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Russia Investigation; Trump Talking Trade; War in Syria; Remembering John McCain; Aretha Franklin Laid to Rest. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired September 1, 2018 - 03:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A lobbyist is cooperating with the special counsel in the Russia investigation among other things. He's now charged with he admits funneling foreign money to the U.S. president inaugural committee.

Russia and Syria appear to be ready to launch a final attack on the last rebel stronghold of Idlib, while rhetoric heats up between the U.S. and its allies.

Also, saying goodbye to a queen. A packed house in Detroit as friends and family celebrate Aretha Franklin's life, legacy and soul.

We're live from CNN Center. I am Natalie Allen, thanks for being with us.


ALLEN: New developments in the Russia investigation, President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani tells CNN the Trump legal team is already working on a report to rebut special counsel Robert Mueller's report. It is not yet known when the special counsel's office will wrap up its work or what will be in the report.

Just hours before Giuliani's comments, the Russia probe notched another guilty plea from Washington lobbyist Samuel Patten.

He admitted to funneling money from a Russian-backed Ukrainian oligarch to the Trump inauguration committee. This is the first time the Justice Department has publicly charged someone with helping a foreigner funnel money to a Trump political event.

Our Evan Perez has more on Patten and what he is accused of.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Washington lobbyist Samuel Patten pleaded guilty in federal court for failing to register as a foreign agent. Prosecutors said Patten was paid more than $1 million for working with a Ukrainian political party aligned with Russia.

As part of his plea deal Patten admits to helping funnel money from a Ukrainian oligarch to President Trump's inaugural committee. The case began as part of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who referred it to the U.S. (INAUDIBLE) office in Washington, D.C. Under federal law, it is illegal for foreigners to donate to a inaugural committee.

So Patten got around the law by having someone else spending $50,000 on four tickets to the Trump inauguration and a Ukrainian reimbursed the money. We have known for some time Robert Mueller's investigators have asked witnesses about possible illegal foreign donations to the Trump campaign and the inauguration.

But the Samuel Patten plea deal is the first public indication about that line of inquiry. President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says the plea deal has nothing to do with President Trump.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: It turned out to be this irrelevant indictment, where I think Mueller's turned into the private prosecutor.

What does this have to do with the president?

Not a single thing. It has nothing to do with collusion.

Some guy who donated to the inauguration?

My goodness, there are about 500,000 people who donated to President Trump. Every time they get a speeding ticket, the special prosecutor (INAUDIBLE).

PEREZ: Now as part of the plea agreement, Samuel Patten has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. That would include any requests made by special counsel Robert Mueller -- Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: There are still more questions and contradictions unfolding in the Russia investigation. In a court filing late Friday night, convicted former Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulos, contradicted attorney general Jeff Sessions' sworn testimony to Congress.

Papadopoulos said in a March 2016 meeting, Sessions and then candidate Donald Trump both apparently supported his proposal that Trump meet with Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign.

When Sessions was asked about the meeting under oath, he said that he pushed back on the idea. The new filing comes as Papadopoulos' attorneys request he be given probation instead of jail time.

The guilty plea comes as the Trump legal team is already preparing to rebut the Mueller report. We are also learning the man behind the so- called Steel dossier told the Justice Department official that Russia intelligence believed they had Donald Trump, quote, "over a barrel." For more on this, here is CNN's Sara Murray. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With little sign the Russia probe is wrapping up, Rudy Giuliani is hatching a backup plan. The president's lawyer telling CNN's Dana Bash the legal team is already halfway through preparing a report to rebut a number of possible findings from special counsel Robert Mueller.

It is slated to include sections on everything from collusion with Russia in the 2016 election to fired national security advisor Michael Flynn to obstruction of justice. The report all part of Giuliani's strategy to dull the blow of whatever Mueller makes public.

GIULIANI: I'll be here when it --


GIULIANI: -- my version of the report and they'll have their version of the report and the American people are now essentially going to decide it.

MURRAY (voice-over): Once adamant that Mueller must wrap up his investigation well before 2018 midterms...

GIULIANI: If it isn't over by September, then we have a very, very serious violation of the Justice Department rules. They shouldn't be conducting one of these investigations in a 60-day period.

MURRAY (voice-over): Giuliani now admitting to CNN he has no idea what Robert Mueller's timeline is. It's customary for the Justice Department prosecutors to go quiet for 60 days before an election.

But it's up to U.S. attorneys to ensure they don't take over investigative steps that could impact an election.

As the investigation stretches on, Trump continues to rail against the Justice Department.

TRUMP: People are angry. People are angry.

MURRAY (voice-over): Especially one of his favorite new targets.

TRUMP: I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace.

MURRAY (voice-over): Bruce Ohr is the career Justice Department official who met with Christopher Steel, the former British spy who compiled the now-infamous dossier. Ohr testifying to a congressional committee this week that Steel told him that a July 2016 breakfast that Russian intelligence believed they had then candidate Trump over a barrel, according to a source familiar with the testimony, a claim that's in line with allegations Steel included in his dossier.

But its broad assertion that Russia aimed to interfere in the 2016 election has been accepted as fact by the U.S. intelligence community.

MURRAY: Now when it comes to that report that the president's legal team has been working so diligently on, Rudy Giuliani acknowledged to CNN on Friday afternoon that it may never see the light of day. But he wants to be prepared no matter what Robert Mueller is up to -- Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: A new poll gives some perspective on the U.S. president's job approval ratings and approval of the special counsel's Russia investigation. According to a new ABC "Washington Post" poll, 62 percent of those polled support Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia interference in the election.

As for Mr. Trump himself, the same poll shows 36 percent approve of the job he is doing but 60 percent of those responding do not. That is a new high for disapproval of the president's performance.

Let's talk about these developments with political analyst Michael Genovese, who is president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University and the author of "How Trump Governs."

Michael, thanks for coming in. Appreciate it.


ALLEN: Let's start with the infamous Steel dossier creeping back into the news; of course, it is much discredited by Republicans. A Justice Department lawyer testifying before lawmakers, he was told Russian intelligence thought they had then candidate Trump over a barrel.

What do you make of that?

GENOVESE: It conforms to the worst-case scenario the president faces, the possibility that there is something to the Steel dossier. Maybe the Russians have a tape, information or something on his finances.

Whatever it is, it's part of this drip, drip, drip against the president. Everything seems to be going in the wrong direction, from bad to worse. The president is in a position where it is taking a toll.

You saw the numbers you put up, everything is moving in the wrong direction.

The real question is, have we crossed a line?

Is it possible for the president to turn this around?

Will there be good news he can claim credit for?

Or will this be the beginning of a one-way street, all downhill for the president?

So it's a very treacherous time for the president and that's why you see him lashing out like a wounded animal, attacking as he normally does but even more wildly than usual.

ALLEN: He is tweeting up a storm as well, even mentioning Hillary Clinton a short while ago.

Another development, another guilty plea from the Robert Mueller investigation from the Washington lobbyist, who allegedly funneled money from a Russian Ukrainian politician to the Trump inauguration committee.

This is the first public acknowledgment that prosecutors are looking into by efforts of a foreign interest to funnel money into Mr. Trump's political operation.

We just heard Rudy Giuliani say it is an irrelevant indictment. But I heard earlier a Council on Foreign Relations senior person say on CNN this points to potential evidence of collusion or at least building blocks of collusion.

What do you think?

GENOVESE: I think it is part of the drip, drip, drip that is plaguing the president and his team. A series of bad stories, bad news after bad news and the cumulative effect can be devastating.

This is an important case, not because of the facts of the matter -- and $50,000 is not enormous but the fact is --


GENOVESE: -- this is part of the scenario, the narrative that the president has been behaving in a way that may be guilty of collusion or -- I don't really use that word. It's more some kind of obstruction or interference in the election.

And so whether Rudy Giuliani tried to dismiss it, it can't be dismissed because it's part of that drip, drip that is leading to this groundswell of opposition to the president and to his position.

ALLEN: You mentioned Giuliani; he is looking to discredit the dossier and the entire investigation. The witch hunt thing we keep hearing from this president. In some respect, even though you look at the poll numbers, they are not good.

But in some respects are they owning the message as far as trying to discredit Robert Mueller?

GENOVESE: That's been the ongoing effort by first Donald Trump and now Rudy Giuliani. That is to say, let's go out in front of the story. Let's set the narrative and frame the issue so, when the voters think of X, Y and Z, they think our storyline.

The problem is, the storyline has gotten away from Rudy. Now this absurd notion he will do a pre-rebuttal to the report that Robert Mueller haven't even said when he will release or what will be in it, how can you in effect write a pre-rebuttal to something you don't even know what is in it?

That shows just how desperate the Trump team is. And there is such silliness that almost like Keystone Kops quality to this. We will write a rebuttal before we read your arguments. I think anyone can see how absurd that is just on the surface of it.

ALLEN: Well, they're in a fighting spirit. One can understand.


GENOVESE: -- battles ahead.

ALLEN: Michael Genovese, we always appreciate your insights, thank you.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

ALLEN: Another story about the Trump administration, Canada is not ready to sign an updated NAFTA trade deal with the U.S., despite progress at the negotiating table.

The foreign affairs minister says talks with the U.S. will pick back up Wednesday. She was asked about leaked comments from the U.S. president that any deal with Canada that would be,, quote, "totally on U.S. terms."


CHRYSTIA FREELAND, CANADIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: It is going to take flexibility on all sides to get to a deal in the end. And I can speak to the Canadian position. And I really want to assure Canadians that we are working hard to get a good deal.

We are confident that a win-win-win deal is possible and we will always stand up for national (INAUDIBLE) and for Canadian values.


ALLEN: President Trump gave Canada until Friday to sign on. When the deadline came and went, he informed Congress he would sign a deal with Mexico in 90 days, with or without Canada.

One expert says hurting any one of the three countries hurts them all.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The two economies, along with Mexico, are very closely connected together. There are supply chains that many businesses run through all three economies. So it is very tightly interwoven link.

The reason the Trump administration wants to renegotiate NAFTA is essentially because the Trump administration fears that the U.S. got a raw deal.


ALLEN: With thousands converging on the U.S. Capitol to remember a war hero and a public servant, John McCain's memorial continues in Washington. We will have more about it.



ALLEN (voice-over): singers, politicians, friends and family of Aretha Franklin join to celebrate the Queen of Soul's life and legacy. We will have a look at the star-studded memorial, when we come back.





ALLEN: Welcome back.

The Syrian government appears to be gearing up for an offensive against Idlib and U.S. officials say they are ready for a military strike if it uses chemical weapons. They tell CNN a list of targets has already been made.

Syria's ally, Russia, appears to be getting ready, too. The Kremlin has announced large-scale naval drills in the Mediterranean.

At least one U.S. official says the ships could use radar to help track and intercept U.S. missiles. In 2017 it was a different story, the U.S. launched missiles at a government airfield after a chemical attack. Russia was warned beforehand and did not shoot them down.

France and the U.K. joined the U.S. for more strikes a year later after another chemical attack.

John McCain is back home in the U.S. Capitol. The late Republican senator returned to the Capitol building Friday where he is lying in state, an honor reserved for presidents, top government officials and military officers.

Friends, family and visitors poured in by the thousands to pay their respects to the Maverick. Our Ryan Nobles has the story.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Members of Congress bidding farewell to one of their own.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: On behalf of the Senate and the entire nation, thank you. Thank you for lending him to us longer than we had a right.

NOBLES (voice-over): Senator John McCain returned one last time to a place he loved so much. His arrival marked by a flash rainstorm centered over the Capitol, where he was honored by colleagues who reflected on his contribution, his service and his singular ability to communicate. REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I, myself, from time to time, found myself on the receiving end of John's distinct brand of candor.

NOBLES (voice-over): Senator McCain himself meticulously planned each stage of his final goodbye to his fellow Americans. He made sure to include symbols of themes important to him.

Today, bipartisanship was on display, as leaders of both parties, from both congressional chambers, laid wreaths near his coffin.

While President Trump has been kept at a distance from these memorials, today Vice President Pence was in attendance.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president asked me to be here.

NOBLES (voice-over): He had a warm relationship with McCain and spoke of McCain's resilience as a prisoner of war.

PENCE: Then as now, Americans marveled at the iron will of John McCain. But captivity did not diminish John's sense of calling.

NOBLES (voice-over): McCain became the 31st person to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. His 106-year-old mother there to see the outpouring of admiration and love. Services continue tomorrow at the National Cathedral.

The two men who beat McCain in his bid for the White House, former president George W. Bush and Barack Obama, will eulogize him, a request McCain made before his passing. Then, a private burial at the U.S. Naval Academy, next to his classmate and best friend, Admiral Chuck Larson.

His wife told CNN his husband has his wingmen back now.


ALLEN: That is a nice sentiment. CNN will have live coverage of the memorial. It starts at 1:00 pm in the afternoon in London, 8:00 pm in the evening in Hong Kong. John McCain will be buried on Sunday.


ALLEN (voice-over): What an epic farewell to Aretha Franklin, her cousin --


ALLEN: -- there singing at the service for her. Family, friends and admirers of the Queen of Soul gathered in her hometown, Detroit, Michigan, to celebrate her life, legacy and of course her music.

The hours-long funeral included tributes, many songs and remembrances from religious leaders and political leaders as well as celebrities. A look now at some of the highlights.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) church service. Lift your voices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People have come to pay tribute to a once-in-a- lifetime talent whose voice was the soundtrack of our lives.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) by herself has touched the world, each of us in our own way. Amazing individual, classy beyond comparison and yet an earthiness about her that is undeniable.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the world's queen, an invaluable musical treasure, a humanitarian, a daddy's girl, filled with amazing grace. But more than anything else, she was the quintessential epitome of a greatness and authenticity of the city of Detroit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She had to sing with a broken heart. She had to work when she didn't get paid. She was a black woman in a white man's world. She beared (sic) her cross. She fought a good fight. Now it's time to crown the queen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has never been, there will never be another voice melded to the constant artistry that was Ms. Aretha Franklin.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You should remember in this time about this magnificent woman, she worked her can off to get where she was. She took the gifts God gave her and she kept getting a little bigger every day. So (INAUDIBLE).



ALLEN: If you ever wanted to know what soul music sounds like, that service right there will let you know. Aretha Franklin was 76 years old. What a voice.



ALLEN: We have this for you, the sun may be setting on daylight saving time in Europe. Some people in countries think springing forward and falling back is a waste of time. For more about it, here is CNN's Bianca Nobilo in London.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Time may be up for daylight saving in Europe. The European Union said it plans to end the practice soon, that twice a year leaves the forgetful an hour early or late.

The E.U. says it took a survey of over 4.5 million Europeans and the results were overwhelmingly in favor of staying with summer hours year-round.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The result of the public official is very clear, 84 percent of respondents are in favor of putting an end to the biannual clock change.

NOBILO (voice-over): Currently the law requires all member countries to move clocks forward on the last Sunday of March and switch back at the end of October. But research shows the change disrupts sleep and can affect productivity and work, annoyances many Europeans hope are on borrowed time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I think it is a good idea to go back to normal. Other countries have already done it. Changing the clocks wasn't that helpful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I don't think much about it but it's true. It is always annoying to make sure you are on time when time changes, because it can be a bit tricky.

NOBILO (voice-over): Some 70 countries around the world use daylight saving time. That includes most of North America, Europe and parts of the Middle East. The E.U. still needs to get approval from the European parliament before the seasonal nuisance of springing forward and falling back becomes a thing of the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I always like summertime. We should have a bit more time for ourselves. And that sounds like summertime.

NOBILO (voice-over): Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.


ALLEN: All right, Europe. Hopefully the U.S. will follow that. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. "CNN TALK" is coming next.