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Paris Shooting Overshadows French Election; Russia Tried to Use Trump Advisers; Trump Changes Tune on First 100 Days; Twelve Killed in Venezuela Violence; China Denies "High Alert" Due to North Korea; China Works for Cleaner Air; "March for Science" on Earth Day. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired April 22, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A deadly terror attack leading up to the French presidential election alters the race. We'll go live to Paris for the latest.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A CNN exclusive: FBI intelligence suggests Russia tried to use Trump adviser Carter Page to infiltrate the campaign.

ALLEN: In Venezuela, at least a dozen people are dead after another round of violent protests.

HOWELL: We'll have you covered this day, live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: And I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: It is 5:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. First to France, where millions of voters there will head to the polls Sunday to being the process of choosing a new president. That nation, though, still in shock over the brazen killing of a police officer Thursday in Paris, an attacker who apparently supported ISIS.

ALLEN: We've now learned the gunman had been under investigation by French counterterrorism officials for the past several weeks. CNN's Melissa Bell joins us from Paris with the latest.

I know you've been covering the election there, Melissa, for some time. And now we have the shadow of this terror attack.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The shadow of this terror attack, of course, over a campaign, over a political landscape, Natalie, that involves essentially all the 11 candidates, four that are leading the polls with all of them around the 20 percent mark. So it is extremely tight. And then you have also this very large group, historically high

numbers of French voters, who have yet to make up their minds. So there is everything to play for. And the sense is that it really wouldn't take very much to put one or the other of the candidates ahead of that very tight field.

So the big question, with less than 24 hours now to go before polls open here in France tomorrow morning at 8:00 am local time is what difference the very dramatic events that took place here on the Champs-Elysees Thursday night are going to make. Have look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BELL (voice-over): The time, 9:00 pm. And the timing, three days before the presidential election.

On the Champs-Elysees, the attacker identified as Karim Cheurfi has just been killed after shooting at a police van with an automatic weapon. One police officer is dead, two others and a tourist are wounded.

Within three hours, the Islamic State had claimed responsibility.

The following 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 division. 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 poll that's hard to call as it is likely to prove decisive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BELL: In that piece about the two leading candidates, those who are just above that 20 percent mark in the opinion polls, the far right's Marine Le Pen, the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron. But just beneath that 20 percent mark there are two other candidates who really could be in the running and could provide something of an upset in this and they are the embattled Republican candidate, Francois Fillon, who believes that he benefits from more support that the opinion polls are able to hear.

And another candidate, the independent far left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has been really rising in the polls the last few days, these are the four candidates that could go through to the --

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-- second round. Then of course the cards are sort of reshuffled and the French will reconsider their votes in that two-week period, leading up to the 7th of May, in light of who the two candidates are to try and decide who they would like to see head into the Elysee Palace.

ALLEN: And, Melissa, with setting the terrorism aside, what's the atmosphere like as far as typical voters?

Are they excited?

Are they wary?

Are they ready to get this over?

Where are they at?

BELL: I think there's a mixture, really, Natalie, of wariness and excitement. On one hand, people are worried, many about the fact that these fairly extreme candidates both on the right, Marine Le Pen, the far right candidate, and on the left, the one I just mentioned, Jean- Luc Melenchon, are looking so close to getting through to the second round.

They obviously enjoy a great deal of support, hence their position in the opinion polls.

But there are those who worry about the fact that both of them would probably hold a referendum on the future of Europe opening the door for a Frexit. for instance. Both of them would introduce isolationist protectionist economic measures. Both of them represent a real rupture with all that's been before in the history of the Fifth Republic.

So there is the sense that France really could change, that there are these vastly different programs on offer and this excitement as well, that there could be change ahead. Someone made the point to me the other day that the French really have been angry for the last 40 years.

They vote for governments that they feel simply don't deliver on their promises. Well, the time for change could be now and I think there's a sense out there that there is some truth in that.

So fear on one hand, worry with regard to some of the candidates for part of the population but excitement as well, that perhaps this time France's political landscape really has changed once for all.

ALLEN: All right. We'll see. Melissa Bell for us there in Paris, thank you.

CNN U.S. security analyst Juliette Kayyem says the ISIS terror group didn't seem taken by surprise by Thursday's attack in Paris.

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JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Some key numbers to know about Sunday's election in France. There are 11 candidates in the first round. The two with the most votes will go on to the second round ballot on May 7th. There are 47 million eligible voters.

France's finance minister says he believes they will protect their open society, even in the wake of Thursday's attack.

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MICHEL SAPIN, FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER: In every case, the French people determine themselves along their own debates, their own interests and I know that the French people will make their choice for democracy to conform with their Republican values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Let's bring in now Nicholas Vinocur, a reporter with Politico, live in Paris at this hour.

Nicholas, it's good to have you to give us some context on what's happening here.

So the big question, given what happened Thursday, this very tight election for some of these candidates, could this sway the ballots for voters who have had enough?

NICHOLAS VINOCUR, POLITICO: Well, absolutely. Terror like this certainly puts voters in a different mindset going into the final dash. This is a country that has been rocked by terrorism during the past two years, multiple attacks. And this is a reminder of the threat that the country is under and it has put security back into focus.

We had a final poll yesterday which showed the candidates more or less in the same order but polling is now suspended until the vote. And certainly we can expect that it is going to have some sort of influence one way or another; exactly how, it's difficult to say.

But we've got candidates pushing for radical security measures going into Sunday's vote.

ALLEN: Nicholas, tell us if you can about why this vote is so important to Europe.

VINOCUR: Well, Europe is at the center of this vote. We have -- the candidates, the four front-runners, have polarized radically in their positions for Europe.

You've got Emmanuel Macron. He's the one who's expected to make it into the second round and win the election on May 7th. He is openly pro-European and wants to deepen and strengthen integration between Eurozone states.

But on the other side, you've got Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far right and far left candidates --

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VINOCUR: -- who have run on a platform of dismantling the European Union to a great extent, withdrawing from the bloc, putting up border controls and pretty much moving back into a very nationalist agenda.

What happens in Sunday's vote will pretty much decide whether the European Union continues to exist as we know it or moves in a radically different direction that could be the dismantling and the end of this project.

HOWELL: So France, a nation that has seen so many attacks, 2015, other attacks that have certainly frayed the nerves of many people.

You have one candidate, Marine Le Pen, saying she could make changes by basically restricting the free movement across borders. You have another candidate saying these attacks will continue, though they will do what they can but the attacks will continue, Mr. Macron.

How are voters perceiving such different ways of approaching security?

VINOCUR: Well, it's all very confusing for voters because you've got, like you said, Emmanuel Macron, who is saying the best way to fight terrorism is to work as Europeans, is to share information that we have on suspicious individuals, who might be moving around the union.

And for that, you need very close integration between intelligence agencies in Britain, in Germany, in Austria, across the European Union to make sure everybody is acting together.

On the other side, you have got Marine Le Pen who says the only way to stop this is to put up border controls like we had them more than 10 years ago and start checking everybody who comes into the country and not trusting our neighbors so much. It's a very disorienting time for French voters. They feel that there's a threat.

They feel that there's something going on but, exactly what the solution is, is difficult to say. What we can say is the one who is proposing the most radical measures here is definitely Marine Le Pen. She wants to expel all foreign people who are suspected of Islamist links. She wants to shut the borders down.

The question is, will they trust her to become president?

This is a person who lacks executive experience and doesn't have any of the gravitas that the former prime minister, Francois Fillon, does have.

ALLEN: And Nicholas, when the Brexit happened, we talked a lot about the citizens that voted for and against and where they lived, where they were from.

How does it go with Le Pen and Macron as far as who is supporting whom?

VINOCUR: Well, the Brexit vote, the Trump vote, these are all analogous situations. And when you look at -- if you break down the voting population, what you see is that in peripheral areas, areas that are removed from big urban centers where there are jobs and opportunities and travel, the further away you move, 100 kilometers, 200 kilometers, the more likely you are to vote for Marine Le Pen.

This is what we've seen time and time again in these elections that, in areas that are cut off from the sort of beating heart of global capitalism, this is where support for Marine Le Pen is strongest and this is where the resentment of immigration and of the European Union is also the strongest.

So you've got a real divide here, as in Britain and as in the United States, between globalized urban centers and peripheral areas that are cut off and don't feel the benefits of this. And that's how this election is also shaping up. ALLEN: Well, we thank you for your analysis so much, Nicholas Vinocur, thank you so much, Nicholas.

VINOCUR: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, a CNN exclusive report.

Did Russian operatives try to infiltrate the inner workings of Donald Trump's presidential campaign?

What new intelligence is suggesting.

ALLEN: Also, President Trump set some ambitious goals on the campaign trail. How they stack up almost 100 days into his presidency. We'll let you know.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. Now an exclusive CNN report. We're learning that U.S. intelligence officials have gathered information that suggests Russia tried to infiltrate the inner workings of the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

ALLEN: Their intel suggests Russian operatives sought to make use of Trump advisers who may have been completely unaware that they were possibly being compromised. CNN's U.S. Justice correspondent Pamela Brown has that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Pamela Brown, thank you.

Now let's go live to Russia, CNN's Fred Pleitgen following the story live in the Russian capital this hour with us.

Fred, first of all, what can you tell us to push forward on Pam's reporting just about the interactions, the dealings that Carter Page had in that nation?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's essentially an adviser here, especially to the Russian oil and gas industry, and also has been trying to facilitate deals between the United States and Russia.

And this is actually for a fairly long period of time, more than a quarter of a century. He himself says about 26 years that he's been coming here to Russia.

He's very well known, especially in the oil and gas industry here in this country, which is, of course, a very, very important industry if not the most important industry here to Russia. And certainly he has met with some top politicians, with some top oil and gas officials.

So he is certainly someone who is quite positive towards Russia, has always been, also reflected, of course, in that speech that Pamela was talking about there in 2016 --

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PLEITGEN: -- at that Moscow university, where apparently he ripped into U.S. policy towards Russia, saying that it was reminiscent of the Cold War, some of the things that were coming out of Washington at that point in time.

So certainly someone who was very much in favor of better relations between the U.S. and Russia and, of course, thought that that could happen once President Trump took office and, again, someone where now the intelligence services seem to believe that he might have unknowingly been used by Russian intelligence, by the Russian government to try and infiltrate the Trump campaign.

But as we heard there in Pam's report as well, he says that he had nothing to do with that and that he took great care to not be used unknowingly to get information to the Russians or to any other government for that matter -- George.

HOWELL: What has been the general response then from the Kremlin about these continued allegations of Russian meddling, Russian interactions et cetera, with the election?

PLEITGEN: I would say that it's continuing denial and growing frustration on the part of Russian government officials. Certainly the ones that I've been speaking to, not just in regard to this issue in particular but generally to the allegations, to the information that's been coming out on Russian -- Russia allegedly trying to influence the electoral process in the United States.

The Russian line is that official Russia, so any sort of Russian government agencies, Russian intelligence agencies, were not involved in any sort of hacking around the U.S. election or attempts to try and steer the election into a different direction.

That, of course, doesn't mean that hacking didn't take place. The Russians just say officially they were not involved but you can really feel how they're growing increasingly frustrated because, in the end, what they wanted was better relations with the Trump administration and ultimately a lifting of sanctions against Russia and certainly looking at almost 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency, it certainly doesn't appear as though they're any closer to having that happen -- George.

HOWELL: 12:21 pm in Moscow, Fred Pleitgen following the story for us live, Fred, thank you for the reporting.

Next Saturday marks 100 days since Donald Trump took office as the U.S. president. That's become a benchmark in U.S. politics to measure a new president's success.

ALLEN: Mr. Trump calls the standard "ridiculous," yet he used it in his campaign to boast about how much he would accomplish.

Has he?

Here is our Jim Acosta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a critical milestone for any president but nearly 100 days in office, President Trump complains this is no time to judge his performance.

"No matter how much I accomplished during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days -- and it has been a lot, including Supreme Court -- media will kill." But, in the leadup to the 100-day mark, the president has repeatedly

tried to make the case he's putting points on the scoreboard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're now in the process of rebuilding America and there's a new optimism sweeping across our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president has yet to follow through on many of the promises he said he could accomplish in his first 100 days in office, such as health care reform, imposing term limits on members of Congress and tax reform.

During the campaign, the president promised there would be so much winning, the American people would grow tired of it.

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TRUMP: We're going to win so much you may even get tired of winning and you'll say please, please, it's too much winning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA (voice-over): In fact, the president laid out his 100-day agenda at an event just weeks before the November election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Coming up, just think about what we can accomplish in the first 100 days of a Trump administration. We are going to have the biggest tax cuts since Ronald Reagan.

On the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington.

Ethics reform will be a crucial part of our 100-day plan as well. We're going to drain the swamp of corruption in Washington, D.C.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA (voice-over): So far, much of what the president has done has come through executive orders, not legislation.

The White House is taking another stab at repealing and replacing ObamaCare, something the White House hopes can actually pass the House before Mr. Trump hits that 100-day milestone next week.

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TRUMP: The plan gets better and better and better and it's gotten really, really good and a lot of people are liking it a lot. We have a good chance of getting it soon. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA (voice-over): But standing in the way, the prospect of a government shutdown. Congress has until next week to pass a bill to fund the government. One potential obstacle: the White House is still insisting on money for one of the president's biggest promises, a wall on the Mexican border.

In the Oval Office, the president didn't sound worried that a shutdown could actually happen as he hits 100 days in office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: I think we're in good shape.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Well, when will he start to deliver?

For more analysis of President Trump's first 100 days, we spoke with Brian Klaas, a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics.

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BRIAN KLAAS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: It's a barometer of how effective the president --

[05:25:00]

-- at delivering on their campaign promises. It is to some extent arbitrary but it is holding the president accountable to the own standard he set for himself.

Remember that Trump set out a contract with the American voter in which he said that he would pass or aim to pass 10 major bills by the end of the first 100 days and he's currently 0 for 10 and we're just a week away from the 100-day milestone.

So it's important to check in and see how he's delivering on his promises or, in this case, how he's failed to deliver on them.

HOWELL: So we just heard in the reporting a moment ago the things that the president has succeeded on, so a Supreme Court nominee.

But at the same time, the things that have not come to fruition at this point, given your read of what you have seen happen, how is the new U.S. president doing?

KLAAS: Well, I think there's two major things that Trump has done in the first 100 days that have been positive. One is the Supreme Court justice for his agenda. That was a very big positive for him to be able to get that through.

I also think that bombing Syria and making clear that if there's no place for chemical weapons in the civilized world, another positive, although it came with no strategy attached to it, which is a serious problem.

But on the other hand, if actually you do this in comparative context, Trump said it was a ridiculous standard to look at him after the first 100 days. In Obama's first 50 days he expanded health insurance for 4 million people, he passed a $787 billion economic stimulus package and he fully funded the government's budget.

Trump's first 100 days, the signed legislation so far has been repealing the stream protection rule, which allows mining companies to pollute streams, eradicating a requirement for mining companies to disclose foreign payments and a NASA authorization bill.

So if actually you look at signed legislation, Trump is not even close to where Obama was in his 50 days and that's Trump with an extra 50 days beyond that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: That was Brian Klaas there, thank you so much.

ALLEN: And coming up here, Molotov cocktails, looting, rioting, protests are not slowing down in Venezuela against President Maduro.

HOWELL: We'll also have the story of U.S. warplanes constantly on the lookout for any provocations from North Korea.

Live around the world and in the United States this hour, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories.

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HOWELL: Officials say at least a dozen people were killed near the capital of Venezuela when demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and looted businesses.

ALLEN: 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 has more for you. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: The Afghan defense ministry is saying there are more than 100 casualties among Afghan soldiers after a Taliban attack at an army base. Officials say six insurgents disguised in military uniform opened fire at the base in Northern Afghanistan during Friday prayers and that the battle lasted six hours.

HOWELL: Vice President Mike Pence and Australia's prime minister have met to discuss a variety of issues while reaffirming the alliance between their two countries. The vice president was in Sydney on the final leg of his Asia Pacific tour, where he and Malcolm Turnbull also discussed North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Prime minister, know that President Trump and I are truly grateful, truly grateful to you for calling on China, even this week, to play an even more active and constructive role in addressing the North Korean threat.

Now the president and I have, in his words, great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. And I know you share that hope. But as President Trump made clear just a few days ago, if China is unable to deal with North Korea, the United States and our allies will. The --

[05:35:00]

PENCE: -- United States and Australia face this threat and every other one together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Chinese officials are denying that their country's military is on high alert to deal with any threats from North Korea. Its defense ministry says bomber jets are operating normally on the Korean Peninsula.

ALLEN: But tensions remain high and the U.S. is keeping an eye out for any provocations from Pyongyang. Here is our Barbara Starr with a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson sails closer to the Korean Peninsula, the world heads into a weekend of high alert and tension.

U.S. spy satellites and U2 spyplanes keeping constant watch for signs of a North Korean nuclear test and other regime provocations.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Their word has not proven honest. It's been provocative. They've not lived up to any statements they've made in the past. Years, decades, actually, about stopping their ballistic missile and their nuclear programs.

STARR (voice-over): The Pentagon is also watching for more North Korean missile launches. These missiles on parade just days ago, headed back to their bases. They could be ready for test firings. The U.S. urgently is trying to determine if these huge canisters mean North Korea has a working intercontinental ballistic missile that could be inside.

The parade also showed off new missile variants that haven't been tested yet. Tensions rising even further for Chinese President Xi as China has raised the alert status for its aircraft, according to U.S. officials.

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And he could be messaging his own people, he could be messaging the North Koreans, for that matter. But the real focus is on the actions that China is taking.

For example, most recently, it stopped importing coal from North Korea. It's made clear that if there's another nuclear test, it will cut off the oil it provides to North Korea.

STARR (voice-over): The Chinese president also under unprecedented pressure from President Trump, who tweeted, "China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea. So while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will."

And then, directly challenging the Chinese leader.

TRUMP: I actually told him, I said, you'll make a much better deal on trade if you get rid of this menace.

STARR (voice-over): The Chinese government wants acknowledgement for its efforts.

CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (voice-over): China believes the international community has definitely seen Chinese peaceful efforts to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.

STARR: The Chinese may now be concerned if there is a North Korean provocation that President Trump will publicly blame them -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Vladimir Putin is known for military action in Syria, Ukraine and Georgia. But that's not the only place he is sending troops.

HOWELL: Russia is now setting its sights on the Arctic. And as our Brian Todd explains, he may be gearing up for a literal Cold War.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a frozen, windswept expanse in the Arctic, Vladimir Putin's military ambition is on grand display. Painted like a Russian flag, it's called Trefoil for its three-cornered structure, a sprawling new military base that can house 150 troops and warplanes.

MICHAEK KOFMAN, RUSSIAN MILITARY ANALYST, CNA: This is a lot about the projection of the Russia status, right?

Russia status is a great power, first and foremost.

Second, the fact that Russia is an Arctic power.

TODD (voice-over): Sweeping in on a massive military transport, the Russian president recently visited the base. Putin made a show of traversing a glacier and hammering at the ice.

Russian troops will be living under the harshest of conditions: 18- month deployments where the temperatures can dip well below zero. KOFMAN: These are really bases set up in perhaps some of the most inhospitable, if not the most inhospitable places on Earth. They're so cold that, short of living on another planet with no oxygen, this is one of the most dangerous and hazardous areas to operate.

TODD (voice-over): But Russians forces pride themselves in able to operate in the most bitter cold conditions, even training with reindeer. Much of the base is top secret, but the Russian military does boast a virtual tour of some parts of the interior. This is part of Putin's plan to dominate the Arctic.

The oil and gas reserves he has his eye on in the Arctic are massive, experts say, worth possibly tens of trillions of dollars, expected to be become more accessible if global warming continues.

KOFMAN: And they, in some respects, believe in the future there will be a contest between powers for who gets access to them. There'll be a lot of economic and commercial competition. And the Russian view is, this is a very difficult area to operate. It's going to take a long time for them to establish themselves there, so they want to get theirs first.

TODD (voice-over): Putin is aggressively navigating the region, even having a Russian flag planted on the Arctic Ocean floor. Russia has far more Arctic military bases than the U.S. and dozens more ice- breaking ships --

TODD (voice-over): -- perhaps as many as 40.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how many ice breakers do we have available?

GEN. LORI ROBINSON, COMMANDER, U.S. NORTHERN COMMAND: I believe it's one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One and a half.

ROBINSON: OK, 1.5.

TODD (voice-over): Russia's race ahead of the U.S. in cornering the Arctic, analysts say, is a sobering illustration of Putin's broader ambitions.

HEATHER CONLEY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: For Vladimir Putin, the Arctic is a prestige project. It demonstrates Russian history and its greatness. Russia can conquer anything. It can plant a flag on the North Pole. It can build a military installation. It can overcome nature.

TODD (on camera): The Trump administration is being pressured by members of Congress and outside analysts to close that gap with Vladimir Putin and beef up America's presence in the Arctic. Will they?

We've pressed officials here at the White House, at the Pentagon, Northern Command and the Coast Guard for any specific plans to place more resources in the Arctic. We've gotten no response -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

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HOWELL: A very revealing report there, Brian. Thank you.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, dozens of wildfires are burning in the U.S. state of Florida, driving thousands of people from their homes. We'll have an update.

ALLEN: Also, China loves coal. But not the pollution that comes with it. We'll see how China is cleaning up its coal act, coming up here.

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HOWELL: To China now, where Beijing is promising to end its toxic smog.

ALLEN: Something we're looking at this Earth Day. CNN Matt Rivers takes a look at China's love-hate relationship with coal.

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MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China loves coal. It's cheap and efficient. You can pile it up and burn it to heat your house and it's also powered the economic miracle here over the past 30 years.

But China also hates coal because it's a major reason the skies above places like Beijing are often choked with toxic smog. So enter the San Ho power plant, the happy medium between both sides.

It's a so-called clean burning coal facility just outside of Beijing. Instead of pumping out high levels of pollution, the plant's technology allows it to keep emissions low by retrofitting power units and turbines and recycling wastewater. Emission levels are monitored real-time in this gleaming control room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): People used to look at coal and saw something dirty and polluting. But we have resolved the problem through the technologies you see here. Currently no other forms of clean energy, be it wind, solar or even nuclear, can satisfy China's total needs. RIVERS (voice-over): The plan is part of a drive across China. The country's environment minister says the cleaner technology will be installed at all coal power plants nationwide by 2020.

RIVERS: China puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other country on Earth. Frankly, it's not even close. But by 2030, the country wants its CO2 emissions to peak. In order to do that, it's going to need plants like this one burning cleaner coal.

RIVERS (voice-over): It's a model that other countries are trying to emulate, big coal producers like Australia and the United States, which, for the first time in a while, has someone who likes coal a lot in the White House.

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TRUMP: The action I'm taking today will eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom and allow our companies and our workers to thrive, compete and succeed on a level playing field for the first time in a long time, fellows. It's been a long time.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recent technology that can be deployed elsewhere in the world and indeed should be deployed elsewhere in the world. The lessons that China has learned can be exported --

RIVERS (voice-over): But some environmentalists remain skeptical about the whole concept. They say focusing on so-called clean coal directs investments and subsidies in the wrong direction by ignoring a simple fact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coal is still one of the most hazardous fossil fuels in the world and still generating a lot of negative impact on our pollution and carbon emission and also on water consumption. If we want to solve the problem from the very beginning, we need to change our energy structure, not only just cleaning the coal.

RIVERS (voice-over): Still, despite the criticism, China appears committed --

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RIVERS (voice-over): -- to the cleaner coal approach for now, thanks to the abundance of coal. In a country with skies like this, eager to turn the so-called black gold into a silver lining -- Matt Rivers, CNN, San Ho, Hubei Province, China.

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ALLEN: Well, coal will be on the minds of environmentalists around the world today.

HOWELL: Absolutely. Certainly from the Keystone pipeline to carbon emissions, March for Science demonstrators are joining forces with Earth Day organizers, all to send a message to the Trump administration.

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HOWELL: They say we are not going to be silent, the scientists, they've been speaking out against billions of dollars in proposed U.S. federal spending cuts. This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, announced its plans to reduce its workforce.

ALLEN: So in just a few hours, environmental scientists will be protesting with thousands of others in Washington and around the world, who are calling it March for Science to mark Earth Day. This report comes to us from our station WJLA in Washington.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The security fences are up, the stage literally set.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Science, not silence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): For the 2017 March for Science.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I definitely think that the planet is getting warmer. And because of that, certain things are happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): 150,000 people are expected to gather here on the mall, then march to the Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Science has been politicized in a way that's not right for a few years now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This among a series of environmental protests, the Saturday event, a celebration of Earth Day but also to raise awareness about climate change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm skeptical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Walt Comey is not a true environmental believer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish I could rely on what the scientists are telling me so I could make an informed decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): There is a price for the many protests in the nation's capital. Security and police overtime costs millions. This fiscal year, the city has budgeted $12.9 million for non-inaugural events; $3.8 million has been spent so far. The inauguration alone was budgeted for $19.9 million but actually

cost $29.9 million. D.C. is still trying to get reimbursed from the federal government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If no other place here, we need to absorb that cost so people can say what's on their mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope that it serves as a way to mobilize and give a voice to the scientific community.

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ALLEN: We'll be covering it.

HOWELL: Certainly.

And that wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

And I'm Natalie Allen. For viewers in the U.S., "NEW DAY" is just ahead. For everyone else, Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" begins in just a moment.

Thank you for watching CNN.