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Trump's Ties to Russia Leads Flynn's Resignation; Undocumented Immigrants to be Deported; Peal Deal for Israelis and Palestinians; Missile Launch as Gift; Team USA Prepares for WWC. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired February 16, 2017 - 03:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. president is refusing to answer questions about his team's connections with Russia. But he's found a way to blame the media again. There may be a shift in American policy towards Middle East peace. We will have reaction from Jerusalem.

And desperate to stay. An undocumented immigrant with four American children holds up in a church to avoid deportation.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Two powerful U.S. senators are calling for more information on what brought the national security adviser down. They want an FBI briefing and transcripts of Mike Flynn's call with a Russian ambassador back in December.

Flynn was forced to resign and has had his access to classified information suspended. Reporters looking for clarification from the president are not getting many answers.

Sara Murray reports instead they're getting an attack.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is lashing out about the news that his top advisers were in constant communication with suspected Russian operatives during the presidential campaign.

But rather than address the substance of those communications, Trump is lampooning the press, slamming the coverage of ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, the man Trump fired just two days ago for misleading the vice president about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media. Things are being leaked. It's criminal action, criminal act, and it's been going on for a long time before me. But now it's really going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: The president, airing his grievances after multiple current and former intelligence officials told CNN that communications between Trump advisers and Russian officials could be cause for alarm.

Between cries of fake news, the president took to Twitter to say, "The Russian connection nonsense is merely an attempt to cover up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign."

He also took aim yet again, at the intelligence community, tweeting, "The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by, quote, "intelligence like candy." Very un-American."

Throughout the day, the president ignored repeated questions about communications between Russians and his campaign advisers. And top administration officials have repeatedly denied any contact.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS HOST: Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who are trying to meddle in the election?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, of course not.

DICKERSON: Did anyone involved in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, DONALD TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Absolutely not, and I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Trump often spoke glowingly about Russia during the presidential campaign, even in the wake of intelligence findings that Russia attempted to meddle in the U.S. election, Trump predicted U.S. and Russian relations would improve under his presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Russia will have far greater respect for our country when I'm leading it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: He still insisted to reporters in January, though, that there was no contact between his campaign and Russian officials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you or anyone in your campaign have any contact with Russia leading up to or during the campaign? Nothing at all?

(END VIDEO CLIP) MURRAY: And as recently as Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he had no reason to revise the record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Happy Valentine's Day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Sara Murray reporting there.

Well, the Kremlin has had little to say about Michael Flynn's resignation or the Trump's camp -- Trump campaign's contacts with Russian officials.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me live from Moscow. So, Clare, President Trump has been at pains to focus on the leaking of this material rather than the content of that leak. Is the strategy in Russia to just ignore this whole issue and hope it all goes away?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, it's interesting. The strategy here seems to be starting to look remarkably similar to that of President Trump. We heard yesterday from the Kremlin on that question of those close contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov saying, you know, don't trust anonymous sources. Don't read your morning newspapers. He said, it's difficult to distinguish real news from fake news, so very much pushing it back on the media.

Although of course he didn't deny that any contacts had taken place. This is something that we had heard in the past. Russia had said before publicly that there were contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. We don't know any more about the frequency of them or the nature of them, but certainly they have never made a secret of that.

[03:05:02] But this is something that we're hearing, a level of concern among political circles here in Russia that these leaks in the media could be part of a conspiracy to try to stop Trump from carrying out some of his more pro-Russian policies.

Politicians have been tweeting and putting on Facebook opinions about this one, tweeting yesterday, Aleksey Pushkov is a prominent politician here saying, you know, they're trying to beat Russia with the -- beat Trump, rather, with the Russia card.

Another one calling this a continuation of the information war to try to stop President Trump and many others in his administration who are in favor of closer ties with Russia.

So, I think certainly there is a level of concern that this president -- this administration, who many in Russia had hopes for a closing of ties, this could be a little less smooth than they had hoped, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Right. And, Clare, as this all plays out, two high-level meetings are about to take place. One of them is between the new U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Bonn. What is expected out of that meeting?

SEBASTIAN: Well, certainly from the Russian point of view they're going to be looking for clarification, for some more information on the areas that the two sides could be looking to work together. Obviously, the last few days have been rather turbulent as I was saying just now in terms of how this relationship could develop.

But there are still public statements coming out that they do hope to be able to improve the relationship and look for areas, particularly when it comes to counterterrorism, perhaps in Syria that they can work together.

Rex Tillerson, of course, was a big hope here in Russia for that deepening of ties. He had close links with Russia when he was CEO of ExxonMobil. He was awarded the Order of Friendship by Putin in 2013, which is one of the highest orders that a foreign -- a foreigner can get in Russia.

But that's not the only meeting that's happening today. We also expect to see a high level meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan between the U.S. joints --head of Joints Chief of Staff, General Dunford and his Russian counterpart General Gerasimov and they are expected to discuss military cooperation.

But very interestingly as well, we're hearing from both sides that they are expected to talk about what the Russians are calling incidents, these close calls that we've been seeing between the two sides, particularly when it comes to, you know, this accusation last week from the U.S. that Russian jets had come in close contact with a U.S. naval vessel in the Black Sea, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Clare Sebastian, joining us live from Moscow, where it is just 7 minutes past 11 in the morning.

Well, President Trump is promising to broker what he calls a great peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians but hasn't offered a plan.

During a news conference with the Israeli prime minister, he stepped away from a longstanding U.S. policy of pushing for a two-state solution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I could live with either one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Oren Liebermann is live in Jerusalem for us. He joins me now. So, Oren, what has been the reaction to this joint news conference with the Israeli prime minister, particularly when the U.S. president said he could live with either a two-state or a one-state solution, whatever the two sides decide? What are the Palestinians saying about that?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump's answer there was incredibly non-committal, saying basically they can work it out and I'll support whatever it is they work out.

The Palestinian leadership has made it very clear that the only realistic option, the only real option is a two-state solution. In a statement from the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Abbas said he still supports a two-state solution and he seized upon what must have been just about the only positive statement from the Palestinian perspective, which is when Trump called on Israel to halt settlement construction for a little bit just so he could work on a peace deal.

That was the focus. He called on Israel to stand by that statement, whereas, others in the PLO leadership, including Hanan Ashrawi, the executive committee said, if Trump really wants a one-state solution, what will that actually look like? Will it be Israelis and Palestinians with equal rights or will it be apartheid? Israel have rights and Palestinians don't.

Those are the sort of questions that need to be figured out here, far more than Trump's non-committal answer gave in terms of his plan, his vision for the Middle East, it becoming apparent that his administration hasn't formulated a coherent Middle East policy yet.

Meanwhile, Israel's right wing the government included, is very much celebrating that press conference. They see it as Netanyahu backing away from his commitment to a two-state solution. When asked does he still stands by his support of a two-state solution, he absolutely dodged the question saying he wants to talk about substance rather than labels.

He said at a press briefing afterwards according to Israeli media reports that him and Trump had not reached an agreement on settlement construction, but it's something they'll keep discussing.

[03:09:59] CHURCH: Yes, I want to talk about that. Let's go back to that mention there. You said President Trump turned to the prime minister of Israel and suggested that he hold back on settlements a little bit.

How is Mr. Netanyahu likely to interpret that, and how will he respond to that request, do you think?

LIEBERMANN: Well, again, he said afterwards in a briefing according to the Israeli media that they hadn't reached an agreement here. He's under tremendous pressure from those that are more right wing than himself and his party to build - to build in east Jerusalem, to build in West Bank settlements, and we're likely to see that happen.

Remember, we've already seen some 6,000 new settlement homes approved just in the first few weeks of the Trump administration. After this press conference, Israeli's right will feel more emboldened and call on more construction. Many even calling on a partial annexation of the West bank or a complete annexation of the West bank.

So, I think we're likely to see more settlement construction announced very soon. That will be one of the consequences of this press conference and of the policies that Prime Minister Netanyahu put forward. The question is not if but when.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Oren Liebermann, joining us live from Jerusalem. Just 10 minutes past 10 in the morning there.

And still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, a G-20 meeting gets underway soon in Germany, giving top U.S. and Russian diplomats their first chance to talk face to face since Donald Trump became U.S. President. We've covered a bit of that. We'll do a little more on that.

Plus, an immigrant mother in the U.S. takes refuge inside a church, fearing deportation to her home country. Back in a moment.

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KATE RILEY, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN World Sport headlines.

Champions League holders Royal Madrid over attendant early deficit take a 3-1 advantage into their second leg tie not only inspired by former player Diego Maradona's presence in Madrid. The Italians took the lead in the eighth minute behind Lorenzo Insigne and put Karim Benzema ahead the level the affair after 19 minutes.

And second half goals from Toni Kroos and Casemiro put Zinedine Zidane's side in the driver's seat ahead of their March 7th trip to the Sao Paulo.

Now Bayern Munich have all but progress in their rise against Arsenal after dominant home display against the Arsene Wenger's men. The first half finish won all but four second half goals from the German champions including two from Thiago make the second half in London nearly an impossible task for the Gunners. Bayern can eliminate Arsenal from the Champions League for the third time in the last five years.

And we are just 100 days away from the start of the 35th America's Cup, the sailing race which dates back to 1851.

[03:15:00] Four years ago, the Oracle team USA recovered from an insurmountable 8-1 deficit only to go on and win the remaining eight races and defend their title. This year, Oracle will face the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup which takes place immediately prior to the competition.

And that's a look at all your sports headlines. I'm Kate Riley.

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, the U.S. Defense Department is considering sending ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria. It's one of several options under review as the Pentagon puts together a plan to defeat the terror group.

The White House has asked for their plan by the end of this month. Right now, only small teams of U.S. Special Operations Forces are in Syria as trainers and advisers.

Well, two key figures with the Trump administration are representing U.S. interests at important meetings in Europe. On Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis met with NATO ministers in Brussels for the first time since his confirmation. He reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO.

And in Germany, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived for the G-20 meeting in Bonn. It marks his debut as the top U.S. diplomat.

CNN's Nic Robertson is covering that for us in Bonn. And in Brussels, CNN's Erin McLaughlin. Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Nic, let's start with you. All eyes of course will be on this meeting between the U.S. secretary of state and the Russian foreign minister. Talk to us about the significance of this, particularly in light of what is happening back in the United States with the revelation of frequent contacts between Russian officials and Trump aides.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This is absolutely huge. Not only the debut for Rex Tillerson. Of course his days at ExxonMobil, you know, negotiating oil deals in Moscow will give him some familiarity with the Russian mindset, if you will, but he's going to come face to face with his opposite number, Sergey Lavrov.

There has been frustration at the foreign ministry in Moscow that the State Department hasn't had its sort of key players lined up to handle the key issues that Russia has wanted to talk about, Syria, Ukraine, just to name about a couple of the issues.

So this is a very important meeting coming at a critical time when the Kremlin begins to perhaps realize that with the loss of national -- Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in the White House, that they've lost a line of communication there that certainly does seem to be an emerging narrative.

But for Rex Tillerson today, very substantial talks potentially with Sergey Lavrov, not least the possible use of U.S. ground troops inside Syria. We're told that the two men will talk about issues of common interest that will include working together potentially on ISIS as President Trump has outlined in the past, working together on counterterrorism.

Both countries seem to share a desire to work together on that. But what can the possible framework of that will be, well, certainly we've heard from the Kremlin in the last 24 hours or so pushing back at the White House suggestions that to get sanctions lifted on Russia, they will have to pull out of Crimea. The indications from the Kremlin, that's not going to fly.

And what we understand that Rex -- the message that Rex Tillerson will bring to Sergey Lavrov is that the United States is supporting its alliance allies, the Transatlantic Alliance allies. That means that it wants to mince agreement over Ukraine, the terms of that mess in full before sanctions can be lifted.

And as well, sanctions over -- sanctions from the U.S. perspective won't be lifted until the United States is out of Crimea. So it's a very strong message. But just to be clear, you know, this is a G-20 meeting and the meeting between Tillerson and Lavrov is going to be in the sidelines, in the margins. This sort of small pull aside bilateral between the Paris. It's not the only thing, of course, Tillerson has on his plate but it's the one everyone is watching today, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. Got it. And Erin, to you now, what came out of U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis' meeting with NATO ministers and what's ahead in Brussels today?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Secretary Mattis yesterday took the opportunity to not only reaffirm United States commitment to the NATO alliance, but he also offered up what has been characterized as a sharp warning, saying that the United States could moderate its commitments to the alliance if the allies did not increase their defense spending.

He used some emotive language when talking about this in a closed-door meeting with the defense minister's remarks that were later distributed to members of the press saying, quote, "No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of western values."

[03:20:09] "Americans cannot care more for your children's security than you do." Now This of course is all in reference to a commitment made by NATO allies in 2014 to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense by 2024.

Currently, only five of 28 NATO allies meet that threshold. And what the Americans are saying is they want that to change. Secretary Mattis pointing to the evolving political landscape, saying that in the United States, government patience is running thin.

Today, we expect discussions among the defense ministers to continue. Cybersecurity on the agenda. Yesterday, NATO secretary general pointing to a 60 percent increase in cyber-attacks on NATO infrastructure between 2015 and 2016, and he pointed to reports of Russian involvement in that.

So, today the defense ministers are going to be discussing what more they can do to bolster cyber security. Also on the agenda today, a discussion about ISIS, what to do about ISIS. This as the United States is discussing the possibility of sending ground troops into northern Syria. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Nic Robertson in Bonn, Erin McLaughlin in Brussels, many thanks to both of you. I appreciate it.

Well, an undocumented immigrant fearing arrest is holed up right now in a church in the U.S. State of Colorado. She has lived in the country for 20 years and stayed under the radar until some legal troubles just a few years ago. Well, now she faces deportation.

Ana Cabrera has her story.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Demonstrators outside the immigration office in Colorado, supporting a mother of four from Mexico, Jeanette Vizguerra scheduled to check in with ICE, unlike other check-ins in her attorney and pastor entered without her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to go in and talk to immigration. We'll be back in a second.

JEANNETTE VIZGUERRA, UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: My intuition is bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Vizguerra chose not to show up, instead taking refuge inside a church, where she received the bad news by phone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They denied her stay.

CABRERA: Her request for a temporary stay denied despite six previous stays that were granted. Vizguerra, first speechless, then in tears. Her nightmare coming true. We talked with her prior to the check-in about her fear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIZGUERRA: It's difficult. My kids is my life. My family is my life. No, it's my country. It's my house. It's the house of my kids. It's the country of my kids.

CABRERA: So this is your home?

VIZGUERRA: Yes, it's my home. I'm living more years here than my country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Vizguerra came to the U.S. in 1997. She has three children, ages 6, 10, and 12, who are citizens, born in the U.S. Her oldest, Tanya, is 26 with three children of her own. She has legal status through DACA, an Obama administration policy that protects immigrant use from deportation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is basically the breadwinner of our family, so without her, my kids would not know their grandma anymore and they wouldn't see grandma.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: This family's future in limbo since 2009 when Vizguerra was arrested following a traffic stop. She had a fake social security number on a job application in her car. She's been fighting deportation ever since. Did they give you specific reasons for denying the stay this time?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS MEYER, JEANNETTE VIZGUERRA'S ATTORNEY: When you have a blanket deportation policy, you don't need to have specific reasons. You just say no, and that's exactly what they did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: The local ICE Office provided the following response, saying, "Jeanette Vizguerra Ramirez from Mexico has two misdemeanor convictions. On November 18th, 2011, a federal immigration judge originally issued her final orders of deportation to Mexico. Based on these factors, Vizguerra-Ramirez is on ICE enforcement priority.

(CROWD CHANTING)

CABRERA: The news triggering a protest in D.C. Meantime, Colorado Congressman Jared Polis has filed a private bill in the House of Representatives, hoping to help plead her case.

For now, she's moved into this Denver church basement, an informal sanctuary where immigration officials have not yet dared to go. She addressed supporters through a translator this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[03:25:00] VIZGUERRA (through translator): So I know that my fight will continue even though I'm still -- even though I'm inside these walls. There's much I can do to continue organizing and to continue to support my community. By my community, I don't just mean the Mexican immigrant community, I don't just mean South Americans. There are people from all over the world that are in the exact same situation as I am.

CABRERA: How long are you prepared to stay here?

VIZGUERRA: I don't know. It's possible, days, months, or years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Ana Cabrera, CNN, Denver.

CHURCH: And there will be a nationwide campaign in U.S. on Thursday to protest President Trump's immigration policies. It's called a day without immigrants, and anyone foreign born is being asked not to work or shop.

Dozens of restaurants and other businesses are shutting their doors in solidarity. Immigrants make up a vast majority of labor for the restaurant industry. A 2015 report showed more than seven million restaurant workers in the U.S. were foreign born. Many of the restaurants closing for the day are in Washington, D.C. And we are just about a month into Donald Trump's presidency. He's

certainly signed a lot of executive orders, but there's one thing overshadowing his accomplishments. That's next.

And later, we will go live to Iran where a particular group of U.S. athletes is leading the diplomatic charge. We'll explain.

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[03:29:58] A warm welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary church. I want to update you on the main stories we're following this hour.

A growing number of U.S. senators are demanding more information about ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian officials. The top republican and democrat on the judiciary committee want a full FBI briefing.

Meanwhile, House republicans want an investigation into the leaks that led to Flynn's resignation.

The new U.S. secretary of state has arrived in Germany for the G-20 meeting. It is Rex Tillerson's first international trip since his confirmation. Russia says its Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Tillerson will get together Thursday in a sideline meeting.

The Pentagon may recommend sending U.S. combat forces into Syria. A U.S. defense official says it's being considered to help step up the fight against ISIS. Ground troops would be a major change for the U.S. in Syria. Up until now, only small teams have been used to assist and train local forces.

Well, whatever you think of Donald Trump's politics, he's certainly been very busy during his first few weeks in office. But the daily stream of scandals and setbacks could be taking its toll.

CNN's Tom Foreman reports.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amid the rush of his first 100 days, President Trump is talking policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: My administration remains very focused on the issues that will encourage economic growth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: But problems are frequently blocking out that message, creating a picture of a White House in chaos.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: It started on day one with the unproven claim of a record inauguration audience, which when challenged produced the wildly quotable statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY: Our press secretary gave alternative facts to that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Then the president himself chimed in, insisting while he won the electoral vote, he gathered fewer popular votes in the general election only because of illegal voting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There are millions of votes in my opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Again, no proof and on it goes. A meeting with Mexico fell apart amid sharp words. A raid in Yemen went tragically wrong. The president insisted terrorism is running so out of control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: When that claim was disputed, he issued a list of underreported incidents which took heat too. The president fired the acting attorney general for not enforcing his travel ban.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: She was rightfully removed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Only to have the courts halt the ban anyway. Even as he has struggled to get his promised repeal of Obamacare rolling in earnest, the president has attacked democrats for trying to slow down approval of his cabinet members.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They could move faster on the other side, I will say that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Only to see his choice for labor secretary withdraw his nomination two days after the ouster of his national security adviser amid concerns about ties to Russia. And for all that, he found time to fire a Twitter rocket at

Nordstrom's for pulling his daughter's merchandise, which a top aide urged people to buy anyway, which another aide suggested was not the right move.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: Kellyanne has been counseled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Certainly all new presidents face challenges, but in the first 100 days, Bill Clinton passed a federal judge and signed the Family Leave Act. George W. Bush ushered in no child left behind and started work on big tax cuts, and Barack Obama launched the economic stimulus and laid the groundwork for Obamacare.

CHURCH: CNN's Tom Foreman reporting there.

Joining me now, Inderjeet Parmar, professor of international politics at City University in London. Thank you so much for being with us.

INDERJEET PARMAR, PROFESSOR, CITY UNIVERSITY IN LONDON: Thanks. Pleased to be on.

CHURCH: Of course, a lot to cover here but let's start with the demise of President Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

PARMAR: Yes.

CHURCH: And Mr. Trump called him a wonderful man who was mistreated by the media. But it was Mr. Trump who forced Flynn to resign, not the media, due to a lack of trust because he misled the vice president. That's how his Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, explain his departure. So what's the logic behind blaming the media, and will people buy it? Now they've heard it a few sometimes. Are they continuing to buy this?

PARMAR: Well, I think the logic behind blaming the media is to deflect attention from his own crisis. Really what this issue calls into question is his own judgment. Michael Flynn has been -- was fired from a previous job as a director of the Defense Intelligence Agency by President Obama. The way he treated his staff there, the sort of Flynn facts that he came up at that time suggested he was not somebody reliable.

And then his behavior at the Republican National Convention last summer when he joined in calls from the audience about locking up Hillary Clinton also called his judgment into question among military people as well.

[03:35:07] So, I think by blaming the media, effectively Donald Trump is evading responsibility for the fact that he decided to appoint Michael Flynn in the first place as his national security adviser. Will people buy it?

My own guess is that playing to attacking the media is really an attempt to get to his core base to suggest that this is the establishment ganging up as usual against the radical candidate, the people's candidate. I suspect that those who are hard core voters for Donald Trump are unlikely, as yet, to have changed their mind about the person that they voted for.

CHURCH: All right. Well, we are also seeing Mr. Trump try to move this story away from what we've learned about the frequent contacts made between his aides and Russia and focus instead on what he calls the criminal act of leaking this material.

And republicans are calling for an investigation into the leak, and Mr. Trump is refusing to ask any questions from the mainstream media on contact with Russia. How sustainable is this approach, simply ignoring the hard questions and just going to the friendly media?

PARMAR: I think you can leave it aside for a little while. But the fact is that if these allegations are anywhere near verifiable and verified, then a lot of people are going to be asking questions who are basically supporting the Trump presidency at the moment.

That is senators and congress people, and they're going to want to ask, to what extent did this sort of behavior occur? When did it occur? How far before the election? And did Donald Trump know about it because this is actually illegal under the Logan Act of 1799.

No one's ever been prosecuted under that act as I understand it, but this does raise a big question that while he was not yet officially elected or even president-elect or whatever, that his team was already conducting international negotiations with a country with which the United States was in controversy or at least a dispute.

So I don't think he's going to be able to deflect it the whole time because there are a lot of people in the Congress who are very interested in this issue as well.

CHURCH: And big picture now. How much of what Mr. Trump promised before he took office is he on track to fulfill, and what is the overall view of his administration in this fourth week?

PARMAR: Well, in regard to his promises, he's kept his Muslim ban promise, and that's been -- that has basically been defied by the courts as we would have expected because it was unconstitutional. And it seems to be that on the rhetorical front, building the wall in regard to Mexico and keeping the temperature high on the question of Islam and so on, I think he's stuck to his promises.

Unfortunately, he hasn't delivered very much, and that looks like incompetence. But on the other question, which was really what many people feared, that he was challenging the very basis of the post-1945 international system, that is, he suggested that NATO is obsolete, the treaty with Japan and South Korea was obsolete and they were taking advantage, that the interference in the Middle East wasn't going to happen under his watch, that China had been taking advantage as well and so on, on those questions he's actually rode back a long way.

And his Defense Secretary Mattis, his own call to China, his meeting with Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan last weekend, all of those suggest he's rode back a long way, and that in fact, that he's actually observing what many people thought he would violate, which was the basis of the international system of 1945 that he challenged in the election campaign.

CHURCH: All right. Interjeet Parmar, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your perspective on this. We do appreciate it.

PARMAR: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, North Korea says its latest missile test was not meant to anger its enemies but rather to pay tribute to a friend. We'll explain.

[03:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back. Well, the North Korean government says their latest missile launch was not meant to provoke its enemies. Instead, a government source tells CNN that the missile was a gift for late leader Kim Jong-il.

Our Will Ripley has this exclusive report from Pyongyang.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: North Korea has no religious holidays, but make no mistake. This is a time of worship. On the 75th birthday week of late leader Kim Jong-il, tens of thousands flocked to one of Pyongyang's most sacred sites. They come to honor two men whose legacy towers over every aspect of life in this highly militarized nation. The men who led North Korea into the nuclear age.

A government source tells CNN it's no coincidence North Korean leader Kim Jong-un chose this week to test the latest weapon in his growing arsenal. A ballistic missile and newly developed mobile launcher. North Korea says it's capable of a nuclear surprise attack on key U.S. allies and military installations, and it seems to play well with the people.

"We're very proud of our military achievements," says this retiree. "Now we have nothing to be afraid of in the world."

These men have lived under three decades of Kim family leadership. All their lives their government has warned them they're under the constant threat of invasion by what they call the hostile United States.

They've seen North Korea's arsenal grow along with its alienation from the outside world.

Do you worry that these tests are isolating your country and leading to more economic hardship?

"We've always lived under sanctions," he says. "We were under sanctions yesterday and today. We're not worried."

The North Korean weapons program began under the late leaders Kim Il- sun and Kim Jong-il, but it has really accelerated under the current leader Kim Jong-un.

Just in the last year alone, he has ordered two nuclear tests and launched more than 20 missiles and he's promising more to come.

Everyone we meet on the streets of Pyongyang offers only praise for their leader's military first policies. "As long as we have our great martial Kim Jong-un and we believe in him, we're not afraid of anything," says this city employee. "We're allowed to approach anyone we want." All give the same answer.

In this closed society, nearly all information comes from state- controlled media.

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[03:44:58] JOSEPH BERMUDEZ, 38 NORTH SENIOR ANALYST: This is the reason why you are sacrificing. This is why you don't have the highest quality of food. You have to work extra hours.

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RIPLEY: Joseph Bermudez, senior analyst with 38 North says missile launches and nuclear tests allow the young leader to project power and ensure survival.

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BERMUDEZ: North Korea is in this for the long term.

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RIPLEY: He says Kim's ultimate goal, to make it simply too dangerous for any foreign country to threaten his nation's existence.

Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.

CHURCH: Malaysian police have arrested a second woman in the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother. He died in Kuala Lumpur earlier this week after he was attacked at an airport.

Our Saima Mohsin is following this story in the Malaysian capital. She joins us now live. So, Saima, what more are you learning about the circumstances surrounding the death of Kim Jong-nam, and what more do we know about these two suspects?

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll give you more details about the suspects first, Rosemary, because the very latest in the last hour, CNN hearing Kuala Lumpur, the team has managed to confirm with a police spokesman that those two female suspects have been remanded in custody for seven days.

Now, you'll remember that it was actually the South Korean intelligence committee that first alerted there may have been two Asian women involved in this attack at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Now, both women have been named. One as a Vietnamese passport holder,

Doan Thi Huong, very young, 28 years old. The other also a young lady. A 25-year-old, Siti Aishah. She holds an Indonesian passport. Both being held.

Now it's believed that the attack was carried out in terminal 2 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and one official has told local media that Kim Jong-nam reported being grabbed from behind and his face being smothered. Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Saima Mohsin reporting there from Kuala Lumpur where it is nearly 5 o'clock in the early evening. Many thanks.

And U.S. wrestlers are ready to rumble in Iran after the country initially shut them out over President Trump's travel ban. We'll have a live report.

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PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's a cool Thursday around the eastern United States. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

[03:49:58] As we had a storm system pass through. The region has cooled off the temperatures back right around to seasonal values for this time of year. While around the northeastern United States we're going to begin to see this pattern dry up as well as the storm departs and leaves behind some scattered snow showers.

Generally, in places Boston northward it wouldn't be surprised if we get a dusting of snow just outside of the Boston metro area especially a little farther north of town.

Here's what's going on across California. Notice the flood watches, expansive over an area of residents to tens of millions of people around Southern California where we know heavy rainfall in the forecast yet again going into the latter portion of this week.

In fact, you take a close look at how much rainfall is forecast right there on the bottom of your screen in Los Angeles. Six to seven inches in spots across parts of Southern California. By the way, in parts of town, that is about the entire years' worth of rainfall through just Saturday alone.

So it really puts it in perspective of the severity of what's going to be occurring across parts of southern California with additional rainfall in the forecast. That's going into Friday. Thursday, partly cloudy skies, around 18 degrees. The rains have already moved into San Francisco. Looking at 16 degrees while farther to the south, around Managua, 34. Cartagena, comes into the upper 20's, Caracas, high temps around 32 degrees.

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Iran gave the U.S. wrestling team a very warm welcome. Just weeks after icing them out over President Trump's travel ban.

Frederik Pleitgen joins us now from Tehran with more on this. So, Fred, what changed Iran's mind, and how might this trip help relations between the U.S. and Tehran?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, there's so much that's been happening between the U.S. and Iran since President Trump assumed office and it really looked as though the U.S. team's trip here to Iran for the Wrestling World Cup might be one of the victims of the new tensions between Iran and the USA.

Their visas were canceled by Iranian authorities and it took the lobbying of both the Iranian and the U.S. federation to get those visas reinstated. And to also of course, Rosemary, the fact that Donald Trump's travel ban was shut down by several U.S. courts.

And so the U.S. wrestlers finally made it to Iran there in Kermanshah. And the World Cup has actually just kicked off a couple of minutes ago. And we were able to speak to those U.S. wrestlers while they were gearing up for that World Cup. Here's what they told us.

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PLEITGEN: A tough sporting mission with a twist of diplomacy. America's national wrestling team is in Kermanshah, Iran for the World Cup. A trip that almost fell through because of tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Olympic gold medalist, Jordan Burroughs saying the team is just happy to be here.

JORDAN BURROUGHS, TEAM USA WRESTLER: It was difficult being pawns in the game of, you know, political powers that really essentially were deciding our fate. So, it was a little difficult for a period of time, but we stayed the course. We continued to train, continue to prepare and luckily we were able to come.

PLEITGEN: Iran originally refused to grant team USA visas in retaliation for the Trump administration's travel ban that also targeted Iran. But after U.S. courts blocked the ban, the visas came through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PLEITGEN: Of course there was a lot of uncertainty for the team USA wrestlers not knowing for a very long time whether they'd be able to come here to Iran at all. But now that they've made it, they say their main focus is to compete hard and win big.

Iran and America are wrestling powerhouses. Many U.S. wrestlers, stars in Iran like Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder.

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KYLE SNYDER, TEAM USA WRESTLER: So, every Iranian that I've ever come in contact with have always been extremely respectful, extremely polite. Now, like you said there's a little bit of turmoil politically, but definitely you don't see that within the sport. You know, we respect each other as competitors and as people.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PLEITGEN: Team USA received a raging welcome when they arrived here both from Iranian officials and fans of the sport. Team USA's coach says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL ZADICK, COACH, TEAM USA: Well, this is my fourth time to Iran. We've been treated extremely well as we have in the past and as we try to reciprocate when they come to the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PLEITGEN: While political tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been escalating since President Trump assumed office, the head of Iran's Wrestling Federation tells me politics have no place in the sporting rivalry.

"We are two very powerful international wrestling teams," he says, "and along with others we're trying to help the sport internationally to promote wrestling throughout the world."

Iran and the U.S. are clashing once again on the wrestling mats and now that the diplomatic hurdles have been cleared, the athletes say their only focus is trying to win it all.

[03:54:57] And now that that Wrestling World Cup is underway, of course the U.S. wants to win that World Cup. And they clearly are very much on a mission, Rosemary. The Iranians have won the Wrestling World Cup the past couple of times, including three times on U.S. soil.

So, the Americans are saying, look, we've overcome all these political hurdles to get here. There has been all of that uncertainty. But right now what we want to do is we want to work out really hard.

And it was so interesting when we were down there in Kermanshah, it was right after the U.S. team had arrived. And they had a treacherous and difficult journey out, too, there. They flew from the U.S. to Germany, then to Tehran and then to Kermanshah. So, four flights that they had to take, went immediately into the practice room to get on the mat and start working out. And you can see that while that competition is so stiff.

That there's so much respect between these two wrestling powerhouses. The big nations of course, Rosemary, are the U.S., Iran, and Russia in wrestling.

And I was speaking a little more to that head of the Iranian Wrestling Federation, and I asked him, what would it have meant if the U.S. would not have been able to participate in this Wrestling World Cup? He said, look, "America is such a strong team, such a well-respected team here in Iran that a World Cup without the U.S. really wouldn't have been a World Cup at all, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Great outcome there. Never underestimate the power of sports, right. Frederick Pleitgen, joining us there from Tehran, where it is it nearly 12.30 in the afternoon. Many thanks. Well, you have probably only ever seen a camel out in the desert

plodding through the sand. But these lucky few found themselves some snow in eastern Turkey and they look pretty happy about it. And it's hard not to smile as you watch them frolicking out there. Isn't that gorgeous?

Again, we'd like to leave you with a smile after we bring you all the doom and gloom across the globe. Thanks for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter. I love to hear from you.

The news continues with our Max Foster in London. You're watching CNN. Have yourselves a great day.

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