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 you know what the answer is. That is 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, ADOPTED DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: Everything there is

a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven, and a time to be born and a time to die.

WATT: At the recessional --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How very appropriate.

WATT: 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 this state in the nation's capital. Onboard, 18 family members. Among them, Cindy, his seven kids, and four grandkids.


[03:35:10] HOWELL: Nick Watt there reporting for us.

Two things about John McCain. He was a huge fan of the writer Ernest Hemingway, and he was extremely critical of Cuba's communist regime.

ALLEN: Our Patrick Oppmann tells us about how the late U.S. Senator work hard to save the home of his favorite writer, Mr. Ernest Hemingway even though it meant working with a government he despised.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From his times 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) ARIZONA: This is a cruel, oppressive, repressive government that has condemned their people to poverty. You know that -- why didn't Castro 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 a POW after being shot down during the Vietnam War. To keep sane while in solitary confinement, McCain recited the whole passages from his favorite book, Ernest 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 a war that is 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 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 island. In his hurry, he abandoned first editions, manuscripts and house full of writers with prized possessions. A treasure trove that was in danger of being lost forever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was mold and mildew. The papers here are original. They are priceless, and they're in danger of demise 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 to restorationists (ph) needed to work on island still under the U.S. trade embargo. Suddenly Americans had heard that John McCain was a devoted fan of Ernest Hemingway's and they hoped the Senator could aid them in their quest to restore Hemmingway's Havana home even though it meant they would have to team up with the Cuban government who John McCain had no love for. At a meeting with McCain, the restorationists found while his hatred of communists was still strong, so was his admiration for Hemingway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He detested the Cuban government, but he loved the project. He didn't think that politics should get in the way of what we were trying to do. He agreed to call then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and ask her to basically call off her dogs and issue the licenses.

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


ALLEN: Well, now we have this. Belting it out for the queen of soul. Dozens of singers and dancers, thousands of fans saying a farewell for Aretha Franklin, Thursday at a tribute concert in Detroit, her hometown.


Because you make me feel, you make me feel you make me feel like a natural woman

HOWELL: So many songs, Natalie. Do you have a favorite?

ALLEN: I have them all. I have all of her songs on my iPhone, and I was in the fourth row of an Aretha concert here in Atlanta, once.

HOWELL: Oh, wow. Look, obviously it is a loss for the world. This legendary performer died earlier this month. She was battling cancer. Her body now lying in repose at the church where her father once preached. It's where Aretha Franklin started her unforgettable career six decades ago.

Friday caps off days of public memorials. She'll be buried in a private service in Detroit. That was her hometown, and the story about Aretha Franklin in Detroit, I mean she was known as a person when she is in the store, just like everyone else. You know, greets everyone. Friendly. From Detroit.

ALLEN: A wonderful, wonderful person. And, my goodness, that voice. It will be missed.

[03:40:02] HOWELL: Still ahead. Arrested, freed on bail, and then arrested again. How a Ugandan pop star turned politician ended up back in custody and allegedly herded the process.

ALLEN: We will go to our reporter in Africa about that one.

Also he is a beloved French actor, but Gerard Depardieu is making headlines today not for a new film, but because he faces allegations of rape and sexual assault. We'll go live to Paris for more about that next here on "CNN Newsroom."


ALLEN: I will take you now to Germany where people in the Eastern city of Chemnitz are hoping things return to normal after days of violent anti-immigrant protests.

HOWELL: On Thursday, right-wing protesters were back on the streets, but compared to earlier in the week, the situation remained fairly calm. Our Atika Shubert has details for us.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's still a simmering frustration here on the streets of Chemnitz, but that anger has now been really controlled and contained, and that is in part to the overwhelming police presence on the streets today. Earlier today, we saw hundreds of people attending a right-wing protest just outside the football stadium, and they were there to protest the local mayor of Chemnitz as well as the regional head of the government, who are holding a town hall.

Dozens of people que to try and get in to speak with the mayor. She was booed as she took the stage and heckled, but despite all that and despite the angry chants outside, protesters went home peacefully. And so that is -- there is some sense of relief that perhaps things are returning to normal here in Chemnitz even though more protests are still scheduled for the weekend. Atika Shubert, CNN, Chemnitz, Germany.


HOWELL: Atika, thank you. Serious allegations made against French actor Gerard Depardieu.

ALLEN: A 22-year-old woman, 22 accuses the movie star of rape and sexual assault. The Paris public prosecutor's office is conducting a preliminary investigation. Depardieu's lawyer says the actor is shocked by the accusations. Although he knows the woman in question apparently, he denies any criminal act.

HOWELL: Depardieu is a star of the French cinema and won best actor award at the Cannes film festival. He also won a Golden Globe for the Hollywood movie "Green card." Let us go live to CNN, Jim Bittermann, following the story live in Paris. Jim, this French actor denies any wrongdoing. Is there anything new from prosecutors that you're hearing at this point?

[03:45:16] JIM BITTERMANN, SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, nothing new this morning, George. And in fact, it's kind of unusual that we heard from prosecutors at all at this stage in the investigation. This is what they're calling a preliminary investigation and normally the prosecutors don't release this kind of information until they get to the stage of formally investigating, notifying a person involved that they're being formally investigated, and that has not yet happened in this case.

Depardieu's lawyer said he was stupefied, that the actor was stupefied at the charges. Yes, in fact, he does know the young lady in question. Apparently her parents are friends of Depardieu. In any case, he is denying all of the charges, and at this point they're not even charges. They're accusations being brought by the young lady.

So we'll have to see what the investigation turns up, but at the moment, there's nothing more than an accusation from the young lady involved. And of course Depardieu doesn't want to see his reputation soiled any further than it has been over the years.

HOWELL: These allegations around one of France's biggest international stars. What are people saying about this allegations?

BITTERMANN: Well, this is kind of curious, because it sort of fits into the sort of mold of Depardieu. They call him the monster of French cinema, because he is known for his voraciousness in every single regard. He is kind of, I guess to put it politely, a bon vivant on the French scene. The French love him for that. He is a bon vivant large character who also has a very sensitive side, but over the years he is gotten involved in all kinds of different escapades that have attracted and notice of a number of people, including a few years back when he urinated in an airplane that was waiting to take off.

He says he has prostate problems and in fact a stewardess said he couldn't go and use the bathroom. So in front of the whole passengers and crew, he went ahead and went into a corner of the plane and urinated and later volunteered to clean it up. In any case, that was the kind of thing that has sort of dogged his career, those kinds of accusations. He is a winemaker and a known gourmet, and so he is, you know, a character that the French kind of love and kind of admire in some ways, George.

HOWELL: Jim Bittermann, live in Paris. Jim, thank you.

ALLEN: Another story we're following. Arrested, he was freed on bail, and then arrested again. A Ugandan pop star and opposition politician is back in custody now and facing treason charges.

HOWELL: Bobi Wine's lawyer says Wine was violently taken back into custody as he tried to leave for the United States to get medical treatment.

ALLEN: Let's get the latest now from our Farai Sevenzo, he joins us live from Nairobi, Kenya. Farai, what is behind these charges?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, this has been an ongoing drama between people like Bobi Wine and some other M.P's and about 33 protesters were all arrested, because under treason charges in Ugandan law, but the real story, Natalie, is that this man, Bobi Wine, has come from nowhere. He only entered parliament last year and he is been very vociferously critical of Mr. Museveni's rule.

Now, let's get back to the case at hand. Of course these people are alleging that they arrested people like Bobi Wine are alleging government torture. They keep getting released and re-arrested and this goes to the very heart of what has become the Mr. Museveni's very intolerant government in terms of the opposition. Last night we heard from the police who tweeted they had taken of Mr. Wine off a plane, due to go to the United States where he was supposed to go for treatment.

They've taken him off the plane, because he allege torture and they have taken him to a local government hospital. Now, Natalie, you and I are of an age, I believe, where we know the difference between pop music and other music genres. Bobby Wine considers himself the ghetto king. He harnessed all the support of the poor, local youths to propel him to parliament.

Once there, he did not give up his fight against what he considers autocratic rule. This is at the heart of why he is being treated so badly. There have been protests throughout East Africa for his release, and we'll wait now to see what state they're in. They're various rumors of three of his people missing, his deejay, his bodyguard, and of course these kind of impasse is really at the heart of President Museveni's fight against a generation he doesn't understand, who continually communicate on social media, and he introduced a social media tax to stop what he called gossip, but it's really trying to deal with a new generation that is way younger than his 75-year-old self, trying to say enough is enough. We don't want to be ruled like this anymore, Natalie.

[03:50:15] ALLEN: Yes. Well, he needs to deal with it, doesn't he? You say there's been support for Mr. Wine. What about human rights groups? Are they getting involved here? Could they have any impact on this President in Uganda?

SEVENZO: You know, human rights groups have been warning for a long time ever since President Museveni (inaudible) the constitution to allow a longer years, age group at least 74. The limit was around 75, and he scrapped that, so he could stay in power. Human rights groups have been very vociferous about the state of affairs in Kampala and Uganda. You know, we have a man called (inaudible) who was with Museveni main opposition man who the Guinness book of records alleges he is the most arrested politician on the planet.

So, the rights groups are very aware of the situation, and at the moment we wait to see now what happens in terms of this man's health, because they are very badly injured. Mr. Wine is not walking properly, his lawyers told CNN, he has got a spine problems, and last night, just a point of interest, anecdotally our reporters says one of the other accused had to hire five seats on an airline, just to lay down, so he could get to India for treatment.

Now of course, treatment is far from sight at the moment, and we wait to hear more from the Uganda government about what they intend to do about this man's freedom rights.

ALLEN: It's a fascinating story and we know that you'll stay on it for us. We look forward to hearing what happens next. We'll be thinking of Mr. Wine. Faria Sevenzo, always a pleasure having you on. Thank you so much, Farai.

HOWELL: Still ahead, Prince Harry reveals a secret talent as he takes the stage in London's west end.


ALLEN: High above Westminster this weekend, protesters intent to fly a giant blimp of London's mayor, but it's the way Sadiq Khan is depicted that will turn heads.

HOWELL: The giant balloon shows the mayor in a reclined position wearing a small yellow bikini. More than 3,000 people donated more than $75,000 to fund this blimp.

ALLEN: That crowdfunding campaign came after London authorities allowed a Trump baby blimp -- what's going on -- to be flown during the U.S. President's visit last month.

HOWELL: Natalie, it is the war of the blimps. The protest organizer said he wanted to see if free speech applies to all. He also accused Khan of doing little to prevent violent crime in London.

When Harry met "Hamilton." Real royalty came face to face with theater royalty on Wednesday in London.

ALLEN: Prince Harry went to see the show that makes fun of his own relatives, and he loved it. Here's our Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a breakup song King George III sings to American revolutionaries in the musical "Hamilton."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soon you'll see, you'll remember you belong to me

MOOS: No wonder the audience ate it up when the king's real life grand, grand, grand, grand, grand, grandson opened his mouth, and out it came.

[03:55:00] PRINCE HARRY, OF WALES: You say

MOOS: OK, Prince Harry sang only the first two, count them two, words. They couldn't coax more out of him.

PRINCE HARRY: That is definitely not going to happen.

MOOS: People reports his wife Meghan saying Harry loved "Hamilton," and now he can't stop singing the songs.


MOOS: The audience tends to go nuts no matter how little a celebrity sings. Remember when President Obama paid homage to Al Green?


MOOS: Bill Clinton made a splash playing the sax, but when it comes to singing John Lennon's imagine, we can only imagine he did it because he was put on the spot.


MOOS: Coaxed into a duet by an Israeli singer celebrating Shimon Perez's birthday. Hillary Clinton also sang a duet with herself, played by Kate Mckinnon on SNL.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We know that there's always tomorrow

MOOS: And then candidate Trump went all out in an SNL parody of hotline bling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You used to call me on the cell phone.

MOOS: Cellphones captured not only Prince Harry singing. Check out the cast member behind Prince Charming. She is not just charmed. She is gob smacked. Jeanne moos, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: Who knew that Prince Harry could sing?

ALLEN: You know what? That is pretty cool considering that the king and the program is his relative, and the king does not come off well of course. Tell the United States where to stick it for leaving him. But it's a great show. Good for Harry. Date night with Meghan. Love it.

HOWELL: It was a good time.

ALLEN: Yes. All right.

HOWELL: Thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: And I'm Natalie Allen. There's more "CNN Newsroom" with Max Foster in London after a short break. Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you later. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)