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House Subpoena Issued To Former White House Counsel Don McGahn; U.S. Wavers On Iran Oil Sanctions To Expire May 2; Nearly 3,000 Homes Flooded In Quebec; New Photos Of Prince Louis For First Birthday. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired April 23, 2019 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): As Sri Lanka mourns the hundreds of victims, there is still no clear answer as to who is responsible for the series of coordinated bombings on Easter Sunday. But suspicions are growing of links to ISIS.
Plus, Democrats weigh their option as the Mueller report revenues calls to impeach the president Donald Trump.
And more than 1,000 people have been evacuated as severe flooding grips major parts of Canada's Quebec province.
Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. This is CNN NEWSROOM.
CHURCH: It is an official day of mourning in Sri Lanka and a day of apologies. A memorial has been held for some of the 310 people killed in Sunday's terror attacks. Bombers targeted four hotels and three churches.
U.S. officials say the attacks may be tied to global terrorism, including ISIS. Sri Lanka's government says it failed to act. It had intelligence that a plot was being hatched but did not prepare. One minister tells CNN it was a colossal failure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARSHA DE SILVA, SRI LANKAN ECONOMIC REFORMS MINISTER: The prime minister was unaware. He was kept in the dark. The acting -- or rather the state minister for defense was not aware. And the president was on a private visit overseas.
And I would have expected the prime minister to have been well briefed. But that hadn't happened, either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: CNN's Will Ripley is live in Colombo.
Good to see you, Will.
What is the latest information you have on these deadly attacks and the effort to find all those linked to the bombings?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rosemary. Six suicide bombers have been identified. But the concern across Sri Lanka is that they may be part of a larger terrorist organization. Dozens of arrests but authorities, as they announce new arrests ever day, don't necessarily feel they have a full handle on this or a full understanding of who these people are, where they are and, most importantly, what they might be planning next.
We are at St. Anthony's Shrine, one of three churches that were bombed and it is a somber scene. It is still an active crime scene. We know that around 30 bodies have been removed from the sanctuary. There was a man who was believed to have walked in with a backpack, detonating devices of some kind during a packed Easter service.
The sad thing is there might still be more bodies in there, it is so badly damaged. The interior, we're told by church officials, that they just have not been able to go through all of it yet and they do not know what else they might find.
I want to get more information from Father Fernando, who is here and gracious enough to speak with us.
I know this is a difficult time for you, Father.
Can you tell us what is happening in there right now and how you're doing here?
FATHER JUDE FERNANDO, ST. ANTHONY'S CHURCH: The state investigation is going on, so we are unable to go inside until they give us clearance because the church has extensive damage. So we still don't know the exact numbers as such about casualties.
And this is a place Easter Sunday during the service, we started out at 8 o'clock. And (INAUDIBLE) the blast (INAUDIBLE) inside my office and just about to walk into the church to give the announcements. And I've never heard a blast like that.
Since it was Easter Sunday, we were celebrating Easter, the church was packed. There are about 1,000 (INAUDIBLE) inside the church. And my humble request is, please be calm and please pray for us and continue to be (INAUDIBLE) with us because I'm getting all messages, condolence messages and inquiries, calls from all over the world.
I know this shrine is very close to you and close to us, because this shrine is visited by all sorts of people, Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, each and every one, because this is a house of prayer. This is a very miraculous place.
And people love this place, this is a very -- it has a sentimental value for the allies (ph). We bring Tuesday (ph), people are crying outside because they cannot come. I know the situation. I am also worried (ph). I have no words to express and we will continue to pray.
We appeal to you, please be calm and quiet and pray because our God is not a God of revenge but of love. He's a God of peace, of peace and good news. Let's follow our master --
FERNANDO: -- and spread the good news, being -- share our joy and sorrow together with our community. This is what I want to share with you. And we can build a church, certainly no doubt about it.
There are all our contributing and coming up to help us but we cannot build the lives that are lost. So we are very close with the victims and we will continue to pray. I humbly request (INAUDIBLE) be with us and pray, pray for one another and pray and don't do any harmful acts because we need to show that we are a Christian community.
We are a loving community. We are a God fearing community. We are a peaceful country and let's spread that good news to each and everybody.
RIPLEY: Father Jude Fernando, thank you very much. I appreciate that.
And it was noteworthy, Rosemary; he asked us to let people know that they want to pray for the bombers as well.
The road's closed here; I just want to show you quickly, you can see crowds gathered, trying to get a look at this, for themselves in person. But a very sad, very somber time here as the investigation continues and the mourning process for all the people who died gets underway.
CHURCH: Such a difficult time for all people across Sri Lanka. Will Ripley, live from the streets of Columbo. Many thanks to you.
For more, I'm joined now by Greg Barton. He is a professor of global Islamic politics at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.
Thank you so much for being with us.
GREG BARTON, DEAKIN UNIVERSITY: Thank you, Rosemary.
CHURCH: U.S. officials have identified a key operative behind these deadly terror attacks, part of a little known extremist group which may have ties to global terrorism and ISIS.
Do you agree?
Do you think this is inspired by ISIS?
Or do you think this extremist group had outside help from ISIS or perhaps another terror group? BARTON: Well, it certainly appears that this group could not have done this by itself. This is one of the worst terror attacks outside a conflict zone since the 9/11 attacks. To get simultaneous bombs, three in churches, three in hotels and other bombs of this level of lethality, takes a fair degree of technical competence and some skill to avoid intelligence.
It's hard to see this local group doing it by themselves; that does suggest ISIS. It could be Al Qaeda, it could be something we don't know about. There seems no doubt about the local operatives involved. But it can't just be local operatives. Apart from the level of technical sophistication, the targeting does not fit with the pattern of Sri Lankan politics, either.
CHURCH: Right, and we're looking at this chilling video of one of the suicide bombers walking toward his target. And on the way, he even pats the head of a child. It is so chilling and so terrifying to think that someone can do something so easily and get away with it, with no apparent security around any of those churches or hotels.
BARTON: It looks like we are dealing with deeply radicalized individuals, possibly who spent time fighting in the Middle East and have had a level of technical training. This is not the work of amateurs. There is no sign of any. It is just chilling to think that this could happen, particularly not just in one place but on this scale.
And given the Christians and Muslims have not been an odds with each other in Sri Lanka, it hard to see local circumstances explaining this. It does fit the pattern of Islamic State attacks against Christians. It's one of their hallmarks.
CHURCH: Right. And authorities have arrested about 24 suspects so far but there are fears that additional suspects could carry out more attacks.
How do authorities go about removing that threat?
As we saw in that live shot with Will Ripley, people are out on the streets. And where you have people gathering in groups like that, they become targets.
BARTON: Absolutely. It's a very worrying situation and it explains the rather abrupt move to a social media blackdown. It's an extreme measure but authorities are clearly worried about following attacks. They did find that 2-meter pipe bomb outside of the airport Sunday night. Of course, they found those 80-odd detonators that could be used to trigger explosive devices.
What they're doing is cracking down all members that they know of in this National Thowheeth Jama'ath group, this local that previously was only known for vandalism of Buddhist statues. Everyone else that had concerns about who may have been traveling to the Middle East are being radicalized, that probably is sufficient. But still it is a very worrying moment. CHURCH: It certainly is and what is even more distressing about this terror attack is the officials were forewarned with credible reports from intelligence officials in Sri Lanka, the United States and in India but no action has been taken.
And on top of that, the prime minister and other ministers were not even told about this intelligence.
Have you ever witnessed such a monumental intelligence failure?
And how does this government explain this to the loved ones of the many victims?
BARTON: It's unexplainable, inexcusable, Rosemary. It's good that the government on the front foot and --
BARTON: -- is confessing an intelligence failure. Of course, this is linked, it would appear, with the rivalry between the president and the prime minister. The president tried to install his predecessor and previous prime minister, Rajapaksa, last October; that constitutional coup failed.
But apparently the prime minister has not been invited to security briefings. It may be that when the intelligence was received by the president, who was actually out of the country, but who was in charge of security, there was an attempt to embarrass the prime minister by allowing what they thought was a small attack to go forward.
Of course no one expected this tragic level of loss of life. But it seems to be a perfect storm. The terrorists have played in to a moment of weakness, as Sri Lanka recovers, approaching its 10th anniversary at the end of the 25-year civil war. It's actually very good progress. But the constitutional crisis six months ago speaks to the weaknesses which have been exploited by the terrorists.
CHURCH: Yes. And It's horrifying to think that political infighting could lead to a result like this, not to say that -- certainly the intelligence did not necessarily give them a heads-up that it was going to be as big as this but to at least have some sort of security at these churches and hotels. And clearly no effort was made at all.
BARTON: That's apparently the case. There was no warning of church officials, no security placed outside of churches, even on Easter weekend. You would expect that; no extra security outside these key national hotels. And that, frankly, is inexcusable, given that they had that information.
CHURCH: Absolutely. Greg Barton, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your expertise on the subject. We do appreciate it.
BARTON: Thank you.
CHURCH: We are learning more details about those who died in Sunday's attacks. Many of them foreign nationals. This Australian woman and her child are among the dead. Manik Suriaaratchi and her 10-year-old daughter, Alexandria, were at a church service in Negombo. A British family was caught up in the attacks. Anita Nicholson died along with her two children, Alex and Annabel.
Her husband, Ben, survived. He says his wife and children could light up any room, bringing joy to the lives of all.
For the very latest on all that we're learning about this heartbreaking tragedy in Sri Lanka, head over to cnn.com for our live updates page, detailing every new development.
We will take a short break but still to come, Democrats in the U.S. Congress have different views on impeaching Donald Trump. We will hear what some of the top presidential candidates think about the strategy. We are back in just a moment.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.
U.S. president Trump continues to deny assertions made in the Mueller report while Democrats push ahead with their investigation. The House Judiciary Committee served a subpoenaed to former White House counsel Don McGahn, asking him to appear on May 21st.
In his report, special counsel Robert Mueller wrote that McGahn refused the president's order to fire Mueller. Jim Acosta has more on the president's rebuttals.
TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. Happy Easter.
ACOSTA (voice-over): At the White House Easter egg roll, President Trump told CNN his orders are always followed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried that your staff is ignoring your orders as the Mueller report portrays?
TRUMP: Nobody disobeys my orders.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But special counsel Robert Mueller's report says that's not true. Mueller reveals Trump aides and associates defied his orders, even those aimed at shutting down the Russia investigation.
The special counsel wrote in his report, "The president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders."
Democrats want to hear from former White House counsel Don McGahn, after it was stated in the Mueller report that he refused a request by the president to fire the special counsel. White House officials insist, there's nothing wrong with such an order.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: If the president wanted to fire Bob Mueller, he would have. In other words, he has the authority to do that. He fired Director Comey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president also appears to be laying out the case against his own impeachment, tweeting, "Only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment. There were no crimes by me, no collusion, no obstruction, so you can't impeach. It was the Democrats that committed the crimes, not your Republican president."
At the Easter egg roll, the president all but hopped away from the impeachment question, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried about impeachment, Mr. President?
TRUMP: Not even a little bit.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president's outside attorney is also responding to Mueller's findings, arguing on CNN that it was just fine for the Trump campaign to accept dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russia.
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.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrats say that's unacceptable.
REP. LOU CORREA (D-CA): I totally disagree with Mr. Giuliani. There is a lot wrong with taking information from an adversary, a foreign adversary, a foreign government.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Another major development in the investigation, the Trump Organization is now suing House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings to block Democrats from obtaining the president's financial statements for the last eight years, saying in a statement, "It's an unprecedented overreach of congressional authority."
Cummings fired back, saying, "The president has a long history of trying to use baseless lawsuits to attack his adversaries. But there is simply no valid legal basis to interfere with this duly authorized subpoena from Congress."
The president was keeping busy on Twitter, announcing former presidential candidate, Herman Cain, has decided against seeking a spot on the Federal Reserve. But the president was having trouble communicating the facts on the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, at one point, tweeting that 138 million people had died.
Mr. Trump also tweeted he had spoken with the president of Sri Lanka. Turns out it was that country's prime minister.
As for the president's actions laid out in the Mueller report and official said Mr. Trump could have used more firm legal guidance earlier in his presidency. The president did indeed refuse to follow orders at times early in the administration -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
CHURCH: Let's take a closer look at all of this with CNN political analyst Josh Rogin. He is a columnist --
CHURCH: -- at "The Washington Post."
Good to see you. So house Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats don't seem very enthusiastic about pursuing impeachment proceedings against the president, preferring first to double down on investigating him.
What are the risks involved for Democrats if they don't pursue impeachment proceedings and what are the risks if they do?
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Nancy Pelosi has calculated that pursuing impeachment at this time without more evidence is likely to fail and that would mean that the Democrats would spend the next two years on an effort that they can't actually use when their candidate goes to run in 2020.
The Mueller report simply did not give them enough evidence to move forward in the view of some Democrats and the hope is that, after these committees get to work, that they will provide more evidence.
Even then, it will still be a risky endeavor. You will see a split in the candidates. Elizabeth Warren came out very strongly today, calling for impeachment, no matter what the consequences are politically.
Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, they have taken a more cautious view. The bottom line is that Democrats have to decide if they want to put forward a positive message to try to get some policy accomplishments these two years or if they just want to make it all about President Trump.
CHURCH: Whether the voting public will be interested in anything that looks like impeachment, that is another question. So President Trump says he is not worried about being impeached, not
even a little bit, he says. He tweeted that he can't be impeached because he has not committed any crimes.
He will be relieved to hear the Democrats won't be impeaching him for now at least.
But how concerned should he be about this continued investigating of his legal and financial affairs?
ROGIN: It's clear that the president could be impeached; it's very unlikely that he would be convicted in the Senate.
So in that sense, the threat to his current tenure in office is relatively low. But you can tell the Trump White House is very concerned about what these investigations might turn up. The president and his sons have already begun to bring litigation against Democrats in Congress to prevent the release of the president's tax returns.
They are resisting all subpoenas. They are telling their own staffers not to participate, not to cooperate with these investigations. It's clear that this is on the president's mind all day because he won't stop tweeting about it.
So while he may be able to dodge the impeachment, he won't be able to dodge the investigation. That right now is his biggest threat.
CHURCH: How much luck will they have with that lawsuit, do you think, blocking that access to financial documents?
ROGIN: Even in the worst-case scenario, that lawsuit will serve to delay these proceedings as long as possible. That's really the point of it. The president can simply tie up these matters until the reelection campaign is over. Then he has achieved his goal.
Best case scenario, he defeats Democrats' effort to get his tax return, so he has no reason not to do it. It's somewhat unprecedented but it's by far not the only unprecedented thing we have seen from this president.
CHURCH: Of course the Mueller report painted a picture of a president whose aides routinely ignore his orders. The main one was former White House counsel Don McGahn, who refused to fire Robert Mueller for the president.
Democrats have served McGahn with a subpoena to testify before the Judiciary Committee on potential obstruction of justice linked to the president.
What additional information do you think they want from McGahn?
ROGIN: It's not that they want additional information from McGahn; they want him to tell his story publicly. As told in the Mueller report, it's some pretty damning stuff. He accused the president, according to the testimony in the Mueller report, of asking him to do things that were illegal.
The Mueller report indicates that, if the president had succeeded in getting McGahn to do this stuff, these things, including firing Robert Mueller, it would have been a very different set of consequences and calculations for the investigators and the prosecutors.
So all the Democrats want is to put that on TV and to have those allegations aired in a way that the American people can see what they are and hear it for themselves.
CHURCH: All right, Josh Rogin, thank you so much. Always great to have you on the show.
CHURCH: To impeach or not to impeach Donald Trump, that's the question facing Democrats in Congress and especially those running for president. How Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging caution and continued investigations of President Trump before starting impeachment proceedings.
And it was a popular question for Democratic presidential candidates during a marathon town hall event on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If any other human being in this country had done what is documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we have very good reason to believe that there is an investigation that has been conducted, which has produced evidence that tells us that this president and his administration engaged in obstruction of justice. I believe Congress should take the steps toward impeachment,
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It goes without saying that the Congress has got to take a hard -- look at that hard -- and do a hard investigation and ask --- subpoena the people who were mentioned in that report and bring a vote. So get to the truth.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I believe very strongly that President Trump should be held accountable. When you look through that report, it is appalling some of the things that were going on.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), MAYOR OF SOUTH BEND, IND., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My role in the process is trying to relegate Trumpism to the dustbin of history. And I think there's no more decisive way to do that, especially to get Republicans to abandon this kind of deal with the devil they made than to have just an absolute thumping at the ballot box.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: Nineteen Democrats have declared their candidacy for the U.S. presidency. Former Vice President Joe Biden leads most early polls. He's expected to announce his candidacy this week.
A country on edge as Sri Lankans tries to come to grips with the Easter terror attacks. Even a controlled explosion by police was enough to send many into a panic. That story still to come.
Plus, Ukraine and Russia have been at each other's throats for years now. The country's new president-elect promises to change that. You will hear Russia's take on him. That is coming away in just a moment.
[02:30:22] CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour. The Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka were likely inspired by ISIS. That is according to at least one U.S. official. The U.S. thinks it's identified a key operative in the blast who may have ties to global terrorism.
At least 310 people were killed when bombers targeted churches and hotels. Sri Lankan Police say they have arrested at least 40 people in connection to the bombings. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena to a former White House Counsel Don McGahn. The panel is investigating whether President Trump obstructed justice during the Russia investigation.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to tamp down talk of impeachment. She says lawmakers should investigate first before jumping to impeachment. In the Philippines, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake killed at least nine people on the island of Luzon and caused this supermarket to collapse on Monday. Chinese media report a search and rescue operation is underway to free 31 people believed trapped inside that market.
And even stronger earthquake hit on the island of Samar just a short time ago. The extent of damage tied to that quake is not yet known. We have chilling video out of Sri Lanka shot just moments before one of the churches in Sunday's massacre was exploded. And you see the alleged suicide bomber casually walk in to the church moments before the tragedy. Sam Kiley has the video. Plus an apology from the government.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: New video shows one of the alleged suicide bombers carrying what church officials believe is a bomb in his backpack. He pats a toddler on the head as he crosses the church courtyard. State T.V. in Sri Lanka identifying him as a suspect in one of the bombings. Without hesitation he strides on into the side door of St. Sebastian church close to the altar.
The next frame pre say shows him exploding his bomb, killing at least 122 people who were celebrating Easter mass. SANJEEWA APPUHAMY, ASSISTANT PRIEST, ST. SEBASTIAN'S CHURCH: It
blasted in such a way, there were children, there were women and all close by and all were blown off almost. So you have 110 -- more than 100 people were killed on the spot.
KILEY: The Sri Lanka military says at least suicide bombers are thought to have attacked two other churches and three five-star hotels within minutes of one another. Local and U.S. intelligence officials believe that the slickly coordinated plot is a work of an international ISIS-inspired terror group. It could strike again soon. A security dragnet was thrown across the entire country with a state of an emergency announced as they uncovered more of the murderous plot.
In Colombo, a bomb squad performed a controlled explosion of a suspicious van near St. Anthony's Church. One of the scenes of Sunday and a six-foot pipe bomb was found close to the airport along with nearly 90 bomb detonators at the city's bus stop. Sri Lanka's government had warnings from U.S. and India that attacks were imminent and publicly apologized for failing to heed him.
RAJITHA SENARATNE, SPOKESMAN, SRI LANKAN CABINET: Very, very sorry.
KILEY: On April the 11th, a memo from the deputy inspector general of police advised Sri Lankan officials to raise security due to a potential attack. The government spokesman can't hide the truth.
SENARATNE: As a government we have to say, and we have to apologize to the families and the other institutions about this incident.
KILEY: After 30 years of civil war, 10 years of peace has meant the most Sri Lankans thought that scenes like this where behind them. But clearly the intent of whoever was behind this bombing was to sow seeds of friction between the different religious communities in Sri Lanka and perhaps even cause some to question their fate. The cleanup begins.
APPUHAMY: All the people are shouting, weeping, and we can't realize what happened. We can build up our church, but we can't build up other lives.
KILEY: That is a sentiment that Sri Lankans will have to overcome together. Sam Kiley, CNN, Colombo.
CLEARY: And we have live pictures to show you. This come from Negombo in Sri Lanka and you can see here people gather together. They are remembering those who died in this -- just horrendous bombings that took place on Easter Sunday.
[02:35:08] People are being laid to rest there and they are being remembered and honored on this day. We'll continue to follow this story. And of course, the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka are among the worst terror attacks since 9/11. More than 300 people have died and that number is yet expected to rise. Here's a look at other recent terrorist massacre since 9/11. On November 24th, 2017, 305 people were killed in an attack at a mosque in Egypt during Friday prayers. Authorities in Somalia say 512 people were killed in two Mogadishu car bombings in October, 2017. And in September of 2004, more than 330 people were killed after Chechen rebels took hostages at a school in Beslan, Russia.
All right. We turn now to Ukraine where the President-elect has got congratulations from U.S. President Trump and E.U leaders. But Volodymyr Zelensky is getting no such love from mother Russia just yet at least with the Kremlin saying it's too early to talk about working with the political newcomer. Our Phil Black has more on the T.V. comedian set to become Ukraine's new leader.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the moment Volodymyr Zelensky knew he decisively won Ukraine's presidency. He's the shortest figure jumping around in the middle. All very different to the other time he found out he was Ukraine's next president. On his fictional T.V. show about and on a schoolteacher who accidentally becomes the head of state. That good nature character is hugely loved here because he shares the fury many Ukrainians fear their politicians.
In this scene, Zelensky's character dreamed about shooting up Parliament. Zelensky, the candidate has also promised without the guns to wipe out the old political class. That broad message, a warm smile and almost no detailed policies have been enough to secure a landslide win in a country desperate for change. Zelensky's victory speech was a list of thank yous and a promise to never let the people down.
At polling stations, people mention one word more than any other. Corruption has infested politics and institutions in this country ever since it broke from the Soviet Union. Ultimately, the losing incumbent Petro Poroshenko was judged to have not done enough to stop it, but his supporters fear voters have been too hasty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's certainly not enough. It's no doubt it's not enough but we start off in the right direction finally.
BLACK: This is a country that's been desperate to fix its democracy for a long time. It's experienced to revolutions in the last 15 years. In that context, this election is historic. The sitting president is being removed peacefully and Democratically after a free and often boisterous campaign. Zelensky dominated with slick online videos, well Poroshenko focus on goading his inexperience opponent into a public debate.
Zelensky insisted they both undergo drug and alcohol tests, and the country watch them do it. The opponents finally face off in the stadium in front of more than 20,000 people. A political debate with the ruckus feel of a big sporting match. Zelensky's win was never really in doubt out. Throughout the campaign, Poroshenko's message of security and stability just couldn't cut through the excitement of a new face declaring things don't have to be the same.
BLACK: The soaring expectations surrounding Volodymyr Zelensky will be tested from day one. He inherits Ukraine's problems, a struggling economy, a five-year war in the country's east against Russians-backed separatist. The professional comedian's next opponent is a man not know for smiling easily, the vastly experienced, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Phi Black, CNN, Kiev.
CLEARY: Meanwhile, Supreme Court has decided to uphold the conviction of two Reuters reporters. The two have been in jail since December of 2017 for breaking a colonial era official secrets law. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men during a military crackdown. A district judge found them guilty last year and sentenced under seven years in jail.
The U.S. Is set to make a major change to sanctions against Iran. How that could affect prices at the gas pump?
[02:40:01] And what the world's oil exporters are planning to do in response. Plus, warmer weather not necessarily a welcome sight in Quebec. More on what has caused the flooding of thousands of home in the province. We're back in just a moment.
CLEARY: Welcome back, everyone. Well, North Korea says, its leader will travel to Russia for a summit with President Vladimir Putin. State media did not say when or where the visit will happen. Pyongyang will only say it will be soon and Mr. Putin invited Kim Jong-un. Now this be the first summit between North Korea and Russian leaders since the current president's father Kim Jong-il met with then President Dmitry Medvedev in 2011.
Well, millions of Indians are taking part in the country's super Tuesday election. It's the third of seven rounds of voting and it's by the largest. 117 seats are to be decided Tuesday. Voting takes place over six weeks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi voted in his home state. The election is seen as a referendum on his five years in office. His opposition is hammering him on employment, the economy, and a debt crisis among farmers.
Well, starting next week, the U.S. will no longer grant waivers to eight countries that import oil from Iran. The Trump administrations says the goal is simple, to deprive Iran of money it uses to destabilize the Middle East and pursue nuclear weapons. But countries like China and Turkey which rely heavily on Iranian oil say the U.S. sanctions go too far. John Defterios has more.
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: It took nearly a year to get to this point after threats by U.S. President Donald Trump to ban countries from importing Iranian oil back in 2018. But the U.S. administration made it clear there will be no no exceptions to the rule going forward. That means that the eight countries that were given leeway could face U.S. sanctions after May 2nd.
[02:45:08] MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We will continue to enforce sanctions and monitor compliance. Any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution. The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits.
DEFTERIOS: Secretary Pompeo, indicated the administration is ready to deliver on the U.S. president's original promise saying, we're going to zero right across the board. Iran's exports have hovered below a million barrels a day, half the rate they hit after the nuclear accord was signed.
The tough line from the White House has put continued pressure on crude prices hitting the highest level since last November. Oil is up at third since the start of 2019 with drops in production from three OPEC players under duress, Iran, Venezuela, and Libya.
The U.S. president has maintained pressure on OPEC as an organization when the international benchmark rises above $70.00 a barrel. It hits $74.00 on Monday at one point. In a statement after the U.S. policy moved the Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, said the kingdom will coordinate with other oil producers to ensure the availability of enough oil supplies.
Both Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, two Middle East allies of the U.S. have announced plans in the past year to expand their ability to produce more crude. Now, it seems they are prepared to put that spare production to use. John Defterios, CNN Business, Dubai.
CHURCH: While the Trump administration's decision has not been well- received, many say they saw it coming. China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and Taiwan have all gotten waivers to buy Iranian oil in the past. China says, it's supposed to unilateral U.S. sanctions and its cooperation with Iran is within the law.
South Korea says it's negotiating with the U.S. to extend the waivers. And Japan says it will raise the issue when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Washington this week.
We turn to Sudan now, and the army is ordering protesters to take down their barricades on roads leading to the defense ministry. But demonstrators remain at odds with the new ruling military council. They say there's little difference between the army rulers and ousted President Omar al-Bashir. Protesters want power turned over to a civilian administration.
All right, we'll take another short break here. But coming up next on CNN NEWSROOM, authorities are blaming rising temperatures and heavy rain for widespread flooding in Quebec.
Plus, a park ranger's selfie photo with two gorillas is going viral after being shared thousands of times on social media. Amazing shot then, we'll have more on that story when we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [02:51:44] CHURCH: Heavy rain is blamed for a landslide in southwestern Columbia which killed at least 17 people and destroyed eight homes. President Ivan Duque has visited the region pledging to help the dozens of families affected.
And in Canada, warm temperatures rapidly melting snow, and spring rains have caused widespread flooding in Quebec province. Nearly 3,000 homes have been flooded and more than a thousand residents have evacuated because of rising water over the past few days.
So, let's turn to our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. He joins us now with more on the situation. So, Pedram, this is terrible for the province.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: It is. And Rosemary, unfortunately, there is quite a bit of snow still on the ground. North of this region, and of course, all of that water is going to continue downstream inside the next couple of weeks with these milder temperatures. And the immediate threat with this areas, this particular system going to -- working its way across the Great Lakes.
Of course, as you work your way towards portions of Quebec province, into Quebec City, and areas just south of that region, we know flooding is going to be a concern. But again, this is it over the next 24 hours, we'll see the system on the move.
And eventually, as you look at the timestamp here, we go into the overnight hours of Tuesday into Wednesday, the system lines up with pretty potent amount of rainfall right there in the areas you want to see it. And you least want to see it over the next couple of days.
So, flooding is going to be a concern over this region, and I want to touch on exactly what is in store over the next several hours because rainfall amounts, again, not entirely impressive. But anytime you have a persistent flooding taking place, any amount of rainfall is going to cause problems across the area.
And as Rosemary noted, the temperatures have been very mild. 13 degrees on Monday. It was actually 17 on Sunday. Notice slightly cooler, but the critical component here is that it's all above freezing, and all of this is allowing a tremendous amount of snowfall that's still on the ground.
In fact, across this region, still some 25 to 50 centimeters snow depth. And then, we know on average, it takes three days of temperatures of 10 degrees Celsius or warmer for snow to melts in five to 10 centimeters.
So, you put this together with how much snows on the ground. This rate would take several weeks if not more to melt entirely. And with that, the water will want to rise continually over the next several weeks as we move forward. But as you broaden out the perspective, look at how much snow is on the ground across this province.
And again, around the Quebec City area and points to the south, that's where the flooding had been most significant. But all of this water has to go somewhere. There are plenty of rivers, plenty of tributaries that will all eventually see this work into in the next couple of weeks and couple of months. So, that's why this could be a big story across this region as flooding continues.
And we know on Sunday, Rosemary, during the height of this particular event here with the flooding that started. We had water levels rising in these rivers upwards of 25 centimeters per hours. So, anytime you have warm temperatures, snow melting, and now, unfortunately, with more rainfall on the way, this sort of a thing could happen once again and that's why people are taking this very seriously.
CHURCH: Absolutely, and we appreciate you keeping a very close eye on it. Many thanks, Pedram.
JAVAHERI: Thanks, Rosemary.
[02:54:46] CHURCH: While royal watchers are eagerly awaiting the birth of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's baby, another major development could be on the horizon. Report says, the couple may move to Africa sometime next year. Buckingham Palace didn't confirm the reports, but they didn't deny them either.
Meantime, Prince Louis is celebrating his first birthday. New photographs taken by his mother, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge show him playing in the garden of the family's Norfolk home.
Louis is, of course, the younger brother of Prince George and Princess Charlotte. He is fifth in line to the throne. Very cute.
Well, a park ranger's selfie photo with two gorillas is going viral after being shared more than 28,000 times on Facebook. Take a look at this. Some say the gorillas appear to be mimicking human behavior with this ranger who actually helped rescue them as babies in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
And you can see there. They look like they're all naturals in front of the camera, right? One is standing in a power pose with a feet wide apart. While the other leans forward to try to make it into the shot.
The park ranger who snapped this photo at a Virunga National Park. Calls it, "Another day at the office." What a great office. Just amazing.
And thank you so much for joining us this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter at @rosemmarycnn. And I'll be back with another hour of news just -- in just a moment. You're watching CNN. Do stay with us.