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Trump White House; Koreas Tensions; A Dangerous Precedent; Concerns on Repatriation; Myanmar Violence; Rohingya Crisis Plan. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 02:00   ET


[02:00:01] GEORGE HOWELL, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: Pointing fingers at the United Nations, Russia, and the U.K. face off over the deadly nerve agent poisoning in that country.

And later this hour, remembering a legend, a look at the extraordinary life and career of actor, Burt Reynolds. Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers around the world. I am George Howell. The CNN Newsroom starts right now. Around the world, good day to you, the U.S. President is lashing out at the New York Times and the anonymous official who wrote a controversial op-ed about him.

Mr. Trump has suggested the essay amounts to treason. He challenged the Times to reveal its author. Listen.


PRES. DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The latest act of resistance is the op-ed published in the failing New York Times by an anonymous, really an anonymous, gutless coward. You just look. He was -- nobody knows who the hell he is or she. Although they put he, but probably that's a little disguised, that means it's she. But for the sake of our national security, the New York Times should publish his name at once. I think their reporters should go and investigate who it is. That would actually be a good scoop.


HOWELL: Mr. Trump there in Montana talking about the New York Times. The Trump administration officials came out racing to deny that they wrote the anonymous essay. The question remains, though, who is the author? Our Kaitlan Collins picks up this report.


KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: President Trump seething, demanding names, as he and the rest of the White House go on a frantic hunt to find the author of the anonymous op-ed, calling him petty, ineffective, and ill-informed. The ramped speculation forcing than a dozen senior officials to issue statements denying they trashed the President, including the Vice President Mike Pence who said this.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE (R), UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's a disgrace. COLLINS: Pence calling on the unnamed author to step down


PENCE: Anyone who would write an anonymous editorial smearing this President, who has provided extraordinary leadership to this country, should not be working for this administration. They ought to do the honorable thing and they ought to resign.

COLLINS: As high-ranking officials scrambled to issue emphatic denials that it was them, sources tell CNN, aides were printing out their statements and hand-delivering them to Trump, while he fumed inside the White House, telling aides he knew there were people out to get him, his closest staffers trying to push the suspicion out of the West Wing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just have to correct the record. It's not clear to us anyway that it's somebody in the White House. And they're saying senior administration officials. That can be many people.


COLLINS: On Twitter, Sarah Sanders urging people to ask the New York Times about the identity of the gutless loser, saying they are the only ones complicit in this deceitful act, Trump's anger only intensifying since his public outburst yesterday.

TRUMP: So when you tell me about some anonymous source within the administration, probably who is failing and probably here for all the wrong reasons, no. And the New York Times is failing. If I weren't here, I believe the New York Times probably wouldn't even exist.

COLLINS: President Trump didn't answer if he's going to take Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky up on his suggestion that they should administer lie detector tests to White House staffers who hold security clearances to determine if it's them that are the ones talking to the media. But, of course, he has listened to Rand Paul, one of his biggest allies here in Washington before, when he suggested that he should revoke John Brennan's security clearance.

Now, it's to be determined if the President will listen to his suggestion now. But, of course, all of this is going to continue, and the paranoia is going to continue to deepen as the hunt for whoever it is that wrote this op-ed continues here at the White House. Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with Brian Karem. Brian is a CNN Political Analyst and Executive Editor of the Sentinel Newspapers joining us in Washington, D.C., Brian, thank you for your time.


HOWELL: Well, let's start by talking about this anonymous op-ed. The President recently tweeted about it, saying these are investigative journalists of the New York Times going to investigate themselves? Who is the anonymous letter writer? Surely, the White House is encouraging the hunt for the anonymous author. What do you make of the effort to find the writer versus the alarm bells being rang by this writer?

[02:04:52] KAREM: Well, as I have said before, I am more worried about who is in charge at the White House than who wrote the letter. Because that letter really spells out a very troubling and very terrifying situation inside a White House, where there are people who are conspiring against the President. I didn't elect those people. You didn't elect those people. And even if you have a gripe with the President, he is the guy in charge.

So I want to now why this was written, not who. I want to know who is in charge. And I don't care who wrote it. I want to know why. And I think -- when I look at that letter, there are really only three ways to get rid of a President. You can vote them out. You can impeach them, or you can use the 25th amendment. And this letter is telling us we know there are not votes for impeachment.

He doesn't come up for re-election for another 2 1/2 years. So you're left with the 25th amendment, and this letter spells out that they do not have the votes for the 25th amendment. So perhaps what they're trying to do is bolster support for a 25th amendment move, and letting people know they have some cover in doing it. And that's kind of frightening, too. This is an unconstitutional way to get rid of an unfit President.

HOWELL: You mentioned the 25th amendment. The President is speaking to his supporters and speaking about that issue raised in this anonymous letter of the 25th amendment and possible impeachment. Let's listen.


TRUMP: What you're going to have is you'll have a country that's going to turn into a third-world country. Because if the opposite party becomes President, every time before it even starts, before you've even found out whether or not he or she is going to do a great job. They'll say we want to impeach him and you'll impeach him. It's so ridiculous.


HOWELL: Brian, obviously that's not quite the way impeachment works, but...


HOWELL: -- all this talk of impeachment, it does seem to be getting under the President's skin.

KAREM: Well, and the third-world comment is kind of frightening. If it's turned into a third world, it's under his watch. We have been, and are, still remain a very strong nation. And I maintain that we have more in common than we have different. And I think that the President preys on fear and plays towards divisiveness and plays towards dysfunction.

And I have a lot more hope for this country than he does. And this talk of impeachment is all brought about by him shooting himself in the foot. It is things that he's done. It isn't -- you know, he calls it a witch hunt. Well, you know, the Mueller investigation has investigated and indicted and got convictions, many of them. So if it's a witch hunt, he's found a lot of witches.

And, you know, there are some witches that are melting. But the bottom line with this President, if he's talking about impeachment, it's because he has suffered self-inflicted wounds from day one. From the first day in office when he had Sean Spicer walk into that briefing room, take a look at a television screen and tell us that he had the largest audience ever for an inauguration and our eyes were lying.

How many times has he told us don't believe what your eyes tell you, only believe me. It's a very dysfunctional President. And look, I have covered every President since Reagan. I have seen anything this chaotic. It's frightening.

HOWELL: You know, finally here, I want to show our viewers the number of White House officials that have come out with denials. Take a look at this long list of people putting forward statements. What do you make of the President reading and reviewing these statements from officials, and even weighing the loyalty of what people are saying, how they say, I didn't do it, boss.

KAREM: Yeah. I don't believe any of it. I mean at the end of the day, some of them are probably telling the truth. But truly at the end of the day, I spoke with sources right after this letter came out. And there were a lot of them that said listen, I didn't write the letter, but there are some things in that letter that I have said and I believe in.

So at the end of the day, I think it's going to be like murder on the orient express. They can deny doing it because they all did it. I think there is going to be more than one person involved in it. It was perhaps it was penned by one person, but it obviously has the sentiments of many people in it.

HOWELL: Brian Karem joining us in Washington, D.C. with perspective. Thank you.

KAREM: Thank you.

HOWELL: Controversy over the anonymous op-ed isn't surprising news across Europe. Our Clarissa Ward picks up this report from London.


CLARISSA WARD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Certainly, that op-ed making ripples on this side of the Atlantic as well. Some of the headlines today calling it explosive, calling it frightening, but one word the media did not use to describe this is shocking. And certainly, there is a sense here, particularly in Europe, that people are growing more and more used to dealing with and experiencing what they see as being a dysfunctional White House.

I spoke to one well-placed source here in the U.K. who said does it tell us anything we don't already know, i.e., that sensible Republicans are trying to manage an erratic President. Now, just because people may not be shocked, that doesn't mean that they're not concerned. And we're seeing more evidence of that today with a poll that has come out of Germany from an insurer called R and V.

[02:10:03] In this poll, 69 percent of respondents said that they were gravely worried about Trump's policies, 69 percent of respondents. Just to compare, 59 percent of respondents said that they were worried about terrorism. So while people may no longer be shocked, they are certainly concerned. Clarissa Ward, CNN, London.


HOWELL: Another person who says he didn't do it, General James Mattis. He is now in Afghanistan for an unannounced visit. The U.S. Defense Secretary landed just a short time ago. He will meet with the new commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, hold a town hall with U.S. troops, and meet with senior Afghan leaders.

In the meantime, the seamlessly endless war in Afghanistan has resulted in civilians dying in record numbers, along with dozens of people injured each day from suicide attacks from bombs and from gunfire. Our Sam Kylie has this report from a hospital in Kabul that is desperately trying to staunch the bleeding.


SAM KYLIE, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: A teenage boy returns for yet another round of surgery. His arm was torn off by a bomb. He'll be back for more operations before he returns to a home, so insecure that we cannot use his name. And his is a relatively minor case in a hospital that only treats war wounded in a conflict that is bloodier by the day.

After 17 years of war, the number of civilian deaths this year hit the highest point since records began. According to the United Nations, 1,692 civilians have been killed by the end of June. Run by the Italian charity emergency, (Inaudible) this hospital often treats more than 50 new victims a day, each injury logged. Shrapnel, mine, shrapnel, bullet, bullet, bullet, shrapnel, shotgun, bullet, shrapnel, bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet, on this ward, every patient is a child.

This young boy here was injured in (Inaudible) now that is a town to the south of Kabul, the main strategic town on the highway south. It was almost overrun by the Taliban a couple of weeks ago. More than 100 people were killed. There was mayhem. And he spent 20 hours with his bowels hanging out of his stomach before he was able to get medical help, a child. Here, the doctors live in fear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyday is getting worse, and the fighting is increasing. But honestly, I don't have any -- me, I don't have any clear future. KYLIE: The U.S. will spend 45 billion here this year, most of it on

training Afghan forces to take over. But poor morale, drug abuse, and relentless combat have driven Afghan desertions and deaths so high that the numbers are now secret. One frontline government brigade is down to 30 percent of its fighters, NATO sources say.

Niaz has lost three sons and three grandsons, all in government forces. Four others are still alive, but they've all been wounded fighting insurgents. Some of my children and grandchildren were killed on the frontline, and some of them near our village. They were beheaded, she says, by ISIS. Now, she looks after the 32 children who have so far survived, while she tends the graves of her dead.

It's been a bad year in America's longest war. But for Afghans, there's another generation of torment. Sam Kylie, CNN, Kabul.


HOWELL: A sobering report. Sam Kylie, thank you. Still ahead this hour on Newsroom, world leaders look to avoid another massacre in Syria as world leaders brace for the very worst. We will have an exclusive inside Idlib ahead. Also, verbal fireworks at the U.N. Security Council, as the U.S. squarely blame Russia for the poisoning of a former Russian spy living in Britain. Stay with us. We'll have the story.


[02:15:00] Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. I am George Howell. It is Friday in Iraq. And before daybreak, there is already violence. In Baghdad, three mortar shells land in the green zone. The Iraqi military says they landed in an empty lot. No one was hurt. But it's the first such attack there in several years. In the meantime, in southern Iraq, violent protests are getting bigger there.

On Thursday, hundreds of people filled the streets of Basra. A rights group says nine protesters died in clashes with security forces this week. People are angry about high unemployment, about lack of electricity, and contaminated drinking water there. In neighboring Syria now, the United Nations is calling for a solution to the crisis in rebel-held Idlib.

This, as leaders of Iran, Turkey, and Russia are set to meet in Tehran. Turkey hopes to overt a Syrian and Russian offensive on the area, but that could all be in vain. The early stages of that assault may already be underway. Take a look at this video. It shows bombing in the countryside near Idlib's southern border on Thursday.

The White Helmet rescue groups say air and artillery strikes killed at least one person there, 14 more reportedly killed on Tuesday. Idlib is Syria's last major rebel stronghold. It is also the home to around three million civilians. The U.S. and its allies are warning the government not to use chemical weapons, but many in Idlib say that is not enough. CNN's Ben Wedeman has a look now in this exclusive report.


BEN WEDEMAN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: (Inaudible) on more yellow to complete the look. Artist (Inaudible) paints a likeness of U.S. President Donald Trump, on the collapsed roof of a bombed-out house in the village of Binnish, in Syria's Idlib province. I drew him giving Bashar Al Assad and the regime a green light to hit us with any weapons, except chemical ones, he says.

Officials in the U.S. administration, including President Trump, have warned of severe consequences if the Syrian military uses chemical weapons in the offensive to retake this last province still under opposition control. In the province's capital, also called Idlib, the scenes captured in this exclusive obtained by CNN, certainly don't convey the sense of a population preparing for the final battle.

Nearly half of the province's current population of over three million fled or were bussed-in by the Syrian government under safe passage agreements from other parts of the country restored to Damascus' control, including tens of thousands of Jihadist fighters, among them, many members of what's known as (Inaudible), until recently, an affiliate of Al Qaeda (Inaudible).

[02:20:11] This shop in Idlib city is well-stocked. Business, he says, is down but not (Inaudible). Some people are worried and afraid, he concedes. Some are thinking of fleeing. As for me, I am not going anywhere. Yusuf, like Aziz the artist, doesn't have much faith in President Trump's warnings. Now he's talking and talking and talking, but I don't think he can stop it, he says, referring to the long-anticipated offensive.

Green Grocer (Inaudible) has plenty of vegetables and fruit on offering this agricultural once considered by many Syrians as a backwater. He admits he's concerned. Yes, if they're going to strike us we should get our women and children out, he says. (Inaudible) is doing what she usually does, dispensing medicine and lots of advice.

She's confident that Syria, Russia, Turkey, and the U.S. will somehow reach an agreement to avoid a bloody military operation. But she's also pondering other options if diplomacy fails. Once we've lost hope that we won't be able to stay, we'll escape to Turkey or to Europe, says (Inaudible). Most people will take to the sea to get to Europe. At least here, at least for now, this is the calm before the storm. Ben Wedeman, CNN.


HOWELL: An eerie calm before the storm. Ben Wedeman, thank you for the report. The United States, Canada, France, and Germany say they are confident that Britain has correctly identified the suspects of a nerve agent attack in the city of Salisbury last March. The U.K. says the two men that you see here are officers in Russia's military intelligence.

They've been charged in (Inaudible) with smuggling the poison Novichok from Russia with the intention of assassinating former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal. But at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, Russia again denied any knowledge of the attack. CNN's Richard Roth explains.


RICHARD ROTH, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The Novichok murder and attempted murder cases spilled out into the historic Security Council Chamber with another big power verbal shootout between the United Kingdom and Russia. Britain said Russia was behind the attacks and won't cooperate in the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a broader issue, even than the very serious matter of use of chemical weapons on the streets of Salisbury. This actually goes to the heart of the international system. It goes to the heart of the rules-based order. We and our allies will want to think about how we push back on this sort of Russian activity, which is not only malign. It's also reckless. It's reckless to the individuals who get caught up in Russian machinations.

ROTH: The Russian ambassador said Moscow did offer to cooperate and was rejected by the United Kingdom. The Russian diplomat denounced the conclusions of the British investigation, which blame two Russian operatives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number of inconsistencies and unresolved issues in connection with the new British so-called, quote unquote, evidence is off the charts.

ROTH: U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley praised the United Kingdom for teaching a master class in how to prevent the spread of chemical weapons. Haley strongly criticized Moscow for its role in the affair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now falls on us to do our part. Rather than accept responsibility for its actions, the Russian government has offered only denials and counteraccusations, anything to deflect attention and distract from its guilt.

ROTH: The U.K. said it was important to bring to the world the latest on its investigation to prevent, quote, similar behavior by Russian agents. The Russian ambassador told reporters Moscow is conducting its own probe. The British ambassador said dealing with Russia is like calling an arsonist to put out a fire. Richard Roth, CNN, United Nations.


HOWELL: Richard, thank you. Some of the President's own officials may question his leadership, but he seems to have the support of North Korea. South Korean officials say North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-Un has unwavering trust for Mr. Trump. Our Brian Todd has more on their relationship.


[02:24:58] BRIAN TODD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un showing a swaggering confidence in their partnership. South Korean officials reporting that Kim has, quote, unwavering trust in President Trump, but he wants to denuclearize before Trump's first term ends. To which Trump responds in a tweet, thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together. A disconnect critics say from reality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The reality is there has been no progress. North Korea still has upwards of potentially 60 nuclear weapons. So Donald Trump's policy right now is not paying dividends on the denuclearization front.

TODD: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recently scheduled trip to North Korea was abruptly cancelled by the President, after a North Korean official told them denuclearization talks may fall apart. And recent satellite pictures show Kim's regime has done no significant dismantling of a key satellite launch facility.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the danger, I think, of the President having a disconnected foreign policy from the rest of his national security cabinet.

TODD: The President's recently been accused of being somewhat delusional about North Korea. Bob Woodward writes in his new book, Fear, that Trump has seen the nuclear standoff with North Korea as being, quote, all about leader versus leader, man versus man, me versus Kim. According to Woodward, Trump has repeatedly asked why the U.S. has to pay for a large American troop presence in South Korea.

Defense Secretary James Mattis once responding, we're doing this to prevent World War III, then said later, Trump had the understanding of a fifth or sixth grader. Mattis denies after saying that. But there are other signs of a possible Trump disconnect with North Korea. His Twitter compliment of Kim Jong-Un came the same day as the Justice Department indicted a hacker, allegedly working for Kim's spy agencies for the devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're sitting in Pyongyang right now wondering if costs will actually be imposed upon you, you have prosecutors and FBI agents saying we're coming after you. You're not going to take that seriously. Because at the same time you look and see the President of the United States, who is welcoming you, who is opening up to you, who is cozying up to you.

TODD: Could this be what that anonymous top Trump administration official wrote about in the New York Times? The official says on one hand, President Trump shows an affinity for dictators like Kim Jong- Un. While at the same time, other administration officials work to hold those dictators accountable. A two-track Presidency, the author writes, which analysts say is dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Adversaries of the United States are already exploiting it. I think today's tweet by Donald Trump shows that it's working. And if you're Kim Jong-Un you're just going to keep on going.

TODD: How specifically could America's adversaries or even allies exploit that so-called two-track presidency? Analysts say dictators like Kim Jong-Un could simply compliment the President as he's just done to get what they want, or they can get inside his head in other ways. Like how Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi once did according to Bob Woodward's new book.

When Trump was trying to get el-Sisi to do something, (Inaudible) the Egyptian President told Trump he was worried about the Russia investigation, and asked Trump are you going to be around, which according to Woodward, really rattled Trump. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Brian Todd, thank you. And Brian touched on this in his report, the mystery gripping Washington. Who wrote that anonymous op- ed that is so critical of President Trump? We'll take a look at some possible suspects, ahead. Plus, Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court looks secure, even after Senate Democrats put him through the ringer. We'll explain what happened on his final day of testimony as CNN Newsroom pushes on.


[02:30:51] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour. The leaders of Russia, Turkey, and Iran are set to discuss Syria in the coming hours in Tehran. Turkey's president says he hopes to avoid an offensive against rebel-held Idlib. The White Helmets rescue group says air and artillery strikes killed at least one person there on Thursday.

Fiery exchanges at the U.N. Security Council this after Britain accused two Russian military officers in the nerve agent attack on a former double agent which Russia denies. Its envoy says the U.K. rejected Moscow's help in that investigation. The U.S. president says an anonymous op-ed blasting his presidency could be called treason. He spoke just a few hours ago at a campaign rally in the U.S. State of Montana. The unsigned essay in The New York Times describes a, "Quiet resistance inside the White House working to protect the United States from the President of the United States."

Let's now bring in Norm Eisen. Eisen is a former White House ethics czar and the author of the new book, The Last Palace joining this hour from Washington, D.C. A pleasure to have you on the show. Let's start by talking about this anonymous op-ed essay from The New York Times first from the perspective of the person who penned it only described as a senior administration official. The question has been raised is this person a hero, a coward, or a genius in the way he or she is getting the message out and what is the burden on this person to eventually step up to come forward publicly?

NORM EISEN, BOARD CHAIR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Well, George, thanks for having me. I think the person is a hero because the anonymous op-ed describes an effort within the Trump administration to blunt the worst impulses of the president, the most unconstitutional illegal impulses of the president, ones that are contrary to our American values and instead to keep the government functioning in our domestic and foreign relations. So because anonymous and many others according to the op-ed and the

new Bob Woodward book, many others like anonymous are engaged in these kinds of activities. It is helping blunt the -- smooth down the worst rough edges of Trump. So I think anonymous is a hero. I do think when Trump is evicted from the White House and that day will come, that -- then anonymous ought to exhibit the same courage in stepping forward and taking his or her punishment if any.

HOWELL: There is also an ethical quandary that The New York Times may find itself in. The president recently tweeted to that effect saying this, are the investigative journalists at The New York Times going to investigate themselves? Who is the anonymous letter writer? Surely, the White House is encouraging the hunt for this anonymous author. Journalists are obviously looking into it as well. Now that it's out there, what are the implications for The New York Times?

EISEN: Well, of all the sacred freedoms that we protect in the United States, the ones that make us the United States, the idea of America that has led the rest of the world to admire us and emulate us for so many years, the most sacred of those ideas is freedom of the press. So I think as long as The New York Times has done an adequate job of due diligence, and, George, I write for them often and I can tell you that those editors even with my name on a piece scrutinize every word and punctuation mark in their editorials.

So I think they've done their diligence. They've -- they know the identity of the individual. And as long as that is the case, The New York Times will be fine. It's the Trump administration that may be in trouble because I think they're coming very close in attacking anonymous, in attacking The New York Times. They're coming very, very close to violating our constitutional First Amendment protection of freedom of the press.

[02:35:11] HOWELL: OK. The anonymous letter spoke of a two-track presidency. And we're also seeing similar examples of that from Bob Woodward's new book Fear of aides stealing papers off Mr. Trump's desk trying to ward off potentially consequential orders from being carried out. From your perspective, given the way this administration operates, are their actions defendable or what's a preferable tap in your view?

EISEN: Well, I do believe that the desperate times call for desperate measures. And, George, it's an example to me of a modern instance of civil disobedience. Of course, we think of civil disobedience, the civil rights movement when there was an unjust law. People saying they're not going to follow those unjust laws. In The Last Palace, my book, I talked about a century of this through the five people who lived in my ambassador house before I was there.

Each of them had to confront this moment at some point in a democratic crisis. Do I follow the law when it tells me to do the wrong thing? And following Donald Trump would lead you to do the wrong thing, so this is an example when -- for example, reportedly Gary Cohn stole a letter from -- removed a letter from the desk of the president, so he wouldn't cancel one of our most important trade agreements. Yes, I believe that was the right thing. I think these are complicated questions. But people are trying to

keep our country on track as best as they can. That's a good thing.

HOWELL: Norm Eisen joining us in Washington. Thank you for your time and perspective today.

EISEN: Thanks, George. Nice to be with you.

HOWELL: And then there was this from the Republican Senator Rand Paul suggesting lie detector tests for the Trump administration officials to determine who wrote the op-ed. And that's not the only suggestion. Our Cyril Vanier explains.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: So who done it? Spoiler alert, the only people who really know the answer to that question are a handful of people at The New York Times and they are not about to talk. But since this White House mystery has turned everyone, you, me, into a political detective, let me run you through the crime scene. Clue number one is to be found in The Times editorial itself. Read this.

We may no longer have Senator McCain but we will always have his example, a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Lodestar, that's not a word you hear very often. You know who has a particular fondness for that word? Listen to this.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It really was the lodestar. And so vigilance and resolve will be our lodestar. We will continue to act with vigilance and resolve as our lodestar. Must again be our lodestar. And that's going to continue to be a lodestar.


VANIER: We hear you loud and clear, Vice President of the United States Mike Pence. Of course, Pence says he's innocent. He condemns the op-ed. He condemns its author. The whole thing. All right. Clue number two, the author is described as a senior administration official. Who gets to be called senior? Who are the suspects? There's no clear definition of this. At CNN, we would include the 23 cabinet members, their senior staff, the vice president's office of course, all U.S. ambassadors, the White House press shop, and many more.

So by the time you add them all up, you are well into the hundreds of suspects. Talk about a needle in a haystack. Now, clue number three, who could possibly have a motive for this? If you are a devotee of Agatha Christie, you look for the motive. Lots of officials could conceivably have a grievance against this president who regularly lashes out against his advisors, his own party, an entire government agency. I think Republican Senator Bob Corker put it best.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIR OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: So I don't know. I think a lot has been made out of nothing. I think the biggest issue they're going to have is figuring out who wouldn't have written a letter like that.


VANIER: So if you want to proceed by elimination, well, you can, really. So that is the crime scene. That's where the investigation stands right now. But I do want to show you the odd shark betting odds. Vice President Mike Pence is considered the odds on favorite to be the author of this editorial. But bear in mind, this is just because of the online bettings. This is not done by experts. Not that the experts know any better, mind you. I guess he just shouldn't be using the word lodestar that much.

Chief of Staff Jim Kelly comes in at plus 400, so that's a lot less likely than Mike Pence according to gamblers. Defense Secretary James Mattis, lower still on that list. And you know who's near the very bottom of the list? Ivanka Trump. I guess it has something to do with the fact that she's the president's daughter. Now, the highest odds are the field. This question mark here meaning that after all this speculation, well, odds are it is probably somebody we do not know who wrote that editorial.

[02:40:15] So will we ever find out who it was? CNN asked John Dean, the White House counsel during the Watergate scandal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think we'll learn who it is?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sooner or later?

DEAN: Later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember when to -- when no one for the longest time knew who deep throat was and all of a sudden --

DEAN: And a lot of bad guesses.


VANIER: And this is coming from somebody who should know. So when you hear names over the next few days, remember that there are a lot of bad guesses. Back to you.

HOWELL: Cyril Vanier, our lodestar through this mystery. Thank you so much for the report this little. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He ended his third and final day of Senate testimony on Thursday and came out of the grueling experienced that bruised but apparently unscathed despite the determined efforts of Senate Democrats. Our Phil Mattingly fills us in on this.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, a dramatic moment of democratic revolt that may not have been that dramatic at all.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: This is about the closest I'll probably ever have in my life to an I am Spartacus moment.

MATTINGLY: Outrage over the lack of public access to the thousands of documents related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), SENATE MINORITY WHIP: By what authority could he possibly be denying to the American people information about a man who is seeking a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

MATTINGLY: Democrats making a very public show saying they would break Senate rules and release the documents on their own.

BOOKER: And I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate and if Senator Cornyn believes that I violated Senate rules, I openly invite and accept the consequences of my team releasing that e-mail right now.

MATTINGLY: Republicans calling the move a political stunt to interfere with Kavanaugh's nomination and making clear the documents in question had actually already been cleared for release and calling out those across the aisle.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), SENATE MAJORITY WHIP: Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate.

MATTINGLY: The newly released documents once deemed confidential include this March 2003 e-mail in which Kavanaugh discusses abortion writing, "I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since the court can always overrule its precedent." Democrats seizing on the e-mail saying it called into question Kavanaugh's view of whether the abortion law could be overturned, an issue that could turn key votes against him. Kavanaugh on Thursday denied that was the case.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, NOMINEE ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: In that draft letter, it was referring to the views of legal scholars.

MATTINGLY: And returned to a familiar refrain, Roe v. Wade was precedent and would go no further. Late Wednesday night, Senator Kamala Harris pressed Kavanaugh about whether he had discussed Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Have you discussed Mueller or his investigation with anyone at Kasowitz, Benson, and Torres, the law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, President Trump's personal lawyer? Be sure about your answer, sir.

MATTINGLY: Asked today, Kavanaugh clearly denied the allegation.

KAVANAUGH: I haven't had -- I don't recall any conversations of that kind. I haven't had any inappropriate conversations about that investigation with anyone. MATTINGLY: Today, Harris, who hasn't produced any evidence of any

such interaction explained her questioning.

HARRIS: I have good reason to believe there was a conversation. I asked him a clear question and he couldn't give a clear answer.


HOWELL: Phil Mattingly with that report. Thank you. Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, a Brazilian presidential candidate stabbed at a campaign event. Details on the story next.


[02:46:39] HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell. The front-running candidate for the President of Brazil was attacked, Thursday. And the video you'll see here could be a bit hard to watch but this is the exact moment that Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed in a crowd at a campaign event.

He was then rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. His son later tweeted a picture of his father in hospital, saying that he is "Stronger than ever and ready to be elected president of Brazil." Supporters held a vigil, Thursday night, and investigation is underway, one person has been arrested.

The question, who is Jair Bolsonaro and why would someone want to attack him. Our Michael Holmes has this report for us.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Cocky, controversial, Jair Bolsonaro is taking Brazilian politics by storm. The 63-year-old has become one of the leading candidates ahead of the upcoming presidential election. Even while running for the small social Liberal Party.

Focusing his message on tackling corruption and violence the pro-gun enthusiast not afraid to speak his mind.

JAIR BOLSONARO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, BRAZIL (through translator): You don't diminish violence with flowers. Let me be clear. Weapons don't generate war, and flowers don't guarantee peace.

HOLMES: A member of the Brazilian Congress since 1991 and known for his sometimes racist misogynistic, homophobic, and even undemocratic views, Bolsonaro has passed himself as a political outsider.

Offensive for most, it is his outspoken nature that has many saying, he's Brazil's version of Donald Trump. His firebrand attitude attracting millions who believe he can shake up Brazil's corruption marred political class. "Drain the swamp if you like." BOLSONARO: The most important thing that we can do here is to show

people that we will put Brazil first.

HOLMES: The populist candidate has focused most of his campaign efforts on social media. Targeting the many struggling and disenfranchised Brazilians who lost faith in the country's political class. As they endured one of the worst economic crises in decades.

With embattled former President Lula da Silva, barred from running on corruption charges, Bolsonaro's approach has seen him top most polls ahead of this election. And that many say, could lead him all the way to the presidency. Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.


HOWELL: Across Latin America, the U.S. president is finding himself with fewer friends than ever and he hasn't even been there yet. One poll is showing the president just how many allies he's losing and why? Our Patrick Oppmann has the story.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It used to be a common complaint that Washington took Latin America for granted. Now, though many countries in the region would probably prefer to stay out of sight.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists.

OPPMANN: Donald Trump's anti-immigration, anti-free trade policies is reversal of the Obama opening to Cuba and promised to build a massive wall on the U.S. Mexican border have led to a sharp drop in confidence in the U.S. in Latin America. A region Trump has yet to visit as president.

An April poll by the Pew Research Center found the United States favorability ratings in seven Latin American countries had dropped nearly 20 percent under Trump. Trump is almost universally disliked in Mexico, the poll found, where the outgoing president Enrique Pena Nieto tried to work with Trump

But an April blasted him after the U.S. president sent the National Guard to U.S.-Mexico border.

[02:50:31] ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translator): If his recent declarations come from frustration with internal politics over the laws or the Congress, then addressed that with them, not Mexicans.

OPPMANN: Pena Nieto successor, the leftist firebrand, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has vowed to take a tougher line with Washington in talks to renegotiate NAFTA, and openly opposes the idea of Trump's wall. Trump's tough talk may have backfired with U.S. enemies, as well as allies.

In Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, has blunted criticism from Washington over his heavy-handed methods putting down street protests and allegations of electoral fraud by claiming he's standing up for Venezuelan sovereignty.

NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): Today, a spokesman for the Emperor Donald Trump, said they don't recognize the results of the Venezuelan elections. Why the hell would we care what Trump says?

OPPMANN: U.S. trade with Latin America could suffer further over protectionist policies creating opportunity for U.S. competitors like China.

MARGARET MYERS, DIRECTOR, ASIA AND LATIN AMERICA PROGRAM, INTER- AMERICAN DIALOGUE: China is in Latin America, absolutely to stay at this point. I mean, it's a top trade partner for a number of countries in the region and is approaching -- you know top trade partner status for a number of others.

OPPMANN: President Trump came to power promising to restore America's standing in the world. But in a region that America traditionally considered its "backyard," America is losing influence. Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.


HOWELL: Patrick, thank you. Still ahead, a look back at the unforgettable life of actor Burt Reynolds, stay with us.


HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. Tributes continue to come in for Hollywood star, Burt Reynolds. Reynolds passed away, Thursday, of cardiac arrest. He was 82 years old. He started many film, and T.V. roles, and during his 60-year career including Smokey and the Bandit, Deliverance, and Evening Shade.

He wrote in that memoir that quote, "Nobody had more fun than I did." CNN's Anderson Cooper takes a look back at his extraordinary life and his career.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've got a great profile.

BURT REYNOLDS, AMERICAN ACTOR: Yes, I do. Especially from the side.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Burt Reynolds knew what he had. He also knew that you knew. Yet, he never seemed to take it all too seriously because he also knew that he and we were all just along for the ride.

The kind of ride in the kind of car, in the kind of movie that for 96 minutes in 1977 made us forget those very troubled times. And ignore one big sign of them, the one that says speed limit 55. Smokey and the Bandit made more than a quarter billion dollars at the box office and made a black Trans Am the car to have. It made Burt Reynolds an icon. He had already been a star for years.

[02:55:14] REYNOLDS: We get connected up with that body and the law -- this thing's going to be hanging over us the rest of our lives.

COOPER: The 1972 film, Deliverance, took him up the river and transported him from journeyman actor to leading man. And scared us all to death along the way. Two years later, in The Longest Yard, he played the football player he'd been in real life until injury led him to acting. It returns to the game and to fun and games in Semi-Tough. Perfecting the persona that would make Smokey catch fire and Cannonball Run, and Smokey II into the 80s.

He faded then came back big in Boogie Nights. In a string of other smaller parts that showed off his range and won critics over. But at the end of the day, at the end of a career, few could even hope for and the end of it all, he'll always be remembered for the kind of easy charm we all wish we had.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't you ever take that hat off for anything?

REYNOLDS: Sure. I take off one thing, and one thing only.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh. If we're lost in the desert island together --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think we get along, talk, and things?

REYNOLDS: Sure. Yes, we'd get along. It would get never be boring, I can tell you that. You would never be boring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take your hat off.

COOPER: Burt Reynolds, semi-tough, semi-tender, laughing at the joke all the way. Anderson Cooper, CNN.

HOWELL: Burt Reynolds dies at the age of 82 years old. Thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell. More news right after the break. Stay with us.


HOWELL: More than a dozen White House officials claimed they had nothing to do with an anonymous op-ed bashing the U.S. president, and even the president admits they have no idea of who's to blame.