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U.S.-North Korea Talks; Trump Lawyer Used Company E-mail for Stormy Daniels Payment; Civilians Trapped in Afrin; Rival Kenyan Leaders End Feud on Eve of Tillerson Visit. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired March 10, 2018 - 02:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A historic meeting in the making. U.S. President Trump says he wants to deal with North Korea when he meets Kim Jong-un sometime by May.

Plus the mystery deepens as to whether or not President Trump knew of a deal to silence a porn star during the 2016 election.

And a CNN exclusive: amid the devastation in the Syrian city of Afrin, we'll bring you the stories of some of those struggling to survive.

Hello, everyone. Thanks so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


COREN: It appears the historic meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Trump is on, despite some cold water being thrown at the prospect earlier Friday.

A few hours ago President Trump tweeted this, "The deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be, if completed, a very good one for the world."

That came after White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had this to say.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The maximum pressure campaign, we're not letting up. We're not going to step back or make any changes to that. We're continuing in that effort. We're not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete action that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea.


COREN: Well, then there is question of who would get what at the meeting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't the president giving Kim Jong-un exactly what he wants, which is respect and stature on the international stage?

SANDERS: Not at all. I think that the president is getting exactly what he wants. He's getting the opportunity to have the North Koreans actually denuclearize.


COREN: Japan's prime minister spoke with President Trump Friday. Shinzo Abe said the U.S. and Japan are on the same page.


SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Until North Korea takes steps toward denuclearization, that is completely verifiable and irreversible, we will continue to apply maximum pressure. This U.S.-Japan stance is solid and unwavering


COREN: There is also word that the South Korean envoys relayed another message from the North Korea leader to President Trump when they met with him on Thursday. It's not clear what that message was. But South Korea says it was aimed directly at the U.S. president and meant to build trust ahead of the meeting.

Let's bring in our Andrew Stevens from Seoul.

And, Andrew, there is obviously a great deal of hope surrounding Trump's announcement that he will meet with Kim Jong-un, the first American president to come face to face with the North Korean leader. But the critics say he should be wary, that he is out of his depth and that this could potentially blow up in his face.

Now the South Koreans have been instrumental in making this happen.

Are they confident, from what you hear, that the two leaders will, in fact, meet?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: Well, they certainly are hoping that it's going through. I mean it's very difficult to say with any degree of confidence what's going to happen over the next couple of months toward this summit because we are already seeing, Anna, this apparent sort of backtracking from the White House, talking about North Korea having to make -- having to take concrete and verifiable actions to denuclearize ahead of this meeting.

Now as far as we understand and what we have heard from the South Koreans is that all Kim Jong-un offered was talks on denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. And there was nothing about taking steps to denuclearize before those talks.

Sarah Sanders there, hearing that, in fact, they have to take the steps. So we have to with and see how this one plays out but certainly there's a huge amount of hope that these talks will go on.

We've already heard from President Moon just a couple of days ago when this was unfolding, saying that it's too early to be optimistic about a result. We're talking about denuclearization here. But certainly it's the first step in what is going to be a long and very, very difficult road.

We have heard that line pretty much repeated throughout Asia, from China, from the Japanese, saying it is a very, very long road. And, of course, they've also brought out the fact that we have been down this path before, Anna.

There have been attempts to denuclearize and there have been attempts for meetings between the North Korea and the U.S. Neither of those previous meetings came to fruition. And as we well know, neither did any form of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

COREN: Andrew, a short time ago, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, called on President Trump to start dialogue as soon as possible.

How do you think that will be received?

STEVENS: Well, you saw what Donald Trump said about the Chinese. He was quick to praise the Chinese on their efforts to squeeze economically North Korea.


STEVENS: Donald Trump, while he was talking about the U.S. efforts and U.N. efforts to tighten the economic noose around North Korea, went out of his way also to mention China.

So, again China's response is not surprising, Anna. The Chinese have been talking about dialogue all the way along as the only way to solve this -- solve this impasse, this nuclear impasse on the Korean Peninsula.

What is interesting is that we've seen events moving so quickly. It was only on Monday that the South Koreans announced the names of the envoys who are going to be traveling to Pyongyang to meet Kim Jong-un.

And from Monday to Friday we went from, here are the names of the guys who are meeting him to they have returned; there is going to be a summit between the two Koreas.

And astonishingly, there's going to be a summit between North Korea and Donald Trump, which really is -- just underlies the speed, the way things are moving. So the Chinese are hoping to keep this momentum in place. They remind Donald Trump that they have to take this step because it's, in the Chinese view, much all about dialogue.

COREN: Andrew Stevens, as always, great to get your insight. Good to see you. Thank you so much.

Steve Chung is an assistant lecturer at the Global Studies Program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. And he joins us now. Steve, great to have you with us.

How likely is it that this face-to-face meeting between Kim Jong-un and President Trump will actually happen?

STEVE CHUNG, CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: I think in the coming few weeks or maybe months, like before the end of May, I think we will know that, whether the summit will be happening. Because I think in the coming few weeks, both sides have to sit down and talk.

And they will have to agree that which destination they have to choose where the meeting will be held, either in North Korea or will Kim Jong-un fly to the U.S.?

Or will there be any in between, probably some other people suggesting that probably they may choose the place like in China or in Russia that can play an intermediating role between the U.S. and North Korea.

So I think in the coming few days or few weeks, both sides have to sit down and talk and probably there will be even more confrontation afterwards. I think what President Trump and Kim Jong-un agree at this moment is that they really want to have meetings very soon. But in the technical terms, there will be even more problems afterwards.

COREN: That's right, the devil is always in the detail.

Steve, just five months ago, President Trump dismissed the idea of talks with North Korea, saying that presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years and have been made to look like fools.

Now there is a real danger that President Trump could be made to look like a fool, isn't it?

CHUNG: Yes. I think that's the reasons why the U.S. has been a little bit quite reluctant to North Korea very soon because I think they have been dealing with North and the issue for decades.

And they have been cheated for several times when North Korea agreed to freeze the nuclear weapons or even they really want to go denuclearize sometimes before, in the last two decades.

But afterwards we've seen the North decide to take the agreement as a scrap of paper and they do not want to put their words into action. So that's why the U.S. nowadays, they have to be very careful about what North Korea want to say and what they're going to do.

And I think especially at the time of Obama administration, currently Donald Trump really want to have a very cautious way to look at what North Korea is trying to do. So instead of what concentrate more about what they're saying.

COREN: Steve, we know that, from reports out of the White House that President Trump caught his advisors and the rest of his administration off guard when he agreed to this meeting. Trump obviously sees himself as a master negotiator and can achieve things that his predecessors were unable to achieve because of his personality.

But this isn't a business deal. This isn't a reality show. This is international diplomacy at the highest level with so much at stake.

Can we trust him to deliver the goods?

CHUNG: I think it's still too early to say because I think, as I mentioned, that we still have to see the (INAUDIBLE) like technical terms that both side have to sit down and talk.

I think it's a very good start for both sides to show they really want to do some concessions for other side. For Trump, he really wants to achieve some kind of diplomatic triumph for himself and --


CHUNG: -- to set up a good foundation for future leaders.

And for Kim Jong-un, I think he really wants to achieve something that especially the last few months we see the North's situation is deteriorating and they -- and I think he really needs to get the U.S. or the United Nations to lift up some of the sanctions. So I think both sides, they have good faith in talk to each other. But it all depends on whether it's only a business deal or a grand bargain for either side.

COREN: All right, Steve Chung, great to get your analysis. Many thanks for that.

COREN: New details are emerging in the Stormy Daniels scandal. Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen says the $130,000 he paid the porn star came from his own home equity credit line. Well, Daniels' attorney says that's just an excuse.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: We have heard explanation upon explanation. They are ever changing. It's nonsense. I don't care if you're on the Left or on the Right or in the middle. The American people deserve straight talk, not spin on this issue. They deserve facts. They deserve the truth. They deserve evidence.

This is not complicated. The questions are simple.

Did Mr. Trump know about the negotiation of this agreement?


COREN: Well, Daniels says she had a sexual relationship with the president, which he denies. But another piece of evidence that could tie Mr. Trump to the payment is the email address Cohen used to allegedly negotiate Stormy Daniels' silence, though Cohen says he regularly uses that account for personal matters. Our Drew Griffin has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SR. INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The e-mails are brief. First Republic Bank, advising Michael Cohen the funds have been deposited into your checking account. Cohen forwards that message to Stormy Daniels' attorney.

What is potentially damaging for Cohen, the e-mail account he used @trump, is a Trump company e-mail account, which could indicate the Trump Organization was somehow involved in a $130,000 payment to silence a porn actress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please tell me what the hell is going on.

AVENATTI: I think this development is significant because it shows that, at all times during the communication process relating to the negotiation surrounding this hush payment, that Mr. Cohen was utilizing his Trump Organization e-mail in those communications, not just when communicating with Mr. Davidson.

Ms. Clifford's attorney at the time but also internally when he was communicating with the bank about the specific issue of transferring the money.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): While there is no evidence Donald Trump knew about the e-mail or the payment, if the payment did involve Mr. Trump, it could be considered illegal, a violation of campaign finance law, because it was never reported to the Federal Election Commission.

AVENATTI: The coverup is that you have attorney Cohen claiming that Donald Trump never knew anything about this. You have the White House claiming that Donald Trump never knew anything about this.

That will be shown to be patently false. We have substantial evidence and facts that were not included in the complaint. And when that evidence and those facts come to light, the American people are going to conclude that attorney Cohen and the White House have not shot straight with them on this issue.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): And there may be more than just e-mails. The so-called hush agreement, written by Michael Cohen, says Stormy Daniels, under her real name, Stephanie Clifford, came into possession of certain confidential information about D.D., Donald Trump's alias, including information, certain still images and/or text messages.

Cohen goes to write, included in those are images Donald Trump previously represented to his counsel to exist; i.e. text messages, between P.P, Stephanie Clifford, and D.D., Donald Trump.

In other words, it implies Trump told his personal attorney Trump and Stormy Daniels shared text messages.


COREN: Drew Griffin reporting there.

Coming up, the war in Syria damages another ancient temple. Exclusive drone footage shows the destruction -- ahead. (MUSIC PLAYING)




COREN: Well, nearly 200 British military officials are helping investigate the brazen assassination attempt against a former Russian spy. On Friday, they deployed to Salisbury, Southern England. That's where former agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter were poisoned by a dangerous nerve agent last Sunday. The troops included army, air force and marine units, some with expertise in chemical warfare and to decontaminate. Western intelligence services suspect Russia could be behind the attack. But they warn it's still too early in the investigation to say for sure.

Well, Kurdish forces in Syria say the fight for Afrin isn't over yet. The YPG are denying claims by the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He said Friday his troops and allied rebels have Afrin city surrounded and could move in at any moment.

CNN has obtained exclusive new drone footage of the region. It was shot by filmmaker Gabrielle Chaim (ph) and shows the toll of the Turkish offensive. CNN's Hala Gorani has this report and a warning: the piece you're about to see contains disturbing video.


HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This used to be an ancient temple, famed for its carved stone lions that it survived intact for over 3,000 years. But now exclusive new drone footage shows little of the Ain Dara Temple remains. The telltale scars of airstrikes in the green Syrian countryside.

Six weeks since Turkey began its offensive against Kurdish militia in the northern Syrian region of Afrin homes are leveled over 100 civilians killed. Turkey insists it is targeting terrorists and trying to avoid civilian casualties.

Those who have the means to leave have packed up their belongings. But some like Muhammad feel they have no choice but to stay. Hiding inside with his wife and 10 small children placing their faith, they say in God's hands.

MUHAMMAD ALI, RESIDENT OF AFRIN REGION (through translator): Our faith in God is strong and we only see him. Of course, we fear for our children but where should we go, wherever we go is the same.

GORANI: His children too put on a brave face. They no longer flinch at the sound of explosions. For another family being treated at Afrin hospital, tragedy has already struck, (INAUDIBLE) was in the kitchen cooking.

BANALSH IMMO, RESIDENT OF AFRIN REGION (through translator): I heard the sound of a shell falling in front of the door. It was dark. I went out and saw my son, Ferat (ph). He lost his legs and hands, but he was still alive. My daughter was dead and I took her out of the rubble.

GORANI: Three of their four children were killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): These children, what are they guilty of? Are they politicians? Are they military?

GORANI: In the morgue, their small bodies are prepared for burial, faced with the senseless loss of young life, a desperate cry for help.

Where is the USA? Where is Russia? Where are the human rights? What is happening to us?

I call on the --


GORANI (voice-over): -- Germans to respond. This is a massacre in Afrin. So far, no sign her call will be answered -- Hala Gorani, CNN.


COREN: Absolutely heartbreaking.

In response to the footage of Ain Dara temple you saw at the beginning of Hala's report, the Turkish military said quote, "Since the beginning of the operation, the religious and cultural artifacts, historical artifacts and archaeological sites and facilities that serve for public interest are definitely not among the target of the Turkish armed forces."

Just as U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson was about to arrive in Kenya on Friday, that country's bloody political stalemate suddenly ended. To the shock and disbelief of millions of people watching on TV, President Uhuru Kenyatta on the left and arch rival Raila Odinga stood side by side to tell the nation their bitter feud was over.


UHURU KENYATTA, PRESIDENT OF KENYA: We have come to a common understanding, an understanding that this country of Kenya is greater than any one individual and that for this country to come together, leaders must come together.


COREN: We can only hope this means peace.

Well coming up, a tropical cyclone drenches South Pacific islands as it barrels toward New Zealand. The latest forecast -- that's ahead.



COREN: Welcome back.

Well, tropical cyclone Hola has left a path of destruction across Vanuatu and New Caledonia and now has its eye set on parts of New Zealand.



COREN: Next week, CNN is partnering with young people around the world for a student-led day of action against modern-day slavery. It's My Freedom Day and it's Wednesday, March 14th. Your voice and your story is critical in the fight for freedom. That's why one group is giving student filmmakers a platform to shine a light on human trafficking.


TONY SCHIENA, MOSAIC FEDERATION: What freedom means to me is opportunity. Those who lack opportunity lack freedom. My name is Tony Schiena. My organization is Mosaic Federation. Mosaic Federation was started by myself and the then head of human trafficking for Scotland Yard.

The PSA expose came out of a media initiative that we decided is necessary.

Since I come from the defense industry, it's what we call a soft operation, meaning it's anti-propaganda and it's something I was never really into. I wanted to bust doors down.

And when I thought about what we used to do in the past and thought how important it was, we decided to create this. So the expose is a worldwide campaign. I'm trying to engage filmmakers, wannabe filmmakers, student filmmakers in creating a 30- to 90-second PSA, public service announcement, on human trafficking in their own environments, their own town, village, country.


SCHIENA: Hey, how are you?

Where are you based?

Where are you right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm originally from the Philippines but I moved to Vancouver about eight years ago.

SCHIENA: Where did you shoot it?

In India?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's shot in Mumbai, in the slums, south side Mumbai actually (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We wanted to show it to people that it's happening not just in the third world. It's happening in major cities in North America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Raising awareness is key because we do have the power to stop modern-day slavery. We just need these people to bring this issue to the politicians.



SCHIENA (voice-over): Our participants can find out about this expose. It's on our site, which is Tying to opportunity March 14th is our PSA expose on human trafficking. They can submit it and the Hollywood board of luminaries will see their product, will judge their product and will hopefully give them an opportunity.


COREN: Wherever you are in the world, you can join the conversation. Tell the world what freedom means to you. Share your story using the #MyFreedomDay.

Thanks so much for your company. The headlines are next here on CNN.