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U.S. and North Korea Put Positive Spin on Summit; North Korea Contradicts Trump Account of Summit; Israeli P.M. Netanyahu Faces Corruption Charges; Interview with Martin Indyk, Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel; U.N. Security Council Rejects Russia and U.S. Resolutions on Venezuela; Pakistan Still Holding Indian Pilot; Sonoma County in California Copes with Flooding; Federer Just Two Wins from 100th Career Title; Fulham Sack Ranieri after 106 Days of Coaching; Interview: MLS Star Bradley Wright-Phillips. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 1, 2019 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Donald Trump back in Washington after a failure to summit. Neither side could agree on what the disagreement is about.

Benjamin Netanyahu faces charges of bribery and a breach of trust.

Pakistan's prime minister offering an olive branch to India. Will it be enough to stop the escalating crisis?

Thank you for joining us. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: Donald Trump is back in the United States after his second summit with Kim Jong-un. And now he'll have to claim the baggage he left behind, damaging allegations from his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.

The U.S. and North Korea are trying to put a positive spin on the meeting. But North Korea is also contradicting the president's claim that the summit fell apart because Pyongyang demanded all sanctions be lifted.

The foreign minister says Kim Jong-un offered to permanently dismantle a major nuclear site in exchange for partial lifting of sanctions.


RI YONG-HO, NORTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): This proposal was the biggest denuclearization measure we could take at the present stage in relationship to the current level of confidence between the DPRK and the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: But President Trump says he walked away because the North demanded lifting all sanctions. The failed summit did not end on bad terms. The North Koreans continue to freeze on all testing.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things that Chairman Kim promised me is regardless he's not going to do testing of rockets and nuclear, not going to do testing. So I trust him and I take him at his word.


VAUSE: Now to Ivan Watson in Hanoi.

Well, Ivan, one thing that doesn't add up here from all of these claims of partial sanctions or full sanctions, why would the North Koreans travel 4,000 miles, three days by train, only to make a last minute unreasonable demand that the United States could never meet?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there was a gap between what each side was willing to give up. There was an unusual moment around midnight here last night, where the foreign minister of North Korea addressed a number of journalists.

And he explained what the North Korean position had been. That North Korea had requested five of 11 sanctions to be lifted and had offered to permanently dismantle all of the material, the nuclear material in the Yongbyon nuclear facility in North Korea including plutonium and uranium.

He went on to say this was the biggest denuclearization measure that North Korea could offer at this time, given the current levels of confidence.

Well, we heard from the State Department, saying that President Trump urged Kim Jong-un to go further, to go all the way, saying that the way that North Korea framed this, that the lifting of the sanctions would have added billions of dollars to the North Korean economy but it would not have suspended all of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction facilities.

And that would have set up a situation where the U.S. would be subsidizing remaining weapons of mass destruction operations. And that was something that the U.S. could not live with as President Trump tried to argue himself.

So both sides, they traveled all this way. They sat down at the table but it wasn't enough and, as a result, the meal that had been prepared at the Metropol Hotel and the signing ceremony, well, the meal went cold and uneaten and the signing ceremony that both leaders had planned never happened.

VAUSE: So we're now in a situation where both sides are trying to make the best of it, saying if a summit is going to fail, this is the best way to fail, leaving on good terms with this freeze on testing still in place.

WATSON: Yes, or as President Trump put it, a friendly walk-away. And Mike Pompeo has continued with this positive messaging. Take a listen.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You have to remember these sanctions aren't American sanctions. These are U.N. Security Council resolutions passed by every country that voted on the Security Council.

So these are global demands --


POMPEO: -- for the denuclearization of North Korea and we are anxious to get back to the table so we can continue that conversation that will lead to peace and stability and a better life for the North Korean people and a lower threat.


WATSON: President Trump, secretary of state Pompeo, the State Department, they have all been asked what's next?

Could there be a third summit?

The State Department official said, let's let the dust settle and try to move forward.

What's truly interesting is the North Korean reaction. KCNA, North Korean state media has been quite glowing about the meeting, addressing the fact that denuclearization was, in fact, discussed and saying that both parties ended discussions on good terms, not mentioning that there was a failure to reach an agreement.

And I think that is notable. There's one other point though. The vice foreign minister of North Korea in this very unusual briefing of journalists did point out that Kim Jong-un may have lost the will to negotiate after this second summit and adding that the U.S. missed an opportunity that would come along once in a thousand years.

So one North Korean official telegraphing impatience on behalf of the North Korean regime, even amid all of this friendly talk and warm embrace of each other between the two governments that had been at odds for so many generations.

VAUSE: They had been growing impatient with the low progress being made in the lead up to the summit.

For more, we're joined now by Peter Mathews. He's a professor of political science at Cypress College.

Peter, good to see you. PETER MATHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Good to see you, John.

VAUSE: So it turns out the world's greatest dealmaker that tweeted, "Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully or write poetry. I like making deals. Preferably big deals. That's how I get my kicks."

Turned out maybe Donald Trump played with his head to first intimidate Kim Jong-un and then win him over with a warm smile and kind word and then he would get the sort of concessions others couldn't get.

That was built on sand. Trump was wrong. The intelligence community was right. At this point, the North Koreans have no intention of giving up their nuclear weapons.

MATHEWS: No, they don't. That's pretty unfortunate but there's a reason for it. You have to go back to 1994, when President Clinton negotiated with North Korea for about eight years. The U.S. and Japan and South Korea had a agreement to provide light water reactors to replace their electricity that the Soviet Union were providing the earlier.

And that was discontinued when President Bush came in and accused the North Koreans of cheating. So there's a lot of mistrust. At this point, President Trump and Kim Jong-un were working under an aura of mistrust.

So they came halfway. Perhaps part of the sanctions could have been lifted for the ones that would affect regular people and President Trump should have accepted the partial nuclear shutdown as an exchange.

VAUSE: What was interesting is that the official that made the accusation at the time the North Koreans were cheating was John Bolton. And he's again in the picture.

The administration and others are trying to spin this in some kind of positive way. The reality is the threat from North Korea is greater today than the day Donald Trump took office.

MATHEWS: It certainly is, John. And they could certainly reach Los Angeles with their missiles and nuclear weapons. That's problematic and concerning to us.

We saw what happened when the rhetoric got so fiery about a year and a half ago between the two leaders. And we could go to a accidental war with them by some miscalculation. So they have to try again.

The good thing is they have not written that off. They said this is not the end. Right now they have to go back and figure out how to approach this because the attitude toward this issue is as important as the actual steps taken and the steps have to reflect the attitude.

VAUSE: If there is to be another summit -- and that seems to be an if right now with some of the reporting about the North Korean leader losing his enthusiasm for talks -- but if there is a third summit, is the lesson in all of this, despite what Donald Trump may dismiss as the old ways of doing things and everybody got it wrong back in the old administrations but the reason why they did all the ground work leading up to the summits is that you have a successful outcome.

By the time the two leaders get into the room, not much is up for discussion. Everything comes down to what these two men come to terms on. And there's no one walking out because of last minute demands, for example.


MATHEWS: That's right. And the preparation was not made as before when Clinton did the negotiations. A lot of preparation ahead of time is extremely important for diplomacy. They could have come up with other kinds of solutions. Signing a peace treaty, ending the Korean War. That could have been a confidence building measure.

But that would take preparation and President Trump was not prepared this time around. He's winging it at these summits. And that doesn't work.

VAUSE: And a thought for the family of Otto Warmbier, authorities returned him to the U.S. after he was imprisoned there for about a year. The autopsy revealed he died from a catastrophic brain injury..

And the U.S. president made it clear he did not hold Kim Jong-un responsible for Warmbier's death.


TRUMP: He felt badly about it. He knew the case very well. But he knew it later. He tells me that he didn't know about it and I'll take him at his word.


VAUSE: Donald Trump seems to be the only person in the world that might believe that. And that really sends a message to dictators everywhere that, once again, the president of the United States is willing to believe a dictator.

MATHEWS: It's unbelievable. He looks so naive when he says those things or disingenuous. He knows that nothing like that gets done without the top man knowing about it. Warmbier really suffered a horrible head injury and probably had torture and the president should have condemned this.

Don't give a free pass to the top leader of the country like he did. It's unconscionable. I don't know what the president is trying to do when he says those things.

VAUSE: It's one of the mysteries out there. Peter, thank you so much. Good to see you.

MATHEWS: You too, take care. VAUSE: Well, the Israeli attorney general says criminal indictments are pending against the prime minister. No former charges against Benjamin Netanyahu are expected until after the general election in April. But the cloud of corruption could hurt Netanyahu at the polls. CNN's Oren Liebermann explains what's at stake.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be charged with bribery and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases. Israel's Attorney General announced Thursday evening pending a final hearing. The intent to indict the Israeli leader is a major blow to Netanyahu as he seeks a fifth term in office with that election just a few weeks away at this point in early April.

In the biggest case known as case 4,000, the Attorney General, a Netanyahu appointee said he intends to indict the Prime Minister on bribery and breach of trust. In this case, investigators say Netanyahu gave regulatory benefits worth some $300 million to his friend, a wealthy businessman in exchange, investigators say, Netanyahu received favorable coverage in a news site owned by that businessman.

Shortly after the announcement, Netanyahu went on-air in primetime and blasted the accusations saying they were an attempt by the left and the media to put pressure on the attorney general to issue an indictment at any cost. He also said the timing of the announcement was unfair since his hearing where he can present his side of the case won't happen until after the elections.

Netanyahu faces a very tough fight in these elections as he seeks a fifth term in office. He's party is behind in the polls though he still has the support of the right wing parties, crucial to his chances of winning. But if he loses even a few seats to his main challenger, that may severely damage his chances of winning -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.



VAUSE: Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and distinguished Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He joins us now from New York. Mr. Ambassador, thanks coming in.

MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: John, thanks very much for having me.

VAUSE: OK, we just heard from Netanyahu describing the investigation that's a witch-hunt. He also posted a short video clip on Twitter saying it was all just a house of cards where you sort of come crashing down. Listen to this.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL: (Speaking Hebrew). Fake news. (Speaking Hebrew).


VAUSE: OK, you don't need understand Hebrew to hear the words fake news.


VAUSE: So you know, it can't be a coincidence that he's following the playbook has written by Donald J. Trump, you know, claimed me the victim and then attacked the rule of law.

INDYK: Indeed. But it's a little harder for him to do that since he's been effectively the rule of law for the last ten years as Prime Minister of Israel. He's completely dominated the political scene. The notion that the left wing has some kind of deep state operating there to overthrow him is absurd given the way in which he is effectively set up a settler deep state in the country.

So therefore the less, if it works here, he probably figures it'll work there and I think he will succeed in rallying his base.

But he'll need to do that because, at this point, he's got to worry a lot about the potential for right-wing voters to crossover to the Mr. Clean candidate now that he's been indicted for corruption. And that is the -- this quite credible former general, Benny Ganz, who's a centrist and a moderate.

VAUSE: Yes. And has actually, you know, said it's -- called his party out of the -- out of the government and come like you can no longer sit with Bibi, another coup.

But when Netanyahu called this early election, they were seen as an attempt to get to the polls before the legal troubles began. Autonomy didn't work out so well. But as the saying goes, never let a crisis go to waste.

Here's a little more from Netanyahu's national address.


NETANYAHU (through translator): I intend to serve you and the country's prime minister for many more years. don't believe all the spin. I intend to serve you as prime minister for many more years. But it's up to you. It's not up to the civil servants. It's not up to the television studios. It's not up to the pundits and journalists. It's only up to you.


VAUSE: And so, essentially, listening to Netanyahu, it seems like -- you know, he's betting if he could win this election. In some ways, he'll beat the charges as well.

INDYK: Well, in Israel, as you know, John, the system is a little more complicated than in the United States. He, not only has to win, he has to form a coalition government because at best if he wins, he'll have 30 percent of the vote -- maybe 35 percent of the vote, he's going to get up to 61 percent of the seats, I should say, 51percent of the votes.

And so, to do that, he's got a cobble together a coalition. And his first challenge is going to be with the right-wing parties who up to now have been with him but may some of them may have some qualms about joining the government of an indicted prime minister. And to that, that's going to be his first problem.

Secondly, once he's become, prime minister. He's got to have to bring in the extremist right-wing elements he's already making his bed with them because the centrist parties will not join him. They're already coming out, they're been against the leader of the main Centrist Party has made it clear today that he's not going to be part of a Netanyahu government.

So the government he's going to form if he -- if he wins, which is a big question mark now, is going to be an extreme right-wing government. And it could bring him down at any moment because it's totally dependent on them to save himself from the courts.

VAUSE: But what if he makes up with the -- a part of an opinion piece, in the relatively liberal Haaretz Newspaper. During a connection between Netanyahu's Israel and Trump's America, saying that what happens in Israel could be seen as a dress rehearsal for the United States.

Here is the conclusion. "If Netanyahu is reelected in less than 40 days, it will not only be seen as a personal vote of confidence and public vindication. He will be given the mandate to overturn the rule of law, disperse its remaining adherents in the legal apparatus and detach Israel from the constitutional underpinnings that have held it together since its inception. If he succeeds, America should be put on notice. Trump will soon emulate his good friend and follow him into the twilight zone that exists only in the distorted mirrors of their minds."

OK, I mean its lots of sort of -- I mean, it was a good piece. But do you see the connection that this article is sort of drawing between what's happening in the Israel and what could be happening in United States?

INDYK: Well, very much so. They -- both Trump and Netanyahu, kind of reinforce each other. Borrow their tactics Bibi has stepped up his social media campaign, mirroring Trump's Twitter campaign. Although, Netanyahu uses Facebook and small ads on Facebook that are quite effective.

He uses the same kind of tropes about a witch-hunt, which is what he used today. He attacks the judicial system and the police in the way that Trump attacks the FBI and Department of Justice. So there's a --


INDYK: -- there's a lot in common there. And it's no coincidence, of course, that Donald Trump today in Vietnam, basically endorsed Bibi, notwithstanding the expectation he was about to be indicted. And he is going to host him in Washington, two weeks before the elections when Netanyahu comes here to address the AIPAC, Israel lobby annual convention. He's going to be hosted in the White House. There's rumors of a -- of a major dinner. And no doubt, Trump will endorse him and Trump is quite popular in Israel.

But as I can attest, from my time as ambassador when Clinton tried to get Peres. How Peres get reelected when he was running against Netanyahu way back in 1996. The Israeli people don't like American presidents to interfere in their campaigns. It didn't help Peres and I doubt that it's going to help Netanyahu.

VAUSE: Yes, absolutely. The Israelis also have a healthy disrespect for prime ministers, as well, which also is I think a very healthy trait to have. Ambassador, thank you. Its good have you with us.

INDYK: Thank you very much, John.


VAUSE: Well, as the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela continues to get worse, clashes at the U.N. Security Council on how to respond. When we return, how the U.S. and Russia's latest efforts to stem the crisis failed.




VAUSE: To the deepening humanitarian and political crisis in Venezuela, on Thursday the U.N. Security Council debated two resolutions on how best to respond to the crisis. Both resolutions failed as Richard Roth reports, it's the end result of major world powers backing opposing sides in Venezuela.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: A strongly divided U.N. Security Council played veto games at the hands of the Venezuelan people in a meeting Thursday afternoon in the chamber at the U.N. The United States had a draft resolution, calling for presidential elections in Venezuela and unimpeded humanitarian food and aid access. However, the Russians did not like the U.S. draft.

VASILY NEBENZYA, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. (through translator): Western experts said that they would not work on our texts and U.S. colleagues immediately tabled their draft of the vote.

Where is the diplomacy here?

Where is the quest for compromise?

This is all a combination of publicity --


NEBENZYA (through translator): -- largely dictated by domestic political concerns and agendas. We regret the fact that the Security Council has once again been dragged into this.

ROTH: Soon, Russia then vetoed the United States draft along with China. The United States then vetoed a Russian draft resolution.

ELLIOTT ABRAMS, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR VENEZUELA: The United States will remain steadfast in our support for the legitimate Guaido government and the National Assembly. We look forward to genuinely free and fair elections and to a government that reflects the will and aspirations of the Venezuelan people.

ROTH: The U.N. Security Council is the home for peace designed to protect the international peace and security. But once again, whether it is Myanmar, Syria or Venezuela, sharp differences among major powers don't give any hope to the outside world and call into question the relevance of the organization -- Richard Roth, CNN, United Nations.


VAUSE: Venezuela's opposition leader and self-declared interim president says he'll return home by Monday, despite the threats to his safety and his family's safety. Juan Guaido is in Brazil trying to drum up international support. Guaido promised to do everything within the law to help reestablish democracy in Venezuela.

Guaido's next diplomatic meeting comes on Friday with the president of Paraguay.

Meanwhile, Guaido's political rival, Nicolas Maduro, seems to be losing his grip over Venezuela's military. Colombia's immigration agency as you say the number of armed and security forces leaving Venezuela for Colombia since Saturday has now risen to almost 600.

Reuters quotes Colombia's president as saying the defections highlight cracks within Venezuela's armed forces and he's calling for more to desert.

Trump claimed the U.S.-backed forces have retaken 100 percent of the territory once claimed by ISIS in Syria. That was a surprise to a lot of people, including the Syrian Democratic Forces. They're the ones still fighting ISIS in their last stronghold. An SDF official said more than 1,000 civilians have left Eastern Syrian n the last 24 hours.

But others are still there. And the U.S. says that's slowing the efforts to fully retake the territory by 100 percent.

When we come back, India is now waiting on Pakistan to return a captured pilot. We'll have the very latest in a live report from the region. (MUSIC PLAYING)



VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause with an update of the hour's top news stories.



VAUSE: The Israeli government says criminal indictments are pending against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. No formal charges are expected until after the general election in April, but the cloud of corruption could hurt Netanyahu at the polls.

Major differences dividing the Security Council were on full display when it failed to pass two competing resolutions on how to address the crisis in Venezuela. Russia and China vetoed a U.S. resolution calling for new elections. And Russia's resolution, supporting the Maduro government, failed when the U.S., the U.K. and France vetoed it.

Well, India is waiting for one of its air force pilots to be released by Pakistan. His plane was shot down over the disputed region of Kashmir on Wednesday during a dog fight between Indian and Pakistani jet fighters. Pakistan's prime minister says the pilot will be released on Friday as a gesture for peace. It comes between amid tensions between the two nuclear powers after a car bomb attack two weeks ago in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which left 40 Indian soldiers dead. Several cross-border skirmishes have followed since then, raising fears it could spark a much larger conflict.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour spoke about all of this to Pakistan's foreign minister.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Is this the kind of situation that, had it not deescalated, could have tipped you both over the brink? Could you envision all-out war between India and Pakistan?

SHAH MAHMOOD QURESHI, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER: I hope not. That would be mutual suicide. Pakistan never wants to escalate. Pakistan never wants to be in a hostile position.


VAUSE: CNN's Nikhil Kumar join us from New Delhi. We also have Ben Farmer of "The Daily Telegraph" standing by in Islamabad.

And Ben, first to you, how is the release of this Indian Air Force pilot expected to play out? What will be the process? What will we see?

BEN FARMER, "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: Well, Imran Khan has said that he will be released today as a peace gesture. We don't know yet how that is going to happen, what the handover ceremony is going to be. But there's a lot riding on this, and there's a lot of expectation.

Mr. Khan has said that he wants to deescalate the tensions between the two sides, and he sees this as a way of doing it. So we're waiting to see what is -- what will happen, and there's a lot of expectation.

VAUSE: OK, Ben, thank you for that. Stay with us.

To Nikhil, well, it seems there's no public indication the return of the pilot will be enough for India to stand down. Not returning him, it seems, would have guaranteed an escalation.

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's exactly what it looks like, John, but we'll have to wait and see what happens once he is returned.

All signs do point to a de-escalation, because neither side wants this to end up in some sort of endless spiral that ultimately ends up involving nuclear weapons, the ultimate threat here. These are both nuclear armed nations.

And so as we wait for the release of this pilot, that's what everyone is looking forward to, that hopefully this leads to a de-escalation.

But taking one step back, one of the things about the events of the last few days is that it has set a new precedent in the continuing tensions between these two countries.

India says it sent went in, it sent its jets over the line of control, the de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region, because it wanted to hit a terrorist base. It says that it reserves the right to do so if it faces further terrorist attacks, something it's complained about for many, many years.

That doctrine of preemption, something that India used on the ground in 2016 when one of its military installations was hit in Kashmir, that sort of -- you know, the actions of this week sort of set it in stone. And that presents the risk that, if there is another terror attack in India, and if India, again, blames that on proxies within Pakistan, for which it blames the Pakistani state, we don't really know what's going to happen.

The temperature has well and truly risen over here, and it's gone to a level, escalation has reached a point that we're in a whole new chapter when it comes to tensions between these countries, which have been continuing for decades.

VAUSE: So Ben, last thing to you, because just to wrap this up. We have the Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, trying to make these good-will gestures but at the same time, not really getting into this discussion about terrorist groups taking safe haven on Pakistani soil. Why is that? FARMER: I think that is a key question, and that really is the root

of what this confrontation was about, even before these air clashes.

Imran Khan says that there was no involvement by Pakistan in the attack in Kashmir, which killed 40 Indian paramilitary forces. He has said if India can provide actionable evidence, then Pakistan will act. India yesterday delivered a dossier to Pakistan, which Pakistan says it will now -- now look at and evaluate. So we're waiting to see what will come from that.

VAUSE: And finally to Nikhil. Not to be too cynical about all this, but you know, there is an election coming up in India. The very nationalistic government of Narenda Modi. How is that affecting the Indian stance at the moment?

KUMAR: Well, you know, the attack that Ben refers to, the 40 Indian paramilitaries being killed on the 14th of February, an attack that India blamed on a terrorist group that was based in Pakistani. It blamed the Pakistani state of having a direct hand. They denied it.

That -- all of that, you know, led to a lot of pressure on the government to act. And part of it -- nobody can deny this -- part of it was the coming election. Mr. Modi is seeking re-election. He has always portrayed himself as stronger on defense than his predecessor, that he will stand up to India's foes in a much more muscular manner than previous governments.

And in the past when we've had confrontations between the two countries, divisions over the questions of terrorism, Pakistan saying it doesn't abet it or aid it, India saying that it does, we've seen India dealing with it diplomatically. We saw it with the Mumbai attacks. We saw it with the parliament attack in 2001.

But that's all changed, and no doubt, that was some of that playing on the government's mind, the election, when they were looking at this. So it's undeniable that that must have been a factor, but as I said, all of it -- all of it contributed to a whole new precedent being set which doesn't really bode very well for the future here -- John.

BERMAN: OK. Nikhil, thank you. Nikhil Kumar there, and we have Ben Farmer in Islamabad, as well, from "The Telegraph." Thank you both. Appreciate it.

Well, a state of emergency in parts of California. Hundreds of homes flooded. More rain is on the horizon. We'll have the forecast in just a moment.

Also queue the music from "The X-files." A fish never been seen in the Northern Hemisphere washing up on the beach. Who was hoodwinked when it arrived?


VAUSE: March 14th is My Freedom Day. CNN is partnering with young people around the world for a student-led day of action against modern-day slavery. Driving My Freedom Day is just one simple question. What makes you feel free? Here's the former U.K. prime minister, Tony Blair.


TONY BLAIR, FORMER U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Freedom for me means freedom to speak as I wish. Freedom to vote as I wish. It means the rule of law. It means growing up in a society where people are free to be what they want to be.

And my experience of the world is any time and any place and anywhere people choose, they choose to be free, which is why Freedom Day is an important date for all of us.


VAUSE: Tell the world what makes you feel free. Share your story using #MyFreedomDay.

To California now where five more counties are in a state of emergency after they were ravaged by storms. Twenty-six of the state's 58 counties are now under emergency declarations. In Sonoma County, the Russian River crested at 4 meters over flood stage, flooding 2,--- buildings. The high water started to recede on Thursday, but more rain is expected.

Derek Van Dam, our very own meteorologist, high and dry, though, in the CNN Weather Center, has details.

It doesn't stop at the moment. It's nuts. It's crazy.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No, you're absolutely right, John and it's incredible to see people replacing their vehicles for kayaks just to get around their hometown. Right?

This is in Sonoma County and get this: The Russian River, which overspilled its banks and flooded this town, rose from Monday to Wednesday from just under 3 meters to upwards of 14 meters at its highest crest. Right now sitting at about 12.77 centimeters [SIC]. Slowly receding.

[00:40:10] But with rainfall totals like this, it's no wonder the flooding took place across the region.

Now, it's done a substantial job at filling our reservoirs, which is great news as we head into the dry summer months, to help give us fresh water for places downstream, like San Francisco and into Los Angeles. It's been great to eradicate our multi-year drought that has been ongoing for the past several years, which now only stands at 2 percent of the entire state of California.

And as you mentioned, there is more rain in store for central, northern, and southern portions of California. These atmospheric rivers that set up over the West Coast of the U.S. are great at eradicating drought. But they can cause serious issues not only with flooding but extremely heavy snowfall. Snowplow -- snowfall, I should say. Take for example, this vehicle here. An unsuspecting snowplow driver

came across a car with a woman trapped inside under several meters of snow. This is in South Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

And just to put it into perspective how much snow this part of the world receives, just in the month of February, we receive about 145 centimeters of snow on average. But this season, so far, we just ended off the month of February when 800 centimeters at Squaw Valley Ski Resort. That is a record-shattering season for the month of February.

And so far this season, we've had over 1,400 centimeters when, on average, John, we'd have around 1,100 centimeters in an entire season. We still have several more weeks of storm system after storm system bringing more rain and more snow to California.

VAUSE: Yes. The Sunshine State, huh? Oh, that's Florida, I think.

VAN DAM: Yes. I think that's a little bit misleading these days.

VAUSE: Yes. Thanks, mate. See you later. Cheers.

Well, a rare fish which looks more alien than aquatic and never before seen in North America has washed up on a beach in California. Two meters long and rare, it's called a Hoodwinker Sunfish. Until now, the only known sighting of a Hoodwinker in the Northern Hemisphere was in the 1890s in the Netherlands.

It's unclear if the big fish is part of a North American population yet to be discovered or if it wandered far from home, which is normally around Australia, South Africa and Chile.

Another story of sea life found far from home. This time, the carcass of a humpback whale discovered in a mangrove forest in northern Brazil. Yes. Researchers say the baby whale likely became lost at sea, died of starvation. This is the feel-good story of the year. An autopsy is being performed to pin down the cause of death. Scientists say high tides likely dragged the whale into the mangrove.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. WORLD SPORT is next. You're watching CNN.