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North Korea Launches Four Ballistic Missiles; FBI Asks Justice Dept. to Refute Trump's Claim; China's National People's Congress Underway in Beijing; Battle for Mosul; FBI Asks Justice Department to Refute Trump's Claim on Former President Obama; Trump Expected to Sign New Travel Ban This Week; Mexico Opens Immigrant Centers at Consulates in U.S.. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 6, 2017 - 00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:09] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Another missile launch and a strong condemnation -- North Korea launches four ballistic missiles, three of which lands in Japan's exclusive economic zone. And a number of countries are not happy.

We will have a live report.

New details on President Donald Trump's accusation that he was wiretapped, the FBI now asking the Justice Department to publicly shut the claim down. All ahead of a busy week for the President including the release of his revised travel ban.

It's all ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM. Welcome to everyone watching around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

The U.S. is putting North Korea on notice for test-firing four ballistic missiles. In a just released statement it says, "The United States strongly condemns the DPRK's ballistic missile launches tonight. We remain prepared and will continue to take steps to increase our readiness to defend ourselves and our allies from attack and are prepared to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against this growing threat."

Japan's Prime Minister says three of the missiles landed in his country's exclusive economic zone and he called the launches extremely dangerous.

South Korea is also condemning North Korea's actions. Its military estimates the missiles flew about 1,000 kilometers. This comes as South Korea holds joint military exercises with the United States.

CNN's Elise Labott tells us more about what is so significant about these latest moves by Pyongyang.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: North Korea's making no secret that they are trying to develop that long range intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the United States. U.S. commanders have warned that North Korea is making progress at developing that type of missile technology and pairing it with the kind of miniaturization to put a nuclear warhead that could really to threaten the United States.

So yes, it's a provocation and, you know, it's destabilizing behavior. But it's also every test that North Korea makes also brings them closer to that final goal of that long-range ICBM. And that's really what's concerning here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: CNN correspondent Paula Hancocks joins me now from Seoul, South Korea. She's watching developments there.

And Paula -- we heard the condemnation by the United States and these other countries. The distance these missiles traveled -- any significance in where they landed?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Natalie -- what we're hearing from the U.S. official is that they did confirm there were four ballistic missiles as did South Korea and Japan. But they also mentioned that they believed that they were intermediate range.

So initial reports showing that they were intermediate range similar to what we saw just a few weeks ago from North Korea -- that being the first missile launch since U.S. President Donald Trump took power.

So this is certainly worrying many people here in South Korea. There was a National Security Council meeting early this morning when the acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn condemned the missile launch also saying that it's an act of outright defiance to the international community.

Also pointing out that the idea of the North Korean regime having the nuclear weapons would be most appalling beyond imagination referring then to what they call the brutality of the assassination of Kim Jong- Nam, Kim Jong-Un's half-brother which South Korea blames on the North but the North denies involvement.

So certainly there is a lot of concern here in South Korea but not enough concern that they will actually postpone or hold these joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea which is what North Korea wants but the U.S. and South Korea say they are defensive in nature, they are annual, they are regular routine joint drills and they will continue.

ALLEN: So nothing unusual that he launches something during these games or makes, you know, some sort of threat because he just obviously doesn't like these war games going on.

And you did mention that this though was the first launch since President Trump took office. Any reasons for that?

HANCOCKS: This one is the second time that we've seen North Korea carry out these ballistic tests. We had actually seen some relative restrain from North Korea from just before the U.S. election in November of last year and then for a couple of months afterwards as well there were no missile tests which when you consider what happened in 2016, there were well over 20 missile tests, also two nuclear tests, the satellite launch.

[00:05:05] It was incredibly busy and Kim Jong-Un was in a huge rush to try and perfect the capability of his nuclear and missile program. But that relative restraint now appears to be a thing of the past -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Thank you. Paula Hancocks for us, yes, from Seoul, South Korea.

Let's bring in Bruce Bennett now. He's a senior international and defense researcher for the Rand Corporation. He joins me now from Moorpark, California. Thank you joining us.

I want to ask you first when Donald Trump was elected president North Korea was, as we just were talking with Paula, quiet for a while. Now it's back to launching missiles. What do you make of the quiet that was when Donald Trump was indicating maybe other than the Peninsula needed to be armed with nuclear weapons?

BRUCE BENNETT, RAND CORPORATION: Well, the quiet began shortly after President Park, the South Korean president, got into trouble politically and then was impeached. It's likely that Kim Jong-Un was trying to convince the South Korean people that he was not a bit threat anymore, that they could vote for the progressives instead of the conservatives because he would really like to have a new progressive president in South Korea.

ALLEN: What does this launch indicate about where North Korea is with its nuclear missile program? We're told that it was an intermediate -- these were intermediate missiles, not long range.

BENNETT: Right. Last year, Kim Jong-Un launched about 10 missiles that were similar to these, flying about 1,000 kilometers. The height this missile flew to, probably a Nodong missile, something they've done a lot of testing on.

ALLEN: Are they getting farther along than they have been, though?

BENNETT: We don't know for sure but in these cases, in the February missile launch -- absolutely. They tried solid fuels. In these launches, these don't appear to be something new, something he was testing. He was simply showing defiance towards the South Korean-U.S. military exercises. But also I believe towards China since he doesn't need a thousand-kilometer range missile to hit anywhere in South Korea.

ALLEN: Right. Talking about the new administration, could President Trump offer anything new to put North Korea on a safer course? You know, there's a lot of tough talk from this president and many think that the way he goes about his business is more destabilizing than stabilizing. What did you think of the U.S. response?

BENNETT: Well, I think the U.S. has to try to determine what you can do about something like this. In the end, there's not a lot that can be done. That's why we've been so -- had such a difficult time responding after all of the launches last year, except for the intercontinental launch. The most we ever did was to criticize North Korea.

I think that there needs to be more done though in this case. We need to start looking into the internal politics of North Korea. Kim Jong- Un does these things for his own internal politics which is a part of what we have to understand.

ALLEN: Bruce Bennett with the Rand Corporation. We appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

BENNETT: Thank you.

ALLEN: The FBI is meeting Donald Trump's explosive allegations about wiretapping with skepticism. He accused former President Barack Obama Saturday of ordering wiretap. He offered no evidence and he's asking Congress to investigate.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz reports the FBI wants the claim publicly rejected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The FBI yesterday asked the Department of Justice to refute the allegations by Donald Trump that the Obama administration wiretapped his phone in October during the campaign.

We learned that some time over the weekend the FBI reached out to the Department of Justice to try and work something out, to try and ask them if there was a way they could refute these stories.

The FBI was very concerned about the allegations being not true and the climate that it could create and the feeling that somehow the FBI was involved in this.

So the director asked that the Department of Justice refute these. And so far, the Department of Justice has not done so. We asked them for comment tonight. They have not responded to our requests for comment. And we're just basically now waiting to see what happens going forward.

And also, politically, what this means for the FBI director and Trump, and how Trump will react to the idea that the chief law enforcement officer of this country of the United States would refute, basically say these allegations that you're making are not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: The former director of National Intelligence strongly denies the FBI obtained a court order to monitor Mr. Trump's phones. James Clapper oversaw U.S. intelligence agencies including the FBI during the Obama administration.

[00:10:11] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the President-Elect at the time, or as a candidate or against his campaign. I can't speak for other Title 3 authorized entities in the government or state or local entities.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS HOST: I was just going to say if the FBI for instance had a FISA court order of some sort for a surveillance, would that be information you would know or not know?

CLAPPER: Yes.

TODD: You would be told this.

CLAPPER: I would know that.

TODD: If there was a FISA court order on something like this?

CLAPPER: Yes. Something like this -- absolutely.

TODD: And at this point, you can't confirm or deny whether that exists?

CLAPPER: I can deny it.

TODD: There is no FISA court order?

CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.

TODD: Of anything at Trump Tower?

CLAPPER: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: The former assistant director of the FBI spoke with CNN's Pamela Brown and senior political analyst, David Gergen. Tom Fuentes says the FBI's request itself is a rejection of Mr. Trump's claim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: As far as I can tell, it is unprecedented. But I think that, you know, it's interesting that what seems to be a request of the Department of Justice has actually knocked down the story. So it doesn't matter now if the Department of Justice concurs or not and I'm not sure who would.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Earlier I spoke with political analyst Ellis Henican about what led to President Trump's claims on Twitter?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Apparently, there was a conversation that went along these lines on a conservative call-in radio show. And that got picked up by the Breitbart news operation. And I guess Fox mentioned it a couple of times, and before you know it, it's being pounded into the Twitter machine by our President.

ALLEN: Yes. And why is that? Do you think this was -- we were told that he was as upset as he's been since becoming president over Mr. Sessions recusing himself from the Russian investigation. Was this some way to deflect?

HENICAN: Oh, boy, if you can unwind the psychology of this you're smarter than I am, Natalie. Let me point you to a couple of clues though maybe.

We do know he had a great night last Tuesday. Let's start there. Last Tuesday he delivers this speech to the joint session of the Congress, and by and large got some really needed best reviews of his brief presidency.

But immediately thereafter, the cries got louder that Attorney General Sessions ought to recuse himself from investigating Russian involvement in the campaign. As you know, Sessions said some things that turned out not to be true in his confirmation hearing.

And since then, Donald Trump has been on quite a tear that culminated in this unsupported claim, you have to say that, unsupported claim that Barack Obama was tapping the phones at Trump Tower.

ALLEN: Yes. And what's the seriousness of this -- Ellis? I mean he has shown again and again he can't take the heat and he strikes out like this. You know, a lot of people strike out on Twitter and it's dismissed. But this is the President of the United States and the world is watching.

HENICAN: Well, you know, the standards of proof are a little different depending on who you are -- right. If you're the guy at the end of the bar at 4:00 in the morning making claims, chances are you can say this kind of stuff and maybe, maybe even out on the campaign trail you can make these kind of assertions.

But you know, when you're the President of the United States and every word you say is actually tested for the facts, both by your political opponents, by the media and by allies and enemies around the world, you find that you get in trouble when you just say stuff that you think you might have heard on a call-in radio show or on a Web site somewhere. And we keep having that problem over and over again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Ellis Henican there for us.

President Trump is looking at a busy week ahead. His team plans to unveil an updated executive order banning travel from certain Middle Eastern and African countries. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to give a written statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding his contacts with Russia's ambassador. And we could hear more from Congress about how it will respond to President Trump's wiretapping claims.

Stay tuned.

Well, coming up here a top Chinese leader slams calls for an independent Hong Kong. We'll go live to Beijing ahead -- more on that.

Plus, tens of thousands of people are fleeing western Mosul. See what Iraqi forces are doing to make sure ISIS can't hide among the refuges.

That's all ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM.

[00:14:45] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm CNN meteorologist, Karen Maginnis. And welcome.

This is your weather watch taking a look across the United States. The plume of moisture once again making its way across the interior west promising mountain snowfall, lower elevation some rain but we're expecting some pretty high wind right across the Central Plains -- could see wind gusts as high as 50 miles an hour.

That increases the fire danger because humidity is so low. The temperatures are warming up and you see these brisk wind. We've got a very dangerous situation extending all the way from the Dakotas down across Colorado and into northern sections of Texas.

Well, here is the rain pattern as we go into the next 24-48 ours. Look for some heavy rain right along the Gulf Coast region; could see the potential for some strong to severe storms popping up as we go into Monday, right across the Central Plains into the Central Mississippi River Valley with kind of the bull's eye right along the Missouri and Arkansas border. That's where we could see the potential for hail, high winds, heavy downpours and maybe an isolated tornado.

And then you can see kind of the depiction of the rain and snow expected for the west. How about Denver, partly cloudy, windy; Chicago, 16 for the high; and for New York City, the northeast is warming up, should be about 6 for a high.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: China's National People's Congress is moving ahead in Beijing. CNN Money's emerging markets editor John Defterios is following the annual gathering of Chinese lawmakers. He joins me now. What's the latest from Beijing? Hi there -- John.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN MONEY EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Hi, Natalie -- good to see you.

In fact this 2017 National People's Congress is nothing to stand up and cheer about. The leaders are trying to manage expectations even when it comes to growth output for this year, coming down to 6.5 percent which sounds good from the top line level but it's in fact lowest in 30 years. And the leadership is trying to balance, if you will, the external forces that play here with the external forces particularly when it comes to U.S. policy and in the region when it applies to North Korea.

Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEFTERIOS: In the heart of Beijing, an annual political gathering like no other. Some 3,000 delegates at the National People's Congress brought under one roof in the great hall of the people. But this year -- a more sobering message as Premier Li Keqiang laid down the groundwork for slower growth.

LI KEQIANG, CHINA'S PREMIER (through translator): The difficulties we face are not to be underestimated. But we must remain confident that they will be overcome.

DEFTERIOS: The economic engine that not long ago cranked out double- digit growth will ease down further to around 6.5 percent, its slowest rate in three decades.

[00:20:02] The leadership wanted to manage expectations coming into the Congress, especially the need for stability, quality of growth and reducing poverty especially in the rural areas.

In the major urban centers the government wants to create 11 million new jobs while raising wages for Chinese. Delegates know these are turbulent times tensions around the South China Sea, a U.S. President who's active on the regional security front and challenging Beijing on its huge trade surplus with the States.

So the man at the top, President Xi Jinping and his Premier are stressing they have their hands firmly on the tiller to manage uncertainty.

LI: In the face of profound changes in the international political and economic landscape, China will always stand on the side of peace and stability, oppose protectionism in its different form and become more involved in global governance.

DEFTERIOS: At this annual meeting of the party faithful that means no bold pronouncements to take home to the provinces even in the more prosperous east.

PENG SHOU, NPC DELEGATE (through translator): Even 6.5 percent is still amongst the fastest growth in the world and we strive to go higher than that. I believe in the sustainable model of the Chinese economy.

DEFTERIOS: Enough, the leadership hopes, to appease those at home and foreign investors who have taken major stakes in China.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEFTERIOS: And the outlook here in China, Natalie, could be impacted by whether the Trump administration, over the spring here, decides to move on tariffs on Chinese goods. This would, of course, impact the level of the renminbe here which has been a concern for the U.S. Treasury Department because it's been very low.

Secondarily, there's even discussion about the impact of an outright trade war between the U.S. and China. And over the weekend and after the speech by the Chinese premier, (inaudible) security said it could impact 25 international companies at the most in China and not Chinese companies and the broader Asian region when it comes to the outlook going forward.

Back to you.

ALLEN: John Defterios, there in Beijing covering it for us. Thank you -- John.

Pressure is mounting on French presidential candidate Francois Fillon to drop out of the race. His Republican party meets on Monday to discuss what it calls a respectful exit plan for him.

Fillon has been accused of misusing public money. He denies that. He told a Paris rally on Sunday no one can stop him from being a candidate, reiterating a statement he made a few days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANCOIS FILLION, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): Seven days a week, 24 hours a day the shredder, the news scoop machine, the rumor mill has motored on. And I'm telling you that I have no intention on giving up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Fillon also tweeted his views on Sunday saying quote, "I will not withdraw my candidacy. My withdrawal would lead to an impasse for my political family."

Iraqi forces are closing in on the old city in the heart of western Mosul. It's another big step in their fight to push ISIS out of its last major stronghold in Iraq.

An Iraqi commander says troops are storming neighborhoods near the city's main government complex. Sadly though, the terrorists are accused of using chemical weapons on civilians in the city. The Red Cross says 12 people were treated for exposure to some form of gas which is strictly prohibited under international law.

Iraq launched its offensive to retake western Mosul two weeks ago after recapturing the eastern side of the city in January. Nearly 60,000 civilians have fled western Mosul, since then; 10,000 in the last two days alone.

Ben Wedeman has more on the harrowing exodus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With the few possessions they could carry and a white flag, they trudged towards safety. Yet another group of west Mosul residents flee the fighting that engulfed their neighborhood.

"Battles, bombardment and mortars", says Ahmed, explaining why they left. He said they survived on just bread and water for the last month. At the first main Iraqi checkpoint, they board army trucks.

United Nations expects as many as 250,000 people to flee Mosul as this battle continues. As they leave, they pass the austere symbols and slogans of the so-called Islamic state.

Down the road at the main assembly point, truck after truck arrives with the weary and the shell-shocked. Children scared and disoriented in the confusion. Others need help every step of the way while soldiers search for the parents of lost children.

[00:25:02] "We left at night at 2:00", says Mohamed adding that ISIS fighters fired at his family as they left.

Weary of ISIS infiltrators, Iraqi troops quickly separate the men and boys from the women and girls. First, frisking them then checking identity cards against a database of ISIS members and sympathizers.

Brigadier General Salman Hashim (ph) of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service says everyday they weed out five or six ISIS suspects.

Anshel Sarhan (ph) says ISIS held her and her family as human shields. She wants revenge. "10 of my uncles they killed," she tells me. "If I catch one of those rats I will kill them with my own hands and drink their blood."

Volunteers from southern Iraq dish up plates of rice and beans, their first hot meal for many in weeks. The U.N. warned this battle could be a humanitarian disaster. It is.

Ben Wedeman, CNN -- south of Mosul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Just ahead here, President Trump signed it but it didn't stick. Now his team is about unveil its newly revised travel ban.

Plus, why Muslim students had to answer some stunning questions including, "do you beat your wife", just to meet their state representative.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:30:00] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta, I'm Natalie Allen, and here are our headlines this hour.

China's premier is slamming the idea of an independent Hong Kong. They said at the opening of China's National People's Congress that calls for independence would lead nowhere. It's the first time Hong Kong's independence has been mentioned in a Chinese premier's annual address.

A defiant Francois Fillon is making it clear he will not give up his bid for the presidency. He says no one can stop him from being a candidate. His Republican Party will meet on Monday to discuss what he calls a respectful exit plan for him. Fillon has been accused of misusing public money. He denies that.

Many civilians are fleeing Western Mosul as Iraqi forces fight to drive ISIS out of the city. Iraqi officials say almost 60,000 have fled in recent weeks and more than 10,000 people left in just the past two days.

Recapping another of our top stories.

The FBI is asking for a public rejection of President Donald Trump's claim that former President Barack Obama ordered Mr. Trump's phones to be wiretapped last year. So far the Justice Department has not commented. Mr. Trump made the charge without offering evidence and he's asking for a congressional investigation. Obama's former director of National Intelligence flatly denied the claim. Here's how congressional leaders are reacting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I have no -- I'm not sure what it is he is talking about. Perhaps the president has information that is not yet available to us or to the public. And if it's true, obviously we're going to find out very quickly. And if it isn't, then obviously he'll have to explain what he meant by it.

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The president, you know, is the deflector-in-chief, anything to change the subject from where the heat is. And as one who has been engaged in intelligence, a member of the Gang of Eight for a long time, I can tell you that it is just ridiculous for the president, President Trump to say that President Obama would ever order any wiretap of an American citizen.

MIKE ROGERS, FORMER U.S. HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: I don't understand why they did that. He just put another quarter in the conspiracy parking meter. They have extended this story for a week, two weeks, makes no sense to me whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Well, it was back to the drawing board now. President Trump's updated executive order banning travel from a number of countries appears ready to be unveiled.

As CNN's Ryan Nobles reports, the revised travel ban could come within hours.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): The newly revised executive order dealing with who can and cannot get into the United States could come as soon as Monday. The new travel ban is expected to be more finely tuned than the original with the goal of avoiding legal hurdles like the first travel ban, which is currently being held up in federal court.

The new executive order is expected to exclude legal permanent residents and those currently holding visas. It's also expected to exclude language that prioritizes refuge claims of certain religious minorities.

This new executive order was expected to come out last week but after the president's successful joint address to Congress, the White House decided to separate the announcement from the speech to, quote, "Give the executive order its own moment." What isn't clear is what's going to happen to the old executive order.

It's possible that it could be outright revoked, but White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has said that the two orders could continue on a dual track. Right up until the last minute, the administration is making tweaks to the order. It's worst to say there isn't debate among Trump advisers about whether or not Iraq should be removed from the list of Muslim majority countries from which travel will be cut off.

One thing that will be dramatically different will be the implementation of the order. Homeland security secretary John Kelly has promise the new policy will be phased in as opposed to just immediately put into place. Still, immigration advocates are already staffing international airports around the country prepare to help those that may get caught up in the ban once implemented.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: On another front, Mexico is providing support to its immigrants to the U.S. in light of President Trump's crackdown on undocumented workers. It is spending millions of dollars to provide legal aide through Mexican diplomatic missions across the United States.

As CNN's Leila Santiago reports, immigrant centers are up and running.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEILA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All 50 Mexican consulates in the U.S. will now have this defense center where legal aide and advocates will come together to help any Mexicans who may have questions about legal aid, their own immigration case.

And this is a service that will cost the Mexican government $54 million. They'll have to use about 300 temporary workers to make sure that human rights are not violated for Mexicans in the United States.

That certainly been something that has been said to be a priority for the Mexican government just days ago. The foreign minister at the U.N. said that if human rights are violated for Mexican immigrants, they will seek justice. [00:35:08] The foreign minister certainly made it a point when Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Kelly came to Mexico to visit and even the President Enrique Pena Nieto has said that this is a priority not only on Twitter, but also in speeches.

And we're seeing the demand in U.N. consulates in the U.S. Mexican consulates have said they've seen a rise in demand of consular services and call centers set up to answer any questions that Mexicans may have had also seen a rise.

So this is sort of the response from the Mexican government, one that has become stronger with time.

Leila Santiago, CNN, Mexico City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Three Muslim students in the U.S. who wanted to meet with their state legislator were first asked, "Do you beat your wife?" The students were trying to meet with Oklahoma Representative John Bennett, but were first given a questionnaire from his assistant. The state director for the Council on American Islamic Relations says the questions were filled with misinformation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADAM SOLTANI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS OKLAHOMA CHAPTER: Anyone can cherry pick verses from a holy scripture and claim that, you know, it says one thing or another. But in the case of Representative John Bennett, he has really lashed on to Islamophobic rhetoric that takes verses of the Koran or scenes of the (INAUDIBLE) out of context or even sometimes just completely makes them up and uses them to propagate a misunderstanding of the Islamic religious faith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: CNN was not able to reach Representative Bennett for comment. That's him there. He told our affiliate he had already left his office when the students came. But he says the questionnaire was based on Islamic religious books and writings by Islamic scholars.

More news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: A powerful tropical cyclone is taking aim at Madagascar. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis joins us now with more about it.

Hello, Karen.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ALLEN: Right. We talked with someone from UNICEF. And they were trying to get in there just the best they can because they are spread out over the country the people that are in danger because this drought is so widespread. Thank you for bringing us the latest, Karen.

Well, he was in office when Iran banned Twitter and now he's tweeting. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, remember him, joined the social media site on Sunday. He launched his page with a message in English urging people to follow him and added peace and love and best wishes.

Iran blocked Twitter in 2009 after protest against Ahmadinejad's election victory. Reports say the restrictions were partially lifted late last year.

I'm Natalie Allen at CNN in Atlanta. Up next is "World Sport" and then more in the NEWSROOM.

Thanks for watching.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WORLD SPORT)