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At Least 290 People Killed In Easter Sunday Bombings; Source: Intel Memo Warned Of Potential Suicide Attack; Exit Polls: Zelensky Wins Presidential Vote By A Landslide; Ukrainian President Concedes After Landslide Defeat; Words of Comfort For Sri Lanka; Pope Francis Mourns Victims of Easter Bomb Attacks; Congressional Democrats Not Ruling Out Impeachment; Fukushima Soccer Facility Reopens. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 22, 2019 - 01:00   ET



[01:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Sri Lanka is in shock after a series of bombings target churches and hotels killing nearly 300 people and there may have been signs an attack was coming. A comedian with no political experience has unseated Ukraine's president and he's calling for a reboot of Russian relations. Eight years after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, a symbol of relief is reopening, Fukushima's football center.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Sri Lanka is on edge a day after the horrific Easter Sunday bombings. Eight blasts killed at least 290 people. They hit for hotels and three churches. It is a devastating blow for the island's Christian minority. Gruesome images have emerged including this blood-stained statue of Jesus.

Authorities took drastic measures after the attacks. We know of at least 24 arrests. An overnight curfew was in effect and social media was cut off. There's been no claim of responsibility but there may have been signs an attack was coming.

A police source says an intelligence memo circulated earlier this month. It said the leader of a Muslim extremist group might be planning a suicide operation. Sri Lanka's Prime Minister is vowing a response.


RANIL WICKREMESINGHE, PRIME MINISTER OF SRI LANKA (through translator): We have ordered to arrest everyone involved in this incident and have given all powers to authorities in charge. We don't tolerate this kind of behavior and we'll take action against people involved and also look into shortcomings from our own side.


CHURCH: And CNN's Will Ripley explains how the attacks unfolded.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bomb after bomb, city after city, a terrifying Easter Sunday across Sri Lanka. The primary targets for hotels full of foreigners and three churches full of Christians. One glass rocks St. Sebastian's Church at the end of Easter Mass. A thousand worshipers ran from the horror. Lifeless bodies, blood-stained pews, debris, and human remains propelled through the sanctuary into the streets.

MALCOLM RANJITH, SRI LANKAN ARCHBISHOP: This morning, Easter Sunday, in two of my churches St. Anthony's Church Kochchikade and St. Sebastian's Church Katuwapitiya, two bombs exploded. It's a very, very sad day for all of us.

RIPLEY: Pope Francis expressed sadness in solidarity calling the attacks cruel violence in his Easter address offering prayers and a moment of silence for the victims.

POPE FRANCIS, LEADER, CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): I learned with great sadness the news of the serious attacks that today on Easter brought mourning and pain.

RIPLEY: Police say more than two dozen foreigners are among the dead. Many of them killed in hotels in and around Colombo, Sri Lanka's largest city and in recent years a tourist hotspot. Also killed three police officers raiding a house when two bombs went off inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In the explosion, three police officers from the Colombo Crime Investigation Division were killed. The officers one sub-inspector and two constables were killed when two explosions occurred during a raid at a home in Colombo where they were attempting to question the resident.

RIPLEY: Police arrested at least three Sri Lankan suspects but say the motive remains unclear. The targets and timing have the hallmarks of international terror. But Sri Lanka also has active local militias and next month marks a decade since it's bloody 26 years civil war came to an end.

MANISHA GUNASEKERA, SRI LANKAN HIGH COMMISSIONER TO U.K.: I would say that this is an attack against the whole of Sri Lanka because Sri Lanka is a very multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multicultural country, and the whole country comes together in celebration of Easter Sunday with the Christian and Catholic community. So this is an attack against the Sri Lankan-ness and the Sri Lankan identity.

RIPLEY: As a growing list of world leaders condemned the bombings, Sri Lanka's president expressed shock and dismay, calling all police officers back from Easter break imposing an island-wide curfew and closing schools until at least midweek.

Sri Lanka's Army, Navy, and Air Force also held emergency meetings as the small South Asia island nation grappled with familiar questions in this age of terror. Why here, why now, and what's next? Will Ripley, CNN.


CHURCH: And since Will filed that report, authorities say they have arrested 24 people in connection with the bombings. Well, as we learn more about the attacks, we're also learning about the victims. Shantha Mayadunne was a T.V. chef well-known in Sri Lanka and popular as well in India and the U.K. Her daughter apparently posted this image on Facebook right before the attacks. The family was sitting down for Easter breakfast at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo but the mother and daughter were killed.

Well, for more I'm joined now by CNN's Nikhil Kumar who is standing by outside the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo. So Nikhil, what more are you learning about these deadly attacks on Easter Sunday and who to authorities think might be behind them?

[01:05:51] NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Rosemary, as of yet we don't yet have an idea -- a clear idea of who is behind this. Authorities investigating that trying to pinpoint the perpetrators but this is on this Monday morning after Easter Sunday, this is the country that is struggling to come to terms with this attack. As you mentioned, I'm at one of the locations that was attacked, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, A restaurant here where a bomb went off around breakfast time.

It was one of the hotels that was hit. Along with that, there were churches that were hit. This is a country that has seen violence in previous decades. You'll recall the civil war that unfolded over here over almost three decades ended in 2009. Next month is, in fact, the 10th anniversary. Over the last decade, Sri Lankans have been getting used to peace, to some sense of normalcy.

Yesterday's attack had brought back some very dark memories for people here. And the biggest question is why did it happen, who did this, and why was it allowed to happen. You mentioned the intelligence report that's come to light. People are asking some very, very pressing questions about why wasn't that warning heeded.

So it's still a country, Rosemary, this morning that's coming to terms with this tragedy even as we keep getting news about the extent and the scale of what happened. Almost 300 people dead now, that death toll many expect to go higher, and already were almost doubled what the death toll was in the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai in India. So it's really devastating for this tiny island nation of just 21 million people. Rosemary?

CHURCH: It is just unbearable just to look at the details here. And of course, you mentioned that memo, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister said he knew nothing about that memo that was circulated on April 11 warning of a possible attack. What might be the ramifications of that given no apparent plans were put in place to respond to an attack and few people were even told about it?

KUMAR: It's become a big controversy here. People are asking that very question. Why wasn't more done? Why wasn't more security are put into place? Right now all across this island, including in the capital Colombo, the security area behind me, you can see there are armed guards stationed outside all hotels particularly hotels that will hit.

Every car is being stopped, every individual trying to enter public buildings is being frisked. But the question is that many people are asking, the question that they're asking is why wasn't this done earlier. If this warning was there, why wasn't more done to prevent the attack instead of now after this tragedy has cost already so many lives? Rosemary?

CHURCH: They are important questions. Nikhil Kumar, thank you for joining us there from Colombo. I appreciate it. And joining me now on the phone is Bhavani Fonseka. She is a Human Rights Lawyer and the Senior Researcher at the Center for Policy Alternatives. Thank you so much for being with us, and our condolences to you and your country for these heinous attacks.


CHURCH: Right, can you hear us? I wanted to talk to you about --

FONSEKA: Yes, I can.

CHURCH: So let's just discuss these attacks and the memo because what makes it even more unbearable for families of victims is the revelation that an intelligence memo circulated ten days ago warning of a possible attack but no plans were apparently made in response to that threat. What's your reaction to that?

FONSEKA: This is extremely disturbing what we learned here today. And the prime minister spoke of the intelligence being available but he (INAUDIBLE) is not being informed. (INAUDIBLE) the security situation in Sri Lanka, the intelligence but also the governance. Sri Lanka has had (INAUDIBLE) of dysfunction of governance that the president and the prime minister in two different (INAUDIBLE).

Yesterday, the incident is what has been -- more of what has been reported by the prime minster is true. It has wide and deep investigation that assess as to why this happen and why (INAUDIBLE).

CHURCH: Bhavani Fonseka, we're going to have to leave it there because we are having audio problems with our connection. We will try to reestablish that but move on for now. Thank you so much for that. Now, earlier I spoke with tourism expert Levi West about the attack in Sri Lanka, and I asked him about that police memo that warned authorities about the attack before it occurred.


[01:10:21] LEVI WEST, TOURISM STUDIES DIRECTOR, CHARLES STURT UNIVERSITY: I think one of the things that's coming out over time is that there'll be a substantial investigation into how such specific intelligence that's disseminated within the national security apparatus of government in Sri Lanka sort of failed to make its way to the places that needed to make it.

It's a regrettably not unfamiliar story in the aftermath of terrorist incidents where there has been pieces of information and pieces of intelligence that haven't necessarily been stitched together the way that they needed to be.

Now people will remember the conclusions of the 9/11 commission report that found similar ideas that the information was there in disparate locations but in some way had the full picture then there might have been something that was -- that could have been done. So I'm confident there'll be a substantial investigation into what happened there and what's gone wrong.

CHURCH: Yes. It's just horrendous for the families to learn that there was knowledge of this possible attack and now it has happened. And also the naming of -- do you have any information on this man Mohammed (INAUDIBLE) or the group he leads, National Thowheeth Jama'ath.

WEST: Nothing specific. I think it's important to not overplay what's been suggested in those reports -- is that there was not a suggestion that there was going to be a multi-location coordinated suicide bombing attack like what's happened. And you know, there's a difference between the suggestion that there could be a suicide operation sometime in the next week or the next month is highly likely that that will take place, and intelligence that says there's going to be six attacks on these locations at this time.

So I think it's important -- there'll be an investigation to find out what's gone wrong. But to suggest that it's necessarily a failure and that they had specific information is just to reduce that down. In regards to the individual in the organization, myself, and most of the people I've spoken to over the last 24 hours have a little to no information on the individual or on the organization in relation to Jihadists terrorism.

CHURCH: Right, right.

WEST: People whose -- Sri Lanka and Islam in Sri Lanka and things like that, some of them are familiar with it, well I'm with him, but in regard specifically to operational terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, no.

CHURCH: Right. And of course we do have to emphasize, that was mentioned in the memo. We do not know if that group was actually behind this attack because again, I repeat, no one has claimed responsibility. But let's talk about the target, because Christians only make up what about seven percent of the Sri Lankan a population. Just over there you can see 7.4 percent. Why do you think they would be a target in this sort of attack?

WEST: Yes, so the targets and the timing of the attack can provide a little bit of an indication about little likely nature of the perpetrators of the operation. Targeting Christians is a fairly standard symbolic exercise for a range of different Jihadist organizations that operate right across South Asia and the Middle East.

We've seen attacks in Egypt and across the Middle East more broadly on Christian targets specifically on non-Islamic targets and on the Islamic target. And so places of worship for religiously motivated terrorist organizations obviously hold a certain special you know, symbolic position within their targeting decisions.

And then in addition to that, the timing will be partly symbolic in regards to being Easter but also about the fact that if you're going to attack a church, then you can bank on the fact that on Easter Sunday there's going to be an awful lot of people there. So there's some bits and pieces that we can stitch together from the targeting decisions and the kinds of people that they're seeking to target in the operations.

The hotels, that's the second dimension which is where you're likely to find either westerners or wealthy individuals and wealthy families.


CHURCH: And that was Levi West, Director of Tourism Studies at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia talking to me a little earlier. Well, in the wake of the attacks, Christians around the world have been sharing their thoughts on the tragedy. Here's what two people in Rome had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a Christian, as a Catholic, I feel so bad why this time is happening to us. And I believe it's saying -- awakening for all of us to really just look at what is happening around us, to our -- to the people. Let us change hearts. Let us open our hearts to any culture, to any religion. It's not about Christian, it's not about Muslim, it's not about atheist, it's about being human.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the terror attacks around the world really make a big impact on you because it makes you feel scared, and it make you think about to go to places like this of course. But it's not allowed to scare us I think. We need to do it anyway.


CHURCH: Reaction there from Rome. We'll take a break here. When we come back, Ukrainian voters have picked a new president. Why that could be good news for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Back with that in just a moment.



CHURCH: And that is the moment, Ukrainian comedian, Volodymyr Zelensky found out he's going to be the next president of his country. Exit polls show the political newcomer pulled about 53 percent of the vote, his opponent, current president, Petro Poroshenko, received about a quarter of the vote. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETRO POROSHENKO, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): Dear Ukrainians, next month, I will leave the position of the head of state. That is what the majority of Ukrainians have decided, and I accept this decision. I will leave office, but I would like to firmly stress that I am not leaving politics. I am staying in politics. I will keep fighting for Ukraine.


CHURCH: Phil Black looks at the challenges the new president faces.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL FREELANCE REPORTER: The sitting president is being removed peacefully and democratically, in Ukraine. That's historic because the last one was forced out in a violent and hard-fought revolution that left more than 100 people killed. That was only five years ago.

[01:20:01] But this election is also extraordinary because of who has won, Volodymyr Zelensky, the political novice, the professional comedian and actor, the man who has become famous in this country through pretending to be Ukraine's president, on a T.V. show.

That show, the Servant of the People, shows Zelensky playing a regular guy who accidentally becomes president, and goes on to do battle with corrupt oligarchs and politicians to try and clean up the political system here.

Zelensky's campaign was very much modeled on that idea. He made a virtue of his relative ignorance and inexperience, he was a fresh face. He didn't give many interviews. He didn't appear publicly. He didn't talk a lot about policy detail.

He formed his campaign using online videos, slick videos, often cheeky, mocking the old political guard in this country, his broad, somewhat abstract message that he's going to make it a better place, somehow. It worked. He led the campaign throughout. He easily won the first round of voting and in the runoff, exit polls suggest he secured around 73 percent of the vote.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT-ELECT, UKRAINE (through translator): I will never let you down. To all post-Soviet countries, I tell you, look at us, everything is possible. We did it together, thanks to everyone. Now, there will be no pathetic speeches, I just want to say, thank you.

BLACK: The hard work starts, day one, of the Zelensky presidency, he inherits a troubled economy and a five-year war against Russian-backed separatists in the East of the country. This professional clown will now be internationally going face to face with the vastly experienced president of Russia, Vladimir Putin

All of this matters because Ukraine represents the front line of the west confrontation with Russia, across a wide range of issues. How Zelensky is going to deal with all this really isn't known, because politically, publicly, he represents essentially a blank piece of paper.

But his enthusiasm, his smile and charisma, his sense of honesty, all of this, has been enough to convince many Ukrainians to support him, or at least help them realize that they simply don't want five more years of the same. Phil Black, CNN, Kiev.


CHURCH: So, let's get some perspective on the newcomer's landslide victory, and we are joined by Michael Bociurkiw, Global Affairs Analyst and Former Spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: We'll get to the topic of Russia, in just a moment, but I do want to ask you first, how does a former T.V. comedian, win a presidential election, by a landslide, particularly when he rarely explained his position on a range of critical and challenging issues?

BOCIURKIW: Well, clearly nothing short of extraordinary, I think for Poroshenko, the incumbent, it was his to lose. And I think and throughout the campaign, you saw a certain tone deafness.

Poroshenko camp was on a very patriotic platform, talking about language, faith, and army, but that did not resonate with young Ukrainians nor did it resonate with a lot of the Ukrainians, the majority, who are going through a very, very tough economic times.

At least, Zelensky appealed to them on a very more emotional level, and every second, taxi driver and person on the street I talked to here, and said, you know what, let's give the guy a chance, it's five years, and it's worth the gamble.

CHURCH: Right. So, who will be advising Zelensky particularly when it comes to dealing with Russia's President Putin, who, as a former KGB agent and experienced politician and leader, will no doubt be eager to test Zelensky's nerve, as the new -- as the new leader, apparently plans to reboot relations with Russia, how is that going to go?

BOCIURKIW: Yes. Well, it's going to be very interesting. In the drama (INAUDIBLE) as Zelensky stars, and he surrounds himself with friends, his ex-wife and appoints them to cabinet posts, they're totally inexperienced.

At least, here, we have seen some good examples of technocrats who know what they're doing, coming into his future cabinet. I'm thinking people like Oleksandr Danyliuk, the former Finance Minister.

So, as I just pointed on my CNN piece that went online, we'll be able to measure the man, by the people, that surround him. And, of course, as you pointed out and Phil Black, in his piece, the conflict with Russia has been suffering for five years. Putin is a master at manipulation.

So, it will be very interesting to see what kind of deals, if you will, Zelensky can do, and especially to get -- the last time I talked, I believe was when those 24 Ukrainian sailors were seized by Russia. Will he be able to get those guys out in the next 100 days or so?

CHURCH: Yes. Presumably, it's President Putin who's laughing, right now, as he watches all of this play out. And how will Zelensky confront economic challenges, in his country, problems with separatists, that he gave any indication in the course of the campaign?

[01:25:09] BOCIURKIW: He did. I had a long chat yesterday with one of his senior policy advisers who said they're going to be going after people power type of policies, for example, stripping immunity from prosecution from not only the president, but judges, and also Members of Parliament.

Now, just quickly, speaking Member of Parliament, that's job number one, starting right now, starting today, it's morning here, in Kiev, and he has to go to parliament and start building coalitions because nothing happens here without -- or hardly nothing happens here without parliament's approval.

It's very factious. They don't seem to like him, and he has no party in place, at the moment, so that's going to be the really, really tough job, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. There are many tough jobs ahead for him, and of course, during the election campaign, Zelensky hardly ever discussed weighty issues facing the country and even when he thanked everyone. We saw there, he didn't really give much of a speech, did he?

So, what's in store for Ukraine under his leadership, five years?

BOCIURKIW: Well, you know, Rosemary, I think it's fair to say Ukraine is at the pivot quite right now, it could go into a very bad economic state or it has a strong economy much stronger than five years ago, a stronger family.

It has very strong allies in terms of France, Germany, Canada, United States, so, you know, with that kind of backing, I think Ukraine can do very well, as long as Putin doesn't get up to any more of his tricks. The other thing, quickly, is he's going to have to build bridges with the traditional ally, the Diasporas.

Millions of Ukrainians, Canada, United States and elsewhere, who act as traditional lobbyists for the Ukrainian president, who can get measures through Congress, the parliament and (INAUDIBLE) so that will be very important as well.

CHURCH: All right. We'll be watching very closely, and I'm sure President Putin will be, as well. Michael Bociurkiw, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

A statement of sorrow from Pope Francis, coming up, we will take a look at his words of comfort after the Sri Lanka attacks.


[01:30:30] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church.

Want to update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour.

A comedian turned politician has won the Ukrainian presidential election in a landslide. According to exit polls, Volodymyr Zelensky got 73 percent of the vote. Incumbent President Petro Poroshenko received just over 25 percent. Zelensky will take office next month.

The people of Egypt are preparing for the third and final day of a national referendum vote. The constitutional amendments could allow the president to remain in office until 2030. And they could give him more power over the legislative and judicial branches. Critics say the proposals are a step towards authoritarianism.

Police say they have arrested two dozen people after a wave of deadly bombings in Sri Lanka. At least 290 people were killed in eight blasts across the country.

The U.S. State Department is warning its citizen to use increased caution if traveling to the island. It says terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka.

At the Vatican Pope Francis reacted to the attacks in Sri Lanka. He denounced what he called cruel violence, saying he felt great sadness and is praying for all those who are suffering.

CNN's senior Vatican analyst John Allen has the story from Rome.


JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: In his customary greetings on Easter Sunday to roughly 70,000 people in St. Peter's square, Pope Francis expressed his spiritual closeness to the victims of violence in Sri Lanka. He talked about the sorrow and the pain this violent has caused, denouncing it as cruel violence. The attacks on the churches and high-end hotels in Sri Lanka is part of a pattern of attacks on Christian targets on Easter Sunday, the holiest day on the Christian calendar.

In 2015 there was an attack on Christian students at a university in Kenya. 2016, bombings at a park Lahore, Pakistan where Christians were celebrating Easter. 2018 a spate of attacks on Christians across India.

In his traditional Urbi et Orbi address -- that's an address to the city meaning Rome, and to the world on Easter Sunday. Pope Francis also sent out his concern and expressed his commitment for other trouble spots -- in today's world from Africa to the Middle East, and from South America to Ukraine.

The Pope called for an end to violence and bloodshed, he once again, as he often has in the past condemned the arms trade, he expressed in a characteristic note his concern for the poor migrants and refugees.

That concludes what has been a very busy Holy Week period for Pope Francis that included the traditional Way of the Cross celebration at Rome's Coliseum on Friday and the Easter Vigil mass here in Rome.

Reporting from Rome -- this is John Allen for CNN.


CHURCH: Protestors in Sudan say they are suspending dialog with the military council that took power after the coup earlier this month, and they're calling for intensified protests outside the army headquarters in Khartoum. A spokesman says they will announce their own transitional government in a few days.

Meanwhile, military council chief says they found millions of dollars in foreign currency in the home of ousted strongman Omar al-Bashir.

Well, there's talk among Democrats of impeaching President Trump over the Mueller report findings. We will look at the ramifications if they go ahead with it, and if they decide against it.


CHURCH: Welcome back everyone.

Well, impeachment of President Trump is not out of the question for some congressional Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold a conference call with party members Monday afternoon to discuss it in light of the Mueller report on Russian election meddling.

She referred to it as a grave matter. The redacted version of the report outlined a number of occasions where President Trump tried to thwart the investigation. It stopped short of concluding he obstructed justice but it did not exonerate him either.

The President's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani has been claiming vindication. In an interview with Jake Tapper, he insisted it's acceptable to use hacked information obtained from a foreign adversary.


RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP ATTORNEY: There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: There's nothing wrong with taking information --


GIULIANI: Depends on where it came from. It depends on where it come from. You're assuming that the giving of information is a campaign

contribution. You take 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 candidate if you were running in the president's --


GIULIANI: I probably would not, I wasn't asked. I would have advised just out of excess of caution don't do it.


CHURCH: President Trump responded to the talk of impeachment in a tweet, once again accusing Democrats of committing crimes.

For more on this turn now to CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer. Thank you so much for joining us.


CHURCH: So what did you think of Rudy Giuliani's comments on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" when he said there's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians?

ZELIZER: Well, I think it was quite shocking to hear him say that. It was almost the inevitable combination of the defense of all the contacts that took place during the campaign. I don't think it sits well.

The question is are people shocked? Are they surprised to hear by the person who is representing the President of the United States simply say that's an ok thing to do. This is not normal campaign information. This is from a country that was conducting interference operations into our election.

CHURCH: Right. And of course, it's all in the aftermath of the dropping of the redacted Mueller report. And now Nancy Pelosi will talk with her caucus Monday at 5 p.m. in a conference call to discuss that, and to talk about whether to pursue impeachment proceedings against the President which is being pushed by a small group of lawmakers.

[01:40:02] What do you think she is likely to tell them in light of the release of this report?

ZELIZER: Well, her instinct is to be cautious and to go slow on any impeachment proceeding beginnings. I think where her heart lies right now is the idea that politically, the best route is to continue with investigations into the White House through congress, rather than through a special prosecutor. And hold off on launching impeachment until they're absolutely certain that they have no other choice.

She's going to get pushback. There are other Democrats who are saying there is enough out there, and it is a crossroads for the party. They have to hold the institution of the presidency accountable, and if they don't do anything, this moment will pass and President Trump will have legitimated all the kinds of activities he's undertaken.

CHURCH: Right. And of course, you have written about this whole issue. I wanted to ask you, if the Democrats decide to pursue impeachment, and it doesn't look that way at this point at least. But if they do pursue impeachment proceedings against President Trump, what might be the political ramifications of such action, and could they run the risk of backlash from voters, which might actually then shore up more support for Mr. Trump at the next election.

ZELIZER: Well, they could. So one scenario is just that. They start this. There is a backlash against them and this leads President Trump to be reelected in 2020, and Democrats suffer.

Another scenario is like 1974, when Richard Nixon was president. The impeachment proceedings led to Democrats retaining and expanding their control of Congress, and winning the presidency in 1976.

And Democrat should remember, I wrote that if they drop this, if they just let everything in the Mueller report go, not only do they legitimate what the President did, but they will also feed his campaign political talking point this was all a witch hunt. And he could end up getting reelected again.

So I think it's really hard to play out the scenario. Democrats have to decide based on the substance of what they know, is there then enough to move forward with impeachment.

CHURCH: Right. Ok. So you mentioned that. Let's look at that possible scenario because it looks at this point that Democrats will decide not to pursue impeachment proceedings, and instead continue their investigations into the President.

But you feel that sends the wrong signal to the country. It looks like they are ignoring what has been revealed in the Mueller report. So -- but if that's -- if that's the path they choose, what will happen then when Mr. Trump is no longer president -- whenever that happens, whether it's the end of this current term or he gets voted in back and it's the end of that term.

ZELIZER: Well, the question is, in part 2 of the Mueller report, Robert Mueller laid out a really significant case of obstruction of justice. And if ultimately nothing really comes in this, if this is allowed to be and either President Trump is no longer in office or he's serving a second term, this becomes a new norm, a new precedent for presidents of the United States in both parties.

They'll see a vast expansion of presidential power, and this and many other things that critics appointed to from the administration will be made legitimate.

So that's the cost of inaction. It doesn't mean impeachment proceedings have to start this week or next month, but to take them off the table really seems politically problematic and ethically problematic.

CHURCH: Right. And according to Twitter, certainly Mr. Trump is not afraid -- he's not worried about the possibility of impeachment. What do you think he is trying to say with that?

ZELIZER: Well, this is predictable. He always argues that he is not scared of any kind of threat like impeachment. Never has he said that he cares about what the multiple investigations are doing.

That's his rhetoric. He always wants to cast doubt on the legitimacy of everyone who has something to say about him that is not positive. And he always wants to send out the threat that he is not scared of opponents coming his way.

That doesn't mean he is invincible. And the two are two separate questions.

CHURCH: Well, we shall see what happens Monday at 5:00 when the Democrats talk about this very topic. Thank you so very much, Julian Zelizer.

ZELIZER: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: Eight years ago a devastating earthquake shook northeastern Japan unleashing a tsunami and a nuclear disaster. And now a symbolic soccer facility is reopening there for the first time since 2011. That story, next.


CHURCH: Well royal watchers couldn't help but notice that Prince Harry attended Easter service at St. George's Chapel without his wife. Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex is expected to give birth to the couple's first child in the coming days and is apparently staying out of the public eye.

Easter Sunday also marks Queen Elizabeth's 93rd birthday. The couple wished her a happy birthday on their joint Instagram account.

Well, in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan the local football pitch was converted into a base for recovery activities. Now eight years after the disaster the J Village facility has reopened. It now serves as a symbol of reconstruction.

But as our Amanda Davies reports the road to recovery for the area surrounding it is far from over.


ENSHIDA ITO (PH), TOMIOKA RESIDENT (graphic): Here, there was a quake. Then a tsunami.

[01:50:07] AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 83 years of age, Enshida Ito (ph) is settling back into life in Tomioka, the community she forced to evacuate in 2011 when the deadly earthquake and tsunami hit and triggered a meltdown at Fukushima's Daiichi nuclear plant. It's a very different town now to the one she grew up in.

ITO: Then there were three communities near here. All those communities were washed away.

So we literally left with only the clothes we were wearing. I was even wearing an apron when I left.

DAVIES: This is an area still rebuilding. (INAUDIBLE) measuring radiation levels are a constant reminder and Ito-san is in the minority in terms of resident's who have decided to come back.

(on camera): Eight years on from the disaster and the devastation is still all too obvious here in Tomioka. We're just 10 kilometers away from the nuclear plant and until two years ago this was all part of the no-go zone because of radiation.

Residents have been allowed back since April 2017 but as you can see many have chosen not to return.

Do you have any concerns living here now with the radiation?

ITO: Being elderly, we don't have much concern. But there are many young people who cannot come back here because they are worried about it.

DAVIES (voice over): Authorities insist the area is now safe and much of the redevelopment that has taken place can be looked up through the prism of the National Football Center known as the J Village and the journey that it's been through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (graphics): I remember little children here. This place became the center of the recovery activities where vehicles were driving all over the grass making it completely unusable. All the turf was removed and I remember feeling very sad.

DAVIES: It was only four months after the disaster struck that the Japan women's team won the Football World Cup for the first time. If the beautiful game was a long way from the minds of those in the midst of the cleanup, Fukushima was definitely at the forefront for the players 9,000 miles away.

And for Aya Sameshima (ph) in particular.

AYA SAMESHIMA (graphics): It was always on my mind. So during the World Cup, I was trying to focus on soccer. I think this focus resulted in the team winning. I hoped the people in the disaster stricken area would have their morale lifted with our spirited performances.

DAVIES: Aya -- 23 at the time was someone who played for domestic football for a team based at the J Village.

(on camera): I know your coach actually showed some pictures, some images from here before the quarterfinal. What was that like for you?

SAMESHIMA: It definitely motivated the whole team to win even more. I couldn't look directly at them though.

DAVIES: I'm sorry.

(voice over): The feelings are still so raw, we had to stop talking about it. Aya worked for the company that ran the nuclear plant and played for the football team that they sponsored, TEPCO.

She told me afterwards, she struggles with the feeling of guilt that while her football career was able to flourish when she moved to the United States her teammates didn't get that opportunity.

SAMESHIMA: Forget where I was.

DAVIES: The World Cup success didn't quite allow victims of the disaster to forget what had happened but it certainly had a positive impact.

ITO: We were all still at the places we evacuated to. But we talked about it. We were pleased saying how cheered up we were by that. It made everyone happy. This made everyone smile.

DAVIES: It's from the J Village that Japan's women are preparing their challenge for this year's World Cup in France. And it's also been announced that next year the facility will host the start of the Japanese leg of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay.

[01:55:01] It is a move authorities hope will shine a light on the area's reconstruction but one that has faced criticism from those who feel there is still a long way to go until the area is fully restored to the way it once was.

SAMESHIMA: Recently, I'm often asked about the words "restoration Olympics". This question is a bit difficult.

ITO: There are residents who are still suffering or have yet to recover. The Olympic torch running through here would hive them a boost.

DAVIES: With authorities estimating it will take 40 years for the nuclear plant to be rendered safe and reminders of the disasters everywhere you look. Even if sport will help this area be known for something more than that disaster around the world, for the local community while the building blocks are in place the road to recovery goes on.

Amanda Davies, CNN -- Fukushima, Japan.


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