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Paris Shooting Overshadows French Election; Trump Changes Tune on First 100 Days; Pence Says U.S. Will Honor Refugee Deal; China Denies "High Alert" Due to North Korea. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired April 22, 2017 - 02:00   ET

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


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In France, the latest terror attack injects more uncertainty into Sunday's election.

Plus a CNN exclusive report indicates U.S. intelligence may have information suggesting Russia tried to use Trump advisors, including this man here, Carter Page, to infiltrate the presidential campaign.

And two young men remember their mother. Princes William and Harry open up about Princess Diana's death.

Hi, everyone, thank you very much for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier at the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta.

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VANIER: Millions of French voters head to the polls on Sunday to begin their process of choosing a new president. This, of course, is happening as the nation is still coping with a new terror attack.

An assailant who apparently supported ISIS shot a police officer to death in the middle of the Champs-Elysees on Thursday night. We've now learned the gunman had been under investigation by French counterterrorism officials for the past several weeks.

We get the latest from CNN's Melissa Bell in Paris.

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MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was 9:00 pm on the Champs-Elysees, Paris's most famous street and its policemen targeted. Authorities say Karim Cheurfi had parked alongside police and opened fire with an automatic weapon.

Within minutes one police officer was dead, two more wounded. And the killer, a Frenchman, taken down. The ISIS claim of responsibility would follow in short order. Within 24 hours of the attack, Paris' prosecutor was able to say more about the assailant.

FRANCOIS MOLINS, FRENCH PROSECUTOR (voice-over): A piece of paper which was discovered next to Karim Cheurfi's body probably fell from his pocket. It carried a handwritten message, defending the cause of Islamic State.

Also several other pieces of paper were found between the two seats of the vehicle which carried the addresses of several police forces. Finally, in the boot of the car the officers found a large black bag containing a pump action shotgun, rifles, two large kitchen knives, secateurs and a Quran.

BELL (voice-over): Throughout the morning raids were carried out in a number of locations. Three members of Cheurfi's family were taken into custody. As the investigation gathered pace, the government met to discuss security ahead of Sunday's vote and the likely political fallout.

With less than 48 hours to go until polls opened, France's prime minister expressed his fear that one candidate might try to add fuel to the fire.

BERNARD CAZENEUVE, FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): The candidate of the Front National, like every drama, seeks to profit from and to control the situation to divide. She seeks to benefit from fear for exclusively political ends.

BELL (voice-over): Marine Le Pen has put the fight against Islamist violence at the heart of her campaign. Controversially, she wants all terror suspects thrown out of France and the country's borders closed. Within 12 hours of the attack, she went on the offensive.

MARINE LE PEN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FRONT (through translator): I demand that an investigation be opened with the objective of dissolving associated and cultural organizations that promote or finance fundamentalists' ideologies. The hate preaches must be expelled. The Islamist mosques must be closed.

BELL (voice-over): Le Pen repeated her intention of having all terror suspects, some 10,500 people, expelled if elected president. Shortly afterwards, her main rival, the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, took to the airwaves with his reply.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): Do not give in to fear. Do not give in to the vision. Do not give in to intimidation.

BELL (voice-over): With the campaign ending at midnight Paris time, the only measure of the choice the French have made will be the poll itself, a vote that the world will be watching.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: For more on this, Juliette Kayyem joins us now, CNN national security analyst.

Juliette, I want to go over the recent timeline regarding the assailant in that Paris attack. There were signs of radicalization starting in December of last year. That's just four months ago. But this person was not under full-time surveillance at any point during the last four months. That's the current understanding as the investigation stands right now.

Do you think French law enforcement or French Secret Service dropped the ball on this?

Was that a mistake?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think in all these cases we want to learn from the potential that this could have actually been avoided. But the problem here and the problem with ISIS-type attacks is that the runway of radicalization is so short.

I mean, we really only talk about four months. For someone to be known, to be followed, to be stopped from what they were doing, that's a huge challenge for law enforcement.

So while he had been on the radar since essentially 2001 for a series of criminal activities, the radicalization was --

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KAYYEM: -- just a heartbeat in that time period.

VANIER: He was actually arrested late February. He was questioned. His home was raided. And still at the time -- and this is just six weeks ago -- investigators, more than that, found no evidence that prompted them to put him under surveillance. And then he went and did what he did on Thursday night, shooting a policeman at point-blank range.

Again, what does that tell us about the nature of this threat?

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VANIER: I suppose that's my point. They had him in their hands two months ago.

KAYYEM: That's exactly right.

So my question on that investigation is essentially, were they looking in the right places?

A lot of these communications are going on through encrypted communications. I'd be very curious what kind of social media or communications scrub was going on.

And also, after you do an investigation like that, you go into someone's home, you figure out what they're doing, how come he didn't seem to be surveyed at all afterwards?

Because a lot of times that action by the police can actually trigger even more radicalization or speed up a timeframe.

So those are the questions I have. You know, without us knowing all of the details about the decision-making process, we certainly can't view this as a success by any stretch of the imagination. There was a police officer who was shot point-blank in a terrorist attack just hours before an election.

VANIER: But is the French counterterrorism operation deficient?

Is that what that tells us?

Or does it tell us just that you can't avoid a certain number of attacks?

KAYYEM: I think it's the latter. I've long believed that. I've long been saying that, look, in any open society, whether it's conservative or liberal, in an open society, you're going to have a certain level of threat.

We look at the vulnerabilities that a city like Paris has. You simply cannot get the vulnerability down to zero because then you wouldn't have a Paris or a Los Angeles or a New York City. So you have to accept a certain level of vulnerability.

The goal is to stop the risk like an ISIS attack before it happens but you're not going to be able to succeed in all these instances.

In the case of Paris as is true here in the United States, a huge issue now is the resource issue. You have too many people who are getting pinged. We think they're doing something but we're not sure what.

But to be able to put the kind of resources you have behind all those investigations, would mean that other crimes could not be investigated. So while today you and I are talking about ISIS, society has all sorts of threats, whether it's gun violence or robbery or assaults that also have to be addressed by a public safety apparatus.

VANIER: Right. And the ratio I've heard is it takes 20 to 30 people to have full-time surveillance on somebody. And if you think that there are thousands of people on that list, of people who may potentially warrant surveillance, France just doesn't have those resources.

One last thing: there's been some confusion ever since ISIS claimed the attack, because ISIS called the assailant Abu Yusuf al Belgique (ph), meaning "the Belgian." But the assailant is French.

KAYYEM: Yes. It's very confusing. And so there's a couple of theories out there. We do know that ISIS seems to have been prepared for some attack. They got their claim of responsibility out quickly in multiple languages. It was all over social media. They knew that the attack was coming. It clearly was timed toward the election.

The question that I'd be looking at for French investigators is, did someone else need to do the attack?

Is this the same person under separate aliases?

Or was this just a coincidence that ISIS had planned the attack and some other guy who was ISIS-inspired actually ended up doing something similar?

This will get figured out relatively soon. What we do know, though, is that ISIS at least had some heads up that there was going to be some attempt at an attack just hours before the election.

VANIER: All right, Juliette Kayyem, CNN security analyst, thank you very much.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

VANIER: And do stay with CNN for full coverage of the French presidential election. Join us Sunday evening for a special program. Hala Gorani will be in Paris with our correspondents, Melissa Bell, Jim Bittermann; it starts at 7:50 pm, 10 minutes before the results come in, that's Paris local time.

All right, now let's get to a CNN exclusive report. We're learning that U.S. intelligence officials have gathered information that suggests Russia tried to use advisors to Donald Trump to infiltrate his 2016 presidential campaign. CNN's U.S. Justice correspondent Pamela Brown has the details on this.

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PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We've learned the FBI gathered intelligence last summer that suggests Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisors, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign, according to multiple U.S. officials.

Now Carter Page's critical speech of U.S. policy against Russia in July of 2016 at a prominent Moscow university is one factor. it's part of what raised concerns in the bureau that he may have been compromised by Russian intelligence. But the new information adds to this emerging picture of how the --

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BROWN: -- Russians tried to influence the 2016 U.S. election not only through e-mail hacks and propaganda, sometimes referred to as fake news, but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit.

The intelligence that was gathered led to that broader FBI investigation into the coordination of Trump's campaign associates and the Russians as FBI director James Comey has referred to.

But the officials we've spoken with made clear they don't know whether Page was aware the Russians may have been using him because of the way Russian spy services operate.

Page could have unknowingly talked with Russian agents. Now he disputes the idea he has ever collected intelligence for the Russians, saying that at times he actually helped the U.S. intelligence community.

He told CNN, quote, "My assumption throughout the last 26 years I've been going there has always been that any Russian person might share information with the Russian government, as I have similarly done with the CIA, the FBI and other government agencies in the past."

And it is important to note that within the Trump campaign, Carter Page was viewed as someone who had little or no influence. But he was one of several Trump advisors whom U.S. and European intelligence detected in contact with Russian officials. The FBI investigation is still ongoing -- Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.

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VANIER: And Carter Page was a Trump campaign advisor on foreign policy. He has said he met the Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., at a conference connected to the Republican National Convention in July of last year.

Page has volunteered to talk to the committee about his Russian investigation saying that he, quote, "never did anything improper."

Now we're fast approaching the end of Mr. Trump's first 100 days. The political benchmark's coming up next Saturday and the president is downplaying its significance now. He even tweeted, "It's a ridiculous standard." But that's not what he said on the campaign trail. For more, here's our Athena Jones.

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ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the clock running out on his first 100 days, President Trump is now questioning the significance of the marker, tweeting, "No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days -- and it has been a lot, including Supreme Court -- media will kill."

That sentiment a far cry from the one he expressed in October, when he embraced the standard and spelled out a long list of measures he hoped to achieve by the 100-day mark, which arrives next Saturday.

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TRUMP: I am asking the American people to dream big once again. What follows is my 100-day action plan to make America great again. It's a contract between Donald J. Trump and the American voter.

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JONES (voice-over): But the president's record of keeping his promises so far is mixed. He's followed through on his pledges to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, approve the Keystone XL pipeline and put a new justice on the Supreme Court.

But he's backed off his pledge to label China a currency manipulator on day one, seen his travel ban blocked in the courts and in, perhaps the biggest blow --

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TRUMP: We had a great meeting. I think we're going to get a winner vote. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES (voice-over): -- he failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. That effort went down in flames just weeks ago, a huge embarrassment for the White House and for congressional Republicans who campaigned for years on rolling back ObamaCare.

Outside of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, much of what the president has accomplished has come in the form of executive action rather than legislation. The president has signed dozens of executive orders and presidential memoranda on issues ranging from a lobbying ban to lifting regulations. He touted his achievements earlier this month.

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TRUMP: I think we've had one of the most successful 13 weeks in the history of presidents.

JONES (voice-over): And expressed confidence that a new ObamaCare repeal bill being negotiated by House Republicans will pass soon, although a vote by next week looks iffy. And the president teased some big news on tax reform next week.

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TRUMP: We will be having a big announcement on Wednesday having to do with tax reform.

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JONES (voice-over): And health care isn't the most pressing issue for Congress. Members must pass a funding bill by next Friday or face a government shutdown. A major sticking point on that front: money for the border wall, a top priority for the White House.

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SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALA.: I think Congress will provide necessary funds and there will be ways to fund this wall. And I believe we've got to do it.

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JONES (voice-over): The problem, it's a non-starter for Democrats.

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VANIER: Athena Jones reporting. there

We're going to take a very short break. When we come back, Molotov cocktails, looting and rioting. Protests are not slowing down in Venezuela but they are growing more dangerous.

And U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is in Australia, he is speaking out about a refugee deal that President Trump really didn't like very much. Details on what Washington plans to do after the break.

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VANIER: Welcome back.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is meeting with political and business leaders in Australia. At a joint news conference, Pence and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reaffirmed their countries' strong ties. Pence said that Washington will honor a refugee deal with Australia, which was actually broken by the Obama administration.

Under that deal, more than 1,200 asylum seekers will be resettled in the U.S., this even though President Trump once called the deal "dumb."

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MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States intends to honor the agreement, subject to the results of the vetting process that now applies to all refugees considered for admission to the United States of America.

President Trump has made it clear that we'll honor the agreement. It doesn't mean we admire the agreement.

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VANIER: In return, Australia will resettle refugees from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Officials say at least a dozen people were killed near the capital of Venezuela when demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and looted business. This comes after weeks of anti-government rallies across the country. Several more people were killed after the supreme court tried to strip parliament of its powers. Our Rafael Romo takes a look.

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RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Some of the victims were electrocuted when, according to reports, a power cable fell to the ground as a group of people tried to loot the bakery in the neighborhood known as El Baye (ph). The rest of the fatalities were from gunshot wounds.

The death of a 23-year-old woman in the city of San Cristobal in Tachira State has outraged the opposition. The government says Paula Ramirez was shot by an opposition protester but her family says she was killed by pro-government armed militias.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): She called us. She was in San Cristobal and called us.

She asked her father, "Father, father, what can I do?

"The armed militias are shooting.

"What can I do?"

I told my husband, Joaquin, "Tell the girl to run and hide somewhere."

The call dropped and we didn't hear anything else. Moments later, somebody called us and said she had been killed.

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ROMO (voice-over): Protesters illuminated a building in Caracas with a message calling President Nicolas Maduro a murderer and another one, asking the national guard, whose members have been clashing on the streets with protesters, whether they're as hungry as the rest of Venezuelans.

Meanwhile, Caracas mayor Jorge Rodriguez, a government supporter, says that the opposition is to blame for the violence. They have been destroying buildings, Rodriguez said, adding that this new face of violence is nothing less than terrorism -- Rafael Romo, CNN.

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VANIER: The Chinese defense ministry says its bomber jets are at a normal readiness level, not on high alert. That's after reports said Beijing was gearing up for a potential conflict because of North Korea. But officials are calling those reports untrue. Our David McKenzie has more.

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DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a rare statement, the ministry of defense here in China has slammed those reports, saying they are simply, quote, "not true," that there is no sense of high alert from the bombers regarding North Korea.

They say that the forces on the border of China and North Korea are, in fact, in a normal level of combat readiness and training. China has repeatedly tried to diffuse the tension in North Korea and the situation that is ongoing there.

In fact, they've been praised in recent days by President Trump for squeezing the economy of North Korea, particularly on coal imports into China, which is a major source of currency for Pyongyang.

Well, we've looked into that. And in the last few days there have been at least six cargo vessels docking from North Korea in China, those cargo vessels containing coal. It's unclear whether the coal has been offloaded. And the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs saying that there is no

sense that the embargo has been lifted or that they are breaking U.N. sanctions. But certainly a question mark there. They are saying that it could be that they are giving the crew humanitarian assistance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: CNN correspondent David McKenzie reporting from Beijing there.

At least eight Afghan soldiers have been killed in a Taliban attack at their army base. Officials say six insurgents disguised in military uniform opened fire at the base in Northern Afghanistan, this during Friday prayers. The Afghan army says the battle lasted for six hours. NATO is calling the attack "barbaric."

We're going to take a very short break. When we come back, British Princes William and Harry open up about the death of their beloved mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, nearly 20 years ago and the impact it had on them. Stay with us.

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VANIER: Princes William and Harry are getting candid about the loss of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. A new film featuring the brothers and William's wife, Catherine, was released today as part of their Heads Together campaign. The royals are hoping to combat the stigma associated with mental illness.

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CATHERINE, DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE: I think it's incredible how strong and you've been able to cope really. I put that down to your early years' childhood experience but also the relationship that you've got, still amazingly close. And yes, you --

(CROSSTALK)

CATHERINE: -- no, but it's -- sometimes it's sadly aren't as lucky as you guys have been and being able to share things.

PRINCE WILLIAM, DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE: But we have been brought closer because of the circumstances as well. That's the thing. You know you are, you know, uniquely bonded because of what we've been through. But even Harry and I over the years have not talked enough about our mother.

PRINCE HARRY: Never enough.

CATHERINE: Has doing this campaign made you realize that?

HARRY: Yes. I think so. I always thought to myself, what's the point of bringing up the past?

What's the point of bringing up something that's only going to make you sad?

It ain't going to change it. It ain't going to bring her back. And when you start thinking like that, it can be really damaging.

And you always said to me, said, you know, go and sit down and think about those memories. But for me it was like, I don't want to think about it.

WILLIAM: Yes. But I think what's happened with us and what's happened with others as well is that you have to prioritize your mental health. You have to say to yourself at some point --

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WILLIAM: -- because it's very easy to run away from it, to walk away from it and avoid it. Someone has to take the lead and has to be brave enough to force that conversation.

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VANIER: A statement from Kensington Palace says the princes and duchess are overwhelmed with the response to their openness and are all grateful to all those who have also shared their own stories.

Now tourists are flocking to Eastern Canada to get a glimpse of its newest visitor. What's going on?

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VANIER: Thank you very much. Thank you for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier.

"THE CIRCUIT" is up next. But I will be back with your headlines.

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