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ISIS And Iraqi Forces In Intense Battle In Western Mosul; Sources: U.S. Marines In Northern Syria; Putin And Erdogan To Talk Syria On Friday; Two States Challenging Trump's Revised Travel Ban; Death Toll In Guatemala Fire Rises To 31; Survivors of Kabul Hospital Attack Speak; Students Shed Light on Child Trafficking; Japanese Candy Maker Creates Edible Portraits. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 9, 2017 - 15:00:00   ET



[15:00:10] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes live from CNN Center City in for Hala Gorani and this is THE WORLD


U.S. Marines hitting the ground in Syria ratcheting up the pressure on ISIS want to take a look at some video, American flags flying on top of military

vehicles, you see them there. This is in Northern Syria.

U.S. officials telling CNN that Marines arrived there this week equipped with heavy artillery, their roles to support local fighters also backed by

the U.S. Those forces preparing to move in and take back right Raqqa, the city that ISIS declared as the capital of its caliphate. You can see

marked there on the map in Syria.

Now over the border in Iraq troops there pushing deeper into Western Mosul as they try to reach after that city from the terror group. We want to

show you some rare video of what it is like inside the battle zone in Mosul.

It was shot by CNN freelance cameraman. The video showing ruling urban combat in what is a densely populated area as our Ben Wedeman explains.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gunfire roaring nearby, Mosul residents flee their neighborhood of (inaudible).

Then an ISIS suicide car bomb explodes nearby, pieces of metal and concrete raining down.

The blast sets an Iraqi federal police Humvee on fire, killing several policemen, wounding others. This footage provided to CNN by freelance

cameraman, Ricardo Villanueva (ph), is raw glimpse of the intensity of the battle for Western Mosul.

Iraqi officials are not putting out casualty figures, but it's clear government forces are paying a high price. ISIS fighters continue to put

up stiff resistance, car bombs their weapon of choice. They have used dozens to attack Iraqi forces since the push in West Mosul began two and

half weeks ago.

More than 70,000 civilians have fled the western part of the city. Others like this old woman and her granddaughter had no choice but to stick it

out. Hundreds of thousands remain inside hanging white flags on their doors in the hopes they'll be spared.

Fighting in Western Mosul appears far heavier than in the East, where it took Iraqi forces three months to gain control. Praise war as hell here

becomes reality.


HOLMES: Extraordinary images. And our CNN senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is live for us from Erbil in Iraq. We also

have CNN Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne, to walk us through some of the developments in neighboring Syria.

Ben, let's start with you and have a look at the bigger picture. ISIS has lost I think around 65 percent of its territory. A lot of their fighters

of financing and so on. What is the state of the group in a battlefield sense?

WEDEMAN: The battlefield sense, they are still putting up quite a fight as you can see in that video, but were also hearing that morale is beginning

to waver a bit that there is tensions, for instance, in Mosul between foreign fighters and Iraqi fighters with ISIS.

[15:05:07]And the other day, for instance, we spoke to a woman in a prison here in Erbil, whose husband was a member of ISIS and he was still being

sent to the front. He was fighting on a regular basis, but at a certain point, he simply could not take it anymore.

He shot himself in the foot to get out of service, sold his weapon and fled the city. So near given, you know, the intensity of the bombardments on

Mosul is something I did not see during the battle for the eastern part of the city. It does appear that starting to take its toll.

That the situation in Mosul obviously Raqqa, Syria is somewhat different where ISIS still continues to control a fairly large area, but certainly

here in Iraq, you are starting to get the sense that ISIS can't keep this up for much longer.

HOLMES: We'll come back to you with another question in a second, but Ryan, let's bring you into the conversation. This Marine artillery unit in

Syria, what is their role going to be specifically and why did the Pentagon feel the need to send them? The equipment they have is a pretty accurate,

precise artillery as I understand it?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: That is right. It is and it's a capability that America's allies in Syria the local Kurdish-Arab fighters

that the U.S. is working with against ISIS lacks. They do not have heavy weapons.

So this artillery is going to be a key capability, a key enabler to help them accelerate their push on Raqqa, which you know, ISIS has controlled

for some time. U.S. defense officials told us yesterday, they think that there is some 4,000 ISIS fighters left in the city.

They've had a chance to dig trenches and tunnels, create -- you know, vehicle and house -sized IED's, booby trapping homes in the area. So it's

definitely going to be a tough assault. So this will kind of help the Kurdish and Arab forces as they begin their push on that city.

HOLMES: You do mentions those forces, Ryan, you know, how does the Pentagon see the timeline of this battle unfolding because those schools is

fighting for Raqqa. They are not -- you know, the Iraqi Security Forces are more disparate than that.

BROWNE: That is right. And you know this is -- this creates another problem. Now the Pentagon is not really willing to put a timeline on this

operation. They will talk about how difficult it is. The isolation phase is kind of starting in a couple weeks, but this is going to be a long -- it

mirrors kind of what happened with Mosul.

Where they kind of cut off the lines of supply. They've kind of encircled the city, isolated it, and slowly started moving in, closing in and around


Also, in Mosul, the Marines provided Iraqis artillery support as part of their push on that city. So we are kind it's no surprise. We're kind of

seeing a lot of the same tactics and reused here in order to accelerate the battle.

Now another issue you showed some images of those striker vehicles, American striker vehicles. This force that the U.S. is relying upon has

some tensions with neighboring Turkey. They are not too happy that the U.S. is using this force that has Kurdish fighters in it.

So the U.S. is having position troops in the city of Manbij in order to kind of help deter any clashes between these groups that could undermine

this offensive.

HOLMES: It reminds a disparate battlefield as well even among allies. Ben, you being there for a long time. You've been there many, many, many

times, Iraqi forces now probing the old city. Their advance has been, I think you'd agree, comparatively quick in the western part of the city

compared to the eastern part.

But the old city has always been seen as the main fight. I mean, you only have to look on Google Earth to see how densely light out of these and

that's the problem. Is that still sane as the case that the big battle there is yet to come?

WEDEMAN: Yes, the feeling among Iraqi commanders is that even though ISIS is putting up quite a fight in the areas where they battled so far. That

there is really holding back there. Their main force for potentially the old city.

And the old city, yes, it got very narrow streets and alleyways, but we understand from Mosul residence that there are not actually that many

people living in the area that it is really there is a lot of commercial goods being stored there.

But it is an ideal environment for the kind of tactics that ISIS excels at, the tunnels, the booby-traps, and whatnot, but the old city will be

definitely a hard the nut to crack.

But there is still the other the rest of the northern neighborhoods as well so we can expect the kind of intensity fighting you saw in that video

before to be repeated time and time and time again as Iraqi forces moved northward in the city.

HOLMES: And as you've recorded, other places too, (inaudible) as well that need to be taken. Ben Wedeman in Erbil and Ryan Browne at the Pentagon,

thanks so much.

Well, Syria is expected to dominate the agenda during a meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

in Moscow on Friday.

[15:10:09]Relations between the two countries have been warning of late. Russia and Turkey now allied in the battle to take on ISIS even though they

support opposing sides in the Syrian Civil War. Yes, it is that complicated.

Today, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praising Russia's role in that battle during a meeting with Mr. Putin in Moscow. The Israeli

leader seeking Russia's support in blunting the growing influence of Iran in the region.

Let's look ahead now to that important meeting happening on Friday between Mr. Putin and Turkey's Erdogan. Frederik Pleitgen with that.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two strongmen with a rocky relationship in the past, Russian President

Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan have become among the most significant powerbrokers in the Middle East.

Nowhere more so than Syria where the two countries back opposing sides in the Civil War, but are coordinating in the fight against ISIS. Recently,

top generals from Turkey, Russia and the U.S. met Turkey says to keep all sides focused on the battle against the terror group.

BINALI YILDIRIM, TURKISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The real reason of this meeting is to find the best way to maintain coordination and

to prevent the parties from interfering in each other's operations and avoid unwanted incidents.

PLEITGEN: Relations between Russia and Turkey hit rock bottom when the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian military jet in 2015, but Moscow and

Ankara soon developed a pragmatic approach dealing with each other's interests in Syria. James Nixey is an expert in Russia and Eurasia.

JAMES NIXEY, CHATHAM HOUSE: They have totally different agendas and yet despite this, their relationship was improved remarkably in the last four

months alone.

PLEITGEN: And by the time the attempted coup happened in Turkey in 2016, Putin strongly endorsed the embattled Turkish president.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I know that I was one of the first people who called (inaudible) and expressed my support.

PLEITGEN: There have been further challenges to Russian-Turkish relations like the murder of Russia's ambassador to Turkey in Ankara late last year,

and last month the accidental bombing of Turkish troops in Syria by Russian jets. So far, however, the leaders of both nations say the incidents

haven't hurt ties.

(on camera): Aside from the situation in Syria, Presidents Putin and Erdogan also want to discuss deepening trade ties between their two

countries, further bolstering a relationship that many in the West view with growing concern. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump has tapped John Huntsman to serve as ambassador to Russia. If confirmed, the post would be the third

ambassadorship for Huntsman, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Singapore and China. Huntsman, a Republican ran for president in 2012, you may

recall, also served as governor of Utah.

John Huntsman will certainly have a full plate if he is confirmed. Obviously, and Thomas Pickering perhaps has some advice for him. He is a

former U.S. ambassador to Russia and the distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The ambassador joins me from Washington. Ambassador, good to see you. As a former ambassador to Russia yourself, very simply what advice do you have

for Mr. Huntsman? What will be his challenges in that country in particular?

THOMAS PICKERING, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, thank you, Michael. My advice is study the situation carefully, form your own opinion

about what is going on, make sure you tell truth to power, understand the critical issues and know, for example, that the nuclear question is an

important one and needs to be dealt with, with care.

We have an opportunity not to shred the nuclear relationship which seems to be part and parcel of some of the statements shared by the presidents on

both sides about using nuclear weapons and we have an opportunity not to do that.

But to strengthen the stability in that kind of a relationship and deal with such problems as further reductions of nuclear weapons, improve

communications, keeping quiet about the use of nuclear weapons and, indeed, looking at whether in fact there is cooperation possible on a critical

question like ballistic missile defense.

HOLMES: There is so many areas we can talk about. I want to pull up a tweet actually, I mean, you really discussed the service, OK, that issue

one of 400. He's a tweet I want to read to you from Donald Trump back in 2012 tweeting that John Huntsman gave away the U.S. to China effectively.

Well, now he is appointing him to ambassador to Moscow. Does that complicate his job as a diplomat at all?

PICKERING: Well, like a lady even a president has the opportunity to change his mind particularly after the election in which one set of words

serves one purpose and for a president, a different set of words serves another purpose.

[15:15:00]So choosing a wise and I think strong and intelligent and astute man to be invested in the Moscow should get cheers and one should forget

what is clearly been a very, very difficult election campaign, in which almost everybody in site was in one way or another tweeted to death.

HOLMES: And what do you make of the always reports of meetings during the campaign between Trump stoppers and the Russian officials or operatives and

the fact that both meetings would immediately disclose? What were your thoughts on that?

PICKERING: Well, there's an investigation going on now. There are some good sources that seemed to believe there was. It is a little hard to know

whether there was closely coordinated strategic campaign here or whether there were targets of opportunity to be naive to believe the Russians would

not take advantage of opportunities to try to influence situations through their intelligence arm in whatever context they have.

There is a very critical question, was that done with the cooperation of one party against the other and does that build obligations that are still

extent and must be paid off or respected, and we do not have the answers to those questions yet. They are still in the hands of the investigators and

the Congress, and we will see where that takes us.

HOLMES: Vladimir Putin is obviously a very savvy operator for an intelligence man himself. How do you think he is assessing all of this?

PICKERING: It's a little hard to know Mr. Trump pretense affection. Mr. Putin at least makes it clear that he would like to reciprocate. Does this

present an opportunity or is this merely a passing development in what is otherwise a kind of game of political charades? We don't know that answers

and those will those will have to come.

If it is an opportunity then it can be taken advantage of to see whether in fact U.S.-Russian relations were at rock bottom right now can be brought

back in the joint interest of both countries, neither of which I think by accident, miscalculation, misjudgment or otherwise wants to set off a

process that leads to some kind of conflict or God forbid, nuclear use.

HOLMES: I wanted to touch on one of the other 312 things that the new ambassador will be sizing and one of those big challenges could be managing

the relationship when it comes to Syria, the U.S. backing unsuccessfully much of the time a range of so-called moderate rebel factions.

Russia supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with airstrikes and Special Forces. They say they've been fighting ISIS. A lot

of people say, well, not really. Is there scope for cooperation?

PICKERING: There is, Michael, and news reports over the last couple of days have indicated that at least some U.S. general officers have been in

touch with Russian and Turkish counterparts. I do not how to evaluate that, but obviously the first and most important thing is to prevent from

happening what has happened in the past.

The shoot down of airplanes, the bombing inadvertently or otherwise of soldiers on the other side, and there are shared objectives. There isn't I

think a clear sense that anybody in any kind of reasonable timeframe can produce a military victory.

So even if there were a military victory, the questions often have to be settled at the conference table and when the Russians first came in, there

was cooperation and progress was made and ceasefires were instituted and they held for a while.

Now there is a ceasefire. It is a shaky one. Is there an opportunity to reinforce that and move in the direction of the next steps, which clearly

have to be reinforcement of the ceasefire through cooperation among Syrians, hopefully to begin cleaning up the mess and beginning to put

something more stable in place and to concentrate their military efforts against ISIS.

Those are all big charges and challenges. There is not yet clearly emerging a move in that kind of direction, but there is at least a slight

opening the door again to that possibility.

HOLMES: Let alone the inevitable attempts to stitch back into a continuous and gullible country after all of this is said and done, which a lot of

people think is going to be problematic. But unfortunately for now we got to leave it there. Ambassador Thomas Pickering -- glad to talk to you.

Thanks so much.

PICKERING: Great to be with you too. Thanks.

HOLMES: Well, Donald Trump's choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel has cleared its first major hurdle. A Senate committee approving David

Friedman's appointment today sending it now to the full Senate. Friedman is a longtime supporter of Israeli settlements.

And he faced some tough questions of his confirmation hearing last month and in fact dialed back many of his previous controversial statements

including calling Palestinian statehood an allusion for a nonexistent problem.

[15:20:12]Still to come right here on THE WORLD RIGHT NOW, see you in court, two U.S. states are now challenging President Trump's revised travel

ban before it even takes effect.

Also, an outpouring of grief and anger after a deadly fire at a Guatemala youth home. We'll get an update on the investigation. Please stay with



HOLMES: Welcome back. The stage is set for illegal showdown again over Donald Trump's revised travel ban. Hawaii filed the first lawsuit against

it, arguing the U.S. president's executive order is unconstitutional and now the state of Washington headed to court as well.

The ban would stop people from six Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days while all refugees would be banned for 120 days. The

order is supposed to take effect on Thursday of next week.

We are joined by White House reporter, Stephen Collinson, for more on this. As I expected, Stephen, but how different will the arguments be this time


STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It's going to be very interesting to see. The Washington State, Washington challenge basically

is saying that the original order to stay on the travel ban should remain in place because the order has not substantially changed.

The knob of the argument is that this is effectively a ban on Muslims entering the United States of that being singled out and that singling out

a single religion for action is unconstitutional.

The Justice Department, the Trump Justice Department has filed a note with the judge basically saying this is completely different order. So the

original stay does not remain in place so that is what the judge in this case is going to have to work out.

Now the White House spent a lot of time over the last three weeks or so trying to thread the needle to make sure that the revised executive order

that Donald Trump signed would not be able to be challenged in court.

So we will see whether the legal sort of works at the White House is done is going to stand up. It's going to be very interesting.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly. I was going to ask you that. The administration went to a lot of effort damning the slightest one look like a whole bunch

of lawyers have (inaudible) over unlike the first one. Will they reference to satisfy the courts to get out ahead of any challenges in the waiting,

will make it more difficult this time around for it to be blocked or will the lawyers have a harder time this time.

COLLINSON: I think it's a narrower case. What we saw was the White House going out of its way to make the argument that the residents of these six

Muslim states pose a sort of disproportionate risk of allowing terrorists in the United States if the travel ban is not allowed to stand and that

they don't have time to do some increased vetting of these countries.

[15:25:13]But there was a report from the Department of Homeland Security which the White House said was politically motivated, which raised

questions about whether any of these six countries involved really opposed any more threats to United States than anywhere else.

So I think it's going to come down to that and look at the campaign, Donald Trump came out during that campaign and said that there has to be a total

stop on Muslim immigration to the United States.

Now that position was significantly watered-down over the months, but that is out there and the lawyers in this case goes straight back to that and

say, look there is significant grounds here, to say that the United States government is singling out Muslims for special treatment and that is


Both these states, Hawaii and Washington, also going to argue that they can be hurt by this ban. Their Muslim populations will be hurt, that their

tourism industries will be hurt.

They will find it more difficult to attract foreign students and that can hurt the bottom line of universities in most states. So they say that they

have grounds for this and I think we will see another pitched court battle I think coming up in the next few weeks.

HOLMES: We certainly will. Stephen, thanks so much. Stephen Collinson there in Washington.

The death toll in Wednesday's horrific fire in Guatemala has now risen to 31. Most of those killed teenage girls. The blaze broke out at a youth

home near Guatemala City after some residents set fire to a mattress.

Human rights groups had criticize the overcrowded facility, which housed abuse victims alongside juvenile offenders. The Guatemalan president has

declared three days of mourning. That fire still being investigated as you would imagine.

Shasta Darlington following developments for us from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Shasta just describe, if you will, the chaos of the situation,

unimaginable by the sound of it.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Michael. Just heartbreaking, confusion, anger, frustration and grief. As you said, so

far 31 people have died out. Well, 19 of them died right there on the scene when this blaze broke out in a shelter outside of Guatemala City.

It started when some of the people living there lit fire to mattresses in a kind of protest against the poor conditions and it just took off. It took

over these two sections of the youth center.

And really ensued, friends and family converged on the center trying to figure out what was going on. You had desperate mothers banging on the

doors trying to get in. Others shouting at police and officials as ambulances rushed by trying to figure out if their daughter was on that


If their loved one had survived, and the confusion really continued into the night. There was a candlelight vigil at the hospitals. Similarly,

these patients were being unloaded from ambulances. Many of them suffering burns on more than half of their bodies.

And so far ten severely burned patients have since died, and doctors say that many of those in the hospitals are still in very critical conditions.

So they are not hopeful that the death toll won't continue to rise.

And obviously this is just been a painful incident for all of Guatemala, but especially for the families that have had to suffer through these

amazing 24 hours.

HOLMES: Absolutely. We touched on it, but go back and tell us a little bit more about the circumstances that led this. Concerns have been raised

about conditions there.

DARLINGTON: That's right. This is a government run youth center, a shelter for young people who suffered physical and psychological sexual

abuse and also for young people, who are trying to beat drug and alcohol addiction, who had been abandoned on the streets and even some juvenile

offenders, as you mentioned.

So a real mix of young people who were being sent to this shelter in theory to protect them. What we now know is that human rights groups had alleged

there had been abuse at the shelter itself.

The director had been fired. There are also allegations of overcrowding and we have also heard from some of the first rescue workers to arrive on

the site that what they saw is that a lot of the young people living there were actually locked in and that is why so many people died.

The spokesman for the Volunteer Fire Brigade said that they were locked in and in fact some people died not of burns but of smoke inhalation because

they just couldn't get out -- Michael.

HOLMES: Horrible, horrible situation. Shasta, thanks so much. Shasta Darlington there in Rio.

Up next, attacked in their hospital beds --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I saw three people coming out of the lift. They were wearing doctors' uniforms.

[15:30:03] They had spectacles, gel in their hair and AK-47s under their uniforms.


HOLMES: We hear from the survivors of the Kabul hospital attack, which ISIS says it carried out. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. CNN has learned U.S. Marines with artillery have been sent to northern Syria, joining a small contingent of

American forces in the region. The Marines will support Syrian fighters attempting to recapture Raqqa from ISIS. Raqqa is considered the militants

de facto capital.

South Korea's constitutional court is expected to rule within hours on whether to uphold the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. It will

decide if she should be removed from office during a corruption scandal which also involves the head of Samsung. The lawyer for Jae Y. Lee is

denying charges of corruption.

Afghan authorities have begun investigating yesterday's brutal attack on a Kabul military hospital. Gunmen storming the building, disguised as

medical staff, and killing at least 30 people. ISIS claiming responsibility for the assault.

Nick Paton Walsh now brings us some stories of the survivors.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In what, perhaps, the most penetrating attack in years in a city inured to horror.

Four ISIS attackers entering into the inner sanctum of the Afghan Army, their main Kabul hospital.

Afghan Special Forces had to fly onto the roof and they endured a six-hour firefight to end ISIS' worst onslaught yet into the secure heart of the

Afghan capital, and the group's first major attack since Trump became president. Kabul, grown too used to this violence, a city that's meant to

be a restive safe haven from which America is still fighting its longest war.

The next day, survivors remain stunned. Zama Nullah injured on the violent front of Kunda City found himself under attack yet again as he lay in his

Kabul hospital bed.

NULLAH: A hand grenade exploded, making me deaf. I saw three people coming out of the lift. They were wearing doctor's uniforms. They had

spectacles, gel in their hair, and AK-47s under their uniforms.

One gun had a knife on its tip, and they were stabbing nearby people with that people and shooting on those who were running away. I asked my

father, who was with me, why the doctor is shooting people, but my father screamed, he is not a doctor. Please, lie down.

WALSH (voice-over): Noor Alam was injured fighting in the eastern town of Achin where ISIS are strong and tried to flee using his bedding.

[15:35:02] NOOR ALAM, AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY SOLDIER (through translator): I was on the fourth floor inside my room. Me and a couple of other patients

tied bed sheets together to make a rope out of them and started climbing down from the window. By the time I was near the second floor, one bed

sheet came untied from the others, and we fell down.

WALSH (voice-over): The Taliban denied responsibility, distancing themselves from what the U.S. commander called, quote, "an unspeakable

crime against medical deserters. Instead, ISIS rushed to claim it.

They have grown since these first pictures of them in the country's east was shown on CNN. Afghan forces and U.S. drones have pushed them back, but

instead their work of violence has found its way into the capital.

SEDIQ SEDIQQUI, SPOKESPERSON, AFGHANISTAN MINISTRY OF INTERIOR AFFAIRS: They have been contained, and our forces were able to inflict a lot of

casualties to them in the east part of Afghanistan. From 11 districts, now they are contained to two districts. That's a threat not only for

Afghanistan but it's a threat for everyone.

WALSH (voice-over): ISIS are exploiting unprecedented chaos. Afghan forces experiencing record casualties and just over half the country is

fully under government control.

The Trump administration now facing the same tough call President Obama did, but with the added dilemma of a resurgent ISIS here. Do they give the

longest war that has become known the graveyard of empires just one more try?

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN.


HOLMES: And now, to a new information about a congressional investigation under way into Russian interference in the U.S. election, sources on the

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee tell CNN, they want all of the Trump associates who allegedly spoke with Russian officials to testify before

their committee. Excuse me. That includes Paul Manafort, and you see him on the left, Michael Flynn in the middle, and Carter Page on the right.

Sources say senators could use subpoena power to force them to testify. The committee trying to determine if there was any collusion between the

Trump campaign and Russia. Well, President Trump has called the Russia controversy a ruse and denies any wrongdoing.

Let's get some perspective now on this and other developments in Washington. We're joined by CNN Political Commentator Jack Kingston, a

former Republican congressman, who served as senior adviser to the Trump campaign. We also have Bill Press with us, the host of "The Bill Press

Show," and supported Hillary Clinton in the elections.

Gentlemen, great to have you with us to start on this.

BILL PRESS, HOST, THE BILL PRESS SHOW: Hi, Michael. Always a pleasure.

HOLMES: I mean, let's start with you, Bill. What do you make of how this debate over the Russia contacts is developing, particularly in light of

what the President has been tweeting?

PRESS: Well, I think what we know is that this is not going to go away the way the White House would hope it would go away. But I go to the briefings

every day. Sean Spicer is very quick to dismiss this. He says there's nothing there. There's been no evidence.

And the President himself said neither he nor anybody around him had any contact with the Russian, and yet the stuff keeps coming up. Two meetings

between Attorney General Jeff Sessions back when he was a Trump surrogate and the Russian ambassador. Now we find out there was even a third

meeting. And then you've got Paul Manafort, and you got Carter Page, the other people that you mentioned.

And so the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee are both looking into this, and reportedly so is the FBI. So

this is going to stick with us. It's going to be a problem and I think there will be hearings and Trump people, or those around Trump, will have

to come and testify in front of the Senate committee.

HOLMES: Jack Kingston, when it comes to what the President was tweeting out about his predecessor, Barack Obama, I mean, what happens if these

hearings are held and everyone comes in, files into the room, and says it didn't happen? What's the impact of that for the President?

JACK KINGSTON, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE FOR GEORGIA: Well, a couple of things. Number one, I think that the intel committees, both

House and Senate, are relatively bipartisan and fair and they're thorough. And they're probably going to find what James Clapper said this weekend, is

that 17 agencies saw no proof of collusion between Trump advisers and the Russian government. And they said, well, we know that Russia was trying to

interfere with the government election, the U.S. election, no big news there.

They do that routinely and they always have tried to. But, again, James Clapper said no proof, no evidence, no, even, suggestion of collusion at

this point, except for from political circles. I think the intel committee could interview these people and very quickly, find out, oh, gosh, nothing


Now, I know how politics work in Washington. They'll move the goal post and try to come up with something new. But I really think the Dems are

doing everything they can to try to delegitimize the election of Trump and it's not --


HOLMES: But, Jack, what about the President's tweets, that in particular? He said something that, if true, is outrageous.

[15:40:01] I mean, he accused his predecessor of a felony. I mean, this will be the biggest scandal in decades. What if that goes before these

committees, is investigated as the White House wants, and everyone says, it didn't happen?

KINGSTON: Well, I think what they're going to find out is, well, why did "The New York Times" keeps saying, and they said it in one of their

headlines, that there was wiretapping going on at the Trump Tower? There was a FISA request in June, another FISA request in October. It was

apparently going after a computer but there was some sort of wiretapping.

Other sources have come out and saying things like that. "The Guardian" reported it. "The Washington Post" reported it. And so, you know, I think

there's some smoke there, but if we're going to go on a witch hunt, go on a complete witch hunt, and include some things that could embarrass the


HOLMES: Bill, you're shaking your head.

PRESS: If I could --

HOLMES: You want to jump in there, witch hunt.

PRESS: Yes. No, if I --

KINGSTON: Bill and I might disagree, it's OK.

PRESS: No. And it's possible.

HOLMES: All right.

PRESS: No, look, if I may, OK? This is not a witch hunt. This started from Donald Trump. And I just have to point out, this man is reckless when

it comes to his tweets.

He's the same guy that said 3 to 5 million people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton with a zero proof. During the campaign, he's the one who

said that Ted Cruz's father had something to do with the assassination of JFK with zero proof. And now, he's saying that President Obama, who -- by

the way, the President of the United States does not have the legal authority to order anybody to tap anybody's phone. But he said --

KINGSTON: But, Bill --

PRESS: Let me finish. He says that President Obama did. It was an outrageous attack on a former president of the United States. And so --

HOLMES: So, Bill, then what happens if everybody says it didn't happen? What do you think, Bill? And then we'll get back to you, Jack.

PRESS: Well, we'll find out. If it haven't been --

HOLMES: What sort of damage does that do to the President?

PRESS: I think if it happened or didn't happen is monumentally damaging to the President. Because if it did happen, in other words, if somebody like

the FBI had gone to FISA and got a permit to tap Donald Trump's phones, it means they suspected him of criminal activity. That's not a win for the

President. Either way, this is a lose-lose for him.

KINGSTON: I think it's a lose-lose for the Democrat Party. If they were wiretapping as "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" have

suggested, then it shows what extremes the Obama administration is willing to go to. Keep in mind, this is the same administration that, oddly, has

not requested a special prosecutor, even though all the Democrats are now calling for one.

I frankly think the Democrat Party needs to start talking about jobs, health care, infrastructure, and immigration security.

PRESS: Yes, no. I'm sorry.

KINGSTON: But they don't want to get off Russia because this all they got.

PRESS: No, anything to change the subject, that's what the White House wants. That's what you want, Jack. And let me see, and yet it keeps drip,

drip, drip.

KINGSTON: It's not --

PRESS: We're not keeping Russia alive. Donald Trump is keeping Russia alive.

KINGSTON: Well, if Donald Trump was worried about --

PRESS: And you know it.

KINGSTON: -- this topic, he would not have sent out that tweet. This guy is a genius and you've got to admit, he's been enormously successful as a

nonpolitician winning the highest elected office in the land, if not one of the highest, the highest, in the globe. He's been enormously successful as

a businessman.

HOLMES: Right.

PRESS: OK. That doesn't -- yes, fine.

KINGSTON: And when he says something like this is going on --

PRESS: No, no.

KINGSTON: -- I think he knows what he's doing.

PRESS: He may --

HOLMES: Well, Jack, you mentioned health care. I --

PRESS: Michael, if I can.

HOLMES: All right, quick point.

PRESS: He may be successful. He cannot accuse President Obama of breaking the law without showing any evidence. Even Mike Pence did not defend this.

Sean Spicer hasn't defended this.

HOLMES: He did dodge it. Jack, I wanted to --

PRESS: Mike Pence did not defend it.

HOLMES: No, he didn't. No, he sort of dodged the question.

PRESS: Exactly.

HOLMES: Jack, I wanted to ask you. You mentioned health care. You know, the Republicans have wanted to repeal the ObamaCare for years. And you

know, everyone is saying, well, you had all this time, why did you not have something lined up that was beautiful and ready to go? Why the rush, do

you think, now to try to push this through so quickly?

KINGSTON: Well, I think, number one, there's been a lot of debates on, and it did not just happen with the ascension of Paul Ryan to the leader. This

goes back to John Boehner. We've had many, many reform bills and repeal efforts that have gone on.

But, you know, I think, at this point, there's four principles that Speaker Ryan has spoke up -- patients in charge, not bureaucrats; choice and health

care plans, bringing down the cost of health care plan; and universal access. And what they have presented in past through the two health care

committees last night, they stuck to those principles.

HOLMES: Right.

KINGSTON: And I think they have to do this on reconciliation, and it can't be as broad as a debate as, I think, many others would like it to be.

HOLMES: Right. Got a few seconds left. Bill, I'll give you a chance to reply to that, ObamaCare Lite.

PRESS: Yes. Right.

HOLMES: Republicans resisting, what do you think?

PRESS: Well, look, look. There's no doubt why Paul Ryan kept this plan a secret for so long. It's not a plan. It's no doubt they're forcing it

through without even waiting for their congressional budget office to do an analysis.

[15:44:59] It's a bad plan that will deprive millions of Americans of the health care they now enjoy, and those who are left will pay more money for

crappier coverage. No wonder they don't want anybody to see it.

HOLMES: I wish we had more time. Jack Kingston, Bill Press, thanks so much, gentlemen. Always a pleasure.

KINGSTON: All right. Thanks, Michael.

PRESS: Thanks, Michael.

HOLMES: And we will take a short break. We will be right back.


HOLMES: Welcome back. A few days ago, we told you about a group of school children in northern India who were subjected to years of bonded slavery in

the country's brick kilns. Some have managed to escape, but many others are still suffering daily. India's labor and employment minister watched

that report and gave his reaction to a CNN lawyer.


SHRI BANDARU DATTATREYA, MINISTER OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT OF INDIA (through translator): The report of the child in brick kiln was shocking for me to

see, but it's been going on for ages in our country. It's a social stigma and a scourge on our country. And the main reason for it is the poverty

and lack of education.

There are people who are stuck into slavery because of working over the years because of that social structure. It is as if they are living in a

jail, and this can stop only if we change the social structure in India.


HOLMES: Now, of course, it's not just India. Bonded slavery and human trafficking are happening all over the world. But students in Abu Dhabi

are using the arts to educate their peers about ways to combat it. Here's Becky Anderson with more.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ABU DHABI MANAGING EDITOR (voice-over): Millions displaced in Europe's refugee crisis. Among them, children and teenagers,

thousands of whom are now feared to have fallen into the hands of traffickers.

NOUR RAMZI, STUDENT: I saw it. The island of Kos. That's what my dad told me we needed to be. I got excited and I turned around, to tell my

mama that we're finally here. Mama!

ANDERSON (voice-over): Syrian student, Nour Ramzi, dramatized the story of one teenage refugee who arrives in Germany alone.

RAMZI: Your mama's buried in the Mediterranean.

ANDERSON (voice-over): A passionate performance with a serious point.

RAMZI: Theater and art is one of the most powerful ways to show people what is hidden. When emotion is provoked, there's catharsis and then there

is motivation to go out and do something about it.

ANDERSON (voice-over): This is why students at the American Community School in Abu Dhabi are using performance to spread the word about issues

like modern-day slavery.

From public speaking about the enormity of the problem to shocking their public into seeing just how widespread it is.

[15:50:01] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the ways for people to get marked as owned is getting tattooed. So if you were stamped on the way in, please

stand up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Imagine. Imagine you have all disappeared.

ANDERSON (voice-over): These high school students have devised dramatic ways to get their message across.

The school's advanced theater class is using a technique called verbatim drama. After interviewing victims and those who helped them, they are

bringing those testimonies to life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They think that they're going to get a job, to work in a beauty parlor or a massage salon or get a job as a flight attendant,

but that person that's selling them this idea is actually planning to sell them into slavery.

MALISA FOSS, STUDENT: I think that, as a student, we should be the one that know the most about this because we're the ones who are still learning

and are in school. But before this topic, we had no idea about any of the statistics and like how many people are still in slavery today.

STEFANIA BACANO, STUDENT: I believe that performance can show a lot of people that these stories are real. And since it's a verbatim play, it's

everything that people we interviewed said word by word. So we didn't make anything up at all, really.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Other students have found their voice in a different way. These sixth graders even composed their own song about



ANDERSON (on camera): Students here understand that if all the world's stage these days, then all the world's an audience too. So a little

performance can go a long way in helping to raise awareness about what is this global scourge.

Take it away, girls.


TEXT: #myfreedomday


HOLMES: And CNN is teaming up with young people around the globe for a day of action against modern-day slavery. "My Freedom Day" is March 14. We do

want to hear from you. We've been hearing from a lot of people. Post a photo or video using the hashtag, #MyFreedomDay.

And we'll be right back.


HOLMES: Welcome back. A Japanese family has been making a special candy for six generations as Will Ripley records. First, it is a mesmerizing

process that involves sculpting massive slabs of patty into tiny works of art.



WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the whimsical land of Watanabe-san. His family started this candy shop more

than 140 years ago. Since then, he's the fifth generation to sink his hands into this -- larger than life, pounds of clumps of massive globs of

sugary candy that almost magically turns into what they have affectionately called "kintaro ame."


RIPLEY (voice-over): Watanabe's great grandfather found a way to make a candy with the face of a folk hero inside of it. As legend has it, Kintaro

had super human strength. He was so strong as a child, he wrestled a bear and won. For decades, he's been Japan's sweetest super hero.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Among those trainees is the next heir to this candy factory. From father to son, the tradition continues.


RIPLEY (voice-over): It takes about 25 minutes to go from this playdough- like sculpture to pieces of hard candy. But within those minutes, the stakes are high. But that doesn't stop this duo from getting a little

creative with their edible portraits.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Difficult but not impossible. Now, the leader of the free world is crystallized into one sugary bite.


HOLMES: Will Ripley there, who is off to the dentist. It's a moment every parent dreads, their child throwing a temper tantrum in public. But the

timing of this tantrum really couldn't have been worse.

It's a little boy you're going to see in there. A true melt down in front of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Good heavens!

It happened at the unveiling of a memorial for people who served in the Iraq and Afghan wars. For her part, the monarch, who is a grandmother and

great-grandmother, smiled and didn't seem fazed.

All right. This has been THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Thanks for watching. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" up next.