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White House Scrambling to Find Op-ed Writer; 2018 Deadliest year for Afghan Civilians Since 2009; Far Right Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Given the Boot; Actor Burt Reynolds Dies at 82. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 01:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:00:00] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Ahead this hour, more than one dozen White House officials claimed they had nothing to do with that anonymous op-ed bashing Donald Trump. Even the President admits they have no idea yet who is to blame. We'll look into it. Plus the calm before the storm. We take you on the streets of Idlib, Syria just days before the city could be transformed to a war zone, many citizens are still there. And later, few people in movie business were ever cooler than Burt Reynolds and may we say sexier. We'll look back at the life of the star actor and Hollywood sex symbol.

Thank you for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center Atlanta and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Our top story. All of Washington is trying to solve the mystery of the anonymous op Edie in the New York Times. And the hunt has stretched across the country to Billings, Montana. That is where President Trump spoke at a campaign rally late Thursday. The New York Times essay described the President as immoral, reckless, and ineffective and the Times says it came from a senior official within his own administration. The President called it treason.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The latest act of resistance is the op-ed published in the failing New York Times by an anonymous really an anonymous, gutless coward (INAUDIBLE). He was -- nobody knows who the hell he is or she, although they put he but probably that's a little disguised. That means a she. But for the sake of our national security, the New York Times should publish his name at once.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: We'll look into that in a moment. Republican Senator Rand Paul meantime suggesting lie-detector test for administration officials to find out who wrote the commentary. CNN's Jim Acosta has more now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, did you find out who wrote the op- ed?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's become a Washington whodunit as in the mystery of the senior administration official who anonymously wrote a scathing op-ed in the New York Times claiming to be part of an internal Trump White House resistance out to stop the President from damaging the nation. So far, more than a dozen top officials of who's who from the vice-president to cabinet secretaries all released statements personally or through their offices to say not it.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's a disgrace. The anonymous editorial published in The New York Times represents a new low in American journalism and I think the New York Times should be ashamed and I think whoever wrote this anonymous editorial should also be ashamed as well.

ACOSTA: Even the daughter of U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman said it wasn't her father.

ABBY HUNTSMAN, DAUGHTER OF AMBASSADOR JON HUNTSMAN: Full disclosure, my dad works for the administration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you write it?

HUNTSMAN: My dad did not write it and my dad not right as far -- as far as I know.

ACOSTA: A frustrated Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted out a statement calling for the speculation over anonymous to "stop" as she lashed out at the New York Times posting the papers phone number. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says she thought it was Vice President Pence and joked it could be a character from the board game Clue.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The Vice President, that was my first thought. I guess by process of elimination will come down to the butler.

ACOSTA: Officials inside the administration have been carefully reading the op-ed for clues the author suggests there may be more than one resistor in the ranks writing, the President's appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump's more misguided impulses until he's out of office. And it hasn't gone unnoticed that Pence who has denied he wrote the op-ed frequently uses the word lodestar which appears in the peace.

PENCE: Vigilance and resolve will be our lodestar.

Again be our lodestar.

TRUMP: Anonymous, meaning gutless, a gutless editorial.

ACOSTA: The President is clearly furious over anonymous once again using the episode to bash the media. TRUMP: So when you tell me about some anonymous source within the

administration probably who's failing and probably here for all the wrong reasons, no. And the New York Times is failing. If I weren't here, I believe the New York Times probably wouldn't even exist.

ACOSTA: As for solving the mystery of anonymous, the White House has one big problem there is a lengthy list of potential suspects.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: They're saying senior administration official. That can be many people. There are I think thousands of political appointees, hundreds of folks who would qualify under that title alone.

[01:05:04] ACOSTA: One administration official said the White House wanted a coordinated response to New York Times op-ed but didn't get one. That's because cabinet secretaries throughout the day we're releasing their own statements without really coordinating with the White House. As that administration official put it, it didn't seem very organized. Jim Acosta, CNN, at the President's rally in Billings, Montana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Let's talk more about it. Joining me from Los Angeles, CNN Political Commentator and Democratic Strategist Dave Jacobson, Republican Commentator and Podcast host DeAnna Lorraine. Thank you for being with us. Dave, I want to ask you first. Yes, it's anonymous and, yes, many are questioning the credibility because of that but do you think this op-ed could be damaging to the President?

DAVID JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. I mean, this is just further evidence of sort of the thread that we have seen throughout the course of this presidency. I mean, whether it was Michael Wolff's book, the excerpts that we've seen of course from Bob Woodward's book that's going to come out next Tuesday, one of the most respects journalists in the country, I should mention. But it also is reflective of the onslaught of news attention that we've seen and media coverage of this chaotic White House since the inauguration. I mean, whether it's CNN's coverage or The New York Times or The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal, scores and scores of stories that have come out underscoring and painting the picture of this unprecedented, unconventional, but totally dysfunction and deplorable White House.

And so this is further evidence of that. And I think what you're seeing now is a President who is increasingly paranoid, and who lacks stability. And you know, some of these folks inside the administration but also folks and Republicans outside the administration like Bob Corker an Jeff Flake are ringing the alarm bells.

ALLEN: Let's get reaction from you, DeAnna.

DEANNA LORRAINE, REPUBLICAN COMMENTATOR: Well, it just seems like so much of the same. It's a lot of fearmongering. You know, I mean, his book could be called fearmongering because that's really what it is. And at this point it's become predictable, it's become even boring to a lot of his supporters who hear the same things every single day.

And yes, it's painting a picture of a White House that's in chaos and the left eats it up like it's Thanksgiving dinner, all of these slanderous comments and accusations on Trump and his administration. And they just keep on coming. We'll most likely see another one next week. But his supporters aren't really fazed by this. If anything, I think it bolsters their support even more because they're tired of hearing accusations like this, especially from anonymous source. Anonymous sources, it might as well be a game of telephone.

ALLEN: Right, but beyond the base, DeAnna, beyond the base, beyond the supporters, that he can do no wrong to his base and we have certainly seen that over and over again. You've got to also address the poll numbers.

LORRAINE: Right.

ALLEN: And when there is another issue of chaos in the White House, you see them drop.

LORRAINE: Right. And we don't know. Are those people suddenly going to, you know, show up for the Election Day? We don't know. We're not sure the rubber meets the road on Election Day. But what I know is that people do want to see the country winning. People want to see the country strong, and they want to see it united. And a lot of people are tired of hearing all these baseless accusations over and over again. We don't know. I mean he has a special prosecutor after him right now that has been going on for almost two years. and if the administration is as chaotic as they're claiming to be, we're certainly going to find out, right?

I kind of have this approach where we want to wait and see what's really true and what's just accusations with people trying to hurt him and slander him. And people i think should be a lot more alarmed that people within his own administration are trying to subvert the will of the people and the presidency. I mean that's not the kind of presidency that we're supposed to have in America, right? Where there's this sort of shadow government saying, we know better than you do, and we know the right way to do things, and we're going to do it our way or the highway. I mean that's not really what America is.

JACOBSON: Natalie, if I could --

ALLEN: OK, Dave, go ahead.

JACOBSON: Natalie, if I could jump in. I mean, when we talk about where the rubber meets the road, I mean the data and the numbers don't lie. A couple weeks ago Donald Trump had an average polling rate of approval rating of around the low 40s. He's now dropped to the mid- 30s, right? There has been two back-to-back polls that have had him now with a 36 percent approval rating. And so that is an unprecedented low at a time when you've got a president with a generally good economy. I disagree with him on economic policy. I don't think he's doing

enough for issues like income inequality. He's giving big tax cuts to the rich. But generally speaking, the economy is doing relatively well. I think also credit goes to Barack Obama for putting us on this trajectory, but when you've got such a decent economy, typically if you look at historical polling data, you don't see a president with such high disapproval ratings or such low approval ratings. And so I think that is a testament to the fact that voters are frustrated with what's going on in Washington because it's being -- the chaos is being driven from the Oval Office and from Donald Trump in his Twitter account.

And it's not just confined to Donald Trump's disapproval rating. If you look at Congressional numbers, increasingly Democrats have the upper hand. We won races like Connor Lamb, a district the Donald Trump won by 20 points. We won an Alabama U.S. Senate race against Roy Moore and if you look at the generic ballot, Natale, by 14 points the Washington Post and ABC poll has Democrats leading with the generic ballot going into the election 60 days.

[01:10:44] ALLEN: Dave, back to the op-ed. Do you think it could backfire because the New York Times, a newspaper that albeit one of the most -- one of the best newspapers in the world considering its record that Mr. Trump loathes, do you think it could backfire on them because it is anonymous?

JACOBSON: Look, not necessarily like -- I disagree with having somebody hide their name like I think this person should come out of the shadows if they want to be a true patriot. They should come out, they should be a whistleblower, they should shine a spotlight on what's happening within the administration in a more complete coherent way and broaden their argument beyond just the 800 or so words or thousand words that's in the op-ed.

But at the end of the day, like voters trust of publications like the New York Times, like CNN, and this is where they get their information. If you're a die-hard Donald Trump supporter, when he throws out red meat attack in the New York Times, you're never going to believe what they say, right? But what really matters, Natalie, are those independent swing voters as we look to the upcoming election, right? Those purple state voters, those voters in Pennsylvania, you know, Wisconsin, Michigan, in some of the states at Donald Trump won, those are the voters that are really going to be impacted by this kind of thing. Because the base on both sides, they're -- they've got the enthusiasm right? The bigger question is what happens to those voters in the middle.

ALLEN: All right, hang on just a second. I want to talk with you both about the U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He ended his third and final day of Senate testimony, Thursday. He came out of the grueling experience, a little bruised but apparently the general feeling is he did all right despite the determined efforts of Senate Democrats. For more about it here CNN's Jessica Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Mr. Chairman, bring the charges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman --

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, a possible presidential contender in 2020 claiming he was going to expose documents marked Committee Confidential.

BOOKER: I'm going to release the e-mail about racial profiling. And I understand that -- the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate. This is about the closest I'll probably ever have in my life to an I am Spartacus moment.

SCHNEIDER: But Republicans called the move a political stunt saying that documents in question had been cleared for release hours before the hearing calling out those across the aisle.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate or of confidentiality of the documents that we -- that we are privy to.

SCHNEIDER: One of the newly released confidential documents disclosed by Democrats, this 2003 e-mail from Brett Kavanaugh when he was working in the George W. Bush White House. "I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since court can always overrule its precedent." Kavanaugh downplayed the e-mail exchange and tried to clarify.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, NOMINEE, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I think it was overstating something about legal scholars and I'm always concerned with accuracy and I thought that was not quite accurate description of legal -- all legal scholars because it referred all. To your point, your broader point, Roe v Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court and reaffirmed many times.

SCHNEIDER: Kavanagh also faced further questions from an exchange with Senator Kamala Harris, also a possible 2020 candidate late Wednesday night.

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

KAVANAUGH: I need to know the -- I'm not sure I know everyone who works at that law firm.

HARRIS: I don't think you need to. I think you need to know who you talked with. Who'd you talk to?

KAVANAUGH: I would like to know the person you're thinking of because what if --

HARRIS: I think you're thinking of someone and you don't want to tell us.

SCHNEIDER: Seemingly blindsided Wednesday, Thursday morning Kavanaugh was resolute. KAVANAUGH: I haven't had any inappropriate conversations about that

investigation with anyone. I've never given anyone any hints, forecasts, previews, winks, nothing about my view as a judge or how I would rule as a judge on that or anything related to that.

[01:14:57] SCHNEIDER: And Kavanaugh made his view clear that whatever the Supreme Court may rule on presidential power, it will be binding.

KAVANAUGH: I've made clear in my writings that a court order that requires a President to do something or prohibits a president from doing something under the Constitution or laws of the United States is the final word in our system. Our separation of power system.

SCHNEIDER: Judge Kavanaugh also stressed, he is not a Republican or a Democratic judge. Instead, saying he's an independent United States judge and will act the same way if he's named to the Supreme Court. Jessica Schneider, CNN, Capitol Hill.

ALLEN: All right, let's turn now back to Dave Jacobson and DeAnna Lorraine. DeAnna, I'll start with you this time. Do you think Kavanagh has been honest in the hearings, of course, Democrats not surprisingly called the process a sham?

LORRAINE: I definitely think he's being honest. And you know, they're really trying so hard to get him in a gotcha moment, you know. And you can see what their leading questions constantly trying to catch him in something. And luckily, he's very sharp and he's very qualified for the job.

And he keeps specifying things so that he doesn't get caught in some moment where they can frame him potentially, or show him that he's lying when he's actually not. I really think that he's going to get confirmed and what they're doing right now is just so much political grandstanding, and so much theatrics.

I think it's really going to actually hurt them and their reputation in the end because he's going to be confirmed. You know, he's more than qualified for the position and he is been very clear about being a very fair judge and justice and he's going to continue the same way. He's been very clear about saying that they don't -- he doesn't make the law, he just follows the law, you know, he sets in.

So, this is -- you know, there -- if you look at his track record which all of them have and all of them are privy to, they know that there's really nothing that they can find on him although they're really trying hard.

ALLEN: Then, why is Roe v. Wade the topic here and the Mueller investigation? Let's get Dave to weigh in on Democrats concern with Mr. Kavanagh.

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well I think, there's a range of issues, right? It's his inability today to say whether he believes in Justice Kennedy's position on marriage equality. Of course, it's his position on Roe v. Wade and abortion rights. And I think frankly that's one of the most pivotal issues here because it impacts the Republican vote.

I mean, bottom-line Natalie, this comes down to a basic arithmetic and whether or not Democrats can peel away any Republican votes to get them to oppose Kavanaugh.

And I think the abortion issue is really key here because with the e- mail that came out from 2003 while Kavanaugh was serving in the George Bush administration, you know, he questioned the precedent of Roe v. Wade. And that is a big issue for Republican Senator from Maine, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, Senator from Alaska.

And in fact, POLITICO came out earlier today that said, Susan Collins was quoted in which she said that she would oppose any nominee who was against the precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

So, that is a big issue for Mitch McConnell and the Republicans because they need every vote that they can get. Democrats have 49 votes to 50 votes. Of course, with Republicans. And so, every single vote here is going to matter. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were quoted today saying that they were going to look into the e-mail over this weekend.

So, that is the big overarching question is whether or not one or two of those potential swing votes could go the Democratic way.

Now, that being said it's unlikely. I think, Kavanaugh obviously has a good pathway to getting the confirmation, of course. But Democrats are going to fight until the bitter end.

ALLEN: And do you think, DeAnna, his points about the two female senators and the abortion issue could that have an impact?

LORRAINE: It's possible that it can have an impact. I mean, the Republicans have a very little margin of error. It's so tight. It's going to be really, really tight. They do need every single vote they can get. And you know, yes, it's a possibility that they can go the other way that they can be flipped.

So they're going to have to -- it's an -- it's an uphill battle for both of them, let's be honest. And you know -- you know, both of them -- both Democrats and Republicans can't really just sit pretty at the moment.

But we're going to see what comes out. You know, when they scour through the e-mails and we're going to see how he answers in the next couple days and what really becomes of it. Like I said, you know, the proof is going to be in the pudding, it's going to be a tight race regardless.

But I do think ultimately, he's going to be confirmed. You really can't get a better candidate than him. He is more than qualified.

ALLEN: I think everyone agrees he's qualified. We'll wait and see how he affects this court, it could be profound. DeAnna Lorraine and Dave Jacobson, thank you both for your input. We appreciate your insights. JACOBSON: Thank you.

[01:19:48] ALLEN: More international news ahead here. The calm before the storm in Syria, people trapped in Idlib hope they will not come under attack but they're ready for a likely government offensive. We'll have an exclusive look inside the province ahead here.

Also a Brazilian presidential candidate stabbed at a campaign event.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: The front-running candidate for president of Brazil was attacked, Thursday. This video may be hard to watch. This is the exact moment. Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed in a crowd at a campaign event. A large knife plunged into his abdomen,

The right-wing candidate underwent emergency surgery. Doctors say he is in grave but stable condition. An investigation is underway, one person has been arrested. So, who is he, and why would someone want to attack him? Here CNN's Michael Holmes.

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

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

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

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

people that we will put Brazil first.

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

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

[01:25:15] ALLEN: The United Nations is calling for a solution to the crisis in Idlib, Syria. This, as leaders of Iran, Turkey, and Russia are set to meet in Tehran. Turkey hopes to avert a Syrian and Russian offensive on the area but that could all be in vain.

The early stages of the assault may already be underway. This video shows bombing in the countryside near Idlib's southern border on Thursday. The White Helmets rescue group says, air and artillery strikes killed at least one person, 14 more reportedly were killed on Tuesday.

Idlib is serious last major rebel stronghold and home to around 3 million people. The U.S. and its allies warned the government not to use chemical weapons. But many Idlib residents say, that is not enough. CNN's Ben Wedeman, excuse me, has more in our exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dobbing on more yellow to complete the look, artist, Aziz Al-Asmr paints a likeness of U.S. President Donald Trump. On the collapsed roof of a bombed-out house in the village Binnish, in Syria's Idlib province.

AZIZ AL-ASMR, ARTIST, IDLIB PROVINCE (through translator): I drew him giving Bashar Al-Assad and the regime a green light to hit us with any weapons, except chemical ones.

WEDEMAN: Says Aziz.

Officials in the U.S. administration, including President Trump, have warned of severe consequences if the Syrian military uses chemical weapons in the offensive to retake this last province still under opposition control.

In the province's capital, also called Idlib, the scenes captured in this exclusive video obtained by CNN, certainly don't convey the sense of a population preparing for the final battle.

Nearly half of the province's current population of over 3 million fled or were bussed in by the Syrian government under safe passage agreements from other parts of the country restored to Damascus' control. Including tens of thousands of jihadist fighters, among them, many members of what's known as Hay' at Tahrir Al-Sham. Until recently, an affiliate of al-Qaeda none seen in this video.

Yousif Al-Ahmad's shop in Idlib City is well stocked. Business, he says, is down, but not dramatically.

YOUSIF AL-AHMAD, BUSINESSMAN, IDLIB CITY (through translator): Some people are worried and afraid.

WEDEMAN: He concedes.

AL-AHMAD: Some are thinking of fleeing. As for me, I'm not going anywhere.

WEDEMAN: Yousif, like Aziz the artist, doesn't have much faith in President Trump's warnings.

AL-AHMAD: Now, he is talking, and talking, and talking. But I don't think he can stop it.

WEDEMAN: He says, referring to the long-anticipated offensive. Greengrocer, Ghaith Al-Sayid, has plenty of vegetables and fruit on offer in this agricultural province once considered by many Syrians as a backwater. He admits, he's concerned.

GHAITH AL-SAYID, GREENGROCER, IDLIB CITY (through translator): Yes, if they're going to strike us, we should get our women and children out.

WEDEMAN: He says. Pharmacist, Sawsan Al-Saed is doing what she usually does dispensing medicine and lots of advice. She's confident that Syria, Russia, Turkey, and the U.S. will somehow reach an agreement to avoid a bloody military operation. But she's also pondering other options if diplomacy fails.

SAWSAN AL-SAED, PHARMACIST, IDLIB CITY (through translator): Once we've lost hope that we won't be able to stay, we'll escape to Turkey or to Europe.

WEDEMAN: Says, Sawsan.

AL-SAED: Most people will take to the sea to get to Europe.

WEDEMAN: At least here, at least for now, this is the calm before the storm. Ben Wedeman, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Well, and yet, another war that never seems to end, the people of Afghanistan are suffering as that more drags on. We'll show you how one hospital is helping heal the wounds, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

Here are our top stories this hour.

The Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed in the abdomen during a campaign event Thursday. The frontrunner was rushed to the hospital. He underwent emergency surgery. Doctors say that he is in grave but stable condition. One person has been arrested.

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran are set to discuss Syria in the coming hours in Tehran. Turkey's president says he hopes to avert an offensive against rebel-held Idlib. The White Helmet Rescue Group says air and artillery strikes killed at least one person there on Thursday. Donald Trump says an anonymous op-ed blasting his presidency could be called treason. He spoke just a few hours ago at a campaign rally in Montana. The unsigned essay describes a quiet resistance inside the White House working to protect the country from President Trump.

The White House is working overtime to try to figure out who wrote the commentary. Some have even suggested lie detector tests for senior administration staffers.

For more about this it, here's CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Three little words --

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: And they're saying senior administration official --

KAYE: -- have set off a collective game of Clue across the country.

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP LAWYER: Is it a Trump appointee? Is he in the White House?

KAYE: Calling all amateur sleuths.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, TV HOST: There are plenty of suspects. Do you have any other guesses?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: There are some good people in the Trump administration like Dan Coats who is somebody who, you know, realizes the horror of what happened in Helsinki. And people like General Mattis.

So we won't know. I don't when we'll find out who Anonymous is.

KAYE: When or if. One former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton thinks Anonymous could be a speechwriter, too.

DAVID KUSNET, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR BILL CLINTON: It reads like a speechwriter. There's a lot of alliteration; words starting in the same -- the same -- in the same way.

KAYE: Like this -- "It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era."

Others are speculating it's the President's chief of staff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unnamed senior administration official.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kelly would be high on my list.

KAYE: General John Kelly clearly has a military background and the buzzword "lode star" used in the op-ed is a military term.

SUNNY HOSTIN, ABC NEWS HOST: It sounds like a military person to me.

KAYE: Still others are quick to point out lode star is a word Vice President Mike Pence likes to use.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vigilance and resolve would be our lode star.

-- will be our lode star.

With vigilance and resolve as our lode star.

JOY BEHAR, ABC NEWS HOST: It's too obvious to say lode star when you are using it all the time --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are -- yes, I mean if you want to be conspiratorial, it's even possible that someone wrote it knowing that the word "lode star" was a favorite word of Vice President Pence, and wanted to either cast suspicion on the Vice President or wanted to distract attention from themselves.

[01:35:06] KAYE: The guessing game moved into hyper drive with names such as White House counsel Don McGahn, CIA director Gina Haspel and even George Conway who is married to Kellyanne Conway and often trolls Trump on Twitter.

CONWAY: It's not clear to us anyway that it's somebody in the White House.

GIULIANI: He maybe a guy inside the White House. He maybe upper level, lower level, maybe he's in the Old Executive Office Building.

KAYE: The FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, who makes a living making predictions zeroed in on the words "anti-trade" in the op-ed tweeting that it made him wonder if it's someone in treasury or at least highly concerned with economic policy.

Whoever anonymous is, it's a whodunit tailor-made for TV.

JIMMY KIMMEL, TALK SHOW HOST: I have to say I'm surprised by how good a writer Ivanka is. I mean --

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN -- New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Of course a name mentioned in that report as a possibility was General James Mattis. But he said he did not write it. Now he is in Afghanistan for an unannounced visit.

The U.S. Defense Secretary landed a short time ago. He will meet with the new commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, hold a town hall with U.S. troops, and meet with senior Afghan leaders. Again, he is saying he did not write that op-ed.

Well, in that seemingly endless war there in Afghanistan, civilians are dying in record numbers this year, and dozens are suffering devastating injuries from suicide attacks, bombs, and gun fire.

CNN's Sam Kiley reports from a hospital in Kabul that is trying to stanch the bleeding.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

After 17 years of war, the number of civilian deaths this year hit the highest point since records began. According to the United Nations 1,692 civilians have been killed by the end of June.

Run by the Italian charity emergency, this hospital often treats more than 50 new victims a day. Each injury logged -- shrapnel, mine, shrapnel, bullet, bullet, bullet, shrapnel, shotgun, bullet, shrapnel, bullet, bullet, bullet, bullet. On this ward, every patient is a child.

(on camera): This young boy here was injured in Gazni. Now that is a town to the south of Kabul, the main strategic town on the highway south. It was almost overrun by the Taliban a couple of weeks ago. More than a hundred people were killed.

There was mayhem, and he spent 20 hours with his bowels hanging out of his stomach before he was able to get medical help -- a child.

(voice over): Here the doctors live in fear.

NAJIBULLAH HEKMAT, SURGEON: Everyday, it is getting worse. And the fighting is increasing, but honestly I don't have any -- me, I don't have any clear future.

KILEY: The U.S. will spend $45 billion here this year most of it on training Afghan forces to take over. But poor moral, drug abuse and relentless combat has driven Afghan desertions and death so high, that the numbers are now secret. One frontline government brigade is down to 30 percent of its fighters, NATO sources say.

Miyaz has lost three sons and three grandsons -- all in government forces. And four others are still alive, but they have all been wounded fighting insurgents.

"Some of my children and grandchildren were killed on the front line and some of them near our village." They were beheaded, she says, by ISIS.

Now she looks after the 32 children who have so far survived while she tends the graves of her dead.

It's been a bad year in America's longest war, but for Afghans there is another generation of torment.

Sam Kiley, CNN -- Kabul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[01:39:44] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Twitter has kicked a far-right conspiracy theorist off its platform. The social media giant banned Alex Jones and his Web site saying their posts violate policy.

The decision came one day after Jones accosted a CNN reporter and live streamed the encounter. Twitter explained saying, "Today, we've permanently suspended Alex Jones and InfoWars from Twitter and Periscope. We took this action based on new reports of tweets, videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the account's past violations.

Jones has, among other things, long espoused that child actors were used in the deadly Sandy Hook school shooting in which 26 people, mostly small children were killed.

Let's discuss it now with Alex Kantrowitz, senior tech reporter for BuzzFeed News. Alex -- thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. Jones has been violating terms of service for a long time. Why was he allowed to continue his conspiracy theories on social media for so long?

ALEX KANTROWITZ, SENIOR TECH REPORTER, BUZZFEED NEWS: That's a very good question. I would say that these platforms -- Facebook, YouTube, Google -- they're like governments in their own right. So they have laws which are their community guidelines and they had enforcement.

And Jones has been breaking the laws for a long time, but for whatever reason, the platforms decided that the time for enforcement wasn't up until just recently. And you see that with the moves that Facebook and Google and Apple made last month; and now Twitter coming out and banning Jones today.

ALLEN: Well, Alex Jones was on Capitol Hill confronting -- harassing if you will, Senator Marco Rubio after a hearing on social media. So if anyone is not familiar with Alex Jones here is a sample.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX JONES, INFOWARS FOUNDER: Rush Limbaugh -- he knows who (INAUDIBLE) is this, inviting this joker over here. That's why -- the deep platform did not work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But here is the question.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Don't touch me again, man. I am asking you not to touch me again.

JONES: I just patted you, nicely.

RUBIO: I know. But I don't want to be patted -- I don't know who you are

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Are you going to get me arrested?

RUBIO: You're not going to arrested, man. You're not going to get arrested. I can take care of myself.

JONES: Oh, you'll beat me up.

RUBIO: I didn't say that.

JONES: You know, I am -- but he's so mad. You are not going to silence me. You're not going to silence, America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: He's got resolve. You have to say that.

But you know hat, I want to ask you this because he's going through a pretty nasty divorce. And in the divorce his lawyer said this is all an act. He's a player. He's playing a role here. And yet people buy it.

KANTROWITZ: Yes. I mean they do. It is InfoWars is interesting, right. It is content that is made for these social platforms. It's made for Facebook. It's made for YouTube. It's made for Twitter.

[01:45:01] And that is why this platform is such a big problem for Jones because it is taking away his main audience. I think what people want when they go to these platforms is something entertaining, something light, news worthy, something they can enjoy.

And it doesn't -- there are no -- there's no filter there that says it has to be true. And so Jones has taken advantage of the need or the desire of many people in terms of what they want for when they go to the platforms. And he has exploited it in a way that has been very, you know, tricky for these platforms to say the very least.

ALLEN: And so in other words, it is a show, and people like the show. Is that what you're saying?

KANTROWITZ: I mean that is what his lawyer said. I am going with what his lawyer said.

ALLEN: So is there a way to stop something like this? I mean, yes, social media is waking up to it, but as you can see, he is ranting here and he is getting an audience.

KANTROWITZ: I think it is important to talk about why he is ranting there. Before the de-platforming happened, before he was kick off of all these platforms, he would be quite happy to sit at home and broadcast the way that he has been doing for so long.

The reason why he needs to show up to political events and accost Marco Rubio like he did in the clip that you've been showing is because he does not have the audience that he used to have. So he has to resort to showing up to these events and doing publicity stunts and trying to get picked up in the mainstream media.

"New York Times" has come out with a report that said that since the de-platforming, since he's been kicked off of Facebook and Apple and Google and YouTube his audience has dropped in that.

So when you look at that clip with Rubio, you have to understand that you are seeing a man whose life depends upon reaching an audience. And when the audience gets cut in half, he has to go and show up and find it some other way.

I think it is, I mean it's been effective for him. He's certainly gotten a lot of buzz for it. But long term, losing his position on these platforms is going to be incredibly detrimental to Jones, Jones' business and his brand and his reach.

ALLEN: Well, a lot of people won't mind that, will they? Alex Kantrowitz with Buzzfeed News. Thanks so much for your insights.

KANTROWITZ: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: Hollywood says good-bye to a star; when we return the life and legacy of actor Burt Reynolds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Hollywood's Motion Picture Academy will not be handing out an Oscar for achievement in popular film any time soon. The Academy announced the category last month. It was supposed to honor blockbusters that audiences love, but don't win top honors the way perhaps smaller films often do.

It was also meant to boost audiences for the Oscars TV show which has been attracting fewer viewers. But after critics and others criticized the move, the Academy now says the idea needs more discussion. It is not clear when the Academy might go ahead with the popular film award.

Tributes are pouring in right now for a Hollywood star -- Burt Reynolds. He died Thursday of cardiac arrest. He was 82.

Reynolds starred in many film and TV roles during his 60-year career, and wrote in his memoir that quote, "Nobody had more fun than I did."

CNN's Jeanne Moos looks back at his extraordinary life and career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[01:50:01] JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From clean- shaven to mustachioed to bearded, Burt Reynold's brand was good old boy.

BURT REYNOLDS, ACTOR: Breaker one, breaker one. This is the Bandit.

MOOS: When "Smokey and the Bandit" made it big at the box office, sales of that Pontiac Trans-Am soared. Cool behind the wheel, cool with the ladies, he called Sally Field the one who got away. Burt was married twice. His second marriage to Loni Anderson ended in a nasty divorce that was fodder for the tabloids and earned Burt consoling call on "Larry King Live" from a fellow actor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forget all this crap that's going on in your life. You're a superman.

MOOS: Years later --

STEPHEN COLBERT, TV HOST: You loom large in my mind. You're Burt (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Reynolds.

MOOS: In his memoir Burt said "I wasn't interested in challenging myself as an actor. I was interested in having a good time." But he did challenge himself in "Deliverance".

REYNOLDS: You don't beat it. You don't beat this river.

LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: Anything you turned down you regretted?

REYNOLDS: Women once.

KING: Either way? Women or film?

REYNOLDS: That was a crude sexist remark and I apologize to everyone for it.

MOOS: But he did turn down roles in films that became huge from "Star Wars" to "Terms of Endearment" to "Pretty Woman". He said yes to "Boogie Nights".

REYNOLDS: Jack Horner, filmmaker. Come back here. Exotic.

MOOS: His role as a porn filmmaker won him a Golden Globe. And then there was the time he bared it all on a bearskin rug in "Cosmo Magazine". He later he said he regretted it, taking attention away from his serious film "Deliverance".

Boy, did he deliver in appearances with Johnny Carson. Their whipped cream battle was cream of the crop comedy.

Burt Reynolds did not just play a good old boy, he lived it.

Jeanne Moos, CNN -- New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Let's bring in the "Turner Classic Movies" host Ben Mankiewicz now. Hello -- Ben. He joins us now from Los Angeles.

Yes, what a loss -- Ben. I mean you just saw that smile from Burt Reynolds. He always just seemed like he was just having a good time no matter the role.

BEN MANKIEWICZ, HOST, "TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES": Yes, I -- you know, I'm really sad. I didn't know Burt Reynolds well. I did a couple of interviews with him; one with the cast of "Deliverance" at the "Turner Classic Movies" classic film festival a few years ago.

And then I did an interview that really sort of touched me about -- I think it was 2011 on our sort of "Road to Hollywood" we called it before the TCM classic film festival. It was at a theater in Tampa -- the Tampa Theater. And there was a huge crowd there to see Burt Reynolds and the Trans-Am from "Smokey and the Bandit" was there. And we were downstairs at the theater and you had to the walk up the stairs to get to the stage.

And if you know anything about sort of the late stages of Burt Reynolds' his life he was in chronic pain both from having played football as the report you just there indicated; and also from doing many of his own stunts including on "Deliverance" where he broke his tailbone.

And he was laboring up the stairs. And after we talked for a while he said, you know, what are we going to talk about. I'm like well, maybe -- mostly "Smokey and the Bandit".

And then he said, "You know, Ben, I have made like 80 pictures and only four of them are worth a damn." And he said it with a sort of an ennui and I thought -- I just felt bad for him because one, it isn't true. And after our talk downstairs, which I was left with the impression of a guy who thought that he could have done more with his career.

And of course, he did a lot. I mean he was the number one box office star for five years in the late 70s and early 80s.

ALLEN: Yes, absolutely. I wonder why he felt that, I mean every time we turn around Burt Reynolds was doing something. I was struck by something he said, that I read that he said he did not take his craft too seriously. That he was in it just having fun. You kind of got that sense from him.

MANKIEWICZ: I think that's -- I think what you are touching on there is actually what he meant is that he did not take it too seriously, and he wishes that he had taken it more -- he was trained at the actors' studio.

I think he thought that he could have been a more substantive star and not just a great big action star. You know, he turned down Jack Nicholson's role in "Terms of Endearment". He told me a little (INAUDIBLE) and he didn't want to play the role that also went to Nicholson in "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest".

He had a chance to play James Bond after Sean Connery backed out of the franchise and sort of said a British guy should do it. And he didn't -- again he felt like he didn't -- I sense that he felt like he didn't challenge himself but I think that's too bad because as we saw whenever he did challenge himself, when he had real great material like "Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights" he really delivered.

ALLEN: Yes. So mainly perhaps he relied on what he brought to the big screen which was sexy and cool because he certainly had that going for him. [01:55:01] MANKIEWICZ: He had that in spades and, you know, just that

wink. That Burt -- nobody winked in Hollywood like Burt Reynolds.

ALLEN: So true. It's so true.

What do you think about the big thing that he did when he posed semi- nude in a women's magazine.

MANKIEWICZ: Well, again that was another example of I think that -- well, I don't think, we know it, he said it. His book, by the way, that he wrote in 2015 "Enough about Me" is one of the great Hollywood memoirs. But he wrote about it then, he talked about it to me and to other people.

He regretted that enormously. He thought it would be a joke sort of spoofing "Playboy", but I guess, maybe we weren't ready for that joke because he said, you know, I was the only one who thought it was funny. So he regretted it instantly, and it made people again presume that he wasn't a serious person. And it comes right around "Deliverance", right at the time when Hollywood and filmmaking industry in this incredibly vibrant time for American films from 1967 to 1976 when he could have been a big part of that.

And again that decision I think undermined his credibility. He regretted it. He thought it was a good idea. He thought it would be seen as funny and it wasn't, at least not by people.

ALLEN: So for any of the younger folks watching, what movies would you say are a must-see for Burt Reynolds?

MANKIEWICZ: Well, I mean "Deliverance", no question --

ALLEN: Yes.

MANKIEWICZ: -- "Semi-Tough". Look, for me, I'm of the age when I was 10 years old when "Star Wars" came out but the movie that I saw three or four times in 1977 wasn't "Star Wars", it was "Smokey and the Bandit". No question.

I mean you should see everything by Paul Thomas Anderson. But you should definitely see -- you should definitely see "Boogie Nights too. But "Semi-Tough", "Longest Yard" -- he made a lot, "Sharky's Machine" which he also directed. I love "Sharky's Machine". There's "Stick" which is an Elmore Leonard adaptation.

You know, you can get to 10 or 12 quality Burt Reynolds movies, you know, "Gator", "White Lightning" -- they're all worth seeing.

ALLEN: Definitely -- people need to have a Burt Reynolds movie night party, that's for sure.

MANKIEWICZ: Yes.

ALLEN: Thanks so much -- Ben, we appreciate your insight.

MANKIEWICZ: Thank you. ALLEN: Thank you.

Burt Reynolds -- what a man.

Thank you so much for watching. I'm Natalie Allen.

My colleague and pal, George Howell is up next with two more hours of CNN NEWSROOM. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A growing list of Trump officials deny writing an explosive op-ed about the President of the United States, as the hunt for the anonymous writer seems to be consuming the President and the White House.