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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Agrees to Meet Kim Jong-un by May; Trump Imposes Steep Tariffs, Risks Trade War; Top Intel Democrat Wants to Subpoena Corey Lewandowski; Russian Nerve Agent Attack; Doctors Struggle to Save Lives in Eastern Ghouta; White House Grows Anxious Over Stormy Daniels Saga; Millions in Spain Strike on International Women's Day. Aired 1- 2a ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 01:00   ET

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


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ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour: it could be the most high stakes meeting between world leaders in a very long time. Plans are underway for the first-ever meeting between the sitting leaders of North Korea and the United States.

This just hours after president pushes ahead on major tariffs but while worldwide allies issue warnings to the president, U.S. neighbors seem to breathe a sigh of relief.

And on the heels of International Women's Day celebrations, we take you to an ancient time, when women didn't have to say #TimesUp.

Hello and think you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.

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SESAY: Well, from fire and fury to face to face in just a few short months, the White House confirms President Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and it's all supposed to happen by May.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUNG EUI-YONG, SOUTH KOREAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he's committed to denuclearization. Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests and he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.

President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well, President Trump tweeted a short time later, "Kim Jong-un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean representatives, not just freeze. Also no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached, meeting being planned. Very, very big day."

Well, CNN has correspondents covering this major story all over the globe. Andrew Stevens in Seoul, South Korea; Matt Rivers there in Beijing; Kaori Enjoji is in Tokyo.

Welcome to all of you.

Andrew Stevens, let me ask you first about how all of this is playing where you are. South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, the man in the middle here, he's described the upcoming meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un as almost a miracle.

How much of a boost is this to Mr. Moon's domestic standing?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: I don't think too many people would disagree with that judgment at this stage. It is almost miraculous, as President Moon said, and I think that he has been a key architect in this whole process, going back to making sure the North Koreans were included in the Winter Olympic Games, making sure that Kim Jong-un's sister was royally received in South Korea.

And she bore a letter from Kim Jong-un himself, asking for a summit, asking for President Moon to go to Pyongyang.

We know now that there is going to be a summit between the two leaders but it's going to be in the DMZ. And certainly Koreans want to see big movement on denuclearization. It is a critical issue obviously here.

And President Moon has made it a key part of his presidency to try and move that along. There has been criticism before that he wouldn't have the strength. He didn't have the chops to do that.

But obviously, he has pushed this process along amazingly quickly, helped, of course, by Donald Trump, I should add, Isha. I mean, when the two South Korean envoys went to Washington, there wasn't even a plan for them to meet Donald Trump. Remember, they'd just been to Pyongyang a few days earlier and they were going to meet with the senior administration officials to talk about what Kim had said.

And what Kim said, he didn't send a letter but what he actually said was he wanted a meeting with Donald Trump to talk denuclearization. When the advisers heard that, they set up a meeting between the two envoys and Donald Trump.

That offer was repeated and Trump pretty much agreed on the spot, by what we can gather. It's caught the administration offside. Nobody was expecting this. But as people are saying that this was Kim Jong- un reading Donald Trump very, very well, as an executive who likes to make these big executive decisions and then move forward.

So if he was reading Trump like that, he's read him very correctly. The South Koreans are basking in the fact that there may finally be some significant movement on denuclearization and President Moon, quite rightfully, can claim some of the kudos for that.

SESAY: Quite right. Let's go to Matt Rivers there in Beijing.

Matt, you heard the view from Seoul. Some people really taken by surprise at the speed of --

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SESAY: -- this agreement to meet. I'm wondering what the feeling is there is in Beijing. Of course we know Beijing wanted to see the two sides talk; they wanted it sooner rather than later.

But were they taken aback by the speed of all this?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We haven't gotten any official reaction from the government here but I think that, of course, they had to be surprised. I mean, nobody knew that this was going to happen. Of course we'll pose that question to the ministry of foreign affairs in just a couple of hours from now at their regularly scheduled press briefing.

But from the Chinese government point of view, this is exactly what they've been pushing for, for years now. They've had an incredibly consistent position that basically centers on the fact that the only way to solve this problem is to have the United States and North Korea sit down, hash it out and figure out a lasting peace.

And in a matter of hours, to hear that the number one negotiator on the North Korean side and the number one negotiator on the United States' side could be sitting down talking, one on one, that is a remarkable development.

The government here in Beijing probably wasn't expecting it and will likely welcome it. But that said, they also recognize that this is just the beginning of what could be a very difficult process. It's no guarantee of success.

And even before this came out yesterday, we heard from the foreign minister Wang Yi, who gave a press conference here in Beijing and I can read you part of what he said.

He said,, quote, "It takes more than one cold day to freeze three feet of ice. Despite light at the end of the tunnel, the journey ahead won't be smooth. History has reminded us time and again that whenever tensions subsided on the peninsula, the situation would be clouded by various interferences."

So there is optimism here in Beijing of course amongst government officials but there is also a recognition that this is a very difficult process and one that could take some time to play out, despite how quickly we find ourselves in this situation.

SESAY: Most certainly. Matt Rivers, thank you. Stand by for us. Kaori, you are in Tokyo and Japan has been public in their calls for

caution and they've been somewhat alarmed by the accelerated engagement with North Korea. Give me a sense of how this is playing where you are and, more specifically, what they see as the associated risks as this moves forward.

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: So, Isha, I think the response from the Japanese government has been very measured and cautious. The tone has really not significantly changed.

When you take a look at the prime minister, Shinzo Abe's comments, that Japan will continue to take, put maximum pressure on North Korea, this is the language he and other government officials have used time and time again during these missile launches over the last year and even during this thaw in relations during the Olympic Games.

And that has not changed today. And I think there are a couple of reasons for that. And I think the foreign minister, Otado Kuno (ph), explained it very succinctly when he told parliament today that, look, North Korea has done this kind of thing in the past; twice, in fact, he says. And still, they still did not move toward denuclearization.

So that's one reason I think the Japanese government officials are very, very cautious. The other, I think, is very clearly explained by the defense minister here in Japan. He says, that, yes, maybe North Korea is taking a step in the right direction and when they say that we'll refrain from any other further nuclear missile tests, he asks, what does it mean?

It has to be, A, verifiable and B, irreversible. So I think that's where the caution also stems from as well.

And I think on top of that, yes, it's true that the prime minister, Japanese prime minister, spoke with U.S. president Donald Trump quickly this morning and reaffirmed their commitment to stabilization in this area. And they agreed to meet in April and I think that, in itself I think is viewed very positively but they're very cautious.

And I think we might know a little bit next week because the Japanese government officials and senior officials have not yet been briefed in detail about this meeting between the South Korean envoys, when they went to North Korea.

And that's only happening next week, on Monday and Tuesday, when one of the South Korean envoys will be in Tokyo to brief their counterparts here. So perhaps we'll know a little bit more then. So, until then, I think that it's very cautious and the tone itself has not significantly changed from Japanese government officials -- Isha.

SESAY: Lots to take in, in the hours ahead. Andrew Stevens there in Seoul, South Korea, Matt Rivers there in Beijing, China, and Kaori joining us there from Tokyo, Japan, my thanks to all of you. Great analysis. Thank you.

Well, the breakthrough on North Korea came just hours after Mr. Trump made another stunning announcement, formally imposing steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Globally, Japan called it regrettable, China denounced it as harmful and South Korea said U.S. tariffs were unjust. But the president was unapologetic as he made his case on Thursday.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have to protect and build our steel and aluminum industries while at the same time showing great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are really friends of ours, both on a trade basis and a military basis.

The strong steel and aluminum industry are vital to our national security, absolutely vital. Steel is steel. You don't have steel, you don't have a country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well, not everyone was upset by the new tariffs. The reaction in Canada and Mexico was one of relief. That's because they were both exempted from the new policy. Canada's minister of foreign affairs called it the right decision.

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CHRYSTIA FREELAND, CANADIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: The decision to exclude Canada is logical and it's the right one. When it comes to the NAFTA talks, we have said, from the outset, we're in favor of modernizing this agreement.

And we think that there is a lot of great work to be done and we think a win-win-win outcome is absolutely possible.

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SESAY: We get more on Mexico's reaction from CNN's Patrick Oppmann who is in Mexico City.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mexicans are breathing a sigh of relief if only a temporary one after Donald Trump excluded Mexico and Canada from a list of countries that are facing tariffs on their steel and aluminum exports to the United States.

President Trump decided pretty much at the last minute not to include Mexico and Canada because they are engaged in renegotiating the NAFTA free trade agreements and President Trump said that he's hopeful that the renegotiations of those agreements will give the U.S. what he calls a better deal.

So it's clearly a case of carrot and stick. He continues to bring into these negotiations his insistence that Mexico and the U.S. have a wall built between them and that Mexico pays the billions of dollars that it will cost to build that wall. Mexican officials have pushed back again and again, saying that they

will not pay for this wall. Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto cancelled a trip that was scheduled to take place in March to the U.S. once again after President Trump demanded that he agree to pay for the wall.

But the Mexican policy seems to be one of engagement, that despite this disagreement over the wall, despite what they say President Trump has insulted Mexican national pride.

So on Wednesday, the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was here, meeting with the Mexican president but no announcement on whether or not Mexican president Pena Nieto will travel to the U.S.

Apparently they did not reach an agreement on that. And while Mexicans say they are insulted by this talk of a wall, by this talk of tariffs, the reality is that the United States is Mexico's largest trading partner and they simply cannot afford to have these tariffs placed on the products and entered into a trade war with the United States -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Mexico City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: A quick break here. New developments in the Russia investigation, why a top Democrat is calling for subpoena of former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

And a Russian news anchor has a strong warning for spies who betray his country. His comments come as the U.K. investigates an attempted assassination of a former Russian spy. Stay with us.

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SESAY: Well, we are following breaking news out of Washington for you. U.S. President Donald Trump says he will meet face to face with Kim Jong-un by May. The North Korean leader says he's committed to denuclearization and pledged to refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests.

Well, news about Donald Trump's alleged affair with an adult film star has pushed the Russian investigation out of the headlines this week. But there is no shortage of developments on that front. CNN's Jessica Schneider has a look at what you may have missed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski refusing to answer certain questions in his second meeting behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee, explaining he'd answered, quote, "all relevant questions."

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: That's for them to decide but I think, after 12 hours, I've done enough.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): But the committee's top Democrat wants him to come back, saying Lewandowski can't pick and choose which questions he wanted to answer.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CALIF.), MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: These include questions about the production of the false statement concerning the Trump Tower meeting, questions about the firing of James Comey and conversations about that, as well as any discussion that Mr. Lewandowski had with the president about the potential of firing Bob Mueller.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort back in court, this time in Virginia, pleading not guilty to 18 counts of bank fraud and tax crimes. Manafort has maintained his innocence in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, even as his former codefendant and campaign deputy, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty to separate charges as part of a plea deal two weeks ago.

GEORGE NADER, MIDDLE EAST SPECIALIST: My name is George Nader.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Mueller's team is also talking to Middle East specialist George Nader, CNN has learned, as interest intensifies around a secret meeting in the Seychelles Islands just days before President Trump's inauguration.

Nader was there when Blackwater private security firm founder and Trump associate, Erik Prince, met with officials from the United Arab Emirates and later was present when Prince talked with Kirill Dmitriev, head of a Russian state investment fund at the hotel bar.

It's unclear whether Nader was involved in that conversation. "The Washington Post" reports that Mueller has gathered evidence that the meeting was an effort to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin.

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER U.S. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It makes it seem like they're trying to make deals before he becomes the president and he doesn't speak for the country before he becomes the president.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Now Democrats are calling for clarification on testimony about the Seychelles meeting Erik Prince gave the House Intelligence Committee in November. Prince denied it was an attempt to set up secret communications between the Trump administration and Russia and did not reveal that George Nader was there.

SCHIFF: If those reports are accurate, there is clearly a significant discrepancy between that version and what we heard in Erik Prince's testimony. Which is accurate, I don't know and we should find out. But clearly, both can't be true.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Congressman Adam Schiff wants Prince to reappear before the committee and hand over more documents. Schiff also wants Nader to testify.

This as "The New York Times" reports the president asked two key witnesses in Mueller's investigation what they told the special counsel's team. The president reportedly asked former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, if investigators had been "nice" to him and talked to White House counsel, Don McGahn, about his disclosure that the president asked him to fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller, even asking an aide to get McGahn to release a statement saying it wasn't true.

Talking to witnesses isn't illegal but it may raise more question in the possible obstruction of justice piece of the probe.

RODGERS: It makes it more likely that the time he took those actions, he was thinking the same thing. Let's get this thing off the rails. So to me, it's another piece of evidence for obstruction.

SCHNEIDER: And CNN has learned that chief of staff, John Kelly, has warned President Trump to be careful about talking to witnesses in the Russia investigation and some of the president's conversations have made top aides uncomfortable, though some of those aides have defended the president's right to make these kinds of inquiries -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.

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SESAY: Well, the U.K. home secretary say a rigorous criminal investigation is underway into the suspected poisoning of former a Russian double agent and his daughter.

Amber Rudd says they were deliberately attacked with a nerve agent in a brazen and reckless act. Russia is viewed as a leading subject, based on previous incidents. Moscow, though, is denying any involvement. But a Russian news anchor says the attack is a warning to what he calls potential traitors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The traitor's profession one of the most dangerous in the world. According to statistics, it is much more dangerous than being a drug courier. Those who choose it rarely live in peace and tranquility --

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): -- to a venerable old age. Alcoholism and drug addictions, stress, severe nervous breakdown and depression are the inevitable occupational illnesses of the traitor and, as a result, heart attacks, strokes, traffic accidents and finally suicide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well, the poisoning shines new light on a long-running feud between London and Moscow. Our Frederick Pleitgen has more on that from Moscow. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): When former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned and fell ill, fighting for their lives, some were quick to point the finger at Russia, Moscow immediately denying the allegations.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): This campaign clearly shows the made-up story and we can only call it a provocation to make our relations even worse with the country.

PLEITGEN: A policeman who arrived on scene also exposed and hospitalized. So far nothing is proof that Sergei Skripal's story was part of a larger spying showdown between Britain and Russia that continue even after the Cold War ended.

Skripal, who had been an officer in Russia's military intelligence service, was arrested in 2004 and later convicted of passing on information to Britain.

PLEITGEN: Sergei Skripal's case was so high profile that Russia's intelligence service, the FSB, which is headquartered right here on Moscow's Lubyanka Square, even made a film about the arrest and the betrayal they say Skripal committed.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): There was more. In 2006, Britain embarrassing had to admit that its intelligence service, the MI-6 had planted a fake rock in Moscow embedded with a transmitter where agents dropped off information after the Russians uncovers a plot.

JONATHAN POWELL, FORMER DOWNING STREET CHIEF OF STAFF: They had us bang to rights. Clearly, they have known about sometime to be saving it up for a political purpose.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Also, in 2006, former Russian agent, Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned and died slowly and painfully in London, his green tea spiked with a radioactive isotope polonium 210. From his deathbed, he blamed Vladimir Putin.

British investigators concluded only Russia could have manufactured the substance and that the mission must have been greenlighted by the Kremlin, which Russia calls nonsense to this day.

Sergei Skripal was released from a Russian prison in 2010 as part of a Russian-U.S. spy exchange. He'd been leading a low-profile life in England until now -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well, the widow of a former Russian spy speaking exclusively to CNN about the nerve agent attack. Marina Litvinenko was married to the man Fred was just speaking about in his report, Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned 12 years ago. Our Nic Robertson has all the details. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARINA LITVINENKO, WIDOW OF FORMER RUSSIAN SPY: I'm calling immediately for exclusion from the U.K. of all Russian intelligence operatives.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): In the U.K., Marina Litvinenko needs little introduction. Her husband, former Russian supply Alexander "Sasha" Litvinenko, was murdered by Russian agents in 2006. We meet in a Berlin cafe. I ask about the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

LITVINENKO: And when I saw those pictures, people wearing all this protection --

ROBERTSON: Hazmat suits.

LITVINENKO: -- I was absolutely shocked.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): She is trying not to jump to conclusions but the similarities to her husband's poisoning, impossible to miss.

ROBERTSON: And now, we know that it's a nerve agent.

LITVINENKO: Now it's a more and more evidence it might be only state sponsored.

What state?

We still don't know. But if it's Russian guy and even he was served for foreign security service before being in Russia, of course, it can think it might be punished from Russia state.

ROBERTSON: Is that what you think?

LITVINENKO: It's more emotional yet but saying, yes, I'm sure.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): When her husband was murdered, it took British authorities 10 years to conclude an inquiry blaming Putin and Russia's intelligence services. Now everyone knows what to expect from Russia.

LITVINENKO: When it happened to us 11 years ago, we need to prove it. Nobody could believe Russia state behind on this crime or even for two and a half weeks when Sasha, was in hospital, nobody believed Sasha was poisoned at all.

ROBERTSON: And now this time, immediately, people made the connection.

LITVINENKO: Immediately, exactly.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Even so, she is frustrated the British government wasn't tougher on Russia after her husband's murder, putting former spies' lives in danger.

LITVINENKO: And now, when you're talking about protection, about safety, it looks British government can't provide it.

ROBERTSON: They can't provide it.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): What she knows for sure, whatever is said, Russia will push back

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LITVINENKO: They said it was not court, it was not evidence.

ROBERTSON: So they deny, deny, deny.

LITVINENKO: Deny it.

ROBERTSON: So if they are responsible this time, they will deny, deny, deny.

LITVINENKO: Yes, they will do this.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well, in Syria, government offensive has doctors under fire and struggling to save lives in Eastern Ghouta. Medecins sans Frontieres says most of the facilities it backs have been bombed or shelled. The group, also known as Doctors without Borders, says it's received at least 1,000 dead in just two weeks.

A U.N. aid convoy set for Thursday was postponed and medical supplies are running low. A warning, this next report contains graphic lvideo as CNN's Jomana Karadsheh takes us inside the crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Neighborhoods pounded, munitions lighting up the sky. It was Eastern Ghouta's 24 hours from hell. The few makeshift medical facilities left could barely deal with the casualties.

But the wounded kept on coming. For some, there were even no gurneys; for most, no anesthesia to stop the pain. Calling this a hospital would be a stretch. But this is all they've got.

In the midst of the chaos, children lay alone, no hand to hold, no one to comfort them.

In another clinic, young and old struggle to breathe. Doctors say they were exposed to toxic chemicals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't mind the smell of the chlorine gas, the poison gas.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): On Thursday, exhausted doctors still appealing for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We suffering from lack of everything. Enough blood, enough war.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): With no aid and no end in sight, no one knows how many more nights from hell Eastern Ghouta can endure -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Amman.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Difficult to watch.

We're following breaking news for you as U.S. President Donald Trump says yes to a face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong-un, what North Korea is agreeing to in exchange.

Plus, how the upcoming meeting will affect U.S.-South Korea military drills. Answers from the Pentagon just ahead.

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

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[01:30:00] SESAY: On Thursday, the U.S. president proposed a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. Canada, the largest exporter of steel to the U.S. was exempted from the decision as was Mexico. Some economists fear the controversial decision will trigger an international trade war.

President Trump has agreed to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong-un by May. South Korea says Pyongyang will suspend its nuclear missile testing. President Trump tweeted sanctions against North Korea will remain until an agreement on denuclearization is reached.

While U.S. National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster will brief the U.N. Security Council on Monday about the situation in North Korea but it appears other White House stuff were caught off guard when President Trump teased a major announcement late Thursday. CNN's Ryan Brown reports on how things unfolded.

RYAN BROWN, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was in this meeting between President Donald Trump and the representatives from south Korea where the South Korean national security adviser brought forward this offer from Kim Jong-un to discuss North Korea's denuclearization with Donald Trump, a meeting that President Trump agreed to.

Now one of the things that the South Korean official said that the Pentagon is paying particularly close interest to is the fact that according to the South Koreans, North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un understands that joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea will continue during this run up to these talks. Now in the past, North Korea and China have offered a freeze for free, that is North Korea would stop its nuclear and missile testing in exchange for the U.S. stopping these kind of joint military exercises. The U.S. officials have told CNN that the U.S. and South Korea will hold one such exercise at the end of this month, it's known as Foal Eagle, involve thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops and it looks like that will go ahead as we're waiting to find out exactly when these talks are to take place.

Now, U.S. officials have cautioned that North Korea even if it freezes its nuclear and missile programs can still do things to advance its nuclear and missile development programs. They can do things that are not obviously apparent like testing is, so they can move their program forward even with -- by freezing the test. That being said, I think U.S. officials are encouraged by the fact that these military exercises will be allowed to continue, something that is long have been thought to be part North Korea's -- key part of North Korea's negotiating stance.

SESAY: Thanks to CNN's Ryan Brown at the Pentagon. Well, Paul Carroll is the Senior Advisor for N Square, a nonprofit group that supports nuclear arms control. He joins me now live from San Francisco. Paul, good to see you.

South Korea's president is describing the upcoming meeting between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un as nearly miraculous. How do you see it?

PAUL CARROLL, SENIOR ADVISOR, N SQUARE: Well my pleasure, thanks for having me. I have to say have a little bit of cognitive dissonance. I mean, fundamentally this is a good thing, having an invitation from North Korea to have talks, I wouldn't call them negotiations, we're not there yet. But to even have a meeting is far better than a place we were in in recent months with rhetorical tweets and fire and fury quotes and threats of war from both capitals.

Clearly, it's a much better place. But there is an awful lot of homework and details and clarity to be brought to exactly what this invitation and what the acceptance of that invitation means.

SESAY: One would assume though that North Korea's very clear on what they want to get out of this and that they are working a strategy, one that may even be completed by now in terms of how they will go into this.

I mean, what do you think they want -- I mean, they've expressed a willingness for -- to denuclearize that there's a lot in between that they haven't agreed to.

CARROLL: That's right. I think -- I mean there's strategy and there's tactics. And I believe that the North's strategy continues to be -- they're going to hold on to their nuclear and missile capabilities as long as they feel they need to and they don't see any reason yet to let go of that. Tactically speaking, this -- some may call it a charm offensive really since the weeks prior to the Olympics when South Korea's president and he had good political reasons to open up some rapprochement to Pyongyang, there's a little bit of the love fest happening between Seoul and Pyongyang. Again, that's a good thing and it sustained itself through the Olympics.

Now we're seeing that diplomacy continue afterward but the North's strategy I don't think has changed a bit. I think their strategy is hold on to their capabilities and begin to see something on offer from Washington and Seoul before they budge an inch.

SESAY: And that brings us to the U.S. position and how they handle these upcoming talks because as you well know there is no U.S. ambassador to South Korea, we know that the State Department's top guy on North Korea retired this week.

So, how does the U.S. wrap their arms around this? I mean, how concerned are you that these personnel issues will hobble their preparation for this May meeting?

[01:35:35]

CARROLL: I'm very concerned about it. I mean, you put your finger on one of the real challenges here, it's like we've gone immediately into the deep end of the poll. Now, I'm not saying that things have to absolutely be done the same way they've always been done but there are good reasons why you had diplomatic expertise.

You have the State Department, you have military expertise, you have people that understand the culture and the history of the relationships between North and South Korea and the United States and regional actors.

And so when you have essentially a gutted diplomatic capacity, it's like accepting this invitation to a chess match and you've thrown away your manual. So that is absolutely a concern. Now that being said, May is a long way off. We've got six, maybe eight weeks before a date is chosen, a location is chosen. And so that gives us some time to really put some expertise back into play to plan things like where, when, what's the shape of the table, what's the list of things to talk about? These are critically important.

SESAY: President Trump tweeted a few short hours ago and let me read to you, he said this, "Kim Jong-un talked about denuclearization with a South Korean representatives not just to freeze, also in the missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached, meeting being planned."

That's all well and good the president talking about keeping up the pressure. I mean, we know that the system of international pressure has been in place and some say it was beginning to bite, beginning to hurt and that's how we got here. The question is, will that continue at the same level? I mean, I'm looking at Beijing specifically, do you see that continuing now that we have the North seemingly open to a reversal of behavior and policy.

CARROLL: I agree it does need to continue. What we had in recent months was not only a consensus of new sanctions, new international sanctions but there seem to be good evidence that the implementation and the enforcement of them was fairly uniformly applied. China has always been a little bit of a wildcard in this regard.

So not only were there more sanctions, they were better enforced. I do see those needing to be maintained, we're not going to roll things back without getting something in return. The report that you had leading up to our discussion said there are a lot of things the North can do short of testing, absolutely. They can continue doing uranium, they can continue to test rocket motors on the ground.

So it's not like this freeze is somehow rolling back their program, in fact, they haven't tested a missile or a nuclear device since last fall. So, yes, it's a freeze or at least they've promised to freeze things but it's not like there's some radical shift in their capability.

SESAY: Paul Carroll with N Square joining us there from San Francisco. Always appreciate our conversations, thank you so much.

CARROLL: My pleasure.

SESAY: Well meanwhile, the Trump Administration is also dealing with the latest twist in the Stormy Daniels saga. Daniels is the former adult film star who say she has an affair with Donald Trump in 2006.

Just before the 2016 election she signed a secret hush deal negotiated by Mr. Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Now, Daniels is suing the president saying the agreement she signed is invalid because Trump didn't sign it. Frustrated White House official say the whole ordeal is Michael Cohen's mess. Brian Todd examines the lawyer whose unbending loyalty to Mr. Trump is now landing him in the hot seat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Next president of the United States of America.

RYAN TODD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Michael Cohen says he will always protect his client, Donald Trump.

COHEN: He's a good man, he's a man who cares deeply about this country.

TODD: For 12 years, Cohen has been Trump's personal attorney or as many call him Trump's fixer. One former Trump campaign official says Cohen is a less cool version of Ray Donovan, Showtime's fictional Hollywood fixer.

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TODD: But if Cohen is less cool than Donovan, observer say he's every bit as tenacious. MARC FISHER, CO-AUTHOR "TRUMP REVEALED": Michael Cohen is not averse to threatening people, he's a guy who carries a pistol in an ankle holster, he makes it clear to people that he's a tough guy.

TODD: From sometimes ruthlessly maneuvering against people who have damaging information on Trump to trying to facilitate business deals for his boss, observer say Michael Cohen consistently, doggedly displaced the one characteristic Donald Trump values most.

FISHER: There's very little in the world that's more important to Donald Trump than loyalty and Michael Cohen has shown for more than a decade that he will hold confidences and that he will fight for Trump in the way that Trump likes and that is to hit hard, to always hit back harder than you've been hit.

[01:40:27]

TODD: But Michael Cohen now faces criticism for his handling of the Stormy Daniels case. Daniels attorney says the agreement Cohen drew up for Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump was "sloppy."

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' LAWYER: The way that this was handled and the documentation, quite honestly, this was amateur hour.

TODD: Cohen recently said he used his own personal funds to "facilitate" a payment to the porn star shortly before the 2016 election without Trump's knowledge or reimbursement, something legal experts say is almost unheard of.

MARK GERAGOS, LEGAL ANALYST: It is extraordinary and I would tell you that probably 99.9 percent of the lawyers in America would never even contemplate doing this.

TODD: In response, Cohen tells CNN his legal arguments and documents in the Daniels case are airtight and that he believes it's Daniels who's now liable for millions in damages based on her conduct. But Cohen's also being criticized from a pure public relation standpoint.

MICHAEL RUBIN, CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST: I think the entire thing was either reckless, naive, or completely incompetent.

TODD: Crisis Communications Specialist Michael Rubin says it was a bad idea to believe paying Daniels off would make her go away. What should Cohen have told Trump --

RUBIN: Tell him this isn't going to work. That's what he -- that's what he really should have done. There was nothing they could have done to make this go away. So dealing with it honestly is pretty much the only choice they have?

TODD: Cohen defends himself on that score as well telling us he hopes Daniels and her attorney are enjoying their 15-minutes of fame but he thinks that will diminish significantly when a judgment is entered against her. As for the allegations of an affair, Mr. Cohen reiterated his strong

denial of an affair on three separate occasions. Brian Todd, CNN Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well, while parts of the U.S. dig out from a massive winter storm, forecaster say more snow and strong winds be coming next week. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam has the details next. Plus --

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SESAY: That unprompted laugh is scaring some Amazon Alexa users, how the digital giant is working to fix that scary problem.

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SESAY: Recapping our top story for you, U.S. President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong- U.N. A South Korean official says the two rival leaders will meet by May. The White House says the exact time and place are being worked out. The South Korean official says Mr. Kim pledged to suspend testing on nuclear missiles during this time.

Well millions of people are literally still digging out of the big storm that just walloped the northeastern United States. But it seems that winter isn't quite ready to give up yet. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us with more on a potential, another potential nor'easter. When will this end?

[01:45:21]

I mean, I'm fine here.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Now this is the last thing -- that's the last thing that this man wants to hear, is the potential for another nor'easter, this to happen in his front yard.

Again, this is an interesting security cam, you can see the heavy wet snow. The heavy wet nature to this previous snow storm that blew through the northeast which by the way is departing. Still have your snowfall associated with the system across the New Brunswick and through Nova Scotia. But what I want you to take note of is the potential of our next storm system.

It's going to first develop across Arkansas, to Texas and Oklahoma and then move off to East Coast. The big question is, will it stay and hug the coastline or will it eject off the East Coast and have minimal impacts. That's the big question and we're going to monitor this system. But that's for next week, really not until late Sunday and into the day on Monday.

Let me take you to the South Pacific because we're monitoring Tropical Cyclone Hola. This is equivalent to an Atlantic hurricane category two system and it's very compact storm, it's already produced over 200 millimeters of rain in the island of Vanuatu and strong gusty wind. Now the system is heading south and east and that means it puts New Caledonia right in its path with a very compact and powerful storm system.

It's just that with the latest information from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center it shows that the potential that this system could move right over the islands just off the mainland of New Caledonia. So here's the path from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, look at this particular shading of purple here. We'll zoom in a little bit closer, here's New Caledonia, and here's the Loyalty Islands, this is roughly a population of about 20,000 people and it's about 100 kilometers offshore from the mainland of New Caledonia.

If that path actually verifies with this particular tropical cyclone, that puts this island nation here really in the direct path of Tropical Cyclone Hola. So that is going to be the main concern and then just broaden this out again as we head into the day on Sunday, late Saturday, into Sunday. The north island of New Zealand could potentially be impacted by this cyclone as well but in a much weaker state.

So lots of weather happening across the world, a nor'easter on the East Coast of the U.S. and a cyclone in the South Pacific. Isha.

SESAY: That's a little too much going on Derek Van Dam. Appreciate it, thank you my friend. Thank you.

VAN DAM: All right.

SESAY: Now, Amazon digital voice assistant Alexa is leaving some users unsettled there at home going about their day and this happens.

(VIDEOCLIP)

SESAY: I shouldn't laugh. That eerie laugh comes out of nowhere. Amazon says it has some idea why it's happening and is working on a fix. Samuel Burke has more.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN TECHNOLOGY AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The good news for Amazon Echo users who have been experiencing this is they're not crazy. They haven't just been hearing voices in their head, they've actually been hearing something come from the Amazon Echo.

But the company isn't signaling that it's a totally random out of the blue laughter, they're saying that maybe Alexa is confusing something that somebody is saying for the phrase, 'Alexa, laugh.' So this is what Amazon is saying they're going to do to fix the problem, we are changing that phrase to be, 'Alexa, can you laugh" which is less likely to have false positives. And we are disabling the short utterance, 'Alexa laugh.' We are also changing Alexa's response from simply laughter to, 'Sure, I can laugh' followed by laughter."

So maybe that will be less creepy for people than just a laugh. So if we try it hear at my device, just update. Alexa, can you laugh?

ALEXA: Sure, I can laugh. BURKE: At the end of the day, this is a PR nightmare for Amazon

because with these devices, we have a live microphone and many rooms in our house in some cases and if you're like me, you have the newer one that actually has a camera in it, people are putting a lot of faith by having these types of listening and looking devices.

So anytime something goes array, people start to question, was the microphone not working properly? Was it listening? What was it listening to? But I think the tweet that sums this all up the best was, "If Alexa is laughing at you to your phase, just imagine what it says about you behind your back." I'm Samuel Burke in London, back to you.

SESAY: It is a very, very scary thought. Now, women around the world are demanding equal rights but in Ancient Egypt, they didn't have to. We'll explain just ahead.

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[01:50:12]

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SESAY: Millions of women all over Spain hit the streets Thursday as part of a global strike on International Women's Day. For 24 hours they boycotted their jobs and didn't lift a finger around the house. They're demanding an end to unequal pay, oppression, and sexual violence. Women around the world took part in protest, in Italy, 130 flights were cancelled because of a strike.

Back in Ancient Egypt, women didn't have to fight so hard for equality, they walk side-by-side with men on equal footing. The Museum in Turin, Italy is using a special exhibit to display Ancient Egypt's dedication to women's rights. Ben Wedeman reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She lives some 3,400 years ago, Merit was a woman of means. The wife of the Architect Ptah, she enjoyed all the trappings of wealth during Egypt's new kingdom.

Her wig of human hair, her jewelry and toiletries, her sumptuous sarcophagus are all on display in Turin's Museo Egizio or Egyptian Museum. Founded in 1824, it's the world's first museum dedicated to Ancient Egypt. Merit and other Egyptian women enjoyed not just wealth, they also possessed a rare commodity in the ancient world, equality.

"They could divorce, they could earn property" says Egyptologist Valentina Santini, "They had many rights that women and subsequent civilizations didn't have." Artwork from the time says wife and husband as equal, side-by-side, arms entwined. The Egyptian pantheon was full of fierce and goddess like Sekhmet, it means the powerful one. With a head of a lioness and the body of a woman. There was no segregation, no seclusion, no veiling, quite to the contrary. When the Greek Historian Herodotus visited Egypt in the 5th Century B.C., and was shocked to find that women and men had almost equal rights, he wrote that the Egyptian seem to reverse the ordinary practices of mankind.

Ancient Egypt was well ahead of its time says Museum Director, Christian Greco.

CHRISTIAN GRECO, EGPYTIAN MUSEUM DIRECTOR: Women in Greece actually has to stay at home and, well, take care of the household but they not -- didn't really have a rolling society. We can say that Ancient Egypt was very well developed in that concern.

WITTEMAN: And that bothered Herodotus according to Museo Egizio Foundation President, Evelina Christillin.

EVELINA CHRISTILLIN, PRESIDENT, MUSEO EGIZIO FOUNDATION: The probably was quite upset but what was happening just next door because maybe great women could take an idea and try to get the same opportunities that their Egyptian colleague has.

WITTEMAN: It's been time's up for a very, very long time. Ben Witteman, CNN Turin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well whether it's in a classroom or the workplace, in politics or in healthcare, women around the world are striving to bring down barriers to gender equality. CNN and the European Journalism Center are working together to view the challenges these women face in some of the world's least developed countries.

As part of a yearlong series, CNN speaks to five inspiring women from five continent all fighting to be treated as equals.

[01:55:19]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Equality is a burning passion for me and it is for so many people in Iceland we all have the right of having all human qualities, be nice, helpful, and we all need to be with individual strength, courage. That's for all of us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that someday we'll reach gender equality but I'm most very aware it's very deep rooted. You actually never can achieve total gender equality, it's an ongoing fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well join us Saturday to hear the rest of that story involving Iceland's prime minister and those of other women around the world who is leading the charge for change is at 5:30 in the afternoon in London, 8:30p.m. in Abu Dhabi. It is only here on CNN.

Well, it's a fashion show like no other.

(VIDEOCLIP)

11 survivors of acid attacks redefining beauty, they grace a catwalk at a show in India to mark International Women's Day. Many of these woman were attacked by their husbands or close family members. Laxmi Agarwal attacked at the age of 15 by 32-year-old man because she rejected his marriage proposal. She since become an activist demanding justice to acid survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAXMI AGARWAL, INDIAN ACTIVIST & ACID ATTACK SURVIVOR (through translator): I was a normal girl and was living a normal life but after the attack, I had to leave my studies. All my dreams were shattered. I wanted to do something but it kept fading due to this face. But then I listened to the voice inside me, I swept aside a notion about the face which society spoke off and I moved forward in life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well Laxmi seen here with former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama when she received the International Women of Courage Award in Washington in 2014. The Acid Survivors Trust International says there were about 300 acid attacks in India in 2016 alone.

Well we are staying on top of the major breaking news, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un for the first time ever, a sitting U.S. president has agreed to meet face-to-face with the North Korean leader, we're getting new reaction from around the world and we're going to bring it to you all the details at the top of the hour.

You've been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm Isha Sesay. I'll be back with much more news right after this.

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