In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Emily Maitlis.
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The legitimacy and legality of the
FBI's investigation into Donald
Trump is called into question by
Republicans who accuse the
intelligence agency of bias.
it is a disgrace, what is happening
in our country, when you look at
that and you see that, so many other
things that is going on, a lot of
people should be ashamed of
themselves, and much worse than
He claims members of the FBI
are against him. We live in
Washington, DC with a man who lives
and breathes the White House.
And how do you remember the 2017
election? Newsnight has been granted
a sneak peek of the work of official
election artist Cordelia Parker.
Shall we do something here that
doesn't happen very often? Shake
hands. Great seeing you again.
Is the FBI's investigation
into Donald Trump
compromised by it's reliance
on the work of British Spy
desperate to bring him down?
Trump believes it is.
Tonight, the US President called
for the release of a top secret
memorandum which accused the FBI
of abusing its powers.
The document, written by senior
republicans supportive of trump,
criticises the way the FBI and US
Justice Department used
Christopher Steele's claims
to approve a wiretap
on a Trump campaign adviser.
Steele was, you remember,
partly funded by the Democrats.
Trump, as you can
imagine, was not amused.
The memo was sent to Congress.
It was declassified.
Congress will do whatever
they're going to do.
But I think it is a disgrace
what is happening in our country.
Why does this matter?
These questions about memos
on dossiers on intelligence
from spies can get pretty
messy pretty quickly.
So what is the bigger picture here?
Nyall Stanage, associate editor
at The Hill joins me
now from Washington DC.
Niall put this in context
for us - how big is this?
This is a huge story here. This is
probably the biggest we've seen
since James Comey was fired by
Donald Trump. He was the FBI
director last year. This is
something that puts the White House
and the FBI in a state of virtual
war with one another and raises lots
of questions about the independence
of the law enforcement system.
you talk about a state of virtual
war, where does that put the Mueller
Fascinating that this
has happened at a time when he has
been talking about interviewing
Trump. We will see if they use that
to avoid the interview. But I think
this raises questions, at least in
the minds of the sceptics, which is
already what Mueller is looking
into. So that doesn't really help
the president in the broader
Did the Democrats get
something fundamentally wrong? Are
they recognising that fairly serious
errors were made that have played
right into Trump's understanding of
Errors have been seized upon by
Republicans and people in the media
who are friendly to Trump. Democrats
are pushing back very hard at this
memo. They want to release their
room counter memo rebutting these
points. They say the Republican
version doesn't tell the full story.
-- release their own counter memo.
There is this idea that there are
many Trump friendly hands all
pumping at a Bellows to try to
create or cast doubt on Mueller.
That is a point of the Democrats are
What Republicans around
Trump thinking or saying to you
Some of them, of course,
are very impressed by what they have
put out. Others are less so. Even a
Republican source I was talking to
was speaking fearfully about the
idea the president would use this as
a blunt force instrument to go right
at Mueller. If that happened we
would be in the territory of
Tonight, Newsnight can
reveal the true extent
of what appears to amount
to war crimes in Syria.
This programme has seen the most
compelling evidence yet that Assad's
forces are repeatedly
targeting hospitals, medical
centres, and ambulances.
As many as 500 strikes have now been
verified in rebel strong
holds like eastern Aleppo,
eastern Ghuta and Idlib.
The footage and witness accounts
that we are about to bring you paint
a picture of a country that has
surrendered to Assad
in all but name.
And show an administration
led by a man consistently prepared
to direct violence at some
of the most vulnerable
citizens in his country.
Viewers may find scenes in
Mike Thompson's report distressing.
People come to
hospitals for healing.
But in rebel-held areas of Syria,
they have now become places to die.
On Monday, the Oday Hospital
in Saraqeb, southern Idlib,
was bombed for the fourth time.
On Tuesday, a bomb hit
its medical warehouse, too.
Five people are reported to have
died and all medical services
have now been abandoned.
Bereft of anywhere to treat them,
Saraqeb's injured now have to be
taken many miles north to the city
of Idlib for treatment.
But when they get to the central
hospital, doctors there struggle
to deal with the growing number
of new arrivals, many of whom have
injuries they are unable to treat,
and patients moved on yet again.
Since we cannot cope
with most of the injuries
that we have admitted
to the hospital, we do
indeed transfer them
to the northern medical point.
And what makes things a lot worse
is that the fighters actually target
ambulances and any cars suspected
as belonging to the civil defence.
It is barbaric.
The medical crews
should not be attacked.
We get bombed and shot at,
even after we collect
the injured of the roads.
We get hit with rockets
and machine gun fire.
The destruction of hospitals hasn't
just been happening in Idlib,
but right across Syria.
The New York-based campaign
organisation Physicians For Human
Rights claims there are 492 verified
attacks on hospitals,
mostly by Syrian government forces,
since the war began.
But the group claims that
what amounts to a war
on health is not confined
to the bombing of hospitals.
Physicians For Human Rights has also
documented the blocking
of humanitarian aid,
stripping of medical supplies
from humanitarian convoys.
Just today, the UN came out asking
the Russians, the Iranis,
the Turkish authorities,
to push the Syrian government
to allow for humanitarian aid.
Apparently, the Syrian government
has not authorised aid
for the past two months.
The Syrian government has denied
that it deliberately attacks
hospitals or other civilian targets.
But Physicians For Human Rights say
they have documented 11 attacks
on this one hospital alone
in eastern Aleppo last year.
Could a mistake be
made that many times?
At this point I think it is on them
to prove it is not deliberate.
As we have documented attacks
on health care facilities that
are in remote areas,
where they really could not have
wanted to hit anything else.
As we have documented double attacks
where the same facilities
are being hit as first responders
are there, as ambulances
are leaving with patients.
As we are documenting attacks
on hospitals that have been built
into caves in order to protect them,
I think there is a lot of
circumstantial evidence to suggest
these are indeed targeted attacks.
International lawyer Geoffrey Nice
lead the entire prosecution case
against Slobodan Milosevic.
He insists nearly all governments
know the coordinates
of their hospitals,
which would in any case
have their roofs clearly marked.
This, combined with increasingly
sophisticated arms, makes repeated
mistakes very improbable.
With modern weaponry,
accurate strike is possible.
And inaccurate, accidental
non-strike may happen,
I suppose, from time to time,
but not 11 times.
In 11 times looks, does it not,
like part of an intentional plan.
But Geoffrey Nice doubts
that we are likely to see war crimes
trials any time soon,
or other actions against Syria,
thanks partly to Russia's much-used
UN Security Council veto.
Nobody responds, not one
has helped us till now,
or stopped the bombardment.
The situation is quite desperate.
We need someone to hear our voice
and to see what is happening here.
We have come a long way,
it seems, since the heady,
euphoric days of the Arab Spring
seven years ago, though
not in the direction
hoped for back then.
Civil war in Syria has evolved
into a regional sectarian conflict
and has now been spreading even
wider, so making a solution
ever more complicated
and difficult to find.
I'm now joined from Princeton
by Ryan Crocker, the former US
ambassador to Syria.
And with me in the studio is Ruth
Citrin, Director of the Middle East
and North Africa Programme
at the European Council
of Foreign Relations.
for Syria and Lebanon
at the National Security Council.
It is great to have you guys here.
Do you accept that President Assad
has been all but named won this war?
Let me start with some truth and
advertising. I was 15 years, more
than 15 years with the US
Department. 15 years in the White
House would have me crossing
multiple administrations. I am a
long-time civil servant. The point
about Russia and the strikes that we
currently see is, in essence, that
you have multiple complex still
ongoing inside Syria. Those strikes
against hospitals are really the
regime going after what it terms
terrorists in areas that were
essentially in de-escalation zones
agreed upon by the Russians, Turks,
and Iranians, with Russian help. It
increases the territory under
President Assad's control. This has
been going on since the early days
of the de-escalation agreements. The
regime is expanding. The amount of
territory that it holds with
Russia's help. Eventually it will
hit the borders where you have
coalition supported Kurdish forces.
This would not have been possible
without the backing of Putin?
wouldn't. It would not have been
possible without a rainy and help.
All the help of his
-- it would not have been possible
without Iranian help.
We are nowhere
near the end of a war. I spent sexy
vixen that the none. Different tours
during the Civil War. That went for
15 years. And it is far more
complex. -- I
complex. -- I spent six years in
After strike after strike on
civilians in Aleppo, John Kerry was
to call his Russian counterpart or
go and visit Moscow. Frankly I think
we went from
we went from appeasement to
complicity in those crimes.
now too late for Trump to push back
against Putin? Do you think his
military action last April was the
The action in April...
It was a token. A one-off. It
changed absolutely nothing. The
president had an opportunity to take
a much tougher position on Russia.
But as he has done since the
beginning of his presidency, he
elected not to do that. So we have
interesting consistency and policy
from Barack Obama to Trump.
Unfortunately it is in all of the
wrong directions. With the current
administration it is president to
We always risk overstating what the
US is capable of doing in Syria and
right now the United States has a
couple of thousand troops in the
areas that are held by Syrian
Kurdish forces that they have been
working with against Isis.
it be right we overstate America's
potential in Syria but not President
Given all the
considerations, made the decision it
was not in US interest to assert
that kind of military power to try
to change the balance of power on
the ground. President Putin
determined it was in Russian
interests to do so. And would wave
in front of the international
community that the legitimate
government of Syria invited him in.
I know you dispute the idea we are
near the end but would you agree
nobody stands a chance of winning
it, if that is a word, except for
You have to define
winning. How will he rule over how
much will he will rule with what
assets? Wars like this, and I have
seen too much of it, are not
predictable. Does he win if various
militia from the Islamists to the
Kurdish are holding most of the
territory of a country? Does anybody
My expectation is it will just
go on. You think devolution is
possible and there could be
different regions autonomously
Ryan's point about the
limits to what the Syrian regime and
forces can do is important. Assad is
not capable of really taking the
entire country, especially not with
the Syrian Kurdish forces backed by
the coalition holding the ground
east of the Euphrates. Certainly
also not in the south. Where Israel
has a stake in preventing the regime
from extending control to the
border. Probably in agreement with
Russia. Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu and he will talk about
Israeli red lines with respect to
infiltration along the border and I
suspect President Assad's aim is to
attenuate the conflict and work with
allies to gain as much ground as
possible, but even to rest and refit
and move forces elsewhere under
de-escalation but there are
boundaries. He will reach the
limits, and there is where we come
to the question of what next? The
what's next should in theory be
devolution of authority in ways that
allow these small pockets...
administer themselves. Ambassador, I
would like to ask about the Trump
memo release this evening. The last
guest called it the biggest crisis
since Comey was five. Is there a
constitutional crisis between the
FBI and the president in terms of
I have no idea what the
specific points are. I am not a
lawyer. The crisis I see and it is a
dangerous one, is the crisis of
extreme partisan ship. To release a
memo drafted by Republican staff and
sent only to Republican members on
such key issues, I think is a loud
warning bell. If we do not climb off
this ledge of partisanship I think
bad things will happen.
Now the moment on Newsnight
when we turn up the dial and hear
an impassioned argument.
Tonight, it's the turn
of mental health campaigner,
author and actor, Ruby Wax.
There's new evidence
that the testing regime that
keeps our buildings safe from fire
is fundamentally flawed.
The company that makes Celotex,
the insulation used in Grenfell
tower, has retracted the result
of the test it relied
upon to sell the product
for use on tall buildings.
The retraction is because a major
error was made in the safety tests -
they added an additional layer
of fire-resistant material
onto the test design
without telling test scientists.
The admission is the
latest in a series of
clarifications by the firm,
and it raises serious questions
about how fire testing
in this country works,
and how confident the public can be
that the necessary
standards are being met.
Chris Cook has our report.
This week, there was a curious
new development in what we know
about how dangerous cladding came
to be on towers across the country,
including Grenfell Tower,
where the cladding had such
a terrible cost.
A lot of attention has been paid
to the cladding's outer layer.
Aluminium panels which had
a combustible plastic core.
Those flammable panels
were critical to the disaster.
But beneath them was a much
thicker layer of flammable
plastic foam insulation,
a product sold under
the name Celotex RS5000.
Celotex is an excellent insulator.
For any given weight or thickness
of the material that helps
keep homes very warm.
But it's combustible,
so can only be used on tall
buildings in certain designs,
designs that have been carefully
assembled on a rig like this
and then tested against fire.
We already know the design
at Grenfell was never tested, but,
this week, the makers of Celotex
announced they were withdrawing
the only such test they had
prior to the fire.
Back in 2014, the company that makes
Celotex insulation sought to test
a design that was very different
to the design used
at the Grenfell Tower.
It was a design that
would hem in the combustible
insulation in on all sides with very
But what they installed at the test
centre for testing was a slightly
different design than the test
centre scientists were expecting.
It was a design that would be more
likely to pass the test,
Based on subsequent test results,
there is very strong reason
to suppose that the original design
would have passed anyway.
But this raises a serious question.
Why is it that it took four years
and the fire at Grenfell Tower
for anyone to notice this very
serious breach in
the testing regime?
And there is more.
In 2011, Celotex passed a test
relating to a flame's ability
to travel over the surface
of the insulation.
But it failed a retest last year.
A separate test found it was not
as good as previously thought
at insulating homes.
We don't know quite
what is going on here.
A scientist who developed Celotex
products long before they went
on tall buildings thinks part
of the issue is these tests
are all done in secret.
What I think is it should happen.
That reports which I used as a base
for product certifications
should be published.
Should be publicly available,
so everybody can access reports
and scrutinise these test reports.
Celotex has already suspended
a number of products
and is retesting them and seeking
to establish what the safety
consequences of this are.
But as the ongoing review
of building regulations has found,
the problems we have go well
beyond one insulation company.
Chris Cook is here.
Do you sense it helps us to
understand Grenfell better?
us understand the picture in an
important way. We have talked a lot
about how for examples there are
companies that will test one design
for fire safety and take a totally
different design say they are
basically the same, even though we
know they are not. We have talked
about the transparency problem about
how you can live in a tower with
this potentially dangerous cladding
and you are not allowed to see the
evidence that says the building you
are living in is safe. It adds a new
angle to both of those things, which
is what if the tests that happen are
terrible, just wrong? What if the
tests allow bad cladding designs
through? In that situation, those
two problems that you cannot see the
evidence and the fact people might
be manipulating evidence to get
unsafe designs onto building become
Cast your mind back to that
turbulent few months
of the 2017 election campaign.
The terrorist attacks
in London and Manchester,
the leaked Labour manifesto,
the Tory U-turn on social care,
alongside the insistence
nothing had changed.
And then the night itself.
And Lord Buckethead.
That is, perhaps,
a journalist's take on it.
But what would an artist find?
Cornelia Parker was named official
artist of the 2017 election.
And in an exclusive interview
with Steve Smith, she reveals
for the first time how she saw it,
and what she created from it.
It took a lot of negotiating
and time and permissions,
and nothing moves fast,
so it was quite a challenge,
but it was fantastic
to have that opportunity.
I needed a drone, I think,
because I wanted to have two
cameras in the House,
the benign one, a dispassionate
camera that just watches
the drone do its stuff.
A kind of malevolent one,
which is the drone, which is a free
radical swooping around,
hunting, or surveilling.
The film is called Left,
Right and Centre, and it's basically
filmed at night at the beginning.
It is stacks of
newspapers on this desk.
All of the newspapers
from the election period and beyond.
About five months of newspapers.
All of these newspapers
have been read here in
the Houses of Parliament.
They are the ones they subscribe to.
I put all the right-wing
newspapers on the right side,
and all the left-wing on the left,
and the drone disrupts
all of the papers and blows
them all over the House,
creating this terrible mess.
Left and right newspapers all get
mingled together and they form this,
kind of, bombardment,
of news headlines, some
trivial, some meaningful.
A lot of your finished
pieces concern the printed
media, the press.
But there's a view that they are
rather on the way out now.
Yeah, but the fourth
estate is not going away,
people read newspapers
online, that's all.
The physical object,
I like the cliche of the newspaper.
Is that what it's become now?
I think it has.
I love all of those things
in films where you see
the newspapers spinning round,
and, you know, on the news
you always having a factory
where they are printing them.
So I quite like the
cliche value of that.
Perhaps if newspapers have gone
in ten years it'll be
a snapshot of a time,
but they haven't
gone away, you know?
You get off the Tube at the end
of the day and it's covered
in Evening Standards.
I like that.
When you see the Tube covered
in Evening Standards.
It's somehow people have digested
something and they've moved on.
Let's talk about the Instagram feed.
You know, it was left completely up
to me what I wanted to deliver
as election artist work.
And I found it very hard to boil it
down to just one piece.
I'd never done social media before.
I really enjoyed that because it was
just like my sketchbook.
I take photographs all the time,
so for me it was very
natural to be recording
all of these little snippets.
Then I started to use more video
because I just thought, well,
this action is happening,
the photograph isn't going to do it.
Strong and stable leadership...
And then I thought, well,
how can I crystallise
all of these Instagram,
all of this period of time?
So, that's when this
animation I've made,
which is about three minutes long,
called Election Abstract,
which is basically all of my videos
and images from the Instagram
condensed into this flyby
of the election and the aftermath.
Do you think that rapid, sort of,
superfluity of images
is what the voter experienced?
I think there was so much happening,
especially with the terror attacks
in Manchester and London Bridge,
Finsbury Park mosque,
the Westminster attack that just
happened more or less same time
as I was being appointed,
and then Grenfell Tower.
Those things played into politics
whether you liked it or not.
All of the politicians I saw out
on the stump and, you know,
at various demos and things,
they seemed very engaged
with the public.
They were amongst the public.
The ones that I've met
seemed to be great,
I mean from all parties,
they all had their own passions
and beliefs, they were talking
to the crowd about that.
That was great.
Individual MPs are lowly paid
and doing a pretty great job.
Most of that was quite positive.
But meanwhile, I'd be
walking to the Tube,
or get off a train in Scotland,
for example, and I just couldn't
stop photographing homeless
people, for example.
It just seems like...
There's a statistic that's 15% more
homeless people on the street over
the last year.
I got bound up with those
issues by the end.
The general public
sort of took over.
I'm curious to know
whether at the end of this
you felt more optimistic,
positive about politicians,
the press, the democratic process,
or you thought, yes,
we really are going to the dogs.
I think I felt we were
going to the dogs.
You did think that?
I really did think at the end,
after all of the arguments,
discussions, and the surprise
of the election, that
then afterwards that
would change something.
That that would be reflected
in things going forward.
I think the election
got hijacked by Brexit.
People were really confused about
which party to vote for on that.
And I think that the hung
the ambivalence of the public.
And yet everything juddered on as if
the election hadn't happened.
So that was a curious thing.
I was quite surprised by that.
Shall we do something that doesn't
happen here very often?
Thank you very much.
Great seeing you again.
It could have been any thing with
And if you'd like to see the rest
of Cornelia Parker's election work,
it's on Parliament's website -
and in an exhibition
in Westminster Hall.
That's all we have time for.