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Dems Call for Sessions to Resign; E.U. Lifts Le Pen's Immunity from Prosecution; Villagers Face Harsh Existence in Rural Russia; Some in U.K. Fascinated with Trump. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 2, 2017 - 16:00:00   ET




CLARISSA WARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL GUEST ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Clarissa Ward, sitting in for Hala Gorani. We are live from CNN London and this is THE


Donald Trump is rallying the troops today, focusing on a plan to rebuild the military, but a firestorm involving his attorney general is

overshadowing almost everything else. The U.S. president just wrapped up a speech aboard an aircraft carrier in Virginia.

Before he took the stage, he told reporters that he has, quote, "total confidence" in Jeff Sessions, even as calls grow for him to resign.

Sessions is under fire after it emerged that he had two meetings with Russia's U.S. ambassador last year.

He did not disclose those contacts while testifying under oath at his Senate confirmation hearing. Here's what Sessions said this morning.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign and those remarks

are unbelievable to me and are false and I don't have anything else to say about that. So, thank you.


WARD: President Trump addressed the controversy very briefly while speaking to reporters a short time ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should Mr. Sessions recuse himself from the investigations into Russia?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you first learn that Sessions spoke to the Russian ambassador?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't think he should do that at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When were you aware that he spoke to the Russian ambassador?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I wasn't aware at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you find out?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: He probably did.


WARD: Some Republican lawmakers are warning against rushing to judgment, but a growing number are now backing calls for Sessions to recuse himself

from an investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged contacts with Russia. Many Democrats are going further, demanding that Sessions resign.

Here is just some of the reaction today on Capitol Hill.


REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The fact that the attorney general, the top cop in our country, lied under oath to the

American people is grounds for him to resign.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: His integrity and independence has been questioned. It would be better for the country if he would


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We meet with ambassadors all the time. I mean, I did a reception about a hundred yards that way with

about a hundred ambassadors last year. I don't even remember all the ones I met with and took pictures with. It's really common for members of

Congress to meet with ambassadors. I met with the Indian ambassador yesterday. So that kind of thing happens all the time. As to the rest of

it, I would refer you to Jeff Sessions and the Senate Judiciary Committee.


WARD: Let's get more now from White House correspondent, Sara Murray. I mean, obviously, President Trump didn't mention it in his speech, but you

heard him talking to reporters briefly there. Is what he said likely to allow the Democrats to back down at all?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I'm sure that the Democrats are not going to back down just because the president said he had total

confidence in his attorney general. But Clarissa, it's worth noting how different this is from how the president handled questions about Michael

Flynn, for instance, the national security adviser he fired.

When we were asking him about whether he had confidence in Flynn just before the firing, he said, we're going to put out a statement, the

statement said, we're looking into it. Today we're seeing a president who appears to be standing by his guy, saying he has total confidence in


He believes that he testified truthfully. And remember, these are two men who have a sort of deep well of affection between the two of them. Jeff

Sessions was a guy who came out on the campaign trail regularly and was the first senator to endorse Trump while he was running for president, at a

time when a number of Republicans still thought he was a long shot.

WARD: And assuming, as well, that it would be, you know, very difficult for President Trump to lose two members of his core inner circle to

allegations about Russia. Sara, one thing that really struck me was that the White House learned about this through press reports.

MURRAY: That's right. There were a lot of questions about the timeline of this, whether the president may have known about these meetings ahead of

time, today, when he was asked by reporters, he said he wasn't aware at all that Jeff Sessions had met with the Russian ambassador.

[15:05:11]And we were told by his an administration official that the way that they learned about these meetings between Jeff Sessions and the

Russian ambassador was through media reports, through the stories that came out, and obviously, set off this firestorm.

WARD: Do you think, Sara, there's a sense that this isn't going away, this Russia question, just keeps on coming up, again and again. Is there

anything that the White House can do at this stage to put it to bed?

MURRAY: Well, it does make you wonder why they haven't done more to this point. Obviously, this Russia question is a big issue. We know that the

White House has been told, you need to preserve any documents related to Russia, any correspondence, as part of this inquiry into Russian meddling

in the campaign.

They've directed staffers to do this. But the fact you still have cabinet members, high-ranking officials who had contact with Russian officials that

the president doesn't know about, that the west wing doesn't know about.

That they're being surprised by in media reports certainly gives you the sense that they haven't done the full vetting of their own officials or at

least gotten sort of the full information about who had contacts with which Russian officials.

No, this inquiry is not going away. Both the House and Senate are looking into it. Intelligence agencies are looking into it. So this story line is

not going to die down anytime soon -- Clarissa.

WARD: OK, Sara Murray at the White House, thank you so much.

MURRAY: Thanks.

WARD: Russia said that reports of the meetings between Sessions and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak are, quote, "shameful and an attempt at total

misinformation." It is also rejecting characterizations of Kislyak as one of Russia's top spies in Washington.

And we should add that current and former senior U.S. government officials describe him that way to CNN. But the kremlin says it's simply false.

Take a listen to this heated exchange between a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman and our very own Matthew Chance.


MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN: I mean, mr. Kislyak is a well-known -- I mean, world-class diplomat, who was a deputy

minister of foreign affairs in Russia, who has communicated with his American colleagues for decades on different fields. And CNN accused him

of being Russian spy, recruiting --

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wait, it was U.S. officials that accused him --

ZAKHAROVA: Come on, stop, stop spreading lie and false news --


ZAKHAROVA: This is a good advice for CNN --

CHANCE: Are you concerned that the investigations into Russia are going to turn up more secret meetings --

ZAKHAROVA: Please, stop spreading lies and false news.


WARD: Well, let's get more perspective now on all of this. We're joined by Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University

of Virginia. Larry, we've heard from the president. He's standing by his man, but do you think that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, can survive

this firestorm?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: He can survive it, but only if he recuses himself from any investigation into

matters concerning Russia and the Trump campaign. There's no way that he can be viewed as a neutral arbitrator of anything regarding that important


WARD: So why not get ahead of this and just recuse himself?

SABATO: Well, he's hinted that he might do that and I think the inevitability of it is obvious to him and everyone else because it's not

just Democrats who are suggesting this. It's senior Republicans in both the House and the Senate.

WARD: So, let me ask you this, did he lie directly? And if so, if it's an innocent conversation, if there's nothing nefarious about these contacts

with the Russian ambassador, why would you lie? Why wouldn't you just be upfront about it?

SABATO: It's inexplicable. I would say the odds are it was a clear misrepresentation. I won't use the word "lie." It's an ugly word. I'll

just call it a misrepresentation. The alternate explanation is that the attorney general of the United States can't remember meeting the Russian

ambassador twice in exchanging information.

And so far, he has said he doesn't remember the subjects they discussed. There aren't many people in politics, in Washington, or anywhere else, who

would forget what they discussed with the Russian ambassador.

WARD: And let's remember, as well, I mean, we're talking a matter of weeks ago, that President Trump lost his national security adviser, Michael

Flynn. Again, the allegations of having untoward conversations or inappropriate or impolitic conversations with the Russian ambassador. How

is the administration allowing this to happen again? Surely they can see the damage it's causing.

SABATO: It's interesting. Look at these two individuals. General Flynn, who is now out of the position of national security adviser, and Attorney

General Jeff Sessions. What do they have in common?

[15:10:03]They supported Trump all-out, early in the campaign, when most other Republicans were keeping him at arm's length or further away than

that. So there's a personal loyalty here.

And I think it obscured the investigations, the campaign, and the administration actually performed on both of these individuals. They

weren't interested in knowing everything, and they didn't ask all the questions that they should have asked.

WARD: So, as it stands, where do things go now in terms of having this bipartisan, independent inquiry to put these allegations to rest once and

for all or to potentially hone in on some problematic connections between the Trump campaign and Russia? What's the future of this investigation?

SABATO: There are two ways that we could go. Either Attorney General Sessions steps aside and someone else takes control of the investigation,

preferably, someone without ties to Sessions, someone who would really be viewed as independent, maybe even an independent counselor or prosecutor,

or Congress could undertake to form an independent bipartisan commission to look into it, much as they did with the 9/11 controversy.

There was a major commission that investigated that. I think one of those two alternatives would be acceptable to most people. There's a third

element, and I know some people are already demanding it, and that's that President Trump finally, finally release his tax returns.

That's connected, because it's going to be obvious whether or not Trump has major investments with people, with ties to the kremlin or Vladimir Putin.

WARD: Larry, can I just ask you to put your academic hat on for a second. And when you look at this situation, do you see any presidential precedent

for this? Can you think of a recent president who has experienced anything like this kind of turmoil that we're seeing?

SABATO: Well, not early in the term. You always think of Richard Nixon and Watergate, but that came at the end of his first term and throughout

the truncated second term. One might compare this to Iran contra under Ronald Reagan, but that also occurred between 1986 and 1987, late in Ronald

Reagan's second term. So for a new president, this is absolutely unprecedented, but, then, almost everything connected to Donald Trump is

absolutely unprecedented.

WARD: Very true. Larry Sabato, thank you so much for your analysis.

Well, much more on Russia ahead tonight.


WARD (voice-over): There's no one like him in the world, do you understand, he says. There isn't a single person on earth who's better

than Putin.


WARD: I traveled through some of the country's disappearing villages, right on the doorstep of Europe and found staunch support for President


And as fears spread about Moscow's meddling in other countries' affairs, Sweden decides to bring back military conscription. I ask the Swedish

defense minister about his fears over Russia, next.



WARD: As unease builds in Europe over Russia's increasing military activity, Sweden has taken a drastic step to bolster its defenses, bringing

back military conscription. Lawmakers in Stockholm today approved a plan that will see 4,000 18-year-olds called up for duty each year.

This will include both men and women. Sweden currently HAS 15,000 troops on active duty. Conscription was the norm for men in Sweden until it was

ended in 2010.

Well, earlier, I spoke to the Swedish defense minister, Peter Hullqvist, who was in Stockholm. I began by asking him if Russia was the main

motivating factor behind the new policy.


PETER HULLQVIST, SWEDISH DEFENSE MINISTER: We have an all-over plan and decision in the parliament to upgrade Swedish military capability and that

is because of the situation in our neighborhood with Russian annexation of Crimea, the Russian aggression in Ukraine and more of exercises and

intelligence activities in our neighborhood.

And we know a new weapons system, in western national defense, and part of that is also to reactivate conscription system, because the professional

system not deliver, as we have decided, connected to the goal from the Swedish parliament.

WARD: So do you now see Russia as a real potential threat?

HULLQVIST: I never talk about threats. I talk about realities that have happened as annexation of Crimea and aggression in the Ukraine and

activities in our neighborhood. And because of that, we have a new focus in our defense agenda to well up an upgrade military capabilities from a

Swedish national security position.

WARD: Now, I know that Sweden is not officially part of NATO, but you consider them to be partners, let's say. To what extent are you concerned

by some of the rhetoric that we've seen coming out of President Donald Trump's White House about NATO being obsolete, for example?

HULLQVIST: I was at the Munich conference and there was a speech from the secretary for defense, Mr. Mattis, and the vice president was also there,

and the message is that he's standing behind NATO. And that they also should deliver, as it was planned, before, this new administration came to

power. From the Swedish side, we have a statement of intent with USA, and we plan in the same way, as we have done before.

WARD: So do you feel confident in that sense, that the U.S. has Sweden's back with regards to Russia?

HULLQVIST: We do not have any new signals from the U.S. side, and we're working in the future, as we have done before. With the military

operations, exercises, research, material, and interoperability.

WARD: And what's been the reaction within Sweden to this new conscription ruling?

HULLQVIST: I think that it's a broad support for it and there is also broad minority of the parties in the parliament that support these

decisions by the government. And I also think that we have broad support in the public opinion.


WARD: Syria's military says it has thrown ISIS out of the ancient city of Palmyra for the second time. A Syrian army says Russian air strikes helped

its forces rout the militants. It had recaptured Palmyra from ISIS a year ago, but ISIS pushed back in as Syria focused on the battle for Aleppo.

The militants destroyed or damaged some of Palmyra's monuments that date back to the first century.

Well, if you use Snapchat, you will know that the picture message disappears after a few seconds. Investors will be hoping the same doesn't

happen to their new stock price.

Its parent company debuted on Wall Street and it opened at $24 a share. That gives it a market valuation of more than $30 billion. Here is how it

is doing now. You can see, it is still going strong. $24.98.

Well, Richard quest was at the stock exchange when that stock opened. He joins me now from New York.

[15:20:02]Richard, you have to help me understand this, as a little bit of a luddite, how can an app that has never made any money now be worth more

than $30 billion?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN MONEY EDITOR-AT-LARGE: How naive you are! I mean, that's the question. That is the issue. It lost $300 million a couple of

years ago, last year, it lost $500 million. The old phrase, path to profitability. We're going to be seeing -- we saw that a lot in the '90s.

The issue really, with this one is, is it likely to be able to take Facebook on, on its own terms? How many new users, how many people are

using it? Remember, Facebook has done a brilliant job of extending its ecosystem.

It has news, it obviously, has all sorts of information within the Facebook walled garden. Not only that, you get to other websites and other things

through Facebook. Snapchat, at the moment, it's pictures that disappear.

It's the spectacles, and it enables you to put filters on that give you funny ears and mustaches. Now, longer term, can it grow its ecosystem? If

it doesn't, then that share price you're looking at now may be the best we'll ever see.

WARD: But there are some people who are saying, potentially, that perhaps the share price was even too low, given how it seems to be skyrocketing.

QUEST: Yes, and one has to question the pricing. I mean, you want a nice little bump and a bounce when you IPO. I'm not sure you want a 44 percent

bump. That suggests that they did price on the low side. Even though it was about outside of the range.

But pricing is more of an art than a science. They'll be very happy -- I think what everybody is really happy about, from the New York Stock

Exchange point of view, is that it was smooth. Smooth as silk today.

There wasn't a glitch, there wasn't a problem. It all happened very different from the IPO of Facebook on Nasdaq. Longer term, look, I'm going

to do a homemade graphic here. Longer term, you have Facebook, which went like this, really bad start, and then up like a rocket.

And then, you have Twitter, which went like this, up and like that and you've got GoPro, like that. And you've got Fitbit, like that. So which

is Snap? Does it go like this or like that? We don't know.

And that really comes down to those millennials who use it, whether or not the company itself can actually make itself -- can it dig itself deeper

into our smartphones and into our lives?

WARD: And Richard, just quickly, while I've got you here, is the Dow still soaring?

QUEST: Last look at the Dow Jones, it was down most of the session. I'm expecting it to be down -- there we go. Here's the Dow, just off 74

points. Do not fret. Do not get excited. A loss of 74, when we're over 2,000 up in recent times, we are still over 21,000. This is just -- this

isn't even pausing for breath. This is like having a little hiccup.

WARD: Indeed. Well, Richard Quest, you will have much more of that on "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" coming up next. Thank you so much.

QUEST: Thank you.

WARD: As always.

More than 150 million people use Snapchat every day, but there are still a lot of us -- and I won't name any names -- who don't have the app and don't

really get what it does. CNN's Claire Sebastian was one of them, until now.


CLAIRE SEBASTIAN, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: So you should all know, I've never used Snapchat before. This is my first time and I'm probably not

going to be very good at it. The first thing you need to know about Snapchat is, if you don't like taking selfies, this probably isn't for you.

Think Geobuilders, for example. If you think I can have a lot of fun with all of these various emojis, wait until you see what you can do with these.

You can change your voice as well as your face.

There's a lot bit emoji which is another app that Snapchat bought last year that has you create emojis that look a little bit like you. So that brings

me to the second key thing I've discovered about Snapchat is, it's fun. Very noisy in Times Square as you can see.

Now, the third thing is what really sets Snapchat apart from other social networks, it's temporary. The photos only last 10 seconds, the stories, 24


[11:25:00]So before you get too comfortable, don't forget that whoever you send your photos to can actually screenshot them and keep them forever.

Claire Sebastian, CNN Money, New York.


WARD: This is THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. More potential trouble for Marine Le Pen. We will be live in Paris as the extraordinary French presidential

race takes yet another twist.

And U.S. President Trump is calling for a $54 billion increase in U.S. spending, as he puts it, to rebuild America's depleted military. We'll

talk with two experts about just how much the U.S. now spends and why Mr. Trump might think it's not enough, coming up.


WARD: This is The WORLD RIGHT NOW. Let's take a look at this hour's top stories. U.S. President Donald Trump is taking his call for a military

buildup right to the military itself. He has been visiting the new super aircraft carrier, the "USS Gerald R. Ford" to push his proposal for a $54

billion hike in defense spending. The president toured the ship and spoke to about 5,000 sailors and ship builders.

President Trump says he has, quote, "total confidence" in Jeff Sessions, despite growing calls for his attorney general to resign. Sessions failed

to disclose that he met with Russia's U.S. ambassador while serving as an adviser to the Trump presidential campaign. Sessions is holding a news

conference in just 30 minutes. Of course, we will bring that to you live.

And Northern Ireland is going to the polls in a snap local election. The vote, the second in a year, came about after the power sharing government

collapsed over a green energy scheme. There are fears that continue deadlocked, coupled with the fallout for Brexit, could lead to instability

in the region.

The U.S. already spends almost $600 billion a year on defense much more than any other country. And President Trump's calls for a $54 billion

increase would greatly widen that gap. Mr. Trump has been visiting a new aircraft carrier to push for that 10 percent increase.

He promised the thousands of sailors and shipyard workers on hand that he will give them the tools to prevent wars, and if necessary, to win them.

This chart shows how much the U.S. spends on its military compared with the next six countries.

And as you can see, the U.S. invests more than double its nearest rival, China, and more than nine times what Russia spends. Well, for more

perspective on U.S. military spending and why Mr. Trump believes an increase is so necessary, we turn now to CNN political commentator, Errol

Louis in New York.

He is also a political anchor for Spectrum News.

And joining us from Washington is CNN military analyst and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. He is a former member of the U.S. Joint

Chiefs of Staff.

And Colonel, let me start with you. We saw President Trump on the most expensive aircraft carrier ever made.

What exactly can be bought with this $54 billion that couldn't be previously bought?

And what kind of a difference will it really make in concrete terms to the fight against ISIS?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Those are a series of great questions, Clarissa. The first thing that they're going to have to

do is they're going to have to modernize and what they call recapitalize the military force.

So Clarissa, what that means is they'll have to refurbish stuff that already exists. There are huge training shortfalls in the U.S. military.

We have pilots that are not flying the requisite flight hours they're supposed to fly to maintain proficiency in their aircraft.

That's particularly acute for jet fighters and for other aircraft that are out there, including the fighter bombers that we have in our inventory.

The other thing that this is really going to do, this $54 billion increase, it really amounts to an actual increase when you take away the sequester of

about $18 billion in real terms.

What that will do is it will streamline certain things but what it doesn't do is it doesn't streamline the actual acquisition process. And that's

going to be the major shortfall. If that acquisition process is not reformed, that money will not be spent as efficiently as it should be


WARD: So Colonel, just coming back to this core idea, then, of the fight against ISIS, specifically, and American security, do you believe this

money or this funding, this increase, is essential in order to protect America?

LEIGHTON: Well, the fight against ISIS is very different from the fight against a near-peer competitor like a China or a Russia. And if you really

look at the fight against ISIS, you don't need to spend that kind of money, to be very frank about it.

But what you do need to do is you need to have some very efficient processes in place and you need to tailor your operations to be more like

special operations, which is, of course, the primary way we have of getting at ISIS.

So Special Operations Forces would be increased under this budget based on everything we know so far about it. But it doesn't really account for all

of the $54 billion and it would be far in excess of what is needed to defeat ISIS at this time.

WARD: Errol, I want to shift gears a little bit here, to what the president didn't talk about in his speech, though he did make reference to

this scandal, this growing scandal involving Attorney General Jeff Sessions, while speaking to some reporters earlier.

Do you think that Sessions can survive this?

And how?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there are two things to keep in mind, Clarissa.

One is that there are two questions on the table. There are those who are saying that, even if he remains as attorney general, he has to recuse

himself from the ongoing investigation of Russian interference and involvement in the last American election.

That seems like a pretty low bar that I think we're going to have to see cleared. It seems inconceivable, frankly, that, from a legal standpoint,

we can see all of this footage that's already out there, of him saying that he had no involvement with any Russians at any time and then we have

different facts that are now coming out.

So I wouldn't be surprised if he recused himself.

The larger call for him to resign, that's a call that only the president can make. And we'll have to see how much pressure the president is

feeling, whether or not he's had conversations with the attorney general, perhaps feels a little bit betrayed.

We have to keep in mind that something similar is why General Flynn, the former national security adviser, stepped down; that he apparently was less

than candid in his conversations within the administration about contacts that he had with the Russians.

And so, to the extent that we're going to see an editorial firestorm and even some Republicans now are raising some questions about what happened

and when, we'll either have that measured response, in which Jeff Sessions is no longer a part of the ongoing investigation of Russian interference.

Or we see something more severe, which would be a full-blown political crisis. As of right now, I wouldn't expect the latter to be the case.

WARD: And Errol, one of the things most striking about this was to hear that the White House learned about it through the press.

And one has to ask, is the White House not having these conversations internally?

Are they not vetting their own people and getting to the bottom of this thing privately, at least?


LOUIS: Well, the vetting question is a good one that you raise, Clarissa, because, you know, at the start of the administration, when the president

wasn't naming his choices for his top cabinet picks, an attorney general is one of the most important, it was -- it's a combination, as always, of

political loyalty, political debts owed, as well as technical competence.

And so Jeff Sessions met both of those criteria. He's been a lawmaker for a long, long time. He served as a prosecutor for a long, long time. So he

was technically competent. I don't think anybody doubted that. Some didn't like his politics.

But he was also early and strong for Donald Trump in a way that almost nobody else had been. He was really one of the very first supporters among

the elected officials of Donald Trump. And so the vetting might have fallen off after that.

But keep in mind, this is not about vetting. This is a question that he was asked while he was under oath. And that's really what makes this such

a hot button issue.

Whether or not you've been vetted, whether or not the president knew about it or whether the president's team knew about it, when asked under oath a

direct question about whether or not you have contacts, you either have to be completely forthright or, if you find you made a mistake, you have to

really hasten to go back and correct the record.

And that's something that apparently Jeff Sessions did not do.


Colonel, I want to ask you one more quick question, as well, if I may. The Yemen raid: President Trump, quite clearly, really doubling down on this

idea that it was a tremendous success, that it netted a lot of intelligence. Critics still saying, you know, that it was not worth the

death of this Navy SEAL.

What's your opinion on this?

LEIGHTON: Well, Clarissa, this is a difficult one to assess without access to all the information they got at the site. I think one of the key

suspicions I have is that because it was so heavily defended, they must have wanted -- the folks in Al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula must have

wanted to protect something or someone.

And that leaves me to believe that there was some intelligence of some value there. It's probably not to the level of what we saw with Osama bin

Laden but, nonetheless, it must have been something and it may very well result in operations that are ongoing, not only in Yemen, but also in

Europe and potentially other parts of the world.

WARD: OK, Colonel Cedric Leighton, Errol Louis, thank you, as always, for your analysis.

LOUIS: Thank you.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

WARD: Well, it's been another busy day in the extraordinary race for the French presidency. The European Parliament has voted to lift Marine Le

Pen's immunity from prosecution.

That means French prosecutors can investigate her over tweets she sent in 2015, showing images of ISIS killings. Le Pen has been out campaigning

today and Melissa Bell joins me now live from Paris.

Melissa, what's the significance of this for Le Pen's campaign?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Clarissa, that this is yet another investigation here in France that is going to cast a shadow over Marine Le

Pen's campaign; the lifting of her immunity by the European Parliament allows investigators to prosecute her for this, these tweets, as you say,

as well as the ongoing investigations into allegations that she helped finance some of her party workers by paying them as parliamentary

assistants, which allegedly they were not.

And then a third investigation into allegations of illegal campaign financing over the course of the last few years. Now you might have

thought that the idea of having her immunity, her parliamentary immunity lifted might worry the candidate since this will open the door into this

third investigation here in France, not at all. We caught up with her a little while ago; she was preparing to make a speech here in Paris about

the economy. And we asked her whether she was worried. Have a listen to her reply.


MARINE LE PEN, FRONT NATIONAL (through translator): Not at all. I know that freedom of expression of an E.U. member of parliament who denounces

the actions of ISIS allows the French government to take her to court. I will express myself in court and say what I think, of all of this.


BELL: So you can hear from that, it was -- we got her as she went into her meeting. She obviously did not want to stop to speak to us for terribly

long but you get an idea of her spirit, her attitude towards all of this, which is, come give me everything you can; my electorate is behind me and

this only proves to them further that the European Union are out to get me.

The authorities, both political and judicial, are out to prevent my candidate tour. But I will keep going and I'll happy to explain myself.

She is, in fact, contrite about none of it, Clarissa, and all too keen to show that she is the tough-minded kind of woman who can come into the

Elysee Palace and really shake things up.

So in a sense, although, yes, this does case a cloud over her campaign, it also gives her the kind of ammunition she needs to fire up her electorate.

WARD: And this is looking like it's shaping up --


WARD: -- to be a nail biter of an election, more broadly speaking, looking at how close it is.

BELL: It's absolutely extraordinary. And it seems that, with every day, there's a new set of revelations and turnarounds in the campaign fortunes

of one party or another.

The real pressure today was on Francois Fillon, the Republican candidate, who's also been troubled by a judicial inquiry but for whom it means so

much more.

Far from firing up his electorate, it worries it a great deal. In fact, it's been fracturing his party. Yesterday, he vowed to fight on, despite

the deepening of the investigation into his alleged wrongdoings, the so- called Penelopegate affair allegations that he had his wife and children paid for parliamentary work that they never actually carried out.

He is now -- faces the possibility of being charged on the 15th of March, which he confirmed to a roomful of journalists yesterday, adding that he

would fight on to the bitter end.

You've had about 30 defections from his party, from his campaign over the last 24 hours, Clarissa, and increasing calls that some other candidate

should be found.

It's unclear if he'll be able to survive until the 23rd of April because unlike Marine Le Pen, he is not the whole Republican Party. There are

other strains, other candidates that could potentially be put up.

So watching him tonight as he spoke to supporters in Nimes (ph) in the south of France, in what is National Front territory, it was fascinating,

almost a populist appeal to the people, saying, I am the victim of these attacks by the judiciary and the rest of the political classes. But I'm

going to see things through and try to represent you until the bitter end.

So, yes, this is the most extraordinary of campaigns, even for the mainstream candidates -- Clarissa.

WARD: OK, Melissa Bell, an extraordinary campaign. Thank you, live for us tonight in Paris.

Now a story we have been following for the past week, the horrific shooting of two Indian men in a Kansas bar. The incident, which is being

investigated as a hate crime, left one of the men dead, the other with a severely injured leg and mourning the loss of his best friend.

Ryan Young caught up with the survivor to hear about his ordeal.


ALOK MADASANI, SHOOTING VICTIM: All of a sudden, you know, this elderly- looking gentleman, you know, with anger on his face, you know, you know that something is wrong the way he approaches you.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alok Madasani never thought the rantings of a man at a bar could lead to the pain he feels today and

the loss of his best friend.

MADASANI: He said, "Where are you from?

"Which country are you from?

"Are you here illegally?"

But Srinivas, being the gentleman he is, said, "No, sir, we are here legally. We are on H1V."

YOUNG (voice-over): The two Indian immigrants, both engineers at GPS company Garmin outside Kansas City, celebrating after work last week when

this man, 51-year-old Adam Purinton, reportedly yelled, "Get out of my country."

Witnesses say the two engineers never engaged with Purinton's attacks and, according to the bar, he was asked to leave.

MADASANI: He's gone. And you know, 20, 25 minutes later, all we heard was, he's back with a gun. The concentration of the sound or the way the

bullets were popping, it was towards us.

YOUNG (voice-over): Madasani's wife is five months pregnant with the couple's first child. And as gunshots ripped across the patio, adrenaline

took over.

MADASANI: And I dove on the ground and just started crawling in a manner where I have to, you know, survive. You know?

That's all I wanted. I wanted to survive to see the kid.

YOUNG (voice-over): Madasani was shot in the leg. His best friend, 32- year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was also hit and died later that night.

Appearing in court earlier this week, Adam Purinton is charged with one count of first degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. The FBI

is investigating the shooting as a hate crime. Through all of this, Alok Madasani refuses to lose his spirit for his community.

MADASANI: I can say with confidence that what happened to Srinivas is not something that this country believes in and what this community believes


YOUNG (voice-over): And while President Trump condemned the attack earlier this week, Madasani says he's focused on finding closure for his friend's


MADASANI: I want justice to be served before I can say that, you know, there's a closure to Srinivas' case, a closure to his family. But

acknowledgement by the president is the first step towards that. And I just want to make sure that, you know, that justice is served.

YOUNG (voice-over): -- Ryan Young, CNN, Olathe, Kansas.


WARD: This is THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Still ahead, a rare glimpse into an almost forgotten world. I spoke to people in rural Russia's disappearing

villages. Their views about the world may surprise you. Stay with us.





WARD: An update on our top story. President Trump says he has total confidence in Jeff Sessions, despite growing calls for his attorney general

to resign.

Sessions failed to disclose that he met with Russia's U.S. ambassador while serving as an adviser to the Trump presidential campaign. Sessions is

holding a news conference in 15 minutes and, of course, we will be bringing that to you live.

Now we talk a lot about Russia as an increasingly assertive military superpower that has been accused of hacking America's election. But we're

going to show you a side of the country you don't often see.

Outside of the big cities, life is tough, jobs are scarce and the population is shrinking. We visited Pskov (ph) region, right on Europe's

doorstep, and found villages that are literally disappearing. And you might be surprised what political opinions endure the harsh conditions.


WARD (voice-over): In the village of Zharkid (ph), life is frozen in time. Most of the Houses on Karl Marx Street have been abandoned, only traces of

their former residents remain.

Eventually, we found 75-year-old Antonina Nikolayeva (ph), one of a handful of people still living here.

"All of us are old people," she says. "Our children have all left for the city."

In this area, there are just 10 births for every 27 deaths. A solitary public phone is the only line to the outside world.

WARD: There's an overwhelming sense of desolation and decay here but this has become an all-too-common sight across rural Russia, abandoned houses in

rapidly disappearing villages.

Even Pavlov and his wife are the last people left in their village. They lament that life was great under communism, because they wanted for


"Stalin saved Russia," he says. "Stalin did everything."

Their attitude towards America has not changed much since the Cold War.

"Obama wanted Russia to starve to death," he says. "He's a public enemy, even to his own people. He shut so many factories and 20 percent of the

population over there is hungry or unemployed."

WARD: Wait, how do you know this?

Where did you hear this?

"They show it on TV every day," he says.

And TV may be Putin's most effective weapon domestically, still persuading Russians how lucky they are. It tells them Russia is a resurgent military

superpower, standing up to America under Putin's firm but caring hand.


"There's no one like him in the world, do you understand?" he says.

"There isn't a single person on Earth who's better than Putin."

But while Russia's leader has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on high-speed trains that stitch together the main cities, rutted roads are

the only way to reach the largely forgotten countryside. The bus only comes here once a day.

In the only store for miles around, Yalena Nikolayeva (ph) makes just $120 a month. Bread and vodka are the most popular items on sale. But the

customers are few.

She fears a war with America, though she says she's optimistic that President Donald Trump will be loyal to Russia.

These aging villagers are resilient and defiant, sustained by the idea that the nation is once again a force to be reckoned with, even as their Russia

slowly dies.


WARD: Well, in the fall, CNN's Arwa Damon and cameraman Bruce Lennay entered Mosul with the Iraqi army, looking to liberate the city from ISIS.

They spent 28 hours under siege. Two months later, they returned. Here is an excerpt from their special report, "Return to Mosul."



ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've always wondered how ISIS had so much ammunition in Mosul. And it's obvious

when you see the weapons factories they had everywhere.

They were making everything from scratch, mortars, rockets; in one factory, they even had fake Humvees made out of wood that they were using as decoys.

DAMON: This almost feels like it should be some sort of crafts workshop. There's a childish feel to everything but that is also what makes it all

the more sinister.

DAMON (voice-over): ISIS had even begun building its own planes, planes not designed to land anywhere but, instead, to be flying suicide bombs.

DAMON: They found this inside the industrial zone, in one of the areas used for manufacturing, along with some manuals. It is fairly crudely put

together. But this would take a certain level of expertise, creativity and ingenuity.

They've cobbled together all sorts of different parts and even used glue to try to fix some of the wires into place.


WARD (voice-over): "Return to Mosul," a CNN special report with Arwa Damon, airs this weekend on CNN. Stay with us.



WARD: The subject of America's new president is on the tip of everyone's tongue, not just in the U.S. but around the world. Here's Max Foster.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From President Trump's rally in Florida to an anti-Trump rally in London, two very different locations

but with the same headline act.

FOSTER: Well, I can't really remember a day when Donald Trump didn't make the British newspapers. He seems to be on the front covers more often than

the British prime minister. But there is one politician here who knows him better than anyone else.

NIGEL FARAGE, UKIP: Good evening, Donald.

FOSTER (voice-over): Right-wing politician --


FOSTER (voice-over): -- turned radio host and commentator, Nigel Farage.

FARAGE: I wonder what Sarah in Hatley (ph) makes of Donald J. Trump.

What grade does he get, Sarah?

SARAH: Oh, I think he gets an F.

FARAGE: He gets F, does he, right, OK.

What for achievement, yes?

SARAH: No, not for achievement at all. I think he's (INAUDIBLE) quite dangerous.

FOSTER: Well, there's really no shortage of callers who want to speak to Nigel Farage about Donald Trump. This was the first British politician to

meet Trump after the election. He's also one of his greatest defenders.

FARAGE: Jim from Houndslow (ph), is Trump the star pupil?

Or is he the class troublemaker?

JIM: Hi, Nigel, I just want to say, I think he's an A-star guy. I just want to say as well thank you for doing everything you did for our country.

Much appreciated (INAUDIBLE) you would be in much more trouble.

FOSTER (voice-over): Trump is a highly emotive figure here. But he does have his supporters. He's the leader of the free world, after all, and the

U.K. is a fully signed-up member.

This said it all, the moment the prime minister threw her support behind Donald Trump, just days into his presidency and as she made plans to pull

Britain out of the European Union.

U.S. presidents have always loomed large in British culture and have long been the subject of ridicule by political cartoonists. Christian Adams

works for the right of center "Telegraph" newspaper. And it's his job to articulate and to challenge British views.

CHRISTIAN ADAMS, "THE TELEGRAPH": You know, outside London, it's quite surprising. They say, you know, good for Trump. He's speaking for the --

speaking for the man on the street who hasn't been represented --


FOSTER: So he represents British views or a section of British society?

ADAMS: Definitely, definitely. People are sick and tired of politicians. And they always have been. They're all the same, you know, not trusted.

All this sort of thing. And it's sort of always been the way.

But there's finally come somebody, Farage here and Trump there, who sort of can vocalize this, you know, this sort of Middle England feeling, that

these people don't represent us.

FOSTER (voice-over): Donald Trump, the poster boy for an international anti-establishment insurgency and that's what makes him big news, well

beyond American borders -- Max Foster, CNN, London.


WARD: This has been THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Thank you so much for watching. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to hold a news conference

at the top of the hour. Of course, we'll bring you that live when it gets underway. Stay with CNN.