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Trump Demanded Kushner Get Top Secret Clearance; Warmbiers Lash Out at Trump; Manafort Asks for Leniency before Fraud Sentencing; Celebrations Mark Return of Indian Air Force Pilot; Osama bin Laden's Son Emerging as Al Qaeda Leader; Cohen Testimony May Spark More Hearings; One Dead in Algerian Anti-Government Rallies; Biden Responds to Backlash after Praising Pence; Pentagon Sends Space Force Proposal to Congress; SpaceX Launches First-Ever Demo of Crew Dragon Capsule. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 2, 2019 - 05:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Returning home with no deal, the U.S. president faces scrutiny over his relationship with Kim Jong- un and what the grieving parents of Otto Warmbier are saying about that summit.

Plus Pakistan releases an Indian pilot after his plane was shot down in cross-border tensions. We are covering all angles from the region.

Also ahead this hour, he hasn't announced his bid for 2020 yet but some suggest former U.S. vice president Joe Biden is stopping some major hints.

We are live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States. I'm George Howell. NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: It's 5:00 am on the U.S. Coast. The U.S. president is set to take the stage again in a few hours at an annual gathering of conservatives, better known as CPAC. This will be the first time we will hear from him after he returns from is summit with Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam.

That summit ended abruptly without the two sides reaching a deal. While it was taking place, the president's reputation was taking a beating in Congress and the man saying the most unflattering things, his former personal attorney and self-styled fixer, Michael Cohen. Cohen will be on Capitol Hill in a week in a closed door session.

There is also this. Congressional investigators have questions following a "New York Times" report. It says President Trump insisted his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner receive a top secret clearance despite objections from career officials. Mr. Trump has denied he was involved. A lot to cover here. We get more now from CNN's Abby Phillip.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the White House now defending President Trump's power to grant a top secret clearance to his son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner over the objections of career intelligence officials who raised concerns about his background check.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the president involved in Kushner's security clearance process?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: The -- we don't discuss security clearances. I'm not going to discuss my own. But I will tell you that the president has the absolute right to do what was described.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway not standing by Ivanka Trump's claim in an interview three weeks ago that her father wasn't involved in the process.

IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance.


PHILLIP (voice-over): "The New York Times" reports that last year Trump ordered White House chief of staff John Kelly to grant Kushner's clearance despite Trump's denial in an interview in January.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House to overrule security officials, the career veterans --

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No. I don't think I have the authority to do that. I'm not sure I do. But I wouldn't. I wouldn't do it.

PHILLIP (voice-over): And Kushner's lawyer Abbe Lowell's claim to Blitzer.

ABBE LOWELL, LAWYER: He's a special office that does security measures. They are all career people. There was nobody in the political process that had anything do it, nobody that pressured it. It was just done the normal, regular way.

PHILLIP (voice-over): House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings in a sharply worded letter is now demanding the White House turn over all documents related to security clearances by Monday.

Meantime, President Trump is firing back in a tweetstorm at his former fixer, Michael Cohen, two days after he testified before the committee in public.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: He is a racist. He is a con man and he is a cheat.

PHILLIP (voice-over): The president suggesting that Congress demand a manuscript of Cohen's book that he claims is a love letter to Trump. Tweeting, "Your heads will spin when you see the lies, misrepresentations and contradictions against his Thursday testimony. Like a different person. He is totally discredited."

As Trump remains fixated on Cohen, his comments this week giving dictator Kim Jong-un a pass for the death of an American student who was returned to the U.S. in a coma after months of detention by the North Korean regime is coming under fire.

The family of Otto Warmbier, who once sat with the first lady at the State of the Union address, now saying this.

"Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that."

And President Trump is now trying to clean up --


PHILLIP: -- his comments about Kim, tweeting on Friday afternoon this, "I never like being misinterpreted, especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family."

He continued to say, "Of course, I hold them responsible for his death."

He was not asked whether he held North Korea responsible. He was asked whether he held Kim personally responsible for the American student's death. In response, President Trump said, "I take him at his word when Kim said he had nothing to do with it" -- Abby Philip, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: Abby, thank you.

On the other side of the world, Kim Jong-un is now on his way back to Pyongyang. Kim left on board a private train several hours ago. North Korea is portraying the summit as a success that deepened the respect and trust between the two leaders.

But could there be more to the story?

Let's get the latest here, live from CNN's Will Ripley in Hanoi, Vietnam. He has been covering the summit for the past few days.

Before we get to the summit, I want to get your thoughts to the president's response to Otto Warmbier's death, essentially letting Kim Jong-un off the hook.

Given your knowledge of how that country works, is it possible that Kim did not realize what was happening here?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not possible, George. Nothing happens in North Korea at that level. An American student being held in the country without Kim Jong-un's knowledge. Now did he know about what happened immediately afterwards in terms of

what caused Otto to have the oxygen flow cut off to his brain, putting him in a permanent vegetative state?

Perhaps he didn't. But once it was clear that condition was irreversible, it would have to have been flagged up to the very top to make a decision about how to proceed.

The fact that North Korea kept Otto hooked up to a machine for more than a year without telling the Swedish embassy, which serves as an intermediary and with repeatedly denied consular access, without telling the United States, without telling us. We went to the country several times during Otto's captivity. Every time we asked for and up and down on his condition, we never got a response. That was deception. Kim Jong-un was certainly complicit it in that deception -- George.

HOWELL: Will, here in the United States everything seems to be viewed from a binary position. You would have Republicans say of the summit the president walked away from a bad deal. You would say Democrats have criticism, saying he came back with nothing to show for it.

How is North Korea framing this summit?

RIPLEY: Well, the sense I have gotten from speaking to my sources, is that the North Koreans didn't think the negotiations needed to end so abruptly. They felt they were making progress, getting down to business, expanding what they were offering, hoping that the U.S. would be willing to budge on this contentious issue of sanctions relief up front.

And the North Koreans were, frankly, shocked and bewildered when President Trump and his delegation rejected their offer and walked out. They felt that didn't need to happen.

Kim Jong-un was so confident in arriving here in Vietnam, he would emerge or walk away and leave this country with a signed deal, that he did not have a back-up plan. It was a sign of North Korea's desperation that they scrambled to assemble a late-night news conference here in Hanoi. It happened at midnight on the evening President Trump took to the podium and accused North Korea of demanding all sanctions being listed in exchange for dismantlement of one of their important nuclear sites. But certainly not the only one and certainly not one of their undeclared sites that the U.S. has been seek transparency on.

They basically didn't know what else to do other than to get in front of the cameras. And Kim Jong-un instructed his foreign ministry officials to say they felt a huge opportunity had been missed and Kim Jong-un may have lost his will to negotiate. So at this stage, George, where this goes is unclear.

HOWELL: That is significant to point out. Will, thank you for the reporting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: Let's talk about all of this now with Amy Pope. Amy a former member of the U.S. National Security Council under the former president, Barack Obama. Amy is now an associate fellow with Chatham House and joins us this hour from our London bureau.

Good to have you with us.


I'd like to start with Mr. Trump's summit in Vietnam; our Will Ripley saying a moment ago, on the surface, North Korea framing it as positive but behind the scenes, North Korea's leader expressing frustration, even disappointment.

In your view, are things better off or worse off in the wake of this summit?

POPE: Look, I think the president is squandering a real opportunity to make some progress. But this is not just about what happened at the summit. It's really about what happens before a summit.

The president can't expect to just walk into a meeting and negotiate very difficult and hard-fought challenges. What needs to happen here -- and by all accounts what didn't happen here -- was you need to have empowered your diplomats to go in ahead of time to break down --


POPE: -- the difficult questions to get agreement on the minor details that ultimately allow you to negotiate much more significant progress. And that didn't happen here. So the president shouldn't have expected that it would have gone any better.

HOWELL: Amy, there is also the issue around Otto Warmbier. President Trump essentially letting Kim Jong-un off the hook.

What do you think of President Trump's response, also saying he was misinterpreted?

POPE: Well, I think what we see time and again is that the president's first instinct is to side with the strongman and against American values, against American intelligence, against American information. And we saw that happen here.

Whether it is Putin with Russia or on the issue of the journalist in Saudi Arabia or here, you see the president, first and foremost, supporting the point of view that he is being given by someone, who, by all accounts, should not be trusted. So whether the president wants to characterize that as being misunderstood, it's a pattern. And from that pattern, some very troubling conclusions can be drawn.

HOWELL: Amy, I also want to talk with you about another story that has Washington insiders questioning whether President Trump's family is getting special treatment.

The chairman of the Oversight Committee demanding the White House turn over documents after "The New York Times" reported that Trump personally intervened to secure his son-in-law a security clearance. Critics accuse Trump and his daughter of lying over how the clearance was approved. Listen here to Ivanka Trump.


IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So no special treatment?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House to overrule security officials, the career veterans --

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No. I don't think I have the authority to do that. I'm not sure I do. But I wouldn't. I wouldn't do it.


HOWELL: Amy, can you help us square the circle there?

POPE: Well, at this moment in time, you can't square the circle. The only way to do it is to get the underlying documents.

We know from "The New York Times'" reporting, there was apparently a memo written by General Kelly when he was chief of staff that suggests the security clearances were ordered. There was also apparently a letter written by the White House counsel in this case.

So I think lawmakers are right to request those documents. They're right to request any correspondence that underscores the decisions being made about security clearances. And until that information is laid out there and until it's quite transparent, I don't think we can know what the truth is.

But needless to say, there is enough of a question here that it is absolutely appropriate for lawmakers to do the oversight that they are entitled to do.

HOWELL: Amy, finally, given what we have heard from Mr. Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen last week, he is set to do it again to testify in Capitol Hill in a closed door setting.

Does Cohen's testimony open additional doors for new questions in your view?

POPE: Absolutely. On a number of different issues, of course, there was already the campaign finance allegations and the pleas that he had offered about his own criminality and suggesting the president was involved.

There are also questions about tax evasion. There are also additional questions about obstruction of justice. All of these lines of inquiry involve the president. They involve his closest advisers. I am quite certain that Mueller and the prosecutors in the Southern

District of New York are continuing to pursue those. I would not expect this investigation to be wrapped up very quickly. It looks like there is quite a lot more that can be investigated here.

HOWELL: Amy Pope, providing analysis for us in our London bureau. Amy again, thank you for your time.

POPE: Thank you.

HOWELL: Now to the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. He is making a desperate plea to judges for less time in jail. Manafort faces up to 25 years in prison for financial crimes in one case.

But it is an uphill battle for his legal team. It's especially because, as one judge puts it, he intentionally lied to the court. Evan Perez has this.


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 --


PEREZ: -- 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.


HOWELL: Evan, thank you. After Michael Cohen, the president's former attorney, dropped a few names in his congressional testimony, members of the Trump Organization could be next on the Democrats' witness list. We'll have that story for you.

Also an Indian air force pilot captured by Pakistan is now back home. But the tensions between the two countries is far from over. That story ahead as NEWSROOM continues.




HOWELL: What you are seeing right here, a moment that eased tensions between two nuclear armed powers, the moment an Indian air force pilot walked across the border from Pakistan into India, this after being released by the Pakistani military and being the center of an international incident.

Pakistan called his release a gesture of peace in hope of deescalating tensions in the Kashmir region. He had been in captivity since Wednesday, when his jet was shot down in a dogfight over the skies in disputed Kashmir.

The Kashmir border has seen an uptick in military skirmishes in the past week. CNN is covering all angles of this very important story across the region. Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is live in Islamabad and our correspondent Sam Kiley on the ground in New Delhi.

Sam, let's start with you with the release of this pilot. Clearly, it has taken some of the pressure off these two nuclear powers. But India's leader is also clearly taking an approach when it comes to dealing with tensions that might have been dealt with diplomatically before. It's more assertive, it seems.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Much more assertive, George, absolutely right. Prime Minister Modi enjoying a degree of international support from the United States, Britain, France, all issuing various statements --


KILEY: -- calling for calm but also recognizing India's quote-unquote "right to defend itself" against potential terrorist attacks.

That is, of course, the doctrine of preemption established by the United States, perhaps most recently, in the invasion of Iraq. Nonetheless, a new attitude being struck by India. Very different from the past when even following, for example, the Mumbai massacre of 2008, 164 people killed, the Indians tied the killers there to operations inside Pakistan, to terror groups inside Pakistan but resisted calls for the military to attack. On this occasion and in the future, Prime Minister Modi ,who is

himself in an election year, one should note, is now permitting India to retaliation with interest, as he puts it, if there are future attacks that they can trace either to Pakistan or to groups within the Pakistani controlled territories.

They also say the return of their pilot, who was shot down in a dogfight a few days ago in Pakistani controlled Kashmir territory, was they're not particularly grateful to the Pakistanis. They're simply saying that was the Pakistanis meeting their obligations under the Geneva Convention. A very different attitude in India to the more conciliatory voice from the Pakistani prime minister.

But I think in the future India is now in a sense in a bind as well as establishing a more belligerent attitude. There is an obligation, a vow now made by the prime minister here that any future terrorist attacks tied to Pakistan must result in some kind of response.

So that gives them less wriggle room diplomatically in the future.

HOWELL: Sam, let's look at this video, crucial, in fact, after days of tension, the wing commander Varthaman walking across the border from Pakistan into India.

Nic, this was framed as a gesture of peace by Pakistan's leader, Imran Khan.

How is it being framed across Pakistan?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Precisely that. This is something they decided to do. It was within their capacity to do, to hand him back swiftly and quickly. In a sense to show, you know, these actions have been taken. We said we were going to strike back if you came across the border and struck us. We've done that. But here's your pilot back.

I mean, there is a real sense among the population here, the Imran Khan, the new prime minister here, has struck this right that is in step with the military. There is support for him doing this.

There is perhaps less support for some of the international diplomatic actions; for example, the foreign minister not going to an organization of Islamic corporation. Some 50 nations in Abu Dhabi yesterday and today. That -- perhaps that was a misstep; when the foreign minister was speaking, he said the man that leaves the group that India holds responsible for the attack in mid-February that killed 40 of their troops, he is in Pakistan and unwell.

So there is a sense of -- there have been diplomatic missteps. But in terms of how to handle this crisis with India, how to manage public sentiment about it, there is a sense that the prime minister has got it right.

Another thing people will tell you is, look, we have had quite in the past a jingoistic media in the past. But on this particular issue, now and in the past few years, the media here in Pakistan is on a more even keel.

The concern is what they see across the border in this election year in India. They feel the media there is heaping pressure on the prime minister there, potentially to make good on the comments that Sam just told us about, about the issue of future strikes.

So I think the feeling on this side is the prime minister's got it right. But it's really down to India to see how they respond.

HOWELL: Nic Robertson, live for us in Islamabad, and Sam Kiley, live in New Delhi, gentlemen, thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch.

One of Osama bin Laden's sons is now on the U.S. State Department's -- next name on a most wanted list. There is a $1 million reward for information on the whereabouts of Hamza bin Laden. They say he is emerging as a leader of Al Qaeda. He has released messages calling on his followers to launch attacks against the United States and its allies.


HOWELL: His father, Osama bin Laden, was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan in 2011. Officials say items seized during that raid indicated Hamza bin Laden was being groomed for leadership.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have started their final push on the last bit of ISIS territory inside Syria. The military says it's advanced a little more than half a mile or 1 kilometer into the enclave. Heavy fighting, though, is underway. Three SDF fighters have been wounded so far.

All this despite the U.S. president's claim that all ISIS territory there had already been taken. The operation started Friday after civilians were moved out of harm's way. A spokesperson tweeted this, "After evacuations of thousands of civilians and our comrades, the operation to clear the last remaining pocket of ISIS has just started at 1,800 this evening."

The U.S. military is leading a major military exercise and trying to figure out the best way to help local forces tackle a growing threat. CNN's 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.


HOWELL: Ryan, thank you.

They were once the guests of President Trump at his State of the Union address back in 2018. Now the parents of Otto Warmbier, who died after imprisonment in North Korea, they are angry over the president's latest comments about their son. We'll explain.

Also now that Michael Cohen has testified before Congress, we find out who lawmakers want to talk to next. Stay with us.





HOWELL: Good early morning to our viewers here in the United States on CNN USA and our viewers worldwide on CNN International. Welcome back to NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell with the headlines we are following this hour.


HOWELL: The Warmbiers have always been appreciative of President Trump for getting their son home from North Korea. They were, in fact, guests at one time at his State of the Union address back in 2018. But Mr. Trump's refusal to blame Kim Jong-un for their son's death, it drew a sharp response. We get more now from CNN's Brian Todd. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 --


TRUMP: -- 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 any accountability in the case of Otto Warmbier?

Analysts say, probably not. The Warmbier family was recently awarded nearly $500 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against the North Korean regime. But experts say it's unlikely the family will collect much, if any of that. What could happen, they say, is the Americans could use the Warmbier case as possible leverage in negotiating any sanctions relief for North Korea -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Brian, thank you very much.

The fallout continues from Michael Cohen's testimony on Capitol Hill. House Democrats now have their eyes set on key members of the Trump Organization. Sara Murray explains what details lawmakers hope to uncover.


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 --


OCASIO-CORTEZ: -- "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.


HOWELL: Sara, thank you.

Now to the deepening crisis in Venezuela. The United States has imposed visa restrictions on dozens of those aligned with president Nicolas Maduro. It slaps sanctions on six security officials for obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid. Listen.


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.


HOWELL: In the meantime the self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido says a transition is underway to remove Nicolas Maduro. Guaido has been visiting Latin American countries to gain international support and to 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.


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

Now to Sudan in turmoil. Still ahead, why protesters there are calling for the long-time president to resign.





HOWELL: Demonstrators filled the streets of Algerian cities on Friday. State-run TV saying a man died of a heart attack after one protest in the nation's capital. Many Algerians are driving the aging and ailing president from office. He's seeking a fifth term. Some demonstrators are demanding that parliament be dissolved.

Sudan's long-time president, Omar al Bashir, has given up his role as the head of that country's ruling party calls for him to give up power continue to grow. For weeks now the African nation has been rocked by anti-government protests. Critics say the demonstrators' demands are being answered with live fire.

CNN's Farai Sevenzo has more but, we do warn you, some of the images you will see in this report are graphic.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ten weeks into Sudan's anti-government demonstrations, this is now the longest wave of protests in President Omar al-Bashir's 30-year rule. Al-Bashir declared a one-year state of emergency and militarized his cabinet. He added more security forces on to Khartoum's streets.

But this has not stopped protesters calling on the president to step down. Protesters have frequently been met with excessive force. The state of emergency now gives authorities even more sweeping powers.

Human Rights Watch, citing activists, says nearly 60 people have been killed in clashes with security forces since the 19th of December, 2018. But the government's official death toll is 32, including three security personnel.

Amnesty International told CNN 1,500 protesters are in government custody. Rights groups say they received supports of security forces entering private homes and of alleged abuse and detention, including sexual assault, torture and the use of electric Tasers.

Aseel Abdu (ph) told CNN she was arrested and beaten by security agents who forced their way into a makeshift clinic set up for injured protesters in Khartoum.

ASEEL ABDU, ACTIVIST (from captions): They threw a tear gas canister inside. It landed next to the injured protester. People started screaming, "Bomb! Bomb!"

We tried to escape from another door of the House that opened to the square. Then we were attacked by another similar bomb.

SEVENZO (voice-over): This one family is still looking for justice. Mawi al-Bashir (ph), a father, was not taking part in the protest, his family says. They believe he was shot for giving shelters to protesters in his home in the Khartoum neighborhood of Buwi (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): The protesters came in and he closed the door. Officers were pushing the door from outside. A few seconds after they shot a bullet. You can see the bullet hole here. It hit him exactly here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): We have to fight for our rights and justice. Whoever shot our dad, whether it's the government or the individual, whoever caused this should be held accountable. Because he didn't to anything. He was just inside his home. This doesn't make sense.

If you brought a kid and asked about this situation, he will say this is premeditated murder.

SEVENZO (voice-over): But in a news conference, police said no bullets were fired that day. Since then, the family tells CNN that the police say they would open an investigation. They have yet to see a post-mortem report -- Farai Sevenzo, CNN.


HOWELL: Farai, thank you.

Politicians often apologize for their off-the-cuff remarks or comments but it's not usually because of a compliment. Ahead, what the former vice president Joe Biden said about the current vice president Mike Pence and how it could be an indicator of a possible 2020 presidential bid.





HOWELL: He hasn't officially announced any 2020 presidential plans but the former U.S. vice president Joe Biden is already responding to criticism after praising his successor, the current vice president, Mike Pence. Biden's quick walkback, though, could be a sign he is inching toward a presidential run. Our Jeff Zeleny explains.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Apologies come often in politics, but seldom calling someone a decent guy.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The guy is a decent guy. Our vice president...

ZELENY (voice-over): Hardly an ugly slur but former vice president Biden's words about his successor Mike Pence sparked a telling reaction from the Left.

BIDEN: Our vice president, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, I'm here on behalf of President Trump and there was dead silence.

ZELENY (voice-over): But there was not silence from liberals like Cynthia Nixon, who quickly weighed in on Twitter, writing, "Joe Biden, you just called America's most anti-LGBT elected leader a decent guy. Please consider how this falls on the ears of our community."

Only minutes later, he apologized.

"You are right, Cynthia. I was making a point in a foreign policy context. There is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights and that includes the vice president."

The speed of his response is the latest sign Biden is inching closer to jumping into the 2020 fight, but testing whether calls for bipartisanship are seen as an asset in a Democratic primary.

BIDEN: How do they get anything done?

How they get anything done is we start talking to one another.

ZELENY (voice-over): Meanwhile, another progressive candidate in the race with Washington governor Jay Inslee pledging to focus solely on climate change in a campaign that could influence the entire Democratic field.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WASH.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have one chance to defeat climate change and it is right now. And it is my belief that when you have one chance in life, you take it.

ZELENY (voice-over): Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Jeff, thanks.

The Pentagon is asking Congress to consider a proposal to form a new branch of the U.S. --


HOWELL: -- military. It would be called Space Force and would follow the directive from the U.S. president Trump.


TRUMP: And at my direction, the Pentagon is working hard to create a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces called Space Force. It's so important. So important. People don't know, I mean, we're not just talking about going up to the moon, going up to Mars.

We are talking about, you need it. Now you need it. You look at Russia. You look at China. You look at what's going on, what they're doing. We need it. We'll be the best in the world, very shortly in space.


HOWELL: The proposal calls for 200 people to establish the branch and $72 million to create its headquarters. Most of the staff members initially would come from the U.S. Air Force.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two, one, zero, ignition. Liftoff.

HOWELL (voice-over): And in the meantime, the United States is taking a giant leap toward getting its own astronauts into orbit on American space ships. SpaceX just launched its new Crew Dragon capsule.

It is unmanned and is expected to dock at the International Space Station Sunday. If all goes as planned, it will be -- the first mission with a crew to happen by July. The U.S. has been sending its astronauts into space on Russian Soyuz capsules since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.


HOWELL: That wraps this hour of the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers here in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For our viewers around the world, the "CONNECT THE WORLD" special, "A Living Legend," is ahead.

Thank you for watching NEWSROOM. Have a great day.