tv CNN Newsroom Live CNN March 17, 2018 2:00am-3:00am PDT
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evolution of sarah sanders. some say she is losing her focus. >> live from laentatlanta, i'm e howell. >> and i'm natalie allen. "cnn newsroom" starts right now. and we begin with a development from one hour ago, moscow is now expelling 23 british diplomatic staff from russia and closing the british council, all in retaliation for the expulsion of 23 russian diplomats from the uk. >> that's right, this move comes as relations between the west and russia grow worse after the poise onk of a formoning of a f spy. the ambassador was summoned to the russian foreign ministry and are here's what he had to say after leaving that meeting. >> we thank for the opportunity
to explain. we ask russia to declare the material [ inaudible ] russia denied it. russia has informed me steps that russia will be taking. as the prime minister made clear, we have no dispute with the russian people and [ inaudible ] but we will always do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our allies and our values against an attack of this sort which is an attack not only on the united kingdom, but the international system on which c defend their countries. >> matthew chance following the story live for us in moscow this hour.
we've always been talking about this symmetrical response, that was expected, but it seems that russia's he being a actions go that. >> reporter: they certainly go beyond the straight mirrored response of 23 diplomats which was expected and which would have been a conventional response in a situation like this. they certainly handed a list according to my sources at the uk embassy here of names, of british diplomats who have been made persona non grata and who now face expulsioexpulsion. but they have gone further than that, they have basically issued a statement which says that the operations of the british council in various cities across russia, this is the cultural institute that oversees educational and artistic programs, that is being stopped. being shut down. but also the consulate general in st. petersburg, russia's
second city, that is also being administrations there also being ceased. and so it goes significantly further than a straight tit for tat response to the british decision earlier this week to expel 23 russian diplomats over that ongoing saga of the nerve agent attack on the streets of salisbury in england. >> all that is happening with a major presidential election playing out in russia. tell us more about that. >> reporter: well, that's right. it is 24 hours from now just under in fact that voting will begin in this country. to choose the next president of russia. but frankly it's not that kind of democratic contest. this is more of an appointment of vladimir putin than it is a proper democratic election in the sense that there is only vladimir putin that stands any chance at all of being elected to the presidency. there are other candidates,
there are eight people in fact standing for the presidency, but none of them are polling even in double digit figures in percentage terms. so vladimir putin is set to be anointed yet again for a fourth term for another six years. and so that has been heavily criticized of course by people that want more democracy in this country. and one of the things that russia will be looking for very strongly is turnout. vladimir putin the russian president made an appeal to the nation just yesterday urging russians to turn out and cast their ballots. and the reason he wants people to turn out is because there is no democratic competition here, he wants to kind of get turnout as a way of offering legitimacy and giving legitimacy to his re-election. and so we'll be watching very carefully how many people feel motivated to turn out in this election and to what extent, we'll be trying to gauge this as well, to what extent this latest
standoff, this attack in salisbury, the standoff with the united states over election meddling, to what extent that is having an impact on vladimir putin's standing in this country. >> yeah, that is the big question, how does that play into the minds of wait and see. thank you for the reporting. a development friday out of washington, fired two days before his retirement, former fbi deputy director andrew mccabe is the latest to get the ax. he was let go friday night by jeff sessions who acted upon a review by the justice department's inspector general. >> the department of justice says mccabe was fired after determining he lacked can a door with investigators reviewing the fbi's probe of the clinton foundation. mccabe denies any wrongdoing. laura jarrett has more on the story from washington. >> reporter: for over a year president trump has used an ddy
mccabe as a political punching bag but he's now firing bag. in a blistering public statement, mccabe saying in part i'm being singled out and treated this way because of the role i played, the actions i took and the events i witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of james comey and just two hours after mccabe's firing late on friday, a presidential tweet arrived with trump calling it a great day for the hard working men and women the fbi, a great day for democracy. trump went on to say sanctimonious james comey was his boss and made mccabe look like a choir boy. he knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the fbi. but the back story underlying mccabe's termination here is a bit more complicated. cnn had reported earlier this week that mccain i go on wbe wat of a blistering internal review conducted by the yus tis department and the fbi about
accusations that he misled investigators about his role in approving other fbi officials to talk to the press about an investigation back in 2016 into the clinton foundation. now, mccabe says he never misled investigators and he did nothing wrong. but attorney general jeff sessions confirmed at least in part those internal reviews late on friday saying those reports concluded that mr. mccabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor, including under oath on multiple occasions. as for mccabe, the loss at the chance of early retirement is perhaps the most serious blow because he was fired on friday when he was 49, he did not make to 50 and that means he will lose out on at least a significant portion of his pension. laura jarrett, cnn, washington. >> a lot to talk about and let's
break it down with our political analyst and professor of political science at cypress college, peter matthew, plus our cnn law enforcement cribber aco, steve moore. gentlemen, good to have you both with us. what an hour it is as these big stories tend to break on a friday night going into focus right here. the first question that many people may wake up to ask, is this politically motivated or was this a fair move? the president of the united states has chimed in on this on twitter here within the last few hours. let's read it from the president. he says andrew mccabe fired, a great day for the hard working men and women of the fbi, a great day for democracy. sanctimonious james comey was his boss and made mccabe look like a choir boy. he knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the fbi. so the question, gentlemen, steve first to you, given that tweet, does this look to be fair
or personal? >> well, leaving the tweet aside, it is kind of distasteful. but as an fbi agent, this is the only thing that has made sense to me since this whole thing started when comey started talking about the clinton e-mails. from day one at the academy, it is drummed into us that if you ever lie, if you ever even have a shortfall of candor during an internal fbi investigation, you're gone. they used to say if you're going to rip us off, rip us off for $25 million, not $25 because we'll fire you for either. they fired dozens of agents a year for candor violations and so this -- i mean he knew you do not even shade the truth in an fbi investigation internally. >> all right. and mccabe saying that he was not misleading to investigators, but pete every, trpeter, does i fair or personal? >> i think it is definitely a
political side to it as well. i know what was said is true about the shortfall of candor, but the political side is the president has never left mccabe alone, he's been hammering him for a long time. and that political sbhfrns on a legal question, an issue oftegr good for the organization and you you saw the president slamming the fbi leadership and this is no got for the united states. so we have to wait for the details. mccabe says once he finished the report, then his testimony, then what happened was it was indicated that he was going to go ahead and corroborate comey's testimony about it, comey's claim that he was -- that corroborated that rd was interfe president trump was interesting. so it looked like the president wanted to put mccabe. and that is not good.
>> and all of this related of course to what happened allegedly in 2016 october, mccabe allegedly authorizing information to be leaked to a reporter at the "wall street journal." mccabe is speaking out. he says here is the reality, i'm being singled out and treated this way because of the role i played, the actions i took and the events i witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of james comey. but we see mccabe again speaking freely here. what difference will that make, peter first to you, what difference will it make with the overall investigation? >> it will make a difference in the public perception of the investigation, the fairness of it, of the politicization or lack thereof. this is what is important, because we do have elections coming up and this is a big political act unfortunately as many of the fbi agents don't want to be political but it has become political and the president is to blame here with
his interferences. so i think it has to do with the public perception. i'll let the other gentleman deal with the fbi aspect of it. >> okay, steve, you know that you you can't speak publicly unless you are authorized to do so. we're seeing mccabe do that right now, make his points very clear. what difference do you think it will make with this investigation? >> well, i agree i think it will make only a public difference. it is not going to make a difference of opinion at all in the fbi. and again i'm not saying that there wasn't politics going on here and that this might not have been a hit. whatever it was, what i am saying though is if you lie or don't even give the full truth in an internal fbi investigation, you're gone. every agent knows that. and so if they were after him, he certainly served himself up on a platter with this one. and the agents are not going to feel too sorry for gloeti gloat
really sad. >> the allegation again that mccabe was not completely truthful with the information, that is front and center here, and the reason for what is happening at this point. but let's talk about the optics. steve, i want to ask you this question, we're talking about a man who has put in a great deal of time, his public service, and now fired two days shy of his retirement. in fact, two days shy of his birthday. the optics there. >> yeah, we all retire on our 50th birthday. i understand the optics are bad here. but there are two sides to it. it is either in some people's eyes the view that trump was going after this guy and wanted to get him before he got out the door. the other view is that when an fbi agent of any level, any rank, lies, if he had retired, there is really nothing you can
do. it is the integrity of the bureau to go after him. that is the other view. so people are going to differ on this. and all i want to tell the public out there is rarlgis reg of what happened politically, if he did lie -- and by the way, opr, i've done opr investigations. for them to believe that he misled them intentionally, they really had to -- they know what it was going to cost him. they empathized. but they went after him and they are not the president. >> peter, talking about mccabes who that certainly been a lightning rod for the president on the mueller investigation, the president tweeting about mccabe several times, one asking why sessions didn't replace mb conta mccabe sooner, a comey friend who was in charge ever clinton investigation but got big dollars, $700,000, for his
wife's political run from hillary clinton and her representatives, grain tdrain tp says the president. as mccabe's star go down for the moment, does sessions' star rise? >> not necessarily. it defend depends how it plays the end. it is true his wife received a lot of money from terry mcauliffe, and this doesn't look good at all for dollar democracy which i wrote my book about. the apparent corruption of money in politics. but in this case mccabe also had -- his wife had a right to run for the state senate despite the fact who her husband was, but there is a perception ever this conflict of interest are or some untoward appearance which should have been avoided at any cost if possible. i'm not sure what mccabe should have done, but maybe recuse position from the whole situation. we'll have to see how the results turn out. >> peter matthews, steve moore, thank you so much.
coming up here, another story involving donald trump, his personal attorney now representing the president in the case against adult film star stormy daniels. and in florida, officials there say someone tried to warn them about that bridge that collapsed on thursday, but they got message too late. that story ahead. stay with us. (vo) all right is in the water... all right is in the air. all right says i do, all right says i dare. all right is how you feel... because all right flows here. only in jamaica. the home of all right.
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involved in the case of porn actress stormy daniels versus donald trump. what makes that important is the attorney represents president trump. that attorney also represented pro wrestler hulk hogan in his lawsuit against gawker and melania trump in her suit against the "daily mail." >> the trump legal team filed a motion to move the case from california state court to federal court. and they claim daniels could owe as much as $20 million for violating a non-disclosure agreement. this comes after daniels' attorney says she's been physically threatened to keep quiet about her alleged affair with mr. trump. daniels' attorney spoke earlier with anderson cooper. >> why would the president of the united states join in an effort for a document -- for a non-disclosure agreement that he himself didn't sign which his attorney apparently just did on his own that had nothing to do with the president for an act
that he said he didn't commit? >> well, i hate to repeat myself, but i'm going to in this instance. oh, what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive. anderson, that is a very good question. it doesn't make any sense. we also now have the threats and it is set forth in the papers the position, if you will, that president trump is going to seek in excess of $20 million damages against my client. this is truly remarkable. i don't know that there has ever been an instance in american history where you had a sitting president carrying out a personal vendetta and seeking in excess of $20 million against a private u.s. citizen who is merely trying to tell her version of the facts. >> legal analyst and author of "made it rain" joining us from los angeles to talk about it. areva martin, thank you for joining us. this is the first time that
attorneys for the u.s. president himself have joined the legal action regarding stormy daniels. what does this tell us? >> it tells us that the white house can no longer deny knowledge of the settlement and of the negotiations that happened with respect to michael cohen and stormy daniels. we've seen this white house deny, deny, deny. deny that there was an affair, deny that the president had any knowledge of the negotiations and the settlement agreement that michael cohen entered into respect to the allegations that stormy daniels was making, that he and the trump administration wanted to keep quiet. the president now is a defendant in a lawsuit and stormy daniels is the plaintiff. so this lawsuit will move forward with both of them as parties and the white house at this point is pretty much all in. >> and his attorneys are claiming she could owe as much as $20 million for violating a non-disclosure agreement. the initial complaint filed by clifford's attorney claims
non-disclosure agreement isn't valid because the lawyer for mr. trump, mr. cohen, signed it on behalf of mr. trump. is that a valid issue or is this a risky move by ms. clifford and her lawyer? >> that is the crux of the issue here, was the settlement agreement entered into between michael cohen, stormy daniels, signed by both of them but not signed by donald trump, is that agreement valid. and stormy daniels' lawyers are taking the position that the absence of trump's signature makes that agreement null and void. and that is what they went into court, they filed an action in court asking the court to basically issue an order saying that they wouere no longer boun by the agreement and essentially saying that the arbitration that was triggered by mr. cohen in fact also isn't valid because of the lack of signature. now, trump's lawyers are claiming that the liquidated damages clause in that non-disclosure agreement which pretty much obligated theory pay
a million dollars every time she disclosed, you know, what is in that non-disclosure agreement, and they are claiming that she made disclosures 20 times. now, i've watched a lot of the broadcasts on this story and what i've heard her say is i can't talk about it. so i'm not sure where they -- how the math is working out, where they are getting these 20 times that she allegedly disclosed information in the nda. >> and she has been asked about it directly on late night tv, other interviews, an interview here on cnn, and she just goes mum. but i want to ask you why have mr. trump's lawyers moved to try this in federal court? >> so federal court and state courts have very different rules of procedure. they are governed very differently. and sometimes lawyers just are more familiar with the court procedures, with the rules of procedure in one court over the other. some lawyers like to be in federal court because the judges tend to be more strict, they enforce the rules more strictly than they do in state court.
also oos we know none of the part i dids here, donald trump, michael cohen, stormy daniels, none live in los angeles county. so in the federal system, when you have parties that are involved in a lawsuit and they are from different states, there is something called jurisdiction based on diversity. because the parties are diverse in terms of their geographic locations, so that gives the defendant in this case the right to say this matter shouldn't be heard by some local state court, this should be heard by a federal court. and also defendants do this as a legal maneuver. they do to disrupt the plan that the plaintiffs had because the plaintiffs picked what they thought to be a friendlier venue. so we'll see if the plan of the trump team to get this into federal court works to their advantage. >> mean time her lawyer remains vigilant. he tweeted this. how can president donald trump seek $20 million in damages from my client based on an agreement
that he and mr. cohen claim trump never was a party to and knew nothing about. the fact that a it is being president is pursuing $20 million against a private citizen who is only trying to tell the public what happened is remarkable, likely unprecedented in our history. we are not going away and we will not be intimidated. what do you think about his comments? >> that has been the claim from the beginning. stormy daniels' attorney has been claiming that this is all about intimidating her, harassing her and preventing from telling what he says is the truth about an affair that happened between her and trump in 2006 and 2007. and from every account, this attorney is not going away. he is not backing down. he is on every cable station pretty much every day telling the same story and what we now know is that stormy daniels herself has given an interview to "60 minutes" that is scheduled to air probably march 25th if it goes as planned where she is supposed to sit down and tell the intimate details not
only of the affair, but efforts by the trump's team to intimidate her even what the lawyer says physically threatened her. so she says she has a lot to tell and she's prepared to do so despite the nda. >> she is taking on a formidable opponent in mr. trump who love as good fight. we'll wait and see what happens next. we thank you so much a rreva mart martin. the president of china xi jinping begins his second and possibly unlimited term. what he is doing to secure his power, we'll explain head. plus another high profile firing in washington, this time andrew mccabe and it happened less than two days before his official retirement. you're watching "cnn newsroom."
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live coast to coast in the united states and to you viewers around the world, you are watching "cnn newsroom." i'm george howell. >> and i'm natalie allen. moscow is expelling 23 british diplomatic staff from russia and closing the british council in russia. the news was delivered about an hour and a half ago. it is all in retaliation for the expulsion of 23 russian diplomats from the uk after the poisoning of a former russian spy in southern england. attorney for stormy daniels says daniels has been physically threatened to keep quiet about her alleged affair with the u.s. president. that comes as the president's attorneys file papers to move daniels' lawsuit from california
state course to u.s. federal court. china's parliament has unanimously reelected xi jinping as expected. he can stay in office indefinitely. they also elected a former anti-corruption chief as the new president trump. he is expected to be influential in shaping trade policy with the united states. and this other major story we're following here in the united states, the developments of former fbi deputy director andrew mccabe fired late friday by the u.s. attorney general, the firing happening less than two days shy of his retirement. mccabe was let go after the department of justice determined that he lacked candor with investigators reviewing the fbi's probe of the clinton foundation. >> mccabe denied any wrong doing and said in a statement that it is part of this administration's ongoing war on the fbi and the efforts of the special counsel investigation which continue to this day. their persistence in this
campaign only highlights the importance of the special counsel's work. mccabe has been regularly taunted by president trump on social media. mr. trump reacted again late friday by tweeting that it was, quote, a great day for the hard working men and women of the fbi. a great day for democracy. let's talk about it with kate andrews, she is a u.s. political columnist for city a.m., a newspaper based in london. kate, good morning and thanks for joining us. first let's talk about the timing of the firing just before he was about to draw a full pension from his two decades at the fbi. the justice department pulls the rug out. >> so sorry, i think i've lost you. >> yes, let's talk about the timing of the firing. just before mr. mccabe was to draw a full pension from his two decades serving at the fbi, the justice department fires him. what about the timing? >> yeah, the timing of it does
seem political really especially because as you say, trump has been taunting him for quite a while now and has gone so far as to suggest that he could be looking at losing his benefits if he were to be fired. so that is a very particular time to remove mccabe. of course if the allegations are true and there has actually been misconduct, then there are questions to be asked if somebody so signor who has potentially misbehaved should receive full benefits footed by the taxpayer. i know has things become even more politically guided, lly dn be controversial. but the criticisms of mccabe could be legitimate as well as the president has handled it. >> we still don't know, we're kind of in the dark over the particulars of this. mccabe contends that this is part of mr. trump's war with the fbi. so the question is, was this a move to undermine the mueller
investigation? >> well, it is really important to remember that the president did not snap his fingers and just have mccabe removed. this was an internal investigation from the justice department's inspector general. he found some findings he wasn't comfortable with, he referred them on to the fbi's office of professional responsibility. and as your former guest steve are moore pointed out, this is an independent body with very high ethical standards. and their priority would have been to find out if mccabe had broken the rules within the fbi which they take very seriously. the public is losing faith in the fbi, i think a lot of that criticism falls at the feet of the president who has publicly tried to undermine the body on multiple occasions. but these independent bodies really need to make sure that when they go to the american people they can say with all certainty this has been carried out in a just and fair and honest manner. and they found allegedly, it hasn't been released yet, but it sounds like they found that mccabe did have misconduct and his candor was not up to scrutiny.
and that is a really big problem. so i think that you can criticize mccain i go on abe an allegations do turn out to be true, it is right that he is removed. that doesn't mean that the president has handled the situation well. he is a bully, he uses his twitter feed to attack those that he politically disagrees with. and actually you could argue that the president has really undermined himself here. if he had stayed quiet, a lot of people might think that the right course of action has been taken, but he's actually pushing scrutiny upon himself because he is making it into a political act. >> right. mccabe would have been a witness for mueller's investigation. he was number two under james comey. so how could this affect the investigation moving forward? >> it is hard to believe that mueller would let this stand in his way of getting the evidence that he needs from mccabe, from comey or from anybody else. i think you actually have to separate the two situations. mccabe could still be a good
witness to whatever james comey experienced. and also in a different investigation has acted poorly. we're focusing right now on the allegations against mccabe and the way he handled the 2016 inquiries into the clinton foundation. that is separate from the russia investigation. i think it is almost very taxing and tiring on the american people that there are so many investigations going on, but they are all very important and we have to find the facts in each and every one. and it might be that mccabe has good information about the russia inquiry and it also might be the case that he got up to misconduct and acted poorly when it came to the clinton foundation. >> we will see if there is more that is revealed about the details of his firing and the investigation into him for sure. kate andrews, always appreciate you joining us. thanks for your analysis. >> thank you. new u.s. sanctions on russia reveal what could be a sinister plot by the kremlin. u.s. officials say russian hackers have targeted the u.s.
power grid. >> they may be getting ready for a cyberattack to cripple the united states. jim sciutto has more on what is at stake. >> reporter: vital u.s. infrastructure including the power grid under cyber threat by russian government hackers. potentially giving the kremlin the ability to turn offer t the lights. department of homeland security and the fbi detailing a two year multistage effort by moscow targeting the u.s. energy grid. the hackers first gained access to small energy related companies, planting malware that allowed them to move into larger networks. once inside the energy suppliers, russians collected information on the facilities' control systems attempting to acquire the ability to turn those systems off. >> they are identifying targets, they are positioning malware so they could pull the trigger when they wanted to. but they are also sending the united states a message, we are
in position to cause harm if we have wanted to do it. and so you the u.s. should be a little more careful. >> reporter: the russians targeted other crucial sectors as well, including nuclear power, water and aviation. they see this as a precursor to an attack that could in the event of war definite investigation taitz t devastate the u.s. >> this is our electricity, our economy is at stake and russians are taking advantage of a very, very weak america that has not been willing to see its commander in chief stand up to the russians. we need a strategy against russia, not oneoff sanctions. >> reporter: ukranian officials say russia did the same to ukraine in 2015, launching an attack on its electric grid led to wide spread power younoutage. rick perry says the u.s. is not ready. >> i will tell you that i am not
confident that the federal government has a broad strategy in place. >> reporter: some democrats say the u.s. response to election interference was not sufficient to deter russia from attacks on other critical infrastructure. >> there should are have been a stronger response in the cyber realm with the russians to say, hey, you bring a knife to this fight, we'll bring a gun. that is the kind of language that putin understands and i'm not sure he understands any other language. >> reporter: the president's nominee to be director of the national security agency and commander of u.s. cyber command shares those fears. >> i would say right now they do not think that much will happen to them. >> they don't fear us? >> they don't fear us. >> reporter: by naming russia as being behind these probing cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, that is one step, it shows russia that the u.s. is on to them in effect. but the u.s. has done that with election interference and the election interference says the director of the cia continues.
there is a debate now in the government about what other steps could be taken including offensive measures to deter russia and stop these attacks going forward. jim sciutto, cnn, washington. the white house says president trump is in comprehensive preparation to meet with north korean leader kim jung-un. next what the north is doing to prepare for that meeting. (vo) dogs have evolved, but their nutritional needs remain instinctual. that's why there's purina one true instinct. real meat #1. a different breed of natural nutrition. purina one true instinct. now, try new purina one true instinct treats. only tylenol® rapid release gels have laser drilled holes. they release medicine fast, for fast pain relief. tylenol®
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that the lead engineer in the bridge's design firm left a voice mail for them on tuesday with this warning -- >> i was calling to share with you some information about the fiu pedestrian bridge and some cracking that has been observed on the north end of the span, the pylon end of that span we moved this weekend. so we've taken a look at it and obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done. but from a safety perspective, we don't see that there is any issue there. >> the bridge which was still under construction fell two days later, killing at least six people. officials say they didn't get the voice mail until friday. the national transportation safety board is investigating the disaster and says it is still too early to tell exactly what caused the collapse. >> and now we're learning about one of the victims. alexa, an 18-year-old university
student, she have driving with a friend when the bridge fell. recovery workers expect to find more victims as they continue searching through the rubble. the diplomatic wheels between north korea and the united states are indeed turning. the north is making a significant diplomatic move by sending its foreign minister to sweden, talks between him and swedish officials have been extended by one day now into saturday. meantime president trump reassured his south korean counter part that he still intends to meet with kim jung-un by the end of may. but the white house is not offering details on how the president is preparing for that meeting. >> and in china the president of that nation xi jinping has been officially reelected as head of start, and this comes as no surprise. the chinese parliament had already voted to abolish presidential tierm limits. >> that means he could potentially rule indefinitely.
matt rivers reports from tiananmen square. >> reporter: while xi jinping has officially started his second term as china's president with the country's rubber stamp parliament electing him again saturday morning, just to my right at the great haul of the people here. his second five year term had always been all but guaranteed, but all signs indicate that this won't be his final term as president. that is because just under a week ago, the parliament approved changes to the country's constitution which eliminated the two term limits for the presidency. so that allows xi jinping to stay in office indefinitely if he so chooses. reports in state media say a steady hand is needed during a challenging global period and that by removing restraints on the presidency, the office will not be in line with the unlimited of the general second and head of the military commission. critics though will tell you that those reasons are just
excuses to create a new dictator here in china going back to the kind of strong man reign that proved to be so disasterous. successors pushed for term limits to avoid going back to the days of one man rule. xi seems to have turned the dial back though, becoming the most powerful chinese leader. and another interesting development is that the president's long time right hand man, former leader of xi's anti-corruption drive and once a key figure in china's diplomacy with the united states, he has been appointed as vice president. since wong retired from his party leadership possess, many analysts think this move will turn the ceremonial vice presidency into a powerful position paving the way for the two allies to join hands again and rule this country for years to come. make no mistake though today is
all about xi jinping, he begins his second five year term with more power than ever. not in decades has one man had more say over the lives and fortunes of 1.4 billion chinese citizens. matt rivers, tiananmen square. and now the war in syria, under fire, an exodus of people still streaming out of eastern ghouta. more than 12,000 people have fled in just the past few days. >> there is an area that has been pounded by the government assault for quite some time and there are reports that rebels are blocking residents from escaping that area. the u.n. special envoy for syria has called parts of eastern ghouta a hell on earth. we turn to washington. when reporters ask question, sarah sanders usually answers with a bite. but lately the white house press secretary seems to be dodging the tough questions. we'll have that story when we come back here. let's get started. show of hands.
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and it's been no different in current press second sarah sanders' briefing room. but recently she seems to be taking a different tone. >> and it is raising legitimate questions like how much does she really talk to the president. tom foreman takes a look. >> reporter: the press secretary had to know more scorching questions about stormy daniels were coming. but her answers proved luke warm at best. >> obviously we take the safety and security of any person seriously. >> reporter: has she discussed the late he is with tst with th some no. >> i would refer you to his outside personal attorneys. >> reporter: clearly sarah huckabee sanders does not know what president trump is thinking. >> i'm sure you missed me. >> reporter: it wasn't always this way. when she took the job almost 80s months ago, sanders routinely and decidedly slapped down unfavorable questions about trump's conduct, past and present. >> knock the crap out of him, would you?
>> reporter: even when she was patently wrong. >> the president in no way form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence. >> reporter: the president tweets a female democratic senator would do anything for campaign contributions. was that about -- >> sexual innuendos? >> only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way. and so no. >> reporter: the president shares anti-muss llim videos. >> whether it is a real video, the threat is we'll and that is what the president is talking about. >> reporter: but now her tone appears clearly more cautious. asked if the president knew about a payment to stormy daniels by his attorney, her answer -- >> not that i'm aware ever. >> reporter: has the president talked to his attorney about it? >> i don't know. i'm not sure. >> reporter: and on it goes. in just one briefing, she was asked is trump glad the justice department is investigating use of the fisa courts? >> i haven't spoken with him to determine his feelings.
>> reporter: does he thinken a indicted governor should resign? >> i haven't spoken to him about that. >> reporter: would a president allow a suspected terrorist on the no-fly list to buy a gun? >> we haven't spoken about that specifically. >> reporter: maybe it is temporary and to be sure no press secretary snows everything about any president, but as the questions get tougher about russia, about the president's personal life and about the rapid fire changes at the white house, more often the press secretary seems to be saying don't ask me. tom foreman, cnn, washington. i have no comment on that story. no comment. >> those answers always have to go with the facts an facts are stubbo stubborn. >> the nature of that job. that is "cnn newsroom." thanks for watching. >> and for our viewers here in the united states, "new day" is next. for viewers around the world, amanpour is ahead.
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