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Michael Flynn Will Talk in Exchange for Immunity; Flynn/Russia Meeting Time Line; Putin Says Election Meddling Claims Are "Lies"; Impeached South Korean President Arrested; Battle Against ISIS Has Real Consequences for Iraqi Civilians; TOP NATO Diplomats Set to Meet in Brussels; Strong Support for Nunes Among Constituents; Venezuela Supreme Court Assumes Legislative Powers. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 31, 2017 - 02:00   ET

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


(HEADLINES)

[02:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. Great to have you with us for another hour of NEWSROOM, L.A.

There is a potential legal bombshell in the investigation of Trump's team's ties to Russia. Former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, says he will talk to the FBI and congressional investigators in exchange for immunity.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: General Michael Flynn's lawyers putting the offer out there, telling congressional investigators that Michel Flynn will testify if offered immunity. Putting it in somewhat of a tantalizing way in a statement saying, "General Flynn certainly has a story to tell and he wants to tell it should the circumstance permit." Then going on to say, "No reasonable person who has the benefit of advice from counsel would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized witch-hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution."

The details really not coming out here on Capitol Hill. In fact, a spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee saying there have been no requests from General Flynn. And the Senate Intelligence Committee refusing to comment. Of course, General Flynn did resign just after President Trump took office when it was disclosed that he had no revealed his communications with the Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak to Vice President Mike Pence.

Right now, General Flynn's lawyers trying to strike a deal with some of the congressional investigators here. But the question is, will General Flynn's words come back to haunt him? It was just last year when he spoke on MSNBC about Hillary Clinton's staffers, and he basically said, if you're granted immunity, if you take that immunity, it basically means you committed a crime. So will those words come back to haunt him? And will any deal be struck here on a Capitol Hill? That remains to be seen.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: We know Michael Flynn went to Russia in 2015 for a now famous dinner with President Vladimir Putin.

And CNN's Wolf Blitzer has a look at the timeline of Flynn's Russia connections.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): December 25th, Flynn texted Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, "I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I look forward to touching base with you and working with you, and I wish you all the best." The ambassador texted back, "Merry Christmas."

December 28th, the Russian ambassador texted Flynn, "I'd like to give you a call, may I?

December 29th, Flynn & Kislyak connected by phone, the same day the Obama White House ordered extra sanctions on Russia and ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the U.S. immediately.

The call was first reported on January 23rd. Trump's team confirmed the call that same day but denied any discussion of the sanctions.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (voice-over): The call entered around the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and the president-elect after he was sworn in. And they exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call. That was it, plain and simple.

BLITZER: Two days later, January 15th, Vice President Pence defended Flynn and the call in an interview with CBS.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose a censor against Russia.

BLITZER: The controversy waned until February 9, when "The Washington Post" reported that Flynn did indeed discuss sanctions with Kislyak. Flynn, who previously denied the accusations, changed his tune. His spokesman telling "The Washington Post," that Flynn, quote, "indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn't be certain that the topic never came up."

Then on February 13th, CNN and others reported that the Justice Department warned the Trump administration in January that Flynn misled administration officials and was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.

SPICER: According to the two officials we spoke to, who have been briefed on this, it was, as they described it, a main topic of the discussion. It wasn't something that Kislyak just threw out at the end or anything. BLITZER: Shortly after the report emerged, Flynn submitted a letter

of resignation, saying, quote, "Because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the vice president and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Wolf Blitzer reporting.

Now, almost a week ago, CNN's national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, reported Michael Flynn may be looking to cut a deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SEUCRITY ANALYST: A name that's not mentioned is the name he mentioned on the show Mike Flynn, the former national security advisor. It is starting to look like from my sources and then also from open reporting that Mike Flynn is the one who may have a deal with the FBI and that's why we have not heard from him for some time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[02:05:14] VAUSE: And Juliette Kayyem joins us now on this.

So I guess you're not surprised by these developments last Friday. You were the one who said a deal could be in the works. So what were the signs?

KAYYEM: We have been coming to this moment. For those of you who have been in the field for a long time started to see some of the writing on the wall a while back. Remember, Flynn was fired only several weeks after the Justice Department warned the White House that he might be compromised. Then later on, we heard about Flynn in the context of him cleaning up some of his paperwork as regards to some of his foreign clients. And then what struck me last week, and why I said let's anticipate the Flynn plea deal, or immunity hopes, was we heard a lot of people, including the White House, talking about Carter Page, Manafort and Roger Stone, three of the main players. But no one was mentioning Mike Flynn, which suggested to lawyers like me in the national security area that Flynn was on his own, that he was trying to seek a deal. We don't know what the nature of that deal is yet, but it's certainly bad news for the White House.

VAUSE: Flynn's lawyers say their client has a story to tell and he really does. He's been at the center of the Trump campaign since the beginning. He was there for the transition and for the first month of the administration. So if anybody has information to trade, it seems it would be Michael Flynn.

KAYYEM: That's exactly right. This is as close to Donald Trump as you can get. So if there is something to tell, Michael Flynn will know it. If there's any questions or any facts about a Russia connection or Russian collusion regarding the campaign, Michael Flynn was sure to know. He had been with Donald Trump before anyone, essentially, anyone in particular in national security. He was quite political and very sort of hostile towards Hillary Clinton. He stood on the convention floor at his speech and chanted "lock her up," which was unbecoming for a military person, many people felt. So there's no question that if Flynn has something to offer, and if immunity is granted, that that story will impact the White House. What we don't know is does it impact Donald Trump directly.

VAUSE: What can we read into the fact in a that so far at this point it appears officials have not made this deal for immunity?

KAYYEM: It's interesting. I'll be honest, there might be a couple theories to this case right now. One would be that they were about to in the "Wall Street Journal" got this story before the proffer, before there was an agreement. And so basically you may see an agreement come relatively soon. What Flynn has to offer or what he's willing to offer is outweighed by potential illegalities. They might not want to grant him immunity because they may see him as somebody that should go to jail if it comes to that. So we don't know yet. I suspect just based on the order of things that the "Wall Street Journal" and various other media outlets got ahead of the calendar and we'll see some sort of proffer and agreement relatively soon.

VAUSE: His lawyers issued a statement. Part of it read, "No reasonable person who has the benefit of advice from counsel would submit to questioning in a highly politicized witch-hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution." They're arguing General Flynn doesn't need immunity because he's done something wrong because he could become the victim of politics, treated unfairly. This is speculation. If there's legal jeopardy for Michael Flynn, would it be related to his work as a foreign agent for the government of Turkey or more to do with his connections to Russia?

KAYYEM: It could be three things. It could be his connection to Russia which have seen the most suspicious as regards to who he was talking to, whether he was offering deals to Russians. It could be the Turkish connections he had. He had to admit he had been paid for -- or had been a foreign agent after he was fired. I actually think it's most likely the simplest thing, which is he may have lied to the FBI in some of these communications he had with them earlier on. The FBI does not like being lied to, and many of these cases begin with a simple lie that is found out, and the FBI would seek to prosecute, and Flynn wants immunity from that.

[02:10:19] VAUSE: Can you get immunity from lying to the FBI if you've done that?

KAYYEM: Absolutely. In fact, that's how the FBI gets most of its witnesses to speak. Someone says something to the FBI, they later learn as a lie, that's a criminal liability in change for no prosecution, the person will then speak the truth.

You make a great point though. We don't know the substance of what Flynn is going to say or what he has offered to say. While this is a very bad news day for the White House and something that is disconcerting for those of us who are in national security, this was a big day, we still don't know the substance of what he's willing to offer. VAUSE: OK. Juliette, thank you so much. Really appreciate you being

with us.

Of course, people watching CNN on Friday would have known about this ahead of time.

Thank you.

KAYYEM: Thanks. Thank you.

VAUSE: The White House says it has uncovered classified information about surveillance during the 2016 election. According to Spokesman Sean Spicer, National Security Council staff has found the documents and now the White House has invited the heads of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to see the information. Democrats believe this is the same intelligence the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee received from unnamed sources last week, and they say the White House is trying to launder the intelligence through the House committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If that was designed to hide the origin of the materials, that raises profound questions about what the White House is doing that need to be answered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Vladimir Putin says all these accusations about Russian meddling in the U.S. election are fiction, fabrication, and lies. Adding, if a Russian oligarch would like to go to Washington and testify about their relationship with former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, in Putin's words, "Let him do it."

For more, let's go to our international correspondent, Matthew Chance, live.

Matthew, we heard from the U.S. Intelligence Committee accusing Russia of weaponizing information, also accusing the Russian president of ordering a campaign to undermine investigations in the U.S. No doubt they will continue to deny this as well.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNTIOAL CORRSEPONDENT: No doubt they will. The problem the Kremlin has, of course, John, is they are constantly denying any allegation against them. It somewhat undermines their credibility.

Having said that, they've been particularly insistent on this issue that they had nothing to do with hacking the election or manipulating the U.S. political process. In fact, for the first time since the inauguration of President Trump earlier this year, the Russian President Vladimir Putin has come out and spoken on the matter, calling the allegations, quote, "nonsense and irresponsible."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHANCE (voice-over): It's hard for Russians to escape the constant allegations of interference in U.S. politics. Questions even following Vladimir Putin to the country's far north. He was at an international Arctic where the Russian president again tried to lay the matter to rest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You and the Russian government did never try to influence outcome of the U.S. presidential election and there will be no evidence found.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): Reagan once said to the American people, I think it was regarding Texas, "Read my lips," no.

CHANCE: Actually, it was George Bush Sr who said that, but the point was made.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning the committee will engage in an activity that --

CHANCE: But it's a point unlikely to be heard in the U.S. congressional hearings now underway in Washington to investigate the feverish allegations of Russian collusion.

In the latest twist, Jared Kushner, Trump son-in-lawn and adviser, is confirmed to have met with a top Kremlin-appointed Russian banker. His bank, VEB, in under U.S. sanctions, and the banker, Sergey Gorkov, has close Putin contacts.

Putin has now spoken out on that, too, dismissing the meeting as routine.

PUTIN (through translation): American bankers come to Russia and talk to us, don't they, including our officials? I think it's not in the interest of the American people to carry Russian-American relations to the point of absurdity to benefit the domestic political agenda.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the way, wouldn't it be nice if we got along with Russia? Wouldn't that be nice?

(CHEERING)

[02:15:02] CHANCE: That political agenda towards the Kremlin has prevented Trump implementing his own campaign promises, including to rebuild links with Moscow, allowing relations between the former Cold War rivals to plunge dangerously.

PUTIN (through translation): Our relationship is almost at the point of zero already. What we want, to break off the diplomatic relationship, force the situation to the point of the 1960s in the Caribbean crisis? I think it's a big mistake. And I hope the situation will normalize, the sooner, the better.

CHANCE: Amid the controversy, the I.C. relations between the U.S. and Russia show few signs of an early thaw.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: Certainly, not in the cards. In fact, over the issue of election meddling and hacking and the allegations of that, it's probably fair to say the trust gap between Washington and Moscow is the widest it's been for years -- John?

VAUSE: Matthew, thank you. CNN's senior international correspondent in Moscow.

We'll take a short break here. When we come back, she's been kicked out of office. Now an investigation could send the former president of South Korea to prison.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:19:58] VAUSE: Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye has been arrested. Park arrived at a detention center outside of Seoul early Friday morning. She's facing string of charges, including abusing her office and leaking government documents. The judge granted the arrest warrant in case she tried to destroy evidence.

Paula Hancocks has more on the investigation in Seoul.

Paula, how much legal trouble is Park in right now?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's currently behind bars, as you say, in that detention is there. Prosecutors have up to 20 days now to indict her. They will quote absolutely will diet her. There's a one many million chance after securing an arrest warrant for them. Park Geun-hye knows what's in her future. The kind of charges we heard from prosecutors recently are abuse of power, coercion, bribery, leaking classified documents. Certainly, there are some great concerns from prosecutors and also from that judge who agreed she should be arrested and that there could be potential for destroying evidence. At the same time, Park and her lawyer have always denied wrongdoing. The lawyer says this is politically charged. But this seems to be moving at a fair pace at this point. In the next few weeks, we could hear the exact charges.

VAUSE: If Park was losing what little support she had when she was impeached, what about now?

HANCOCKS: We've certainly seen support continuing for Park Geun-hye, the demographic is some older Koreans, many of whom remember her father who was president a few decades ago. We did see some supporters outside the detention center as she was taken there in the early hours this morning. It was quarter to 5:00 in the morning, so not many supporters, but they are very vocal. They may be smaller in number than those who wanted Park to be impeached and imprisoned, but there is a strong to my knowledge this is politically motivated and believe she should be reinstated.

VAUSE: Some people see this as sort of a welcome moment for South Korea and its democracy. A leader is removed quietly by rule of law, and now some will say she'll be answering for the charges against her. HANCOCKS: Certainly, for hundreds of thousands of people who were on

the streets almost every single Saturday for many months, they believe that democracy has worked. They believe people power has toppled a president. We've seen an awful a lot of corruption in this country when it comes to the top echelon. We've seen so many since democracy came here in 1988. Many say they simply have had enough, and they're not going to stand for this old-fashioned corruption any longer. Of course, those pro-Park supporters disagree with that. But many people in South Korea, there is a south of relief, that the democracy does appear to be working.

VAUSE: Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks joining us from Seoul.

The U.S. military is expanding an investigation into one of its air strikes in Mosul, Iraq, two weeks ago. The attack was targeting ISIS. Local officials say, so far, more than 140 bodies have been removed from that strike zone alone. The investigation will look into all of U.S. air strikes over the past several days before and after March 17th.

The battle against ISIS has some real consequences for the civilians caught in the middle, like the survivors of a U.S.-led air strike which hit a truck full of explosives in Mosul.

Arwa Damo met with some of the survivors who say life now is worse than death.

And a warning, some of the images in Arwa's report are difficult to watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORERSPONDENT (voice-over): The bodies are rolled down the street past the rubble of homes where children used to run and laugh. In a five-day time frame, hundreds were killed in western Mosul.

We went to a hospital to look for some of the survivors.

This woman was cradling her daughter who was four and a half years old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DAMON: This was March 17th, which is the main day under investigation by the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

(CROSSTALK)

[02:25:08] DAMON: Her father, drew their streets for us showing where the ISIS fighters were on the corner. There were multiple explosions. She was in a home down the road with her mother and two relatives. Her father ran towards the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) DAMON: His daughter's little body was black. It was barely

recognizable. After he pulled her out of the rubble, he begged the ISIS fighters to be allowed to leave just for the sake of saving his little girl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DAMON: On a different day, Muhammad stuck his head out the front door when an air strike came to take out a car bomb. Now he has shrapnel in his body. He can't talk. He's lost his memory.

(CRYING)

(CROSSTALK)

DAMON: Down the hall, in another ward, we found a bunch of children.

This girl is just 16. She lived in an apartment block and was on the second floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DAMON: Her back is broken. She probably won't balk again, but no one has the heart to tell her. She still has dreams about being a doctor. She's here with her sister, whose son was also injured.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DAMON: Much of western Mosul has been physically destroyed. People are dying every day. Coalition air strikes, mortars, sniper shots, ISIS explosions, deaths that don't make headlines. Its population is emotionally shattered and they're haunted by the ghosts of those that are gone.

(EXPLOSION)

DAMON: This girl doesn't know her mother's dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DAMON: She still has shrapnel in her eye. She may never see again.

"Don't say you're sorry," her father told us. "Sorrow doesn't help. It's not going to bring her mother back."

Arwa Damon, CNN, Irbil, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: To find ways to help people fleeing Mosul, visit CNN.com/impactyourworld.

We'll be back in just a moment.

"State of America" with Kate Bolduan is coming up next for viewers in Asia. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:30:08] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm john Vause, here with the headlines this hour.

(HEADLINES)

VAUSE: NATO's top diplomats are set to gather in Belgium shortly, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He's expected to tell NATO partners they have to boost defense spending in order to fight terrorism. His trip to Brussels follows his official visit to Turkey on Thursday. All this as a battle to drive ISIS from the Syrian city of Raqqa draws near.

Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is in Brussels for this NATO meeting and he's live with us.

Nic, Tillerson's first NATO meeting. He may have some tough words for the folks at NATO, but it seems NATO has toughed questions for him regarding President Donald Trump.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They certainly do. The message we've heard from Vice President Mike Pence, we've hear from secretary of defense, James Mattis, as well, and we've heard it from Donald Trump as well that NATO needs to pay more. 28 NATO nations, only five of them pay the 2 percent GDP. They're obliged to do it. That was agreed to the Wales NATO summit a couple of years ago. The NATO countries gave themselves 10 years to make good on that commitment. But the message Rex Tillerson is bring is that time line is not good enough, you need to pay up and pay up more quickly.

But the message from the Europeans is very practical. For example, the French, who aren't one of those five, they have presidential elections in a month or so, so it would be hard for them to change course. The Germans, who are half way down the list of countries that don't pay the 2 percent of GDP, they also have major elections this year. Belgium, the country hosting and the home of NATO, they are almost, if you will, one of the worst offenders of not paying the 2 percent of GDP. They're at the bottom of the list. So there's practical issues of how do you change course on a significant thing like defense spending.

But also for the European allies in NATO and the E.U., there are deep concerns about where President Trump is taking the United States and its relationship with Europe at the moment. They're turning more to themselves. One of their considerations is, well, if we're going to up our spending as we agreed, what's the best way for us to do that? For example, the United States produces one type of tank and in Europe you have 17 different types of tank produced. So NATO European allies could have more effective spending their money. However, it takes time to make those changes.

So all of this undoubtedly on the table, and then the issue of terrorism, Rex Tillerson saying Trump would like to see NATO doing more on terrorism. And if you look at that statement from Wales, from that summit just a couple of years ago, of over 100 points on the final statement, terrorism was number 79. So you can see there is space to move that up the agenda.

VAUSE: 79 places to move it up, I guess.

Nic, thank you very much. Nic Robertson, covering Tillerson's visit to NATO, which almost didn't happen. He was originally going to skip it.

Thanks, Nic.

For the past few weeks, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has been in the spotlight under sustained attack from Democrats and some Republicans. He's accused of being a human shield for the president, Donald Trump. But back home in his district in California, support for Devin Nunes remains strong.

And Kyung Lah explains why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pressure mounting, the hits keep coming for Republican Congressman and House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes. Hammered for his mysterious conduct and close ties to the Trump White House from both sides of the aisle.

[02:35:05] REP. STENY HOYER, (D), MARYLAND: Mr. Nunes simply disqualified himself.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He's gone off on a lark by himself, sort of an Inspect Cousteau investigation here.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: Something's got to change, otherwise the whole effort in the House of Representatives will lose credibility.

LAH: That outrage from D.C. just noise to much of Tulare, California. Thousands of miles away from Washington, this is Congressman Nunes' home district.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know Devin personally is his integrity. If he was someone I didn't know, I would be wondering too. But knowing him personally all these years, his family, his background, he's a straight shooter.

LAH: His constituents believe in the congressman here. Born and raised on a central California farm, graduate of the local high school, they watched him grow from a skinny teenager to now a central figure in D.C. Last election, Nunes won a whopping 68 percent of the vote.

Danny Tristo grew up with Nunes and doesn't believe his should recuse himself.

DANNY TRISTO, NUNES SUPPORTER: He's very direct. If he believes in something, he's going to make it right. LAH: The sharpest criticism of his conduct, that he's doing the

bidding of the White House instead of leading an independent investigation.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Chairman Nunes seems to be more of a partisan for the president than an impartial actor.

LAH: That charge empty here where many people believe Nunes' ties to the White House only helps them.

The congressman brought Candidate Trump to central California, say these farmers, who saw the connection up close.

TRISTOS: They really hit it off and I enjoyed seeing Donald Trump putting that confidence in the Devin.

LAH: But not everyone believes in the embattled congressman. A resistances movement has sprung up and, as Nunes arrives home to California tonight, plans to let him hear from them directly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We see him as obstructing justice, as not participating properly in this investigation. He should have recused himself already from that investigation. There's so many signs and signals.

LAH: Kyung Lah, CNN, Tulare, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, Venezuela's Supreme Court has stripped the national assembly of its authority, a move the opposition is calling a coup.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Three years after on, the Sewol ferry has been raised from the bottom of the ocean and is heading back to port. The ship sank in April 2014 killing 304 people, mostly high school students. None of bodies where are ever recovered, but now that the ferry is back above water, it's hoped they will be found. The ferry's captain was quitted of murder but he is serving 36 years in prison.

Malaysian and North Korea have ended a diplomatic standoff which started after Kim Jong-Nam's murder in February. As part of a deal, North Korea freed nine Malaysian citizens were held in there since Kim's death. They went back home on Friday. And Malaysian will return the body of the North Korean leader's half-brother. Relations between the two countries soured when Malaysian investigators refused to release Kim's body and conducted an autopsy, which revealed Kim had been murdered.

A major shakeup in Venezuela. The Supreme Court has taken the legislative powers of the opposition-controlled national assembly.

We have details from CNN's Rafael Romo. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[02:40:34] RAFAEL ROMO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a surprise ruling late Wednesday night. Holding Venezuela's national assembly in contempt of court, the country's Supreme Court took over legislative powers. The decision means the three branches of the Venezuelan government will now be controlled by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

Venezuela's president, Nicolas Madura, spoke about the court's decision in a message broadcast live on Thursday.

NICOLAS MADURA, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translation): They're giving me and authorizing me enabling me special powers out of the emergency clauses in our constitution. This is an order by the Supreme Court. It's a historic ruling.

ROMO: Venezuelan national assembly president, Julio Borges, called the ruling unconstitutional.

JULIO BORGES, VENEZUELAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT (through translation): Nicolas Maduro has staged a coup d'etat. What this ruling means if that, for the first time, Nicolas Maduro has all the power to enact laws, assign contracts, incur foreign debt, and persecute fellow Venezuelans.

ROMO: Other prominent opposition leaders are calling Maduro's government a dictatorship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): In Venezuela, the government operating outside the constitution. There's now a dictatorship in Venezuela. They've crossed the line.

(SHOUTING)

ROMO: Scuffles broke out outside the Supreme Court building Thursday afternoon with anti-government protesters trying to storm the facility as the National Guard blocked access. Some protesters yelled at the guards using expletives and calling them traitors to the motherland.

(on camera): Venezuela is facing a deep humanitarian crisis, sparked by an economic meltdown, which has caused shortages of basic food items and essential products. Last week, President Maduro asked the U.N. to help with the deep shortage of medicines.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Finally here, a big moment for the private space company owned by Elon Musk, SpaceX. For the first time, the company has used the same rocket twice. It went up to outer space and then was recovered, and then it was sent back up again. Musk is calling this a huge revolution in space flight. The company has been working towards this moment for more than a year. The rocket landed successfully on a barge at sea. This was a slow descent, as it came back to earth. Maybe not. There it is.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

Stay with us. "World Sport" is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WORLD SPORT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:00:10] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A new twist in Washington's investigation into Russia's election meddling. Trump supporters --