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Palestinians Clash with Israeli Forces; Russia Expels Diplomats and Tests New Ballistic Missile; Trump White House; South Korean Musicians to Perform in North Korea; Officer Who Shot Alton Sterling is Fired; China's Space Lab to Fall to Earth Soon. Aired 12m-12:30a ET

Aired March 31, 2018 - 00:00   ET

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


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Palestinian officials say at least 17 people killed in Gaza during clashes with Israeli soldiers. It's the first day of a weeks-long Palestinian protest campaign.

U.S. President Trump promises to pull U.S. troops out of Syria very soon. But the Pentagon seems to think otherwise.

And Facebook in damage control over a leaked memo suggesting that connecting people matters more than anything, even saving lives.

I'm Cyril Vanier at the CNN NEWSROOM here in Atlanta. Good to have you with us.

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VANIER: Saturday is going to be a day of mourning for Palestinians. At least 17 were killed in clashes with Israeli troops on Friday and almost 1,500 wounded. This is according to the Palestinian ministry of health.

Let's show you the scene. A few hundred meters away from the border fence between Israel and Gaza, this is on the Palestinian side, Israel says tens of thousands of Palestinians marched on the fence.

Witnesses say Israeli troops fired live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas. This was just the first day of what's expected to be at least six weeks of protests, a campaign that Palestinians are calling the March of Return. Israel blames Hamas for the violence. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, blames Israel; he also calls for international action.

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MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (through translator): I have asked the United Nations today for immediate action to provide international protection for our Palestinian people facing this continuous and escalating daily aggression. I have asked the envoy of the State of Palestine at the United Nations

to communicate with members of the U.N. Security Council and the general assembly.

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VANIER: Ian Lee was in these protests and his report contains graphic video.

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IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The value of land in blood and tears. Earlier, Gazans moved toward the border. Israeli soldiers monitor from a dirt berm on the other side.

First, they fire warnings, then tear gas.

The Palestinians advance, some hurling rocks with slingshots. Then come Israeli bullets and the casualties.

LEE: Throughout the course of the day, we have seen so many people injured that the ambulances have a tough time of keeping up. They drop the injured people off at the hospital; they get back, usually filled up and they are off again.

LEE (voice-over): The death toll rises, more than 1,000 injured. Overwhelmed hospitals struggle to cope. Still, the tens of thousands rally around the Palestinian flag. They are demanding to return to their lands lost in the 1948 war, which is now in Israel. Hamas urged them to remain peaceful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Of course we feel afraid but we should sacrifice for our land. People should sacrifice for it. But, of course, we feel scared. We are afraid because our children are very important for us.

LEE (voice-over): Scenes like this played out along the border, Palestinians and Israeli soldiers squaring off. For the residents of Gaza, the goal is simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are ready to cross now over to the border. We aren't waiting. We have crossed it before and we will do it again.

LEE (voice-over): Crossing that fence is a red line for Israel's military, blaming Hamas for the day's violence and issuing a warning that the army views with great severity any breach of Israeli sovereignty or attempts to damage the security infrastructure.

Yet still, the young men of Gaza push forward, casualties mounting. The largest protest Gaza has seen in years, met with deadly violence. And this is only day one -- Ian Lee, CNN, Gaza.

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VANIER: The U.N. secretary general wants an investigation into that violence. A senior U.N. official warns the situation in Gaza could deteriorate in the coming days.

His statement reads in part, "Israel must uphold its responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law. Lethal force should only be used as a last resort with any fatalities properly investigated by the authorities."

Moving on, Russia had promised to respond in kind -- and so it did. Diplomats from at least 23 countries are no longer welcome in Russia. Moscow expelled 50 of them, it's retaliation for Russian diplomats being told --

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VANIER: -- to leave in more than 20 countries.

Russia says 60 U.S. diplomats must also leave. All of this started with the nerve gas attack in Britain on a former Russian spy and his daughter. The U.K. accuses Russia for that but Moscow denies any involvement.

And staying with Russia, take a look at this, the latest missile, Russian missile, the Sarmat. NATO calls it the Satan 2. Moscow says it can strike targets around the world. Barbara Starr reports.

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BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia claims this is a test of their new state of the art intercontinental ballistic missile, nicknamed Satan 2. According to the Russian state news agency, it's the second successful test.

It comes after this recent Russia test firing of what it says is an airborne high speed ICBM. Just weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered a flashy display of weaponry, including the Satan 2.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): This new system has virtually no limitations on distance and as you can see from the video, it's capable of attacking targets via both the North and South Pole.

STARR: One Russian video animation even showing airborne weapons attacking Florida, nobody missing the implication that Russia could reach President Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.

The top U.S. commander in charge of America's nuclear arsenal is watching closely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well nothing he said surprised me. Once again, you know, we have very good intelligence capabilities and we watch very closely, so nothing he said surprised me.

STARR: But the new missile launch comes less than 24 hours after U.S. diplomats were expelled from Russia in retaliation for the U.S. kicking Russians out as part of a global response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter.

Even if there is no link in timing, a former top U.S. diplomat says it's time for everyone to be careful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any link (INAUDIBLE) nuclear deterrents with the current spat is an upgrade that I think one needs to be careful about. I worry about accident in miscommunication, it's hard to know whether we're close or far away from that.

But the mere notion that there's a minor chance of something going awry on the nuclear side should disturb us all.

STARR: President Trump says he's prepared to discuss all of this with President Putin face to face, even though he didn't bring up the poisoning or election meddling in their last phone call.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We could discuss the arms race, as you know, he made a statement that being in an arms race is not a great thing and that was right after the election, one of the first statements he made.

And we are spending $700 billion this year on our military and a lot of it is that we are going to remain stronger than any other nation in the world by far.

STARR: Most of these Russian weapons are years away from being operational, but when they are, what happens then? -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

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VANIER: Meanwhile, a part of Mr. Trump's Thursday speech has some people in his own administration scratching their heads. Listen to this.

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TRUMP: We are knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon. Very soon, we're coming out. We'll have 100 percent of the faith as they call it, sometimes referred to as land. We are taking it all back, quickly. We are going to come out of there real soon.

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VANIER: We're going to be coming out of there real soon, but the thing is, a senior administration official tells CNN they're still trying to figure out exactly what Mr. Trump meant by that. Even the Pentagon was caught off guard. They had just warned the campaign against ISIS requires a sustained military presence.

Here's Peter Matthews, political analyst and political science professor at Cypress College.

Peter, good to talk to you.

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Good to be here.

VANIER: Is it a good time to pull U.S. troops out of Syria? MATTHEWS: You know what, he just ordered the suspension of $200 million worth of Syrian recovery aid, which is not good, either. And I think that it's going to give Russia the advantage. They'll be able to have influence on Syria, although they've had it for many years, with the U.S. having a lot of influence with Israel.

So it's a balance of power issue. And I think the president ought to be going more step by step instead of just all of a sudden saying I'm going to withdraw, just like that. There should be reciprocal agreements.

VANIER: But it doesn't sound like Mr. Trump just hasn't thought of the consequences. He says let the others take care of it. It sounds like he is willing to let Russia, Iran and even Syrian president Bashar al-Assad take just complete control of the situation there.

MATTHEWS: And those three forces are aligned, definitely. And the U.S. has supported the side that was supported by more of the Sunni Arab nations. So he talks about America first. This is part of his America first idea. But he has to do it in a balanced way when he's around the world.

The U.S. is committed around the world. It can't all of a sudden do a herky-jerky type of actions and moving quickly to places that we don't know what it will lead to.

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MATTHEWS: It's got to be more measured and I think the president has to be more careful about this. But looks like he was determined. He was very surprised. People were surprised, all of his close advisers very surprised of this rather quick move.

VANIER: But this is totally consistent with what candidate Trump said throughout his campaign. He was all about, go in, defeat the enemy, then leave. Now he's saying pretty much the same thing.

MATTHEWS: Except in Afghanistan, where he says we should stay there longer now after saying we would get out. So he's just been totally inconsistent in terms of long-range, visionary foreign policy. That's the problem.

He doesn't have a real visionary foreign policy, which we have to have as a global power, as a country that leads through example. We've got to really have a much more long-range vision from our president especially. And I don't think he's doing that and he doesn't have the capability.

Plus look at his assistants. All the people could have helped him do this are gone, pretty much. He's been dismissing cabinet members just like that, left and right.

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VANIER: He's bringing in actually John Bolton, who should be his next secretary of state, is actually somebody who had argued in his more recent columns and pronouncements that Syria was going to require a sustained presence.

I wonder, is Iraq or should Iraq be a cautionary tale here?

Because the U.S. left Iraq, saying we can't stay involved forever. And then the void that was left, especially in the Sunni tribal regions, was eventually filled by ISIS.

MATTHEWS: And that goes further back than that. The U.S. should never have attacked Iraq in the first place as there was no weapons of mass destruction. But when it did do that, it also disbanded the Saddam Hussein military forces and left those people unemployed.

Those gave rise to radicalization and ISIS action. So I think that it hasn't been a thought out policy based on facts, starting with George W. Bush. It's about time that things get straightened out. But I'm not looking forward to President Trump to doing it at this point.

VANIER: Let me pivot you to what's going on in Russia and especially they demonstrated today, where they showed video of their new missile that NATO is calling Satan 2, which can strike anywhere in the world and has a shorter path to striking the U.S. by going through either the North Pole or the South Pole.

Is that something that worries you?

MATTHEWS: Not really because you shouldn't link that with what's happened with the Russian spy that was ostensibly killed by perhaps Russia. It's -- this has to do with much earlier planning. In December, the first test of Satan 2 occurred. And also it goes back to the ABM treaty of 1972, when the U.S. and Russia signed a treaty allowing each side to leave themselves vulnerable to counterattack, it's called mutually assured destruction, or deterrence, so neither side would attack the other one first, knowing there would be no defense when they decide to defend against a counterattack and they would be wiped out.

That's what kept the peace all this time. President Bush decided to withdraw from the ABM treaty. Just when he first came into office, he gave a six-month notice because he wanted to build a defensive system.

I think that kind of destabilized the balance of power and the balance of forces. And this is an attempt by Russia to come back and say, if you build ABM, missile defense systems, we can penetrate them anyway. So it's basically a wash. I think that's what's happening here.

VANIER: Yes, and Vladimir Putin, it's true, has always said that this particular new technology has been in response to what the U.S. has been doing.

MATTHEWS: That's right.

VANIER: Peter Matthews, good to talk to you, thank you very much.

MATTHEWS: Always, thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: Coming up on the show, sanctions, war games and K-pop. We look at a wild week of Korean diplomacy. Stay with us.

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VANIER: North Korea's new interest in diplomacy isn't stopping what the U.S. president has been calling the campaign of maximum pressure. That's to say more sanctions against the regime and a new round of military drills near its border.

Even though Kim Jong-un visited China's president a few days ago, the U.N. Security Council took more steps on Friday to block North Korean attempts to smuggle oil and coal.

It accepted a U.S. proposal to blacklist dozens of ships and shipping companies. And the U.S. is starting military drills with South Korea on Sunday, 48 hours from now. A meeting between Mr. Kim and South Korean president Moon Jae-in is planned for April 27th.

The North Korean leader is also set to meet later with U.S. President Trump. Also relevant there is a North Korean concert this weekend, featuring musicians from the South, the latest overture between the two countries.

For the latest on all of this Korean diplomacy, I'm joined from Seoul by Daniel Pinkston. He's a lecturer in international relations at Troy University.

Thanks for joining us. North Korean diplomacy very active right now, we've just seen it, the Olympics, the trip to China, the meeting with South Korea, the concert. Connect the dots for us.

What does it all mean?

DANIEL PINKSTON, TROY UNIVERSITY: Well, I think there are a lot of things to talk about. Relations had been in the deep freeze for quite some time. North Korea had deteriorating relations with China, with South Korea and with the international community as a whole.

So I think there are a lot of things on the agenda. We'll see how the summit goes between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un and we'll have to take it from there.

VANIER: The meeting in China with the Chinese president and then the upcoming meeting with the South Korean president, does that have a life of its own?

Or is it all tied to the potential upcoming meeting with Mr. Trump?

PINKSTON: Well, they're interconnected, of course, but North Korea and China have a number of bilateral issues that they need to address or would like to address. And the same goes with inter-Korean relations.

So whether it's trans-boundary pollution and consular affairs, economic cooperation, security issues, North Korea has problems with fisheries and fishery agreements with North Korea. So there's long list of items to address with inter-Korean relations. There are a number of humanitarian issues.

There are still separated family members and many of these people are very old now and they're dying off. So they have relatives in the North that they would like to see before they pass away. That's very urgent for South Korea.

Of course, the security issues, whether it's conventional arms control, WMDs such as chemical weapons and of course nuclear weapons which we hear so much about. But again, there's a long list of agenda items to address.

VANIER: All right. Daniel Pinkston, thank you for joining us on the show, pleasure talking to you. Thanks.

A new autopsy shows that police in California shot Stephon Clark eight times and six of the bullets went into his back. An independent pathologist retained by Clark's family perform the postmortem. The family's lawyers say the results contradict the police version of the shooting.

Police say Clark advanced toward them with what they thought was a gun but actually they found a cell phone. Police in Sacramento, California, killed Clark less than two weeks ago. The death of the African American sparked days of mass protests in the California capital against police brutality.

Meanwhile, new developments in a police-involved shooting from 2016. On Friday, officials in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, announced one of the officers who shot and killed this man, Alton Sterling, has been fired. They stay officer Blane Salamoni violated the use of force policy.

Officials also released four videos from that night. And this is some of that footage. And we want to warn you, it is disturbing. It shows two officers trying to get Sterling to put his hands against the car and eventually struggling with him on the ground. Seconds later, gunshots are heard. Later the video shows Sterling as he lay dying on the ground.

Australian cricketer David Warner says he accepts the fact he may never play for his country again. He gave a statement to the media in Sydney and apologized for his role in the cheating scandal. Warner and two other cricketers are suspended over a ball tampering plot in South Africa. Here's part of his statement.

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DAVID WARNER, AUSTRALIAN CRICKETER: I want to apologize to my family, especially --

[] WARNER: -- my wife and daughters. Your love means more than anything to me.

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VANIER: There were a couple questions he didn't address, though.

Had he done it before?

Was he aware of the plot beforehand?

Was anyone else involved in that plot?

Now to another scandal as pressure mounts for Facebook to change how its data is used. And a leaked memo is adding fuel to that fire. CNNMoney correspondent Clare Sebastian has the details on this.

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CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The controversial memo published by BuzzFeed this week was written in June 2016 by Andrew Bosworth, a top executive at Facebook.

In it, Bosworth argues that the platform should focus on its core mission of connecting people, even if it has negative consequences.

"Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools," he writes. "The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good."

Bosworth defended the memo, tweeting, "It was intended to be provocative. This was one of the most unpopular things I have ever written internally and the ensuing debate helped shape our tools for the better."

Well, if the memo was provocative at the time, it may be even more so now. Facebook CEO was supposed to publicly defend his platform for the second time in as many weeks, telling CNN he strongly disagreed with the memo when it was written and that they recognize connecting people --

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SEBASTIAN: -- isn't enough by itself. Zuckerberg is already facing a grilling in Congress over why Cambridge Analytica accomplished links to Donald Trump's presidential campaign access and then stored the data of 50 million Facebook users without their permission.

Even before that, he was in damage control mode over Russia's use of its platform to interfere in the U.S. election. In the past two weeks, Facebook's stock has plummeted almost 14 percent. This latest scandal couldn't have come at a worse time -- Clare Sebastian, CNNMoney, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: If you look up this weekend, you might see fireballs in the sky. Don't worry. It's just a space station crashing into the Earth's atmosphere. We'll have details.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one.

VANIER (voice-over): SpaceX successfully launched 10 satellites into orbit on Friday. But it failed to catch the rocket's $6 million nose cone with a net. It crashed into water at high speed. SpaceX is working to reuse rocket components to cut the cost of space missions.

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VANIER: Meanwhile, scientists say a Chinese space station tumbling uncontrollably toward Earth could enter the atmosphere within days. The Tiangong-1 or Heavenly Palace -- that's its name -- has been in a decaying orbit since it stopped functioning two years ago. Ivan Watson joins us now from Beijing.

Ivan, just help me out.

Are we in any danger?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, the experts say that the chance of a human getting hit by one these pieces of space debris is about one in 1 trillion. So I think even less than the chance of getting hit by lightning, as one expert described it.

But yes, you have China's space lab. Its first space lab, Tiangong-1, is in deteriorating orbit right now. So the Chinese space agency has been publishing a day-to-day --

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WATSON: -- kind of statistic for how high its altitude is right now. We can show that it has gone from just March 27th, about 207 kilometers up in the atmosphere, to March 30th, 189 kilometers. It is descending; it is getting closer to Earth.

And this is a fascinating detail. You can look; it's being tracked right now so we have a website that shows it right now off the northeast coast of Australia; about 20 minutes ago, it was over Algeria.

Now this was first launched into space in September of 2011. It was China's first space lab. It's about the size of a school bus. So about eight tons its weight. It's about 12 meters, 40 feet long, 3.3 meters in diameter. That's about 11 feet. It has not had any visitors, any Chinese astronauts since 2013. And

China's space agency lost contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016. But they waited about 14 months, until 2017, to inform the United Nations that they had lost contact with Tiangong-1 while also promising to inform the public about its deteriorating orbit ever since then.

We don't know the reason why or how it lost contact. Presumably it's some kind of malfunction and it's somewhat of an embarrassment for the Chinese space agency. But it is predicted that it is going to reenter orbit sometime over the course of the weekend. And we'll be monitoring this, as will a lot of space nerds, so to speak.

It's not the first time that a space lab has crashed. In 1979, the U.S.' space lab lost control and crashed into the Earth. And in 1991, there was a Soviet space lab that also crashed as well.

And usually most of their components burn up in reentry, though some of the more solid pieces, like the engines, do make it down to Earth as debris. I think that experts have predicted that the first things that will go in this case will be the more kind of fragile solar panels that hang off the sides as opposed to kind of the core structure, which may actually make it turn through reentry back into Earth -- Cyril.

VANIER: Ivan, you had me at we have one in 1 trillion chances of being hit by a school bus coming from space.

All right. I guess that means we're safe. Ivan, thank you very much.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.