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Macron Wins French Presidency; Sally Yates To Testify On Flynn & Russia Contacts; North Korea Claims to Detain Another U.S. Citizen; 82 Chibok School Girls Released; South Korea Set To Pick Next President Tuesday; E.U. Celebrates Macron's Decisive Victory; Obama Urges Lawmakers to Oppose Obamacare Repeal; Kushner Company Lures Chinese Investors with Visas; South Pacific Cyclone Threatens Islands. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired May 8, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: France has a newly elected President after Emmanuel Macron delivers defeat to Marine Le Pen. We'll take you live to Paris for the latest about that. North Korea says it has detained another U.S. citizen. We'll tell you what we know about Kim Park-sung being held. Plus, former U.S. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates will testify in just a few hours on her warning to the White House about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. These stories ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, thanks for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen.
France's new President-elect Emmanuel Macron is celebrating his resounding victory with a promise to unite his country. The Interior Ministry says, the Centrist-Independent defeated Far-right rival Marine Le Pen, with 66 percent of the vote. And that right there, the scene outside the loop after the winner was announced. Supporters dancing and waving the French flag as they waited for the newly elected President to give his victory speech. He acknowledged the anger and bitter divisions in the country, that's Macron, must try now to heal.
Let's get more now from our guy in France, Cyril Vanier, who has been reporting on this election and a happy post-election day to you, Cyril.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Natalie, it's good to be your guy in France and we're happy to be joining you. It's about 7:00 a.m. local time here in Paris. And French voters went to bed and will now be waking up to this new political reality. Emmanuel Macron, a man that nobody knew three years ago, will now be the President of France. Both of the Presidential run-off candidates, Natalie, had portrayed themselves as political outsiders wanting to overhaul politics in this country. But in the end, voters rejected Marine Le Pen's far-right message in favor of Emmanuel Macron. Le Pen acknowledged their decision in a more concession speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARINE LE PEN, NATIONAL FRONT PRESIDENT (through translator): The French have chosen a new President. I have called Mr. Macron to congratulate him on his election and I wished him success in this very senior post that he's going to occupy and also the great challenges in front of him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: And European leaders are breathing a sigh of relief. They've been watching the rise of populism that led to Brexit and put Donald Trump in the White House. And they had major concerns over what would happen in this French election. In his victory speech, Emmanuel Macron, France's youngest President-elect ever, laid out the challenges for his presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[01:05:13] EMMANUEL MACRON, FRANCE PRESIDENT-ELECT (through translator): What we have done for months and months now has no precedent, nor equivalence. Everybody told us it was impossible, but they didn't know France! The task before us, dear citizens, is huge and it will begin as from tomorrow. We will have to make public life more moral. We have to defend the vitality of our democracy. We have to strengthen our economy. We have to build new forms of protection for this world which surrounds us. And to make sure that everybody has a place through schooling, through culture, to re-found Europe and to ensure the security of all French people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: Well, this is fascinating, because a year ago when Emmanuel Macron launched his political movement, nobody gave him a shot at the presidency.
Let's go to CNN's Melissa Bell, our Paris Correspondent who followed the whole campaign. Melissa, this morning, now that the campaign is over, now that we know the result of the election, I really want to tap into your experience covering this campaign. At what point -- be honest with us. At what point did you start thinking maybe this guy has a shot at becoming President?
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a really good question. And it has been an extraordinary political adventure really, a gamble to watch up close. And as you say, when Emmanuel Macron resigned as Economy Minister last August, and we then waited several weeks for him to confirm, what we knew he would do which was the stand to the presidency; he was ridiculed. I mean, the idea that he had any chance of making it anywhere near the run-off season seemed completely improbable.
It took the political misfortunes and judicial troubles faced by Francois Fillon, the Republican candidate that went into this. Remember, it's difficult to now, Cyril, but he went and very much as the favorite. It took the Socialists in their primary to veer so far left just to make themselves pretty well-unelectable, even too much of their own party. And it took Emmanuel Macron really not to put a foot wrong in this campaign where he had increasingly, as the others sort of went to one extreme on the other, everything to lose faced with the Far-right's Marine Le Pen.
And so, in a way, France wakes up this morning -- it's just after 7:00 a.m. here on the (INAUDIBLE). It's a bank holiday, Cyril, so it's pretty quiet; France will be waking up now to a President that it almost hasn't had a chance really to look in the face and understand. And so, the morning papers, of course, are full of it. 39 and President, is what the Parisian, the local Parisian newspaper. Headlines: of course, his age. The fact that he's the youngest French leader since Napoleon to come to power just fascinates us as well. He's extremely young.
Bien joue (well played), says the left-leaning liberation and even the right. The victor of marching toward victory: a play on the words of the movement that he set up just a year ago. Full of enthusiasm, but also warning of the tough battle ahead of course, as we head into parliamentary elections. So, France, really waking up to a new political reality not just in the shape of Emmanuel Macron but of the battle that he's going to have to fight over the next few weeks. Cyril.
VANIER: Melissa Bell, our CNN Paris Correspondent who conspicuously did not tell us when she started believing in his chances of success. But Melissa, we've got the whole morning and I will tease it out of you. All right, we'll get back to you later. Thanks a lot. All right, here with me now: Jean Lesieur, French Author and Journalist; and Dominic Thomas, Chair of the Department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA.
Gentlemen, the world had been watching this election in no small part because there was great concern over what might happen to the European Union if the far right came to power in France. That did not come to pass. Emmanuel Macron, pro-E.U. candidate became -- is now the President-elect of France. Is this -- does this means it's a renaissance of sorts for the E.U.?
JEAN LESIEUR, FRENCH AUTHOR, AND JOURNALIST: Well, it's a renaissance and certainly a relief. But I think the populism wave has that we've been talking about, you know, has been vastly overestimated and not when it happened except that, you know, the Brexit vote I think was a kind of -- it was a kind of a fruitless. It was, it was very close and it was based on the lies of Mr. Johnson and Mr. Farage, who campaigned on false ideas about the European Union.
And what you see now even in Britain, in Germany, in Warsaw there was a huge demonstration this past Saturday, you know, against the government anti-European Union posture. Germany, you know, the Far- right in the anti-European right and extreme left are on the way down. And Macron is certainly the symbol of this -- you know, maybe (INAUDIBLE) but this hard belief --
[01:10:24] VANIER: So, you're saying Brexit was the exception, not the norm?
LESIEUR: Yes, Brexit was the exception. Even Trump was the exception in a way he was elected because of, you know, a strange political system: Electoral College System in the States. You know, Hillary Clinton got lots more votes than Trump did. So, I think that Brexit and Trump, you know, were, you know, symbols of a tendency that should not be, you know, forgotten, of course. But you know, people are kind of now getting more rational about things.
And the, you know, when Theresa May delivered her letter of divorce to Brussels the other day at the same time that the European Parliament there was this magnificent Spanish Representative who said, you know, Europe is alive because Europe is not a common market. Europe is well to live together. And France has shown to the world yesterday that, yes, they want to live together with the rest of Europe. And now, Theresa May, you know, is in a very strange position, you know, to make Brexit popular to most European people.
VANIER: All right. Let me bring in Dominic. Dominic, is this renaissance for Europe or is this business as usual for Europe?
DOMINIC THOMAS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES: Well, I think given the fact that the European Union just celebrated its 60th birthday, certainly Macron's victory was a wonderful gift to the European Union. And as he made his way through the courtyard of the Louvre to deliver his speech to the sound of Beethoven's "Ode to jJoy," which is, of course, the European Union anthem. One could see Donald Tusk, the President of the E.U. Council, smiling as he went to bed. Whereas when Theresa May's Representative delivered the Brexit letter, he looked like he was chewing lemons. So, there was a big distinction there.
Now, on the question of populism; I think it's interesting. I mean, let's not forget Jean-Luc Melenchon ran a populist-like campaign in France, and certainly Marine Le Pen's worked in that direction. If we're going to define populism in the most simple ways, which the distinction between a corrupt elite and a people left behind by globalization and so on, the European Union still has to deal with that kind of question. Because there, of course, is a perception that Emmanuel Macron is this establishment figure who will perpetuate a kind of neo-liberal policy which so many people have used to define and the kind of fractures that exist in society.
So the European Union will have to address these kinds questions and do a better job of both explaining to people the job that it does, and of also at addressing these tremendous disparities that exist between the different Europe: the Europe of the East, the Europe of the West. And within France, there are radical distinctions between people who really participate in Europe and those who are just simply living in the national entity; that is France.
VANIER: Jean, do you want to address that?
LESIEUR: Yes. I think it would be -- it would be a mistake to take Jean-Luc Melenchon as the symbol of the rejection of --
VANIER: And he's the French foreign leader.
LESIEUR: Yes. Jean-Luc Melenchon has been around for as long as I have been interested in politics, you know which is about, 40 years ago. And Emmanuel Macron, you know, as the representative of the old system, it's going to be -- nobody's going to be able to argue that side of the debate, you know, for long because Emmanuel Macron has totally rationalized his rise to power in his kind of total explosion. You know, he's like the terminator of the French political system. You know, the Socialist Party does not exist anymore. And the Conservative Party does not exist anymore either.
And that's because Emmanuel Macron has totally used dynamite to destroy that system. And you know, he's -- nobody knew him a year and a half ago. And he is the new system and Melenchon as the symbol of the fight against the old system. It's not true. It's not going to happen. That doesn't mean that Macron's road to changing reforming France and reforming the European Union, which he is going to do, which he's going to be trying to do, and the Germans are going to help him, you know, out. So, Macron as the representative of the old system, that's a dead deal.
VANIER: All right. Jean Lesieur, Dominic Thomas, thank you so much for joining us. Natalie, I'm going to send it back to you with what I think may well turn out to the quote of the day: "Emmanuel Macron, the terminator of the French political system." Natalie.
[01:14:59] ALLEN: The terminator. Yes. I think that's a good one. Cyril, thank you. Well coming up here, after weeks of threats and war games, North Korea said it has detained yet another U.S. citizen. We'll talk about that here. Plus, remember the #bringbackourgirls. Well, dozens of girls kidnapped by terrorists are back. Finally home in Nigeria. We'll have that.
ALLEN: Welcome back. North Korea says it has detained another U.S. citizen. State media reporting Kim Hak-song is suspected of hostile acts against the regime. For more on this and South Korea's upcoming election our Paula Hancocks joins me now from Seoul. Of course, when people are detained it's usually explained as hostile acts and we usually don't know what that allegedly is. Hello, Paula.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Natalie. Well, that's true, so it is the standard charge we hear when Americans are detained in North Korea. Hostile acts against the regime. Well, we usually don't understand what the accusations are or the allegations against the detainee are until a trial takes place. So what we have heard from North Korean state-run media KCNA is that there was a man as you say Kim Hak-song also they gave a Chinese name for him Jin Xue Song, was arrested on Saturday. He was teaching at the PUST the Pyongyang University of Science & Technology. That university has confirmed to CNN that he had been there for a number of weeks. Now we do know from a couple of friends that we have contacted of Mr. Kim they say that he had been working in North Korea for a couple of years. He's an ethnic Korean born in China and then naturalized in the United States, so a U.S. citizen. And he had been studying agriculture.
He'd been trying to take agricultural technology into North Korea to solve the food shortage. And they say that he was trying to help the North Koreans. Of course, we don't know exactly what has happened beyond that. There also looking in the North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun this Monday. We also see a headline say that North Korea is looking for more reconciliation ahead of the South Korean elections which happened on Tuesday. It's that opinion piece. But of course, it is state-run media suggesting a slightly softer approach from the regime when it comes to the South ahead of the election. And there is one very clear front runner.
[01:21:30] HANCOCKS: Pure excitement at seeing the Presidential front runner. Moon Jae-in has dedicated supporters old and young and his enjoying a significant lead in the polls. His policy on North Korea though has voters split. A liberal candidate Moon is pro-engagement. He supports dialogue with Pyongyang, even organizing the last North- South summit in 2007. A group of North Korean defectors last week claimed 3,000 of them would leave South Korea and seek asylum elsewhere if Moon wins. Defectors traditionally vote conservative for a more hard-lined approach to the regime they fled. But also some rare defector support for Moon. The feeling here is that he's the only one who can prevent a future war on the peninsula.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our parents, brothers, and sisters are all in North Korea says this former member of the elite. The second we carry a rifle to defend South Korea we'll be pointing a gun towards them.
HANCOCKS: Moon declined repeated requests for a television interview but tried to fight criticism he's too soft on North Korea in a televised address.
MOON JAE-IN, SOUTH KOREA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): I will not tolerate any military provocation from North Korea he says. Through crisis management and a solid alliance with the U.S., I will stop the war from happening.
HANCOCKS: Moon lost in the last Presidential race to former President Park Geun-hye. Park has been impeached and imprisoned currently on trial for extortion and bribery. She denies all charges against her. But Moon is assumed to have picked up support for being the opposite of her in policy and personality.
MICHAEL BREEN, THE NEW KOREANS AUTHOR: He stood very clearly against her. So one big reason for his support is that he's not her.
HANCOCKS: Former businessman Ahn Cheol-soo also supports negotiation with Pyongyang even highlighting the fact he went to the same business school as U.S. President Donald Trump as a way of connecting with the country's main ally. Hong Jun-pyo the conservative candidate from Park's former party suffered a political body blow from her impeachment and holds a harder line against Pyongyang. 13 candidates in all vying for the top job. The result expected overnight Tuesday.
HANCOCKS: So unless these polls have been horribly wrong it looks like Moon Jae-in will be the next leader to try to sort out the problem of North Korea and also to try and forge a new relationship with the U.S. President who has said he is willing to go it alone on the issue. Natalie?
ALLEN: Excellent background on this. Very interesting election there in Seoul, South Korea. Paula Hancocks for us, thank you.
Well within hours we may learn more about President Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and his activities that had been scrutinized. Former U.S. acting Attorney General Sally Yates is set to testify before a Senate panel Monday. She's expected to say what she told the White House about Flynn's conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. for more now here's Ryan Nobles.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is prepared to testify in front of a Senate committee on Monday. And sources tell CNN that she's prepared to set the record straight about her role in events that eventually led National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to leave his post. At the core of her testimony will be a meeting that she had with White House Council Don McGhan 18 days before Flynn was removed as National Security Adviser. In that meeting, Yates is prepared to testify that she gave a forceful warning to the White House about Flynn's contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. At that point, Flynn had denied that he talked to Kislyak about U.S. sanctions on Russia a denial which was not true and also led Vice President Mike Pence to publically defend Flynn.
After Flynn left office, the White House admitted that Yates have warned them about Flynn interaction with the Russian officials but they describe the interaction is more of a heads-up, essentially bringing to their attention that Flynn may not have been honest with the Vice President. Yates, however, remembers the conversation differently and is expected to testify that she expressed serious concerns and made it clear that Flynn should be fired. The former acting Attorney General was also forced out of her post by the Trump administration after she refused to defend the White House's controversial travel ban. Her testimony while potentially explosive could be tempered a bit because she probably will not be able to recount specifics of certain events because of concerns over revealing classified information in an open setting. Ryan nobles, CNN, Washington.
[01:26:14] ALLEN: Here's a very encouraging story for you. An emotional homecoming three years in the making. Dozens of Nigeria's missing Chibok girls are finally free. And you can see how, you know, scared and hesitant they are about, you know after being held by terrorists for so long there in this video. They got to meet with the leadership of Nigeria the President of Nigeria on Sunday, a day after they were released by the terrorist group Boko Haram. They're believed to be among the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from their school in their sleep in 2014 which launched the international social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls, which did help bring them back. CNN spoke with one of the negotiators behind the release.
(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP) SHEHU SANI, CHIBOK NEGOTIATION ARCHITECT: There is no prize that is too high to pay to get these girls out of captivity. I guess we did a release of these girls a dark cloud of moral views our hands of our sky of our country is now getting clear a dark chapter in our history is coming to an end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: The Nigerian government says negotiations with Boko Haram will continue more than 100 girls are still being held by them. Well, again, it was an overwhelming victory but France's new President will face some difficult challenges. We'll have more about this historic election and the outcome and what it means for France, the E.U., and the world. That's coming up here, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
[01:31:13] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.
Here are the top stories for you. We'll recap.
ALLEN: Again, our top story, the outcome of the French election. After a decisive victory, Emmanuel Macron faces immediate challenge of winning a majority in parliament for his relatively new party. Those elections come next month.
For now, European leaders are celebrating the centrist win as a vote for unity. The far-right's Marine Le Pen had campaigned on a promise to take France out of the European Union.
Much to analyze in this interesting and bruising campaign. What presidential election isn't these days?
Now back to Cyril Vanier with more in Paris -- Cyril?
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Natalie, it's 7:30 in the French capital. I'm happy to introduce you to our guest now Benjamin Haddad, a research fellow with the Hudson Institute. He's also a representative for Emmanuel Macron's party in Washington, D.C., one of the spokespersons for Macron.
Thank you for coming on.
I really want you to address this paradox. Congratulations on your score, Mr. Macron's score. Almost 66 percent of the vote. Fantastic number. The problem with the number is it really doesn't represent the level of enthusiasm for Mr. Macron within the French population. How do you address that?
BENJAMIN HADDAD, RESEARCH FELLOW, HUDSON INSTITUTE & EMMANUEL MACRON WASHINGTON REPRESENTATIVE: First he arrived first in the first round well above madam Le Pen. What the French electorate said as well is they are rejecting politics as usual. France has been governed by the left and right for years. The Republican and Socialist Party. They were both eliminated from the second round. That sends a strong message that the French want new faces, someone to transcend traditional divisions.
VANIER: Respectfully, it sends the message that people don't want the old faces. The question I'm asking to you is the level of support for Mr. Macron and how you will manage the fact that there are a lot of reluctant Macron supporters. I spent the evening with them. So many people voted for Mr. Macron, not because they are really enthusiastic about the candidacy but they didn't want the other person, Le Pen.
[01:35:03] HADDAD: We usually say in the first round you choose, in the second you eliminate. There was always going to be people who vote because they want to push back against the other. I think what's really amazing in the campaign is just a year ago everyone said it was impossible. Macron is the youngest in history. Three years ago, he's virtually unknown in French politics. Created his own movement from scratch a year ago. You know, we are going to be facing the parliamentary election in a month with a lot of new candidates. Today the polls show the French are ready to give him a majority. Clearly there is a desire for new faces, for change and what happened yesterday sends an incredible message of hope and optimism to the world.
VANIER: How do you carry the momentum into what many call the third round of the parliamentary elections that you brought up?
HADDAD: Incredible expectation. Our country is reeling from years of terrorist attacks. High unemployment. Especially for young people. Great social tension. I think now we need to address this with pragmatic measures and reforms. That's what the country is expecting. Emmanuel Macron ran an ambitious platform of economic reform to the job market. Way too rigid compared to our European partners. There is a lot of expectation on the security front promised to hire 10,000 more cops. Promised to hire more intelligence people. I think --
VANIER: Tell me more about unemployment. I think it is the key issue for French people. It's been around 10 percent. As far back as I can remember, at least for 20 years. Right and left haven't been able to fix it. How do you fix it?
HADDAD: 10 percent, 25 percent for people under 25. That's high. One of the key issues is -- and French people are reluctant to take risk. Unemployment wants to hire people with riskier profiles. The paperwork is too heavy. It's expensive. Really you have to simplify it, make it flexible so sometimes in the United States people can have different careers, different lives. Go to jobs they weren't necessarily prepared for in their studies because the system is able to be more fluid, able to take more risk. Clearly, this demands courage. One reason why the previous governments weren't able to do it is usually they run on, you know, demagogue platforms during the campaign and faced with the reality to govern. What Mr. Macron tried to do is be explicit during the campaign on a reform, an ambitious and courageous platform that now he can accomplish once in office. VANIER: Benjamin Haddad, thank you for coming on the show --
HADDAD: Thank you.
VANIER: -- explaining the platform and the challenges ahead to viewers.
Natalie, back to you in Atlanta.
It's been interesting to hear you. The challenges really for Mr. Macron. It's difficult to overstate how much he has to overcome in order to reform the country. Yet, that's what he promised.
ALLEN: All right. Is he up to the job? We'll see.
Cyril Vanier for us, in Paris. Thanks, Cyril.
More ethical questions surrounding the Trump presidency and business ties. This time is the company run by Jared Kushner after a controversial meeting with the Kushner family member and some business people in China? That story is coming up.
[01:41:42] ALLEN: We are starting to hear more from former U.S. President Barack Obama since he stepped away from the Washington. The latest, he's urging lawmakers to oppose repeal of Obamacare. He said it's crucial to protect Americans who are vulnerable and sick. Senate lawmakers are poised to rewrite key portions of the Republicans' controversial new health care plan which passed the House on Thursday.
For more now on this here's Athena Jones for us.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The next step for the health care bill is the U.S. Senate. It is a process that's likely to take several weeks. We've already heard several GOP Senators say they're going to rewrite the bill, or I should say write their own version of a health care repeal bill, not just pick up what the House sent to them. Of course, any changes the Senate makes to this bill will have to be approved by the House. That could be a tall order. And there are several GOP Senators who are expressing concerns about this bill. One of the chief concerns expressed not just by GOP Senators but also by several Republican governors is the bill's cuts to Medicaid.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price addressed that issue on "State of the Union" this morning. Watch what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM PRICE, HEALTH & HUMAN SSERVICES SECRETARY: We believe strongly that the Medicaid population that will be cared for in a better way under our program because it will be more responsive to them. These decisions will be made closer to them. Right now, you have Washington D.C., dictating to the states and dictating to patients exactly what must occur. That's not how a healthy health system works. A healthy health system works by allowing the individuals closest to the patients themselves to be making those decisions. And from the president's perspective and our perspective that means patients and families and doctors making medical decisions, not Washington D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: So there you heard Secretary Price insisting that people on Medicaid will receive better care. But there are a lot of folks who are concerned about the $880 billion in cuts to the program that are a part of this bill.
Among other concerns, the concern that this bill does not provide enough aid to people who are low income or who are seniors to be able to afford to buy coverage. There are also concerns about the fact that this bill would allow insurers not to cover so-called essential benefits. It is a list of benefits that were required to be covered under Obamacare. These benefits include things like maternity care and emergency room care. And then, of course, the provision that's gotten a lot of attention would allow states to allow insurers to charge people who have preexisting conditions more money for plans that could end up pricing some people out of plans. When I say some people, I'm talking about millions of people with a long list of conditions from high cholesterol to asthma to cancer to diabetes. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates nearly 30 percent of Americans under the age of 65 have some sort of preexisting condition, so that is another big concern that GOP Senators and others have expressed.
So it looks like a long road ahead in the Senate for this bill. If they do pass it, it certainly will not happen quickly.
Back to you.
ALLEN: A marketing effort to lure Chinese investors to a U.S. development is raising questions because the company making the pitch is the family business of the U.S. president's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The reward for investing is a U.S. visa.
Matt Rivers has the story.
[01:45:16] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two, one!
MATT RIVERS, CNN ASIA-PACIFIC EDITOR (voice-over): A glitzy event in Beijing where about a hundred people turned up to hear a simple pitch, give us at least $500,000 and we can help you get a U.S. green card.
The event was hosted by Nicole Kushner Meyer, sister of top presidential advisor and Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Speaking on behalf of Kushner Companies, she was seeking $100 million in investment for a new luxury tower in New Jersey under a program called EB-5. The much-criticized program allows wealthy foreigners to invest at
least $500,000 in commercial projects in the U.S. As long as it creates at least ten full time job for Americans, that investor can apply for a U.S. green card, which can eventually lead to citizenship. Critics said the program amounts to selling U.S. citizenship but many say it's has helped spur some growth.
The vast majority of foreigners taking recent advantage of the EB-5 program have been Chinese. The fact that Kushner's Companies, a real- estate development firm, y would be in Beijing seeking funding under the program isn't unusual. In fact, it is common practice, an easy way to secure lots of funding. What is unusual is Jared Kushner was, until January, the CEO of Kushner Companies. His sister mentioned that to investors, saying, quote, "In 2008, my brother, Jared Kushner, joined the family company as CEO, and recently moved to Washington to join the administration.
Though she didn't specifically mention President Trump, it raises ethical questions. Jared Kushner has been a key adviser to the president on China, helping set the agenda for President Xi Jinping's first meeting with Trump in April. Kushner retains a vast array of business holdings though he has sold many of them.
But the presentation could lead to questions about whether his family's business is using his proximity to the president as a selling point for luring investors.
A lawyer for Kushner told CNN in a statement, quote, "Mr. Kushner has no involvement in the operation of Kushner Companies and divested his interest in the One Journal Square Project by selling them to a family trust that he, his wife and children are not beneficiaries of. As previously stated, he'll recuse from particular matters concerning the EB-5 visa program."
Still it is clear the company might understand the optics of the Beijing presentation.
(on camera): CNN found out about the event because of this ad, posted in the elevator of our building in Beijing. We took a photo. You can see it says "Kushner 1" there. Later on, it says, in part, quote, "Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States."
(voice-over): This was billed as a public event. We shot it from the crowd on an iPhone. But other news organizations who showed up got kicked out. Reporters with "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" were asked to leave. "The Post" wrote that when asked why, quote, "A P.R. person, who declined to identify herself, said simply, this is not the story we want."
(on camera): Interestingly, there is a lot of bipartisan support in Congress for reforming the EB-5 visa program. Given that the president said multiple times that he wants to over haul the nation's immigration system, there was some thought there would be reform to the program early on in Trump's presidency. But in the latest spending bill passed by Congress, it leaves the visa program intact as is at least through September 30. In the presentation, one of the pitches to the Chinese investors that
showed up was you should invest in projects like this now while the EB-5 visa program remains as is.
[01:48:53] ALLEN: Matt Rivers there with that interesting story.
Coming up, we are going to talk to you about the movie playing the competition at the box office worldwide. We'll look at the incredible run of the movie studio for "Guardians of the Galaxy" film. That's ahead.
ALLEN: A powerful and potentially damaging cyclone is churning up the South Pacific threatening a number of islands.
Our Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has more.
This is a serious storm in a beautiful area. It could be a record- breaker you were telling us.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLGOIST: Absolutely. For this time of year, Natalie, we have never seen a cyclone of this magnitude in May. Category four equivalent storm system. Folks across the region fresh in their mind is March 2015. At that time, we had a tropical cyclone that was the most intense in the South Pacific history for any time of year. This particular one the most intense for the month of May.
Want to show you the statistics. When you look at this storm system we are talking about it coming in as a category four equivalent. You are bringing in the wind speeds. This sits around 215 kilometers per hour gusting to 260. The waves are approaching three stories high. Seven kilometers per hour is roughly the speed you would run over a one-hour period. It is running speed for a storm system moving slowly for a disturbance of this magnitude. It's concerning. You look at the track of this working its way to the south over the next couple of days. Dangerous track as well. We think it will stay to the west but for New Caledonia sitting there with a population that's over 1,000 people. It is a capital city. It is slated to weaken.
At least one element of good news. The wave heights will be significant. These islands about a hundred kilometers east of the main island there, the Loyalty Islands (ph). That's where the most threatening weather element will be in place. The color white indicates the top of the charts as far as rainfall is concerned. That's the concern over the next several days across the region.
Over China, same story as far as heavy rainfall is concerned. Almost 200 millimeters of rain coming down. If you look at the footage showing you the damage left in place. Almost 200 homes reported damaged or destroyed here. Subways, schools damaged as well. When it comes to the amount of water in recent days across southern China. Natalie, this is precisely the wettest time of year. The month of May, in Hong Kong, not far away. That peaks for the wettest period of the calendar year. This is something a lot of people are paying close attention to now.
[01:55:41] ALLEN: Pedram, thanks so much.
JAVAHERI: You've got it.
ALLEN: Marvel does it again. If you went to the movies, you know it. The movie studio nabbed the 15th straight number-one opening with "Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2." The space adventure brought in $45 million at the U.S. box office. It's been playing overseas for more than a week, earning more than $400 million worldwide. Marvel studios, did you know, has never had a film not open in the top spot. How about that?
That's NEWSROOM for this hour. Thanks for watching. I'm Natalie Allen.
My colleague, George Howell, is right up with another hour of news.
Thanks for watching CNN.