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Trump Arrives in Hanoi for 2nd Summit with Kim Jong-Un & New Details on First Trump/Kim Summit; Schumer Will Try to Defund Trump's "Fake Climate Panel" if it Goes Forward; CNN Goes Behind Enemy Lines for Rare Access to Taliban. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 26, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:30] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: High stakes in Hanoi. The president arriving in Vietnam for the start of his second summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-Un, as the president is preparing to sit down with the dictator to talk about what the administration originally set as the end goal, complete and verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. But as they prepare for the second face-to-face, CNN is getting new reporting on what happened during their first face-to-face.

CNN national security reporter, Kylie Atwood, has this reporting for us. She joins us now from Hanoi.

Kylie, great to see. What are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Kate, we are learning new things about the previous summit that took place between Trump and Kim Jong-Un in Singapore last year. A source very close to those negotiations, to those conversations between the two leaders, has described the details to me. Before President Trump left for Singapore last year, he told reporters it would take about a minute for him to assess what he thought of Kim Jong-Un. It would be based on touch and feel. In their meetings, Kim Jong-Un said to him that he had heard those comments and he wanted to know what Trump thought of him. Trump quipped back that it only takes him a few seconds to determine what he thinks of someone. He told him that he thinks Kim Jong-Un is sneaky, but not too sneaky. Then Kim Jong-Un followed up and said the underlying question, but do you trust me? Trump said that he did trust him. Kim Jong-Un, displaying quick writ, turned to national security adviser, John Bolton, who is known for being skeptical of these negotiations with North Korea, and he asked Bolton does he trust him. Bolton then replied that if Trump does then he does.

We are also learning more details between the two leaders as those conversations unfolded. Some kind of peculiar compliments that Trump offered to Kim Jong-Un. He said that Trump knows people who come from power and from money, and sometimes they turn up a little bit messed up. They aren't very successful in their lives. But he described Kim Jong-Un to not be one of those folks, clearly offering some more praise on the leader at a moment when he could have questioned his integrity or his commitment to denuclearization. He is not doing that. He has used that last summit to shore up praise and the relationship between the two leaders. We expect that he will be much of the same here in Hanoi.

BOLDUAN: Saying he didn't end up messed up, even though he has been accused of killing his own family members, is like a fascinating thing to be thinking about right now.

Kylie, great reporting. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now, CNN global affairs analyst and former special representative for North Korean policy under President Obama and President Trump, Joseph Yun.

Thank you so much for being here.

Right from Kylie's reporting --


BOLDUAN: -- I want to ask you, how does that, those interactions that we are learning about between the president and Kim Jong-Un, how does that -- how does that inform or what is that likely to mean will happen in the next meeting, do you think?

YUN: Well, Kate, in any summit meeting, you are going to have light moments. I'm really happy that Kim Jong-Un and Trump had those moments where they can exchange some personal views and their idea of each other.

But, of course, you know, ultimately, it is beyond the leaders, actually. I mean, there are systems in place. And to your question, do they trust each other. I don't think they trust each other. Certainly North Koreans believes and Kim Jong-Un believes without nuclear weapons he would be dead, just like Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi. And they have mentioned that a number of times. So for them, it is a matter of survival. It is a matter of deterrence, which is why it's going to be so, so difficult to make progress into meaningful denuclearization.

And I think you have seen President Trump as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo beginning to accept that reality, that they are beginning to say things like, it's going to take a while, we are not in a hurry, as long as they stop testing, we are OK. So he is really lowering the bar, lowering the expectations of what will happen in Hanoi over the next two days.

[11:35:12] BOLDUAN: And if they -- I mean, really, the obvious thing is that you can't have full denuclearization ever without full accounting of the weapons and systems that North Korea would have. If they leave this summit without a commitment to that, are these talks about denuclearization at all?

YUN: Well, you know, you have a point. But the reality is that we are in a different place than without the meeting in Singapore. Whether we like, you know, the agreement, that forms the foundation in which we have to build.

There are two key issues at stake here. Of course, denuclearization is one, but how to build a better political relationship. And I do believe U.S. administration, Washington is beginning to learn that without building some kind of relationship, North Koreans are not going to trust us, therefore, any meaningful denuclearization will not be possible. So what I look for in these meetings is, one, do they take steps towards that end, steps towards building some political relationship, and also incremental steps towards some kind of denuclearization? These are the things I believe we should be looking for. If you're looking for a solution to denuclearization, well, that won't happen.

BOLDUAN: Joseph, thank you so much for coming. I really appreciate it. Very interesting to see what happens in the next day.

We are watching this, as well. The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, is pushing back against a new White House effort to undermine a consensus study on climate change. This comes as the Trump administration is working to assemble a panel that would re-evaluate the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions are helping to drive global warming.

Moments ago, on the Senate floor, Chuck Schumer said if President Trump moves forward with this panel, he is going to try to defund that panel.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: This is beyond willful ignorance. This is intentional, deliberate sowing of disinformation about climate science by our own government. So this cannot stand. So this morning, I'm announcing that if the Trump administration moves forward with this fake climate panel, we will be introducing legislation to defund it.


BOLDUAN: So this panel was organized by the White House, being organized by the White House in response to a report on climate change, which was released last year. That report was compiled by several federal agencies. But President Trump didn't like the conclusion. So when you think about it, think about it this way. It seems that the White House is actively working to put together a panel, a working group to undermine the work of another part of the federal government. Just think about that for a while. We'll be keeping an eye on that for you.

Coming up for us, an exclusive report, CNN travels to a place few Western journalists have travelled inside, inside Taliban territory. Next, CNN's Clarissa Ward will be here with the story of the incredible journey.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have been coming to Afghanistan for more than 10 years. I never imagined that I would be reporting from here in the heart of Taliban territory. But we are not going to stay long here because gatherings like this can be a major target for airstrikes.



[11:41:45] BOLDUAN: After nearly two decades of war, the U.S. is trying to negotiate an elusive peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan. CNN went where few Western journalists have, deep inside Taliban country to speak to the Taliban face-to-face.

CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, took on this assignment.

We want to warn you, though, some of this report is disturbing.


WARD (voice-over): This is what the Taliban wants you to know, their moment is coming and they are ready for victory.

This is a world you have probably never seen up close. We are some of the only Western journalists to enter it.

America's enemy in Afghanistan is best known for harboring Osama bin Laden as he planned the 9/11 attacks, for its brutal repression of women, and for meeting out harsh justice under a draconian interpretation of Islamic Sharia Law.

We want to find out who the Taliban is today and if, after 17 years of war with the U.S., their Islamic Emirate has changed.

Our journey begins in the northern city of Mazar-I-Sharif. The Taliban was forced to withdraw from here after a bitter battle in 2001. Now, they are just a few miles away.

(on camera): We're heading out now to meet up with our Taliban escorts. As you can see, I'm wearing the full facial veil. I'm wearing it to keep as low profile as is possible because there are no Western journalists in the areas we are headed to.

(voice-over): The government controls the highway out of the city, but once you turn off the main road, you are quickly in Taliban territory.

To reach our host, we have to cross a small river on a ferry. Billions of U.S. dollars have been poured into building up Afghanistan's infrastructure. But little of that has trickled down here.

(on camera): That's our escort just there on the other side of the river. (voice-over): After months of negotiations, the Taliban leadership

has agreed to give Afghan filmmaker, Nigel Karashi (ph), myself and producer Salma Abdul Aziz (ph), extremely greater access into the group's territory.


As women, we are ignored, seemingly invisible beneath the full veil that is mandatory in public.

The Taliban has allowed us to visit these areas because it wants to show that it is in control. But in our first moments --

(on camera): Whoa, that's a lot of helicopters. One, two, three, four, five.


(voice-over): Our escorts tell us to stop. We are now on the other side of America's war.

In recent months, the U.S. has dramatically stepped up the number of airstrikes on the Taliban. The militants' flag makes us a conspicuous target.

[11:45:11] We have no choice but to push on.

Our first stop is a clinic that has been run by the Taliban since they took control of this area almost two years ago. A plaque at the door reveals it was a gift from the Americans in 2006.

Suddenly, a young girl outside is hit by a motorcycle.


WARD: A boy rushes over to help her.

The driver is a Taliban fighter.


WARD: He slings his gun over his shoulder and wanders over, apparently unconcerned.


WARD: Life here is brutal.

The girl is rushed inside. A frantic mother following behind.

(on camera): Is she OK? Is she OK? Are you OK?

(voice-over): But no one seems as shocked as we are. The doctor gives her mother some pain killers and sends her away. After years of fighting here, he has seen much worse.

(on camera): Who is in charge of the hospital? Who is managing it?


WARD (voice-over): He explained that the Taliban manages the clinic, but the government pays salaries and provides medicine. This sort of ad-hoc cooperation is becoming more and more common.

And there have been other changes.

(on camera): This is something you wouldn't expect to see in a clinic under the control of the Taliban. It looks like some kind of sexual health education talking about condoms and other forms of birth control.

(voice-over): Twenty-two-year-old midwife, Bazala (ph), has worked under the Taliban and the Afghan government.

(on camera): What has been your experience working under the Taliban here?


WARD (voice-over): "The Taliban never interfere in our work as women," she says. "They never block us from coming to the clinic."

In the waiting area, these women say it's war and poverty that makes their lives miserable.

(on camera): Has life under the Taliban changed now from what it was before?



WARD (voice-over): We are trapped in the middle," the woman says, "and we can't do anything."

(on camera): It's just so sad to see how desperate people are here. The women telling me they don't have enough food to eat. They don't have the proper medicines to treat their disabled children. All they want is peace and some improvement in their quality of life.

(voice-over): It's getting late and we need to get to our accommodation. The Taliban turn off cell phone service after dark. This is when we are most vulnerable.

(on camera): (INAUDIBLE)

(voice-over): The next morning, we are taken to a madrassa, or religious school. Under Taliban rule in the '90s, girls were banned from going to school. But we find boys and girls studying.

(on camera): Raise your hand if you know how to read.

OK. One, two, three. You can read and write? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WARD: Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?



What's your favorite subject in school?


WARD: Math. You're smart.

(voice-over): The teacher, Yar Mohammad (ph), splits his time between the front lines and the classroom, his A.K.-47 never leaves his side.


WARD: "The emirate has instructed education departments to allow education for girls of religious studies, modern studies, science and math," he says.


WARD: But there's a catch. Once they reach puberty, girls cannot go to school with boys. The sad reality is few in rural areas like this see women's education as a priority.

The Taliban's focus now is on showing it can govern effectively. Across the country, the group has appointed shadow governors, like Mawlavi Khaksar.

For his security, Khaksar is always on the move.

When the villagers hear that he is visiting, they quickly lineup to air their issues.

There are disputes over money and land ownership.


WARD: "Your petition will be dealt with tomorrow," Khaksar says.

Corruption is rampant in the Afghan government. The Taliban has a reputation for delivering quick, if harsh, justice.


WARD: "The Islamic Emirate has laws", this man says. It has an Islamic Sharia system in place.


WARD: Khaksar agrees to sit down with us. His bodyguard listens for security updates on the radio. We start by asking about the Taliban's brutal attacks and the U.S.

concerned they could once again offer haven to terrorists?

MAWLAVI KHAKSAR, TALIBAN SHADOW GOVERNOR (through translation): Whether it's the Americans or ISIS, no foreign forces will be allowed in the country once we start ruling Afghanistan.

WARD (on camera): Are there real efforts being made to stop killing civilians?

KHAKSAR (through translation): Those responsible for civilian casualties are the ones that came with aircrafts, artillery, B-52 and heavy artillery.

WARD (voice-over): In reality, the Taliban is responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in the last three years alone.

WARD (on camera): What about the suicide bombings at polling station, for example, that kills many civilians?

KHAKSAR (through translation): We deny this. This accusation is not acceptable to us.

WARD (voice-over): There are small signs that the Taliban is moving with the times.

KHAKSAR: I listen to the radio. Also Facebook and other media.

WARD (on camera): You're on Facebook?


WARD (voice-over): But it's clear that the ideology has not changed.

(on camera): So if someone is found guilty of stealing, you cut off their hand?

KHAKSAR: Yes. We implement the Sharia. We follow Sharia instruction.

WARD: And if someone is found guilty of adultery, you will stone them to death?

KHAKSAR: Yes, the Sharia allows stoning to death.

WARD (voice-over): As we're leaving the interview, the military commander for the district arrives and a dispute breaks out about us.


WARD: "They should have brought a man," one of them says.

(on camera): So the issue right now is they don't want us to walk outside because I'm a woman. They think it's inappropriate.

(CROSSTALK) WARD (voice-over): We agree to follow the men at a distance, something I've never had to do in my career.

The commander, Mubariz Mujahed (ph), takes us to a nearby safe house to be interviewed privately. We are warned that political questions are off the table.

(on camera): Do you want to see peace between the Taliban and America?

MUBARIZ MUJAHED, TALIBAN MILITARY COMMANDER (through translation): It would be better if this question was put to the spokesperson of the Islamic Emirate.

WARD: Do you feel like the Taliban is winning the war?

MUJAHED (through translation): God willing, we are hopeful. We are supported by God.

WARD (voice-over): He wants to show off his forces for our cameras. His men are gathering just outside the village. It is exceptionally rare and dangerous for dozens of fighters to congregate in one place.

(on camera): I have been coming to Afghanistan for more than 10 years. I never imagined that I would be reporting from here in the heart of Taliban territory. But we're not going to stay long here because gatherings like this can be a major target for airstrikes.

(voice-over): But the commander says America's military might can't keep them from victory.

MUJAHED (through translation): We are ready for any sacrifice. We are not scared of being hit. This is our holy path. We continue our jihad.

WARD: Most of these men have been fighting U.S. forces since they were old enough to carry a gun. The question now is, are they ready to put those guns down?

Our visit with the Taliban is coming to a close. It's time to leave.

For a large part of Afghanistan, the prospect of a Taliban resurgence remains horrifying. But for many here, it makes little difference who is in charge. After decades of war and hardship, they'll turn to anyone who promises peace.


BOLDUAN: Just amazing.

Clarissa Ward is here with me now.

Geez, Clarissa. It's amazing to see you there and very thankful to see you here.

WARD: Thank you. BOLDUAN: The risks that you and your crew took are obvious and

extreme. Very big risk. But I heard you say that you don't think fundamentally a man could have told the story, been able to get the story that you were able to do it and your producer was able to do it. Why is that?

[11:55:02] WARD: I think it was for two main reasons. First of all, as women, we're seen as non-threatening. We're not seen as enemy combatants in the same way. We're not seen as potential spies in the same way.

Secondly, because we have to wear the full-face veil, that affords us a degree of invisibility. So while it was clear that we were foreigners, it wasn't clear to people on the ground, at least, that we were Americans.

Beyond that, I had access to women. My male colleagues never have access to women.


WARD: Especially in a conservative society like Afghanistan and like the Taliban areas. We spent a lot of time talking to women. They give you a very different perspective of things. You heard their attitude was sort of, listen, we don't care who is in charge, we don't have enough food to put on the table, we don't have medicine for our sick children, we're tired after decades of war. They really give you a kind of reality check.

BOLDUAN: They can't think of the big picture because they need to get food.

WARD: They don't want politics. They don't care about politics. They care about living and food.

BOLDUAN: The peace talks are underway. The president is discussing a drawdown of U.S. troops there. At the same time, when I was over in Afghanistan, the ambassador there said one of the big concerns they have now is the threat of ISIS. That's one of those strange areas where the U.S. and Taliban have a common enemy, in ISIS in Afghanistan.

WARD: Yes.

BOLDUAN: What do they tell you about that?

WARD: I did ask specifically, I said, are you concerned about ISIS? Because they do have a significant presence on the ground now. They are responsible, actually, for the majority of civilian casualties, even more than the Taliban. And the answer the commander gave me was, hey, we beat the Russians. We beat the Americans. Trust me, it's not going to be a problem to deal with is.

On one level I said, I'm with you, I know what you're saying. But on the other level, I'm saying, do they want to keep ISIS around to have someone for after U.S. troops withdraw to have someone to fight with them against the Afghan government? Are they really ready to get rid of ISIS once and for all?

BOLDUAN: An exhibit of we don't even know how many, how unbelievably communicated it is.

WARD: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: So great to have you here. Thanks for being with us.

WARD: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Thank you.

We'll be right back.