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Brazil Museum Fire: 'Incalculable' Loss as 200-Year-Old Rio Institution Gutted; Russian State Television Launches Weekly Putin Program; New Nike Ad Features Colin Kaepernick; Joe Biden Is Running; Trump Criticizes AG Sessions and Justice Department; Hearings to Begin for Supreme Court Pick Kavanaugh Brazil Museum Fire; Gordon Closing in on Gulf Coast; Mollie Tibbetts' Father's Op-Ed. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 4, 2018 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Putting his party above the law, President Trump launches a bitter new attack on the attorney general he appointed for allowing indictments of two Republican congressmen, suggesting midterm politics are more important.

Plus the father of a murdered college student in Iowa ripping into those who are using his daughter's death to push what he calls racist views.

And hurricane warnings and states of emergency now in effect for parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast. Many people are being urged to evacuate as Gordon gains strength and heads for land.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and, of course, all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


CHURCH: Donald Trump is lashing out again at his attorney general Jeff Sessions and his recent tweet shows two things. He's clearly worried about Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections and he thinks the Justice Department should be protecting him and his supporters. CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Summer may be over at the White House but the same storm clouds are gathering as President Trump heads into the fall.

Tonight, the president lashing out again at attorney general Jeff Sessions but this time over the Justice Department's recent indictments of two Republican congressman.

"Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job, Jeff," --


ZELENY (voice-over): -- the president said on Twitter.

He's referring to Chris Collins of New York, indicted on insider trading charges, and Duncan Hunter of California, accused of stealing $0.25 million from campaign funds. It is an extraordinary statement, not only for the president to weigh in on specific cases but also suggesting the Justice Department should overlook criminal allegations for political reasons.

All this as a confrontation is looming between special counsel Robert Mueller and the White House over publicly releasing his report into potential Russian collusion and obstruction of justice.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: It has nothing to do with collusion.

ZELENY (voice-over): Rudy Giuliani, the face of the president's legal team, saying they're likely to cite executive privilege, telling "The New Yorker," "I'm sure we will try to block the release of the report."

The president walking out of the White House today, presumably to go golfing for a third straight day but abruptly changing course and going back inside.

On a day traditionally seen as a kickoff for the fall campaign, the president had no public events on his schedule but tweeted, "Our country is doing better than ever before with unemployment setting record lows," as Democrats like Joe Biden provided the opposing view while marching on Labor Day.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're in a fight for the soul of America.

ZELENY (voice-over): With the midterm elections only two months away, the president is hitting the road again this week, heading to Montana, North and South Dakota, and he's still threatening to intervene in the Russia investigation as part of his ongoing feud with his own Justice Department.

TRUMP: I will get involved and I'll get in there if I have to.

ZELENY (voice-over): The president also increasingly isolated from all but his most loyal supporters, as words from the funeral service of Senator John McCain still echo.

MEGHAN MCCAIN, ABC NEWS HOST: The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.

ZELENY (voice-over): As Meghan McCain spoke, applause filled the Washington National Cathedral, where the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were seated. While President Trump's name was never spoken, a critique of his tribal brand of politics was a notable theme.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John's voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder, "We are better than this. America is better than this."

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but, in fact, is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that.

ZELENY (voice-over): Only hours after the service, a Trump tweet served as a quiet rebuttal, "Make America great again," all this setting the stage for confirmation hearings for the president's Supreme Court nominee.

TRUMP: I will nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.

ZELENY (voice-over): His nomination is one of the bright spots for the White House, as the president seeks to secure a more conservative legacy on the high court.

ZELENY: Now those confirmation hearings will begin in the Senate on Tuesday and will continue all week. Many Republicans hope this is a moment to unify them around the president's quest to build a conservative judiciary. Of course, he has done that at the Supreme Court appointments as well as the federal court.

But the president seems to be focusing more on his war with his own Justice Department just two months before the midterm elections -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.



CHURCH: So let's bring in Scott Lucas, he is a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham in England.

Always good to have you on the show.


CHURCH: So let's start with President Trump's tweet, criticizing his attorney general Jeff Sessions for indicting two Republican congressmen.

Mr. Trump tweeted this, "Two easy wins now in doubt. Good job, Jeff."

Speaker Paul Ryan's spokeswoman reacted to that by saying this, "The Department of Justice should always remain apolitical and the Speaker has demonstrated he takes these charges seriously. For more, you can ask him at his press conferences this week."

So Scott, why does the president of the United States not appear to understand the role of an attorney general and his department?

And could this issue potentially divide the Republican Party?

LUCAS: Because Donald Trump doesn't believe in the rule of law if he thinks it might affect him adversely. It's as simple as that. There is a specific here, that is Donald Trump is setting up to possibly remove Jeff Sessions because he's upset that Sessions will not take charge of the Trump-Russia inquiry and fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

That been running for months and Trump's been insulting Sessions for months. But what he did this weekend goes wider than that and that is, by interfering -- and it is an interference -- in the cases of Representative Hunter and Representative Collins, both of whom face felony charges over insider trading allegations, campaign finance violations.

Trump is effectively saying my politics take precedence over the courts in the same week that he's trying to get a Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh, nominated. He's actually saying, look, the courts have to stand aside if I don't like this.

And, of course, what is the widest context for this?

Because he's saying that not only about individual congressmen, he's saying that about the Russia investigation, which, I suspect within months, will be pressing charges against some of Trump's closest advisers and possibly forcing the president to reconsider his own position.

CHURCH: Do you think, though, that's an ignorance of what the attorney general is supposed to do in his department?

Or do you think President Trump just doesn't care?

LUCAS: He doesn't care. Rosemary, you can go back decades. Whatever you think of Donald Trump, right or wrong, his approach to the courts has been as a businessman; for example, that the courts have no right to inflict punishment upon him.

This goes back to the 1970s, when he was accused of discrimination in housing projects in New York City. He believes, in fact, the courts are an impediment. He has threatened to remove judges in cases involving Trump University, let alone cases that have important political ramifications.

So I'm not sure that Trump is the brightest spark in the fire when it comes to understanding the law. That doesn't matter to him. The law be damned.

CHURCH: Just nine weeks away from the November midterm elections.

How vulnerable is Trump and his party?

What do the numbers show with seats once safely considered Republican now threatening to go Democratic? LUCAS: Well, I'd be a fool to place a bet on elections, as I've found in the past. I think there is a good chance that the Democrats will win the lower house. I think there is probably a toss-up that they'll take the Senate.

But more important than that is the trend state by state. That is, are you seeing, in fact, what we call that base, those notion of Republican and Trump loyalists, holding the fort against all of these controversies?

Or do we see a surge in participation which tilts towards the Democrats?

If the latter, we're not talking just about numbers but a change in mood, which is not only about individual issues. It may be about, for example, the notion that Trump shall not be allowed to continue in this fashion. We need a different type of politics. Of course, it may even extend to the idea that maybe this man should no longer be in the White House.

CHURCH: In just a few hours from now, confirmation hearings for President Trump's Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, get under way. A lawyer for former president George W. Bush has just released 42,000 pages of documents to the Judiciary Committee.

What impact would you expect those documents to have?

Of course it's going to be tough for people to wade through them all, review what they contain.

But how likely in the end do you think it is that Kavanaugh will eventually get confirmed?

LUCAS: Oh, if the Republicans have their way, you can have 200,000- 300,000 pages; it doesn't matter. They're going to try to steamroll this confirmation through before November's elections.

Remember that about 100,000 pages have been withheld by the White House, claiming executive privilege. The question is whether we actually have a due diligent process, as we should with any nomination, to consider Brett Kavanaugh's strengths --


LUCAS: -- and his weaknesses or whether, in fact, this becomes a political rather than a legal process and that this is rushed through.

Because, quite frankly, Senate Republicans are scared to death the tide will turn against them in just two months' time.

CHURCH: Scott Lucas, thanks so much for coming on and giving us your perspective on these issues. Appreciate it.

LUCAS: Thank you.

CHURCH: So if confirmed, Judge Brett Kavanaugh will likely tilt the Supreme Court further to the right. He is more conservative than the swing justice he's replacing, Anthony Kennedy.

But what does Kavanaugh's record suggest about how he may vote on hot button issues such as abortion rights or presidential legal privileges?

CNN's Randi Kaye takes a closer look at Kavanaugh's career and public statements.


JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, U.S. SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I am deeply honored to be nominated to fill his seat on the Supreme Court.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Judge Brett Kavanaugh now hoping to occupy the seat of a man he once clerked for, Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh has been on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006 and spoke of Kennedy during that confirmation process.

KAVANAUGH: He conveyed to his clerks and certainly conveyed to me to use one of his favorite phrases been the essential neutrality of the law.

KAYE (voice-over): Kavanaugh spent years working for independent counsel Kenneth Starr, helping investigate President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

"The New York Times" says Kavanaugh urged prosecutors then to question the president about oral sex and masturbation. Kavanaugh also helped outline grounds for President Clinton's impeachment.

KAYE: Later in 2009, Kavanaugh wrote the nation's chief executive should be exempt from time consuming and distracting lawsuits and investigations. Some have interpreted this as opposition to the indictment of a sitting president. CNN has learned that the Trump White House was aware of these comments during the vetting process.

KAYE (voice-over): On health care and abortion, Kavanaugh has already made controversial decisions. Last year, he sided with the Trump administration to block an abortion for a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody, noting the government's "permissible interest" in favoring fetal life.

He's never expressed outright opposition to Roe v. Wade but, during his confirmation process in 2006, was hardly forthcoming in his personal views.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.), MINORITY LEADER: Do you consider Roe v. Wade to be an abomination?

KAVANAUGH: Senator, on the question of Roe v. Wade, if confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, I would follow Roe v. Wade faithfully and fully. That would be binding precedent of the court. It's been decided by the Supreme Court.

SCHUMER: I asked you for your own opinion. KAVANAUGH: And I'm saying if I were confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, Senator, I would follow it. It's been reaffirmed many times, including in Planned Parenthood --


SCHUMER: I understand.

But what is your opinion?

You're not on the bench yet. You've talked about these issues in the past to other people, I'm sure.

KAVANAUGH: The Supreme Court has held repeatedly, Senator, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to give a personal view on that question.

SCHUMER: So you're not going to answer the question.

KAYE (voice-over): More recently, Kavanaugh raised eyebrows when "The Washington Post" reported that he racked up $60,000 to $200,000 in credit card debt, buying baseball tickets and taking on a loan.

"The Washington Post" reported his debt exceeded the value of his bank accounts and investments. A White House spokesman told the paper that Kavanaugh had bought Washington Nationals season tickets and playoff tickets for himself and a handful of friends, who then reimbursed him. He said the judge has stopped buying season tickets.

Kavanaugh attended Yale University and Yale Law School, graduating in 1990. In 2001, he met his wife when they were both working for President George W. Bush. They have two daughters. He coaches one of his daughters' basketball teams, where the players call him Coach K. Now he's looking for a new title on the highest court in the land -- Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: Much of the U.S. Gulf Coast is bracing for tropical storm Gordon, which could be a category 1 hurricane by the time it makes its expected landfall Tuesday night. The governors of Mississippi and Louisiana have each declared a state of emergency and have activated their National Guard units.

Gordon is expected to gain strength as it moves northwest through the Gulf of Mexico from the Florida Keys. Some 2 million people in the region are now under a hurricane watch or warning. Our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri, will join us later with an update on the storm's progress.


CHURCH (voice-over): The father of a murdered college student has a message for politicians whom he says are exploiting his daughter's death to advance their own agendas. That message: stop it right now.

Plus Vladimir Putin tries to soften --


CHURCH: -- his image and turn his declining poll numbers around. We'll explain how when we come back. Stay with us.



CHURCH: The father of murdered Iowa college student, Mollie Tibbetts, has a message for people: don't exploit his daughter's death. Rob Tibbetts wrote an emotional op-ed for an Iowa newspaper over the weekend.

He is asking people to stop using his daughter as a pawn in the immigration debate. He says Mollie wouldn't want that.

The 20-year-old's murder has become a political talking point because her suspected killer is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.

Rob Tibbetts wrote in "The Des Moines Register," "Do not appropriate Mollie's soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist."

He added, "Instead, let's turn against racism in all its ugly manifestations, both subtle and overt. Let's turn toward each other with all the compassion we gave Mollie. Let's listen, not shout. Let's build bridges, not walls. Let's celebrate our diversity rather than argue over our differences."


CHURCH: His op-ed Saturday came one day after President Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., had his own op-ed in the same newspaper and blamed Democrats for Mollie's death.

Trump Jr. wrote -- and I'm quoting -- "The mask is off and the true radical face of the Democrats has been exposed. They are seemingly more concerned with protecting their radical open borders agenda than the lives of innocent Americans."

And for his analysis and perspective, I'm joined now by Raul Reyes, an attorney and immigration analyst as well as a CNN opinion writer.

Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So Mollie Tibbetts' father made it very clear in his op-ed that he doesn't want his daughter's death politicized. And the family has said it before.

So why is President Trump; his son, Donald Trump Jr., and others in the Republican Party ignoring Mollie Tibbetts' family's wishes and using her death for their own political purposes to push their immigration policy? Sad to say, one reason Trump and his family seem to be using this tragedy to advance their political agenda is that it has worked for them before.

Back in 2015, a young woman named Kate Steinle was shot and killed in San Francisco and by an undocumented immigrant. This was a case that Donald Trump really helped bring to national attention and, to a certain extent, it worked for him because illegal immigration and what he perceived as the threat from undocumented immigrants became his signature issue.

So I think the Trump family sees this as an issue that they can win on in a political sense. For the international viewers, I want to let people know that Iowa can be viewed as Trump country. This is the heartland. This is a state that went for Trump by 10 points in 2016.

And it's 93 percent, 92 percent white. So I think they view this as an occasion that they can rile their base up around the immigration issue and, hopefully, in my view, distract from some of the ongoing investigations, you know, such as the Robert Mueller investigation, other probes into the Trump family and their organization.

CHURCH: Right. And let me just read a part of what Mollie's father said, again, if I can.

"The person who is accused of taking Mollie's life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people. To suggest otherwise is a lie."

So how significant is that point and the fact that it's being made by a father who is grieving right now --

REYES: Exactly.

CHURCH: -- because of his daughter but, at the same time, showing support for the Hispanic community?

REYES: In my view, it shows extraordinary compassion because, as you say, this is a father who has just lost his daughter. But the fact is, what he is saying is correct.

We've seen multiple studies from groups on the Right, the Left, libertarians and they all come up basically with the same results, which is that immigrants, including the undocumented in the United States, are far less likely to commit crimes, including violent crimes, than natural-born citizens.

So not only is what he is saying factually correct, it also is, I think, a very important gesture to remind people that we should not view this crime, this tragedy, as reflective of an entire population.

In the United States, we have about 11 million undocumented people. Sadly, it is perhaps inevitable that among those we are going to have people who are committing crimes.

In my view, I think the way the Trump administration has gone after so many undocumented people who are living here, you know, in compliance with the law, not committing any crimes, that allows these violent offenders to run free and commit acts like this.

So I really have a lot of respect for this gentleman because no one has, at this point, the moral authority that he does as a father who has lost his daughter.

CHURCH: How much impact do you think the words of Mollie Tibbetts' father will have at this critical time?

And how do you expect President Trump to respond to his request to stop politicizing her death?

REYES: The bad news is, to be honest, I do not expect President Trump to heed his advice, Mr. Tibbetts' advice, and to refrain from politicizing her death. I think the president feels this is an issue he can continue to exploit and use to his advantage.

But the good news is I do believe the tide is turning with the American public. We know from polls this summer, most recently by "The Washington Post," that 59 percent of Americans disagree with President Trump's immigration policy.

So I think the nation is coming around in the sense that they're embracing more progressive or open views on immigration. And the fact is when we talk about these crimes and undocumented people and immigrants, the truth is, sad to say, evil comes in all colors. But the good news is, in my view, so does kindness, so does --


REYES: -- compassion. I think Mr. Tibbetts is an outstanding example of that.

CHURCH: Very good point. Donald Trump Jr. says Democrats, in his words, are more concerned with protecting their radical open borders agenda than the lives of innocent Americans.

By saying this, is the son of the president trying to blame Democrats --


CHURCH: -- for the murder of Mollie Tibbetts?

You think yes.


CHURCH: And also, too, this reference to the Democrats wanting open borders, is that even true?

REYES: No, as a matter of fact, that's a very common talking point from Republicans, from politicians on the Right. But no one in the immigration debate, in any constructive way, wants open borders. No one is in favor of that, not even the immigrant rights groups or immigration advocates.

What people want is we acknowledge we have borders, we have a rule of law but we need smarter immigration enforcement, we need more humane immigration enforcement.

Most importantly, we need targeted immigration enforcement that can go after drug dealers, traffickers and people like this individuals who allegedly killed Mollie Tibbetts. So when we have smarter and better immigration enforcement, we can avoid these types of horrific tragedies and, hopefully, as a nation, move forward towards a more constructive immigration debate that actually results in solutions instead of just more rhetoric and divisiveness.

CHURCH: In the midst of tragedies like this, we must never stop fact- checking. Raul Reyes, thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate it.

REYES: My pleasure.

CHURCH: Leaders within the Catholic Church have offered apologies for the sex abuse scandal that has gripped the church. But the sentiments may be too little and way too late. We will take a look.

Plus, tropical storm Gordon is bearing down on America's Gulf Coast and the region is bracing for impact. A look at how bad it could get after this short break. Please stay with us.


[02:30:19] CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour. Authorities have launched an investigation to determine what caused Sunday's massive fire that gutted Brazil's national museum. It's feared the flames destroyed millions of artifacts spanning 11,000 years. Museum officials say the building suffered from lack of funding.

There was no adequate sprinkler system in place and nearby hydrants were dry when the blaze erupted. Condemnation from around the world after a judge in Myanmar sentences two journalists to seven years in prison for possession of state secrets. The two Reuters reporters were investigating the massacre of the Rohingya minority there. The U.N. is calling for their release. Human Rights Watch calls the sentences a new low for press freedom.

U.S. President Donald Trump is warning Syria and its allies not to attack the last major rebel stronghold in Idlib. Mr. Trump says it would be a grave mistake and hundreds of thousands could be killed. U.S. officials are especially concerned about the possible use of chemical weapons. Well, the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana have each declared a state of emergency as America's gulf coast braces for the arrival of Tropical Storm Gordon.

Gordon could be a Category 1 hurricane by the time it makes its expected landfall Tuesday night. After lashing Florida with high winds and rain, the storm is now in the Gulf of Mexico heading northwest to the Mississippi and Alabama coasts. Now, hurricane warnings are in effect there and residents have been sandbagging vulnerable areas. So let's turn to our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. He joins us now with the very latest on this. Pedram, how bad could this get?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it has the potential to strengthen rather quickly over the next 18 or so hours. We're going to watch this here carefully because you take a look, it doesn't look that impressive on radar imagery, very little organization. The eye of the storm, the semi-circle beginning to developed over the next couple of hours, but it is going over very conducive environment here. Very warm water temperatures.

Typically, 82 degrees or warmer is what you look for sea surface temperatures to support a tropical system to form middle 80s where it's located up 80s across the western periphery of the gulf and the system will kind of traverse across this trajectory right here into Southern Mississippi, eastern areas of Louisiana. All of it in an area that is conducive for further development. In fact, the hurricane center as you're aware now, we do have hurricane warnings, hurricane watches in place for about two million people, Morgan City, New Orleans, work your way towards Biloxi and Mobile.

Even just west of Pensacola. This is the area of concern for the highest likelihood for a hurricane to move ashore again inside the next 18 hours. And if anything good comes out of this storm system is that it doesn't have that much time over all of this favorable environment because of course it is moving at roughly 25 or so miles per hour and with that speed, the system is itself again going to move over land very quickly. If this was to remain over the Gulf of Mexico say for an additional 24 hours, we could easily be looking at a Category 2, Category 3 hurricane with the system.

Again, look at the trajectory and the speed of this particular system sitting at 65 miles per hour. And historically speaking, the slower a storm goes, more rainfall it produces. We've seen that storms that move five, six miles per hour drop 25 to 30 inches. This particular one moving at around 20 plus miles per hour brings in rainfall amounts roughly say five, six, seven inches is what we're expecting, so certainly good news in that sense as well with this feature.

And the Bermuda high in fact, the high pressure that's -- say permanent this time of year has kind of shifted a little back towards the west, so it is guiding it away from areas around Alabama, Georgia, portions of the south, and directing it right towards into Southern Mississippi. And we think landfall most likely some time Tuesday evening between 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. comes ashore and potentially strengthens to a Category 1 which is 74 miles per hour, just before landfall moving in across Biloxi, Mississippi, Gulfport, Mississippi, and areas just east of New Orleans.

Again, as quickly as it moves to Orlando, it will begin to weaken. It will produce heavy rainfall and of course the storm surge becomes a major threat. But model confidence on this extremely high here. So again, very little deviation from just about every single model. So very high probability Mississippi or Eastern Louisiana becomes the impact zone with the system. And, Rosemary, we often talked about how significant these storms are as it relates to storm surge because that's the amount of water displaced from the normal sea levels.

So three to five feet above what is essentially the normal level for the beach there will put parts of the coastal communities around Mississippi and even Eastern Louisiana under water and that's the biggest concerned with this system coming ashore, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Pedram, thank you so much for keeping such a close eye on that. Much appreciate it.


[02:35:02] CHURCH: And speaking of dramatic weather, a spectacular scene over the Windy City. Have a look at this amazing time lapse video of a shelf cloud blowing over Chicago Monday. Naturally, those clouds meant rain and that led to heavy flooding in and around the city's O'Hare Airport. That in turn caused travel delays there and on surrounding roads. It's just incredible. And at least five people are dead in Southwest China after heavy rains triggered flooding and mudslides.

Crews are searching for at least 15 people currently listed as missing. And in Southeast China, this video shows the moment a toddler was rescued from a flooded building. Crews using a boat to take the baby to safety. Officials say two people were killed and two are missing in that part of the country. An embattled Catholic cardinal spoke out about clergy sexual abuse on Sunday, but it wasn't enough for some church members.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl is accused of mishandling clergy sexual misconduct while he was a bishop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and calls for him to resign are now growing. Wuerl spoke at a mass in Washington Sunday. One parishioner, Mary Challinor, turned her back on the cardinal. She tells CNN if he's serious about change, Wuerl should step down. Challinor also wants the church to be more forthcoming in how it deals with sexual abuse.


MARY CHALLINOR, PARISHIONER: I was trying to send a message that I just speaking for myself do not approve of the way the church has handled this scandal for the last 16 years, and I think that the church could use some more transparency in the way they have dealt with this.


CHURCH: For his perspective on this, I'm joined now by CNN Religion Commentator, Father Edward Beck. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So we heard there from parishioner Mary Challinor who turned her back to Cardinal Wuerl in protest. Let's just listen to what another parishioner in that very same church had to say directly to Cardinal Wuerl.


DONALD WUERL, ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON: We need -- we need to hold close to our prayers and loyalty, our holy father, Pope Francis. Increasingly, it's clear that he is the object of considerable animosity.



CHURCH: So Father Beck, just two examples of protests there. We know too Catholics across America have signed a petition asking for the bishops of America to resign. Is it time for the Catholic Church to listen to these calls for Cardinal Wuerl and others to step aside to show support for a much needed radical change to this culture within the Catholic Church?

BECK: Well, as you may know, Rosemary, Cardinal Wuerl did submit his resignation two years ago when he turned 75 which is required of all bishops and cardinals. And Pope Francis has yet to accept it. So, really, the ball is in Pope Francis' court as to whether he accepts the resignation of Cardinal Wuerl and any other bishops who may have been involved in sexual misconduct or mishandling of sex abuse cases. So, really, I think the focus now is on Pope Francis for what is a global problem and how will he deal with the bishops in particular with regard to this issue.

CHURCH: Well, of course, Pope Francis is also under attack himself, isn't he? Former Vatican Ambassador Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano has accused the pope and others at the Vatican of knowing for years about sexual misconduct allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who has now resigned. These are unverified accusations, but this is how the pope responded. Let's just listen.


POPE FRANCIS, POPE, SOVEREIGN OF THE VATICAN CITY STATE (via translator): I read that statement this morning. I read it and I will say sincerely that I must say this to you and all of you who are interested, read the document carefully and judge it for yourselves. I will not say one word on this.


CHURCH: Father Beck, why such a meek response from the pope to such serious accusations? An attempt to expose what's happening within the Catholic Church?

BECK: Well, the immediate response of the pope saying it's going to be silence, I'm interpreting as I'm not going to get in the mud and wrestle with this archbishop who just is full of slander and mistruths. So basically, the pope has said his account is not accurate, Vigano -- Archbishop Vigano's account and others have corroborated that his account is not accurate, that his 11-page read, that letter he sent was full of untruths.

[02:40:13] And so, I think basically we are waiting for what the pope will say with regard Cardinal McCarrick. But I think he doesn't want to be seen as acting in response to Vigano's letter because it's full of mistruths or untruths.

CHURCH: But why? But why because wouldn't you reply, if it's not true, simply say that?

BECK: Well, again, I think it's a complex issue because we also we're involving the pope's previous to Pope Francis because Pope Benedict was supposed to have issued these restrictions on Cardinal McCarrick according to Vigano. And yet, we see Cardinal McCarrick come celebrating mass with Pope Benedict. We see him traveling around the world. So if Pope Benedict did have these restrictions on Cardinal McCarrick, he obviously did not follow them.

So is Pope Benedict to be implicated then in not following through on McCarrick? Is it just Pope Francis? So it extends beyond just what did Pope Francis knows. Pope Francis certainly when he found out about child abuse, allegations of child abuse against Cardinal McCarrick from the Archdiocese of New York who sent the report to Rome, McCarrick was immediately removed from doing any public ministry and was stripped of his title as cardinal.

Now, with regard the other allegations that Vigano says, he said to Pope Benedict and to Pope Francis those were allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians and priests. So it did not have, perhaps, the same urgency as sex abuse of minors. Still, though, we're waiting to hear from Pope Francis what did he know and when, and many including editorials in this country believe that Pope Francis should speak publicly about that timeframe.

CHURCH: Yes. And Catholics across the globe don't think the response has been good enough to this point. Is this a watershed moment for Pope Francis? His greatest challenge so far, perhaps.

BECK: Yes. Rosemary, I think this is the greatest crisis in the last century of the global Catholic Church. So it certainly is a watershed moment for Pope Francis. How he handles this sexual abuse crisis and many say he's too late in handling it already may very well define his papacy, so all of his talk about the environment, about refugees, about the dispossessed, the poor will be overshadowed if he does not deal head-on with this sex abuse crisis.

So certainly, I think it is a watershed moment in this papacy and in Roman Catholicism globally.

CHURCH: And Catholics across the world were expecting some sort of radical response to this. Father Edward Beck, thank you so much for being with us. We do appreciate it.

BECK: Thank you.

CHURCH: Vladimir Putin is getting his own reality T.V. show, but it may actually reflect a drop in his ratings. We will take a look. Back in a moment.


[02:46:19] CHURCH: A new weekly show on Russian State T.V. premiered on Monday. Its star, one Vladimir Putin. The new program mostly shows the softer side of the Russian leader, enjoying life away from his usual duties. But why now? And could it change how his country sees him? CNN's Brian Todd has the story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hiking in the mountains, traversing lakes and rivers, projecting toughness and strength. Staples of Vladimir Putin's image building machine. Now, part of a weekly show on Russian State T.V. titled, Moscow, Kremlin, Putin. A show devoted to depicting Putin as Russia's renaissance president.

Able to attend to the government's most crucial functions while visiting a mining operation, talking to school children, or engaging with a noted pianist.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Classic Kremlin project to elevate Vladimir Putin and to humanize him at a time when he's under increasing fire from his own public. It's not an accident that this is occurring. It seems to me right at a time when he's embroiled in a real political controversy.

TODD: That controversy has brought thousands of Russians into the streets this summer. Protesting Putin's plan to raise the minimum age when Russians can start collecting their pensions. It's caused Putin's popularity to plummet. According to an independent polling group in Russia, his approval ratings normally sky-high at about 80 percent, dipped to 67 percent in July.

The new T.V. show almost smacks of a desperation to hike up those numbers. In one exchange with the host, Putin's spokesman gushes about the man known to intimidate and allegedly ordered the killings of those who crossed him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When Putin is talking to a mother and a child -- but when he just looks at the child, you can see how much he loves children. He has these very humane and sincere feelings for his children, he can't fake that.

DMITRY PESKOV, PRESS SECRETARY, RUSSIA (through translator): You know, Putin not only loves children, he just in general loves people. He is a very humane person. It's true, and this is what I see every day.

GLASSER: Their slavish devotion to Putin is notable. It is a hallmark of authoritarian societies. And you know, Dear Leader, tight propaganda.

TODD: Those falling poll numbers analyst says, likely won't hurt Putin significantly for now. After 18 years in power, he just won re- election by a predictable and carefully engineered landslide. Neutering any serious opposition. But experts do see a possible Achilles heel down the road.

GLASSER: Actually, Vladimir Putin has a millennial problem. Russian Millennials have grown up their entire lives, basically, they have no conscious memory of a leader before Vladimir Putin. Young people today, in Russia are increasingly alienated by some measures. From Putin, or at least, the Kremlin is very worried about this new generation.

TODD: Analysts say that even though Vladimir Putin's rule is secured, for now, he's worried enough about his slide in popularity that he might pull off a drastic move to try to goose that popularity and do something that has worked for him in the past. Something like an aggressive military move or maybe even an invasion like what he did in Crimea. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Coming up after the break, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is running but it's not what you think. We'll explain.


[02:51:58] JAVAHERI: It is CNN "WEATHER WATCH" time. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri, watching what is happening here with Tropical Storm Gordon. Very quick moving system here as winds, so they're sustained just shy of 100 kilometers per hour, keep in mind, 120 dictates what will become a Category 1 hurricane and there is a storm sitting just west of Tampa on a Beeline there for Southern Mississippi into the eastern areas of Louisiana.

And frankly, I don't think it'll have too much time to go undergo a significant strengthening, but it may have enough time to get to a Category 1 just before landfall that would be sometime on Tuesday evening. Somewhere between, say, 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. local time where we'll make landfall.

It believes somewhere in the Southern Tier, there are Mississippi very close to the Louisiana border. But regardless, these system is moving very quickly which is good news here when it comes to the rainfall amounts.

Generally speaking, rainfall totals could be anywhere from say 75 to 150 millimeters which is rather on the lower end for a tropical system. Which again, is good news and a lot of it having to do with how quickly the system is moving.

Atlanta remains dry, 31 degrees. Chicago also dry up to 32. Enjoy the big-time heat if you liked it because New York City temps will want to cool off dramatically going in towards the weekend as we go into transition here, get another hint of autumn air.

Look at the conditions there, New York, into the upper 20s lower 30s, the next couple of days drop it down to the mid-20s going in towards the weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Athletic shoe giant, Nike is running straight into a political controversy. The company has chosen controversial football player, Colin Kaepernick for its new ad. The ad reads, "Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything."

You will recall, of course, in 2016, Kaepernick began kneeling during the pregame national anthem to raise awareness of violence against African-Americans. The protest spread and led the National Football League to let individual teams decide whether to require players to stand during the anthem.

Speculation is swirling around Joe Biden and the 2020 election. The former U.S. Vice President hasn't announced any official plans to run for president. But he is doing some running these days as our Jeanne Moos, explains.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice President, what's your thinking about 2020 at this point, sir?

MOOS: He is running -- literally running. Here he is running from the side, running from behind. People at the Pittsburgh Labor Day parade were urging Joe Biden to run for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need you, brother. You can do this.

MOOS: But who knew he would run immediately? Even if all he was running for was to catch up to his assigned position in the parade after stopping to meet and greet folks. True, we've seen Biden run before. For instance, in a Let's Move fitness video with President Obama.

What was running through my mind, have we ever seen President Trump run? Critics cracked that the only thing he runs is a golf cart. But we found him semi-jogging over to police to shake hands.

And remember when a Greenpeace protester in a paraglider buzzed President Trump's golf course in Scotland? No wonder he ran a few steps to shelter. Trump and Biden have already exchanged blows.

[02:55:44] JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I wish we were in high school. I could take him behind the gym.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said, I'd like to take them behind the gym. I dream of that.

MOOS: But why dream, when we can actually see Biden running? Someone suggested this needs Rocky music. Critics could have a field day with wordplay, saying Biden is a running joke, and President Trump excels at running his mouth.

TRUMP: You know what you do with Biden? You go like this. MOOS: Not if he can outrun.

TRUMP: And he'd fall over.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: I love the music there. Thanks to you joining us this hour. I'm Rosemary Church, and I'll be back with more news in just a moment. Don't go anywhere, you're watching CNN.