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Easter Massacre In Sri Lanka; Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko Conceded Defeat; Rudy Giuliani Says There's Nothing Wrong With Getting Information From Russians; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Is Planning A Crucial Meeting Tomorrow. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 21, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:10] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Good morning, everyone. And welcome this Easter Sunday. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

We are following breaking news out of Sri Lanka where an Easter massacre has killed and injured hundreds, including several Americans. The blast targeting hotels popular with foreigners and Christians attending Easter services.

This is dash-cam video of the moment one of those bombs explode at St. Anthony's Catholic Church. Other visible and disturbing signs of horror left in the wake of those attacks including this one. Bloodstains on the wall and on the statue of Jesus Christ at St. Sebastian's church.

President Trump and the Pope both responding to the attacks offering condolences, prayers and assistant. The horrible carnage taking place in Sri Lanka, the island nation off the southern coast of India.

Right now officials say there are at least 207 people dead. Another 560 injured after a wave of eight coordinated bombings across that country on this Easter Sunday. Three of the explosions targeted Christian churches during Easter services. And there were also bombings at three hotels popular with foreign tourists.

U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo says several U.S. citizens are believed to be among the 30 foreigners killed in the attacks. Sri Lankan officials say there have been seven arrests so far, but no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks.

CNN's Will Ripley begins our coverage.

Will, what are you learning?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, we are learning that as you said this does bear all the hallmarks of some sort of a terrorist attack. But question if these suspects are Sri Lankan, who are they acting on behalf of since no group that is claimed responsibility? But we have heard reports that some of these have been suicide bombings, three churches targeted, four hotels all together and police who are raiding a house and questioning suspects at that house, three officers were killed there when explosive devices were detonated inside. The cities that were hit, Colombo, the largest city, the commercial

capital of Sri Lanka along with Batticaloa and Negombo. And the death toll has continued to rise with more than 200 people. Hundreds of people in hospital at this hour.

And a lot of questions about the, you know, if they are targeting Christians and they are targeting Christian on Easter and they are targeting foreigners, what is the motivation here? We know that Sri Lanka next month will celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the cessation of fighting in its bloody civil war, a civil war that lasted a quarter century. There were a lot of suicide bombings back then. But people in Sri Lanka, while they are familiar with the sounds of that kind of attack, they thought that their country had moved on. In recent years it's become a tourism hot spot, popular amongst foreigners including the several Americans who the state department now says were killed in this attack. Other came in countries like the UK, China, India, the Netherlands and the list goes on.

The list is growing because a lot of bodies have yet to be identified. And the description of what we have heard from people who witnessed these attacks, particularly in some of the churches, is just truly horrifying. There was one church, St. Sebastian, where they had an Easter mass with a thousand people inside. The bombs went off just after the mass ended. And we heard reports of, you know, up to 30 bodies lying in the church. Pieces of flesh thrown on the walls, around the sanctuary and even through the shattered windows outside on the street.

Sri Lanka has a curfew in effect right now. Nobody is allowed to go outside. Police have been called back from their Easter leave to try to maintain law and order in the country. The military has held emergency meetings. Schools will be closed until at least mid-week. And the search continues for more suspects. They don't know if there are more bombers out there who may try to stage other attacks which is why people in Sri Lanka are being warned to stay away from public areas -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Will Ripley, we will check back with you as the investigation really is still in its infancy. Thank you so much.

And this morning, Pope Francis offered his condolences to the victims of the Sri Lankan bombings during Easter Sunday mass at Vatican.


POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH LEADER (through translator): Dear brothers and sisters, I heard with sadness of the news of the horrendous attacks on which this very day, Easter Sunday, have brought mourning and pain to some churches and other places in Sri Lanka. I would like to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community attacked while gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such a cruel act of violence. I entrust to the Lord all who so tragically died, and I pray for the wounded and all those who suffer because of this traumatic event.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [14:05:21] WHITFIELD: With me now is CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde who is also the executive editor of the "New Yorker" website.

David, good to see you. So right now no group has taken responsibility for these coordinated attacks, but we know that Christian churches were targeted on Easter and hotels as well, that particularly, you know, cater to foreigners. So given what you know about that country, who will investigators be looking at first? There have been some arrests, but, again, in terms of a group, because it was so coordinated, what groups might authorities be looking at?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: There are some media reports that there was an intelligence warning about a local Muslim extremist group possibly planning to carry out these attacks.

There was violence against Muslims about a year ago. There were fake reports on Facebook. This has been a problem in many countries. There were false reports that led Buddhists who make up the majority of the Sri Lanka's population to attack Muslims. A Muslim driver was actually beaten to death as a result of false reports on Facebook a year ago. So those attacks may have led, you know, a group of Muslims to radicalize and maybe carry out this attack, but it's very unclear. A big question is whether this is just a local attack by a very sophisticated local group or is there some sort of international link to this?

WHITFIELD: And as well mentioned, you know, soon there is the tenth anniversary of the end of the 25-year civil war in Sri Lanka. What was that civil war about? Might there be any kind of connection to, you know, this marking of peace as following that civil war?

ROHDE: I don't think it's linked to civil war. It was a brutal civil war that went on for decades. That was between (INAUDIBLE) Buddhists and Hindus. So the, you know, Muslims are very small percentage of population, about 10 percent of the population in Sri Lanka. So I think this is something new, you know. It does appear to be, you know, some sort of radicalization. And it would possibly be the follow-on and intensification of the religious violence that occurred based again on fake Facebook posts about a year ago.

WHITFIELD: And now we are also learning there were several Americans, you know, among victims. Will the U.S. be able to provide assistance in any way to help Sri Lanka investigate the bombings?

ROHDE: I think they will if Americans have died. Immediately there will be an FBI team sent out to investigate. There will be a U.S. criminal investigation. One legacy of the civil war could be that, you know, there are reports that the government security apparatus isn't functioning as well as it could. That there are still divisions due to the long civil war.

It's extraordinary. Either these people were incredibly disciplined, able to carry out eight attacks simultaneously across the country, or there's a real problem with the security services in Sri Lanka. Either way, tourism is a huge business in Sri Lanka. It's a beautiful country. I have reported there. I have vacation the there. This attack will devastate Sri Lanka's tourist economy.

David Rohde, thank you so much. Appreciate your expertise.

ROHDE: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Also joining us, CNN's Sam Kiley. He just arrived in Sri Lanka and joining us on the phone.

So Sam, what can you tell us about how this really has rocked everyone there near those explosion locations?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Well, Fred, it's quite striking. At the airport actually there is a degree of calm. There's a heavy preference of police and military personnel, as you might imagine. People are being frisked on their way in.

There are rumors flying around inevitably in this sort of environment, particularly one involving so many attacks apparently coordinated in at least eight different locations across the country. So this will be seemingly authority to leaving nothing to chance. But they are being fairly relaxed given the context that this country is now under an indefinite curfew.

The anticipation is that it should be lifted by tomorrow morning, but at the moment the government have said that the curfew is indefinite. And this is one of the peak seasons for tourism. So clearly, there are still tourists arriving at the airport pressed on with their holiday plans regardless of the attacks of three of Colombo's most famous and luxurious hotels being singled out by the attack.

It is interestingly, words so far, that there hasn't been a, what people call, a claim of responsibility. Nobody is saying yet with any authority who committed these series of atrocities. And the Sri Lankans are working extremely hard. There are Special Forces troops that I have just seen also on the outskirts of the airport in Balaclava. So clearly they are operating on the basis that this complex attack may not be yet over.

[14:10:08] WHITFIELD: And of course, they have to be looking into who would be capable of having that kind of arsenal, that kind of explosive materiel to cause such devastation, just looking at the rooftop of at least one of the sanctuaries. I mean, it is extraordinary.

KILEY: Yes. I'm afraid in Sri Lanka, due to the civil war that no shortage of people with expertise in explosives. And inevitably, particularly, Sri Lankan intelligence for those western intelligence agencies will also be trying to figure out whether or not the so- called Islamic state have used this sort of soft underbelly to go after predominantly western targets and churches on Easter following the collapse of the so-called caliphate a couple of months ago. They did vow then to take revenge. It is inevitable that that will be one of the avenues that have been aggressively pursued as a possibility by intelligence services all around the world. But equally this is a country that was at civil war until about a

decade ago, and, therefore, there are people here, indigenous people who have those sorts of skills and worse perhaps the combination of the two. But as of yet the authorities have been tight lipped and indeed any speculation really would be foolhardy. One can often get these things very long in speculating who might have done it.

WHITFIELD: Sam Kiley, thank you so much. We look forward to more of your reporting as you are just getting on the ground.

And of course, stay with CNN as new breaking details do come in on the Sri Lanka terror attack and the growing attacks on Christians.

Plus, a new line of defense from the President of the United States attorney, personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani in the wake of the Bob Mueller report.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: No, no. There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: There is nothing wrong with taking information?

GIULIANI: It depends on where it came from. It depends on where it came from. You are assuming that the giving of information is the campaign contribution.


WHITFIELD: Nothing wrong? House Democrats say the report is enough for impeachment.


[14:16:24] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We are following breaking news out of Ukraine where a television comedian and political novice is on track to win the country's presidential elections. Just moments ago Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko conceded defeat.

CNN's Phil Black is live for us in Kiev.

So help break it down how significant of a win this is and defeat.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's an extraordinary political moment for this country, Fredricka. The winner Zalinski is a - well, he is famous in this country as an actor and a comedian and famous for pretending to be the Ukrainian President on a Ukrainian TV show.

In the show, he is a regular guy who somehow accidentally becomes the Ukrainian president then goes on to fight corruption and politicians who stand in his way. He decided to campaign with pretty much the same message. Not a lot of detail to it, but simply promising to do better than the other guy, to clean up politics in this country, and it is a message that has really resonated with Ukrainian voters. And as a result, he looks on track for something that -- that can only be really described as a spectacular win.

The early exit polls says he is got more than 73 percent of the vote. And so convincing is that result that you are right, the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko has already announced that he will be conceding defeat to him on a phone call shortly.

All of this is really important because Ukraine is a country that is really the front line in the western standoff against Russia. Part of the country is at war with Russia-backed separatists. Russia annexed Crimea five years ago. All of this really matters, this comedian, this actor Vladimir Zalinski is now going to be going toe to toe with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Any anticipation of how that would go? I mean, how -- what is the Kremlin's point of view on Zalinski?

BLACK: So Putin and the incumbent Poroshenko certainly didn't get along. They had a tense relationship. Putin hasn't expressed an opinion one way or another on this. He won't be sorry to see Poroshenko go, but he will be watching this very closely, trying to understand this new president because he is so much of an unknown. He has given so little away.

We do understand from comments that he has made that he wants to maintain a pretty tough line on Russia and dealing with the war in the east, dealing with the annexation of Crimea, but what does that mean? Is he prepared to negotiate? Is he prepared to make concessions? These are the things that Putin will be testing him on in the weeks and months ahead.

WHITFIELD: All right. Phil Black, thank you so much from Kiev, Ukraine.

All right. Still ahead, Rudy Giuliani says, I'm quoting now, "there's nothing wrong," end quote with getting information from Russians. The Mueller report says otherwise. And Democrats say the ethical issue are enough for impeachment.


[14:24:01] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. President Trump's team has a rebuttal to the Mueller report ready to go. But his attorney, the President's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani said today on CNN they won't release it until quote "they have to."

Giuliani on the one hand is calling the report an unfair one-sided assessment while also claiming it's a total vindication and exoneration of the President. And today, he responded to senator Mitt Romney saying the dishonesty revealed by the Mueller report sickened him.


TAPPER: The Trump tower meeting I think is what he was referring to, the willingness to sit down with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. That is what Mitt Romney says --. GIULIANI: What a hypocrite. What a hypocrite.

TAPPER: But why is that?

GIULIANI: Any candidate, any candidate in the whole world in America would take information negative --

TAPPER: From a foreign source? From a hostile foreign source?

GIULIANI: Who says it's even illegal? And does the information turn out to be false, by the way? The information that was gleaned and disseminated every newspaper printed it. Why did "the Washington Post" print information that came from a foreign source when they knew it was hacked? Aren't they just as wrong for doing that as the campaign wanting to use that?

[14:25:14] TAPPER: Why do you think Mitt Romney is a hypocrite?

GIULIANI: Because Mitt Romney did things very similar to that.

TAPPER: Taking information?

GIULIANI: No, no. There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.

TAPPER: There's nothing information from Russians.

GIULIANI: It depends on where it came from. You are assuming that the giving of information is a campaign contribution. Read the report carefully. The report says we can't conclude that because the law is pretty much against that. People get information from this person, that person.

TAPPER: You would have accepted information from Russians against a client, against a candidate if you were running in the Presidential election.

GIULIANI: I probably wouldn't. I wasn't asked. I would have advised just out of excess of caution don't do it. I'll give you another thing though.

TAPPER: You are saying there is nothing wrong with doing that?

GIULIANI: There's no crime.

TAPPER: I'm not talking about crime. I'm talking about --.

GIULIANI: We are going to get into morality?


GIULIANI: Well, that's not what prosecutors look at, morality.

TAPPER: But that's what Mitt Romney is referring to.

GIULIANI: But this didn't become an international scandal because of immorality. It became an international scandal because the President was accused of violating the law falsely and now nobody wants to try to figure out who did it because that's the real wrongdoing here, and the reality is --

TAPPER: But you don't think this is unmoral or unethical to take --?

GIULIANI: Well, suppose I do?


GIULIANI: I'm going to prosecute people.

TAPPER: I'm not talking about the prosecution part of it.

GIULIANI: I would like to take a good look at Romney's campaign and see if there were any immoral or unethical things done by the people working for him that he didn't know about. If there weren't then it was the only campaign in history because he is maybe as holier than the holiest one. There is no campaign in history.

TAPPER: But do you think there shouldn't be a high standard for the president of the United States that he not --

GIULIANI: You are mixing up two things.

TAPPER: Ethics and law.

GIULIANI: Number one. Number two, you are mixing what happens at this level of the campaign and what the candidate knows about.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, this level was the campaign chairman, the President's son and the President's son in-law.

GIULIANI: But it wasn't the President.


WHITFIELD: It was the President's son and son-in-law.

And now Democrats are weighing their options moving forward. House intelligence chairman Adam Schiff says there will be a Democratic caucus about impeachment over the next couple of weeks as Democrats weigh that possibility.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS DAILY: Do you think this is impeachable?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Yes, I do. I do think that this -- if proven -- if proven which hasn't been proven yet. Some of this -- if proven, some of this would be impeachable, yes.

TODD: All right.

NADLER: Obstruction of justice if proven would be impeachable.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (R-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It may be that we undertake an impeachment nonetheless. I think what we are going to have to decide as a caucus is what is the best thing for the country? Is the best thing for the country to take up an impeachment proceeding because to do otherwise sends a message that this conduct is somehow compatible with office?


WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me now to discuss retired FBI supervisory special agent James Gagliano, former federal prosecutor and counsel for Democrats on the impeachment of Clinton Liz Wiehl and Washington bureau chief for "the Toronto Star" Daniel Dale.

All right. Good to see all of you and Happy Easter.

All right. So Daniel, a lot of competing messages here, you know. Democrats are trying to figure out whether it's, you know, moving forward on impeachment, investigations, all of the above or none of that. Meantime, you heard Rudy Giuliani there. I mean, what do you make of the message and what he is doing and what do you understand of that?

DANIEL DALE, WASHINGTON BUREAU, TORONTO STAR: I think that the consistent strategy from Trump and his team has been to throw every possible argument at the wall at the same time and hope that something sticks or hope to simply confuse everyone. And when challenged on any part of the argument, just go to another argument. So Giuliani saying there's nothing wrong with this. Well, I wouldn't have done it. Well, it's not about immorality. And so I think to a lot of people that this is confusing or unconvincing?

But I think, you know, of course, a lot of people, a lot of Americans agree with him, you know. That the investigation was centered upon the idea of a conspiracy between Trump and Russia. Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to establish such a conspiracy, and so the details are more or less irrelevant.

WHITFIELD: And, Liz, what do you make of the message from Rudy Giuliani that, you know, that it's not an issue of immorality. That there are a host of other reasons why the President was a victim in all of this?

LIZ WIEHL, COUNSEL FOR DEMOCRATS ON IMPEACHMENT OF CLINTON: A victim in all of this, hardly. I mean, his actions were the reasons that the whole Mueller investigation started. And then when the Mueller investigation started, he did everything he could to shut it down. And the only reason he couldn't shut it down was because his aides wouldn't let him shut it down. He tried to obstruct justice and he wasn't able to obstruction justice.

And by the way, you know, obstruction of justice claims are usually foiled. That's why we find out about them because people can't obstruct justice and prosecutors find out about it and bring the charges. Where I a prosecutor, and I were presented the facts that are brought

in these -- in the Mueller report, I would have brought a charge of obstruction of justice against any sitting person. Of course, Mueller can't bring a charge of obstruction of justice against a sitting President. And now, of course, Congress is faced with what to do. And of course, dividing the country even further bringing impeachment charges. And I realize that would be very, very fraught, and especially when you are considering, you know, that they would probably at this point, you know, not have the Republican votes to actually remove. And having been there, you know, 20 years ago, I realize that that's quite a task. But, you know, they are look at the will larger constitutional issues as well. So we will see how that goes going forward.

[14:30:48] WHITFIELD: Right. And meantime, Liz, you know, the White House is threatening that there might be a rebuttal report. Do you see that coming? I mean, advisor, White House advisor Kellyanne Conway just said earlier today, you know, that this whole Mueller investigation was ill conceived, it was illegitimate investigation.

WIEHL: Well, you know, illegitimate investigation, it turned up, what, how many, 34 indictments, five of Trump's closest advisers have pled guilty. Illegitimate, really. I don't think you would see 34 indictments come out of that now, would you?

WHITFIELD: All right. So listen to what Rudy Giuliani also said this morning, this time to CNN's Jake Tapper.


TAPPER: But we shouldn't take this as exoneration of the President because the document is not credible?

GIULIANI: We shouldn't take it as exoneration --

TAPPER: You are saying that this document is not credible.

GIULIANI: No, no. How about looking at it this way. People who were unfair to him. People who wrote an unfair report, people who came close to torturing people to get information and break them?

TAPPER: Came close to torturing people?

GIULIANI: Yes. How about --?

TAPPER: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

GIULIANI: How about having Manafort --?

TAPPER: Came close to torturing people?

GIULIANI: Yes. How about having Manafort in solitary confinement and questioning him 13 times. Maybe torture is too much.

TAPPER: You were a prosecutor. Did you put people in solitary confinement? GIULIANI: To question them? Absolutely not.


WHITFIELD: So James, do you see this as, you know, distraction? Is this a sign of, you know, more digging in the heels of deception and defending it instead?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Fred, I have lost my capacity for astonishment with the former mayor. And look, I was long in his fan club. I was an unabashed fan of his performance in New York City after 9/11. I was there, down there when the trade towers came down and in the hours, days and weeks afterwards. He was an amazing leader. His second act now as a political surrogate, and I hate to the say this, but as a Sicilian American, I can, a (INAUDIBLE), a house counsel, it's beyond unsettling.

What he is doing, a man that once had great credibility, he is defending the indefensible. I understand opposition research. I understand that campaigns want to get as much dirt about their opponents as they can. You don't do it through surrogates or surrogates of surrogates of a hostile state like Russia, and that's occurred here. And if they just admitted it and said it was a mistake we can move on because, yes, it's not breaking laws, but it's unconscionable that a presidential campaign was doing it and culture starts at the top, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Liz, you are in agreement, nodding in.

WIEHL: Absolutely. I wish could I have said that exactly right. And just insert the words, you know, illegally obtained information before Giuliani's words information, illegally obtained and knowingly illegally obtained. I mean, this, you know --.

WHITFIELD: But it sounds like the former prosecutor is saying that doesn't matter. It's OK.

WIEHL: Unbelievable. I mean, it's just astonishing, and I'm right with it. I mean, Giuliani, the mayor of the city of New York who just stood up for 9/11, I mean, it's just so amazing.

Now to see, to be fair, he is a zealous advocate for his client, and that's what it is here, being a zealous advocate for your client. But your client, you know, the President of the United States should be held to a higher standard. And that is why we have the constitution built the way it is. And that's, you know, why we have impeachment proceedings at some point. Abuse of power, you know, is built in to the constitution and impeachment proceedings.

WHITFIELD: And Daniel, you know, we are also getting kind of detailed behind the scenes color you know, of Trump, seeking assurances from staffers, that they will treat his orders like those of a president and hopefully they know what that means.

At the same time, there's a "Washington Post" report that talks about people who did answer questions in this Mueller report. They are now potentially afraid of some sort of retribution if they continue to it, you know, work in Washington or work inside the White House. What do you say about this kind of ongoing fear that people might have of this administration?

DALE: To Trump everything is personal. And often it seems like he cares more about betrayal than legal exposure or his perception of betrayal. So here, you know, what has bothered him so much about the Mueller report, is you know, to some extent Mueller outlining, you know, evidence of possible obstruction crimes, but also evidence that his aides are ignoring him, you know, treating him like the troubled, you know, grandpa or uncle who you let rant at the holiday and don't respond to.

You know, he wants to be listened to above all else. You know, his whole life has been consumed by a quest to get people to take him seriously. And Mueller outlined among other things evidence that his own aides were either not taking him seriously or acting against his wishes in order to protect him in their view. And so Trump is bothered by this, even though the staffers may have saved him from an even harsher conclusion by the special counsel.

[14:35:43] WHITFIELD: It doesn't appear as though the President and his team is seeing it that way about McGahn. I mean, Kellyanne Conway, you know, Rudy Giuliani were asked about that this morning, and they don't see that it was McGahn who helped save the presidency.

WIEHL: Exactly. I mean, the people that actually saved him were the people that are just kind of not really getting their due right now by the Trump spokespeople now. I mean, it's McGahn, it is KT McFarland and all of the people who were the line assistants, if you will, who were the ones right there at the scene saying no, you can't do this, grandpa, uncle, whatever you want to call him. You can't do it. Sessions even saying, no, we are not going to toe the line. We are not going to do this. This is the rule of law, after all.

WHITFIELD: So James, if you were, you know, if you were anybody, you know, who is on this team of investigators, the Mueller team, how frustrated are you feeling, or was this the expectation that perhaps there would be, you know, picking and choosing from the White House as to what they believe is valid, truthful and honest information?

GAGLIANO: Fred, I think all of us expected that this was going to be a Rorschach Test. The country is divided. People were going to see in it what they want to see in it. I think the thing that was most surprising to me, I thought, and, again, I served under director Mueller when he was at the FBI for 12 of my 25 years, straight shooter, suffers no fools, calls things straight. I just --

WHITFIELD: The President called him an honorable man but not anymore?

GAGLIANO: Yes. That's his opinion. I'll stick with mine. And I believe Robert Mueller did the right thing. And I think it was his humility that caused him not to take a definitive stance. I wish it had been definitive. Like here's the evidence. This could be indictable, but you can't because he is the sitting President and he didn't do that. WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it there for now. Thank you so

much to all of you, James, Liz and Daniel. Appreciate it the.

All right. Still ahead, terror in Sri Lanka. More than 200 are killed in bombings attacks on Christian churches and hotels. We are back with breaking details next.


[14:41:48] WHITFIELD: We are continuing to follow a breaking news out of Sri Lanka where officials say coordinated Easter attacks have killed at least 207 people and injured 560. Three of the explosions targeted Christian churches during Easter services and three other bombings targeted hotels popular with foreign tourists.

U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo said several Americans are among the dead. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. Sri Lankan officials say there have been seven arrests so far.

So from the fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris to arson attacks on U.S. churches in the south and the riots in Northern Ireland ahead of Easter, Republican parades where a young journalist was killed and now the Sri Lankan attacks. It's been a very difficult time for Christians around the world.

CNN's senior diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is following events from Northern Ireland - Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Fredricka. Normally Easter is time of happiness of fellow Christians, sort of coming together in communion and time of reflection with other members of the faith. But this week has been very traumatic. Just think back to Monday earlier in the week when Parisians were watching the spire on the church of the cathedral of the Notre Dame twisting and falling and the flames. They dropped to their knees. They were in prayer and they were singing hymns.

Here in Northern Ireland, a young journalist being killed by what police are describing as a new breed of terrorists, an 18 and 19 years old - two teenagers, 18 and 19 years old. The police say were members of the new IRA have been arrested for her murder. But they were essentially jumping on the back of violent protests against the police that's typical around this sort of Easter weekend here in Northern Ireland.

And then you have, of course, that arsonist who tried to walk into St. Patrick's cathedral in New York. That clearly had some kind of intent to burn the cathedral within recent weeks as well. You were just mentioning there that the churches in Louisiana that were burned.

So this has been a very, very difficult time for Christians in the run up to Easter, a time when faith is tested to reflect on the better times in their life. But it's not clearly an understatement to day. It is the Easter period that people generally look forward to.

WHITFIELD: Is there a way of telling whether there is a particular campaign, you know, to blame or an influence from any sort of campaign as it pertains to targeting Christians around the world?

ROBERTSON: Well, certainly, you know, you have had a number of leading politicians in Europe recently, Theresa May, the British Prime Minister spoken about it amongst certain many others about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. And that certainly something that has been we have seen a rise of. You have seen it in Nigeria. You have seen it in Pakistan. And you know, those who were target - Christians would say this is because Christians are targeting the Muslim community.

But I think the deeper reflection is that there is -- there is a radical Islamist trend that pushes towards a more conservative brand of Islam. And this is an effort to target Christians. And in some cases to send a message, but in some cases to diminish their populations, and in some areas like Nigeria it is an effort to take control of part of the country by terrorist organizations. It's a hodgepodge, but it comes down to this trend towards an extremely conservative brand of Islamist terrorism.

[14:45:29] WHITFIELD: Nic Robertson, thank you so much.

There's much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, but first here is this week's staying well.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So this is my favorite, ASMR, the only one I go to for sleep. It's just like the soothing sound of the cutting. It brings me to relaxed state and takes away the anxiety and constant thinking so I'm just focused on this.

LAURI LEADLEY, SLEEP VALLEY CENTER: ASMR is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and it's actually a sensation that some people get, but it happens with certain triggers, certain sounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it brings this sensation, relaxing sensation to my body. I have a tingling in my head and a tingling in my spine when I listen to it.

LEADLEY: The studies are still out there. We are waiting. We should note that ASMR doesn't work for everybody and there's no guarantee. There's hundreds of You Tube channels out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ASMR has become very popular in the last couple of years. For example, my You Tube channel gentle whispering at this time has over 600 million views. There's a wide variety of different ASMR triggers that you can explore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Talking into your ears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are soft spoken voices. There are tactile triggers, crackling, tingling, and then there's sounds such as slime or cutting. It's just a very comforting sensation.



[14:51:39] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. House speaker Nancy Pelosi is planning a crucial meeting tomorrow to discuss how Democrats will move forward after the release of the Mueller report which she has described as a grave matter. There are growing calls in her party to impeach the President, including calls from some candidates on the campaign trail.

Senator Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro say Congress should uphold its constitutional authority. Among the contenders sidestepping the issue Congressman Tim Ryan.


REP. TIM RYAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: After reading that document, in my estimation, I think it's pretty clear that the President obstructed on several different occasions.

TAPPER: So you do not support impeachment as of right now, but you want the process to begin, the investigation process to begin, is that correct?

RYAN: That's correct. That's correct. Yes, let the process play itself out.


WHITFIELD: David Sanger is with us now. He is a CNN political analyst.

Good to see you. Happy Easter and Passover. So what is calculus here as to why some 2020 Democrats want to stay away from commenting about the Mueller findings, impeachment proceedings or not?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Fredericka, Good Easter and Passover to you.

They are sort of stuck at this point. Nancy Pelosi staked out her ground pretty early which was basically to say there's an election coming in 18 months, that even if there was impeachment, there clearly would not be a conviction in the Senate. And, therefore, it could divide a way the independents who the Democrats will most need, maybe some of whom voted for President Trump last time and who would look at this report and be disgusted enough by the events in the White House. The White House that clearly comes across in the report as having attempted to or the President attempted to obstruct justice saved by many of his own close aides. A press secretary who issued deliberately misleading statements it appeared, and I think the Pelosi view is let the voters sort that out. There are, you know -- there's the Elizabeth Warren wing and the Castro wing here which says note the symbolism of doing the impeachment is what's critical here.

WHITFIELD: So, are there Dems who really risk, you know, looking like that they are backing down from the President by avoiding the Mueller report, particularly on the campaign trail? SANGER: Well, I think their way around that is by discussing the

specifics of what's in the report and asking the question is this the kind of behavior you want in a White House or of a President and say, look, there are other ways when you're this close to an election to get to this? There will certainly be diehards in the Democratic Party who want to argue for impeachment because they believe it puts a stain on this presidency historically, and I think the question for the Democrats is what's their better strategy at this point?

WHITFIELD: And then quickly, former vice president Joe Biden expected to officially jump into the race this week. What should his rollout look like, video, in front of a cameras, what?

SANGER: Well, it's going to be -- sounds like there's both video and I'm sure there will be a lot of Joe Biden in front of the camera. You know, I was thinking as I looked at that array of all the people you will have in the town hall talking tomorrow that the difference between Joe Biden and them is that Joe Biden has sat in the situation room and been deeply involved in foreign policy, was obviously the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And the upside of that is he can argue in all those video that he is the only one experienced to handle a world spinning out of control. And the downside for him is clearly that he sort of reaction of the Obama era, old school Democratic politics. And for some voters that's going to be a turnoff. But that's what you are getting with Joe Biden. And the question is, what's that experience worth?

[14:55:42] WHITFIELD: Right. What will resonate with the American voters?

All right. David Sanger, thanks so much.

SANGER: Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM right after this.