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Woodward Book Describes White House as "Crazytown"; Trump Supreme Court Nominee Vows To Be Neutral Amid Dem Protests; Typhoon Jebi Strikes Japan: 8 Dead and 292 Injured; Koreas Prepare for Next Summit; Brazil's Government Blamed For Neglect after Museum Fire. Aired 12m-1a ET

Aired September 5, 2018 - 00:00   ET




NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, fear spreads in the White House over an explosive new book that quotes top aides calling Donald Trump "an idiot," "a liar" and "unhinged."

Plus bombs fall in Syria's last rebel stronghold, the start of a battle that could end the country's brutal civil war and set off a humanitarian disaster.

And the fight to save history. Curators salvage whatever they can after Brazil's National Museum is gutted by fire.

Hello and thanks for joining us. I'm Nick Watt and this is NEWSROOM L.A.


WATT: Donald Trump is fighting back against an explosive new book that casts him in a most unflattering light, written by veteran vaunted journalist Bob Woodward, who reportedly spent hundreds of hours interviewing dozens of sources inside the U.S. president's inner circle.

The revelations are astonishing, including tales of White House aides going behind the president's back in order to protect national security. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has the details.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump has been stewing inside the White House and today we learned why.

Bob Woodward's new bombshell book "Fear: Trump in the White House" offers an unprecedented look at drama and chaos inside the West Wing, where top officials express disdain for the president's temperament, character and intellect and admit hiding things from the president to protect the nation.

CNN obtained a copy of the book, where White House chief of staff John Kelly describes Trump as "an idiot" and "unhinged."

Defense secretary James Mattis says Trump has the understanding of a 5th or 6th grader.

And Woodward writes that Trump's former personal lawyer, John Dowd, who quit earlier this year, describes the president as "an F-ing liar."

He told Trump he would wind up in an orange jumpsuit if he sat down with special counsel Robert Mueller.

After a practice session in the residence of the White House back in January, the book says, the president stumbled, contradicted himself and lost his cool.

"This thing is a goddamn hoax," the president erupted at the beginning of a 30-minute rant.

"I don't really want to testify."


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russian witch hunt. We've got a whole big combination.

Where is the collusion?


ZELENY (voice-over): After that mock session, Woodward reports, the president's lawyers went to Mueller's office to argue Trump couldn't testify because he's incapable of telling the truth.

"He just made something up. That's his nature," Dowd reportedly told Mueller.

"I need the president's testimony," Mueller replied, adding that he was trying to determine whether the president had a corrupt intent in firing FBI director James Comey.

The Russia investigation provides some of the most vivid moments in the book by Woodward, the legendary "Washington Post" reporter of Watergate fame, that he says is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with principals and firsthand observers.

The president was not interviewed, despite what Woodward described as repeated attempts to do so. Today "The Post" released a recording of a call between Woodward and the president from early last month...


TRUMP: It's really too bad because nobody told me about it and I would have loved to have spoken to you. You know I'm very open to you. I think you've always been fair. But we'll see what happens.


ZELENY (voice-over): -- and then blaming his staff for not approaching him about the book, including top aide, Kellyanne Conway.


TRUMP: She has direct access. But she didn't come to me.

And you know what?

That's OK. I'll just end up with another bad book.

What can I tell you?


ZELENY (voice-over): The book opens with a dramatic scene in the Oval Office, where former chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, saw a draft letter he considered dangerous to national security on the president's desk. The letter, about withdrawing the U.S. from a trade agreement with South Korea, left Cohn appalled.

"So he snatched it," the book says.

"I wouldn't let him see it," Cohn told an associate. "Got to protect the country."

The book also offers an even more personal and profane look at the president's anger with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who the president described as "mentally retarded" and "a dumb Southerner."

The 448-page book shows that the president spares few, including his current lawyer and longtime friend, Rudy Giuliani, who he once reportedly described as "a baby."

"I've never seen a worst defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You're like a little baby that needed to be changed.

"When are you going to be a man?" the president once told Giuliani, according to the book.

ZELENY: Shortly after the release of this book, a string of denials has started to come in: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders saying all the accounts are fabricated; White House chief of staff John Kelly said he did not call --


ZELENY: -- the president an idiot. And the president's former lawyer, John Dowd, said he did not call the president a liar.

Yet all of this book, based on hundreds of hours of reporting from Bob Woodward, paints an account of paranoia and anger inside this White House -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


WATT: And joining me now, CNN legal analyst Areva Martin, former L.A. city council woman Wendy Greuel and Hoover Institution research fellow Lanhee Chen.

I want to start with the 25th Amendment. In this country, there is a 25th Amendment to the Constitution and if a majority of the president's cabinet believe he is unfit for office, they can remove him.

Now if we believe what's in this book, we have his former lawyer, saying he can't testify in front of Robert Mueller because he's incapable of telling the truth. We have his former economic adviser, Gary Cohn, saying that he took documents off the president's desk so he wouldn't sign them and cause a national security issue.

We have the Secretary of Defense, Mattis, essentially ignoring an order from the president to F-ing kill President Assad in Syria. And we have John Kelly, the chief of staff -- and I'm going to read this entire quote from the book.

John Kelly talking about President Trump, "He's an idiot. It's pointless trying to convince him of anything. He's gone off the rails. We're in crazytown. I don't even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I have ever had."

So is the president fit for office, if we believe this?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if you are to believe the statements made in this book, absolutely not.

And the question that keeps coming up time and time again is why do they stay?


WATT: So what's the answer?

MARTIN: Well, what we've heard from some of them -- or secondhand stories at least -- is that they stay because, if they left, things would even be worse. They are the quote-unquote "adults" in the room. They are the people who are preventing Donald Trump from engaging in conduct that could be even more detrimental to the country.

WATT: So they say they're staying in the White House to protect the United States.

MARTIN: That's what we hear but I don't know if I buy that argument. Some of the conduct described in this book is so reprehensible, you have to ask yourself, why would any professional, why would anyone that is of substance and has any kind of integrity, allow themselves to be associated with this president?

Why not leave and speak out? Why not share this information firsthand with the American public?

Because we have a right to know if our president is unhinged, if the White House is melting down, if the White House is having a nervous breakdown, as this book describes. We, as the American people, have a right to know that and have a right to know it from the people dealing with this firsthand.

WATT: But if we know it, it's then a question of then what happens?

Wendy, we've been here many times before; books come out, describing similar scenes in the White House. The president says certain things. So many times people say, oh, well, this is it. This is the end.

It's never the end.

WENDY GREUEL, FORMER LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL WOMAN: It's never the end. I mean it confirms our worst nightmare. I think many of us not surprised at what some of the quotes are in this book necessarily.

I think what is unique here is the part about someone taking something off his desk or the fact they're worried about national security. I think that is something that -- the title of the book is "Fear." It's not only fear of the people in the White House. It's fear of the American people that he is going to do something that could start another war.

And I think that's what a lot of us are concerned about and that this book lays out is the issues that are of a serious nature of this president unhinged and not able to manage in a way that is actually stable.

WATT: Lanhee Chen, I want to bring you in as well.

Based on what we've read in this book, is the president fit for office?

LANHEE CHEN, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, again, I think what we're seeing in this book confirms that there are some serious problems and serious issues at the White House.

Now as to whether the president is fit for office or not, I think people around him are going to have to make that determination, to your point earlier.

But I think the issue that we have is that, so long as the president continues to remain very popular with certain segments, particularly of the Republican base, it is going to be incredibly politically difficult for Republicans to do anything about this. And that's fundamentally what it comes down to.

That's why you're seeing so many people continue to support him, even when you see these accounts, whether it's from "Fire and Fury," the Michael Wolff book that came out some time ago; this Bob Woodward book, which I think is going to be much more carefully sourced and, frankly, written much more journalistically well. WATT: While we're on this discussion of the base, one of the accusations in this book is that the president called his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who is a well-known Southerner, called him "mentally retarded" and "a dumb Southerner."

Now the president has tried to walk that back in a tweet but is that going to affect the base?

The president has a lot of supporters in the South.

CHEN: No, I don't think it's going to affect the base because I think what the president will say is --


CHEN: -- either the account is simply inaccurate or it's fake news, whatever he wants to call it.

And I think a lot of people are inclined to believe the president over a journalist from "The Washington Post," particularly the kinds of voters that we're talking about.

So no, I don't think it's going to affect their impression of the president. I think if anybody is harmed by this, it's probably Jeff Sessions; which is unfortunate because, with each passing day, what we're seeing is that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, actually is coming to be a bulwark against this kind of overreach.

MARTIN: Nick, I should say this and I agree with Lanhee as it relates to the Trump base. They're not going to be moved by a book written by Bob Woodward. No doubt about that.

But we are starting to see new polls that suggest those independent voters, those suburban white women voters, those voters that Trump needs in order to be re-elected, they are starting to react in a negative way to the constant barrage of attacks that Trump is making, particularly on the justice system.

And after Michael Cohen walked into that federal courthouse and pled guilty to those eight counts, we saw some dramatic changes in the poll numbers.

So I think the books that keep telling us what's happening in that White House, the federal charges that are being brought against members in Trump's inner circle, all of those things are starting to have an impact, not necessarily on the base but on the rest of America.


GREUEL: I think you're going to see a lot more Democrats coming out and they're saying we've got to do something. And you see them voting --

WATT: Just in terms, Wendy, though, of the president himself, Reince Priebus in this book is quoted as calling the president's bedroom "the devil's workshop," where he watches TV and tweets. He was tweeting tonight. He has said that many of the people quoted in this book have said that they never said what they were quoted to have said.

How do you think President Trump alone in that bedroom is reacting to this book today?

GREUEL: Oh, he is freaking out in a way I think that -- all of a sudden, he's not going to trust anybody. Didn't that much anyways before. But he is really going to now become much more paranoid, which is a scary place to be when you're President of the United States.

I think Bob Woodward is a real journalist. As mentioned, he has done check and double-check. And we're going to see that a lot of that actually true that's in that book.

WATT: We're going to go to the Supreme Court and we're going to come back to you, so don't go anywhere.

It was an intense showdown on the first day of confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats are portraying President Trump's choice as partisan. But Kavanaugh insists he is a neutral judge and does not decide cases on the basis of personal or policy preferences.

Senate Democrats tried to delay the hearing, accusing the White House and Republicans of hiding key records about Kavanaugh. CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider has more.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Within seconds at the start of Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, the discourse devolved into the sense.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CALIF.), COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS: We cannot possibly move forward Mr. Chairman, with this hearing. We have not been giving an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IOWA), SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE: I extend a very warm welcome to Judge Kavanaugh, to his wife.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-N.J.), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We are rushing through this process in a way that is unnecessary.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats taking issue with a document dumped overnight of 42,000 pages from Kavanaugh's days in President George W. Bush's White House. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, saying his staff reviewed every page by late Monday night.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MINN.), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: My point is that no one could prepare and review 42,000 documents in one evening. We know that, no much -- no matter how much coffee you drink.

SCHNEIDER: Another 100,000 pages from the same time period have also been held back. The Trump administration says they are likely protected by constitutional privilege, Democrats though, say it's suspicious.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-ILL.), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Judge Kavanaugh, America needs to see those documents.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONN.: We have been denied real access to the documents we need to advise --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, regular order is called for.

BLUMENTHAL: which turns this hearing into a charade and a mockery of our norms.


BLUMENTHAL: And, Mr. Chairman, I, therefore, move to adjourn this hearing.

SCHNEIDER: CNN has learned the show of force was orchestrated during a weekend conference call led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Even though Democrats don't have the votes to block Kavanaugh's nomination alone.

Many of the obstructing Senators are possible presidential hopefuls for 2020. The deep partisan divisions though, extend beyond documents. Brett Kavanaugh's nomination and the conservative tilt he would likely bring to the Supreme Court has unleashed anger that spilled into the hearing room.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UTAH), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Mr. Chairman, I think we ought to have this, this loudmouth removed. I mean, we shouldn't have to put up with this kind of stuff.

SCHNEIDER: But Republicans rally behind Kavanaugh, Calling Democrats sore losers.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TEXAS), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I believe this fight is nothing more and nothing less than an attempt by our democratic colleagues to relitigate the 2016 presidential election.

SCHNEIDER: In a play for bipartisanship, a former law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, spoke, endorsing Judge Kavanaugh in lamenting how political the judicial nomination process has become.

LISA BLATT, FORMER CLERK FOR JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBERG: Judge Kavanaugh is the best choice that liberals could reasonably hope for in these circumstances. I am sure that some members of the Senate knew that they would disagree with Justice Ginsburg's legal views when she was a nominee.

But Justice Ginsburg was confirmed 96 to 3.

SCHNEIDER: Judge Kavanaugh attempted to bat down the claims of pure politics at play, saying he will adhere solely to the rule of law.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, NOMINEE FOR UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: I do not decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro- plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I'm not a pro-prosecution or pro- defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.

SCHNEIDER: And Kavanaugh said working with his fellow justices would be paramount.

KAVANAUGH: The Supreme Court must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution. The justices on the Supreme Court do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. They do not caucus in separate rooms.

If confirmed to the Supreme Court, I would be part of a team of nine. Committed to deciding cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States.

SCHNEIDER: And Wednesday is when the real questioning begins. Judge Brett Kavanaugh will face an onslaught of questioning on his positions. Although really, he's already indicated how he'll answer when he said on Tuesday, a good judge must be a neutral arbiter who favors no person or policy but --


SCHNEIDER: -- of course, that's a position he'll still be pressed on by Democrats -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


WATT: Now our panel is back with us, Areva Martin, Wendy Greuel and Lanhee Chen.

Lanhee, I want to start with you. Brett Kavanaugh says, I do not decide cases based on personal or policy preference. Surely President Trump and the Republicans want him to do exactly that. That's why they've chosen him.

CHEN: Well, I think what he's trying to convey there is that he's going to let the law speak above all. Now obviously every judge comes into this situation with a set of personal life experiences and beliefs that informs their views.

The challenge with these confirmation hearings, Nick, is how do you separate what you've been through, your experience, from what you say you're going to do?

And that's part of the challenge here. But, look, today we saw the ultimate kabuki theater. None of this is going to change the outcome of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing one iota. What we did see, though, was some political showmanship by people running for president in 2020. WATT: Actually picking up that point, Wendy, the Democrats are making a big stink about this but they don't have the votes. Brett Kavanaugh is going to take a seat on the Supreme Court.

GREUEL: That doesn't mean that you don't ask the questions. The public needs to know. The American people need to know where he stands on the issues that are important, whether it's health care, gun issues, how he stands on whether the president can be, you know, actually gone after if there's found collusion and how that works.

I think the public needs to know. Otherwise --


WATT: -- he could be on this court for 30 years.

GREUEL: -- and I think the point is otherwise do you just say, oh, OK. He's a Republican. We have enough Republican senators to vote for him, we don't have to ask any questions?

I think the American people have a right to know what his positions are. And the Democrats are saying, we have the right to ask these questions -- and we should. And it's our responsibility.

WATT: Areva, I want to pick up on one point there. Now let's say Robert Mueller, the special counsel, subpoenas the president.


WATT: He refuses to testify. That goes to the Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh, a man basically appointed by the president --

MARTIN: Right.

WATT: -- could be ruling on that.

MARTIN: Yes, absolutely. Nick, some say that President Trump went out and purposely chose Brett Kavanaugh for this very reason --

WATT: To protect him against Robert Mueller --

MARTIN: -- to protect him from prosecution and from the special counsel. In fact, he picked his jury by picking Brett Kavanaugh. He is conservative on issues of abortion and gun control and other, you know, traditional Republican issues.

But he goes further than that. He has actually written a law review article, where he says the president should not be subject to criminal or civil investigation or prosecution while in office. He says it's a distraction and that the president shouldn't be bothered with that.

So not only has Brett Kavanaugh -- we don't have to guess what he feels on some of these issues because he's written extensively about how he feels. So unlike other, you know, folks that sit in that chair, who are grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee, there are thousands and thousands of documents that tell us what Brett Kavanaugh's position is.

And that doesn't even include the 100,000 documents that have not been disclosed, which was the subject of a lot of what we saw this morning, as the Democrats said this hearing should not even go forward because we have not been given all of the documents that allow us to do our job and thoroughly vet this candidate.

WATT: Very quickly, could Kavanaugh take his chair and then recuse himself from anything to do with the Russia probe, Mueller and the president?

MARTIN: He absolutely could do that but there's no indication of that. I'm sure that's going to be one of the first questions that he's asked tomorrow is, if a matter comes before him involving Donald Trump and the special counsel investigation, will he recuse himself?

I'm not so certain he's going to answer that in the affirmative, based on what we saw today. I think he's going to dance around that. And there's just no indication that he would do that. I think if he goes to that court, he becomes a part of the Roberts Five. He votes with that bloc. We lose our swing vote --

WATT: The right wing.

MARTIN: -- the right conservative wing of the court. We lose the swing vote that we had and the American people are rightfully concerned about that.

WATT: Thanks very much.

All right. Moving on, it could be the last stand in Syria's devastating civil war. Just ahead, the growing fears for civilians as Syria's only remaining rebel stronghold comes under fire.

Plus deadly weather. A massive typhoon makes landfall in mainland Japan. We're tracking the dangerous storm next.





WATT: Russian and Syrian jets reportedly pounded Syria's Western Idlib province Tuesday, hours after the U.S. warned against attacking the province. Russia, Turkey and Iran plan to discuss the situation on Friday, as does the U.N. Security Council.

The U.N. estimates that around 3 million Syrians now live in Idlib, many displaced by war from elsewhere in the country, along with 70,000 fighters from a number of rebel factions. An expected government offensive to retake Idlib is raising concerns of a humanitarian disaster.

For more on this, CNN military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona joins us now.

Colonel, I mean they've been talking about this as perhaps the last battle, the end of this seven-year civil war.

Is that realistic?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's probably the last large battle. It's the last province that is actually controlled by a non-government entity or a foreign country. There's still other areas of Syria that are not under government control.

We've got the Kurds up in the northeastern part and Turkey occupies a good portion of the country up in the northwest area, to the north and west of the city of Aleppo. So those can be resolved probably without fighting. It's Idlib province that's going to take military action.

And that's about to kick off. As you mentioned, these airstrikes are the preliminary operation for what's going to be probably a large assault on this province. And you're absolutely right. This is setting up a humanitarian disaster.

WATT: But just in terms of the actual battle, 70,000 rebel fighters there.

Is this by any means going to be a fair fight?

Or is this the superior grand troops of the Syrians and the Arab support from the Russians just wiping them out?

FRANCONA: That's exactly right, Nick. You know, it's just a matter of time before the government -- the regime reasserts control over that area. I mean, they're going to be supported heavily by Russian airpower, the Syrian air force.

There are also going to be a lot of Iranian support on the ground, probably some Hezbollah fighters as well. So this is going to be a large operation.

If you look at the terrain and you look at the area, they're basically surrounded. They've got three sides of Syrian soldiers all around them and they've got the Turkish border. So it is only a matter of time.

The question is will be, what is the human cost that we're going to face as the Syrians reassert control?

WATT: I mean you mentioned that various countries and the United Nations are going to be discussing this Friday.

I mean are there any alternatives to this?

I mean is there any way that anybody can make this anything other than a bloody battle and a humanitarian disaster?

[00:25:00] FRANCONA: It's going to be a bloody battle. I think what they're trying to do is mitigate the humanitarian crisis we're about to face. That's why the Iranians, the Syrians and the Turks are talking. They're trying to come up with some way to prevent a large number of civilian casualties.

They've talked about corridors to move people from the Idlib area to somewhere but no one knows where that's going to be. The Turks aren't going to take them. They could theoretically funnel them back into the regime-controlled area. But the Syrians are very wary about letting anybody come out of Idlib because that's where they've been dumping everybody.

The vetting will be a real issue. So I don't see the Syrians really showing any human concern here. Honestly, I don't think the Syrian government nor the Russians care about the impending humanitarian disaster.

WATT: Wow. I mean, Colonel, finally, if this is the final decisive battle, what does Syria look like in two months, six months, a year?

Bashar al-Assad still in power, acting like this never happened?

Surely that can't be what we're looking at in Syria.

What's it going to look like?

FRANCONA: This will be the next stage. and then after that, there's still a lot of problems to address in Syria. You've still got Turks occupying the northwest corner. You've got the Kurdish area up in the northeast. And, you know, the Turks are very adamant that they don't want any armed Kurds up there.

The Syrian government wants to reassert control over that entire area. The Kurds, who have pretty much been autonomous for 3-4 years, do not want to give that land back. They want some sort of autonomy like their cousins in Iraq have. So the battle of Idlib, once over, just sets up the political crisis of how we put Syria back together.

WATT: Colonel Francona, thank you very much for your insight.

FRANCONA: You're welcome.

WATT: Now 200 years of historical research destroyed. Irreplaceable collections spanning 11,000 years likely lost forever. Why the fire that gutted Brazil's National Museum may have been preventable -- next.




WATT: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Nick Watt and the headlines this hour: (HEADLINES)

[00:30:00] NICK WATT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: confirmation hearings to be neutral and impartial. Shouting protesters were removed from the room, and Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully to delay the hearing until the Trump administration releases more documents from the period Kavanaugh worked for President George W. Bush.

And Russian and Syrian jets pounded Syria's last major rebel stronghold on Tuesday. A human rights group says the planes bombarded the western edge of Idlib. The air strikes came hours after U.S. President Trump warned Syria not to "recklessly attack the province."

And powerful Typhoon Jebi lashed Japan with heavy rains and heavy winds Tuesday. It's the strongest such storm to make landfall on Japan's mainland in a quarter century. At least 8 people have been killed and 292 others have been injured, according to Japanese media.

Now, in Osaka, one of the country's largest airports was swamped. Hundreds of flights were cancelled, stranding thousands of passengers overnight.

And Tropical Storm Gordon has now made landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast, west of the Alabama-Mississippi border. Residents in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi are being cautioned about a wall of water that could inundate low-lying coastal areas. One death has been reported so far, in Florida.

As rain and wind pushed ashore, boats in Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi, were ordered out of the water. Gordon is expected to lose steam as it moves inland. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now with more. Pedram?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Nick, you know, this storm had so much more potential to be something far more devastating across this region. So certainly good news to see this finally make landfall and see it weaken over the next couple of hours.

But not as we thought hurricane warnings in effect across portions of coastal Mississippi, coastal Alabama, so a very serious situation across these regions at the moment, as winds sustained still at 110 kilometers per hour, 120 is what dictates a hurricane, so it missed that right at landfall.

But of course, the negligible difference in the wind speeds really doesn't change the impact as much. In fact, you take a look even at this moment. See wind gust about 80-81 or so kilometers per hour. Mobile comes in at over 70 kilometers per hour, so very powerful winds even at this hour as the system begins to move ashore.

And you'll notice it will quickly begin to fall apart because of course, didn't have much steam as it remained over water for a very short period. And then now moving over portions of Mississippi, we think by sunrise, near Jackson, Mississippi, this becomes a tropical depression. But the rainfall is going to be the big story moving forward. We have the flood watches in place, not only across the south, but also across the Midwestern U.S. because this region has already been so hard hit in recent weeks with tremendous rainfall.

How about 150 millimeters of rainfall in areas, again, not related to the tropical system, but just recent storms into the Midwestern United States, and this system tracks eventually towards directly that region, brings an additional 150 millimeters on top of that saturated soil.

So incredibly, that region of the U.S. could be actually more impacted than parts of the Gulf Coast because of the rainfall threats. Now, I want to leave you with what's been happening in Japan, of course, Jebi being the most powerful storm there, for mainland Japan, since the early 90s.

But what is left of it, begins to push in towards northern and eastern regions there of Russia. We're watching back behind it, another area of disturbed weather, Nick, that has tropical potential, so certainly, the story far from over for our friends across portions of East Asia.

WATT: Thanks very much, Pedram.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

WATT: Now, moving on, a high-level South Korean delegation is in North Korea to discuss plans for their next Summit. The two sides are expected to discuss a path toward peace and denuclearization. It comes as relations between the U.S. and North Korea continue to sour.

Now, our Paula Hancocks joins us from Seoul with more. Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Nick, at this point, we know that the National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong of South Korea is in Pyongyang. He was met at the airport by Ri Son- kwon, who is the -- Kim Jong-un's point person for inter-Korean relations.

They've already had a meeting this morning, we know from the -- from Blue House, and really there's a number of issues that they will be talking about. They are doing the ground work, really, for this Summit that's coming up between the South Korean President, Moon Jae- in, and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, expected for mid- September.

We don't have an exact date on that yet. Potentially, once the envoy comes back from this trip. But we also heard from the South Korean President Moon Jae-in, that he believes this is a critical moment for talks with North Korea. Now, clearly, he was going to be talking about the inter-Korean relationship.

But since the U.S.-North Korean relationship has soured, he will also be slipping into this mediator role, once again, trying to bridge the gap between Washington and Pyongyang as he has been doing for some time. And certainly, from other points of view of what they will be discussing is how to bring the inter-Korean relationship closer. We know that the president of South Korea had a phone call with the President of the United States late last night, local time.

[00:35:15] A 50-minute phone call where, once again, President Moon praised President Trump for what he called his decisiveness and bold initiative to try and make these peace talks work.

So it's really a bit of a balancing act for the South Korean president now, to make sure that the inter-Korean relationship is progressing, but also to make sure that he can bring the U.S. back to the table as well. Nick?

WATT: Paula Hancocks in Seoul, thank you very much.

And next, to Brazil, a devastating cultural and academic loss may have been preventable. Brazil's oldest and most important museum was gutted in a massive fire Sunday night. Most of the museum's precious and irreplaceable collections are now feared lost forever. As Clare Sebastian reports, many blamed the government for years of neglect.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The rubble still smolders two days after fire ripped through the 200-year-old Brazil national museum. As firefighters begin their investigation into the cause of the blaze, the finger-pointing is well under way.

These protesters blame the government for diverting critical funds away from the museum's restoration. The museum is part of Rio's federal university and most of the protesters are students. University and museum officials say the museum's budget has been repeatedly slashed. Brazil's minister of culture says there was a sprinkler system in place. It wasn't enough.

CAIO, STUDENT (through translator): This fire has been caused by several years of neglect by the federal government. Our anthropology program suffered absurd budget cuts these two last years.

SEBASTIAN: Although the extent of the damage remains unknown, Brazil's oldest and most important historical museum has been gutted. It was home to 20 million artifacts spanning 11,000 years. Most of its collections are now feared lost, including priceless artifacts from the pre-Columbian period.

And officials from Rio's Civil Defense Department say the building itself is still at risk of collapsing. Employees, researchers, and academics shed tears as they stood outside the destroyed museum.

GEN. ROBERTO ROBADEY, SPOKESMAN, MILITARY FIRE DEPARTMENT (through translator): During the clean-up process and the aftermath, we're going to have the participation of museum employees. It will be a slow process, so that we can, who knows, recover a fragment, something that could still have historic value. SEBASTIAN: One museum curator rushed to collect what was left of the meteorite exhibit before it could be swept away with other debris. Brazil's minister of culture says he hopes the building can be rebuilt and some artifacts can still be salvaged.

He also wants to start a campaign to encourage collectors to donate or sell their collections to the museum so they can start again. Clare Sebastian, CNN.


WATT: And next on NEWSROOM L.A., there's no place like home for Dorothy's ruby red slippers.


[00:40:00] WATT: Amazon reached a milestone Tuesday briefly becoming America's second trillion-dollar company, Apple was the first. At their peak, Tuesday, Amazon shares traded just over $2,050 before dropping at the end of the session.

The online retailer reached the trillion-dollar milestone after 21 years as a public company, while Apple took nearly 38 years to get there. Amazon stock is up more than 74 percent this year to date.

And they may just be the most famous shoes in the world, the red ones Judy Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz. They were stolen more than a decade ago, and now, they've been found. Was the wicked witch of the west involved? Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Under the rainbow.

MOOS: The ruby red slippers stolen 13 years ago have been recovered. Thirteen years of police asking -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ruby slippers? What have you done with


MOOS: We still don't know who done it, broke into the Judy Garland museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and smashed a display case, leaving one tiny thing behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a single sequin off the shoe.

MOOS: The author of the ruby slippers of Oz, says the stolen shoes are --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The holy grail of all Hollywood memorabilia.

MOOS: OK. There are at least four pairs of slippers used in the Wizard of Oz. These, for instance, are at the Smithsonian. The yellow brick road was a dead end for investigators despite loads of tips.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything from they're nailed to a wall in a roadside diner in Missouri to, I was with my boyfriend when he threw them into a water-filled iron ore pit.

MOOS: Divers even searched in vain for the slippers. Last summer, authorities finally got a credible tip. They said someone tried to extort the shoes' owner. The slippers were finally recovered this summer, in a sting operation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tap your heels together three times.

JUDY GARLAND, ACTRESS: There's no place like home.

MOOS: Yes. But where is home for the long lost, now found, ruby red slippers? An insurance company owns the shoes worth $2 million to $5 million, but they remain in FBI custody as evidence. They're actually a mismatched pair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The right shoe of the stolen pair actually matches the left shoe at the Smithsonian.

MOOS: And the right shoe at the Smithsonian matches the left of the stolen pair. Authorities have identified multiple suspects but are still asking for the public's help to nab the slipper thieves who have given them the slip all these years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll get you, my pretty.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

GARLAND: There's no place like home.

MOOS: -- New York.

GARLAND: There's no place like home.


WATT: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Nick Watt. "WORLD SPORT" starts after the break.


[00:45:00] (WORLD SPORT)