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Warmbiers Lash Out at Trump; Kim Jong-un Returns to Pyongyang; Osama bin Laden's Son Emerging as Al Qaeda Leader; Celebrations Mark Return of Indian Air Force Pilot; Manafort Asks for Leniency before Fraud Sentencing; Cohen Testimony May Spark More Hearings; U.S. Military Exercises Target Terrorism in Burkina Faso; Butterfly Sanctuary Fights Construction of U.S. Border Wall. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 2, 2019 - 03:00   ET




NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The Otto Warmbier family rebukes Trump for defending dictator Kim Jong-un in the brutal treatment and death of their son.

Osama Bin Laden's son being groomed for Al Qaeda and the worldwide manhunt sounds frightening.

And back from the brink: Pakistan extends an olive branch to India by releasing this pilot, an effort to calm tensions between these two nuclear powers.

Live from CNN Center, I'm Nick Watt. It is great to have you with us.


WATT: U.S. president Donald Trump will soon make his first public comments since coming home from the second summit with Kim Jong-un. He'll speak before the annual gathering of American conservatives known as CPAC.

Right now Kim Jong-un is on his way home. North Korea is portraying the summit as a success that deepened the respect and trust between the two leaders. But it's a different story from Mr. Trump. Not only did he return to Washington without a denuclearization deal, he also deeply upset the parents of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died after spending 18 months in a North Korean prison.

The Warmbiers lashed out at the president for giving Kim a pass for their son's death, saying, "Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son, Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that."

We have more now from CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Analysts called it a low point in an all ready dismal news conference.

TRUMP: He tells me that he didn't know about it. And I will take him at his word.

TODD: The president's saying he supported North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's stance that Kim didn't know of American college student Otto Warmbier's deteriorating condition in a North Korean prison.

TRUMP: I don't that believe that he would have allowed that to happen.

TODD: Tonight, that statement is receiving a stinging rebuke from Warmbier's parents. Fred and Cindy Warmbier saying they've not spoken during the summit out of respect, but now could hold back no longer. In a statement saying, "Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. No excuses or lavish praise can change that."

ROBERT KING, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO NORTH KOREA FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: For them, this is a horrible situation to go through. And I can understand their concern about what was said.

TODD: Otto Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was arrested for allegedly stealing a political sign during his tour at Pyongyang in early 2016 during what was widely seen as a show trial, he wept. OTTO WARMBIER, AMERICAN STUDENT WHO WAS IMPRISONED IN NORTH KOREA: Safest core of innocent scapegoat.

TODD: Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. A 1.5 year later, North Korean diplomats abruptly asked for a meeting with their U.S. counterparts and told them the young American was in a coma. Warmbier was quickly evacuated and died just a couple of day after returning home. Trump initially attacked Kim and his regime for the death.

TRUMP: We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime.

TODD: And he embraced Warmbier's parents, inviting them to the State of the Union Address.

TRUMP: You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world. And your strength truly inspires us all.

TODD: Analysts said that seemed to be a far cry from his comments this week.

TRUMP: He felt badly about it.

TODD: Tonight, facing backlash from the family, the president took to Twitter saying he had been misinterpreted on Thursday. "Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto's mistreatment and death. Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. I love Otto and think of him often."

KELYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: The president is saying is that there's no indication Chairman Kim knew what happened to Otto Warmbier when it happened.

TODD: But that seems improbable, expert say, because after his death, doctors who examined Otto Warmbier said they believed he'd been in a vegetative state for 14 months before being sent home.

If he is in a vegetative state for 14 months, does Kim Jong-un not know about it at all during that time?

KING: Kim would have known as soon as they had determined that this was something that wasn't reversible. He would have known immediately.

TODD: So why would President Trump have said he believed Kim? Analysts say it could have been for pure political expediency.

MARCUS NOLAND, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: On human rights groups have not been given much access to the administration which is clearly prioritizing the nuclear negotiations and thinking that human rights issues may get in the way.

TODD: In the end, will Kim Jong-un face accountability in the case of Otto Warmbier?

Analysts, say, probably not. They were awarded nearly $3500 million in a wrongly death lawsuit, experts say it's unlikely the family will catch any of that what could happen is the family use it as possible leverage in negotiating sanctions relief for North Korea -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.



WATT: Let's go to the site of the summit in Vietnam. Will Ripley joins us now from Hanoi.

Will, the North Koreans were expecting to leave this meeting, this summit, with something. They left with almost nothing.

But they're spinning it as a victory?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In state media they are. They really don't have a choice. It was unprecedented for the North Korean propaganda machine to announce a summit like this, especially with the United States ahead of time and give it glowing coverage and covered Chairman Kim's journey at the summit and the welcome he received here in Hanoi.

The only reason they did that is because they were absolutely certain this would be a success and Kim would walk away with a signed agreement that would provide some economic relief for his people.

So for President Trump to walk out of the meetings and cancel their working lunch, which is a snub that won't ever be forgotten by the North Korean leadership. They didn't have a backup plan. That's why they scrambled. It was after midnight when they called am emergency press conference in Hanoi to counterattack after the president said they demanded all sanctions should be lifted.

They said they only asked for partial lifting of sanctions. They explained the offer they made was a reasonable first step to build trust and move closer to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. They felt the United States didn't give the deal a fair shake.

The perspective on the U.S. side was it was a bad deal. The president has been praised for walking away. The Yongbyon nuclear reactor that North Korea offered to take apart is just one small piece of North Korean vast military and nuclear arsenal.

WATT: Listen, will, Kim Jong-un has persuaded Trump, arguably the most powerful man in the world, to fly twice to Asia to meet with him and also we're hearing that the U.S. South Korean exercises have been scaled back. Those surely are fairly significant victories for Pyongyang.

RIPLEY: Sure. What has North Korea done in return?

They took us there when they blew up the entrance to the tunnels at Punggye-ri. But most analysts believe that was a cosmetic and reversible step. They have not launched a missile or conducted a nuclear test in more than a year and that may have diminished their nuclear threat, according to analysts, because they haven't tested to get over the final hurdle of reentry.

But it also saves them money to put in other parts of their nuclear program. A Stanford University study estimates North Korea has probably enough nuclear bomb fuel to make seven new bombs during this period of diplomacy.

WATT: Will Ripley, thank you very much for your time.


WATT: Political analyst Michael Genovese joins us now. He's president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University and the author of "How Trump Governs."

Michael, Kim is not on that train empty-handed. He managed to get the most powerful leader in the world to fly to Asia twice to meet him.

Who came out top in the summit that fell a bit flat?

MICHAEL GENOVESE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: In the first summit, clearly the North Koreans came out on top. In this one, I think it was wise the president left. He was in a bad position and he knew he was in a bad position and so he walked out.

Right now it is very clear that the North Koreans have taken the advantage in their hands and the United States has a lot of catching up to do.

WATT: What is the next step?

What is going to happen next? Are we going to see a denuclearization deal on the Korean Peninsula?

GENOVESE: I think there are two possible scenarios. The first, what you would expect and hope for, is lower level diplomats would meet regularly and iron out agreements and hammer out some kind of language that both sides can agree on and then the two leaders meet.

But if past is prelude, Trump will want to do it all himself and at the last minute go in unprepared and think he could just have Kim Jong-un fall in love with Trump, as Trump has fallen in love with Kim. That would not be very good for the United States or the West.

WATT: Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, said the president really is a master negotiator and he was able to walk away from a deal. That's kind of North Korean levels of praise for a leader.

Do you agree, to a point, that Trump actually handled this quite well in Hanoi?


GENOVESE: I think walking out was the right decision. Handling it well, no. I think you have to be tougher with Kim Jong-un and the North Koreans. This discussion about how, oh, he sends beautiful letters, we fell in love, playing right into his hands. He's a brutal dictator. Treat him as one. Don't treat him as your prom date.

So Donald Trump, maybe I would want to take him with me when I buy a used car but I don't think I would want at this point to take him to summits.

WATT: And let's talk now about Otto Warmbier, this young American student, who died after 18 months in North Korean custody. We just saw in Brian's package Trump at the State of the Union really excoriating the North Koreans and Kim for this.

In his post-Hanoi conference Trump took Kim's side and said, he told me he doesn't know about it and I will take him at his word.

How do you explain that huge shift?

GENOVESE: It was shocking but not surprising. I think it was disappointing but, really, Donald Trump has been trying to make friends with dictators as he alienates our allies.

What does he hope to gain by this?

Is he just more comfortable with these folks?

Or is there an end game he has in mind?

Perhaps he's a brilliant strategist and has a complex game plan all laid out in his head. But right now it looks like this warming up to dictators is working against American advantages. So what you see is the president basically providing cover for Kim in

a brutal murder, let's just put it that way, of an American citizen. There was a time when adversaries feared an American response to such events. Now they don't really seem to care. They don't seem to be afraid of us.

WATT: Michael, thank you for your time.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

WATT: Now U.S. officials say that there is a new leader of Al Qaeda emerging and he has an infamous last name. Hamza bin Laden, a son of Osama bin Laden, is now on the State Department's most wanted list. They're offering a one million dollar reward for information on his whereabouts.

CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me now from Islamabad in Pakistan.

Nic, is Hamza bin Laden going to be an operational commander or is this something of a branding exercise from Al Qaeda?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, you could see it as -- as a branding exercise if this is what is happening. You could see it as the wishes of the former commander of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. His wishes being lived out here.

The way Hamza bin Laden has been portrayed and portrays himself indicates that, if you look at video that was released in 2005, for example, he was seen attacking a Pakistani military post in the tribal border region between here and Afghanistan.

So that gives you the impression -- and he would have been back then, because he's about 30 now, he would have been in his late teens -- that he was sort of being groomed for more of a military capacity.

But over the past several years, 2016, '17, twice in 2016 and continues to release messages, nothing for the past year or so. It gives you an indication that -- and from the nature of the messages that he's trying to direct the organization. So there is -- you know a clear possibility here that he's trying to appeal.

But does he have the credibility and the skills and the charisma that his father had?

Is the current leadership going to embrace him?

Or do they think this is time, with ISIS being beaten back in Syria, that Al Qaeda with a new figure with a brand name of bin Laden at the end of his name, reassert themselves on the global stage?

The reality is that the only way that they and he will win adherence is with a successful military campaign. That's what brings people to ISIS, what brought people in the past to Al Qaeda. So far, he hasn't delivered anything like that.

WATT: Nic, U.S. officials seem fairly confident that they're going to get him.

Is that confidence misplaced?

And where do we think Hamza bin Laden might be?

ROBERTSON: It is very difficult to know where he would be. Look how long it took to find his father, 10 years. But his father was captured not far from Islamabad, here in a town of Abbottabad, a couple of house drive away. He was found, killed, of course, along with one of his sons, Khaled (ph).


ROBERTSON: Three of his wives were captured, including Hamza bin Laden's mother, one of bin Laden's wives, was captured there along with a number of other children. So there were also documents or computer records that were recovered during that raid that indicated that Osama bin Laden had been communicating, writing to his son, Hamza bin Laden.

And the video we talked about, videos of him fighting Pakistan forces, shows perhaps he wasn't too far away from the tribal border region. The reality of that is that, so far, Al Qaeda members, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan has been a safe place for Al Qaeda members to hide. For many years he was held under house arrest in Iran.

Now his ability to travel will be limited. Saudis have removed his citizenship in the past 24 hours. But he's a known face. So it won't be easy for him to travel. One would suspect, because he's been married for a number of years, he probably has children. He's probably somewhere in the Afghan-Pakistan region.

However, for U.S. forces to find him in that area, that's a very, very tough challenge. That bounty on his head of a million dollars is not as high as United States put on some Al Qaeda commanders' heads, $10 million and $25 million. Hamza bin Laden doesn't seem to rank up there. So getting information on him also may be harder.

WATT: Nic Robertson in Islamabad, thank you for your time.

Next, a captured Indian pilot is back home but the skirmishes sparked between India and Pakistan are not likely to end soon. We're live in both countries for an update.

And a top Democrat says conservative talk show host Sean Hannity should testify after he said this about Michael Cohen and hush money payments.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I can tell you personally, he said to me at least a dozen times that he made the decision on the payments and he didn't tell you.




WATT: An Indian air force pilot is back in his home country after being held captive by Pakistan. Wing commander Varthaman walks across the border from Pakistan into India Friday and he was met by the Indian military and then rushed to the hospital for examination.

Huge crowds turned out to celebrate the homecoming. Pakistan calls it a gesture of peace. He ejected from his fighter jet on Wednesday following a dogfight with the Pakistani air force over the disputed Kashmir region. The Kashmir border has seen uptick in military skirmishes in the past week. Our Nikhil Kumar joins us from New Delhi and Ben Farmer of "The Daily Telegraph" is in Islamabad.

Ben, I want to start with you, Imran Khan releasing this pilot, a bold political move perhaps.

How is it going down in Pakistan?

BEN FARMER, "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH": At the moment, I think it has been welcomed. Imran Khan said this was a gesture of peace and he's being praised by his party and other people here as having made a statesman like gesture, which people are contrasting very much with some of the rhetoric and -- and the -- the excitable, bellicose media reports we've had from India.

So at the moment, he seems to be embraced for what he's done. I think it'll be interesting to see how that changes, based on how the gesture is received. He said he wants to do it so you have the escalation after a very scary few days.

If there is no deescalation, if things continue to be tense and we continue to see clashes across the border, then I think he will start to get some criticism that maybe he shouldn't have released the pilot so quickly if he appears to have received nothing in return.

WATT: Nikhil, Ben said there it is going to be largely on how it, this gesture, is received in India.

How is it being received?

Is India looking like it wants to go down the road to peace here as well?

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: The public reaction is great that the pilot came back safely. All of the front pages of the newspapers, they've been welcoming this and lauding this.

But India's official position in the beginning of this was that the tensions, the reason they rose this week, was the bomb attack on 14th of February on an Indian parliamentary convoy in a bit of India they control. Fourteen paramilitaries died, the worst attack on Indian forces there in several decades.

India says we have a problem with terror. We say that terror comes from Pakistan and Pakistan over the years hasn't done enough and something needs to happen. That's why we send our jets across the border.

Pakistan says they have nothing to do with it. That's why, even this gesture from Pakistan, which Pakistan says is a gesture of peace, even as it gives both countries an off-ramp and allow for deescalation, we also have something of a new doctrine in place.

India is saying if we're subjected to terror and if we connect that back to Pakistan, they will act. That's why the situation still remains tense. Ben is absolutely right.

WATT: Ben, this -- I think I'm right in thinking that this Indian attack into Pakistani territory was the first attack on an installation and on a target in undisputedly Pakistani-held territory in 40-something years.


WATT: We should not underestimate the potential horrific fallout here.

FARMER: Absolutely. We had an alarming few days. This was the first day of strikes in Pakistan by India since the 1971 war. Let's not forget these are two nations that are pointing nuclear weapons at each other.

So the prospect, the unthinkable prospect of where that could lead caused alarm this week. World powers were queueing up to ring both sides and asked them to back down. Release of this pilot has people hope -- offered a window for some kind of deescalation and for them to take a deep breath and take a step back from the brink.

We're waiting to see how that will play out now.

WATT: And, Nikhil, it is election season in India.

Will this help or hinder this deescalation?

KUMAR: That's important context, after that terror attack this past week, there was a lot of pressure on Prime Minister Modi to act. He's always presented himself as a muscular leader and strong on defense. He has criticized previous Indian governments for not being hard enough on Pakistan, on terrorist groups that they say are based on Pakistani soil.

So there was that pressure. And that pressure doesn't go away and this is why, as much as the return of the pilot lets them take a step back, there's always a risk that in campaign season, with the new doctrine in place and a prime minister who always has presented himself as more muscular and stronger on defense than predecessors, there's always a risk for it to tip back into tension territory.

Then who knows where it ends?

WATT: Nikhil Kumar and Ben Farmer, thank you.

Now, back in the U.S., Paul Manafort believes he doesn't deserve to go to prison for the rest of his life. He's trying to persuade two federal judges of that. Why that is kind of a long shot -- just ahead.

After hearing from Donald Trump's former attorney, Congress is now pursuing interviews with some of the president's closest business associates. We'll look at why coming up.





WATT: Welcome back, I'm Nick Watt. Let's update you on the top stories this hour.


WATT: And former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is making a desperate plea to judges for less time in jail. He's facing up to 25 years in prison for financial crimes in one case. But it is an uphill battle for his legal team, especially because, as one judge said, Manafort intentionally lied to the court. Evan Perez has the details.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Paul Manafort asked a federal judge in Virginia to show leniency when he sentences him next week. The former Trump campaign chairman was found guilty on bank and tax crimes in a trial last year.

In a court filing, Manafort's lawyers say the possible range of 19 to 24 years in prison is disproportionate to the crimes that he committed. Manafort, they say, is, quote, "truly remorseful" for his conduct and they point out that Manafort is a first time offender, that he's nearly 70 years old and in poor health after spending months in jail after another judge decided that he was trying to influence witnesses.

We know that president Trump is paying close attention to the case and the Manafort lawyers seemed to be using their memo to drive home one of the president's favorite talking points, that the Mueller investigation has so far they found no collusion.

Manafort's lawyers argue that the Mueller investigation targeted Manafort for prosecution after the special counsel failed to find collusion in the Russia investigation. The judge in this case, T.S. Ellis, last year expressed some skepticism about the Mueller investigation, saying he thought prosecutors were using Manafort to get to Trump.

We'll see in the coming days whether the Manafort arguments has any influence. He's scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday -- Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


WATT: Meanwhile the fallout continues from former Trump fixer Michael Cohen's testimony on Capitol Hill. A Democratic congressman now wants FOX News host Sean Hannity to come before Congress.

Hannity and Cohen have known each other for years and, on Thursday, the host had this exchange with President Trump on Cohen's hush money payments.


HANNITY: I can tell you personally, he said to me, at least a dozen times, that he made the decision on the payments and he didn't tell you.


HANNITY: He told me personally.

TRUMP: Well, he did. And he made the decision. And remember this, he's an attorney. Whatever decision he makes, he's supposed to rely on an attorney to make a decision.


WATT: Sean Hannity is not the only Trump associate that could face the wrath of Congress. All this thanks to the names dropped during Cohen's testimony this week and our Sara Murray explains.


SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some little known Trump Organization officials may face congressional scrutiny of their own after Michael Cohen suggested in his congressional testimony they could have knowledge of potential crimes.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?



OCASIO-CORTEZ: Who else knows that the president did this?

COHEN: Allen Weisselberg, Ron Liebermann and Matthew Calamari.

MURRAY (voice-over): At least one of those officials, Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, has already been swept up in the investigation led by the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York.

Weisselberg was granted immunity for his information on Cohen's role in hush money payments to women alleging affairs with President Donald Trump. Trump denies those affairs.

But Weisselberg's limited immunity deal doesn't guarantee he'll be spared from inquiries from Congress or prosecutors looking into other matters. He could be a treasure trove of information.

Weisselberg "knows where all the financial bodies are buried," a source previously told CNN. Or as Trump put it in one of his books, "He's been with me for 30 years and keeps a handle on everything."

TRUMP: Another man who's done a great job for me is Matthew Calamari, my chief operating officer.

Matthew, how are you?

MATTHEW CALAMARI, TRUMP ORGANIZATION COO: Donald, you know I don't care for Jen very much. Got to be honest with you, because -- wow, because I'm not doing too good.

MURRAY (voice-over): Aside from that awkward moment in the limelight in the 2004 live finale of NBC's "The Apprentice," Matthew Calamari has kept a relatively low profile. Trump liked the way Calamari dealt with hecklers at the 1981 U.S. Open tennis tournament and hired him as a security guard.

Calamari climbed the ranks to become Trump's personal bodyguard and eventually chief operating officer.

TRUMP: I've got some of the best people in the world. I have guys lined up, believe me.

MURRAY (voice-over): In his role overseeing Trump's security team Calamari has come under scrutiny for reportedly allowing lax policies and using questionable force, particularly when Trump was using his private security team, to deal with journalists and protesters during his 2016 presidential campaign.

The third official, Ron Lieberman, joined the Trump Organization after leaving his gig in 2007 at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Now Lieberman works closely with Weisselberg on financial matters, a source tells CNN.

Since joining the company he's helped Trump land high-profile contracts with the city, like the Ferry Point golf course in The Bronx, a particularly sweet deal for Trump that caught the eye of at least one lawmaker this week.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Taxpayers spent $127 million to build Trump links in a, quote, "generous deal" allowing President Trump to keep almost every dollar that flows in on a golf course built with public funds. And this doesn't seem to be the only time the president has benefited at the expense of the public.

MURRAY (voice-over): Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.


WATT: Parts of Africa are facing a growing battle against terrorism and we're with the U.S. military as they move in to help. That's next.

Plus a community in California starts to clean up after heavy flooding damage to hundreds of homes.





WATT: The U.S. military is right now leading a major military exercise in Burkina Faso. They're trying to figure out how to help local forces tackle terrorism. CNN Pentagon reporter Ryan Browne is there.


RYAN BROWNE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here at a military base in Burkina Faso, U.S. Special Forces are working with their local counterparts to help bolster their ability to fight a wide variety of terrorist groups that wreak havoc across the region.

ANDREW YOUNG, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO BURKINA FASO: We believe that Burkina Faso is in a tough fight and the fight is getting tougher. We're very pleased to be able to work with Burkina Faso as they confront this security challenge.

BROWNE: The U.S. military has advisers here working with local security forces. Both police and military to develop their ability to fight advanced terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda who have carried out a series of high-profile terrorist attacks here in Burkina Faso and have rocked the capital, Ouagadougou.

The U.S. is cutting its forces in West Africa and reducing the number of troops on the ground. This has raised concerns about whether the United States would be able to continue these training efforts.

But U.S. commanders say they're reviewing additional options, whether it is drones or perhaps even additional U.S. military advisors that could help Burkina Faso in this difficult fight.

MAJ. GEN. MARCUS HICKS, U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND AFRICA: The first order (INAUDIBLE) here in Burkina Faso is very small. And we -- therefore, any additional resources we're putting into advising or training or assisting here could make the difference (ph).

BROWNE: It still remains to be seen whether or not the local forces can handle this diverse array of terror threats that are carrying out increasingly sophisticated attacks, crossing the borders from neighboring Mali and Niger and presenting real challenges to the government here -- Ryan Browne, CNN, Burkina Faso.


WATT: Meanwhile, in the Americas, Venezuela's humanitarian and political crisis is deepening. Self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido said a transition is underway right now to remove president Nicolas Maduro from office.

Guaido has been visiting several Latin American countries to gain international support and to try and legitimize his claim to the presidency.


JUAN GUAIDO, INTERIM PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): He is the one today making that transition costly in Venezuela, not the opposition, who have demonstrated their democratic, peaceful and resistant disposition. And despite the oppression, the political prisoners and the persecution, here we are.


WATT: Meanwhile, the U.S. has imposed visa restrictions on dozens of those aligned with Maduro and slapped sanctions on six security officials for obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid in to the crisis-plagued nation.


ELLIOTT ABRAMS, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR VENEZUELA: Maduro supporters that abuse or violate human rights, steal from the Venezuelan people or undermine Venezuela's democracy are not welcome in the United States. Neither are their family members.


WATT: The U.S. is among more than 50 countries that now recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.

And evacuation orders have been lifted for some areas of California that were swamped by severe floods. Cleanup efforts underway in Sonoma County on Friday. Heavy rains this week caused a river to overflow, flooding hundreds of homes. Now the flooding rains have also curbed a multi-year drought that has plagued California.



WATT: Next, it is a lovely, peaceful place used to teach children about butterflies but vicious hate mail, destructive bulldozers and the border battle could end it all, if Trump gets his way.




WATT: When U.S. president Donald Trump declared a national emergency to get his border wall funding, he described a scene of drug smugglers crossing into the U.S. But one patch of border land is actually a nature sanctuary. CNN's Bill Weir visits the National Butterfly Center that is fighting construction of the wall.


BILL WEIR, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the banks of the Rio Grande sits a 100-acre pocket of life unlike any in North America.

MARIANNA TREVINO-WRIGHT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL BUTTERFLY CENTER: For butterflies, it's like that movie "Fantasia." Everything's in bloom in the fall. And you have to walk and talk with your hand covering your mouth so you don't suck in a butterfly.

WEIR: The National Butterfly Center is the tip of the funnel for these beautiful little migrants, like the monarch, which flies thousands of miles back and forth from Mexico to as far as Montana and Wisconsin.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: We've got the little skipper right there.

WEIR: As director, the only thing Marianna Trevino-Wright used to worry about was pointing them out to school kids. But these days she gets hate mail.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: "We get a whole lot of (INAUDIBLE) you and (INAUDIBLE) your butterflies. I hope MS-13 rapes you."

A lot of ignorant, awful, hateful stuff.

WEIR (on camera): For the butterfly people?

TREVINO-WRIGHT: For the butterfly people.

WEIR (voice over): Living here, she's quite used to border security.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: So this, I'm sure, is somebody from the Department of Defense or somewhere else coming to check out this area.

WEIR: But the summer after President Trump took office, things changed.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: They were cutting down our trees and mowing down vegetation and widening the road.

I said, who are you and what are you doing?

And they said, the government sent us to clear this land from here to the river for the border wall.

WEIR: The plan calls for 18 feet of solid concrete, topped by 18 feet of steel bollards, right through the middle of their property.

Then they saw what this machine was doing to a neighboring wildlife preserve.

WEIR (on camera): And that's what they're using just west of you?

TREVINO-WRIGHT: On the forest. On the National Wildlife Refuge.

WEIR (voice over): When they realized how devastating the so-called enforcement zone would be to their habitat, they sued. And, last week, they lost.

WEIR (on camera): So what are you going to do now?

TREVINO-WRIGHT: I understand from the lawyers we'll be appealing or refiling.

WEIR: We asked, but the Border Patrol does not comment on ongoing litigation. But, in this letter sent to local stakeholders, they're arguing for 30 new miles of wall around this area because the Rio Grande Valley typically leads the nation in --


WEIR: -- arrests of illegal immigrants.

What it doesn't mentioned is that those numbers nationwide are way down since 2000. And Marianna says she has witnessed three illegal crossings in the last six years.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: We absolutely are in favor of border security.

If there were a national emergency, why would I drive to work here every day?

We have six children.

Why would they allow Mom to report for duty on the banks of the Rio Grande River every day unarmed to receive schoolchildren and birders and butterflies from around the world?

WEIR (voice over): Congressionally approved plans would have spared this place, but the president's emergency order trumps all that.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: So we're just watching and waiting every day to see if that machinery shows up here.

WEIR: And all the while, these little guys flutter, oblivious to borders and politics with no idea how fragile their future might be -- Bill Weir, CNN, Mission, Texas.


WATT: The private American launch company SpaceX has just taken a giant leap into orbit.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, two, one. Ignition, liftoff.

WATT (voice-over): Its new Crew Dragon capsule successfully blasted off last hour, unmanned for this test flight and expected to dock at the International Space Station on Sunday. If all goes well, Crew Dragon's first crewed mission could happen by July.

The U.S. has been forced to use Russian Soyuz capsules to send its astronauts into space since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Nick Watt. The news continues in just a moment with George Howell. You're watching CNN.