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Hurricane Florence Approaches East Coast; New York Times Op-Ed Writer to be Investigated; Kim Jong-un Sends Message to U.S.; Les Moonves Resigned Amid Allegations. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 10, 2018 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[03:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: It is peak hurricane season in the Atlantic with a storm set to make landfall in the U.S. this week. We will have the latest on hurricane Florence.

Plus, Serena Williams get with a hefty fine after a dramatic final but the fine could turn out to be worth it for women in tennis.

And too close to call. Sweden's election rest on a knife edge as a party with neo-Nazi votes splits the vote.

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

A dangerous hurricane is on a collision course with the Southeastern U.S. Coast. Hurricane Florence is just days away from making landfall and its projected to become a brutal category four storm in that time.

Several states on the East Coast are preparing for the worst with people stocking up on food, water, and generators and batteries.

This supermarket in North Carolina ran out of nearly everything as people scrambled to stay ahead of the storm.

So let's turn now to our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri who has been watching this very, very closely. And this is the concern. These -- these hurricanes very unpredictable but everyone seems to agree pretty much on the general direction here.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, unfortunately that seems to be the case with Florence. The steering environment and the atmosphere is really not shifting to allow this system to shift with it. So we think this will be poised impact in areas around the Carolinas by later into the week.

But notice there's an eye trying to form with this feature. And frankly, this is the last time that you'll see the storm Florence this ragged and this unorganized until after it makes landfall because we believe that strengthening and rapid intensification is likely over the next couple of days.

If you take a look the perspective structure with the system really going over very warm bodies of water and crossing the Gulf stream where frankly you push up close than almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the storm has everything going forward with very little environmental wind shear and very warm waters to work with and then kind of tapping off with the Gulf stream there right before it makes landfall.

Thursday afternoon at this point looks to be the most likely scenario. And model guidance really wants to push in towards portions of North Carolina. You notice much of this again put parts of South Carolina, much of North Carolina and even areas the Delmarva into the risk zone here.

But the last time we had a major hurricane impact to Carolinas was Hugo back in 1989. So, tens of millions of people have really gone decades since they've seen a storm of this magnitude approach land.

And really what becomes the most concerning is the little progression after it makes landfall as that pattern that essentially causes to move in towards regions around the eastern area of North Carolina. There causes it also to stall or slow down.

So, notice the progression, pretty wide here from Wednesday into Thursday, very little movement from Thursday and then to landfall by Friday afternoon there. So rainfall amounts could be staggering across this region.

In fact, some areas with several months worth of rainfall, certainly possible. And then you work your way inland. Condition is in place here to produce -- produce potentially 15 or more inches of rain.

So, certainly a dangerous scenario, Rosemary. And the storm that has potential to cause significant damage along the coast with additional damage with all of the rain that has in store into later this week.

CHURCH: All right. Thank you so much for keeping a close eye on that. You'll continue to do that, many thanks, Pedram.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, protesters took to the states across Russia Sunday. They are furious about a government plan to reform the pension system and raise the retirement age.

Police responded to the rallies by cracking down. A monitoring group says more than 1,000 people were detained. Backers of opposition leader Alexei Navalny organized the demonstrations but even some supporters of President Vladimir Putin are angry about the pension plan.

So I want to get the latest now. We turn to CNN's Matthew Chance who joins us live from Moscow. And Matthew, this is strange territory for President Putin who is used to a very high approval rating and adoration from the Russian people. How bad might this get for him and how might he respond to ongoing protests?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Rosemary. This is a very unusual situation in Russia. Because this, while protest themselves aren't unusual and Alexei Navalny who has emerged as a key opposition figure in this country has been relatively successful in rallying people on the issue of corruption particularly across the country.

[03:05:00] What's different about this protest is it's not just the normal, if you like, opposition figures who criticized the Kremlin but it's people who are traditional core Putin supporters as well. This retirement age issue and that's what it's all about, remember, has really cut across the political divide. And that's what's most concerning for the Kremlin.

You are seeing ordinary Russian workers that are coming out onto the streets, voicing their anger against these proposals to move the retirement age for men to 65, from 60. And for women from 55 to 60.

The big problem for men, of course, is the average life expectancy in this country is just between 66 and 67. Just under 67. And so they fear they won't even make retirement in many instances. And that's one of the reasons that there is so much anger and despair.

But you're right, it's deeply concerning. Already Vladimir Putin has intervened politically and he's appeared in a televised address to soften the blow of the pension reforms. He reduced the age at which women would get a pension, would retire, but he left the male retirement age at the proposed 65.

It is every possibility he could intervene again, of course, if these protests gain momentum. But at the moment, I don't think we're at this stage, though a lot of people arrested, more than a thousand people according to independent monitoring group around the country. But we're still not at the level, I don't think, where the actual rule of Vladimir Putin, his grip on power is being seriously challenged, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Right. We'll continue to watch these protests. Many thanks to Matthew Chance joining us live from Moscow, just after 10 o'clock in the morning. I appreciate that.

Well, the White House is still reeling from the anonymous op-ed that described an administration in chaos and a resistance to President Trump's actions. Top officials have denied writing it, and some are calling for the author's resignation and possible prosecution.

Ryan Nobles reports on the hunt for who is responsible.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been a relatively quiet weekend here at the White House, but there's no doubt that the president and his staff are still furiously trying to determine who is the author of this op-ed that was in the New York Times that claimed that there was a person working within the administration that was part of the resistance.

The president himself is said to be obsessed with this search and in addition to rooting out who exactly may be behind the op-ed, they are also working to destroy that person's credibility before their identity is ever even revealed. Both Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor,

going on the Sunday morning talk shows claiming that this person is essentially a traitor, someone that is working to destroy this administration from within.

Kellyanne Conway taking it even a stipulate further, suggesting that the media may be partially to blame. Listen to what she told Jake Tapper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: What does concern me, though, Jake apart from everything the president and others have said, is that for a media that is constantly talking about facts, accuracy, transparency, authority, the authoritativeness to this anonymous writer was imbued automatically because of the content.

As long as the message is anti-Trump it seems, the messenger has credibility. That should concern everyone. I'm with the vice president on this. He has said that the person should resign, if the person truly is an appointee who has taken an oath to the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLEs: And, of course, the big question going into this week is just what lengths will the White House go to attempt to try and figure out who this person is.

The vice president suggesting over the weekend that perhaps this person is guilty of some sort of a crime. So does that mean the Department of Justice gets involved?

The president has suggested that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should look into this. So far the Department of Justice has said that it won't comment on this situation.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, at the White House.

CHURCH: And for more on this we are joined by Natasha Lindstaedt, she is a professor of government at the University of Essex. Thank you so much for being with us.

NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, PROFESSOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF GOVERNMENT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Thank you.

CHURCH: So, the Trump administration has been thrown into chaos as a result of the New York Times op-ed with a witch-hunt underway to find the author. So let's just listen to Vice President Mike Pence to hear just how far that hunt may go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should all top officials take a lie detector test and would you agree to take one?

MICHAEL PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would agree to take it in a heartbeat and would submit to any review the administration wanted to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think the administration should do that?

PENCE: Look, that would be a decision for the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: So, how likely is it, do you think, that the president would subject senior officials within his own administration to lie detector tests? And if he does that, what might it signal and what are the optics there?

[03:10:01] LINDSTAEDT: Well, I wouldn't be surprised by anything that could happen here. I think this whole op-ed piece has really upset Trump to the point where he's just obsessed with finding out who did it. He tends to be a very paranoid individual as is.

So he could say we're going to have lie detector tests, maybe other different types of loyalty tests to prove -- that the people that surround him have to prove that they are incredibly loyal to him.

But he's sort of conflating something here that this is what happens in authoritarian regimes. This is not really supposed to be about loyalty to the regime or the leader. It's supposed to be about loyalty to the country.

And so it's kind of not shocking, though, that he is demanding such high level of loyalty and it's probably going to create chaos in the administration as more people are scrambling to try to prove they are truly loyal to him.

CHURCH: And this is what senior Trump aide Kellyanne Conway had to say about the op-ed. Let's just bring that up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY: What really was the motivation to -- if the motivation is what they state it is in that ridiculous op-ed, they failed miserably. They missed the mark completely. I think the motivation was to sow discord and create chaos and I refuse to be a part of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Motivation is a big factor here, isn't it? Why, why do you think the author wrote this op-ed? Was it to create chaos as Kellyanne Conway suggests, or was it to assure voters there were adults in the room to stop the president from making some catastrophic mistake? And if that was the motivation, what possible purpose does it serve to reveal it instead of quietly continuing to do that?

LINDSTAEDT: Right. I mean, we could speculate about a lot of different things. In the end, whether it was intended or unintended, it has created chaos.

I do think that the motivation was probably to try to convince voters, reassure voters for the upcoming midterm elections that there are adults in the room, that there are adults steering the ship correctly, that all of the positive things that have taken place from the Republican standpoint have been due to the people that are surrounding Trump, not due to Trump himself.

And so they are probably trying to communicate to voters, don't not vote for Republicans in the midterm elections just because you think that Trump is maybe inadequate or not doing a particularly good job.

But in terms of what the consequence have been, I mean, it's been just incredibly chaotic in the administration even more so than normal because there is basically a witch-hunt going on trying to figure out who possibly wrote this. And we've seen that, you know, it's really put the administration in a further tailspin.

CHURCH: Yes, and of course, some Trump supporters are even going so far as to suggest who they think is responsible for writing this op- ed. Why would they do that? Who do you think wrote the op-ed?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, I think it's pretty normal for people to try to figure out who they think did it, that there was someone in the administration that didn't like Trump, something along those lines.

I mean, based on what happened with the Woodward book, it appears to be -- that there are a lot of people in the administration that don't think highly of President Trump, that think he is incompetent.

In terms of who I think wrote it, they have sort of narrowed it down to probably someone in national security. I think the tone of the op- ed shows that it's someone who feels that Trump is placing the country in danger in terms of national security.

And so, I had heard a rumor that it could have been the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. It could have been another high member of the cabinet. I don't think it is Mike Pence, even though I think there were some words in there, like lode star to distract or point a finger at him. But my guess is it's someone at high-level national security position.

CHURCH: And this is the problem, of course. There is going to be all this finger pointing, and that can be very demoralizing, cause all sorts of problems in itself.

And, of course, the op-ed came a day after parts of Bob Woodward's book were made public. You made reference to that. This is what the author had to say on CBS Sunday morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR "FEAR": You look at the operation of this White House and you have to say, let's hope to God we don't have a crisis. People who work for him are worried that he will sign things or give orders that threaten the national security or the financial security of the country, or the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: And, of course, the op-ed and Woodward's book do appear to tell similar stories, don't they, of the Trump administration? How likely was it that there was some form of coordination on the part of the op-ed author and how concerned should we all be when we look at some of those quotes from the book and, of course, what was laid out in the op-ed?

[03:15:03] LINDSTAEDT: Well, the New York Times seemed to be claiming that this was just something that was released, not a particular time point, but because the op-ed piece was ready to go. So that would indicate they are saying that there isn't any kind of coordination.

But it is very interesting that both of these pieces, both the Woodward book and the op-ed piece are revealing the same types of things about the Trump administration. That people in the administration are doing something that is unheard of.

They are going around the president, they are circumventing him to ensure that he doesn't sign papers, that he doesn't make bad decisions. And both of these revelations are just incredibly startling.

CHURCH: Natasha Lindstaedt, thank you so much for your analysis and perspective. We do appreciate it.

LINDSTAEDT: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, it is a new theme for a new era. We will tell you about the message Kim Jong-un is sending about the future of his country and its relations with the United States.

And Serena Williams is pushing back against what she sees as double standards in tennis after a chaotic U.S. Open title match.

We're back in just a moment.

[03:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wants to send a message to the world and the United States. That message? Less emphasis on the nuclear threat and more on future prosperity.

During celebrations of the country's 70th anniversary, North Korea showed off its might but not its long-range missiles. Instead, there were messages on the economy and diplomacy.

The new theme wasn't lost on U.S. President Donald Trump who tweeted this. "Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong. There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other."

Well, our Paula Hancocks is following the story from Seoul and joins us now live. Paula, you covered the mass games in 2013. Talk to us about the major differences that you see five years later and how significant is the absence of long-range missiles in that celebration? PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, certainly from the

mass games point of view, it was very different five years ago when I was in Pyongyang. It was definitely a military message.

At that point, of course, it wasn't the 70th anniversary of the founding of the nation which like this time around. Then it was the 65th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, a day which North Korea calls victory day as they tell their people that they won that war.

So it was inevitably going to be a much more military-focused event. But it was focused on the missile, the nuclear capabilities that North Korea was building up that Kim Jong-un is really staking his credibility on at that point.

But it was a very different situation from the images you can see from the mass games, the fact that it was focused more on the economy. So, the message has completely changed. And the parade itself, the fact that there were no ICBMs, these inter-continental ballistic missile North Korea says can hit the United States.

The fact there were no images or suggestions of the nuclear capabilities of North Korea is significant as well. If they had been included, they would have been seen as provocative.

The fact they haven't been is certainly going to be shown as another indication that Pyongyang is saying that it wants to focus on the economy and has moved beyond this program, which it believes to be in a suitable state to leave it at.

But what we are also seeing as well is in these mass games is the fact that the North and South Korean leaders meeting, Kim Jong-un meeting President Moon Jae-in in April, that was beamed on large projectors within this stadium and there was applause when those images were seen of Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in shaking hands. This was just over a week now before the next meeting between these two leaders.

So, certainly, that was a significant moment as well and one that the South Korean government has welcomed, saying that they're happy to see that this was -- this was one of the images.

CHURCH: Yes, we shall see if it all stays on track. Our Paula Hancocks reporting live in Seoul, South Korea, where it is nearly 4.30 in the afternoon. We appreciate that.

Well, the chief executive of U.S. multi-media giant CBS has resigned. Les Moonves is facing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, which he denies.

Our CNN's Brian Stelter reports. The departure of Moonves is one of the most significant moments yet for the Me Too movement.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Of all the Me Too cases in the past year there has not been one like this. Les Moonves is the first Fortune 500 CEO to leave his post amid harassment allegation in this year of Me Too. It's a remarkable turn of events given that six weeks ago when the

first harassment allegations against him came out, he vowed to fight on. Back then in late July when Ronan Farrow's reporting came out, the CBS board basically stood by Moonves. He wasn't suspended. He was not forced to step down.

Instead, two law firms were hired to investigate the allegations. And all of this was going on amid a corporate tug-of-war between Moonves and the controlling shareholder of CBS Shari Redstone.

So now fast forward six weeks. Farrow heard from more women, more accusers who were concerned that CBS was not taking action, was not holding Moonves accountable.

Farrow published a new story on Sunday morning on the New Yorker web site. Just within a few hours, Moonves was out.

Now, the caveat here, the complication is that the negotiations for him to leave were already underway at that point, but it seems clear that the new harassment allegations which also included allegations of assault, which were even more disturbing than the first set of allegations, all of that a major factor in this Sunday night announcement.

Moonves is one of the most powerful men in TV, one of the highest paid executives in the media business. So this is leaving a lot of aftershocks. There are going to be developments for days to come, including about how much Moonves is going to be paid on the way out the door.

Normally he would have been paid well over $100 million if he had just been forced out one day. But because of the allegations against him, it's going to be a much more complicated and legal conversation.

[03:25:09] Now, Moonves has admitted to some mistakes in his past, but he denies ever abusing his power and he denies what he calls the appalling accusations of assault, of forcible sex that were detailed in the New Yorker story earlier on Sunday.

All of this happening at a time of dramatic change in the broadcast business, and now CBS moves into a new era without Moonves in charge of the company. Much more to come on this, but it is a climactic moment in the Me Too movement.

Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: Serena Williams is fighting back against what she says is sexism and double standards in the tennis world. The U.S. Open has fined which Williams $17,000 for three code violations during the women's singles final on Saturday.

The umpire issued warnings and docked points against Williams for receiving illegal coaching, smashing her racket, and calling him a thief. Williams later called the rulings unfair and argued that men do and say far worse on the court without punishment. Williams lost the title match to Japan's Naomi Osaka. Well, on the men's side, Novak Djokovic collected his third U.S. Open

crown Sunday with a win in straight sets over Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro. Djokovic's victory over the 2009 gave the Serbian his 14th Grand Slam title overall. That puts him in a tie with Pete, American Pete Sampras on the all-time men's leader board trailing only his two contemporaries and greatest rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Well, the U.S. is just weeks away from critical midterm elections and with scathing accounts of White House dysfunction in the headlines. We will look at the potential for a power shift in Congress.

Back with that in just a moment.

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[03:30:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: Welcome back everyone. I'm Rosemary Church. Let's update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour.

The people along the U.S. east coast are stocking up with emergency supplies ahead of Hurricane Florence. The storm is expected to grow to a powerful Category 4 before it makes landfall. If it stays on its current track, that will be on Thursday or Friday.

More than a thousand people were detained in Russia on Sunday amid nationwide protests against pension reform. That's according to a monitoring group. Images appear to show a child and a pensioner being grabbed by police. Many Russians, even backers of President Vladimir Putin are upset about to raise the retirement age.

Police in Paris have arrested a man they say stabbed seven people. Four are critically injured. According to local media, bystanders started chasing the man throwing game balls at him. He then reportedly threw an iron bar back at them. Officers eventually caught up with him. One official tells CNN this does not appear be to be terror related.

While the White House works to quash reports of chaos in the Trump administration, both Republicans and Democrats are gearing up for November's midterm elections now less than two months away. They are being viewed as a pivotal referendum on President Trump's leadership. Tom Foreman explains how much is at stake.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Presidents elected every four years in this country and halfway through each term comes the midterm elections what that means is in the U.S. House of Representatives, all 435 seats are up for grabs and about a third of the 100 seats in the Senate are too.

Right now, the Republicans are in charge of both chambers and there are a lot of complicated equations about how the Democrats might be able to take back control in one or both of them. But here's all you really need to know, On the House side as the Democrats conflict, 23 seats in their favor,

they would take charge. And on the Senate side, if they could net two more seats, they would be in charge there too. But the Democrats are defending so many of their own on that side the math seems pretty challenging.

Midterms are seen as referendums on the president. And this one has been particularly polarizing. To watch for potential flips in areas where Democrats are up in arms, where Republicans have weak majorities and importantly where independents are frustrated with the White House. If enough seats flip, big changes could follow.

Start with legislation on the House side. Republican hopes for a new immigration laws or trade deal or welfare reform or social security reform or even new tax laws could all come to a stop dependent on Democratic support to get them going again. And if by chance the Democrats could flip the Senate that could play havoc with the administrations plans for stacking the judiciary.

Right now the Trump administration has been marching conservative justices on to benches across this country, but for the Supreme Court on down that could come to a screeching halt unless they were willing to make them more moderate voices that Democrats could support.

Of course the president could have much bigger problems. If the Democrats seize either chamber they could reinvigorate all sorts of investigations into him and his cabinet, subpoenaing witnesses, compelling testimony into allegations of election meddling and of conflicts of interest and possible misuse of tax money, sexual improprieties, controversial policies and so much more.

They may not be able to prove anything. Just like they might not have the bigger question of impeachment and not be able to prove anything there ot get a conviction. But they can make it very humiliating and time consuming for the president. And these elections could determine whether any or all of that comes to pass.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Our Tom Foreman reporting there.

Another story we're watching closely, a right wing party with neo-Nazi roots is set to become a bigger political force in Sweden, one of the world's most liberal countries. The anti-migrant Sweden Democrats did not manage to become Sweden's second largest party, but they secured their best results ever.

[03:35:01] The far-right party could also end up being the king maker as the two centrist coalitions are separated by less than half a percentage point. And our senior international correspondent Atika Shubert joins us now live from Stockholm with more on this.

So Atika, while the outcome of this election is too close to call at this point, what's behind Sweden's surge in support for the far-right? And what impact will that right wing party have on who takes power? ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's

clear is that the Sweden Democrats have really split the vote. I mean, this is what Swedes are waking up to this morning. The headline says dead heat. It has the Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and his would-be rival, Kristersson here, Ulf Kristersson. And what this shows is that it's really been tough for the prime minister.

This is what the other half of the story is, the loss of the Social Democrats' votes and that's what this headline says. Voters punish the Prime Minister Lovfen. Is he going to be able to keep on the government? The key really is with that Sweden Democrats' vote. And what they did was during the campaign, they really appealed to the concern of Swedish voters.

That the welfare state they're so proud of, that has been so generous to Swedes and immigrant alike is under threat. We went to Gothenburg, Sweden's second largest city and we watched him campaign. He's -- Jimmie Akesson is the leader of the Swedish Democrats. He's a charismatic speaker and he talked about taking back control of the country. He talked about surge in crime rates in urban areas particularly in immigrant neighborhoods.

And his overwhelming message was, no more immigrants to Sweden. So he really tapped into a fear. And it did get him about 18 percent of the vote. But the other flip side of the story is that nearly 80 percent of Swedish voters did not want the Swedish Democrats. What they can't decide on is really who should be leading their way of the country and it's not clear that the current prime minister, Stefan Lovfen, is going to be able to hang onto that.

CHURCH: So how is this likely to play out? What are the possible scenarios here?

SHUBERT: Well, the reality is it is too close to call so we're going to have to wait until Wednesday when the official vote count is in and that's when we'll finally be able to see a break down of exactly who gets what seats, which parties get what. Now, there's probably already some back door negotiations happening right now, but the key is going to be with the prime minister.

He's been called upon to resign. He has refused last night. He said that he would remain as prime minister and he was confident of forming a new government, but it's not clear he has the votes at this point.

CHURCH: Many thanks to our Atika Shubert joining us live from Stockholm where it is nearly 9:40 in the morning. Thank you so much.

With just over six months until Brexit, Britain's former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, is giving some strong indications that he wants Prime Minister Theresa May's job. In the tabloid newspaper, "The Mail" on Sunday, Johnson blasted Mrs. May's handling of Brexit negotiations.

He writes, the prime minister has, quote, "wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution and handed the detonator to the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. Some of Johnson's backers reportedly are working to trigger a no confidence vote against Mrs. May in parliament.

Well, a ground offensive still hasn't kicked off in Syria's Idlib province. That's according to a government official. The area is the country's last major opposition strong hold. The official says government and Russian war planes are targeted al-Qaeda linked fighters there with, quote, "surgical strikes."

But the White Helmets rescue groups says a toddler was among 27 people killed since Tuesday. And for more, CNNs Fred Pleitgen is in the Syrian capital Damascus. He joins us now live. So Fred, what more are you learning about what's happening on the ground there in Idlib province?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's certainly what everybody here in Syria is looking at. Right now, Rosemary, the things that we've seen, that we've heard over the weekend is that there apparently have been a lot of airstrikes that have gone on especially in the southern fringe of Idlib province.

It is unclear whether that is in preparation for some sort of ground offensive that might happen or whether or not there are other reasons. Like for instance, what that Syrian official told us, that they are conducting airstrikes there against some of those hard line Islamist groups.

So we have seen over the course, I would say, since that summit took place between the Iranians, the Turks and the Russians, that there has been a big expansion of those airstrikes, especially in the southern area of Idlib province. It really seems as though that area is the one that is being pounded.

Now of course you just mentioned some of the opposition groups and also the White Helmets as well are saying that some of these strikes have been hitting some civilian facilities including hospitals as well. So far we haven't gotten any comment from the Russians or and the Syrians about that.

[03:40:09] But certainly we do see that this expansion of airstrikes has really been continued since that summit took place on Friday. There were more airstrikes going on Saturday than Sunday. It was expanded even more than that. So whether or not that is a prelude to anything, whether or not there is other reasons for that is something we're going to have to wait and see. But it certainly is something that obviously concerns a lot of people here in Syria and concerns the international community as well, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And Fred, these airstrikes come a day after Russia, Iran and Turkey failed to agree on a ceasefire at their summit in Tehran. So what happens next? What is considered to be the next move here?

PLEITGEN: Yes. That's when the airstrikes started escalating. You're absolutely right. There were airstrikes on Idlib province before that as well but you really saw an uptick in those airstrikes over the weekend especially on Saturday is when they started getting a lot more than they had been before. Now, whether or not that means that perhaps the summit in Tehran was

something that might have failed, whether the leaders there could not come to any sort of agreement, that is still very much up in the air. However, the fact that Syrian officials are telling us that so far the ground offensive, the real offensive on Idlib province has not started yet, that certainly seems to indicate that perhaps there are still negotiations are going on between the sides.

Obviously, between the powers backing either side, the Turks and then of course the Russians and the Iranians on the other side, but then also of course, between the Syrian government and possibly some of the rebel organizations as well. So we're going to wait and see what comes out of that.

But it certainly it seems as though there are still some sort of talks maybe going on, on the ground. Well at the same time of course, the Syrian government very much gearing up and ready to start an offensive any time, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Fred Pleitgen bringing us a live report there from the Syrian capital Damascus where it is nearly 10:45 in the morning. Again, many thanks.

A police shooting of an African-American man in Dallas is renewing the conversation on the use of deadly force. After a public outcry, this police officer has been arrested and charged. She was off-duty when she entered her neighbor's apartment where she allegedly shot and killed 26-year-old Botham Jean.

Now, authorities say the officer maintains she entered the victim's apartment in the mistaken belief it was her own and shot him because she thought he was an intruder. The officer has been released after posting a bond of $300,000.

Well, coming up after this short break, one of China's richest and a most successful business leader calls it a day. We will take a look at what Jack Ma might do next. We're back in just a moment.

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CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Well, the co-founder and executive chairman of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is stepping down. The company says Jack Ma will depart one year from now and be replaced by current CEO Daniel Zhang. CNNs Matt Rivers looks at how far Ma has come and where he might go from here.

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MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jack Ma, one of China's richest men, a giant in tech, a man who has stood side by side with presidents, loves kung fu novels, always has. There is a genre called Wuxia and he says they teach valuable lessons.

JACK MA, CO-FOUNDER OF ALIBABA: Whatever you want to be, a great people, a great company, you have to work very hard. You have to suffer a lot of, you know, terrible things -- (inaudible) and terrible things before you be a hero. It is spiritual. It is spiritual. And think out of box. You have to think out of box to win.

RIVERS: And win he has. It's been 19 years since he co-founded Alibaba and the company that began in the Hung Jo China apartment has grown into one of the largest internet companies in the world. In 2014, Alibaba's $25 billion IPO was then the largest in U.S. history. And financial, the company's finance subsidiary has invested billions of dollars in companies around the globe.

Alibaba's e-commerce site have fundamentally changed the way hundreds of millions of people shop in China and its mobile payment platform revolutionized how people pay for what they buy. All the while, Ma has arguably become the most public face of China's tech boom, a charismatic, often inspiring figure for ordinary people, nicknamed Papa Ma on Chinese internet.

Ma has faced his share of criticism, of course, critics say his company merely copied eBay and thrived only because the communist party wanted it to. China's protectionist policy so the argument goes, ensure that Alibaba had no real competition making its rise not only easier but in some ways inevitable.

There is some truth there, but no matter your view, the facts remain. Alibaba is a juggernaut of a company and its leader is routinely mentioned in the same sentence in other deities of tech, think Jobs or Musk or Gates. And like Gates, Ma says life is about more than a job.

RIVERS: Can you imagine yourself sitting back relaxing?

MA: No. I have so many -- the education, the environment and going around meeting the entrepreneurs. There are a lot of things. Life is so fun. Never, ever focus on one thing. We come to this world, not to work. We come to this world to enjoy life. This is what I believe.

RIVERS: Ma has said he wants to focus more on philanthropy. The former English teacher has always focused on improving education in China. And as for his company, widely considered to have a deep management pool, he told CNN in 2016 that whenever he does step down, it will be in good hands.

MA: Tomorrow is more difficult. The day after tomorrow is beautiful, but most people die tomorrow evening. So we have to realize that good things can never be achieved easily. Life is not about only about Alibaba. I have run my first row (ph), first 100 meters. I should give this to the next generation.

RIVERS: Matt Rivers, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Ahead of an emotional 9/11 anniversary, a missing piece of the New York City subway is finally restored. We'll have the details for you after this short break.

Plus, a sobering thought for fans of Australian wine. How a drought is impacting both the quantity and quality of the country's grape harvest. We're back with that in just a moment. [03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's Pedram Javaheri here for CNN Weather Watch, watching what's happening across the eastern United States. We weather kind of starts the week and looks very likely to end the week as well across much of the eastern United States as a frontal boundary locked in place will bring you some showers across most definitely populated corner of the U.S.

So if your flights do take you across say New York and to Boston there, it could see a few disruptions there as it relates to some gusty winds and storms are slated into the afternoon. Its 20 degrees in New York City. We'll go with wet weather. Montreal a couple degrees cooler at 18. Chicago finally beginning to feel maybe a hint of autumn come back. Maybe it will come back to stay across some of these regions, about 23 degrees there.

How about what's going on down towards the western Caribbean, not far from the Cayman Islands, 30 percent chance of formation. Pretty wet weather across this region but we expect the system to push off to the north and west eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico. And if it does, it looks to be predominantly a rain maker for northern areas of Mexico.

And also southern Texas, but beyond that, pick your choice. We've got a trio of a Category 1 hurricane sitting out there from Florence to Isaac to Helene and a 40 percent chance the formation. The most notable at least on this hour has to be what is happening with Hurricane Florence because we expect rapid intensification an environment that is very, very conducive for that to occur.

And unfortunately, a potential major hurricane landfall on the eastern United States so we'll follow that. Also following Olivia as it approaches towards the Hawaiian Islands.

CHURCH: Forty chimes representing 40 fallen people ring out at a new 9/11 memorial in Pennsylvania. The 93-foot tower of voices was unveiled Sunday. The chimes honor the passengers and crew who died when the high-jacked flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.

Also in time for this year's anniversary, New York City has restored a subway station that's been closed since the 2001 terror attacks. The new Cortlandt Street Station is decorated with words of freedom and inspiration -- re-opened just ahead of the 17th anniversary of 9/11.

One of the worst droughts in recent memory is having a big impact on Australia's wine industry. But for some wine lovers, the glass is still half full, because while the wine yields will be smaller, they will also be sweeter. Lynda Kinkade has the story.

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LINDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The price of that glass of red might get a bit harder to swallow if you're a fan of Australian wine. The worst drought in the last time is impacting wineries in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. [03:55:05] And without proper rainfall, it will be a smaller harvest.

Well, that's bad for quantity. It's great for quality. The fruit that survives will be packed with flavor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We totally reliant on weather and climate here. So, yes, the dryer years we have less yield, increased quality.

KINKADE: Weather experts say that much of the soil in the eastern wine region is considered dry or very dry. If the withering conditions continue, cost could get a little tipsy in a multi-billion dollar business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A great price have been fairly stabilized sort of five to 10 years, but the less fruit that's going to be out there this year, it will force the wines to pay a high price.

KINKADE: In the meantime grape growers are irrigating the fields to compensate for the lack of rain. Some hoping mother nature will soon serve up a drink of her own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, there's a great sign that an inch from the sky is like 12 inches from the hose. And that's a very true statement. So if we can get proper rain, that would be perfect.

KINKADE: Winemakers on the west coast have had better luck and less dry conditions which should help the country's overall yield. But for the vintners in the eastern south, it's both sober and sweet, as the grapes that make it to bottle will most likely be worth storing in the cellar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you got to -- I would say make a bit more, brings your cost down a fraction. (Inaudible) a bit more but you got to balance it out.

KINKADE: Lynda Kinkade, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me any time on twitter @RrosemaryCNN. Love to hear from you. "Early Start" is next for our viewers here in the U.S. and for everyone else, stay tuned for more news with Max Foster in London. Have yourselves a great day.

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