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CNN NEWSROOM

Weapons Inspectors Gain Access to Douma, Syria; Kabul Suicide Attack; Romney Has Made No Decision on Supporting Trump; World Reacts to North Korea's Suspension of Nuclear Testing; At Least 10 People Killed in Clashes over Social Security; India Pushes to Punish Child Rapists; Trump Slams Report His Lawyer Cohen Could Flip; Earth Day Highlights Environmental Crisis; Record Number of Women Running for U.S. Political Office. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired April 22, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Investigators finally enter the Syrian city of Douma nearly two weeks after an alleged chemical weapons attack.

Will they find evidence of that?

Donald Trump defends his personal lawyer following reports that he could turn on the president.

Also this hour, the Pacific Ocean's marine life is being threatened by giant patches of manmade garbage and we focus on that story on this Earth Day.

Hello, everyone. We're live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta and welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM begins right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

ALLEN: Our breaking news is out of Afghanistan, officials say at least 31 people have been killed in a suicide bombing Sunday morning in Kabul. Some 54 people are reported wounded.

The bomber targeted a crowd waiting outside a voter registration center and it's not clear yet who is responsible for the blast, although there are reports that ISIS has claimed responsibility. Militants have attacked two other voter registration centers in the last week.

It has been two weeks since a suspected chemical attack in Syria killed dozens of people and now, after days of being held up in Damascus, an international monitoring group is finally able to investigate.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said they collected samples in Douma on Saturday and they will test for banned substances, including chlorine and sarin, which the U.S. believes the Syrian government used to bomb the rebel-held town.

We want to warn you: this next video is disturbing. After the attack, activists released footage of people being hosed down. Other video shows dead children foaming at the mouth, on top of the bodies of their parents, and wounded civilians.

In the meantime, Syria and its powerful ally, Russia, deny there was a chemical attack at all. Senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is following this from Moscow.

The question is, Sam, if there was no attack, so says Syria and Russia, why delay the OPCW team from investigating, perhaps proving them right?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I should say that the Russians reject any allegation that they have, in any way, been involved in delaying the OPCW inspectors' visit to Douma.

They say the area is under the control of the Russian military police and they had facilitated a visit by international journalists but there was a reconnaissance conducted by U.N. security personnel ahead of the OPCW that came under fire.

And there was some kind of explosive device detonated. The Russians say it was nothing to do with them and it was that, that largely delayed the OPCW.

Whatever the truth behind all of this, the truth of what happened on the ground in terms of the chemistry should emerge, once the OPCW samples have been sent to several European laboratories for testing.

Russians have said this weekend through their foreign ministry spokesman, Maria Zakharova, they would hope the OPCW comes out with unbiased conclusions. This is not an organization that points a finger of blame but merely identifies the materiel that has been allegedly used.

The Russians have also been accused of trying to sanitize that area, notably by the United Kingdom and somewhat by the U.S. State Department. They have denied that and chemical weapons experts have told us that any attempt at sanitization would really not work. These sorts of chemicals get into in very small traces can be found and sink into the ground in all kinds of material, which would have been -- would take samples of which would have been taken.

There were also samples taken out, hand-carried out by people who were evacuated from Douma and I think those are what have supplied the basis of the allegation that have come from the United States, France and Britain, who are satisfied in themselves from their own research that this was, indeed, a chemical weapons attack.

ALLEN: Russia saw a harsh response from the world over its reported use of a poison attack in the U.K. against that former Russian spy and his daughter. So now, even though it's denying this happened, it may see more trouble coming from the United States in the --

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ALLEN: -- area of sanctions.

What do we know about that?

KILEY: The sanctions has been literally an on-off issue since a week ago today, when Nikki Haley came out with a remark, suggesting that there would be increased sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation by the United States Treasury Department.

The following day, Donald Trump did not issue or allow that series of sanctions to be imposed. We understand, there were brief talks between the Russian minister for the economy and Stephen Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, on Friday, clarifying in the statements coming out of the U.S. Treasury certain points of existing sanctions.

And there is more than a suspicion among Donald Trump's critics that there was some kind of inappropriate communication between the White House and the Russians when these expected sanctions didn't come through. But that has not been empirically proven.

I think this goes to speak to the much wider issues of continued discomfort, in general, about this peculiar relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

ALLEN: It still remains a mystery, doesn't it?

Thank you, Sam Kiley, for us out of Moscow.

We are turning to our breaking news out of Afghanistan. Officials say at least 31 people have been killed in a suicide bombing. Joining us now is Ali Latifi, a journalist in Kabul.

Ali, what more are we learning about this?

ALI LATIFI, JOURNALIST: Basically the voter registration center was targeted early in the morning. And we are getting pictures of people who were injured in the attack, of people who had, obviously -- people need jobs and so they are starting to register to work in these registration centers.

And basically what we are seeing is that it's, again, yet another attack on civilians in the capital.

ALLEN: And this has been a second attack on a voter registration center.

Why in particular are these centers being targeted?

LATIFI: So I mean, you can always -- the armed opposition, whatever group decides to take responsibility -- at this point, the Taliban has denied any responsibility -- they can always claim that the people registering people to vote are government representatives.

They can also claim that they have no faith or no interest in the democratic process in terms of these elections. So that is why they get targeted. But in reality, what we see is that, despite those sorts of accusations or people coming out and saying it's an attack on democracy, what we are really seeing is that it's an attack on civilians.

Because these are ordinary people, waiting to register to vote and, you know, these voting registration centers, they will be in mosques and in schools. They will be in places, you know, that are frequented by civilians and that, you know, are really not government facilities at all.

ALLEN: The Taliban has denied responsibility. I saw one report that ISIS may have claimed responsibility.

Does this look like the work of ISIS?

LATIFI: It could be. I mean, generally when so-called ISIS groups attack things in Afghanistan, it's usually not for these sorts of political purposes. They haven't necessarily really come out in favor or against election. They have targeted government facilities.

I think the idea that it could be ISIS has to do with the fact that it was in Western Kabul, which is a mainly Shia area and has been targeted by daish several times in the past.

ALLEN: More than 30 dead and 50 injured, this was a massive explosion and we will continue to learn more about it. We appreciate you joining us, Ali Latifi, there. Thank you, Ali.

LATIFI: Thank you. Thank you.

ALLEN: Will President Donald Trump's personal lawyer flip or will he remain loyal?

President Trump is harshly pushing back against speculation his attorney Michael Cohen could turn on him. The president lashed out on Twitter against "The New York Times" after an article suggested Cohen might cooperate with investigators looking into his business dealings. We get more from CNN's Boris Sanchez.

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BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president lashing out on Twitter Saturday, attacking, among others, "The New York Times" and one of its reporters, Maggie Haberman. The president taking exception to an article published Friday that indicates that he's had a troubled relationship historically with his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

The article suggests that Cohen could potentially flip on President Trump, something that searches have told CNN that legal experts have told the president he should prepare for; that is, if Michael Cohen has any incriminating information about President Trump, that he may comply with investigators in order to get a more lenient sentence.

The president responding to those suggestions via Twitter, saying that he does not believe that Cohen would do that, even going as far as to say that other people in --

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SANCHEZ: -- similar situations have made up stories to investigators in order to get lighter sentences.

Now the reporter behind that story, Maggie Haberman, is standing by her reporting. She cites six different sources that indicates that historically President Trump has treated his personal attorney like an animal. Listen to this.

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MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Michael Cohen, over the years, has done all kinds of things at the president's urging because the president wanted him to, because he came to intuit what he thought the president would want. It didn't always work out. Sometimes those things were handled in a way that was rather ham-fisted or that came back to bite the president later. The Stormy Daniels case would be one of them.

But Cohen was basically trying to do right by his boss and was seeking his boss' approval. And Trump, time after time, treated him -- you know, Trump is very fond of using the phrase, "like a dog."

He treated Cohen quite poorly over a period of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Also drawing the president's ire on Saturday, former FBI director James Comey, who has continued his media tour, promoting his new book, "A Higher Loyalty," a book that is disparaging of the president.

Trump on Saturday calling James Comey yet again a leaker who revealed classified information. The president also went further in his attacks on Democrats after news Friday that the DNC had filed a lawsuit that named members of Trump's campaign as well as Russians and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, suggesting that those three conspired to interfere in the 2016 election. The president mocking that lawsuit on Saturday -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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ALLEN: Former U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is not committing to supporting President Trump for re-election. Romney was a fierce critic of Mr. Trump during the primaries of the presidential race in 2016 but two months ago, President Trump fully endorsed Romney to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate for the state of Utah.

And Romney accepted the president's endorsement. On Saturday, the former Massachusetts governor, Romney, did not win his party's nomination for that Senate seat. That means he'll have to compete against a state lawmaker in a Republican primary vote in June.

What does that mean?

Let's talk about it with Scott Lucas, a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham.

Hi, there, Scott. First of all, this Romney story begs the question, how much about his candidacy is about the ongoing Republican dance about how close you go to Donald Trump, when you pull back from Donald Trump?

Because we have seen a mixture here when it comes to Romney.

SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: That is a general question. And we have seen someone like Paul Ryan decide to just avoid it by not running again.

But in the case of Mitt Romney (INAUDIBLE) and that is Utah is not a (INAUDIBLE) Republican state. It has a large Mormon population and they have been quite critical of Trump or most of the population (INAUDIBLE) over the hard line immigration (INAUDIBLE) that (INAUDIBLE) Mormons do not side with Trump, some of his provocative statements means that Romney has to be careful as he navigates, given that he has (INAUDIBLE) a first round nomination for the Senate race in November.

ALLEN: Well, the "will he flip" story about Mr. Trump's fixer, lawyer, Michael Cohen, that's another issue we want to talk about, that notion obviously has the president flipping out, as we saw in our story.

What could be the damage to Donald Trump if Cohen does flip and cooperate with investigators?

LUCAS: I think (INAUDIBLE) is too small (INAUDIBLE). You have to realize that Michael Cohen is one of Trump's long time confidants who knows his secrets. He has been the fixer for the Trump Organization. He was one of five individuals (INAUDIBLE) Trump when Trump decided to run for president.

So decides to give up all that he knows about Trump's wealth, his career, multiple practices, it's there for Robert Mueller to take advantage of.

And what is notable about "The New York Times" story, that he infuriated Trump, is that two of the other five people who were close to him when he decided to run for president, Roger Stone and (INAUDIBLE), the key sources for Maggie Haberman.

So it's not only that Cohen flipped but Stone and (INAUDIBLE) have already flipped, at least in the sense of the public battle over whether Trump is competent and fit to serve.

ALLEN: Scott Lucas, as always, we appreciate your input. Thank you, Scott. North and South Korea are just days from an historic summit. Coming up, could that lead to reunions of families separated since the Korean War?

We have a heartbreaking story about that separation coming up.

Plus, protesting sexual violence in India. The government now says it will take a much harder line against child rapists.

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ALLEN: North and South Korea are just days away from an historic summit that could begin a new chapter in Korean history. As a goodwill gesture, the North says it will no longer test its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Global reaction to that announcement has been mostly positive tempered with, as you might understand, some skepticism. A spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general said it was a positive step forward. Germany and other countries also welcome the move but have called for verification.

Russia's foreign ministry put out this statement.

"We consider this decision as an important step toward further easing tension on the Korean Peninsula and consolidating positive trends toward normalizing the situation in Northeast Asia.

Paula Hancocks joins us from Seoul where she's covered many, many chapters on the saga of the division between North and South.

And one of those stories is the heartbreaking reality that so many families have been divided between the two Koreas and haven't seen their loved ones for decades. And there is hope that maybe this summit will address that.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie. It quite often happens that, when relations between North and South Korea do improve, one of the very first things that South Korea asks for and pushes for from the North is these family reunions, so that some of the millions of families that were torn apart by the Korean War back in the 1950s can finally see each other, potentially for the first time in almost 70 years and quite often for the last time as well.

We spoke to one man, who hasn't seen his family in many decades, to see what he made of what is happening at the moment.

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HANCOCKS (voice-over): Kwon Moon-kook was just 19 when the Korean War broke out in 1950. He deserted the North Korean military, hating the ideology, and walked 14 days to get home, hiding in his mother's attic.

He then joined the U.N. forces led by the United States.

"I thought it would be a matter of days," he said, "for our forces to take over the North. I told my parents I'd be back in a week and ran away in the middle of the night."

Kwon said he wouldn't have left if he had known he would never see his parents or two brothers again. He's heard nothing in almost 70 years. He doesn't know if any of them are still alive.

One of millions of families destroyed --

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HANCOCKS (voice-over): -- by the Korean War, one of thousands of North Koreans that settled here in Abai (ph) village on the east coast near the DMZ so they could move back home easily when the time came. But it never did.

Kwon married in South Korea and has four children and nine grandchildren but still misses his North Korean family every day. He checks Google Earth once a week to see satellite images of his hometown near Wonsan in the north, the closest he can get to seeing it again.

HANCOCKS: Ah, so there. That's where you used to --

(CROSSTALK)

"No, this is my school," he says. "My mother and father live there."

Some see the Olympic sporting diplomacy between North and South Korea as a positive development. But Kwon says he's not happy to see a joint Korean team. He says they're wearing masks and he doesn't think it will change his situation.

He has not applied to be part of official family reunions between North and South, fearing any family still alive would be punished for his military desertion a lifetime ago.

"I was almost 20 when I left home," he says. "I'm now almost 90. There's no joy of life for me. I'm waiting to die.

"I don't know why," he says. "The older I become, the more I miss my brothers."

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HANCOCKS: And South Korea has, on a number of occasions, suggested family reunions since Kim Jong-un has been in power in North Korea. The president here, Moon Jae-in, is one who knows the situation better than others, on a more personal level. He's the son of North Korean refugees. He was part of a family

reunion a number of years back and accomplished his mother, seeing her sister for the first time in many years. He met his aunt for the first time ever. So certainly it is something that President Moon is acutely aware of, that beyond the politics, beyond the geopolitics, there are human lives here. There are many people who are desperate to see their families one last time.

ALLEN: I didn't know that. It just goes to show you, even people at the highest echelons of society and government there in South Korea are hurting over these separations. We will certainly -- hopefully that personal note will get this on the agenda at this summit. Paula Hancocks, for us there, thank you so much.

Saudi forces shot down a toy drone that flew too close to palaces in Riyadh late Saturday night.

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ALLEN (voice-over): You can hear the gunshots in the Saudi capital on this video posted on social media. The government said there was no major security breach but officials are investigating. Security has been tightened around the palace, as reforms by the crown prince risk angering religious hardliners.

In Nicaragua, families are holding funerals for relatives who have died in violent protests. At least 10 people, including a journalist and a police officer, were killed during the mass protests against the government's planned changes to the Social Security system.

The unpopular legislation would require workers to contribute more money but would lower pensions. CNN's Rafael Romo has the latest on this story.

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RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): After three days of violence, the streets of Managua, Nicaragua's capital, are littered with debris, demonstrators burning tires and throwing rocks. In response, police in full riot gear shooting rubber bullets.

The clashes have left at least 10 dead and more than 100 injured. This man, whose son died in the protest, says, riot police shot real bullets during a march. His son, he says, was not a protester but a passer-by, going home from work.

Police have declined to comment. Among the injured are both protesters and government forces, including this policewoman, who officials say was hit in the leg by an explosive.

A government plan to reform Nicaragua's Social Security system sparked the protests. But the owner of a news channel who says his station was censored by the government after refusing an order to stop covering the protests, says there are several other underlying factors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMO (voice-over): He says people are also protesting corruption, the government's abuse of power, lack of civil liberties, including freedom of expression, and inflation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMO (voice-over): This business leader called on the government to stop what he called acts of repression, adding that Nicaraguans don't want to go back to its civil war days.

Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista leader who ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 and then again since 2007, was re-elected to a third term in 2016 in an election, opponents said, was rigged, which Ortega denies.

After three days of silence, only interrupted by Nicaraguan first lady Rosario Murillo...

ROSARIO MURILLO, NICARAGUAN FIRST LADY: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMO (voice-over): -- who called protesters "bloodthirsty vampires," Ortega reappeared.

DANIEL ORTEGA, NICARAGUAN PRESIDENT: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMO (voice-over): The president said, "Protesters can march and disagree with the government all they want. But God will not --

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ROMO (voice-over): -- "forgive them," he emphasized, "for conspiring to incite violence" -- Rafael Romo, CNN.

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ALLEN: India's cabinet has approved a measure to make child rape punishable by death. The prime minister has been under increasing pressure due to sustained public protests over sexual violence, particularly the recent rape and murder of a young Muslim girl. We get the latest from CNN's Nikhil Kumar in New Delhi.

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NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN INTERNATIONAL NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: First, they were shocked, then outraged, another law has been changed as the rape and murder of a defenseless rural Muslim girl continues to shake India.

Responding to growing public anger, India's cabinet passed an executive order, Saturday, making the rape of a girl below 12 a capital crime punishable by the death penalty. Only months ago, the same government, led by India's prime minister Narendra Modi, rejected calls to introduce capital punishment in case of the child rape.

But Modi has been under pressure ever since the girl's case hit headlines this month. And investigators say she was abducted, brutally raped and murdered by several men. Eight Hindus have been arrested in connection with her death. Their motive: to drive her community of Muslims out of their town. That's according to investigators.

Now, there's a long-standing concerned about sexual violence here, but many are also angry at the religious politics. And as for Modi, his Bharatiya Janata Party is the political face of the Hindu right.

Two senior party members are reported to rally in support of the men accused of attacking the little girl. Both have now stepped down from their positions in the state government.

While the changes to the law still need to be approved by parliament, many activists who work in this area have been calling for better enforcement of existing legislation, not new laws.

They also cite India's entrenched patriarchy as a major cause. They also want better education to end what many say is a cultural problem, where women are routinely marginalized, often with violent consequences.

As for Modi, response to the protesters, harsher penalties may not be enough -- Nikhil Kumar, CNN, New Delhi.

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ALLEN: Newly released memos from fired FBI director James Comey suggest the Russian president Vladimir Putin bragged about Russian prostitutes President Trump.

What was that about?

We will get into that story next.

Plus Sunday is a day to celebrate our planet and take action to protect it. We will explore Earth's plastic pollution on this Earth Day coming up next.

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ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen with our headlines.

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ALLEN: More than 1,000 mourners paid their respects to former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush at her funeral in Houston, Texas. Former presidents Obama and Clinton were there Saturday, along with their wives, and the current first lady, Melania Trump.

Several speakers honored Ms. Bush, calling her tough but loving, compassionate and funny. After the service, eight of her grandsons carried her coffin. Her son, President George W. Bush was behind them, pushing her husband, President George H.W. Bush in a wheelchair.

Ms. Bush was buried at her husband's presidential library next to her daughter, Robin, who died when she was just 3.

President Trump is again trying to discredit recently released memos by fired FBI director, James Comey, about their interactions. Mr. Trump is accusing Comey of leaking classified information.

Sources tell CNN the Justice Department's inspector general is reviewing whether Comey improperly shared classified information. Meantime, the memos are prompting new questions about the nature of President Trump's relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin before Mr. Trump took office.

For more about it, here is CNN's Brian Todd.

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BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In his own words, before becoming president, Donald Trump either had a long-standing relationship with Vladimir Putin or had never met him.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He could not have been nicer.

I never met Putin. I don't know who Putin is.

TODD: But now there is a bizarre new twist in the odd years-old alleged bromance between the two men after James Comey's memos detailing his conversations with the president were released to Congress and leaked to the public.

In one, dated February 8th, 2017, Comey writes about what he perceived as the president's obsession with allegations that the Russians taped him with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.

The president said the hookers thing is nonsense, Comey says, but that Putin told him we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world. He did not say when Putin told him this, Comey notes.

The alleged comment by Trump about a conversation with Putin is now attracting attention because according to the Kremlin, Trump and Putin had only spoken to each other once, just 11 days earlier, on January 28th of last year. That was a phone call between the two leaders.

On Trump's end --

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TODD (voice-over): -- Vice President Pence, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and Michael Flynn were in the room. But neither the Kremlin nor the official White House readout of the call mentioned prostitutes being discussed. For years before he ran for president, Trump repeatedly claimed to have met Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vladimir Putin, have you met the guy?

TRUMP: He's a tough guy. I met him once.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you met Vladimir Putin?

TRUMP: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have?

TRUMP: One time, yes, a long time ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel --

TRUMP: Which was, by the way.

TODD: But later when he was running for president, Trump's story changed.

TRUMP: I've never met Putin. I have nothing to Putin. I've never spoken to him.

TODD: Biographers say with Trump embellishment and reality sometimes collide resulting in confusion. They say Trump's previous claims to have met with Putin may have referred to a meeting Trump wanted to have with the Russian president in 2013 when Trump hosted the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow.

Biographers say the meeting never happened, but Putin reportedly sent Trump a lacquered box as a gift. Then there was this.

TRUMP: I got to know him very well because we were both on "60 Minutes." We were stablemates.

TODD: They were actually on different continents at the time.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": Donald Trump sees these associations as being quite meaningful. So if he's on a TV show and a few minutes later someone else is on the same TV show, he might consider himself stablemates with that person.

TODD: But none of that, Trump watchers say, explains the alleged comment to Comey about discussing prostitutes with Putin.

Putin did once mention in public the allure of Russian prostitutes about three weeks before that alleged Trump-Comey conversation when the Russian president dismissed the claim that Trump watched prostitutes urinate on each other in a Moscow hotel.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, (through translator): It is hard to believe that he ran to a hotel to meet with our girls of a low social class, although they are the best in the world.

TODD: Could Trump have simply embellished to say that Putin told him about Russian prostitutes?

Could Trump have misremembered something, or did he really have this conversation with Putin?

REID WILSON, "THE HILL": Donald Trump is somebody who likes to talk about his interactions with other famous people. It puts him on the same level as them in a number of instances before he became president of the United States. So it's not entirely clear whether or not this interaction ever happened.

TODD: We've sought clarification in Washington and Moscow over whether Putin told Trump personally that Russian prostitutes were the most beautiful in the world. The White House didn't get back to us.

Putin's spokesman said the Russian president, quote, "could not say such things and did not say it to President Trump" -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Billions of people are celebrating our planet Sunday and shining a light on a major pollution problem across the globe. We will tell you how you can help fight the crisis of plastic pollution this Earth Day. That's coming up.

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ALLEN: It's not just another Sunday. It is Earth Day. We celebrate the planet we all call home with the observance of Earth Day. This year, a major focus is on all of this junk.

That is plastic littering our oceans, it is a global problem that is much more than not just recycling a water bottle. Environmentalists say enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the Earth four times; 50 percent is used only once and thrown away. And it can take 500 to 1,000 years for plastic to decompose.

Meantime, meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is here to tell us, what that plastic is doing in our oceans.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it gets there. I was, in fact, walking my dog near one of our rivers here in Georgia and I could see plastic and all sorts of stuff --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: -- all the tributaries and then it's got to get out to the ocean. And that's where a lot of it ends up, unfortunately. Let's talk a little bit about the ocean currents. Then, Natalie, we will toss to a few pieces that have good advice on

what you can do to help the planet here: 8 million, that is metric tons that is dumped into the oceans. That's going into what is already into the ocean. Can you imagine, 5 trillion pieces of plastic.

This is, obviously, estimated; nobody is counting but, my goodness. That is a lot of junk out there. We are talking about a million sea birds killed a year and a hundred thousand sea mammals as well.

Plastic does degrade, 500 to 1,000, but we don't have to wait that long. It degrades enough to the point where it becomes what we call microplastics and that is when fish become able to ingest it. And so the fish ingest it and it goes through the entire ecosystem and then of course we eat it.

Have you ever heard of a garbage patch?

That is the term that we have coined here because of the garbage patches across the Pacific and as all the plastic bottles and junk gets into the rivers and eventually into the ocean eventually, the currents pick them up and they converge across the North Pacific.

We one concentrated across the west and one across the east. The patch is a bit of a misnomer because you can't see it from space and it's not something you see as you cruise through it. But it is there and widely dispersed and it evolves.

Once that plastic begins degrading, it releases all the toxins into the water so you're in a heap of trouble there. I just can't believe that number, 5 trillion pieces of plastic out in the ocean. It's going to take a lot of work. Perhaps you and I should go to river and start there.

ALLEN: Yes, river cleanups. They have that here.

CABRERA: Yes.

ALLEN: Like you said, we have more about it. The South Pacific garbage patch is now larger than Mexico and researchers say it will keep growing unless society changes how it handles plastic. Here is more from Lynda Kinkade.

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LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The South Pacific Ocean, a vast marine landscape, a precious part of our Earth.

But take a closer look and scientists say it's becoming a plastic garbage dump.

CAPTAIN CHARLES MOORE, FOUNDER, ALGALITA MARINE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION: Here I am, standing on Hi-zex Buoy Island. KINKADE (voice-over): Meet Captain Charles Moore, founder of Algalita Marine Research and Education, a non-profit group dedicated to solving the sea's plastic pollution problem.

In 1997, Captain Moore discovered a massive garbage patch in the North Pacific. Now his team has confirmed the existence of another further south off --

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KINKADE (voice-over): -- the coast of Chile and Peru. Captain Moore estimates it to be about 2 million square kilometers, larger than Mexico.

Here's how it formed: winds around a persistent high pressure system drive ocean currents, creating a vortex known as a gyre, causing debris to collect in a central location.

MOORE: I call it a plastic soup. If you think of the ocean as the liquid in a soup, we have gone from creamy to extra chunky.

KINKADE (voice-over): Captain Moore and he team spend month trolling the South Pacific, collecting samples, from large objects to plastic the side of a grain of rice.

MOORE: The surface waters are where we see the debris. And it is mostly particulate, the size class that's most common is between 1 mm and 3 mm in diameter. But we find interesting objects, a lot of tubs that are used in sorting fish in the fisheries, that are manufactured in New Zealand.

We have found a lot of fishing buoys and, of course, the most common things that we find out there are the floating bottles and the bottle caps.

KINKADE (voice-over): The plastic poses a major threat to marine life. Small lantern fish come to the surface at night to feed on plankton. Many eat small microplastics instead and are then unable to swim back to the bottom, the plastic acting like a buoy.

Not only do these fish ingest chemicals from the plastic but so do the larger fish who eat them.

Algalita Marine Research found 35 percent of lantern fish in a previously discovered North Pacific garbage path are eating plastic.

The researchers are now sifting through the samples to try to get a better understanding of what types of plastic they've collected. But for Captain Moore, it's our throwaway society that needs to change.

MOORE: We have to fear plastic for not only what it does to the marine environment, but what it's doing to us. We need to fear it and we need to respect it because it is being treated like waste, like trash, like it's just this wrapper that you throw away.

And we've got have a new attitude about that, which we realize that it must have an afterlife. It must be reincarnated. It must be part of a circular economy or it's going to end up in the ocean and destroy marine life.

So we are now working with plastic companies, with Coca-Cola, with Dow. We're working desperately to reshape the thinking of those who are making this stuff, to create this infrastructure to take it back, to have a circular economy.

KINKADE (voice-over): Lynda Kinkade, CNN.

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ALLEN: If there were only a huge solution to plastic for the world.

While Republicans aren't often seen as environmentalists, Trammell S. Crow says he is both.

He founded Earth Day Texas, a three-day environmental conference.

And he writes, "The fact is, we Republicans want clean air and clean water, too. We care about parks and natural areas and hope our grandchildren get to have some of the great opportunities we have had to experience, the wonders of the great outdoors."

I talked with Crow about how environmental issues can actually bring people together.

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TRAMMELL S. CROW, FOUNDER AND UNDERWRITER OF EARTH DAY TEXAS: With all of these different environmental issues, we educate the public. We go straight for school kids. We have exhibitors who sell product. We train government officials. I can go on for a long time. But the main thing we do is we bring the Right and the Left together.

ALLEN: Isn't that like a beautiful thing, that maybe could be good advice for people on this Earth Day, to look for that commonality between these groups?

CROW: Environmentalists need to not be confrontational and speak a vocabulary of optimism. And corporations -- well, first of all, many corporations are really leading the way. Let's just say Washington needs to talk to itself and listen to itself.

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ALLEN: Developer Trammell Crow there. His Earth Expo is this weekend in Dallas, Texas. He says it's an opportunity to bring responsible businesses together with environmentalists. Let's cheer for that.

Maligned by many in the United States for taking a knee, a former U.S. football player is honored outside the U.S. for his controversial stand against racial injustice. That is next.

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ALLEN: Kneeling during the American national anthem may have cost NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick his career in professional football. But the controversial athlete has admirers around the world.

On Saturday Kaepernick was honored by Amnesty International with its highest distinction, the Ambassador of Conscience award. Here is part of what he said at the ceremony.

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COLIN KAEPERNICK, FORMER NFL STAR: My love for my people serves as a fuel that motivates me and fortifies me on my mission, is the people's unbroken love for themselves that motivates me even when faced with the humanizing norms of a system that can lead to the loss of one's life over simply being black.

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ALLEN: Kaepernick has not played since 2016. He has filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging the owners have conspired to keep him out of the league.

The audience stood and cheered for Britain's Queen Elizabeth during a star-studded concert for her 92nd birthday.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hip hip hip.

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ALLEN (voice-over): They had a little rock concert for the queen. Sting, the rapper Shaggy and Kylie Minogue serenaded Her Majesty during the celebration at Royal Albert Hall in London on Saturday, it was broadcast live across the U.K.

Earlier in the day, the royal family's Twitter account released photos of the young Queen Elizabeth and honored her for her public service.

Although the monarch was born April 21st, she has an official birthday celebration every year in June. So stay tuned for that.

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ALLEN: The shoes Michael Jackson wore when he was released -- rehearsed the Moonwalk before unveiling the dance step for the first time are up for auction.

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ALLEN (voice-over): One of the greatest moments on the stage by any performer right there. That was his legendary performance of "Billie Jean" during the Motown 25 special in 1983. Auction organizers say Jackson definitely wore the shoes during rehearsal for this number and possibly wore them during the show. The auction is next month in California.

The shoes are expected to sell for at least $10,000. That might be low. We will wait and see what the price is.

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ALLEN: The news continues next on CNN. I'm Natalie Allen. "NEW DAY" is next for viewers in Canada and the United States. For everyone around the world, stay with us. "OUTFRONT" is next on CNN. Thanks for watching.