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Washington Post: Sessions Discussed Trump Campaign with Russian Ambassador; Sean Spicer Steps Down as White House Press Secretary; Middle East Violence; Protests in Poland; Russia Investigation; Minneapolis Chief of Police Steps Down; Florida Police Recommending Charges for Five Teenagers. Aired 4-5a ET
Aired July 22, 2017 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A new report from "The Washington Post" contradicts the U.S. attorney general, who previously insisted he did not discuss U.S. presidential campaign issues with the Russian ambassador.
Plus: this, the end of the line for the president's much-maligned spokesman, Sean Spicer resigns after another shake-up at the White House.
And new violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories. We have the very latest from the region.
Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
HOWELL: It's 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. Welcome around the world. Several stories we're following out of Washington this hour.
First, some potentially damaging new information about U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions. "The Washington Post" reports Russia's ambassador to the U.S. told his bosses in Moscow that he discussed, quote, "campaign-related matters" with then-senator Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race.
Their information coming from U.S. intelligence intercepts. If true, this new information directly contradicts what Sessions said about his meetings with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
Here's the second story we're following. Another unexpected turn of events involving these two men, Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort.
A Senate committee investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election has struck a deal with the men, allowing them to avoid making appearances in high-profile, public hearings that would take place next week. In exchange, Trump Jr. and Manafort have agreed to provide records to
the panel and to be privately interviewed ahead of any public session.
Then this, a shake-up at the White House communications staff. The press secretary, Sean Spicer, he has resigned. After six months of sparring with the media, sparring with reporters, defending the president, Spicer calling it quits on Friday.
He resigned after President Trump hired New York financier and staunch supporter, Anthony Scaramucci, as communications director.
So let's take a closer look first at this new reporting by "The Washington Post," about the U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions, who, again, is under fire for his contacts with Russian officials,
"The Washington Post" reporter Adam Entous spoke with my colleague Anderson Cooper about this latest report that threatens to further undermine Sessions' credibility. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM ENTOUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": We knew about the meetings. We knew about them in March, that Sessions did not disclose them when he appeared for his confirmation hearing.
We were trying to figure out, what was the nature of those contacts, what was being discussed?
So what we've learned is basically what Kislyak sent back to Moscow. This is his account of his conversations, these two conversations, one in April, a second one in July, of his contact with Sessions.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: So while Sessions didn't seem to remember any specifics about these meetings, Kislyak sent back specifics?
ENTOUS: Yes, at the end of his conversations, I assume he gets into his car and goes back to the embassy or back to his residence and then he writes a report. That's the way most ambassadors' diplomats operate.
COOPER: So what did he tell his Russian bosses?
ENTOUS: He told them what he thought they discussed, which was campaign issues; in other words, what the relationship would be like between a future Trump presidency and the Russian government, the kind of thing that Kislyak was under orders from his boss, Putin, to try to get information about.
Kislyak was doing exactly his job, which is basically meeting with people in the Trump campaign, trying to get information about how that campaign would actually deliver on some of its rhetoric during the campaign, if it was elected. And so that way Putin can make a decision about what he thinks of this relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: Important to point this out: while it's possible that Kislyak was boasting or misrepresenting Sessions' statements to impress the Kremlin, U.S. officials familiar with Kislyak say that it would be out of character for this long-time ambassador to give Moscow a misleading report.
Now in the wake of "The Post's" reporting, the U.S. Intelligence Department said this, quote, "The U.S. attorney general stands by his testimony from just last month before the Senate Intelligence Committee, when he specifically addressed this and said that he never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election."
Compare that information to what Sessions said back in March of this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-ALA.), U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me be clear. I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.
SESSIONS: And the idea that I was part of a, quote, "continuing exchange of information" during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government is totally false. That is the question that Senator Franken asked me at the hearing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: All right, that is Jeff Sessions back then. Let's bring in Leslie Vinjamuri now. She is a senior lecturer of international relations at SOAS University of London.
It's great to have you with us as always, Leslie, here on the show.
LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you, George.
HOWELL: We just heard Jeff Sessions a moment ago. Let's start with this new reporting that directly contradicts these stories that continue to change from the U.S. attorney general, who first said that he didn't have meetings, then said that he didn't have meetings about the campaign or policy issues.
What does all this mean for Jeff Sessions?
VINJAMURI: Well, there has been a cloud hanging over Jeff Sessions on this particular issue for some time. And, of course, the timing of this particular release is very notable.
Remember that, on Thursday, Jeff Sessions had to respond to "The New York Times" interview, in which Donald Trump said that he wouldn't have appointed him had he known that Sessions was going to recuse himself. And then within a day and a half we see this leak. And so one of the
interesting questions, there are a couple of questions here, one is, is Jeff Sessions, how much is he lying, what's the veracity of these reports, what was the exact content of those conversations?
Was it about interference, Russian interference in the elections?
Was it about sanctions over Crimea?
What exactly was being discussed?
So there's a question of whether or not he's being honest.
But there's also a second question which is very significant, which is where did this intelligence come from, who is leaking?
This is a very significant thing for the intelligence. If it came from the intelligence community, it's a very significant thing to be leaked.
And to see this right on the back of the president making such harsh comments to "The New York Times" about Sessions and Sessions saying that he wasn't planning to resign, it suggests that there might be something going on, that this is a man who's now being forced out.
And remember that this is very significant because Jeff Sessions is very important to Donald Trump's policies, he's important to his base. He was the first person confirmed; he's taken a very tough on immigration stance, tough on crime.
So he's somebody that initially Donald Trump absolutely wanted to be part of his team. So this is a very significant turn, raises a lot of issues.
HOWELL: Leslie, you talk about that interview, the president talking about his attorney general. I want our viewers to have a chance to listen to that. We can talk about this here on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have that -- which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president.
How can you take a job and then recuse himself?
If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said thanks, Jeff, but I can't, you know, I'm not going to take you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: All right, this president makes no bones about it. Loyalty is the big thing that President Trump values. He question why Jeff Sessions would have recused himself, given this very complicated and important investigation that's taking place. The question here is, could this new information, in fact, Leslie, be a gift for the Trump White House, dealing with a rocky relationship certainly between these two men but also all of the legal questions that are facing the president with his attorney general, not really able to have an impact on it?
VINJAMURI: Well, it certainly looks like this is a gift in the sense that it's very difficult to see how the attorney general remains in his current role.
But I think the question that some people have now is why did this intelligence come out at this point in time?
And is there any connection between the aspirations of the president when it comes to Jeff Sessions and the timing of the release -- of this leak?
So where did it come from?
And that's a broader question that I think people are going to be looking at very carefully.
But, of course, you're absolutely right that Trump has been very unhappy that Sessions recused himself because, of course, in his eyes it led indirectly to or directly to the appointment of special counsel Mueller, who is pushing forward very, very hard with these investigations.
And as we've said, they're now looking into whether questions of Donald Trump Jr., of the president's son-in-law and then the presidency, the president is feeling very much under siege. And the questions of loyalty are very grave for him. He's trying to protect his family.
There's been a question of -- that he's raised of whether or not he could actually pardon people. So the president, I think, is burrowing down and thinking about how to really manage this. But again, the broader context here I think is tremendously important. There are multiple things --
VINJAMURI: -- that is shifting the president away from being able to actually push forward his legislative agenda. And again, if you think about the policies that he wants to enact, Jeff Sessions was critical to many of those -- immigration, crime, etcetera.
And now we're probably looking at one of his key members of his initial team probably, in all likelihood, stepping down.
HOWELL: Leslie, you talk about the issue of leaks; President Trump has made it very clear that he wants to crack down on leakers, whether they be from the White House or the intelligence community.
You also suggest this is a leak that certainly could be helpful for the Trump White House but also can't forget the context of the fact that the intelligence community has had a rocky relationship with this president, who has questioned a great deal and even with foreign powers, the work, the hard work that's done by the men and women in the United States in the intelligence community.
VINJAMURI: That's right. So it's a surprising leak. Again, we don't know where it's come from. There's a lot that has still to be confirmed. So one doesn't want to say too much too soon.
But it isn't the kind of leak that we've been seeing in the past. And as you said, the president has taken a very tough line in the intelligence community from before his inauguration.
So now we're seeing a leak that looks like it does support the president's agenda and there are all sorts of questions being raised about where this has come from because it's a very grave thing.
To leak the contents of the conversation that have been collected, presumably by the intelligence community, it's one thing to brief at a high level those who have top secret clearance. Quite another thing to leak it into the public domain. So this is very serious on multiple dimensions.
HOWELL: Leslie Vinjamuri, giving us context on this big story. Thank you for being with us. We always appreciate it.
VINJAMURI: Thank you, George.
HOWELL: Sean Spicer says President Trump didn't want him to leave his job as the White House press secretary but after six months on the job, Spicer resigned on Friday when Mr. Trump hired Anthony Scaramucci as the White House communications director.
On FOX News earlier, Spicer explained his decision to leave. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: He's been very gracious throughout this process. He wanted to bring some new folks in to help rev up the communications operation.
And after reflection, my decision was to recommendation to the president that I give Anthony and Sarah a clean slate to start from so that they can talk about the president's agenda and help move it forward.
He, after some back and forth, understood that the offer that I was making was something that was in the best interest of this administration. I thanked him for the opportunity and I'm looking forward to watching Anthony and Sarah do a tremendous job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Sean Spicer there on FOX News.
And the president tweeted this on Friday night, quote, "Sean Spicer is a wonderful person who took tremendous abuse from the Fake News Media -- but his future is bright!"
For the last few months, Sean Spicer was working as both press secretary and communications director before Mr. Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci. He is a former banker and Trump campaign fundraiser. Our Sara Murray has more.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's high- profile press secretary Sean Spicer resigning in protest today, objecting to the president's decision to hire New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.
Today Sarah Huckabee Sanders relayed a statement from the president, predicting his former staffer has a bright future ahead.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: "I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities. Just look at his great television ratings."
MURRAY (voice-over): The new communications director worked closely with Trump on his transition. He's seen as a strong television personality and a fierce defender of Trump at a time when his presidency is under siege.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I was in the Oval Office with him earlier today. And we were talking about letting him be himself, letting him express his full identity. I think he's got some of the best political instincts in the world and perhaps in history.
MURRAY (voice-over): And he'll report directly to the president.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He did a good job. He's a terrific guy.
MURRAY (voice-over): In his debut at the podium today, Scaramucci defended the president's baseless claim that 3 million votes were cast illegally for Hillary Clinton.
SCARAMUCCI: If the president says it, OK, let me do more research. I don't know. My guess is that there's probably some level of truth to that.
MURRAY (voice-over): Scaramucci's hire is welcomed by Trump's son-in- law, Jared Kushner, and daughter, Ivanka Trump. But other top officials, including key strategist Steve Bannon and chief of staff, Reince Priebus, objected to the move.
Scaramucci downplayed his differences with Priebus...
SCARAMUCCI: We're a little bit like brothers, where we rough each other up once in a while.
MURRAY (voice-over): -- and insisted a little friction was no problem. SCARAMUCCI: We serve his interests. And so if we have a little bit of friction inside the White House as a result of that, it's OK.
MURRAY (voice-over): Spicer was so firmly opposed to the move that he tendered his resignation. He told CNN today, "I wanted to give --
MURRAY (voice-over): "-- the president and the new team a clean slate," and tweeted that he will stay a the White House through August.
Today Scaramucci had only warm words for his predecessor.
SCARAMUCCI: And I love the guy and I wish him well and I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.
MURRAY (voice-over): From Spicer's first briefing at the White House podium, he adopted a combative tone and played it fast and loose with the facts. He turned to faulty statistics to defend the president's inauguration crowd size...
SPICER: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.
MURRAY (voice-over): -- struggled to defend the president's Twitter- happy habit...
SPICER: I'm going to let the tweet speak for itself.
MURRAY (voice-over): -- downplayed an ongoing investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia...
SPICER: If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection.
MURRAY (voice-over): -- and sparred with the press.
SPICER: Please stop shaking your head again.
MURRAY (voice-over): As Spicer prepares to depart after just six months on the job, Sarah Huckabee Sanders stepping up to the Briefing Room podium, leading the first on-camera briefing in nearly a month, as she accepts her new title as White House press secretary.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you.
MURRAY: Now under Sean Spicer's leadership, this Briefing Room became a pretty combative place. But on Friday, Anthony Scaramucci arrived with his New York swagger and a gentler tone for the press.
Will that hold?
Could there be friendlier relations ahead?
Stay tuned. We'll see -- Sara Murray, CNN, the White House.
HOWELL: Sara Murray, thank you.
Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, more violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank. What Israel says inspired a deadly stabbing attack. That story ahead.
And thousands of people are standing up to the Polish government. We'll tell you about the controversial new law that is sparking outrage in the nation. Stay with us.
HOWELL: The latest wave of Middle East violence keeps escalating. Israel says three of its citizens were killed Friday in a brutal stabbing attack. This attack that took place in the West Bank, officials say the assailant was a Palestinian who climbed the fence of an Israeli settlement.
A fourth Israeli was wounded and the suspect was shot and hospitalized. Hamas later appeared to praise the attack on Twitter.
All of this came after days of violence that took place in Jerusalem. Palestinian officials say that three Palestinians were killed Friday in clashes with Israeli forces.
Let's bring in CNN's Ian Lee, following the story in Jerusalem this hour.
It's good to have you with us, Ian.
What more do you know about this gruesome stabbing that took place in the West Bank?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George, it happened last night, when a family was celebrating Shabbat dinner. That's when this 19-year-old assailant was able to infiltrate this West Bank Israeli settlement and carry out this attack.
And as you said, he killed three people; a fourth person is in a hospital. It wasn't until their cries for help that a neighbor with a gun, a member of the military, was able to come over, shoot and injure this assailant.
We're hearing from the Israeli military that the motivation behind this was because of the recent flare-up of violence and the restrictions to the Temple Mount, also known as the Noble Sanctuary.
HOWELL: Ian, you've been covering this.
What more can you tell us about the violence from yesterday?
LEE: Some intense clashes but this has really been building up over the course of a week, George, starting with the previous Friday, when there was the killing of two Israeli soldiers -- Israeli police officers. These new security measures were implemented.
And every night since then, we've seen clashes here in this neighborhood behind me. And yesterday we saw some of the most intense clashes to date.
LEE (voice-over): Tensions turned prayer into protest. Both sides anticipated the violence this Friday, pitting Israeli police against Palestinians. Projectiles filled the air. Israeli police used stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons.
Palestinians throw rocks and fireworks, turning quiet Jerusalem streets into battle zones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just want us to leave the country and we're not leaving. We're going to stay here. They don't know this. There's no way for us to leave. Even if they came out of Jerusalem, there's no meaning for my life after that because everything that belongs to me is here.
LEE (voice-over): The day's violence, paid in blood. Here, the body of a dead Palestinian, leaving the hospital. One of several Palestinians killed in the volley. Hundreds more injured in Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to the Palestinian ministry of health.
Several security officers, too, sustained injuries, according to police.
MICKY ROSENFELD(?), ISRAELI POLICE: All the police units and the Israeli national police units responded to disturbances in Ras el- Amoud, Wadi Joz, Issawiya, where our police units are located, and are responding, using non-lethal weapons after both stones and fireworks have been fired directly at our police officers.
LEE (voice-over): This cycle of violence began over a week ago, with the killing of two Israeli policemen. New security measures around the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, infuriated Palestinians, who accuse Israel of trying to expand their control and limit access to al-Aqsa mosque.
"We all know al-Aqsa is for Muslims," Ali tells me. "The occupation crossed all the red lines. Those metal detectors prevent us from our right to pray freely."
Israel's prime minister insists he has no plans to change the rules governing the holy complex. Netanyahu says he'll stick to the status quo.
Meanwhile, authorities have deployed thousands of extra security personnel in and around Jerusalem. The violence seen here also playing out across the West Bank.
LEE: The police are pushing the protesters away from the Old City. You can see, here on the ground, pieces of concrete and rocks that they're throwing at the police.
The police are using stun grenades and rubber --
LEE (voice-over): -- bullets to push them back but it's really been this game of cat-and-mouse.
LEE (voice-over): Police captured a number of protesters, more than 2 dozen arrested in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Police say the day's actions were designed to keep the peace.
But in a land where violence begets violence, clashes won't likely end the current turmoil. It's more likely to take a political solution.
LEE: And, George, that political solution seems further off today. Yesterday, we heard from Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, saying he's going to freeze all relations with the Israelis until some sort of solution that he thinks is acceptable is taken.
And that solution is going to be removing the metal detectors from the entrance of the Temple Mount and Noble Sanctuary. So, as of now, it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
HOWELL: All right, 11:25 there in Jerusalem, where CNN international correspondent Ian Lee is following this story for us. Ian, thank you for the reporting.
In Poland, the nation's upper house of parliament has passed a controversial new bill and it has sparked outrage across the country. This was the protest outside parliament as government officials worked on approving the bill early Saturday.
It gives parliament the power now to independently remove and appoint Supreme Court justices. But critics call it a power grab. Our Atika Shubert has this report.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dubbed the Candlelight Revolution on social media, tens of thousands of Poles pour onto the streets in recent days to protest for what many are calling the death of democracy in that country.
A huge crowd gathered outside the presidential palace in Warsaw, demanding the president veto a controversial bill that would overhaul the country's judiciary.
Parliament has already passed the measure. That would force the removal of Supreme Court judges and give lawmakers control over choosing replacements.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something unusual in democratic countries that through one deal all judges comprising of supreme court are dismissed.
SHUBERT (voice-over): Supporters say the changes are needed to make the courts more accountable. But critics call it a move towards authoritarian rule and a power grab by the ruling Law and Justice Party.
Since coming to power in 2015, the staunchly conservative Law and Justice Party has tightened government control over the courts, prosecutors and state media and introduced restrictions on public gatherings.
This latest bill has triggered warnings from the European Union, threatening the possibility of sanctions and suspension of voting rights, something never used before against an E.U. member.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These measures taken by the Polish authorities in relation to the judicial system and the judges greatly amplify the threat to the rule of law.
SHUBERT (voice-over): Recent protests have gone largely unnoticed internationally, amid high-profile visits from British royals, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and from U.S. president Donald Trump, who praised Poland's government during his trip.
TRUMP: A Poland that is safe, strong and free.
SHUBERT (voice-over): Many observers believe, in Poland, one of the first Communist nations to join the E.U., Western democracy now hangs in the balance -- Atika Shubert, CNN.
HOWELL: Atika, thank you,
Still ahead, what the Kremlin is saying after the recent report that the U.S. attorney general discussed campaign matters with the Russian ambassador during the presidential 2016 election. We'll have a report from Moscow ahead.
Plus, protesters in Minnesota demanding answers and some resignations as the outrage grows over a deadly police shooting in the city of Minneapolis.
We are live from Atlanta, Georgia. Across the United States and around the world this hour. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
(MUSIC PLAYING) GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Live on the air in Washington, D.C.; Moscow, Russia; and all point in between. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM worldwide this hour. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you.
HOWELL: We're learning new details about the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Russian court records obtained by CNN show that Natalia Veselnitskaya represented a military unit tied to one of the country's intelligence agencies. Veselnitskaya has previously denied that she was linked to the Kremlin.
Earlier, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked the former Director of U.S. National Intelligence, James Clapper, to weigh in on this new revelation. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: How risky was it for these three Trump associates to meet with this woman during the campaign?
GEN. JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, understanding -- and I guess I'm old school, Cold War warrior and all that. So I have -- just truth in advertising -- great suspicions about the Russians and what they do.
CLAPPER: And a lot of this, to me, had kind of the standard textbook tradecraft long employed by the Russians and -- or the Soviets and now into the Russians.
So I don't find it surprising that these connections are coming out. It would have been a really good idea maybe to have vetted whoever they were meeting with.
I think the Russian objective here was, one, to explore, reconnoiter to see if there was interest in having such a discussion on offering up, of course, dirt on Hillary Clinton. And somehow, you know, at least create the optic or the image of, at least, ostensibly, plausible deniability.
And this is a typical Soviet-Russian tradecraft, to approach to the soft approach and, if possible, to co-opt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Again, that was James Clapper speaking with my colleague, Wolf Blitzer, at the Aspen Security Conference.
Russia's foreign minister is taking a sarcastic view of the controversy surrounding President Trump's encounters with the Russian president at the G20 summit earlier this month.
We learned just this week, though, that a previously undisclosed encounter took place between the leaders. Critics say that the White House's delay in disclosing that meeting is causing concern. But Sergey Lavrov is, as you'll hear here, making light of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know about President Putin and President Trump meeting three times at the G20. They met obviously for the bilateral; they met at a dinner and they met --
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Maybe they went to the toilet together. That was fourth time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They met also and they were photographed shaking hands. That's my question
Did they meet other times, in the hallways?
Were there other occasions when they met?
LAVROV: When you're brought by your parents to kindergarten, do you mix with the people who are waiting in the same room to start going to a classroom?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the G20 summit, not a kindergarten.
LAVROV: But the results of a room where they get together before an event starts, they cannot arrive all at the same time on a bus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Let's get the Russian view on all of this. CNN's Clare Sebastian, live in the Russian capital.
Maybe they met at the toilet, he says. The Russian foreign minister taking a notably sarcastic response here, Clare, about additional informal meetings between Presidents Trump and Putin. But, again, this is pretty serious questions that are arising here in the United States, seemingly dismissed on that side.
CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, George. And this is what we've seen from the Russian side throughout this. They've sought to kind of roundly dismiss any controversies surrounding the second meeting, saying it was nothing more than just the normal course of events at big meetings like the G20, that countries meet bilaterally on the sidelines, whether formally or informally.
In fact, the Kremlin spokesman took to Russian television earlier this week, saying that Putin views this as political schizophrenia. As for Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, this is certainly not the first time he's made jokes or made light of Russian-related controversy swirling around Washington. But I think it's fair to say that it's not a laughing matter for the
Kremlin. There are serious issues that, in their view, still constrain that relationship. We know that they, for example, are working to secure the return of two of their diplomatic compounds in the U.S. that were seized in a round of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration back in December.
Sergey Lavrov has called that robbery in this past week. So, yes, they're making light of it. Yes, they're dismissing that second meeting as nothing more than the normal course of events. But certainly they still see serious issues that seek to interrupt any improvement in that relationship.
HOWELL: Clare, I want also to ask you about a new report coming in about Sergey Kislyak and the U.S. attorney general. Remind our viewers first of all about the many meetings that happened and how they came to light and now what's happening with Kislyak next?
SEBASTIAN: Absolutely. Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington, has really been at the center of a lot of the controversy surrounding allegations of potential collusion between the Trump team and Russia, not just meeting with Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, but also Jared Kushner.
There was a report by "The Washington Post" back in May that Jared Kushner had, in fact, asked to set up a secret line of communication through Russian embassy in Washington. And of course, most explosively perhaps was the conversations between Kislyak --
SEBASTIAN: -- and Michael Flynn, the then national security adviser, who apparently spoke to Kislyak back in December just after the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia over alleged meddling in the U.S. election. It was only later disclosed that those sanctions were discussed in that conversation.
And of course that precipitated the early firing of Michael Flynn. But Russia has throughout this staunchly defended its ambassador, saying that it's his normal work to meet with officials in Washington and have called this, in many cases, and echoing the Trump administration have called this a witch hunt; McCarthyism is another phrase that we've heard.
But as for Sergey Kislyak, he has, in fact, come to the end of his tenure of the ambassador to Washington, the Russian embassy in Washington tweeted out pictures of a farewell event for him at the embassy on Friday night. He is expected back in Moscow today -- George.
HOWELL: And, Clare, let's also talk lastly about the Russian court records, which show the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. represented a military unit tied to one of the country's intelligence services.
A moment ago, we heard the former DNI, James Clapper, speak about his thoughts on possible objectives, motives.
She has responded.
What did she have to say?
SEBASTIAN: All right, George, she has taken to Facebook and said that, you know, she has represented all kinds of different people from Russia entrepreneurs to state organizations and even American citizens.
She said. stop wasting time, find something useful to do, her response to people who are looking into her past and trying to dig up things about her. But it should be noted that both she and the Kremlin have denied they have any relationship, the Kremlin even saying that they didn't know about her, didn't know this meeting was taking place.
And these court records show that she represented a military unit tied to the FSB, which is the Russian security service, the successor to the KGB. She represented them in a property dispute involving a Moscow property. That case went from 2005 to 2013.
But it doesn't show any formal relationship with her and the Russian security services. But she has said that she's willing to testify in the Senate if called to do so, so there may be more to her side of the story still to come out -- George.
HOWELL: Getting close to noon there in the Russian capital, Clare Sebastian reporting. Thank you for the report today.
We're following the tragic shooting of an Australian woman in the city of Minneapolis. We now know that the police chief in that city is stepping down. But some activists are making it clear, that's not enough.
HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.
The chief of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has stepped down over the recent death of an Australian woman. The victim had called officers to report a possible crime near her home.
Instead, she was shot by one of the responding officers and now her family and activists are demanding answers and they're expressing their anger. Our Ryan Young has more.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An explosive night in Minneapolis, Mayor Betsy Hodges trying to talk about her changing the police chief, a position that she believes needs new leadership.
But protesters weren't hearing that. In fact, they made their way into the locked city hall, made their way into the news conference and then took it over.
When Justine Ruszczyk was shot and killed, the police chief here, Harteau, was not in town. In fact, she didn't come back from vacation for four days. And that was too much for the city to handle. There's been a lot of conversation about what's been going on for days in terms of that.
In fact, she was posting vacation pictures. And that had many people in the city calling for change. In fact, city council members believe they had more control over city departments and not the police department.
This afternoon, the mayor said she asked the police chief to step down.
BETSY HODGES, MAYOR OF MINNEAPOLIS: As far as we have come, Chief Harteau is not in a position to lead us further. Both the chief and I concluded we need new leadership at MPD.
YOUNG: Despite all the drama at city hall, we learned that the state investigators were able to talk to the man riding a bicycle nearby just after the shooting happened. In fact, he witnessed officers trying to help Justine Ruszczyk in that alleyway.
Police have now been able to identify him. They haven't told us who that man is just yet. As investigators still work through this case, they tell us there may be some more updates later on.
But what we do know is Mohamed Noor, the officer involved in this case, and his attorney have still yet to talk to investigators -- Ryan Young, CNN, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
HOWELL: Ryan Young, thank you.
We have a sickening story to tell you about coming out of the U.S. state of Florida. A group of teenagers appear to have discovered a man drowning. But instead of helping the victim, they mocked him. They recorded his death on a phone.
Our Nick Valencia has more. We warn you, going into this story, the report contains graphic images.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the water. You going to die.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A blatant disregard for human life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We not going to help your (INAUDIBLE). You fixing to die.
VALENCIA (voice-over): A group of Florida teens taunt a drowning man while filming his final moments from afar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ain't nobody's going to help you, you dumb (INAUDIBLE). You shouldn't have got in there.
VALENCIA (voice-over): In the two-minute-long video clip, the five teen boys between the ages of 14 and 16 can be heard laughing as the man struggles to stay afloat in a pond in Cocoa, Florida.
Rather than call for help, the teens recorded the incident on a cell phone, chuckling while they watched the man die. They say this when the man goes under water and doesn't resurface.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God, he just died.
VALENCIA (voice-over): The state of Florida currently does not have a law where a citizen is obligated to render aid for anyone in distress or call for help. Both Cocoa police and the state attorney's office say they are frustrated no one can be held accountable in this incident.
"We are deeply saddened and shocked at both the manner in which Mr. Dunn lost his life and the actions of the witnesses to this tragedy. We can find no moral justification for either the behavior of the persons heard on the recording or the deliberate decision not to render aid to Mr. Dunn."
Police say the victim, 31-year-old Jamel Dunn, got into an argument with his mom and possibly his fiancee the afternoon of July 9th. Ten minutes after the fight was over, police say Dunn scaled a fence surrounding a pond near his family's home and walked into the water. His family reported him missing three days later.
The teens stayed quiet about what they saw so police didn't know where to look. Dunn's body wasn't discovered until five days after his death.
SIMONE MCINTOSH, JAMEL DUNN'S SISTER: I feel like something should be done to them.
I don't care if it's probation or something, it just needs to be an eye-opener. A lesson learned.
VALENCIA (voice-over): The victim's sister posted the video of the drowning on Facebook. In a Facebook Live post, she questioned the teens' humanity.
MCINTOSH: They was -- they could sit there and watch somebody die in front of their eyes --
MCINTOSH: -- well, imagine what they're going to do when they get older.
VALENCIA (voice-over): Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.
HOWELL: Stay with us.
HOWELL: A wildfire in Central California near the majestic Yosemite National Park is sending residents from their home and has thousands of firefighters battling this fire. Let's bring in our meteorologist, Karen Maginnis, following this story -- Karen.
KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: What has happened over the last five days is that this huge wildfire has mushroomed to 75,000 acres or about 35,000 hectares.
This is the location of this and this is knocking on the door of that beautiful park that so many people go to during the summer months because it is so stunning. Hot, dry weather has contributed to the explosion of this wildfire that now is causing about 3,800 firefighters to battle this blaze.
Take a look at these images. This is from the Detwiler fire. Now as I mentioned, it is knocking on the door of Yosemite Park. It already has consumed in excess of 60 homes. They --
MAGINNIS: -- have been destroyed. People are going back to nothing. They've had to escape, they had to flee their homes.
This is very rugged terrain. The hot, dry weather has contributed to it, although firefighters say they don't know what exactly has caused this fire. But certainly weather has caused it to grow exponentially.
Right now, it is only 25 percent contained but that is an improvement compared to what we saw just about 24 hours ago, when it was only 10 percent to 15 percent contained.
Now as I mentioned, people were fleeing from their homes. They're saying that, even in Yosemite Park, that because of this fire, it is threatening the power supply to Yosemite. So folks going in toward this area are being choked by the heavy smoke across this region as well.
However, good news, George, it does appear firefighters are saying they may get a handle because the weather is going to help them, low humidity and lower temperatures.
HOWELL: Let's hope for the best on that, Karen. Thank you so much.
Prince George is looking as cute as ever, you could say. The future monarch turns 4 years old on Saturday. He had an official portrait released ahead of his birthday -- look at that. He has got that toothy grin, big smile, ear to ear.
The young prince just wrapped up a tour of Germany and Poland. He's accompanied, of course, by his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and his sister, Prince Charlotte. The trip is seen by many as an effort at soft power diplomacy amid ongoing Brexit talks.
That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. The news continues here on the network right after the break. Stay with us.