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Sudanese Military Leader Vows to Uproot Regime; Trump Tax Returns; Pompeo Blames Maduro for Venezuelan Crisis; Inside Assange's World; "Crying Girl" Picture near U.S. Border Wins World Press Photo of the Year; Fans Go Crazy when BTS Performs on "SNL". Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired April 14, 2019 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Sudan's military ruler promises a civilian government but says it may take up to two years.

U.S. Democrats push to get Donald Trump's tax returns, giving the Internal Revenue Service 10 days to hand them over.

And BTS brings its boy band fandom to America. How the wildly popular K-pop band is transcending language and cultural barriers.

We're live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta. I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.


VANIER: The end of a 30-yearlong dictatorship hasn't stopped the protests in Sudan. The military toppled Omar al-Bashir on Thursday but the generals are still in charge. Demonstrators say they want civilian rule and prosecution for al-Bashir and his allies. The generals are making concessions but it may not be enough. CNN's Farai Sevenzo has this report.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The commander of Sudan's transitional military council Leftenant General Abdel al-Fattah Burhan, announced on Saturday that the transitional military council would only be in power for two years, after which they would give over power to a civilian government.

He met with several people from the opposition, that umbrella body known as the Sudanese Professional Association and promised many things. He said that all people who had been in prison during Omar al-Bashir's time in control would be released.

He also promised that human rights would be greatly respected and that non-governmental organizations would be invited back into Sudan.

The general was at pains to tell everybody that either the crimes committed since December 2018, that the shot protesters would all be investigated and, of course, the issue is now, do the Sudanese Professional Association accept this?

What has happened is that a door to dialogue has been opened and the mood in Khartoum is far different from when Mr. al-Bashir's former defense minister and vice president, Mr. Ibn Auf, was in charge and he, remember, he stepped out of the scene Friday night.

At the moment, the mood in Khartoum is different but the protesters are still on the streets. Remember, all of Sudan has many flashpoints across the country. There's fighting in the Nuba Mountains and fighting in Darfur and fighting at the Blue Nile region.

The whole country is cognizant of the fact that, for many years, atrocities were committed in places like Darfur, which created the situation where the International Criminal Court had then to confer charges of war crimes on Mr. al-Bashir.

And everyone who is now in the military council may have been tainted by that history. It's a great process now to move Sudan forward after the momentous events of Thursday, April the 11th -- Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Nairobi.


VANIER: Critics of U.S. President Trump say he is using undocumented immigrants to retaliate against Democrats who oppose his border wall. He's standing by his threat to send the immigrants to sanctuary cities, which limit their cooperation with immigration enforcement.

Mr. Trump tweets, "Democrats must change the immigration laws fast. If not, sanctuary cities must immediately act to take care of the illegal immigrants."

He then went after the mayors of those cities, writing, "So interesting to see the mayor of Oakland and other sanctuary cities not want our currently detained immigrants."

Well, Oakland's mayor responded, saying, "Oakland welcomes all, no matter where you came from or how you got here."

Meanwhile, President Trump denies that he offered pardons to Homeland Security officials after Trump repeatedly told Customs and Border Protection chief Kevin McAleenan that he would pardon him if he was jailed for having Border Patrol agents block asylum seekers from entering the U.S.

That is a violation of U.S. law which may be why Mr. Trump tweeted the denial, adding it's his right to close the border and that he may still do it. The president writes, quote, "It is all fake and corrupt news."

A U.S. House committee has a message for Mr. Trump: show us your tax returns. The committee, which is controlled by Democrats, has given the Internal Revenue Service until April 23rd to produce them. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin calls it weaponizing the IRS. Boris Sanchez explains.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Richard Neal, sent a letter to the IRS commissioner today, again requesting six years of the president's tax returns and some --


SANCHEZ: -- tax returns related to some of the president's business interests. This would be the second time that Neal has made this request and the second deadline that he set.

Keep in mind the first deadline passed just a few days ago. He had originally set a one-week deadline from the Treasury Department to get those tax returns.

In the second letter, he writes that his request is legitimate and any concerns about the constitutionality of his request are invalid. Now the Secretary of the Treasury Department, Steve Mnuchin, he is not backing down. He previously said he wanted to hear from the Department of Justice, because this was such an unprecedented request.

Mnuchin today, speaking to CNN, said he had yet to speak to the attorney general about this and he essentially said that he believes that these deadlines being set by Neal are arbitrary. He believes that this request is a constitutional issue that may have to be settled in court.

So he's basically just waiting for DOJ to give him instruction on this. That's what we've heard from President Trump, that Democrats would ultimately have to hear from his lawyers and that they would have to hear from the attorney general, William Barr.

This is likely going to lead to an unprecedented legal fight, one, that as we've heard previously from sources in the White House, the president would fight all the way to the Supreme Court.


VANIER: Boris Sanchez, reporting from the White House there.

So is congressman Richard Neal guilty of weaponizing the IRS?

I asked Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Law School.


JESSICA LEVINSON, LOYOLA UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: If you look at the plain language of the federal tax code, it absolutely authorizes the chairs of three different committees -- and Congressman Neal is head of one of those committees -- to ask any filer for their tax returns and the president of the United States is, in fact, any filer.

So I certainly think there would be concerns where you would misuse this provision but that's not the situation we're in now. What the president's lawyers have argued, as you mentioned, is that, for instance, there's no legitimate legislative purpose here.

Actually, the members of this congressional committee have been very clear about a variety of legislative purposes. So I think it is true it might go to the Supreme Court. It brings up really interesting issues of privacy; whether or not you can read context into the tax code, of whether or not we're going to treat the president as separate when it comes to the tax code.

But if you look at the plain language of that statute, there's not a lot of room for the president to argue here.

VANIER: Let me push back a bit. First of all, the Democrats would not be using this against a Democratic president. That's hard to imagine. Secondly, they're using this obscure, little-used rule to get at this president.

LEVINSON: Well, I would say, one -- and this is very, I understand pie in the sky and not realistic -- but, really, the Democrats should use this against any president who has behaved in this way, who has these issues.


VANIER: That was Jessica Levinson, law professor at Loyola Law School.

Powerful storms in the U.S. have ripped through the state of Texas, leaving two children dead and many others injured. In Franklin, a tornado with winds up to 225 kph destroyed homes, uprooted trees and caused multiple injuries. Look at these pictures. It left the entire town of 1,600 people without power.

This is all part of a major storm system expected to slam into more parts of the Southeast in the coming hours.



VANIER: Turning now to Venezuela, where embattled president Nicolas Maduro is trying to expand his civilian militia in another attempt to cling to power. Mr. Maduro told supporters he wants to raise the number of militia members from 2 million to 3 million by the end of the year.

This comes as U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo prepares to tour the Colombia-Venezuela border on Sunday. He's been visiting Latin American nations dealing with an influx of Venezuelan migrants. In a news conference, he blamed Mr. Maduro for the crisis.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The responsibility for these refugees lies squarely with Nicolas Maduro, not any policies but any democratic nation is taken with our deep intent to make lives better for the Venezuelan people.

A 100 percent of the refugee challenge that is faced by Peru and Colombia is the direct result of the Russians, the Cubans and Nicolas Maduro. It is our deep hope that we can achieve our objectives quickly, timely, so these individuals will return to their home countries.

It's what they want, I think it's what the people of Peru and Colombia and the other countries that are graciously, generously hosting and educating these people today, they want to create the conditions in every country so this migration, these refugees don't need to travel to these places.


VANIER: Meanwhile, Mr. Maduro says he is giving Venezuelan workers three days of rest to recover from recurring blackouts in Venezuela.

Life on the inside for Julian Assange. We'll show you the world the WikiLeaks founder inhabited at the Ecuadorian embassy -- next.

Plus the powerful image that showed Americans the pain and fear of migrants who have made the dangerous journey to Trump's America. We speak to the journalist who took that picture. Stay with us.





VANIER: We're learning more about Julian Assange's life inside the place that he called home for almost seven years. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz reports.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): In the summer of 2012, Julian Assange arrived here, the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The WikiLeaks founder would not again set foot outside the property for nearly seven long years.

His home became a roughly 200 square foot room, where he kept a workspace, a treadmill and bed alongside all his personal possessions. This footage is of an artist's replica of that room. The living conditions were challenging, Fidel Narvaez, a former consul of Ecuador, and a friend of Assange, said.

FIDEL NARVAEZ, FORMER CONSUL OF ECUADOR: It's an apartment suitable for offices. It's not a residence. Some adaptations need to be done.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): From his tiny space, Assange found ways to stay busy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you decide to do your own show?

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): He launched a show on a Russian state TV network in 2012 and entertained celebrity supporters from Lady Gaga to Pamela Anderson. He even got a tie-wearing cat named James to help him pass the time. But, his supporters say, it was a lonely existence.

JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: This is a victory that cannot be denied.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Other than his occasional balcony statements, Assange rarely got sunlight or fresh air. He complained in a 2014 interview of the impact on his well-being.

ASSANGE: It is an environment in which any healthy person would find themselves, soon enough, with certain difficulties.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): The conditions took a toll on the 47-year old. He suffered shoulder pain, depression and a toothache.

NARVAEZ: It was a very, very hard and difficult environment for him to cope for so long.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): In 2018, Ecuador's newly elected president Lenin Moreno, imposed a new set of rules on Assange. No phones, no Internet and only visits from his lawyers.

NARVAEZ: That's a very, very huge difference between the first six years and the last one. He was isolated.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Assange did not respond well to the changes. Ecuadorian officials accused Assange of aggressive and hostile behavior. One minister even said Assange had smeared feces on the walls.

He had gone from wanted man to an unwanted houseguest. Finally out of the embassy, Assange's fate now lies in the hands of U.K. authorities -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


VANIER: The heartbreaking image from the migrant crisis on the U.S. border is being singled out as one of the most powerful news photographs taken. It's this image, showing a 2-year-old girl from Honduras in total agony, crying, while her mother is being searched by a U.S. border guard.

Now the World Press Photo Foundation has awarded that image its top prize, Photo of the Year for 2018. Getty photographer John Moore captured the scene last June when the girl's family was picked up after crossing the border in Texas. And I spoke to John earlier and I asked him if he knows what happened to that little girl.


JOHN MOORE, GETTY IMAGES: I was able to get in touch with Sandra and Yanela in the weeks following their detention. They were held in about three different detention centers in South Texas for almost three weeks before being released, with a credible fear claim while they were trying to get political asylum in the U.S.

In fact, Yanela was on a bus with her mother en route to the East Coast when she celebrated, if you will, her second birthday this last June.

VANIER: There is a little ironic subplot to this picture, which his that even though it was the face of the family separations policy, this family actually wasn't separated. Look, I'm sure you received a lot of praise for that picture. I wonder if you got any criticism for it.


MOORE: Well, fortunately, the picture was correctly captioned. When I sent out that image the day after I took it, I said that they were being taken to a processing center for possible separation and there was no way to know if that would happen at the time. And I say always that, if we photograph honestly and caption accurately, we're on safe ground as photojournalists.

The photograph itself, like many pictures, will take on a life of its own, on the Internet after the photos are released. Sometimes it will appear without captions. And we just have to be able to go back to the original material to know if that picture is correct or not.

Having covered the border and immigration issues for more than 10 years, this picture really resonated with so many people, I think, because it touched them on an emotional level.

Really, when, as you can imagine, every single day, we see thousands of images in one form or fashion, whether it's video or stills, and it's very hard to make a connection with people who are often seeing these photographs and swiping them on their phone, seeing them for very little time.

So if you can really touch people and bring them into the photograph and spend time to learn more about the story. I think that's what this picture did and that's why it was so widely distributed and seen by so many people.

VANIER: You've spent a lot of time along the border and a lot of time covering this story.

Is there some nuance you wish people understood better about this?

MOORE: Well, that's a very good question. I've always tried to humanize a very complex story along the border. When anyone says that this issue can be solved and they give you a slogan that will solve this problem, one should look at that with suspicion because it's very complex.

These thousands of families are coming up for many different reasons, some for economic reasons. Others are fleeing violence and, even more increasingly, because of climate change and drought in their home countries. So the U.S. government receives people for asylum claims. It has to decide their fate if you will on an individual basis.


VANIER: And that was John Moore, award-winning photographer for Getty Images.

Pele, Brazilian soccer star, is recovering after kidney stone surgery. Doctors tell Brazilian state media the 78-year old is in good condition. Pele was hospitalized earlier this month in Paris with a urinary tract infection. He had the operation in Brazil and Pele is the only player in history to have won three World Cups.

Bigger than The Beatles?

Maybe not yet. But BTS is a legitimate sensation. The Korean boy band cemented its celebrity status by appearing on "Saturday Night Live" just a few hours ago.


VANIER (voice-over): The group is expected to set international sales records with its latest album, which just dropped. Preorders have already topped 3 million, proving that K-pop is big, nay, huge business.


Joining me now, Jeff Benjamin, a senior digital editor for Fuse TV and Billboard.

Are you a loyal footsoldier of BTS army?

JEFF BENJAMIN, FUSE TV: Oh, man, I mean, I've been following these guys for, you know, the entirety of their career. So today's a very proud night for sure. I'm really happy for them.

VANIER: All right, so help me out here. I walk into the newsroom today, tonight and all of a sudden I find myself surrounded by producers who are talking about only one thing, BTS' upcoming appearance on "Saturday Night Live." Why is it such a big deal?

Yes, I mean, not only, of course, is BTS, you know, arguably, I mean, they are the biggest pop band in the world right now. But "SNL" itself, the "Saturday Night Live" stage, it's a very coveted stage. Obviously only one musician can perform on it a week. They only get two chances to perform on it.

It's also a stage that can kind of make or break a career. I don't want to name any names but I think we all might remember certain musicians who have who have not done so well on the "SNL" stage and it's really hindered their career.


VANIER: How did BTS do then?

BENJAMIN: I think they did it. They did it. They really came through. You don't get second chances on "SNL". You get one take and that's it. I was a bit worried, you know. It's seven guys on not that big of a stage. They more than handled it. They came through, the vocals, the dancing. I think it's --


BENJAMIN: -- going to be a really momentous part of their career for sure.

VANIER: Educate those among our viewers, and I have to count myself among them, who are not so familiar with BTS and tell us what makes them so popular.

BENJAMIN: Yes, of course, BTS has done an amazing job about really having music and choreography and visuals that are accessible to people, regardless of you speaking Korean or not. But I think it goes a bit deeper than that.

And a main reason that I've written in my writings now is that BTS' messages in their music has always gone deeper than perhaps most pop acts. They're talking about things people their age are going through, anything from mental health struggles to the politics they're witnessing, to school life and bullying.

There's always been a feeling of heart and a feeling of you really get the sense of this is what these guys are going through in their music and that parlays everything from the way they act on social media to the way they meet the fans in real life.

VANIER: Is it fair to say that as far as the K-pop scene is concerned, they have been pushing the envelope?

BENJAMIN: Yes, I think for sure. They're certainly not the first group to talk about social issues in this way but I think they're a group that kind of took that message and made sure it was a part of their entire, every part of their career.

BTS even has a campaign with UNICEF called the Love Yourself Campaign. And it was about, you know, promoting, you know, self-love, self- awareness, being able to end violence, self-violence around the world.

And that campaign was hugely successful, over $1 million raised. And I think because fans really knew that BTS themselves as humans and artists were behind that.

VANIER: Jeff Benjamin, thank you so much. You must have been listening to the new album -- real quick, how is it?

BENJAMIN: Yes, I think it's really cool, it's definitely a gift if you have been a long time fan. It references a 2014 album. But it's great music in and of itself. I hope you check it out, Cyril.

VANIER: It hasn't been up my alley so far but my producer is forcing me to listen to it, so we'll talk again.

BENJAMIN: There you go. Sounds good.

VANIER: Thank you.

BENJAMIN: Thank you so much.

VANIER: One of the world's most famous musicians says culture is stronger than political divisions and where better than to give that message than at the U.S.-Mexico border.


VANIER (voice-over): Yo Yo Ma, the classical cellist, gave a performance on Saturday in a Mexican border town. He told the crowd that freedom is what keeps people together and resilient. The musician had hoped to play a concert on a bridge that connects the U.S. to Mexico but American authorities would reportedly not approve it.


VANIER: That's it from us this hour. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in a few minutes.