Return to Transcripts main page
U.S.-North Korea Talks; Trump Lawyer Used Company E-mail for Stormy Daniels Payment; NRA Sues Florida over New Gun Control Law; British Troops Help Investigate Nerve Agent Attack; Civilians Trapped in Afrin; #MyFreedomDay. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired March 10, 2018 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We don't know when or where but the U.S. president says a meeting with the North Korean leader is happening.
Meanwhile, an e-mail exchange about a secret payment to silence a porn star, how a Trump Organization auto-signature could lead back to the president.
And later, disturbing new images from inside Afrin as residents in Syria's northern city speak of the terrors they face.
I'm Cyril Vanier here at CNN HQ. Thank you for joining us.
VANIER: If this meeting does happen, it will definitely make history books. The meeting that U.S. President Trump has agreed to have with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The questions of when and where are currently being overtaken by will it happen at all.
Late in the day Friday, the White House said yes, it will indeed happen. President Trump tweeted, "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 said this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They have made promises to denuclearize. And we're not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea.
We have accepted the invitation to talk based on them following through with concrete actions.
This meeting won't take place without concrete actions. The president will not have the meeting without seeing concrete steps and concrete actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: But they haven't told us what those concrete actions need to be.
Then there is the question of who would get what at the meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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 is getting the opportunity to have the North Koreans actually denuclearize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: And there is also word that South Korean envoys relayed another message from the North Korean leader to President Trump. South Korea says it was aimed directly at the U.S. president and meant to build trust.
Let's bring in Andrew Stevens, he is live in Seoul, South Korea.
Andrew, tell us where North Korea stands because publicly they haven't said anything. Everything that we know or we believe we know about them has come from South Koreans.
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: That's right, Cyril. And it has been going on for days now. There seems to have been a media blackout in North Korea about these momentous developments floating around the North Korean leader.
As far as we're aware, they haven't been told even that there will be a summit between the North and the South Koreas, let alone a summit between the U.S. and Kim Jong-un. In fact, today the stories were circulating around anger and criticism of the United States for their latest round of sanctions, which kicked in a few weeks ago.
But certainly there is no indication that the North is yet broaching the subject with its people. There could be many reasons for this. One of them could be that, if you consider the North Korean population have been living pretty much on a 100 percent diet of anti-America, I mean, it is seen as the great evil, it is seen as the country that is threatening the very existence of North Korea.
And anyone who has been to North Korea will have seen the images of its nuclear power and the evil American empire. So it may mean that it takes some time for them to soften up the populace, if you like, that Kim Jong-un is actually going to be meeting Donald Trump -- Cyril. VANIER: I wonder, has there been any talk in South Korea of where this could happen?
STEVENS: Well, there is speculation. The Blue House here is saying nothing at all about where it could be. The speculation does seem to be it could be the DMZ, the DMZ, which separates the two Koreas. That is where the summit between the two Koreas would be held.
Pyongyang has been mentioned, which seems to be pretty farfetched to be honest. D.C. also unlikely. There does seem to be suggestions that it may be in Seoul or perhaps more likely in a third country, an independent mutual country, somewhere like Switzerland for example. Geneva has a history of hosting these sort of geopolitical talks.
So that could be. But the South Koreans are keeping it pretty quiet at the moment, Cyril. You mentioned an extra message that was delivered to Donald Trump apart from just the straight invitation for a meeting and the eagerness of the North to have a meeting.
That message did say -- and it was a verbal message -- that the North Koreans weren't pushing --
STEVENS: -- for any sort of concessions before this meeting. And they weren't offering any concrete developments, either, toward denuclearization. As far as the North Koreans are concerned, this is based on what South Korea is saying, is that the deal is that Kim Jong-un wants to talk to Donald Trump.
He wants to talk about denuclearization. His conditions are that he is prepared to put a freeze on any missile testing, on any nuclear bomb testing and also that it looks like he is prepared to wear the fact that South Korea and the U.S. will continue their fairly large- scale military exercises, which in the past has enraged the North.
But Kim Jong-un now saying that he understands why these exercises are going ahead, which suggests that he is not going to react this time around. They seem to be the conditions that the South Koreans at least are talking about. Nothing about these concrete steps that the White House has been saying.
VANIER: And on the American side, the any conditions, there is a lack of clarity on that, with the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders saying earlier on Friday that they would be wanting to see observable steps toward denuclearization before they actually sat down.
So it is unclear whether that is a caveat, whether that's a pre- condition to any talks. There is probably going to have to be some alignment of expectations between the U.S. and North Korea if this is to happen.
Andrew Stevens from South Korea, thank you very much.
Now let's turn to a newly released e-mail that could tie President Trump to an apparent payout his lawyer made to porn star Stormy Daniels. While Michael Cohen insists he worked alone to buy Daniels' silence about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump, an e-mail shows Cohen used the Trump Organization account to discuss the agreement.
Daniels' attorney provided the e-mail to CNN and he says it indicates Cohen was working in a professional capacity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: If, in fact, the payment was being made personally by attorney Cohen, he wouldn't need his office open in order to effectuate the payment.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Clearly the office he is talking about is the Trump Organization office, which is on the letterhead and is underneath his signature.
AVENATTI: That is the office he is clearly referring to because if you look at the signature -- and you've put it up on the screen -- he identifies himself as the executive vice president and special counsel to Donald J. Trump. And he lists the address.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: Cohen says that he regularly used his business e-mail for personal matters and denies Mr. Trump knew anything about the transactions with Stormy Daniels.
In a statement he said this, "The earth-shattering uncovered e-mail between myself and the bank corroborates all my previous statements, which is I transferred money from one account at that bank into my LLC and then wired said funds to Ms. Clifford's attorney in Beverly Hills, California."
Here is Drew Griffin with more on all of this.
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 org.com, 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 --
GRIFFIN (voice-over): -- 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 -- Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.
VANIER: Amy Greene is researcher in American political science and a professor at the Political Science Institute of Paris.
Amy, what is the biggest danger to the president with all of this?
AMY GREENE, SCIENCES PO: Absolutely. The difficulty for the president at this stage is that essentially while his side, his lawyers have received a temporary restraining order against -- prohibiting Stormy Daniels from speaking, essentially the difficulty now is that Stormy Daniels is going to a judge.
And now the judge will either say that Stormy Daniels has to go into private arbitration or could open this up to the public discovery process and the consequence of that is that there is the publication of documents -- sorry -- the production of documents and Stormy Daniels will be able to name other people who she believes were implied in this affair.
And she could effectively name the president and may have obviously signified that they would be interested this doing so, which could lead to depositions, including that of the president. So the questions really are, as it was appropriately mentioned in your
segment, the question of whether or not campaign finance law was violated and other questions of this sort.
But essentially this sort of slow bubbling problem that has always kind of remained just below the surface for the president could effectively be an additional legal trouble in addition to the Mueller investigation, one in which the president himself is directly questioned and called in for deposition.
VANIER: So if I understand your answer correctly, number one problem is all of this could become a lot more public with a lot more details being made public if this hits the court and not arbitration.
Number two, it could turn out that there was a campaign finance violation.
But if, in that scenario, what is the consequence for the president then, if there was indeed a campaign finance violation?
GREENE: The question becomes this sort of jumbled legal mess, you know. And the question becomes, exactly how do you punish the president for this?
What is the president's place with respect to the law?
And sort of what is the fallout for that?
It is difficult to know at this stage what that fallout would be but effectively naming the president, whether or not the president was personally involved in the payment, means that the president could have potentially been directly aware of and, to some extent, at the helm of this campaign finance violation.
So, of course, it would be another headache for the president, who is already facing significant pressure with the Mueller investigation. So essentially really it is difficult to know what the followup would be at this stage.
But if it comes to light that the president was aware of the payment and was sort of using campaign resources for it, the question is, to what degree was the president personally responsible?
And what would be the legal repercussions for a sitting president in that case?
VANIER: And at present, based on what we know now, it is hard to buy into this idea that Mr. Trump's personal lawyer used his own money to silence a porn star about an alleged affair that, by the way, he said hadn't even happened and never even told his boss about it. It just beggars belief.
GREENE: Yes, absolutely. There is this question of plausibility, of denial that constantly comes up with the president on this or other issues. And the question really here, one of the central questions, I should say, is the quality of the lawyering involved. Obviously you have this rather farfetched scenario, by which Cohen
would have done this on his own, completely independent of the president. And then you have the very nature of the non-disclosure agreement in itself.
And one of the debates is whether or not this agreement, as it was drafted, would actually hold water in court. Some are arguing that it, in fact, amounts to a gag order, which is so sweeping, so inclusive in nature, that it is almost incomprehensible.
So the legality of the document itself is under fire as well. So you really do have a question of not only the quality of the counsel around the president but then the very nature of the judgment of the president to welcome those people into the closest quarters of his entourage.
VANIER: But ultimately, we always come back to the same thing.
Do you think this is politically damaging to the president?
I mean obviously it depends where it goes in the courts. But we know from a CNN poll a couple weeks ago when this story first emerged that people already believe, by and large, a majority of Americans, that the president has had extramarital affairs.
So even if this ends up being proven here and being brought to the public, do you think there is a political impact for him?
GREENE: It's difficult when talking about Donald Trump; you can imagine applying this specific scenario to any number of previous sitting presidents. And you see the threshold for decency does not apply in the same way to Donald Trump.
You have a Republican Party that is in lockstep behind the president. You have evangelicals who are in lockstep behind --
GREENE: -- the president. And you tend to see this is a president who, at this point, it almost seems like the American public will basically believe that he has done just about anything and the fact that there is no shame behind it, that there is no sense of decency, let alone morality but just public decency, leads one to believe that there is a Donald Trump exception.
And the "Access Hollywood" tape, I know Sarah Huckabee Sanders talked about how it was litigated and how the American people accepted this anyway. But to a certain extent you have to say that it is quite extraordinary that there is this level of gravity of accusations on any number of fronts within the president's different activities, whether in his personal life, his business life, his political life.
And effectively, yes, we see this sort of -- I don't know if it is a sense of overwhelmingness (sic) of the fact that there seems to be something new every day. But certainly we are seeing a form of exception for the President of the United States. But there where the exception perhaps stops is the president vis-a-vis
the law. And, of course, public opinion may sway in any number of ways about the president. But the law is certainly the law and that doesn't sway.
So really where are we headed with a president, faced with the reality of the law and I guess that is what we'll see play out on over the next couple of weeks.
VANIER: Amy, thank you for joining us. Great talking to you again. Thanks.
GREENE: Thank you, Cyril. Thank you very much.
VANIER: Still to come after the break, a hostage situation in California ends in tragedy at a facility housing U.S. military veterans. Plus this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Hopefully we'll go in the very, very peaceful, beautiful path. We're prepared to go whichever path is necessary. I think we're having very good dialogue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: President Trump and the diplomatic road with North Korea, the Deadly danger that may be lurking just ahead.
VANIER: The hostage situation in Northern California ended tragically with three women fatally shot. Police say the victims all worked at a mental health facility for U.S. military veterans. Apparently the gunman had been receiving treatment there. Dan Simon has the latest on this.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, investigators are trying to figure on out what caused a military veteran to barricade himself with three hostages, murder them and then apparently take his own life.
This happening in the town of Yountville, California, in the heart of the Napa Valley. It is also home to the largest veterans' center or home in the --
SIMON: -- United States. On the campus here, there is a nonprofit center called The Pathway Home. It helps veterans deal with PTSD and we are told the shooter in this case had been receiving treatment there up until about two weeks ago.
What caused him to come back this morning around 10:00 am local time and exchange gunfire with a deputy, who arrived here at the scene, we do not know. But once again you have somebody in this country who apparently had mental health issues get a hold of a gun and commit a tragedy. And in this case it is a military veteran -- Cyril.
VANIER: And the powerful U.S. gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, is suing the state of Florida, claiming parts of a new gun control law are unconstitutional. Florida's governor signed this $400 million measure on Friday.
This comes just weeks after a teenage gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school. The NRA objects to the provision that raises the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21. The new law also requires a three-day waiting period on most gun purchases. And it bans the sale and possession of so-called bump stocks, that enable some guns to mimic automatic weapons.
One of the more controversial aspects of the new law is allowing some teachers to carry firearms. You may remember President Trump had suggested this; he was in favor of it. The governor said he still opposes that concept even though he signed the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLA.: There are things in this bill that I oppose. And I have been pretty open about that. I still think law enforcement officers should be the ones to protect our schools. I have heard all the arguments for teachers to be armed.
And while this bill was significantly changed on this topic, I am still not persuaded. I am glad, however, that the plan in this bill is not mandatory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: And the governor also credited the high school students for the legislative milestone in Florida. But at least one student was unhappy with this final result. Here is what he told Anderson Cooper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMERON KASKY, STONEMAN DOUGLAS STUDENT: Governor Scott is trying to look like he's taking a step in the opposite of the direction of the NRA but we know that's not really going to happen.
And while seeing these two parties move in the right direction together is a positive thing, it's a baby step. I mean, if you really look at the bill, we need to ban assault weapons.
It's nice to see that it happened and it's nice to see that there are some people thinking more for the safety of the children than for their wallets. But I do think that Rick Scott is using this as an easy way out of the situation and while we appreciate his praise, this is not what we're looking for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: Let's go to the U.K. Britain's home secretary will lead an emergency meeting with senior cabinet members on Saturday to discuss the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England. Authorities there are telling residents that there is to need to worry, even though they are seeing military troops on the streets.
On Friday, nearly 200 British army, navy and air force units deployed to help police with the investigation into the assassination attempt on a former Russian spy. Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by a dangerous nerve agent last week and now they are fighting for their lives in hospital.
Let's get the latest. Phil Black is in Salisbury; Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow.
Phil, a nerve agent was used; now extra troops have been called in to Salisbury.
Before you tell me about the investigation, just tell me, has that got people worried?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People were certainly concerned, Cyril, when they heard that a nerve agent had been used here. The idea of a chemical weapon being used in a small English city was shocking, I think, to the people who live here, shocking to people across the United Kingdom as well.
The next surprise came with the announcement that the troops would be coming in, why now, why five days after the incident and especially since that, during that whole period, the authorities here had been advising the public that there was no continued risk to them here.
But I think people are assuming for the moment that it is really just a cautious move, part of the cleanup, if you like. The police say that they are dealing with objects and cars. So it seems like a way of dealing with objects that may have come into contact with people who may have come into contact with the nerve agent.
We think that is what we saw last night at the hospital, when a police car was carefully wrapped up and taken away by military personnel on the back of a truck. Other than that here, people are going about their lives.
Apart from the fact that this small city is at the center of a chemical weapons investigation with potentially far-reaching international consequences, it is, for the most part, just a regular morning in Salisbury -- Cyril.
VANIER: And do we know anything more about the nerve agent that was used?
BLACK: The police said pretty quickly that they had identified it, that it was rare and they wouldn't be making any more information on that public at this stage. And they have maintained that type of discipline in almost every aspect of the investigation throughout this week so far.
As the government, the police have stressed the need to get on with the business of gathering information, conducting the investigation, being certain about the facts --
BLACK: -- from the very beginning, the police and the government have faced questions about who did this, how did they do it and why. And they have really sidestepped those questions, insisted on being given the time and space to conduct the investigation.
But the government has said, once that information is in hand, it will respond appropriately. And that is when I think we will likely hear about whether or not they believe, as many people have said, that whether or not there was a state actor involved in this particular incident -- Cyril.
VANIER: All right, Phil, thank you. Let's turn to Fred Pleitgen in Moscow.
Fred, I know Russia is not happy that their name keeps coming up in this case as a possible suspect. Tell us more about their reaction.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think not happy is probably an understatement, Cyril. You are right, the Russians obviously deny that they have anything to do with this, they say anything that was said to the contrary is anti-Russian propaganda, something we've heard from the Russians in past cases as well.
They said something similar after the Alexander Litvinenko case in 2006. It was interesting, though, because yesterday, the foreign minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, who's currently traveling around Africa, he came out and he said of course the Russians would be willing to help in this investigation, would be willing to try and help clarify any sort of questions that might out there about what exactly happened there in Salisbury.
He said they would also, on a side note, be willing to help as far as rumors, as he put it, about election meddling in the U.S. election are concerned as well. But he said that the Russians simply aren't getting any information from the authorities in Great Britain.
And therefore he says there is very little that the Russians can do. That is something that that we've been hearing from the Russian government over the past couple of years. Also the spokesman from the foreign ministry saying that the Russians simply don't have enough information to comment on any of these issues.
But they certainly deny having anything to do with them. One of the other interesting nuggets that we sort of picked up is that it seems as though the Russian authorities and the Russian embassy in the United Kingdom is now not referring to Sergei Skripal as a former Russian spy anymore but calling him an agent of the MI-6, which is, of course, the intelligence service of the United Kingdom, which seems to indicate that they obviously very much say that he has flipped.
It also seems to indicate that they believe that, in some way, shape or form, he might still have been active. Whether or not that is true, obviously no one knows. But that certainly seems to be the line that the Russians are prodding. So again, denials but, at the same time, certainly, no show of empathy whatsoever for the victims of this attack -- Cyril.
VANIER: OK. Gentlemen, thank you very much. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, Phil Black in Salisbury in England. Thank you very much.
"Little Rocket Man," "old lunatic," "madman" and "mentally deranged dotard."
Can two grown men who argue over the size of their nuclear buttons really bring peace on Earth?
Plus Turkey says it's close to a major military victory in Syria. Exclusive new drone footage of Afrin ahead. Stay with us.
VANIER: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Let's look at your headlines.
VANIER: After a day of mixed signals, the planned meeting between U.S. President Trump and North Korean Kim Jong-un is apparently on track. The White House press secretary had said that it wouldn't happen without concrete actions by North Korea. But the White House later said that the invitation was accepted and that that stands.
Remember, it wasn't that long ago that Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un were tossing threatening insults back and forth.
So why is President Trump embracing diplomacy now?
Nic Robertson reports.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will have to choice but to totally destroy North Korea.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): At the altar of democracy, the U.N. General Assembly...
TRUMP: Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): -- Trump upends orthodoxy, laying into his enemy. North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong-un punches right back, state media calls Trump an old lunatic and a dotard. Yet, less than six months later, Trump accepts Kim's call for face to face talks.
TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.
ROBERTSON: There have been times when Trump doubted his words were clear enough, even doubted his secretary of state's work for formal diplomacy, tweeting, "I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with little Rocket Man."
Kim kept his rocket tests coming, intent on creating a missile capable of reaching the United States armed with a nuclear bomb.
So what has changed?
Even at New Year, both were boasting about nuclear buttons.
So has Trump's bombasts finally broke at the Hermit Kingdom's resolve?
Or has Trump simply been outmaneuvered by enemies and allies alike?
Or was it South Korea's Winter Olympic diplomatic thaw that took the chill of the relationship?
Neither Russia nor China has been a watertight partner enforcing U.S. sponsor sanctions on North Korea. Those criticize Trump for bringing additional weapons to --
ROBERTSON (voice-over): -- the region and running war games under Kim's nose.
Both want an end to U.S. militarization, they say is stepping on their turf. Yet so far, nothing indicates North Korea has changed and could be doing what it's done before. Playing for time to perfect its weapons.
Neither do we know what Kim wants to say at the talks, is this bottom- line admission to the international club of nuclear armed nations?
Both he and Trump utterly unpredictable. And it's quite possible both will merge from the talks declaring victory only for the relationship to return to recriminations as the two great egos struggle to compromise over details -- Nic Robertson, CNN, London.
VANIER: Let's try to get a little more on this. Adam Mount is a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists and he is also the former director of the North Korea Task Force at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Adam, this is a day to talk to you if ever there was one. Look, Kim Jong-un willing to negotiate directly with Mr. Trump.
In your reading of things, does that mean Mr. Trump is currently winning their battle?
ADAM MOUNT, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: The Trump administration has not started off on the right foot here. So it is not clear to me that Donald Trump is thinking in terms of maximizing scarce U.S. leverage.
By accepting North Korea's invitation outright, you know, we have not yet put solid conditions on the table. And you've heard Sarah Sanders go back and forth, trying to strike the right tone. So there is not yet a coordinated administration line.
Donald Trump has seemed to leave Rex Tillerson out of the loop. So that is not encouraging in terms of building a credible team that the president can rely on and delegate some responsibility to.
And then I think there was a missed opportunity here for Donald Trump to ask or demand the release of three remaining American prisoners that are languishing in the North Korean gulag.
He could have said very simply we won't meet with a leader that imprisons American citizens. Release them and then we'll have the summit. I think that is the very simplest thing that he could have done.
VANIER: Donald Trump wants denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. He wants North Korea to get rid of their nukes.
Do you see that happening?
MOUNT: Denuclearization is still a very, very faint hope. North Korea's advanced its nuclear and missile programs rapidly. They are now highly capable. Those facilities are now dispersed throughout the country.
It's not clear that U.S. intelligence even knows where they all are. So as they have advanced, the price has risen. And it is not clear that that is a price that this administration is willing to pay or even approach.
Their impulse is to try to seek a good deal, a strong and balanced deal. They are trying to force Kim Jong-un to the table to surrender and capitulate. They are not in the mindset of what is a compelling offer that we can make.
And I worry that that doesn't force Kim Jong-un to make a hard choice. It says denuclearization or nothing. And Kim Jong-un is happy to say, fine, go home; we'll continue to test our missiles.
VANIER: So you were asking the question I wanted to ask you, what is the compelling on offer that the U.S. can make? What can they actually provide to the North Koreans that would incentivize them to either freeze their nuclear weapons and missile program or get rid of it entirely?
MOUNT: Again, we don't hold a lot of cards here. The smart play is change negotiations. Denuclearization talks are all about stages and sequences. They do something to materially restrict their nuclear and missile programs, they get a benefit. Then you move on to the next stage.
But each stage has to be mutually verifiable and each stage has to move to the next level. So when you get into later stages, you can put a peace treaty on the table. You can start talking about sanctions release.
But in the early stages, we should be looking for measures to increase transparency on the peninsula, do conventional arms control, relating to the size and scale of exercises and missile tests.
It will be difficult for the Trump administration to make any kind of offer. But even with very few cards to play, especially at early stages, they will have a lot of preparatory work to do to coordinate with our allies and put together a joint negotiating position that offers real value and is compelling to the --
MOUNT: -- North Koreans.
VANIER: That said, is there any reason to not do this?
A lot of the analysis that I've seen over the last 24 hours is along the lines that, well, A, it flies in the face of convention and, B, it is dangerous and, C, Mr. Trump could be giving Kim Jong-un a political win or symbolic win by meeting with him and then actually nothing happens.
But still he has elevated him to that position on the world stage, where Kim Jong-un would be meeting with the U.S. president.
My question is, so what?
What is there to lose by trying this?
MOUNT: Well, Cyril, I agree that this is an area where convention has not served us well. So the Obama administration withheld the possibility of a summit, pending concrete advancements. They were not willing to speak directly with Kim Jong-un, president to president.
And North Korea's program trundled onward and so it now leaves us in a very tough situation.
I think that there is more that the United States could lose from these talks than North Korea. If President Trump feels embarrassed or offended or outmaneuvered, he could walk away. That would alarm American allies, drive a wedge into our alliances. It could allow North Korea to go back to Beijing and say, look, we
tried our best; it is no use keeping sanctions on. We made the effort. Just let up on us. And some in Beijing would go along with that.
But in general, we can't get bogged down in symbolism here. It is right to make a major approach but the opportunity is too big to waste. We need to make sure that the approach is as strong as possible if this is, indeed, what we're doing.
VANIER: Adam Mount, great to talk to you. Thank you very much for coming on the show.
MOUNT: Thank you, Cyril.
VANIER: Coming up after this break, aid trucks risk it all to reach Syria's Eastern Ghouta. What the Red Cross says about trying to send in another convoy -- after the break.
Plus some communities are digging out from the second big winter storm in a week and there could be more snow to come. We'll have the forecast after this.
VANIER: Welcome back.
Friday brought some much needed relief to civilians in Syria's Eastern Ghouta. An aid convoy reached the rebel-held enclave as it faces a brutal government offensive. The International Committee of the Red Cross says it offloaded enough food to sustain 12,000 people for a month.
The convoy faced close-range fighting and shelling but the Red Cross hopes to get another convoy in soon.
Aid and medical organizations have become frequent targets in Syria's civil war. The World Health Organization reports almost 17 medical units have been attacked this year. The assaults have spiked in recent weeks, mostly in this area of Eastern Ghouta, outside the capital, Damascus.
And also in Syria, the Kurdish YPG are refuting claims by Turkey's president. They say the fight for Afrin isn't over yet. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that his troops and allied rebels have Afrin city surrounded. He added that it could move in at any moment.
CNN has obtained exclusive new drone footage of the area. It was shot by filmmaker Gabriel Shayim (ph) and it includes video of damage to an ancient temple. The Turkish military released a response, saying it doesn't target archeological sites.
CNN's Hala Gorani has our report and, as is often the case in Syria, it contains disturbing video.
GORANI (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 Germans to respond. This is a massacre in Afrin. So far, no sign her call will be answered -- Hala Gorani, CNN.
VANIER: In a few days, CNN will join forces with young people around the world to fight modern-day slavery. A student-led day of action takes place this Wednesday on March 14th.
And ahead of My Freedom Day, we're asking people everywhere what freedom means to them. Here is what we learned from some women from the Hope Foundation, which helps underprivileged kids in Calcutta, India.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom means to me that I can (INAUDIBLE). I have my own thoughts and be able to express them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom to me is to be happy in yourself and in your life and not feel under pressure to be someone that you are not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom is being given the chance and the opportunity to be able to do what you want with your life. I think it is being given the choice to be able to go to school, to be able to work in whatever area you want and having the freedom to actually go and pursue that.
VANIER (voice-over): Go ahead and tell the world what freedom means to you. We'd love you to share your story. Use the #MyFreedomDay and remember the date, March 14th on CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. For U.S. viewers, "NEW DAY" is next. For everyone else, it's me. I'll be back with the headlines in a moment. Stay with us. Thank you.