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Yates Warned Flynn could be Blackmailed by Russians; Decision Day in South Korea; New Era in France. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 9, 2017 - 00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:09] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --

Critical testimony of warnings that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had not only lied to the Vice President and was indeed compromised, but was vulnerable to being blackmailed by the Russians.

Plus decision day in South Korea. Voters look to move past a divisive corruption scandal and choose their next president.

And "13 Reasons Why" gets a second season as experts debate whether the TV drama glorifies teen suicide or shines a light on the problem.

Hello and welcome to our viewers from all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay.

NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

Well, former U.S. acting attorney general Sally Yates speaking out publicly for the first time about Michael Flynn and what she told the White House about him. Testifying before a Senate panel Monday, Yates said she warned the White House that President Trump's then national security adviser had lied about his conversations with Russia's ambassador, and she feared that left Flynn exposed to blackmail by Moscow.

President Trump dismissed her testimony in a tweet storm including this tweet. "Sally Yates made the fake media extremely unhappy today. She said nothing but old news."

More now from CNN's Pamela Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, former acting attorney general revealing for the first time when and why she alerted the White House about her concerns regarding the now-dismissed national security adviser Michael Flynn.

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House because -- in part because the Vice President was unknowingly making false statements to the public, and because we believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raise your right hand, please.

BROWN: Sally Yates testifying to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that she spoke to the White House on three different occasions about Flynn. The first two visits happened in the White House where she said Flynn lied to Vice President Pence about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador; and that the Vice President may be unintentionally disseminating that information to the American people.

YATES: We felt like the Vice President was entitled to know that the information he had been given and that he was relaying to the American public wasn't true.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: So what you're saying is that General Flynn lied to the Vice President?

YATES: That's certainly how it appeared, yes. Because the Vice President went out and made statements about General Flynn's conduct that he said were based on what General Flynn had hold him. And we knew that that just flat wasn't true.

BROWN: And she said her biggest concern was that the Russians would use that as leverage over Flynn.

YATES: Not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information. And that created a compromised situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.

BROWN: Yates said she first alerted White House Counsel Don McGahn to her concerns in late January. Two days after the FBI interviewed Flynn and a full 18 days before Flynn was fired following a bombshell "Washington Post" report that revealed the Justice Department's warning to the White House.

YATES: We told them that we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action -- the action that they deemed appropriate.

BROWN: Yates' testimony contradicting the White House's assertion that she merely gave a head's up.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The acting attorney general informed the White House Counsel that they wanted to give, quote, "a head's up to us on some comments that may have seemed in conflict with what the -- he had sent the Vice President out in particular.

BROWN: And Sally Yates said the third time she talked to White House Counsel Don McGahn was when she called him to tell him that he could come look at the classified materials that caused so much concern among her and other Department of Justice officials. It's unclear she said if that ever happened because the same day she made that offer she was fired by President Trump for refusing to back his travel ban.

Pamela Brown, CNN -- Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well, here with me now Democratic strategist Matthew Littman and CNN political commentator John Phillips. Gentlemen -- welcome.

Let's start with that outstanding question from Pamela Brown's piece -- the question of the 18 days.

John -- I want to start with you. The 18 days that it took from Sally Yates telling the White House about her concerns regarding Michael Flynn before he was fired. What -- what -- what can you make of that? Why would it take 18 days to fire someone who the acting attorney general said could have been open to blackmail by Russia?

[00:05:00] JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sally Yates was a political appointee from the Obama administration. She was a holdover. If she said the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, I would be careful about believing her.

And the Trump people were bringing in their own crowd to the department. And they were just taking all of her testimony and all of her suggestions with a grain of salt.

If the George W. Bush administration told the Obama administration you know, I would be careful about this person, or I wouldn't hire this person, you think for five seconds they would act on that advice?

MATTHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. That's the short answer.

Sally Yates also worked in Republican administrations. One of her first big jobs was from Congressman Bob Barr, right wing conservative.

Would they have taken that advice if George W. Bush said to Barack Obama, the person that you're appointing might be a Russian agent? I think that Barack Obama would have taken that seriously. I thought Sally Yates was very credible today.

As for those 18 days, it's a miracle that it was only 18 days that we had this potential Russian agent running national security. The only reason it was that short was because the "Washington Post" reported on it. If the "Washington Post" hadn't reported on it, we might still have a potential Russian agent running national security.

SESAY: John, to push back on what you just said, you conflated two things. You conflated former President Obama telling President-Elect Trump, don't hire Michael Flynn. There are other people that you could hire.

With Sally Yates down the line coming in and saying here is what we know. We're concerned. I mean so let's leave the Obama stuff to the side. What about on the face of what Sally Yates said? Can you say that an acting attorney general doesn't have credibility just because she is a holdover from a previous administration?

PHILLIPS: You're assuming she is coming from the point of view of a prosecutor. I assume that she is coming in from the point of view of someone who is a political appointee.

SESAY: Based on what actions during her time?

PHILLIPS: She knew she was going out the door. She was not someone who supported Donald Trump. She was not someone who was sticking around. So she's not looking out for his best interests.

LITTMAN: But why would she be picking on Michael Flynn? Why would she pick on Michael Flynn? I mean Michael Flynn has a history. He was fired by the Obama administration. He sent out some wacky tweets during the campaign. There are a lot of people who are more qualified to be national security adviser than Michael Flynn. Trump hired him out of some loyalty toward Flynn.

But the fact is that Trump would have left this guy in place who is a potential Russian agent -- the number one enemy of the United States. Trump would have left him there. I mean I think that's unthinkable.

SESAY: And to make the point. Let's put up the graphic that shows Michael Flynn in the Oval Office. So Sally Yates spoke to the White House chief counsel on January 26th and the 27th. And here is Michael Flynn in the White House Oval Office with President Trump on January 28th as President Trump takes a call with the Russian president and on January 29th, during a call with the Saudi King.

PHILLIPS: Michael Flynn had a target on his head from the Obama administration for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, he was a Democrat who worked for the Obama administration in two different capacities. He is the number two guy under Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan. And he ran DIA. And he was fired by the Obama administration because they had conflicts.

He was also a Democrat who endorsed and campaigned for Donald Trump, including giving a speech at the Republican convention. There is no one who is in the crosshairs more, politically speaking, than Michael Flynn with the Obama people. They were predisposed to hate this guy's guts.

SESAY: Ok. Let's play the sound from White House spokesman Sean Spicer as he explains President Trump's decision not to take his predecessor's advice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: The President doesn't disclose details of meetings that he has, which in this case was an hour-long meeting. But it's true that President Obama made it known that he wasn't exactly a fan of General Flynn's, which is frankly shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that given that General Flynn had worked for President Obama, was an outspoken critic of President Obama's shortcomings, specifically as it related to his lack of strategy confronting ISIS and other threats around that were facing America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: So this all according to the White House boils down to personal animus?

LITTMAN: So earlier when they let Flynn go, Spicer had said that they were given a heads up by Sally Yates that some of Flynn's statements were contradictory, that he hadn't necessarily been honest with the Vice President as it turned out.

And now it's about the animus between Obama and Michael Flynn. This is one of the most bizarre situations that we have ever had in this country. The top national security person was there for less than a month because it turned out that he was open to blackmail from Russia.

And why would Donald Trump keep this guy? What does it say about this administration that they would keep this top national security guy in who is possibly being backed by the Russians?

SESAY: And John, you know, as people ask what it says about the administration, when they let him go, they didn't say it was because of concerns of him being open to blackmail for Russia. They said it was because he misled the Vice President.

LITTMAN: Well, also let me just also say that Trump said that he shouldn't --

(CROSSTALK)

SESAY: Yes. He did say that as well.

PHILLIPS: Right. They believe that he was not being truthful to the Vice President and he was fired and he was fired promptly. Politicians are open to blackmail --

LITTMAN: When you say fired promptly -- he was fired 18 days later with the "Washington Post" story.

[00:10:02] PHILLIPS: Within the first month -- I mean that's a prompt firing. I mean that's --

LITTMAN: Why would you not fire the person if you find out that he's a potential Russian spy?

PHILLIPS: Because I wouldn't believe Sally Yates.

LITTMAN: But there's --

(CROSSTALK)

SESAY: -- which she made available.

LITTMAN: She came to meet with the White House and they fired her.

PHILLIPS: When they -- when they confirmed that there were problems, they fired the guy. It's not something that's unique to General Flynn that he was open to blackmail. Any politician with secrets is open to blackmail. That was one of the whole things that was brought up during the whole Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky situation where he had the Sword of Damocles that could be held over him if people knew the secret and they could use that to get something out of him.

LITTMAN: Very interesting about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. But the reason why Michael Flynn was uniquely open to blackmail is because he lied about his contacts with Russia. That's why he was open to blackmail. And Vladimir Putin, a former KGB guy, knows how to work these types of things.

The question is if the administration knew, and they did, that Michael Flynn was there and he was open to blackmail from Russia, he was the head of national security, what was he doing there? What does that say about the administration?

There are a lot of people right and HR McMaster, who's probably pretty good, Trump is feuding with him right now but certainly a person who's much more qualified than Michael Flynn. Trump said he was going to bring in the best and the brightest. Clearly he did not do that.

PHILLIPS: Well, let's clear the air, too, about how he was open to blackmail from Russia. He was not taking money from the Kremlin to be a spy. He was taking from Russia Television --

SESAY: He took money from RT, which is a (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: -- which is the same thing that Larry King and Tom Hartland --

SESAY: We've had this conversation.

PHILLIPS: Yes.

SESAY: So I can repeat it again that Larry King --

PHILLIPS: But it's true.

SESAY: -- Larry King isn't operating under the same rules as someone like General Flynn.

LITTMAN: Larry King would be the worst Russian spy.

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: Moscow, hello.

LITTMAN: Right. Right.

SESAY: But listen -- listen -- the President said there was nothing new here. That's what he said. He tweeted out that there was nothing new here.

PHILLIPS: That's true.

SESAY: You say there is nothing new here. Even this revelation about the 18 days -- you don't think that's significant? PHILLIPS: We're waiting for the beef. There is more beef in a

McDonald's hamburger than there was in this committee meeting. We saw over the weekend Joe Manchin, Democratic senator from West Virginia -- Democrat. Big Democrat, a leadership -- went on the Sunday shows and said there is zero evidence of collusion between Trump with the Russians which is the same thing that Clapper said today. There was nothing new today.

LITTMAN: So Clapper didn't exactly say that.

SESAY: He did not.

LITTMAN: He said that their investigation is going on he is not actually privy to. Joaquin Castro, who's on the House Intelligence Committee, said that there are going to be people going to jail from this.

I think that's it's pretty evident at this point, without knowing how far this actually goes, there is no question. There are all these Trump people who have this weird fixation with Russia -- all these meetings with the Russians. Why? There is really no need for it. It goes back very far -- a year and a half before Trump's inauguration. What's going on here? What are they talking about all this time? It was before sanctions took place.

What is going on? Trump himself -- I want to say that Trump himself had some problems where he in his dealings in New Jersey didn't make any money, right. He lost a lot of money, made a lot of bad deals. Somehow he got some money. We don't know how from where. He won't release his tax returns, most of his financial information, right.

So what is the connection between Trump and Russia? That's what we're all waiting to find out.

SESAY: And you get right to reply next hour.

PHILLIPS: Ok. Sounds good.

SESAY: Don't gloat -- Matt.

PHILLIPS: St. Petersburg -- hello.

LITTMAN: Thank you.

SESAY: Matt Littman, John Phillips -- thank you.

LITTMAN: Thank you.

SESAY: All right.

Now turning to South Korea where voters are choosing their next president and the result could change how the country deals with the North Korea nuclear crisis.

Government corruption and the economy are also main issues for voters. The election will end the leadership vacuum after former president Park Geun-Hye was impeached in a corruption scandal. She took a hard line approach on North Korea.

But front-runner Moon Jae-In is promising to change that. He favors engagement and dialogue with Pyongyang.

Our own Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul, South Korea for you. And Paula -- the expectation was for a huge turnout. How are things looking?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So far so good -- Isha. We know from the election commission that 55 percent of people have voted so far in the country. Now, that also includes about 26 percent that did early voting the last week. It's the first time they've ever tried that in this country.

And when a quarter of the electorate votes, then that certainly shows that it works. There is expected to be a very large turnout this Tuesday basically, because for many South Koreans, this is seen as a fresh start. After months of corruption scandal, months of political vacuum with an acting president, that a former president impeached, indicted, and on trial for corruption. Many South Koreans are looking forward. They want to move on from this episode.

So certainly we are expecting a huge turnout. Gallup had a poll at one point. They thought that it would be more than 90 percent. The election commission says maybe slightly less than that, but certainly a good turnout -- Isha.

SESAY: Indeed. And everyone looking at Moon Jae-In to see if he can, of course, close the deal and become South Korea's next president. How much would he shake things up there in the region if indeed he was to hold the reins of power?

[00:14:58] HANCOCKS: Well, Moon Jae-In is effectively the opposite of Park Geun-Hye in almost every single way you could think of. His policies are different, his politics, his personality. And much of the support experts say for Moon Jae-In is because he is not Park Geun-Hye. He was actually physically present at some of the protests calling for her impeachment. So he has been very visibly against her. And that's certainly helped him.

But he is very different. He is a liberal. He is pro engagement with North Korea, pro dialogue. He says he is against the North's nuclear program. But he has said that he is willing to go to North Korea if he thinks that that would help.

This is very different than what we heard from the former president. She was much more hard line, closing the case on Industrial Park, which was an industrial, economic integration between the two Koreas. Moon Jae-In wants to reopen that so there is economic reintegration.

So there is very different politics between these two. And certainly Moon Jae-In is far more willing to engage with the North.

SESAY: Yes. And quickly, Paula -- what would he mean for the relationship with the United States? I know he has made some comments about reviewing that relationship. I mean, is that anything more than just rhetoric?

HANCOCKS: Well, he certainly said within the campaigning that he would -- yes, he would review that relationship. He would not be pushed around by America or even by China. He has mentioned as well that he believes that South Korea needs to be front and center when it comes to dealing with the North Korean issue.

Certainly over the past few months they've not been a big part of these negotiations. It's been more the U.S., China, Japan; South Korea with this power vacuum has lost ground somewhat. He wants to gain that ground once again. Some suggest there may be some turbulence between the two presidents -- President Trump pushing for sanctions, asking China to do more to isolate North Korea at the same time as the potential next president would want to engage -- Isha.

SESAY: All right. Paula Hancocks joining us there from Seoul, South Korea where the South Koreans are going to the polls.

Paula -- appreciate it. We'll check in with you again next hour. Thank you.

Quick break now.

Emmanuel Macron has quickly gone from a political novice to France's president-elect. We'll take a look at his meteoric rise to power, just ahead.

And the controversy surrounding a hit Netflix series -- the reasons why parents are being warned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESAY: Hello, everyone.

Another day of demonstrations in Venezuela; anti-government protesters marched in the capital Monday, clashing with security forces, blocking them from government offices. Meanwhile, Venezuela's opposition boycotted a meeting to discuss President Nicolas Maduro's plan for a new constituent assembly, a body that could change the country's constitution. Instead the opposition is calling for open town halls throughout the nation to discuss the controversial proposal.

[00:20:06] Well, France's president-elect Emmanuel Macron has stepped down as leader of his party to focus on his new job. On Monday, he made his first official appearance next to the man he is replacing -- Francois Hollande. They attended a ceremony in Paris, marking the end of World War II. At 39, Macron will become France's youngest president.

Our own Melissa Bell looks at how he went from unknown government adviser to leader of one of the world's largest economies.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: His march to power was as fast as it was determined. Only six months after announcing his intention of standing for the presidency without an establishment party, Emmanuel Macron beat the odds and the skeptics to win.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF FRANCE (through translator): I will serve you with love. Long live the republic. Long live France.

BELL: So what drives Emmanuel Macron? He was born 39 years ago in northern France to two doctors, but raised by his grandmother, a woman brought up by an illiterate mother and who passed on to her grandson her love of books.

Macron excelled at school, first in Amiens where he met a teacher who would go on to be his wife, then in Paris. A schoolmate there, Jean- Baptiste de Froment said he was surprised to see Macron go into politics.

JEAN-BAPTISTE DE FROMENT, MACRON'S SCHOOLMATE: He was clearly ambitious, but I thought it was a literary ambition, you know. He wanted to become a writer.

He was attracted to fame for sure. But I'm not sure he was from the beginning attracted to, you know, politics.

BELL: But Emmanuel Macron did go into politics. The former banker turned political adviser was appointed economy minister in 2014 by Francois Hollande. It was when he was a minister that very much took an interest, not so much in his political ambition as in his marriage to his former teacher, a woman 24 years his senior. In just a year, the couple has been seen on the cover of the magazine four times.

CAROLINE PIGOZZI, PARIS MATCH JOURNALIST: The incredible energy that they have together, you know. You can't separate him from her. She has been his teacher. And, you know, they always do teach another. I think maybe because I'm at "Paris Match", I like a romance and it's a good one.

BELL: Since launching his bid for presidency, Macron's independent candidacy has raised eyebrows. But so too has his attitude to his opponents.

MACRON: People said politics would continue with its rules because we're so used to them. No -- do not boo. We cannot unite around booing.

BELL: Now buoyed by the victory cheers of his supporters, Emmanuel Macron still faces a tougher challenge ahead, healing a divided country, and taking his message of love to the wider world.

Melissa Bell, CNN -- Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Let's bring in Dominic Thomas now from Paris. He chairs the Department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA. Dominic -- good to see you.

Let's start with that question that Melissa Bell poses. Can Emmanuel Macron heal a bitterly divided France? DOMINIC THOMAS, UCLA DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES:

Well, this is the challenge that lies ahead -- Isha. Winning the presidency was really just half the battle. Now once again, the French have to go to the polls because in five week's time, the parliamentary elections will be held.

Emmanuel Macron can govern, but the question is, is he going to be able to legislate? There will be 570 seats up for grabs. He is going to attempt to run people in every one of those races.

But it's important to remember that he was the head of a movement. This movement now has to become a political party. And yesterday they announced that the En Marche, the Forward name was going to be changed to the La Republique en Marche -- "the republic now goes forward".

And this is going to be interesting to see who he appoints to those positions, and also in the next week or so when he is actually officially inaugurated as president who he selects as prime minister and nominates to his cabinet. This will send a strong indication as to the kind of healing he will be going to push forward.

SESAY: And to that point, are we getting signs that former rivals and allies are going to -- and allies will stand with him? I mean, what's your sense in terms of him being able to expand his centrist base?

THOMAS: Yes, well, this already began in the run-up to the elections. you know, I think at the point at which Francois Hollande said he was not going to run for the socialists in that particular primary, was not successful, the socialists did incredibly badly in the first round, scoring just over 6 percent of the vote, that many important political figures have already indicated that they would be willing to work with Emmanuel Macron.

[00:25:04] Right now the greatest challenge that he faces is probably from the right -- the Republican. Not from Marine Le Pen's party -- they clearly will go into these parliamentary elections on their own.

But if he is able to attract people from the center of that political party, those that have followed Alain Juppe -- that the real fractures will begin to open up. It's going to be really interesting in the next few days to see who comes out of the woodwork and who he is able to attract to his party.

SESAY: Yes. You mentioned Marine Le Pen. She has made known she conceded defeat. She is now the leader of the biggest opposition. What is your sense of how she will act, how she will use this power, if you will, going forward?

THOMAS: Right. Well, of course the whole question of numbers has been so interesting. You know, it's such a significant number of people either abstained or actually went out to the polls and delivered blank or null ballots.

You know, her position is really sort of interesting. On the one hand there's this remarkable narrative that she got almost 11 million votes in the second round, that her party has been normalized in France. That it is deeply impregnated in communities. That it has grown in urban centers.

But on the other hand, she was unable really in the second round to emerge as a party that can really be electable. And so this sort of the verdict is still out on the future of the Front National. It's clearly got to do a lot of soul-searching itself. And it is preparing to go into the parliamentary elections, hoping to do rather well.

But I think the outcome for her is rather unpredictable at this stage. There has been some success for her, but also some serious questions about the viability of this political party as it moves forward.

SESAY: Dominic Thomas joining us there with some fascinating insight. Dominic -- always appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Quick break here.

North Korea says he was committing hostile acts against the government -- another U.S. citizen detained in Pyongyang. What his wife says he was doing in North Korea, next on NEWSROOM L.A.

[00:27:07] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:30:00] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.

South Korean voters are choosing a replacement for ousted President Park Geun-hye, who is on trial for corruption. Polls indicate the front-runner is Moon Jae-in. He wants to take a moderate approach to the North Korean nuclear crisis and supports dialogue with Pyongyang.

The former acting U.S. attorney general says she alerted the Trump White House several times that former national security adviser Michael Flynn was lying about his conversations with Russia's ambassador. Sally Yates told lawmakers, Monday, she feared Russia could blackmail Flynn over his misstatements. President Trump dismissed the testimony, calling it old news.

Reuters report that a group of al-Shabaab is claiming responsibility for an attack that killed at least six people in Somalia. A car bomb targeted an Italian cafeteria in Mogadishu on Monday. The terror group is fighting the Somali government which is backed by the U.N.

Canada is being battered by the heaviest rainfall the country has seen in 50 years. Montreal is under a state of emergency, and four people are missing in the heavy flooding. 1500 troops have been deployed in response to the crisis.

And TV personality Wendy Walsh is warning British regulators to reject 21st Century Fox's bid to acquire "Sky." Walsh says she was sexually harassed at "Fox News" and that the company does a poor job of handling reports of misconduct. "21st Century Fox" says it has taken decisive action to address the issue.

Now the wife of an American detained in North Korea over the weekend says her husband has been falsely accused. North Korean state media says Kim Hak-song is being investigated for hostile acts against the regime. He had been teaching at a university in Pyongyang and his wife spoke exclusive exclusively to CNN's Ivan Watson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING THROUGH FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine finding out your spouse was just detained in North Korea. That's what happened to Kim Min-yuk (ph) last weekend after she waited at a train station in China for her husband to return from a business trip to North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING THROUGH FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WATSON: On Sunday, North Korea announced Kim's husband, Kim Hak-song was detained, suspected of hostile acts against the government. His wife says he has been falsely accused. Here is her message to the North Korean government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING THROUGH FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WATSON: Kim's husband is an agricultural expert and Christian evangelical pastor, as well as a naturalized U.S. citizen.

He was in North Korea, teaching techniques for growing rice at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. The North Koreans detained Kim barely two weeks after they detained Tony Kim, another U.S. citizen who was teaching at the same university.

There are at least two other U.S. citizens in North Korean custody, businessman Kim Dong-chul and university student Otto Warmbier, each serving sentences of at least a decade of hard labor. Their plight complicated by the ongoing confrontation between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

This worried wife has a message for her husband.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING THROUGH FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well, Pyongyang's University of Science and Technology operates in an unusual space in the country's political landscape. The university often referred to as PUST is the first and only private university in North Korea.

The school is run by evangelical Christians, which is rare in the country's secular society. It has the largest community of foreigners in North Korea with more than 60 international faculty across various schools of study. About 500 undergraduates and 60 graduate students are enrolled at the school. Most are children of the country's elite.

Time for a quick break. And a hit show on Netflix aimed at adolescents is generating a lot of buzz, but it's also triggering warnings that teenagers shouldn't watch it. Coming up, a closer look at "13 Reasons Why."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:37:15] SESAY: Well, a controversial Netflix show will return for a second season. "13 Reasons Why" is about a teenaged girl who leaves behind audiotapes that explains her suicide. Here is a quick look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Settle in because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to this tape, you're one of the reasons why.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well, critics say the show glamorizes suicide, but others say it can start important conversations.

Joining us to talk more about the controversy is Samantha Schacher. She is an entertainment journalist and the host of "Pop Trigger" on Hulu.com.

Samantha, thank you for being with us. This is a really important issue. And I want to get you just off the bat to tell me, does this glamorize suicide?

SAMANTHA SCHACHER, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: I beg to differ. I watched the show, and I wish that the teen version of myself had seen the show. I wish that some of my fellow students had seen the show.

I do understand why some would say -- I mean, the controversy is it glamorizes or romanticizes suicide. For those that have been a victim of sexual assault, because it also deals with sexual assault and rape, for those who do contemplate suicide, I can imagine that this show would perhaps glamorize it in their mind, but those should seek help. And for those that applaud the series, I'm right there with them.

They're pushing some very serious conversations to the forefront, not only suicide, but like I said, what constitutes consent. That is often a very gray area for teens. And they define it clearly and seriously and also bullying, online bullying. All really important conversations to have that sometimes parents and schools don't want to have.

SESAY: OK. So why. I mean, why are we seeing suicide prevention advocate school psychologists educated? Why are we seeing them come out in such a strong way against this?

SCHACHER: It's raw. It's very, very raw. I can imagine -- I'm going to be a mom soon. I can imagine. Part of me would not want my teen to see this. But these are issues. And I'm not a mental health expert. So I can imagine that, you known, the psychologists, like they said, it will trigger.

If you're a victim of sexual assault, I would imagine it would trigger. If you are contemplating suicide, I would imagine it would trigger those thoughts. But they do have trigger warnings that it is a TV series that's based off a book.

SESAY: Yes.

SCHACHER: They follow the book very closely. They do have follow-up episodes about mental health, the importance of mental health. I wish they could dive into that deeper. But again, these are real issues that teens deal with every day. So why not talk about it? Why not have the conversation with your parent or your student counselor or your teacher or your school? Because it's happening every single day. It's very important.

SESAY: It is happening. And let's give some statistics for our viewers so they get a sense of perspective of how serious this is. More than 34,000 people die by suicide every year. More people die by suicide than homicide. And it's the 11th leading cause of death across all ages. 11th leading cause of death across all ages.

Netflix gave this a TV mature rating.

Was that enough?

SCHACHER: Listen, teens are going to watch it regardless. So, yes, it should have MA rating. But they also have trigger warnings. Whether they had an MA rating or whether they said that you have to do X, Y and Z in order to watch the show, teens are still going to watch it. They're still going to do it. And that's what parents and that's what these mental health experts need to understand that.

No matter if you ban it, no matter if you tell them not to watch it, that's going to make them watch it even more, or they have already read the book.

SESAY: Yes.

SCHACHER: So you need to have a conversation, especially to those out there that feel alone and they feel like they can't talk to their parents because the show also underscores that. There is -- you can text 741741. And that can help you seek help. Just get help and know that suicide is never the answer.

SESAY: The producer of the show, one of the writers of the show, Brian Yorkey has defended the graphic content saying in this, "Many people are accusing the show of glamorizing suicide. And I feel strongly that we did the exact opposite. What we did was portray suicide, we portrayed it as very ugly and very damaging."

And some other people have said, critics of it have said this does not provide any wisdom or insight.

SCHACHER: I disagree. Again, I wish that they delved more into the mental health aspect. Because you do see almost this vengeance of this girl, the main character, Hannah Baker, who wanted to seek vengeance on those that she believed contributed to her suicide. So she outs them in these cassette tapes. So I do understand that. But, again, you're not only dealing with suicide. Let's look at other novels. Let's look at Shakespeare. Let's look at "Romeo and Juliet." They glamorized suicide.

So you still have to have the conversation. I don't think it was glamorized. I don't. It left me raw. I wish that there was more talk and more discourse about it. But like I said earlier, it also talks about slut shaming. It also talks about online bullying. It also talks about drinking and driving, about date rape. These are things that kids are dealing with every single day. And why not use this with guidance. I agree there needs to be guidance with a show like this, but use it as a tool for education. Because the inner me, the teen Sam wishes that I had this vehicle to use to like maybe talk to my mom about it, you know, because it's hard.

SESAY: It's hard out there being a teenager. I think about that all the time, with all the technology that's available and how the bullying doesn't stop when you leave the school grounds. It continues and how images haunt you and just all of that.

I mean, pop superstar Selena Gomez, as you know, executive producer. And she has been very candid about her own mental health issues. And she says, you know, she was bracing herself for the backlash of all of this. So there was an element of them knowing what they were going into in making this.

SCHACHER: Of course there is going to be backlash. When you're talking about suicide, it's stigmatized. When you're talking about consent and rape and sex and showing how graphic it is, there is going to be pushback to that. But that's real.

SESAY: Yes.

SCHACHER: Your teen -- don't assume that your teen may not be a victim of bullying or slut shaming or a victim of rape or sexual assault or date rape. Because, oftentimes, and like the series underscore, teens have a hard time talking to their parents about it, or a school counselor.

So, again, use this as an opportunity to try to understand maybe what your teen is going through so you can be there for them, because the worst thing is to ignore what they're going through.

SESAY: There's an opportunity with a show like this. Now that it's given you some window into what young people are going to actually have the conversation, for you to bring the conversation to them.

SCHACHER: Exactly.

SESAY: Samantha, such a pleasure. Thank you very, very much.

SCHACHER: Thanks for having me.

SESAY: Season two of "13 Reasons Why" has already been commissioned. We'll see where they take it next.

SCHACHER: Yes, that's right.

SESAY: Thank you so much. Samantha, thank you.

SCHACHER: Thank you.

SESAY: All right, we're going to leave it here. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm Isha Sesay. "World Sport" is up next.

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