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Andrew McCabe Says President Trump is an Asset of Russia; Catholic Church to Address Abuses by Priests; Regret Never Comes First; Nonstop Hunt for ISIS Leader. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired February 20, 2019 - 03:00   ET


[03:00:00] KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: Attention now turning to the man who once ruled the caliphate. The hunt for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Plus, CNN's exclusive interview with Tsai Ing-wen, the first woman elected to Taiwan's highest office.

Hello and welcome to or viewers joining from all around the world. I'm Kristie Lu Stout. And this is CNN Newsroom.

And we begin with dramatic new developments on U.S. President Donald Trump. His possible ties to Russia and his reported attempts to influence a federal investigation.

Now first, the White House is working to discredit fired Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He is making the talk show rounds to promote his book and he is not holding back his opinion of President Trump.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Do you still believe the president could be a Russian asset?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: I think it's possible. I think that's why we started our investigation and I'm really anxious to see where Director Mueller concludes that.


STOUT: Interesting comments. Now we're going to hear more from McCabe in just a few minutes. Also, the New York Times is reporting that Mr. Trump ask former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to put an ally in charge of the investigation into the hush money payments despite the U.S. attorney's refusal. Mr. Trump denies the story.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: A stunning report in the New York Times claiming President Trump ask then-Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to put someone who has supported Trump in charge of investigating hush payments made by his former fixer Michael Cohen. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a lot of respect

for Mr. Whitaker. I think he's done a great job.

COLLINS: A bomb shell Trump denied today.

TRUMP: No, not at all. I don't know who gave you that. That's more fake news. A lot of fake -- there's a lot of fake -- there's a lot of fake news out there. No, I didn't.

COLLINS: The person Trump wanted in the job, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman had already recused himself from overseeing the probe.

According to the Times, it's unclear how Whitaker responded and there's no evidence he took steps to intervene. Despite telling associates that he knew part of his job was to jump on a grenade for the president.

Still, Whitaker remarked that the New York prosecutors required adult supervision according to the Times. While Berman has recused from this probe, he has not recused from another that could touch Trump, one looking into the president's inaugural committee.

The Times adding, Trump soured on Whitaker after his inability to make the change and he has since been replaced by Bill Barr. But Whitaker could be facing bigger problems. He recently told a congressional committee under oath that the president had never pressured him regarding any investigations.

MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: At no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation.

COLLINS: Whitaker is now under scrutiny by House Democrats for potential perjury. Today, a DOJ spokesperson said he stands by his testimony. And Trump is standing by him.

TRUMP: He's a very, very straight shooter. I watched him during the hearing. Some of it I thought it was exceptional.

COLLINS: Since Trump told advisers Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein assured him the Cohen investigation had nothing to do with him. The New York Times reports he has since wondered if Rosenstein was deliberately misleading him to keep him calm.

The extensive report is also claiming Trump told advisers in February 2017 they should say he asked for Michael Flynn's resignation because, quote, "that sounds better." Pressed by Sean Spicer if it was true, Trump reportedly responded say that say that I asked for his resignation.

According to the Times White House lawyers were so concerned about what Spicer said from the briefing room podium that they compiled an entire memo laying out his misstatements. SEAN SPICER, FORMER UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The

White House counsel reviewed and determined that there is not an illegal issue, but rather a trust issue.

COLLINS: The report coming amid headlines that former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who was fired last spring briefed congressional leadership about the counterintelligence investigation he launched into President Trump.

MCCABE: The purpose of the briefing was to let our congressional leadership know exactly what we've been doing. Opening a case of this nature, not something that an FBI director, not something that an acting FBI director do by yourself, right?

COLLINS: And that no one raised concerns.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC ANCHOR: Did you tell Congress?

MCCABE: And I told Congress what we had done.

GUTHRIE: Did anyone object?

MCCABE: That's the important part here, Savannah. No one objected, not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts.

COLLINS: Now the New York Times also note did the president has had private conversations with Republican lawmakers about a campaign to attack the Mueller probe something he himself is done over 1,100 times and could very well serve as a public relations strategy for him in addition to a legal one.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


[03:05:00] STOUT: Now we've already heard some of what Andrew McCabe is saying about President Trump and Russia. The former acting FBI director talk with CNN's Anderson Cooper. Here is part of that interview.


COOPER: Your very choice words obviously for when it comes to the president. You call him a threat to both the bureau and the nation. If the president is in fact that dangerous, I mean, as a lifelong public servant as someone who took an oath to protect the Constitution.

Didn't you have a duty to come forward before now before writing a book?

MCCABE: Well, I think there are two kinds of different concepts here that are coming together. The first is what was our obligation as the investigative agency to address the situation in our hands, which was based on the information that we had. We thought that a potential threat to national security might exist.

That being that the president of the United States may have attempted to obstruct justice in his efforts to thwart and impede our investigation of Russian influence.

And if he had done so, why? Why would any American president try to stop the FBI from investigating what the Russians might have done to our election?

So that's the responsibility that we had at the time. We navigated those incredibly, you know, tumultuous waters in the way that we did. I think we made the best decision at the time with the information we had and that was to open the case.

COOPER: Why wait so long, though, to speak out? I mean, you could've, you know, there's people who resign in protest over things like this.

MCCABE: Yes. Well, I mean, certainly, you are limited in the way that you can speak out while you are an FBI official. I left under adverse circumstances and in my estimation, the best way to speak out, the best way to present the way my thoughts about how I think this president is undermining the role of law enforcement.

Undermining the role of our intelligence infrastructure and negatively impacting the men and women of the FBI and across the intelligence agency's ability to protect this country on a daily basis.

That's something that an argument that I felt like I had to make in a thoughtful way in that book.

COOPER: One of the things, the stories you recount in the book is that you were told by somebody who was briefing the president about North Korea nuclear capabilities that the president basically pushed back saying I don't believe that's the case, I don't believe that they do have missiles that are coming to the United States because Vladimir Putin told me that they did it.

The idea that -- I mean, it's one thing to doubt U.S. intelligence and then one should be skeptical. When you heard that the president of the United States would take the word of Vladimir Putin over --

MCCABE: Right.

COOPER: -- an intelligence refurbishes briefer, which is basically what he also said in Helsinki --

MCCABE: Right.

COOPER: -- in that press conference about Dan Coats and what Vladimir Putin said. Just -- how does -- what went through your mind?

MCCABE: It's astounding. I mean, I've never heard any principle in the government react to intelligence in that way. This was not healthy skepticism. It wasn't pushing us to be smarter and more accurate more incisive, all of which are good ways to react to intelligence. This was the kind of the ultimate step in what had been a struggle to

get the president and the attorney general and other principles focus on intelligence from the very beginning.

COOPER: I want to ask you about something you said about the memo from Rosenstein that he used to justify the firing of Comey about it.

You said that the president asked Rosenstein in more than one occasion to, quote, "put Russia in the memo." What does that mean? What did the president want put in there about Russia or about the president or about the investigation?

MCCABE: I don't know that they ever developed that idea beyond the president's request because Rod of course indicated that he didn't need to refer to Russia in his memo, and then he didn't.

He didn't put Russia in the memo, so that's something that it concerned us greatly, but it's one of those -- one of those facts that you were looking at, at the time and asking ourselves what did the president intend with that comment.

COOPER: You said it wasn't simply with the Comey firing that led the FBI to open investigations with the president. There are concerns whether or not he poses a national security threat, had it in your words been building for some time.

Are there other things that haven't been made public at this point that contributed to the opening of the investigations with the president?

MCCABE: I'm not so sure that there are things that haven't been made public, but I think the important thing is to think about. Put yourself back in May of 2017 and the position of the investigator, right, the investigative team and the things that are really standing out for them.

Go back as far as the early fall where invest -- where we're conducting the investigation. From the very beginning the president is referring to the investigation in our efforts, at least from the beginning of 2017 as a witch hunt, as a hoax. He's continuously publicly undermining the effort that we're undertaking.

So that causes you as an investigator to think, why is the president doing this. Clearly, he doesn't like what we're doing.

[03:10:02] In addition to that, he approaches director Comey and ask him to drop the case against Mike Flynn, which of course, we don't do. And after Director Comey fails to drop that case, he is in fact fired.

So, it seems like a series of building events and facts that ultimately when the director is fired the president makes the comment about thinking about Russia when he fired the director, we were in a position to say this is so clearly an articulable factual basis upon which to believe that a federal crime may have been committed, and that a threat to national security exists. We are obligated to open up a case under the circumstance. (END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: And that was former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe speaking to CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Now just days before an unprecedented conference on sexual abuse in the church, the Vatican admits it has secret rules in place for priests who violate their vows of celibacy.

In a statement, a spokesman said this quote. "I can confirm that guidelines exist. It is a document for internal use which synthesizes the procedure developed throughout the years at the congregation and is not intended for publication. I can however affirm that the fundamental principle which animates these guidelines is the protection of the child."

The revelation is the latest scandal on the run up to this big Vatican summit. Bishops from around the world will gather on Thursday to focus on the abuse of children.

Delia Gallagher reports on the expectations and challenges that the church is facing.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: It's time to look this monster in the face the Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said at the beginning of what would be one of the most-watched weeks in Rome when 190 bishops from around the world meet with Pope Francis to discuss the sex abuse crisis.

Seventeen years after American bishops first came to Rome in 2002 to meet with John Paul II about sex abuse. The Vatican has finally decided it's time to make sure all countries in the world are on the same page.

Jesuit priest Father Federico Lombardi, the moderator of the three-day meeting says continuing revelations of sex abuse throughout the world make the meeting necessary.

FEDERICO LOMBARDI, SUMMIT MODERATOR: There are continually crises in the new (ph) that demonstrate also to the people of God and to the entire people that the problem is coming out, is coming to the surface in the different lands and situations.

GALLAGHER: The pope and the Vatican have tried to downplay expectations for the meeting but international pressure on them is mounting.

LOMBARDI: I think we need to avoid misunderstanding. That the misunderstanding is in these three days we will solve every problem.

GALLAGHER: Organizer say that the meeting will focus on bringing bishops up to speed on responsibility, accountability and transparency. There will be testimony from sex abuse survivors.

And Pope Francis has asked bishops participating in the meeting to meet with survivors in their home countries before coming to Rome.

But Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a member of the organizing committee says the challenges of addressing the problem in different countries and cultures is great.

HANS ZOLLNER, SUMMIT ORGANIZER: It's still common to hear not only from religious people that their problem in the country doesn't exist.

GALLAGHER: Father Zollner says that even in countries where the problem is acknowledged like the United States, norms and laws are not enough to stop it.

For decades the church has been accused of being silent handling sex abuse cases internally rather than calling police.

ZOLLNER: It's a question of how to change attitudes and that is much more difficult changing the law and thinking that that is the solution.

GALLAGHER: Pope Francis on Sunday called the protection of the children and urgent challenge for our times. And he will be present throughout the meeting.

A small step on a long road for survivors, Catholic faithful and for the Vatican.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


STOUT: Recently, Pope Francis acknowledge the rape and sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops in the church for years. The women at in order in France were silenced when they brought accusations. Now they're speaking out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a priest. He's a father. He is near God. He is like God. He is -- the Christ is living in him. He cannot do something like this. I think the worst was to talk. It broke me. It broke my body in fact.

[03:14:58] I prefer to have been shot by a gun or if I have just a leg handicapped, it's OK. I can live my life. But here it's a murder inside of your heart and in of your soul because it's about faith also.


STOUT: Wow. Such moving testimony. Melissa Bell has their story in an exclusive report we'll be airing at later this hour.

Now for nearly two weeks, ISIS has been surrounded and near the brink of defeat in its last tiered enclave of Baghouz al-Fawqani. U.S.- backed Kurdish commander say that some of the Jihadists are now surrendering. Others consider ready to fight to the death. The Kurds say that they

have dozens of trucks ready to rescue civilians. The Syrian Democratic Forces say that they have also seized ISIS weapons.

This video claims to show what was inside an arms warehouse. Now the self-declared ISIS caliphate is nearly finished but the terror group's leader is still nowhere to be found.

Arwa Damon has more on the hunt for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Reverberating through the streets of the old city during this Friday sermon are words about the true meaning of freedom in Islam. But it was also on a Friday in July of 2014 when Mahmoud Daoud (ph), an imam, says his cell phone suddenly lost reception.

"I saw a masked man all over the neighborhood and on rooftops," he tells us. "The cars came. It's the first time I see them more than 200 with tinted windows and then Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi showed up declare the caliphate, himself, it's leader and ordered all Muslims to obey him."

And that's exactly where al-Baghdadi gave his address. Mahmoud says he knew in that moment that Iraq would be demolished. It's the only one of al-Baghdadi's locations that is fully confirmed.

Since then, despite being hunted by the best intelligence agencies there has been little more than brief sightings, spotty intelligence and conflicting information.

Saddam al-Jamal (ph), a mid-level Syrian ISIS prisoner on death row in the Iraqi capital says he never saw al-Baghdadi but was close to those who did.

"About a year and a half ago," he tells us, "there were attempts by foreign fighters to overthrow Baghdadi but he had them all killed."

The dissent with an ISIS leadership ranks has even further shrunk the entourage around Baghdadi. The sprawling town of Shirqat is one of the areas where an intelligence source says Baghdadi moved through in 2015 holding meetings with senior commanders in safehouses.

We've been talking to residents here, none of whom will appear on camera, but they were telling us that they saw ISIS' top military commander coming in and out of this house. And numerous resources say that this is where he was killed in 2015.

And an Iraqi intelligence source tells us that this house is one of the places where he would meet with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. There were also reports that we cannot confirm that Baghdadi was wounded in that same airstrike.

A senior Iraqi intelligence officer says that on at least three occasions two in Iraq and one in Syria. They called a strike that came close to taking him out. For insight into how the ISIS leader may be moving around we head from Shirqat to the edge of Baghdadi's former hideout.

The foothills of the Hamrin Mountains to the west of here lies a vast stretch of desert that leads into Syria.

Exclusive images obtained by CNN show what we are told are ISIS spotter hideouts masquerading as nomad tents. Photographs of the tunnel inside the mountains, how their entrance is hidden, life inside the cave and a brief video where one fighter discusses his injury and they all cracked jokes.

And this is where ISIS is training at strike force and still carries out sporadic attacks.

If you look at the landscape it's actually very good illustration of how ISIS is now being forced to move around. They take advantage of these gorgeous that exist throughout this entire area. And in fact, at one point there were actually able to while moving through these gorgeous come up and attempt to plants an IED right here on the road.

Out here ISIS still rules the night, coming down in small groups to murder, plant bombs and steal. The Iraqis believe they are closing in on Baghdadi but he has eluded them more than once, disappearing into the shadows of these flawless lands.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Shirqat, Iraq.

STOUT: You're watching CNN Newsroom. And still to come, married to ISIS. Why foreign women who joined the terror group say that they should be allowed to go home.

Plus, revolt against Jeremy Corbyn grows in the British Labour Party. Why another parliament member says she is leaving.


STOUT: Welcome back. Now another member of parliament has resigned from the British Labour Party. Joan Ryan is joining a walkout by seven other lawmakers. She tweeted this statement on Tuesday slamming labor leader Jeremy Corbyn.

She says, in part, this, quote, "The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism. This problem simply did not exist the party before his election as leader. No previous Labour leader would have allowed this huge shame to befall the party."

Now seven other lawmakers even the party said that they were upset over anti-Semitism as was Corbyn's handling of Brexit. Here's what Corbyn had to say on Tuesday. Now he hadn't reacted yet to Ryan's resignation.


JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, LABOUR PARTY: I regret that seven M.P.'s decided they would no longer remain part of the Labour Party. I thanked them for their work. I hope they recognize they were to parliament on a manifesto that was based around investment in the future, it was based around a more equal and fair society. It was based around social justice.


STOUT: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is in New Delhi signing investment agreements in energy and infrastructure. Now, he and the Prime Minister of India, Narenda Modi, they are making a joint statement right now.

Live pictures on your screen from New Delhi of the Indian leader speaking. Now Mr. Modi, he says that he is looking forward to taking India to new heights with Saudi Arabia.

The increased tension between India and Pakistan over the recent bombing in Kashmir turned to overshadow this meeting. Now both countries are trying to deepen ties to Saudi Arabia.

And during his visit to Pakistan the crown prince signed agreements worth some $20 billion.

Now with ISIS near defeat in Syria, authorities in Europe and the U.S. face a dilemma. What to do with their citizens. Some still teenagers who left to join the terror group.

As CNN's Brian Todd reports on two women who join ISIS, but now say they want to go home.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She made a bold and she now says foolish decision to leave her home in of all places, Alabama, to join ISIS overseas. And now this 24-year-old American woman speaking out in new interviews about her life with the terrorist group.

Hoda Muthana told ABC News she was radicalized online in the U.S. then made her way to Syria through Turkey four years ago, but she tells the Guardian newspaper that reality hit her when she arrived in Syria.

[03:25:04] HODA MUTHANA, AMERICAN WOMAN JOINED ISIS IN SYRIA: I don't know. I thought I was doing things correctly for -- for the sake of God. And when I came here, and I saw everything with my own eyes, I realized that I've made a big mistake. And I know I've ruined my future and my son's future, and I deeply, deeply regret it.

TODD: Muthana said when she got there ISIS offered her list of fighters to choose from to marry. She had her choice, she says, of Westerners or Arabs. She says she was married three times to ISIS fighters, including to an Australian man and now has an 18- month old son.

Analysts say a lot of promises ISIS made to Western women soon faded.

MIA BLOOM, AUTHOR, SMALL ARMS: CHILDREN IN TERRORISM: Now these women thought they were going to be frontline fighters. Once they got to Syria or Iraq, they found out they are basically there for one purpose and that was to procreate and get married often and have many babies or as many babies as possible.

TODD: Muthana's first two husbands, she says were killed in combat. After one of them died, according to one group that monitors terrorist, Muthana started tweeting calls for violence against Westerners.

In one tweet, saying, quote, "go on drive-bys and spill all of their blood or rent a big truck and drive all over them."

SEAMUS HUGHES, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY PROGRAM ON EXTREMISM: Hoda was right in the mix for English language propagandist. She was a well-known commodity.

TODD: Muthana now says she wishes she could take those tweets back.

Another ISIS bride, a British woman named Shamima Begum is also speaking out. Married off to an ISIS fighter as a teenager, Begum told Sky News she knew about ISIS's gruesome practice of beheadings even before she left her home in Britain.

SHAMIMA BEGUM, BRITISH TEEN WHO JOINED ISIS: Yes, I knew about those things and I was -- I was OK with it.

TODD: Shamima Begum says people should have sympathy for her because of her experience in a war zone. But one expert who monitors the plight of these women disagrees.

HUGHES: I think they chose their own path. You know, we talk a lot about men and foreign fighters but the women have the same agency that men did. They went in there and knowing exactly what they were joining into.

TODD: Both of the women interviewed said they wanted to return to their home countries. But a lawyer for the British woman Shamima Begum said she's going to be deprived of her British citizenship. Analyst say the American woman, Hoda Muthana could be prosecuted for supporting terrorism if she makes it back home.

We reached out to the Justice Department about that, we couldn't get comment from them on whether they want to prosecute her.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


STOUT: You're watching CNN Newsroom. And after the break, it is another scandal acknowledged by the pope. nuns raped by priests and bishops. The Pope says some were cases of sexual slavery. Their stories in a CNN exclusive are next.

And later this hour, the president of Taiwan has a warning to the world about China's military ambition.


I'm Kristie Lu Stout with the headlines this hour. Donald Trump is denying an explosive report in the New York Times. The paper cites multiple sources, they say that the president asked his former attorney or acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, to appoint a Trump ally to oversee the investigation into his longtime fixer Michael Cohen.

Venezuela has closed its aerial and maritime border with the Dutch Antilles opposition groups that plans to bring humanitarian aid into the country to the islands of Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire. Also the third (ph) President Juan Guaido he's promise a deliveries this weekend.

The Vatican admits, it has secret guidelines for priests to follow if they father children despite their vows of celibacy. The revelation comes as bishops from around the world are due to meet with Pope Francis in Rome to talk about the church's sex abuse crisis.

Two weeks ago, Pope Francis acknowledge the rape and sexual abuse of nuns, by priests and bishops describing some of the victims as enslaved, but they are ending their silence. Melissa Bell, spoke with them exclusively. She joins us now from Paris. And Melissa, these women had to endure unspeakable abuse and after speaking out, if share their stories with you. What do they say?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, what's been remarkable is the extent to which the fact that the Pope essentially broke this story with he speaking to a journalist who said, spoke for the first time, notes not just sex abuse within the church of adult women, but of sexual slavery within this one particular front based order. We decided to investigate that and spoke to a number of women who'd been abused within the order and what has been remarkable to see the extent to which the Pope's lifting the lit on this, who has really allowed them to speak for the first time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it was like automatic, you know, he wanted to go to the end to ejaculation and I was like object for him and I have the feeling in he did a lot of times.

BELL: Lucy, not her real name says she was abused by a priest, so do Liene Moreau and Lohas Pujad (ph), none of their alleged abusers have ever faced trial. This is the story of the broken women of St. John. The order of the Contemplative Sisters of St. John was founded here at (inaudible) by Father Marie-Dominique Philippe who preach for the physical expression of affection.

It was long after his death that the order recognized that he'd been guilty of sexual abuse, but for years, there were rumors about other priests and other victims within the order.

Lucy, was 18 years old and preparing to become an oblate, a layperson consecrated within the church when she says the abuse began. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can be 18, or 16 0r 20. When you have not

experience sexuality and you have suddenly in front of you, the sex of men, just shock.

BELL: It took Lucy, 15 years to be able to talk about it. She then says the church wouldn't listen. In the criminal courts, the statute of limitations had expired. The Vatican now says it is investigating allegations made by several women against Lucy's alleged abuser. He was removed from the community 10 years ago, but even now it is the strength of her faith that makes it so hard to take in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a priest, he's a father, he's near grand, he is like God, he is the Christ of living in hand. He cannot do something like this. I think the worst was to talk, it broke me, it broken my body, in fact. I prefer to have been shot by a gun, or if I have just a leg handicap, it's OK, I can live my life, but here it's a murder inside of your heart and of your soul, because it's about faith also. So it's like something is dead in me.

BELL: Liene was a novice when she was abused. The order of St. John says that her alleged abuser, Father Matthew is now being investigated by the Vatican. He declined our request for comment. Liene only began to put a word on what had happened to her two years ago and by then it was too late to take to the criminal courts.

LIENE MOREAU, SEX ABUSE VICTIM (through translator): The psychological abuse was worse than the sexual abuse, it's my inner life. He took my dignity, my femininity, all that I was.

BELL: Liene says the abuse went on for 15 years. In the letters she shows us, Father Mario Livie (ph) suggests discretion adding that he's crazy love for her comes from Jesus.

[03:34:55] CNN reached out to the Vatican, it spokesman wouldn't comment on any specific allegations, but did confirm that several clerics belonging to the congregation of St. John were being investigated.

Laurence Poujade is a former nun who now heads a victim's organization.

LAURENCE POUJADE, SENTINELLE VICTIMS GROUP (through translator): We are talking about victims who don't speak out. But what about those he went straight to psychiatric hospitals? What about those whom you sedated themselves and no one case. Her parents told me to tell me that she had cutouts her own palm. What can you say? What happened for a victim to do that?

BELL: Not all of the abuse took place here, but the order says that over the course of the last 45 years, five priests have been found guilty of sexual abuse in civil courts with three under investigation. Furthermore, two priests have been found guilty of abuse in church courts.

French authorities wouldn't comment, but the order of St. John gave CNN a statement saying that it accepted that errors have been made in the past in the handling of cases of sexual abuse, because of a lack of awareness of the suffering cause to the women. We did just try and ring the bell here at the order of St. John, but no one would speak to us on camera.

What matters though now is that the order has recognized that there are victims other than those of the founder. Now, that acknowledgment came just after Pope Francis had lifted the lid on what he called sexual slavery within the order of St. John. So what did the Pope's words mean for the victims?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will we trust like a bomb.

MOREAU: It's a new beginning.

BELL: The plaintiff's recognition may come late, but it does put words on the trauma that for so many had until now been unspeakable.


BELL: Kristie, the extraordinary thing about these women, when you see them is the impact that this is had on their lives as one of them just said, it broke them. In some cases physically as well as mentally and that really is because there is simply the trauma of the sexual abuse itself and we know how hard it is for victims to speak out about that. It is that this was also -- not only a breach of trust, Kristie, but for these very devout women, a breach of faith.

LU STOUT: And Melissa. We salute these women for speaking out for their bravery and we thank you for your reporting. Melissa bell, joining us live from Paris. Take care.

You are watching CNN Newsroom and still to come, we have an exclusive interview with the president of Taiwan, who is warning the world about China and its military ambitions.

Also ahead, are U.S. voters feeling the burn? The latest Democratic candidate for president really hopes so. We will look up the details next.


LU STOUT: Taiwan's president says, the military threat posed by China is growing every day and in the exclusive interview with CNN, Tsai Ing-wen warns that Beijing's geopolitical ambitions are a global threat which won't stop at Taiwan. Tsai Ing-wen just told CNN that she plans to run for reelection. Matt Rivers, joins us now from Taipei. Matt, good to see you and when President Tsai Ing-wen, when sat down with you in Taiwan for this exclusive interview. The topic of China and the threat posed by China loom large.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely and you would expect that coming from the leader of Taiwan, Kristie. I mean, of course, when it comes to international issues for the leader of Taiwan, China, and its relationship here to the mainland is going to be top of mind always. But what I found most interesting about our interview is that Ing-wen

really wanted to drive home a very clear message that is not only about Taiwan's singular relationship with the mainland. It's also how that relationship really is a microcosm for what the future might hold with China's relationship with other countries in the region and across the world.


RIVERS: As the U.S. grapples with a more combative China, economically, politically, militarily, one small islands says, it's already fighting those battles on the frontline, Taiwan, about a 100 miles off China's coast.

Madam President, good to see you.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen sat down with CNN for an exclusive interview. The threat from China was top of mind.

TSAI ING-WEN, PRESIDENT OF TAIWAN (through translator): China's ambitions and aggression are not just targeting Taiwan, but also other countries in the region or even worldwide.

RIVERS: Taiwan is a vibrant democracy of 23 million people and the close U.S. ally self-governance for seven decades, but Beijing still considers it a part of its territory to be retaken by force if necessary. And since he took office, analyst say Chinese President Xi Jinping has increase military drills near the island.

ING-WEN: The military threats China poses on Taiwan grew every day.

RIVERS: The threats faced to you could increasingly reflect what the U.S. might see from Beijing. Tsai's government says China might have meddled in Taiwan's elections last year not unlike what American officials say Russia did to the U.S. in 2016, Beijing denies that. The Trump administration believes China could do the same thing to the U.S. in 2020.

And then there's Huawei, the Chinese tech giant that critics allege has close links to the government. Huawei denies that, the U.S. now says the company is a national security threat. Tsai says Taiwan has already done something about it.

ING-WEN: We have placed restrictions on the use of Huawei equipment in government agencies and other highly sensitive institutions.

RIVERS: But Taiwan is most concerned about China's powerful army. A nationalistic drumbeat from Beijing means speculation about China invading Taiwan went from a far-off notion to a scenario real enough that were talking logistics.

ING-WEN: After withstanding the first wave of Chinese attacks ourselves the rest of the world was stunned up to exert strong pressure on China.

RIVERS: Despite having no formal diplomatic ties since 1979, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars' worth of weapons to Taiwan. In a recent op-ed, Senator Marco Rubio said China is the quote, geopolitical challenge of this century for the U.S.

For Taiwan the future the senator talks about is right now. And Taipei's message is clear. What happens here, what happens to this democracy could happen to others.

ING-WEN: But if it's Taiwan today, people should ask, who is next? Any country in the region, if it no longer wants to submit to the will of China, they will face similar military threats.


RIVERS: Now, Kristie, for Tsai Ing-wen, it's all about walking a very fine line. On the one hand, she is not in favor of formally declaring independence from China. But that said, given the kind of rhetoric we're hearing out of Beijing recently, Tsai Ing-wen almost essentially has been forced into sticking with a line where she says, that she is in favor of independent, the independent existence of Taiwan and she is not in favor of any deal with Beijing that could jeopardize that.

LU STOUT: Matt, it's interesting to hear how Tsai would refrain the issue of China and Taiwan. Seem the concern here is not just how China deals with Taiwan, but how that is a litmus test of how China treats its neighbors and the rest of the world. Now is the issue of China and anti-China sentiment that held usher her into power? Not saying when she told you in this exclusive interview, she plans to run again, but what are the challenges that are underway right now?

RIVERS: Well, there are numerous. She did confirm to us exclusively for the first time publicly that she will be running for reelection in 2020. It is safe to say she faces an uphill battle. She has pushed that she would call it an ambitious reform agenda here in Taiwan and not everyone is on board with that.

[03:45:07] She's done things like try and tackle pension reform here that is really -- made a lot of people unhappy. She also pushed up for a LGBT equality in an initiative that ultimately ended up failing here in Taiwan and that also became a divisive issue, so there has been some setbacks for her. That said, she remains confident in 2020. She says she's looking forward to the challenge and when she confirmed she said look, I face challenges every day as president, running for reelection in 2020 is no different. She did protecting her confidence about her prospects for reelection.

LU STOUT: Matt Rivers reporting live from Taipei, Taiwan. Matt, thank you very much indeed.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is running for president again. The self- described Democratic socialist is promising to finish what he started back in 2016. Now there is already a crowded field of contenders. Many of them are campaigning on similar progressive ideals. But as Ryan Nobles explains, Sanders is facing a more favorable political environment this time around.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT), U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi, I'm Bernie Sanders, I'm running for president.

NOBLES: This time though, he's not the foil to an establishment front runner. He enters the Democratic primary as a top contender.

SANDERS: This country needs a political revolution.

NOBLES: And the policies that made him unique in 2016, but Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage and free college tuition are more widely embraced in the Democratic Party of 2019.

SANDERS: You know what happens to over three years? All of those ideas and many more are now part of the political mainstream.

NOBLES: But even though Sanders may have laid the groundwork the progressive lane of candidates is filling up quickly with plenty of other options for liberal voters and the problems with Sanders 2016 run are becoming more apparent.

Sanders was trounced by Hillary Clinton in the South. A large part due to a lack of support from African-Americans. He has already visited the key early voting state of South Carolina making a specific pitch to black voters.

SANDERS: We have a president intentionally, purposely, is trying to divide us up by the color of our skin, by our gender, by the country we came from, by our religion.

NOBLES: He is also making an effort to change his campaign's culture after accusations of sexual harassment in 2016.

SANDERS: I r certainly apologize to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately and of course, if I run, we will do better by next time.

NOBLES: Meanwhile, his opponents are finding ways to contrast themselves with the Sanders campaign. Elizabeth Warren, applying pressure from the left by pushing a plan for universal childcare.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We are going to be talking a lot about child care and early childhood education. That's how we make real change in this country.

NOBLES: Kamala Harris making sure Democratic voters know that she and Mike Sanders is actually a Democrat.

KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would tell you I am not a democratic socialist.

NOBLES: While Amy Klobuchar pitches, pragmatism over purity on causes popular with the progressive base.

AMY KLOBUCHAR, U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I was magic genie and could give that to everyone and we could afford it, I would.

NOBLES: And while Sanders fends off a fleet of Democratic challengers. The Republican president he seeking to defeat, welcomed him to the race.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, I think he misses time, but I like Bernie. So, we'll see how he does. You've got a lot of people running, but only one person is going to win. I hope you know who that person is.

NOBLES: All this as Sanders hopes this second presidential bid will have a different outcome from the first.

What's going to be different this time?

SANDERS: We are going to win.

NOBLES: One distinct advantage in Sanders has over his Democratic opponent is his ability to raise money. He can tap into a vast network of online doors that filled his campaign with cash in the 2016 race and appear ready to do so again in 2020. Within just hours of his announcement on Tuesday morning, Sanders had already raised more than $1 million. Ryan Nobles, CNN, Washington.


LU STOUT: A new report from U.S. congressional Democrats is now put former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, back in the spotlight. Now we are learning that White House officials in the early months of the Trump administration pushed for proposal to export nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. That project was backed by Flynn.

Now this came despite repeated warnings from the National Security Council officials about the ethics and legality of such a proposal. The report says that the nuclear project was pitched by IP3 International. That's a private company founded by former U.S. generals. The House oversight committee is investigating.

The fashion world is mourning the loss of one of the most influential and iconic designers in the sector. When we come back, a look at the life and legacy, of Karl Lagerfeld.


LU STOUT: It looks like fire, but it's really just an illusion. Lucky visitors to California's Yosemite National Park making a glimpse of this, the so-called fire fall. Now, for a few days each February, it's when the light hits Horse Tail falls at just the right angle at sunset and the waterfall, it just glows as if lava is flowing over the cliff. Absolutely stunning.

Now, meanwhile in the U.S. 145 million people are under winter storm warnings and advisories across the country, or better meet our meteorologist standing by, Pedram Javaheri joins us from the World Weather Center with all the details, Pedram. PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Kristie, a pretty active

patterns here in the next couple days and really not just across the South, the Midwestern U.S., the Northwestern U.S., but even the Southwestern U.S. into the states of Arizona and California. Pretty increment weather in store, but notice flood threat in place, heavy snow fall in place, even some severe weather to be had across portions of the South here. Almost resembles what you would see in the spring season, but of course, when you take a look at the calendar, we are still well into the heart of winter and going to see this pattern persists for at least a few more days.

But Notice this, winter weather advisories, winter storm warnings from Minneapolis down to the Southward Chicago, stretches into New York, Chicago, Boston, and also Washington. In fact, already upwards of 3000 flights have been disrupted, either canceled or delayed going into Wednesday and that's pretty (inaudible) into the very early morning hours.

So, it really speaks to the widespread nature of all of this and very quick moving system, at least this first one is. And it moves out of here as we go in pretty this afternoon and this evening and eventually into Thursday morning. Impact portions of the Northeastern U.S. and you notice, it gets really quiet back behind us, but words is not snowing, it's going to be plenty of rainfall, inasmuch as a 150 to 200 millimeters to come down in places such as national and points to the south over the next couple of days

So, of course if it's not snow, it is all about the flooding concern across this region of the U.S. But I'll take you back toward the western U.S. But we do have active weather also in place and that's where we have and the next line of storms coming in. In fact, parts of the Northwestern U.S. have had one of this snowiest February's on record, major disruptions across the cities of Seattle and even Portland in the last couple of weeks and that pattern quite in persistently has put amount in these areas over the next couple of days, and even into central and southern California, we did quite a bit of snowfall.

So you pick just about any state across this region of the U.S. and weather alerts are in place across that region. So the similar pattern is expected to push in, Kristie, over the next couple of days. So, with several thousand fights already disrupted into Wednesday, we expect the same pattern with 1000 more disruptions going into Thursday and Friday and noticed again, the next system comes in, follows an identical track and brings in the same sort of pattern going into the weekends.

We are going to follow this carefully. It has been a long and harsh winter sports across parts of the U.S. over the past several weeks. Kristie.

LU STOUT: Wow and more harshness to come, with all these storms unleashing more snow, more sleep, more ice across the U.S. Pedram, thank you for the forecast.

JAVAHERI: Thank you. LU STOUT: He was a fashion icon, a luxury pioneer and a creative

genius. The fashion world is remembering the life and legacy of Karl Lagerfeld, he passed away Tuesday in Paris. The city help defined as the fashion capital of the world. Jim Bittermann reports.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amongst the Kings of couture, with his signature, monochrome suit, dark glasses and white ponytail, the iconic Karl Lagerfeld was a fashion designer, publisher and photographer, synonymous with Chanel, best known for reviving the French brand after becoming chief designer in 1983.

[03:55:09] He also produce collections for Fendi and his own label. Recognizable for his whip and carefully crafted personal.

KARL LAGERFELD, ICONIC DESIGNER: I never make an ugly dress, because somebody could buy it.

BITTERMANN: He's preferred material, however, may come as a surprise.

LAGERFELD: It all starts in paper, a snitch, a design, it becomes a dress, I photo of it and to pin it on paper again if you see it like this, you know, and my favorite material in life is paper. Paper, paper, paper.

BITTERMANN: The German's designer's family build his fortune importing condensed milk, but Lagerfeld move from their home in Hamburg to begin his fashion competitor (inaudible). He later work for the House of (inaudible) and Khloe before being hired by Fendi in 1967 as consultant director, responsible for modernizing the design houses fair lane.

He's decision to run Chanel, founded by Coco Chanel, turn him into one of the most celebrated fashion designer of the 21st century.

LAGERFELD: You can teach the craft that there has to be a little more than the eye that I wish the desire to -- and to think also that fashion is important without being too serious about it.

BITTERMANN: Revered in the esoteric world of high fashion, he combined artistic instinct with the refusal to look backward.

LAGERFELD: That is why I like fashion, because fashion is about changes.

BITTERMANN: Not afraid to break with tradition during his later years, he worked with high street brand H&M in 2004 and a move that raised the eyebrows among the fashion elite. Though it was quickly copied by others. He then became an unlikely champion of models rights, arguing against the retouching of photograph.

Rumors swirled about his house after his absence from the Chanel shows in January this year, due to what the company described as fatigue, reflecting on the industry, he did so much to craft, he delivered timeless message. LAGERFELD: Business enough needed that may -- all of the problems in

the world to maybe be more important, so, this is not the problem, but it's the industry. And you know, a person has go this time, if person doesn't go with time, the person would be lost.


LU STOUT: He was a visionary and a tireless one at that. Thank you for joining us. I'm Kristie Lu Stout and you're welcome to connect with me anytime in social media. The news continues with Max Foster in London. You are watching CNN.