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CNN NEWSROOM

Rally for Peace in Charlottesville; Former Neo-Nazi Talks; North Korea Holding Off; Obama's Charlottesville Tweet Smashes Record. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 17, 2017 - 00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:06] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour:

Rally for peace where candles replaced torches, love instead of hate as Virginia stands up to racism.

White skin, black heart -- a former neo-Nazi joins me on set. What filled him with anger and how he eventually saw the light?

Plus 100 days in office, South Korean President Moon talks reform and his plans for dealing with the North Korean crisis.

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

NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

We begin this hour with a moving expression of peace and unity in the face of racism and hatred.

(CROWD SINGING)

SESAY: A huge crowd, as you see there -- a huge crowd of people gathered for a candlelight vigil in Charlottesville, Virginia Wednesday night just days after a white supremacist rally there turned deadly.

Early in the day family and friends remembered 32-year-old Heather Heyer. She was the woman killed when a man plowed his car into a crowd of people protesting the neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups.

Meantime, U.S. President Donald Trump is facing growing backlash for his comments on the violence.

Our own Jim Acosta reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump laid low, steering clear of the cameras, arriving back at his New Jersey golf club one day after his incendiary news conference on Charlottesville.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think there's blame on both sides.

ACOSTA: The President is said to have no regrets about his performance. Still he's dealing with the consequences announcing that he's shutting down two advisory boards due to defections from big business executives over his remarks, tweeting, "Rather than putting pressure on the business people of the manufacturing council, and strategy and policy forum, I am ending both. Thank you all."

Top White House officials are backing the President including Vice President Pence who danced around the question about Trump's comments.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia. And I stand with the President and I stand by those words.

ACOSTA: For now, aides to the President and his key surrogates appear to be sticking to these White House talking points that read, "The President was entirely correct. Both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately and bear some responsibility", an echo of the President's own words.

TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it. And you don't have any doubt about it either.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: And -- and -- and if you report it inaccurately you would (inaudible)

ACOSTA: Sir -- the neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest the removal of that statue.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: -- and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people -- on both sides.

ACOSTA: Other signs the White House is trying to ride out the storm, chief of staff John Kelly emerged from Trump Tower frustrated but still very much on the job while the President promoted his long-time aide Hope Hicks to be his interim communications director.

They'll be dealing with bouncing outrage among Republicans in Congress from GOP Senator Lindsey Graham who issued a statement saying, "Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the Party of Lincoln has a welcome mat for the David Dukes of the World" -- to Senator Cory Gardner.

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: The President should have immediately denounced the racism, the bigotry, the hatred we saw in Charlottesville. The President should have done that immediately. The President was wrong to do that. And I've said that loud and clear.

ACOSTA: But it's not clear GOP leaders are going to do much about it. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan expressed their disappointment and not much more; though one Republican source told CNN "I think the President's ability to effectively govern is dwindling by the hour." Many in the party are still shell-shocked by the President's comments.

TRUMP: So this week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you all -- you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?

ACOSTA: With the President back at Bedminster, one Michigan Republican Congressman offered one suggestion to Mr. Trump, go back on vacation, tweeting, "I think America needs more unity and less divisiveness, meaning Donald Trump should focus more on golf and have less press conferences."

Some White House officials, I'm told, are upset by the President's comments but consider how one aide put it. Quote, "Nothing surprises me." People around this White House saw President Trump survive the Access: Hollywood video scandal, they think he can survive this, too.

[00:05:01] Jim Acosta, CNN -- Bridgewater, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well joining me now political commentator and talk radio host Mo Kelly; president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University Michael Genovese; and the host of "America Trends" and Trump supporter, Gina Loudon.

Welcome to all of you. Very good to have you with us.

(CROSSTALK)

SESAY: Gina -- let me start with you. The President's comments have provoked a swift backlash. You saw it outlined there in our Jim Acosta's piece. And even though his words have clearly re-salted the racial wounds in this country, President Trump, according to CNN reporting has no regret.

Is he right to take that position?

GINA LOUDON, HOST, "AMERICA TRENDS": I think it's interesting that we're seeing his words because I would ask you specifically what word. I would say that most of us out there practicing identity politics right now and putting salt in the wounds of already divide people, that they're the one's who are instigating the division, much more so. If anything, the President -- even the only thing I've heard in the (inaudible) is perhaps the sin of omission.

But you know, when you look at those are willing to sort of rub raw the sentiment of past pain, I would submit to you that to me those are the real racists. And I'm so glad to see the focus becoming what the American people really care about which is the death of this young woman, Heather Heyer. And I'm glad that the focus on unity and peace and that her family has asked for that and that there has started to be some attention given to that because I think that's what matters here. And that's what the President said matters as well.

SESAY: Yes, that is what the President said matters. The President also presented a moral equivalency between neo-Nazi groups and white supremacist groups alongside counter protesters. The President also said that there were some very fine people out there amongst those neo-Nazis and racists that took to the streets of Charlottesville.

So --

LOUDON: No, he did not say that there were fine people among neo- Nazis.

SESAY: He said there were some fine people that were out there on both sides. So to your point as to what the President said that is upsetting people -- which bit of it is lost on you?

LOUDON: No -- what is lost on me is why we continue to focus on words instead of actions. You know, you look at these things that the President has done that are color-blind. For example, creating a million jobs -- those jobs don't have a color. They don't have a race. They don't have a gender.

You look at those kinds of actions -- that to me speaks louder than where the President who has never claimed to be the perfect, plastic, polished politician, right -- he's been labeled a racist. He's been tried -- they tried to connect him to the KKK and to Russia and who knows what else from the beginning -- from the moment --

SESAY: No Gina -- I must stop you there.

(CROSSTALK)

LOUDON: -- he came down that escalator --

SESAY: I must stop you there because being on the show is about sticking to the fact. This is a President who has trafficked in racism. This is a President who has trafficked in dog whistles and saying things that other people -- most people have found highly offensive and troubling.

So you cannot come on here and say that it's all about --

LOUDON: Well, I guess you have to give me some examples because I don't --

SESAY: You definitely cannot come here and say that the President as only --

LOUDON: I haven't heard from the President what he said --

SESAY: -- we shouldn't be looking at words. But let me turn it over to Mo --

LOUDON: What I have heard from the President --

SESAY: Let me turn over to Mo because he will have a perspective that I'm sure he'd like to share.

MO KELLY, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Gina said talk about rubbing old wounds and rubbing them raw; when you have people walking with tiki torches, which is a direct connection to the Klan raids of the 19th century, that rubs a wound raw.

When you have those same people ostensibly there to march and protest the taking down of a confederate statue talking about blood and soil and also Jews won't replace us -- you're not talking about anything but race.

This is not a political discussion. This is a racial discussion. We're talking about neo-Nazis and also descendants of the confederacy fight talking about white supremacy. There is no alt-left, alt-right -- this is white supremacy. This is about race. And this is about a President who is bereft of decency, dignity and decorum.

There was an opportunity to bring this country together but instead, he made it morally ambiguous as far as what was right and wrong. This is not about right and left. It's just something right and wrong.

SESAY: Michael -- to bring you in here. I want your take on what Gina said. Gina made the point -- so let me put it to you. She says it's not about the President's words, that the President's never claimed to polished and all the rest of it. And that it's about his actions.

So if you measure them up -- what does this moment mean to you?

MICHAEL GENOVESE, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL POLICY INSTITUTE AT LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY: Well first of all -- words matter. They matter because they're broadcast to the entire world.

And so the face of America is a President who is -- you've said it, trafficking in racial division. He did it during the campaign with the judge who was born in Indiana but who was --

KELLY: Judge Curiel.

[00:10:00] GENOVESE: -- Judge Curiel. And he did it the last few days.

He has defined America as a country that says fine people and Nazis belong in the same team. No, in my world, fine people don't hang around with Nazis.

And I think the President is just morally bereft if he thinks that he can get away with just saying these things and that the world's going to look at us and say this is a country to admire. This is a country that we want to emulate. I think they look at us and say this is a country in deep, serious trouble. And Mo's right. It's about race but it's also about morals. It's about truth. And it's about who we are as a people. This is a defining moment and we have to choose.

SESAY: Gina -- let me read you part of a letter that John Brennan, the former CIA chief wrote to our own Wolf Blitzer after hearing after hearing Wolf say on Tuesday's show that he lost his grandparents during the Holocaust.

This is what he said. Let's put up the Brennan pilot. "Mr. Trump's words and the belief they reflect are a national disgrace. And all Americans of conscience need to repudiate his ugly and dangerous comments. If allowed to continue long this senseless path, Mr. Trump will do lasting harm to American society and to our standing in the world. By his words and his actions, Mr. Trump is putting our national security and our collective futures at grave risk."

Gina -- do you not see this is a matter of conscience for Americans to stand up and say, well the President's comments -- the comments made by the President were wrong?

LOUDON: I do think that we need to have this civil discourse and I've been saying this for a long time. But I think that this rush to judgment of people's hearts -- I've read the President's words over and over -- we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, has no place in America.

He went on, he did name the groups. He didn't want to name them right away as he explained because he didn't have all the facts yet. That's practical.

SESAY: So you're talking about his -- you're talking about his Monday speech --

LOUDON: I remember when police officers --

SESAY: You're talking about his Monday speech.

LOUDON: I remember when police officers -- no. I remember when police officers were murdered by alt-left people and President Obama didn't want to immediately name out what it was. I remember the Fort Hood shooting where President Obama didn't name then as Islamic terrorism.

So there have been moments in our history where the Presidents have paused for a moment before they named them. The President -- President Trump did name them and I comment him for that.

However, let me say this. This is such a painful -- I'm of Jewish ancestry. I adopted a minority son that you know about. You know, so this is a conversation we need to have. And I am totally fine with that.

But let's not let political correctness direct our conversation about this. Let's really try to look at each other and try to think the best of each other rather than constantly labeling everyone a racist all the time. Because all that does is shut down the discourse that could lead to healing and progress.

SESAY: Mo.

KELLY: This is not political correctness. We're talking about neo- Nazis genocide. We're talking about KKK which is genocide. If we can't talk about --

LOUDON: And that's how --

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: -- in genuine terms now. If not now -- when?

SESAY: Ok. So Gina -- to that point, to that point about it being condemned, you will acknowledge that it took the President two days to come out and condemn them. You'd also acknowledge that there can be no debate as to who these groups were, what they were.

There is no debate that they were supremacists, white supremacists. They were racist. They were hate groups. There's no doubt about that. So again -- I'm not entirely clear when you say, you know, it's a case of having to wait to see who was there or who was involved.

I just don't follow your line of argument especially when you place it in the context of this being a President who readily, instantaneously comment on most things before he has all the facts.

LOUDON: Yes. In President Trump we're never going to have a Stepford president. He is just not going to be that. The American people, when they tried to pin the KKK label on him during the campaign, Americans said no way. They're not buying it because the evidence is just not there.

I mean he has Jewish children and grandchildren. Like I said he's worked for colored clients --

KELLY: And a KKK father --

LOUDON: -- jobs that have nothing to do with any of that, more than a million new jobs to people in this country already in just his first 200 hundred days.

That is going to improve the plight of any minorities n this country more than just about anything he could or couldn't have said. The bottom line is he didn't come out and say anything inflammatory.

Again we're talking about a (inaudible) mission and gain the American people already decided on this in the last election. And they decided that they want someone who's going to act in the behalf of all Americans. And not somebody who's going to go out there and be package stuffed by some consultant somewhere.

[00:15:02] SESAY: Michael -- has the President shown with the comments made on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday that he wants to be the President for all Americans -- to Gina's point?

GENOVESE: Well, is the President healing our wounds or is he deepening the wounds? I'm old enough to remember my father driving us down to Florida from New Jersey and going to the south. And my father stopping on the side of a road pointing to a sign that said, "no coloreds allowed" and giving us a lesson in what that meant.

We have a difficult time dealing with race. We'd rather not talk about it. It causes pain. I grew up in a very segregated society, more so than today.

And I know that I have things in me that I don't like because of that. And it's hard to talk about it. We need to talk about it.

If this is an opening to talk about it -- great. If the President is not speaking for the nation, he's not healing wounds, he's deepening them. He's dividing us.

SESAY: We must leave there. I want to thank all of you. This conversation is going to continue next hour. So I want to thank the panel for staying with me. Michael, Mo, Gina -- thank you so much for sharing honestly. We appreciate it.

KELLY: Thank you.

LOUDON: Thank you.

SESAY: We'll pick it up next hour. Thank you.

Let's squeeze in a quick break here.

The tragedy in Charlottesville has led many American leaders to publicly respond including some who customarily stay quiet at moments like this.

Plus we'll speak with a reformed neo-Nazi who's seen the way these haters operate and recruit from the inside.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)\

SESAY: A moment of love and unity and let that moment shine in the wake of tragedy. That's part of a peaceful march that went through Charlottesville a few hours ago. Demonstrators held a candlelight vigil and as you can hear, they sang in unison.

Well, historically U.S. military leaders rarely -- rarely comment independently on social issues facing the country. But the tragedy in Charlottesville has brought on public statements from leaders at several levels of society, the Joint Chiefs of Staff now included.

Our Barbara Starr reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: All of the Chiefs of the U.S. military branches have taken the extraordinarily rare step of publicly weighing on the violence in Charlottesville.

TRUMP: Now here's the thing.

STARR: As now a political crisis for President Trump. Just hours after the demonstrations turned deadly the chief of Naval Operations first tweeted, "Events in Charlottesville unacceptable and mustn't be tolerated. U.S. Navy forever stands against intolerance and hatred."

[00:20:04] An aide says Richardson tweeted because Charlottesville was a significant event that caught the country's attention.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I know John Richardson very well. He was not being political. He was just very prickly saying -- Navy these are our standards, this is what we will live by.

STARR: Defense Secretary James Mattis offering a single comment.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES DEFENSE SECRETARY: I will just tell you, I was saddened by it. Very saddened by what I saw.

STARR: Aides are adamant. The military is not challenging President Trump but Richardson and the other chiefs making clear violence and bigotry is not tolerated in the ranks.

At least two former military members now tied to extremist groups. James Fields served in the army for just a few months. He is charged with second degree murder after police say he rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters killing Heather Heyer.

Fields' involvement let General Mark Milley head of the Army to tweet, "The Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism or hatred in our ranks. It's against our values and everything we've stood for since 1775."

And following reports that Dylan Harper who left the Marine Corps in January leads a white supremacist group called Vanguard America, Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller tweeting, "No place for racial hatred or extremism in U.S. Marine Corps. Our core values of honor, courage and commitment frame the way Marines live and act."

They were followed by the heads of the Air Force and National Guard tweeting they stand with their fellow chiefs condemning racism, extremism and hatred.

HERTLING: This national conversation is about American values. What we hold dear, what we expect our service men and women to defend and to fight for --

STARR: It may not be about politics but what the chiefs have done is very widely being noticed.

Barbara Starr, CNN -- the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SESAY: Well, with me now, Christian Picciolini. He's a former white supremacist. That was then. That was his past. He's now co-founder of Life after Hate and his book "Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead" details his time as a young man in the movement.

Christian -- thank you. Thank you for coming in.

CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI, FORMER WHITE SUPREMACIST: It's my pleasure -- Isha.

SESAY: We very much appreciate it because it's important to hear your story.

Before we get to how you found yourself in these circle, I want you to take a look at this video shot by Vice News of the protesters out on Friday night in Charlottesville. Let's just run it and take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.

Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Christian -- aside from just the truly hateful things coming out of their mouths, the other noteworthy thing that I just really want to get your perspective on is the fact that they were out there without cloaks, feeling confident enough to spew that hate in public.

Does that surprise you? What does that say about this moment?

PICCIOLINI: It doesn't surprise me at all -- Isha. In fact, it's a concerted strategy that we had even 30 years ago to blend in. We recognized even then that we were scaring away the average white American racist because we were a little too edgy. We had shaved heads and we waved swastikas.

So we recognized that we changed our tactics. We decided that we were going to grow our hair. We were going to trade in our boots for suits. We were going to run for office. We were going to get jobs in law enforcement, go to the military and get training. And blend in, essentially in normal lives so that we were invisible.

Now here we are 30 years later and those flames that existed -- because it always existed. When I see this rally and when I see this clip, I have a whole chapter in my book about a rally that's almost identical to this.

So this is something that's been happening for decades. And we've been sweeping it under the rug and not paying attention to it --

SESAY: Yes.

PICCIOLINI: -- and not paying attention to it while we've been warning about it that it is a big domestic terrorist threat.

SESAY: Well, as you know, a 32-year-old woman was killed, Heather Heyer. She was killed in a car allegedly driven by James Fields plowing into the crowds as you see there. We've also seen the video of Deandre Harris, the young black man being beaten in the parking deck -- all of them just horrible, horrible images.

And to have these images out there for us all to see and then to hear the President say there are also some very fine people that were there in Charlottesville.

You were once a member of a white supremacist group. Are these fine people?

[00:25:03] PICCIOLINI: You know, I think inherently all people are good somewhere. But --

SESAY: As they appeared today. As they appeared in Charlottesville -- are they fine people?

PICCIOLINI: No. I don't think the President was correct in bringing that moral equivalency to something that is very un-American in comparing it to something that is very American.

The right to protest, especially something that we fought against and lost lives to during World War II -- you know, let me just point out one other large gathering of white supremacists that was disrupted by anti-fascists. And that was World War II. We call them heroes now. And yet our President is equating them to neo-Nazis.

I want to just make this very clear for people because I think there's a lot of words being thrown around -- white nationalists, alt-right, white supremacist. White supremacist is the movement. And under that movement we have different subcultures. The subcultures are the KKK, neo-Nazi skinheads, American Nazi Party and the alt-right.

There is no difference between any of those groups except for the packaging. The ideology is the same. The goals are the same. When they chant blood and soil what they're really chanting is white homeland because their blood is white blood and their soil is their territory.

SESAY: So to speak to you now and to hear you speak in such a reasoned manner, I have to ask you, how did you get mixed up in all of this?

PICCIOLINI: You know, I was a pretty marginalized young person. I was recruited at 14 years old in 1987.

SESAY: At 14.

PICCIOLINI: Yes, 14 -- and that's a very common age.

SESAY: Yes. Wow.

PICCIOLINI: It happened in Chicago and as a matter of fact it was America's first neo-Nazi skinhead gang that I was recruited into by America's first neo-Nazi skinhead leader. And I spent eight years in this movement.

But when I first joined, I didn't join because of ideology. I joined because I was looking for a community. I was looking for purpose. I was trying to develop my identity. But because I felt abandoned underneath that, I felt abandoned by my parents who were telling immigrants who came to the United States in the mid-1960s.

And I didn't understand it then and I do now, they were gone seven days a week, 14 hours a day and I wondered why they were gone but they were working. And they had to work extra hard because they were immigrants.

And because I felt abandoned, I went and searched for family in a negative pathway because I have a void that I was trying to fill.

SESAY: And these people filled the void.

PICCIOLINI: They promised paradise. They became my family. They gave me an identity and they gave me a purpose.

SESAY: No different from ISIS and those other extremist, Islamist groups that we talk about recruiting young, disillusioned men.

PICCIOLINI: It's similar in inner city gangs. It's similar with ISIS. It's similar with far right extremism. These are people who are angry because they feel something has been taken away from them.

But what they don't understand is that they're blaming the other for something that is often caused by themselves.

SESAY: How did you get out?

PICCIOLINI: It's simple. I received compassion from the people that I least deserved it from when I least deserved it.

SESAY: What do you mean by that?

PICCIOLINI: I opened a record store in 1994 as I was trying to withdraw from the movement because I got married and had my first child. I was 19 years old and I promised my wife a compromise that I would pull back from the streets and start a reputable business.

SESAY: And as you (inaudible) did your wife share your ideology.

PICCIOLINI: She did not.

SESAY: Ok.

PICCIOLINI: She was completely against it. And in fact, when I ended up closing the store, she left me and took the children. My life fell apart of this movement.

While I had the store -- and the purpose of the store was to sell white power music that I was importing from Europe. And it became 75 percent of my gross revenue. But I got greedy and I didn't want to just take money from my friends at the time. I wanted to take money from the enemy.

So I started to sell punk rock music and hip-hop music and heavy metal. And what happened, I never would have expected. The people who came in to buy that music were African-American who were Jewish.

Ok. When I started to really like them, I started to associate --

SESAY: You start to see them as people.

PICCIOLINI: I started to humanize them because it was the first time in my life that I had a meaningful interaction with the people I hated and (inaudible) back. That is the case for at least nine out of ten people who are in this movement as they've been so detached, so isolated because of fear that they've never had the opportunity to understand who they hate.

SESAY: So let me ask you this. As we see David Duke, the former grand wizard of the KKK and Richard Spencers put out tweets to support the President after his remarks on Tuesday. As we hear that these groups feel energized by having a president who presents a moral equivalency -- how afraid should people be of these movements?

I mean we have Steve Bannon in that interview published on Wednesday saying these people are just clowns.

I mean should we just be discounting them. Should we just see them as people on a Friday night who, you know, gather together and said horrible things that aren't really a threat? How big is the threat, is my question?

[00:29:59] PICCIOLINI: Well, they're not a fringe group. And as a matter of fact, since 9/11, white supremacists have killed more people on American soil than any foreign or domestic terrorist group combined by a factor of two. Yet we still fail to call it terrorism because it lives in our own backyard, because it is hard to hold a mirror up to our brokenness.

And it is a growing problem. We have paramilitary groups training with weapons in paramilitary style that want to overthrow the government, that do not believe that the government has any power over them. These are sovereign citizens who ascribed to white supremacist ideals. It's another brand that falls under that white supremacist umbrella.

This is a movement that is built on hate and destruction. They want to destroy people. And what they're doing is un-American. We fought against this once and we won. And we're not going to let it happen again.

SESAY: Christian Picciolini, thank you so much for coming in, just being so honest about your journey. We appreciate it. Thank you.

PICCIOLINI: My pleasure. SESAY: All right. We must take a quick break. South Korea's president says he's confident that we'll never be at war again on the Korean Peninsula. More of what he has to say about North Korea and the U.S. president -- coming up.

And just across the Korean strait, the U.S. and Japan are holding joint military drills. More in a live report when we come back.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

SESAY: Hello, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:

(HEADLINES)

SESAY: Now for the standoff with North Korea and South Korea's president just held a news conference to mark his 100th day in office. When asked about the threat with Pyongyang, Moon Jae-in said U.S. President Trump has assured South Korean officials he would consult them before making any military decisions.

And Mr. Moon said he was confident there would never be a war again on the Korean Peninsula.

At the same time, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff is traveling through Asia. General James Dunford's mission: reassure allies concerned about tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

Paula Hancocks joins us on the phone now from Seoul, South Korea. And we also have Kyung Lah. She is live in Tokyo.

But Paula, first, to you -- well, I should note we have (INAUDIBLE) that's --

[00:35:00]

SESAY: -- just popped up. So I'm going to go to Paula. She's on the phone.

Paula, the South Korean president's first 100 days in office have been marked by an escalation in tensions on the Korean Peninsula and of course the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.

What's the South Koreans' president, what's his take on how he's fared in office so far?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we heard from him this morning, Isha, was a very definitive message. He said to the world and also to his people that there will not be another war on the Korean Peninsula. He said that (INAUDIBLE) will be the country back up from the ruins of the first Korean War and we can't lose it all again. So he basically said he'll stop the war at all costs and told his people to trust him, that this would happen. He said he has the backing of the United States. He said the U.S. President Donald Trump is of the mind, speaks the same way as him.

I did ask President Moon about the fact that some sparring words from Donald Trump are like the fire and fury, military options being locked and loaded, does that undermine what President Moon has been saying and does it send a mixed signal.

He said it didn't, that they were on the same page.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOON JAE-IN, PRESIDENT, SOUTH KOREA (through translator): The stance of the U.S. and Korea is not fundamentally different. The stance of U.S. and South Korea is the same, that we should make North Korea stop additional provocation through strong sanctions and pressure and leading them to the table of discussion for giving up nuclear.

The U.S. is imposing sanctions through the U.N. as well as its own additional sanctions. President Trump of the United States is trying to pressure North Korea through showing a strong will.

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HANCOCKS: He did say there was a red line and that red line was when North Korea was able to have a fully functioning ICBM, intercontinental ballistic missile ,with a nuclear warhead on top. He didn't go on to say exactly what would happen if that red line is crossed. But he was really at pains to say that the U.S. and South Korea are of the same mind when it comes to this.

And any military action on the Korean Peninsula has to be decided by South Korea, not just by the United States -- Isha.

SESAY: Strong words there from President Moon. Paula Hancocks joining us there from Seoul.

Want to go to Kyung now.

Kyung, let me ask you about this trip by General Dunford. How difficult a task will it be for the general to reassure U.S. allies concerned about the recent heightened rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's certainly going to have to thread the needle here because what we're seeing on the ground here in -- from the Japanese perspective is that they are working on protecting the homeland here in Japan, that they want reassurances from the United States.

And what we're seeing in advance of the general arriving here are a flurry of diplomatic meetings. We had two ministers from Japan. The defense minister and the foreign minister in Washington D.C., meeting with their counterpart today at just about 10 hours. They're going to be meeting with Secretary Tillerson as well as Mattis and later today we're anticipating the arrival of the U.S. ambassador. So many of these meetings are to reassure Japan. The Japanese

diplomats and ministers trying to make sure that they understand that there is close coordination between the two governments.

That's what we're seeing on the surface. But we were also allowed to see, Isha -- and this is something that has been going on for years now -- but we were invited by the U.S. and Japanese joint forces to take a look at a drill. It is a drill that's taking place in Hokkaido, Japanese-U.S. drills, trying to emphasize coordination and cooperation.

This isn't specifically in response to North Korea but it is something that hangs over all of this as Japan has moved some of those defensive posture, moving some of the interceptor missiles from Central Japan further south over those prefectures that were specifically named by North Korea -- Isha.

SESAY: A lot of words and actions to pay close attention to. Our Kyung Lah joining us there from Tokyo, Japan, appreciate it.

And, of course, thanks to Paula as well in Seoul. Thank you, ladies.

(INAUDIBLE) the search for MH370 was called, some possible new evidence. The French military shot these satellite photos a few weeks after the Boeing 777 vanished in March 2014. The images appear to show dozens of objects drifting in the Southern Indian Ocean.

The photos will be analyzed during a recent review process. The images were captured just west of the original search zone. All 239 people on the Malaysia Airlines flight were killed in the apparent crash.

Now move over, Donald Trump. There's a new tweeter in chief. Look at Twitter's most liked tweet is just ahead.

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SESAY: A tweet from former U.S. president Barack Obama has broken a Twitter record. Mr. Obama's response to the events in Charlottesville last weekend has attracted more than 4 million likes. CNN's Jeanne Moos has more.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The irony is that hate inspired a tweet that got the most likes ever, a tweet sent by this former president, quoting the departed president of South Africa.

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Barack Obama sent a series of three tweets. "No one is born hating another person because of the color of their

skin."

"People must learn to hate."

"And if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

The quote from Mandela's autobiography is a favorite on social media. Honoring Mandela, using his clan name --

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MOOS (voice-over): -- Obama's tweets surged ahead of the previous record Holder, Ariana Grande's tweet, "Broken from the bottom of my heart. I am so, so sorry," sent after a bomb went off after her concert.

Third most-liked tweet is Ellen DeGeneres' group selfie at the Oscars.

But not everyone was bowled over by the former president's message.

"Obama did not write that. I have heard that exact quote over 100 times before. Yawn."

One version was heard on the trailer for the movie, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

Obama supporters taunted President Trump with the popularity of his predecessor's tweet it's going to kill you-know-who. Hey, @RealDonaldTrump.

How about you announce your resignation on Twitter and we'll make sure you top Obama's record? Deal?

Not so easy (INAUDIBLE) neo-Nazis --

UNIDENTIFIED MALES: Jews will not replace us!

MOOS (voice-over): -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

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SESAY: An important message to be reminded of by the former president.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. Join us on Twitter @CNNNewsroomLA for highlights and clips from our shows. Stay tuned now for "WORLD SPORT" and then I'll be back with another hour of news from all around the world. You're watching CNN.

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