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Aired April 25, 2019 - 01:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello everybody! Thank you for joining us. I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Ahead this hour, everything old is new again. Kim Jong-un reviving North Korean ties with Russia, his first summit with Vladimir Putin had a clear message to the U.S. President two months after dawn from walked out (INAUDIBLE) talks.

What do they know and when do they know it? It's been revealed the Sri Lankan government ignored multiple warnings from India the days and weeks leading up to the Easter Sunday suicide attacks.

Also, the list of Boy Scouts of America leaders accused of sexual abuse and there are 3,000 more names on it than previously known.

With nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea at an impasse, Russia's president seems to be more than eager to take the lead. In the last hour in Vladivostok, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un met face to face for the first time.

The Kremlin says this summit aims to build on progress made by the Trump administration towards denuclearization, but notably, there will be no signed agreement or joint declaration at the end of the summit. Paula Hancocks joins us now live from Seoul.

So, Paula, this summit has been seen as a bit of a snub to Donald Trump. And with that in mind, they're the North Koreans who've issued a very strongly worded statement criticizing these U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises, had all the usual language, but the U.S. was only mentioned twice in the opening line, and then there was a little bit of criticism towards the end. This is what read.

Wind naturally brings wave. Now that the South Korean authorities get undisguised in their military provocation against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea, together with U.S. there will be corresponding response to it from our army.

OK, so reading the tea leaves here, it would seem to indicate the North Koreans you know, they're not willing at least at this point to close the door entirely on renewing talks and better relations with Washington.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, John. And we certainly seen him criticizing South Korea over recent months. And in this particular occasion, it's interesting because these joint drills we have seen at the moment, this is the Air Force drill that used to be known as Max Thunder which was a very significantly sized Air Force drill.

It has been replaced because North Korea has not liked this drill in the past. There have been other spring drills which have been suspended now and they've been replaced with smaller drills between the U.S. and South Korea, but North Korea is still complaining about them.

But it is interesting the fact that they are not slamming the U.S. quite so much and clearly most experts say that they still want to talk to the U.S. President Donald Trump. This is why Kim Jong-un is at pains as well. Even when he does criticize the U.S., he never names Trump himself.

We've heard some within his regime criticizing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, criticizing on many occasions John Bolton, the National Security Advisor but never Trump. So certainly they're keeping that door open.

VAUSE: I guess because ultimately no matter what the Kremlin says that this summer is all about denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the reality is Russia can't do a whole lot when it comes to that issue but the United States can. And so that North Koreans and the North Korean leader needs Donald Trump I guess more than he needs Vladimir Putin.

HANCOCKS: Well, certainly if he's looking for this lifting of sanctions which he has made fairly clear in the -- during the Hanoi summit, that that is what he was looking for, then he effectively needs both. He needs the U.S., he needs Russia, he needs China. He needs the United Nations Security Council to lift those sanctions.

This is something that Russia can't do unilaterally. Although they have said publicly along with China that they welcome the fact that North Korea is moving in the right direction, they would like to ease these sanctions. That still is something that Washington is not willing to do.

We had comments from President Putin and Kim Jong-un just within the last hour as they were sitting meeting together. And a lot of what they were saying was we welcomed the opportunity to be able to discuss what's going on to President Putin saying how we can help you with the situation saying he welcomes the fact that North Korea is building these inter-Korean relations.

And also he welcomes the fact he said that the U.S. and North Korea are starting to normalize relations as well. So really right at the -- at the beginning, they're mentioning the fact that North Korea- United States relationship is very -- is very important.

But they were making clear that this is a meeting where they are going to try and figure out what they can do to push this process forward. As they've already said, there's not going to be any joint statement or anything like that at the end of it.

VAUSE: Which is an indication maybe of what they can do, I guess. Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks live for us there in Seoul. Well, from Seoul we head to San Francisco. Philip Yun is the Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Ploughshares Fund which works to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.

OK, so Philip, welcome back. Good to have you with us. Who wanted this summit more? Who's got more to gain here, is it Kim or Putin?

PHILIP YUN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: Well, I think this is a circumstance where it's really a win-win and it's really a small measure of who wants it more. I think Vladimir Putin has felt sort of left out. You know, what happened was that Kim Jong-un a while wanted to meet with Putin, he refused.

[01:05:06] But then after Donald Trump agreed to meet with Kim Jong- un, as you know, China that had refused to meet with Kim Jong-un suddenly met with Kim Jong-un several times. We had the South Korean summit and Russia has been left out. So here's an opportunity for Vladimir Putin to come in the middle when we have a stalemate between the United States.

On the other hand, we have you know Kim Jong-un who has a stalemate he just wants to put a little more pressure on the United States. He also wants to figure out if there are any options for him from Russia and leverage.

And you know, to some degree this is not so much. If an agreement is reached between the United States and North Korea, that's the good news. What Kim Jong-un is thinking about is what happens when it doesn't go very well and if they have -- they get a stalemate for a long period of time. He's going to need some lifelines.

And so that's why he's relying on China to some degree which has been helping and Russia to some degree as well. So this is a way for them to try to figure out what the possibilities are.

[01:10:35] VAUSE: I guess you know, in the spirit of that, Putin may not be able to do a whole lot about the sanctions which are currently on North Korea. But the very least he can turn a blind eye to Russian efforts to help the North Koreans evade those sanctions and maybe a whole lot more.

YUN: Yes. I think that's absolutely right. As I've said before, as Paula had talked about earlier, you know, Russia doesn't have a lot to offer. Its economy is in difficult straits. You know, they signed on to the sanctions. So there are limited things that they can do.

But I always looked at Russia as sort of like the Phantom of the Opera. They can really make things very, very difficult if they really want to, and that's why they can't be ignored. And here are circumstances were Vladimir Putin is going to be very opportunistic.

There may be a tipping point where support for Russia is going to be incredibly important and Vladimir Putin may decide to use it in some way either that's in the U.S. -- not in the U.S. interests or in U.S. interests. It's ultimately going to depend on what Russia view says benefiting them.

VAUSE: You know, just looking at these two leaders Kim and Putin, the body language, the dynamic between them is just you know, this would be a very different relationship compared to the one between Kim and Trump.

YUN: Oh yes. I think that's absolutely right. I mean, Donald Trump is sort of an outlier in many respects. I think that here, you know, this is the first time that they've met. And as I said before, Putin refused to meet with Kim Jong-un before. And so I think there's a formality here that they're trying to preserve.

And in certain ways, Kim Jong-un and after having the failure and I think some disappointment in North Korea that the summit didn't go well in Hanoi, Kim Jong-un has to show that he's still relevant, that he still has the prestige, and is meeting with all of these leaders. I think that's good for him internally.

VAUSE: What was seen since Donald Trump walked out of Hanoi two months ago, Kim Jong-un has made this journey to Vladivostok to meet Putin. North Koreans have carried out a weapons test, we've had a seen a North Korean official calling for the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to be removed from the negotiations to be replaced with someone who they want to be more mature.

Pompeo though is sort of brushing all that off and it seems to indicate that you know, it's just tough right now, but these this negotiation is continuing. This what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: We're very focused on getting the right set of incentives for both sides so that we can achieve the objective. It's going to be bumpy, it's going to be challenging. I hope that we get several more chances to have serious conversations about how we can move this process for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: You know, bumpy and challenging is one thing, but you know, dead in the water is a completely different thing you know, again.

YUN: I don't think these are dead in the water. You know, Kim Jong -- I mean Kim Jong-un in a speech about ten days ago said that he's going to give the United States till the end of the year to move forward. I think the United States is very focused on trying to get some kind of deal. Donald Trump wants a deal and so Secretary of State Pompeo is going to want him to the forward.

I think Kim Jong-un is trying to preserve a high-level relationship with Kim Jong-un. I think he went after her Pompeo to rattle the cages a little bit. I think you know, there was some issue about whether preparation at the working level was possible. I think in that case in Hanoi, it was really the North Koreans fault. They deferred everything to Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-un I was hoping to get a better deal from Donald Trump and that couldn't happen.

I think that in other circumstances, North Korea have really gone after the negotiator and said terrible things about other American officials only later on to start negotiating with them. But I think this is sort of a way to increase the pressure on the United States to say we got to get moving.

VAUSE: Very quickly, we got Pompeo's North Korean counterpart Kim Yong-chol, the longtime leading nuclear negotiator. He's not on this trip to Vladivostok. Apparently, you know, he paid for that failed Hanoi summit with his job creating some reports. Does that suggest that North Koreans are looking at an entirely new negotiating team, a whole new approach bats to nuclear negotiations?

YUN: Well, I don't -- entirely new negotiating strategy or team. We know that Madame (INAUDIBLE) is now been elevated. She seems to be the one who's moving these negotiations with the United States forward seems to have a very good relationship. I remember negotiating with her, being involved negotiating. She's just a translator but she's a survivor, very savvy.

So we're just going to have to see what goes on right now. It could be that Madam (INAUDIBLE) does not want to deal with Pompeo or is setting aside a message that we've got a really good moving. So it's unclear at this point. It's a little early to tell.

VAUSE: With that in mind, how important is this trip for Kim Jong-un domestically?

YUN: Well, I think you know, no one really knows exactly what's going on internally but I do think there was disappointment among North Koreans from what I understand that the summit didn't go as well as they were hoping.

I think there was some expectation that some kind of sanctions were going to be lifting and the North Koreans where I understand sort of sighed and said oh my gosh, we still have to have these. So I think Kim Jong-un is reeling from that a little bit.

And so this summit is a way for him to reestablish that he's still a player, that he's meeting with -- that he -- you know, he's on par with you know, the big countries in the region. And so this is intended to bluster him -- his image internally as well internationally.

VAUSE: Philip, thank you. Philip Yun there in San Francisco, the Ploughshares Fund bringing us some good analysis of what may -- is happening you know, on the sidelines of all this -- of these summits and the intrigued. It's great to speak with you, Philip. We appreciate it. Thank you.

YUN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Next up here on CNN NEWSROOM, a month after a Cyclone Idai devastated parts of Mozambique, the country now bracing for yet another powerful storm. Also, legal trouble brewing for the Boy Scouts of America after the organization's own files reveal decade -- revealed decades of sexual abuse by Scout leaders.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: A court in Tokyo has granted bail to Carlos Ghosn, the former CEO of automaker Nissan for less than a month since he was re-arrested on new charges of financial misconduct. That all-powerful auto executive is accused of selling millions of dollars of Nissan's money to a car dealership he controlled. Ghosn is charged with underreporting his salary and transferring personal investment losses to Nissan. All of which he denies.

Sherisse Pham following the story for us from Hong Kong this hour. So Sherisse, what are chances he'll be re-arrested by authorities? How many times can they play that card here?

[01:15:00] SHERISSE PHAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS REPORTER: It seems like they can play that card almost indefinitely, but that being said, Carlos Ghosn's lawyer, the last time he was rearrested, called the move highly unusual. This, of course, is the latest a development in a legal saga that has seen Carlos Ghosn arrested at least four times, and jailed twice.

And, of course, the Tokyo District Court, saying today that he is being released on bail. We expect him to be released some time later this afternoon. The bail of $4.5 million has already been paid. And the Tokyo prosecutor's office has already come out saying this decision is regrettable and saying that you are granting him bail even though you are admitting that he could potentially destroy evidence.

And one of the conditions of this bail, which is similar to the last time he was released on bail, is that he essentially remain under house arrest, he is forbidden from traveling outside of Japan and also that he is forbidden from destroying evidence. That was one of the reasons he was rearrested.

Now, he was rearrested earlier this month, on fresh charges, that he essentially funnelled $5 million of Nissan money into a car dealership that he essentially owned. And as you said, he has denied all of these charges, and this constant back and forth of arrests and rearrests and jailing and releasing, and jailing again, and then rereleasing.

It has really put a spotlight on the way criminal suspects are treated in Japan, the so-called hostage justice. But that being said, Carlos Ghosn has repeatedly said that he is innocent but he has not provided any evidence showing that he is so.

And that is really important especially in the latest charges against him, that he essentially stole money from Nissan. Legal experts in Japan are telling CNN, unless he can provide that evidence, John, this last case really could be devastating for him.

VAUSE: OK, Sherisse, we'll keep a close eye on the adventures of Carlos Ghosn and his never-ending bail battle, it seems. Thank you. Appreciate it. Sherisse Pham there, live, in Hong Kong. There's growing anger over the (INAUDIBLE) Sri Lankan authorities to act on warnings at a Sunday's deadly terrorist bombings. The government admits it received three warnings from Indian intelligence about a potential suicide bomb plot on churches and tourists in the weeks and days, leading up to the attacks. The President has asked the State Defense Minister and police inspector general to resign.

The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told CBS News, there's every indication the attacks were inspired by ISIS. CNN's Nikhil Kumar, live, this hour for us, in Colombo. So, Nikhil, you know, over the last couple of days, we've learned a lot more about these suicide bombers and they did not appear to be, you know, sort of the garden variety Islamic extremists?

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN INTERNATIONAL NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: That's right, John. So, we do know more. Yesterday, the State Defense Minister held a press conference, we learned that the bombers came from relatively well-off backgrounds, one of them was educated in the U.K., then went for post graduate studies in Australia, before coming back to Sri Lanka and settling here.

I'm standing outside the house where -- the house were the police raided earlier in the week, three police men died. And they died because one of the women inside, she blew herself up, she was the ninth suicide bomber.

Now, she was the wife of a man in (INAUDIBLE) who's been identified by the authorities here as one of the bombers of the Shangri-La Hotel, an adviser to the president tells us that he's the mastermind of the attack.

So, we're learning more and the picture of what happened on Sunday, is coming together. But there is, of course, an addition to that investigation, the continuing threat. Day before yesterday, the Prime Minister held a press conference where he said that there was little concern about people out there with explosives, so the threat here remains very real.

So, both things are happening, on the one hand, investigating what happened, who was involved, the links to international terror. You mentioned this statement, that this was inspired by ISIS. The authorities here are looking into just the extent to which there were international connections.

But, at the same time, also making sure that there are no further attacks because, as you said, there's a growing concern over here, that a lot of this was known, you know. India made a warning. And they made three specific warnings that we know from a source, to Sri Lanka.

One, on the 4th of April, one on Saturday, before the bombings, one just one hour before the warnings -- before the bombings, sorry, saying that attacks were on the works, the churches and hotels were among the targets. And they didn't do anything, apparently.

And so there's a lot of anger about that, so the authorities are scrambling to make sure that nothing else happens, while also investigate what happened on Sunday, John?

VAUSE: it is amazing to think how many lives could have been saved, if only. Nikhil Kumar, live in Colombo. Just a month after Cyclone Idai devastated parts of Mozambique, they're now bracing for another powerful storm. In just 24 hours, Cyclone Kenneth, strengthen from a tropical storm, to the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now with the very latest. And this is expected to make, Kenneth, expected to make landfall in the next couple of hours, right?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: It is. It's just less than 12 hours away for a landfall, John, and actually, just recently increased to a low grade Category 4.

[01:20:05] So, really an incredible storm here because their rarity, of course, of getting storms impact this portion of the world, on average, once every nine years, do we have a Category 1 equivalent.

As you mentioned, Idai, occurring about five weeks ago, came ashore as the strongest cyclone we've seen since 2008, 175-kilometer-per-hour winds, left behind now over 100 billion dollars in losses.

And of course, that equates to about 10 percent of the country's GDP, so a significant damage done across that region, not to mention the deadliest tropical cyclone in this region of the southern hemisphere.

But, of course, you look at what is present right now, here is Tropical Cyclone Kenneth, just moving over to Comoro's Islands, that particular region had not seen a tropical cyclone of a Category 1 equivalent even, making landfall in 23 years, and that's because the proximity to the equator.

When you're this close to the equator, rotation of course, of the Earth, does not allow these storms to get rotation themselves to get to this magnitude, but just south of this region is where we're watching now. And again, over past six plus decades, only 11 cyclones have Category 1 equivalent had made landfall, one, of course, five weeks ago.

But this particular one, comes in as a Category 4, only one time have we had that happen and three times in recorded history of anything, exceeding a Category 3. So, here goes the storm system within the next 12 hours, we expect landfall across northern region there of Mozambique.

Pemba is the city closest to this area and that's a population of 200,000 people. The storm is expected to weaken on approach. We have dry African air come off of the continent, and interact with the storm, but not enough time of that dry air interacting with the storm that is going to really weaken it much.

So, potentially drop it to a Category 3, best case, a Category 2, which was the equivalent to Idai from several weeks back. But notice this, the bull's-eye of the heaviest rainfall which was a major problem for areas to the south Beira, is going to be again, a concern there for areas to the north of Pemba because a half a meter of rainfall is possible.

And again, here's the track from last month's storm versus Kenneth, over this region. And when we take a look at a close perspective of the geography in the lay of the land here, John, the concern here is this particular bay near Pemba, because we know storm surge is a major killer, which sets features.

And once you force water into this area, then you put additional communities along the damaged zone as well, so we're going to follow the story over the next couple of days.

VAUSE: Pedram, we appreciate it, thank you.

JAVAHERI: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: The Boy Scouts of America could be facing a flood of legal problems from new allegations of sexual abuse taking back decades. According to newly revealed testimony, the organization believes almost 8,000 leaders sexually abused children from 1944 to 2016, and identified about 12,000 alleged victims.

These numbers come from the Boy Scouts own list of volunteers who've been banned from working with children on the organization. While the statute of limitations on prosecutions may have expired in a lot of these cases, some states like New York and New Jersey are passing new laws which give victims limited time periods to sue no matter when the crime occurred.

For more now, Bridie Farrell joins us from New York. She's a survivor of sexual abuse and co-founder of New York Loves Kids, it's a non- profit group working to end child sexual abuse.

So, Bridie, I guess the headline here is essentially the scale of the sexual assault allegations, because the existence of this database was revealed back in 2012, but at the time, the reports were about 1,200 people have been banned from working as volunteers with the scouts, because of, you know, suspected inappropriate behavior.

Now, we're looking at number much closer to 8,000 over a period of 70 years, and 12,000 alleged victims. Is this the end of it or would you expect those numbers to go -- to grow over time?

BRIDIE FARRELL, SEXUAL ABUSE SURVIVOR: Sadly, I don't think this is the end of it. I think it's more the beginning of it, I mean, the perversion files as a document that was created by the Boy Scouts of America, and it's people that they thought needed to be on this list, and they determined to be predators and dangerous to their community.

So, the more we see survivors coming forward, it empowers others to come forward and that's what we're going to see.

VAUSE: The Boy Scouts of America issued a statement on Wednesday. It read in part, we care deeply about all victims of child sex abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims, we support them, and we have paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice. Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in Scouting and we are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children.

Jeff Anderson, the victims' rights attorney who's putting a lot of spotlight out to this issue, he basically said that that's statement, you know, is anything, sort of, but the truth, the welfare of children has been anything but a priority for the organization. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF ANDERSON, SEXUAL ABUSE ATTORNEY: The survivors across the board have reported that their concerns, when reported, were largely ignored, and not acted upon. And there is, and has been, a large scale whole sale cover-up by the Boy Scouts of America of child sexual abuse across America, from Minnesota, to California, to New York, and across the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[01:25:14] VAUSE: So, when we're talking about this allegation of a cover-up, you know, semi cover-up, is similar to what happened in the Catholic Church?

FARRELL: Very much so, unfortunately. I mean, whenever you have massive institutions that have children involved, you are going to see this problem, we saw in the Catholic Church, we saw in USA gymnastics and Olympic sports. The main thing that the Boy Scouts did was they kept a document of these known pedophiles, and they didn't go to the appropriate authorities.

So, they claimed that they are brought out of Scouting and weren't troop leaders, but that doesn't mean that they weren't soccer coaches or school teachers or many of them were actually priests as well.

VAUSE: Just to dispute that, though, the psychiatrist Janet Warren spent five years analysing the Scout database, the perversion files. Her investigation was commissioned by the Scouts to look at measures which were in place to protect children.

Warren said the cause of her investigation she found no evidence of a cover-up by the Boy Scouts. She added, 100 percent of all the cases reported over the last 50 years, have been reported to law enforcement.

She obviously said, the Scout database, actually should be a model for national database for people not suited to be working with kids. So, what do you take issue there? What's wrong with her findings, and what do you think is wrong with her findings?

FARRELL: Well, her statement is correct, if you are OK with a fox guarding the hen house. But reporting problems within one's institution, only within the institution, does nothing.

And like you just said, that's similar to what we saw in the Catholic Church, that's similar to what we've seen in institutions that care more about protecting their name and their brand, rather than the children and the communities that they're serving.

VAUSE: But she didn't say that all the cases, as far as she was concerned, over the last 50 years have been reported to law enforcement.

FARRELL: I dispute that. That's not my understanding, but I'd love to hear more about that if she thinks that's the case.

VAUSE: OK. I guess one of the things that you and your organization and the Attorney Jeff Anderson wants is, to release these files, these perversion files, to make the names public.

FARRELL: Right. And I would love to hear the argument of why that's not a good idea. I mean, these are individuals, again, that were identified by the Boy Scouts of America. These are individuals that Mr. Anderson or anyone else identified or even Miss Warren or Dr. Warren. These are individuals that the Boy Scouts deemed to be dangerous within their organization.

So, yes, I think they should be released and it should be that -- also, the releasing of these names is going to allow other survivors to get that strength to come forward and say unfortunately, yes, that happened to me too.

VAUSE: You know, I hate to play the, you know, the role of defending the Boy Scouts Association, but you know, I had to put forward there (INAUDIBLE) 02:50 because, you know, they're not here to do it for themselves. But what they say is that --

FARRELL: But I'd love to talk to them.

VAUSE: Yes. Well, everybody -- all the names on that list, they say people who are suspected of inappropriate behavior or accused, rather, of, you know, some kind of inappropriate behavior. You know, there was never a requirement for an arrest or a conviction to be put on that list.

So, there could be some people on that list, and most likely are, who've been, you know, wrongly accused and they have a right to, you know, due process, and a right to privacy, which is why they can't release the names.

Having said that, they could simply go through that list, possibly, work out the ones who weren't arrested, the ones who weren't convicted, take their names off and then release the rest, couldn't they?

FARRELL: Right. And this is -- I mean, this is an argument that we've heard in New York State, when we were working on a Child Victims Act for years, trying to pass it, is that false claims. And the reality is, that in the cases of child sexual abuse, you don't see any more false claims than you do in any other, sort of, crime, specifically personal injury.

The idea that people are going to come forward for money or something, I mean, go and sleep on a sidewalk, much more like come forward and say make up something like this. So, that idea of false claims is just not the case.

And also, releasing these names and many of these states, there's nothing that can be done. And while we've seen across the country a movement of Me Too, I think it's timely finally see a movement of #KidsToo, where people can come forward and say what happened to them as children, and recognize that it's not a pink hashtag, you know.

It's one in four girls, but right here, we're seeing that it's one in six boys that are victims of childhood sexual abuse. And if we can help these people, I mean, think of the positive impact that'll have in our community, which is an alignment with what the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church.

VAUSE: Yes. Bridie, it's a good point to finish on, so thank you so much for your time. Thanks for coming in.

FARRELL: Thank you.

VAUSE: Just say no, no to releasing the tax returns, no to subpoenas, no to anything Congressional Democrats (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump's illegal strategy, but it might just trigger impeachment proceedings. We'll explain after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:32:10] VAUSE: Welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

Russian President Vladimir Putin taking a role -- a leading role at denuclearization talks with North Korea. He met with Kim Jong-un for the first time last hour. Both leaders say the visit will help the countries understand how to settle the situation in the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang's talks with Washington stalled two months ago.

Sri Lanka's president has asked the state defense minister and police inspector general to resign in the wake of Sunday's terror attacks in Sri Lanka. The government admits it received repeated warnings from Indian intelligence about a potential plotting against churches and tourists before the bombings but that was (INAUDIBLE).

Another powerful cyclone is headed for Mozambique where recovery efforts continue after the country was hit by a powerful storm last month. In just 24 hours, Cyclone Kenneth has strengthened from a tropical storm to the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane. It's expected to make landfall in a matter of hours.

With a great number of congressional investigations by House Democrats, it seems the Trump administration has settled on a legal strategy best described as just say no. In recent days, the Trump organization has taken legal action to prevent the House Oversight Committee from obtaining financial records.

The Treasury Secretary ignored a deadline to hand over Donald Trump's tax returns for the past six years. The former director of personnel security at the White House was told by the administration not to testify before Congress which wanted more details on how Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump received security clearance. And now President Trump plans to challenge all congressional subpoenas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are fighting all the subpoenas. Look, these aren't like impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020. The only way they can luck out is by constantly going after me on nonsense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: For more now, we are joined by Siraj Hashmi, commentary writer and editor of the "Washington Examiner". So Siraj -- thanks you for being with us.

SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER AND EDITOR, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: Ok. A couple of issues. Supposedly, you know, there's a rule of law, right? This, you know, seems to be an administration which doesn't have a great regard for that.

And I think the argument could, be if they have done nothing wrong, if they have nothing to hide, you know, why fight the hearings?

And finally, is there a danger here that this will just push Democrats closer to pulling the trigger on impeachment?

HASHMI: Well, this is a two-pronged question, I would say that with President Trump, you know, with respect to whatever he has in his financial records or whether it's something that he, you know, basically, is fighting any subpoena on, you know, Democrats are looking for anything to really go after him for.

And he brings up a good point, you know. The 2020 election is upon us and Democrats are looking for any kind of fodder that they can use for any Democratic candidates who are running against him or at least in the primary to basically go after him during the general election.

[01:35:03] And when it comes to -- and when it comes to voluntarily putting information out, you know, there is a lot of people who have gotten themselves into trouble because they let the information come out and all of a sudden they may be on the receiving end of a say criminal indictment.

But, yes, you know, fighting subpoenas, of course, you've got to respect the rule of law but there's no incentive for the White House right now to respect the subpoenas of the House Judiciary Committee or any House Democratic committee, for that matter.

VAUSE: The President also says he will head to the Supreme Court to try and prevent impeachment proceedings should they begin.

Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe was among many who pointed out that's not how that works. Here's his tweet. "Trump's idiocy won't serve him well as we move through the impeachment process. Not even a Supreme Court of the United States filled with Trump appointees would get in the way of a House or Senate where Chief Justice Roberts would preside over Trump's impeachment trial."

You know, the President could've asked his latest nominee to the court, Justice Kavanaugh, what the process was. In a 2009 Law Review article he wrote, "If the President does something dastardly, the impeachment process is available. No single prosecutor, judge or jury should be able to accomplish what the Constitution assigns to Congress."

Then there's that 1993 ruling by the Supreme Court which found impeachment and removal from the office is a duty of Congress alone. Yes -- it goes on. So either the President is willfully ignorant and oblivious to the fact he made a fool of himself which I do not believe is the case. Because all of this seems to be stonewalling.

All the talk of, you know, stopping the subpoenas, the Supreme Court challenges -- it's part of a strategy to run down the clock. Because at the end of the day, the consequences for refusing to cooperate with Congress are pretty limited.

The House can issue a contempt citation that may expire when the next Congress is sworn in and that's January, 2021.

HASHMI: You know, with respect to President Trump being willfully ignorant, you know, with him he tends to speak first in off the cuff before he really thinks. That might be the one downside to obviously, you know -- if you are a Trump supporter, that might be the one downside to his presidency.

But if you are looking at what he is saying with respect to impeachment, he is going to obviously deflect as much as he possibly can and probably get people who are talking about this like you and me to discuss issues like what the Supreme Court can do in terms of impeachment.

Obviously, it's Congress' job alone and the House initiates impeachment proceedings. For President Trump, it's probably smart that he, you know, gets to talk about impeachment going as much as he possibly can because Democrats are still very much divided on whether to you know, actually initiate impeachment

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to get away from that as much as possible because it's fracturing the Democratic Party as we see it. And you have people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who are calling for his impeachment and Pelosi basically trying to put everyone in their place and you know, contain her caucus.

VAUSE: Yes. and there is also now the question of, you know, who the Democrat will be to take on Donald Trump in 2020. So that's why we're going to --

(CROSSTALKING) HASHMI: Yes, that's the thing. That's the thing is that Democrats actually see an open window here to get Trump out of office without using congressional intervention. And, you know, there is a strong case to be made that using congressional intervention via impeachment will only divide the country even further.

And it would leave a very bitter taste in many Americans' mouths, particularly people who voted for President Trump. They will never trust Democrats ever again. And there is a good chance that, you know, a Mike Pence would probably win two terms after that.

VAUSE: Well, that would be an interesting proposition especially for the Democrats. You know, speaking of the election of Democrats -- it seems former vice president Joe Biden apparently biding his time no more. Set to announce yet another run for the White House.

Biden seriously thought about running for president way back in 1980. So we are looking at third time the charm here because he is seen as the one with the best chance of beating Donald Trump. And that mostly comes down to Pennsylvania, a state Democrats have to carry. A state which Joe Biden is almost certain to win.

HASHMI: Yes. Joe Biden, he's is the best shot right now, the Democrats have, of reaching out to middle America via the Rust Belt. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin -- those three states Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 and those three states in the 2018 midterm election the Republican Party got slaughtered in congressional and senate races. So yes, there is a good window for Biden to actually capitalize on.

However, he is seen as the most moderate candidate of this crowd of Democratic field, and that poses another problem because, how far to the left can Joe actually run with respect to his previous record? When you have seen his, you know, record in the senate, you know.

He has been supportive of the 1994 crime bill which Hillary Clinton got basically hammered for during the 2016 primary campaign. And then also, with respect to his views on segregation back in the late seventies, these are things that Biden has to atone for.

[01:40:01] Not to mention his inappropriate behavior with women and other people that has -- you know, he's kind of spurred this little me too movement right there, but there are some Democrats who are giving him the benefit of the doubt. It's just, you know, Biden, at this point he is who he is and he's not going to change for anybody.

VAUSE: Uncle Joe. He's really high in the polls right now. That's been the trend. We're out of time but I just want to say something on that one note (ph). His poll numbers are really good until it gets into the race. And then his poll numbers tend to rise.

HASHMI: Exactly.

VAUSE: I guess we'll see what happened.

HASHMI: It matters what you do and practice as opposed to how you are on paper. In Biden just doesn't live up to the standard on paper.

VAUSE: Yes. Siraj -- good to see you. Thanks for coming in.

HASHMI: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: Cheers.

Well, leaders across the political divide united in Northern Ireland for the funeral of a slain journalist where there was a very important message. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

In just a few hours from now French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce a long list of social and political reforms aimed at ending six months of protests, mostly over economic inequality. And according to French media, Macron's part of this plan is looking to close down one of the country's most famous -- and here's the point -- elite colleges.

CNN's Melissa Bell has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an institution that has near mythical status in France, but according to the French press, Emmanuel Macron may be about to announce one of his most radical moves yet. By abolishing the Ecole Nationale D'Administration or L'ENA. Created by Charles de Gaulle in 1945 the elite school has since educated nearly half of France's presidents and prime ministers -- Jacques Chirac, Francois Hollande, Alain Juppe and Dominique De Villepin.

Countless ministers have also managed to join the 100 students annually who get through the notoriously difficulty entrance exams. As have France's top CEOs like Societe Generale's Frederic Oudea and the CEO of Orange Stephane Richard.

The institution was created to open access to the highest spheres of France's civil servants to the cleverest, rather than the richest. In the past, Emmanuel Macron has praised it for allowing him, a boy from the provinces, to make it to the top. But it has become in France a synonym for elitism.

On Monday, the French president spoke to the cameras about the fire at Notre Dame. He had been due to make another address entirely about measures to address the grievances of the Yellow Vests.

On Saturday, and despite the needs for those measures 9,000 Yellow Vests were back on the streets of Paris protesting for the 23rd Saturday in a row. Their numbers, smaller than they were to begin with, but their demands more radical and their mood more revolutionary. None that we spoke to were interested in the future of L'ENA.

[01:44:58] CNN reached out to the government, but it declined to comment on the future of the institution. Matthias Fekl is a former minister and graduate of L'ENA.

MATTHIAS FEKL, FORMER FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER: Today there was a poll showing that almost two thirds of French citizens were against abolishing it. They want to reform it, they want a more modern ENA, a more open ENA, a more international ENA, more socially representative ENA.

But everybody knows that you have to form the elite and it's better to have an elite based on meritocracy.

BELL: Already, the move is being criticized as sheer populism and yet too far removed from the concerns of ordinary people whose economic difficulties have led to so much social unrest these last months.

Melissa Bell, CNN -- Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: British and Irish leaders normally at odds with one another were united in grief as they paid their respect to journalist Lyra McKee. She was shot and killed in violent clashes last week in the Northern Ireland city of Londonderry.

And as CNN's Nic Robertson reports, this was a funeral which came with a message.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: On her final journey, so many came to say good bye. Not just grief-stricken family and friends -- a president, two prime ministers, politicians of all stripes. An untimely farewell for a rising star who reached across divides.

NICHOLA CORNER, LYRA MCKEE'S SISTER: God gave us Lyra. But what God didn't tell us was that we would not have her for long.

ROBERTSON: The journalist and LGBT advocate movingly remembered by those who loved her.

STEPHEN LUSTY, LYRA MCKEE'S FRIEND: Lyra is not here in person but her star light fills this room. She would be thrilled that all her friends could be in one place and they could finally get to be connected.

Lyra was smart, kind, passionate, interesting, feisty, generous, funny, and above all else, truly compassionate.

ROBERTSON: A far from average funeral for a far from average woman. Friends wore Harry Potter and Marvel memorabilia in tribute to Lyra's love of the characters.

The spiritual secular service one with a message to the gathered politicians -- help unfreeze the province's politics. REVEREND MARTIN MAGILL, ST. JOHN'S PARISH BELFAST: Why in God's name

does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get to this point?

ROBERTSON: A message to honor Lyra's legacy.

REVEREND MAGILL: I dare to hope that this murder on Holy Thursday evening can be the doorway to a new beginning. And I detect a deep desire for this.

One of Lyra's friends was reporting her saying this. We have had enough. There is a younger generation coming up in time and they don't need guns in their hands. They need jobs. They need a better health service and education. They need a life. Not a gun in their hands.

ROBERTSON: Outside, crowds came to pay their respects. At 29, Lyra was more than a child of Northern Ireland's post-peace deal generation. She was a poster child for a better future, respected by many. Murdered most likely by a teenage gun-toting terrorist.

Rare moments this day for both prime ministers to look yesteryear's war in the face. And all the pain that goes with it.

Nic Robertson, CNN -- Belfast, Northern Ireland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Next on CNN NEWSROOM, they are everywhere. Essential to our health, invisible to the naked eye and they might just be part of the solution to climate change.

[01:49:28] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Martians had no resistance to the bacteria in our atmosphere to which we have long since become immune. Once they had breathed our air, germs which no longer affect us, began to kill them.

The end came swiftly. All over the world, their machines began to stop and fall. After all that men could do had failed, the Martians were destroyed and humanity was saved by the littlest things which God in his wisdom had put upon this earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: The littlest things -- that was the dramatic ending to the 1953 classic science fiction movies "War of the Worlds". When all else had failed, tiny bacterial microbes saved the earth from the Martian invaders.

And now, a new discovery might just see those tiny microbes save us for real. Or at least, play a role in saving this planet from a very real, modern-day crisis, and that would be climate change. Jess Phoenix is a geologist and executive director of the environmental non profit Blueprint Earth. She joins us from Los Angeles. Did you like that?

(CROSSTALKING)

JESS PHOENIX, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BLUEPRINT EARTH: Yes, excellent. Thanks -- John.

VAUSE: Ok. This was known two years ago. There was a team of scientists, they traveled to Costa Rica in what's called a subduction zone. Ok. I'm not very good at the science stuff, but that's where tectonic plates have crashed into each other and the ocean floor had sunk and there's a lot of volcanic activity, right?

PHOENIX: Yes, and they are all over the planet and they are very active. It's going on every single day. These tectonic plates are crashing into each other, diving down deep, going up high.

VAUSE: Ok. So with that in mind, here's a look at part of the research expedition. We'll talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) is an active volcano. It's one of the most extreme environments on earth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are right next to this acid lake with a few hundred degrees of acid gases coming right out of the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ph goes from zero to one. It's pure acid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Man, that strong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Ok. So they went there to find out what all these microbes are playing as carbon moves from the earth's surface and cycles down into the deep interior. So firstly, explain why this location? Why go to a subduction zone?

PHOENIX: Well, these are zones that we have actually had a limited ability to access in the past because they're often very, very deep below the ocean's surface. Subduction zones are similar to the areas of the planet where we think life may have originated in a primitive form. So it's a really prime area for us to understand how primitive biology is potentially interacting with geology. It's a really exciting place for scientists.

VAUSE: Ok, so here is a headline from the team that went there. The discovery they say, "We found that a substantial amount of carbon is being trapped in non volcanic areas instead of escaping through volcanoes or sinking into the earth's interior. Until this point, scientists had assumed that life plays little to no role in whether this oceanic carbon is transported all the way into the mantle but we found that life and chemical processes work together to be the gatekeepers of carbon delivery to the mantle."

That sounds really important, like a big deal to me, but I don't really know why. So explain to me like I'm an eight year old.

PHOENIX: That's easy to do. So thanks for that leeway. So basically, we are trying to solve the biggest problem that humanity has ever confronted right now with climate change. And we need all hands on deck.

If we can find places in the environment where carbon, which is one of the things, carbon dioxide is one of those greenhouse gases we have heard about that add to our global warming. If we can find places where nature is locking away this carbon, these gases, then we can hopefully imitate that and help work on our climate problem that we have. And scientists are trying to do this in the lab right now.

[01:54:56] So, finding a place in the natural world where this process is going on, and it's biology meeting geology. You've got microbes meeting tectonic processes -- that's amazing because it helps us refine our understanding of not only what's possible, but what is actually going on right now.

VAUSE: Is this a "War of the Worlds" moment. We are all safe, pop the champagne. Or is it we might not be totally screwed after all and the climate apocalypse might just be a living hell on earth instead.

PHOENIX: Well, it's both and neither.

VAUSE: Right.

PHOENIX: I would say we are definitely not saved -- everything is good. But what we do see from this is that scientists from different fields working together actually can still make discoveries that will change our future and can help us shape our future to be what we want it to be, instead of the climate apocalypse.

So, this is why it's important that we fund scientific research and we encourage people in the science community to talk to each other and work together because we can make fantastic discoveries like this that are real game changers.

VAUSE: It does beg that question, how much other stuff is out there that we just don't know about? We don't have any idea, the concept of? It's either working in our favor or maybe to our detriment, when it comes to climate change. At least, it does some to be this glimmer of hope that maybe there is this solution out there somewhere.

PHOENIX: I am firmly in that camp. I think we can solve climate change. And if you talk to any of the leading climate scientists worldwide, they will tell you the same thing. This is a problem we can solve. We just really need to prioritize it.

And discoveries like this one, I'm hopeful that they will light a fire under the public's imagination and we will actually get the kind of global investment we need. Because there is so much out there that we still have to explore and that we still have to discover. We are learning, every single day. And if you haven't realized how little you know as a scientist, then you are not doing your job, right. There is always more.

VAUSE: This does not though negate the need for us to minimize our carbon footprint, to try to reduce how much waste in emissions that we as human beings produce on the planet though, right.

PHOENIX: Oh yes, exactly. We still need to prioritize conserving, whenever we can, minimizing our carbon footprint. Microbes can't do it alone. This is not a Martian invasion sadly. This is actually something that we have contributed largely to, so we need to be part of the solution. And that means every single person, but also big corporations, too. We can all do our part.

VAUSE: It was the littlest ones, after all. Jessica -- thank you. Good to see you.

PHOENIX: Thanks.

VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. The news continues with Rosemary Church right here on CNN.

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