Return to Transcripts main page
HALA GORANI TONIGHT
Prime Minister Says Bombers' Profiles Were Surprising; Bomb Making Designs Found in Raid on House; Father of Two Suicide Bombers Now in Police Custody; Biden Launches Campaign, Says Soul of The Nation Is at Stake. Trump Tweets Welcome to The Race Sleepy Joe. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired April 25, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani.
Tonight, Sri Lanka says the damage to the bodies of those killed in Sunday's terror attack meant they overestimated the death toll. Also
tonight, will the third time be lucky for Joe Biden? The former U.S. Vice President is joining a very crowded Democratic field.
And face to face for the very first time. Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un spent more than three hours locked in talks. We have the details from that
We begin tonight with the latest developments in the investigation into Sunday's devastating terrorist attack in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has
significantly revised down the death toll from the bombings from 253 from 359. In the last few hours, the country's defense secretary resigned.
After it was revealed government officials received information about the possible attacks but failed to act on the information. There are fears of
more bombers ready to strike.
Catholic Services have now been suspended because of the security concerns. Muslims have been asked not to gather for Friday prayers tomorrow in a show
of solidarity. And we're learning more about one of the families believed to be involved in the attacks, really just a remarkable angle here. A
prominent Sri Lankan spice trader has been taken into custody for questioning.
His name, Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim, seen in the center of this photo in 2016. He is one of Colombo's wealthiest businessmen. And the father of two of
the suicide bombers. One of his sons is in the photo. Insath Ahmed Ibrahim. He blew himself up on Sunday. His brother Ilham not pictured,
detonated a bomb. CNN has also learned exclusively that Ilham was previously arrested by Sri Lankan authorities and released. Something that
has been a cause for frustration among people who say that these attacks should have, could have been prevented.
With much more of the focus on these bombers and their backgrounds, people are demands answers from the country's top officials. Ivan Watson spoke
with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANIL WICKREMESINGHE, PRIME MINISTER, SRI LANKA: They are middle-class, upper-middle-class, well educated. Educated abroad. That is surprising,
they are looking at other places for possible ISIS connections. These people also known and were being monitored by intelligence.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They were being monitored?
WATSON: Some of the suicide bombers?
WICKREMESINGHE: Some of them, yes.
WATSON: And yet they were still able to carry out these deadly attacks?
WICKREMESINGHE: They didn't have sufficient evidence to take them in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: In the last hour, CNN has learned Sri Lankan police have raided a house. They believe is connected to the attacks. They found designs for
bombs inside. Will Ripley is in Colombo for us tonight with the latest. Talk to us about this raid and what authorities say they found. Will?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We drove about an hour, Hala, to this location, not exactly sure what we would find there. But
when we pulled up, we saw a vehicle that we suspected and later confirmed was an American diplomatic vehicle with agents from the FBI who were on the
scene investigating this house. We learned that components potentially to produce bombs were found inside.
This is a house first raided Sunday after the horrific Easter bombings, and while there was nobody inside, there was a lot of evidence that we were
able to glean a bit of as we were in the neighborhood today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Are you guys with the FBI? These four silent men are with the FBI. Driving off in an SUV with diplomatic plates on the trail of a terror
network. The front gate is partially open, then quickly closed as we pull up to the House on Shareef Lane. Police and neighbors say this is a
[14:05:00] The owner hasn't lived here for years. The new neighbors moved in about two months ago, offering 40,000 rubies, about $230 a month. Twice
the normal asking price. Police won't allow us inside the House, but they did describe what it looks like inside. There was evidence that people had
been living there, things like clothing scattered around, but no beds, they found bomb making materials, most of them have been cleared out.
There wasn't any food in the kitchen, seems like whoever was in there, they were there to work. Police say the items found inside included packaging
for ball bearings, batteries. This neighbor doesn't want to show his face.
People in this neighborhood tend to keep their doors open and friendly. Did these people do that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
RIPLEY: What did they do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were just inside, they don't speak much. It was very silent.
RIPLEY: A.A.B. Haffie lives next door, he says the new neighbors were clean cut with short beards, they blended in. How many people would go in
A.A.B. HAFFIE, NEIGHBOR: Two persons, I see.
RIPLEY: Two men?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
RIPLEY: Neighbors were shocked when security forces raided the house late Sunday afternoon hours after the horrific bombing attacks on three churches
and three hotels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You they came in search -- they search everywhere, they just go inside, they told us to go behind.
RIPLEY: Our camera catches a glimpse of two police canines, we're told they're bomb sniffing dogs. You are scared?
HAFFIE: Because the children, my families here. Of course, I want to --
RIPLEY: Neighbors say their sense of security, neighborly trust is lost.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't trust anyone. These people -- we can't trust anyone.
RIPLEY: Police tell us now they're searching for other houses with similar profiles, recently rented by well paying tenants who keep to themselves.
On the trail of a terror network that may be hiding in plain sight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: Both of the neighbors I spoke with had young children in the house and they were horrified when they discovered what was likely being
manufactured inside, bombs so powerful they could create explosions that would literally blast people's bodies into pieces. As a result of that the
death toll dramatically overestimated by authorities here in Sri Lanka. And the frightening part for people, is that police openly acknowledged
today they think there could still be more houses like this out there that they haven't found.
GORANI: Will Ripley, live in Colombo, thank you very much.
Husain Haqqani is the former Pakistan ambassador to both Sri Lanka and the United States. By the way you can see him here. This was during his time
as ambassador in Washington with President Obama. He's currently the director of south and central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington.
And the co-editor of the journal. "Current trends in Islamist ideology."
You study these groups, you know Sri Lanka. This is a surprise to me, Sri Lanka wasn't on our radar in terms of one of the countries that had a lot
of fighters, that went to Syria to fight for ISIS.
HUSAIN HAQQANI, FORMER PAKISTAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: It wasn't on the radar in any significant way. In my opinion this tragedy has three major
take-aways. Number one, it sets to rest the myth that poverty or exclusion is the reason why people become terrorists. It's the ideology that makes
GORANI: Because of those two young men.
HAQQANI: Very rich men. Very established family, which is very well integrated in Sri Lankan social and political life. And there's no reason
for them to have a grievance. Second, I think what has happened is, we are going through an age in which grievances don't have to be personal. You
don't have to feel insulted yourself, you can feel some grievance that you're told about on the internet.
That is happening a lot among Muslims, they are told, you're being mistreated here. And in this particular instance, I think that the
divisions within the Sri Lankan government are the reason why none of us paid attention. Sri Lanka has had some religious tension. Previously it
was basically racial, but now the Buddhist extremists and the Muslim extremists.
GORANI: There was a massive intelligence failure.
GORANI: Massive. I mean, they were warned.
HAQQANI: Look, the death count after the incident has had to be revised, not only were they not particularly competent before, but they're not
particularly confident after. And that has to do with fight between the President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.
GORANI: Explain to people who are just flabbergasted at the idea that two well to do young men, the sons of a successful businessman would join this
type of horrendous criminal murderous really an insult to Islam group, and kill innocent civilians.
HAQQANI: There are a lot of groups that are becoming radicalized. They have a narrative, that narrative is one of Muslim grievance.
GORANI: What grievance do you have when you're those two guys?
HAQQANI: Well, those guys don't have a personal grievance. They have an ideological grievance. One brother became radical first. He radicalizes
the other brother.
[14:10:00] What is he telling him? You know what, we will go to paradise. We sacrifice our life because we have to do this for the sake of Islam as
they understand it. Radical teaching is something that is not being given the kind of attention that it used to, right after 9/11.
GORANI: One interesting thing, I was having this discussion with my colleagues, in some ways, I can kind of understand the white supremacist.
My race is superior, I'm being invaded so I'm going to kill the invaders. Here, I don't get it. What are they doing?
HAQQANI: You have to understand that a lot of Islamist extremists are Islamic supremacists. They believe that --
GORANI: But they're killing Muslims too.
HAQQANI: The reason is, because they think, they think that weak Muslims are as much a burden on their movement as those who are not Muslim.
Basically, this is about seeking lost glory. It's the idea that the Muslims were great, they ruled over vast kingdoms at one point. Large
empires and now those are gone. And the movements that recruit these young people, tell them this is because of others, not because of --
GORANI: Is it purely ideological? The people who are directing the soldiers, what's in it for them here?
HAQQANI: I think we have to understand we often have this --
GORANI: I mean, those who are on the other end of the internet line.
HAQQANI: Maybe some of these people believe they will be able to re-create some kind of Islamic state or a califate if they can radicalize enough
people and drive enough fear in other communities around the world. And they think that they are succeeding.
GORANI: What should governments do? One of the things you told me during the break, when we were in Colombo with will was that people aren't looking
at what's right in front of them.
HAQQANI: They must understood.
HAQQANI: What is in the public domain, needs to be looked at.
HAQQANI: We live in a time in which today's news is today's news, and tomorrow there is a different subject. After 9/11 there was a lot of
attention paid to radical Islamism. Now that has declined. In response to radical Islamism. People started to become totally Islamophobic and
against every Muslim. Which was not natural and right. Therefore, instead of strike a balance. What has happened is a lot of these radical movements
are being ignored. It's their right to speak --
GORANI: The hate preachers don't look at them enough?
HAQQANI: This group. The previous actions were not. They comprised going into Buddhist temples and defacing statues. That was all. People thought,
that's OK. If that's wrong, that's not terrorism. Very frankly, they were building up to this point and by ignoring their earlier actions basically
the Sri Lankan government failed to recognize they would go through the next stage.
GORANI: There was an Imam who was saying some of these preachers are worrying me.
HAQQANI: Many Imams have been telling their flock that these extremist creatures are not good. The head of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told
the government we are worried about these extremists and their links outside the country. There are radical groups within south Asian region
and this group started establishing relations with them, some of them travelled to other country notice region, there are people who travelled
all the way to Syria, and that connectivity was missed by the intelligence service as an alarm --
GORANI: It still leaves us in a position where knowing what strategy to use against them is difficult. We don't know -- there's the military
approach, I have to go -- I'm being screamed at by my producers. Thank you so much for joining us. Pleasure having you in the studio this time.
Usually we speak remotely.
GORANI: Still to come, and then there were 20. Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden finally joins the crowded Democratic race for the White House.
With a blistering attack on Donald Trump.
And CNN's exclusive report on how Russia attempted to crush the protests all the way in Sudan. And keep its dictator in power. We'll be right
[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
GORANI: Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has gotten off the sidelines, joining the crowded Democratic race to evict Donald Trump from the White
House. He launched his bid today saying nothing less than the soul of America is at stake. Biden mingled with voters in Delaware, his state a
short time ago. But chose to kick off his campaign online with a video that focused on a neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
Biden said President Trump's failure to unequivocally condemn the hate was according to him a defining moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character
of this nation, who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen. The core values of this nation our standing in the world, our very
democracy, everything that has made America is at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: That's the video he released on the day he announced he was running. One of Biden's biggest selling points is what experts and
political observers call his electability. He may stand the best chance at beating Donald Trump. He's a household name with decades of political
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe Biden making it official today, hoping his third run for the White House is the charm. It's the latest
chapter in the 76-year-old Democrats' long political career. His life started in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Where Biden traces back his blue-collar
BIDEN: Everything important in my life I learned, I learned here in Scranton.
SAENZ: His family later moved to Delaware, where he was a longshot bid for the Delaware Senate seat. Winning at the age of 29. Shortly after that
tragedy, a tractor-trailer broadsided your family and killed your wife and daughter. He was sworn in at his son's hospital bedside. The Delaware
Democrat commute to and from Washington each day. Often by train. He later married a teacher, Jill Jacobs and had another daughter.
BIDEN: No man deserves one great love, let alone two.
SAENZ: He went on to serve 36 years in the Senate. Biden's chief of staff for nearly two decades, witnessing the highs and lows of his career.
TED KAUFMAN (D-DE), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: A lot of character comes from being through incredibly difficult times. He's very comfortable in his
SAENZ: In 1987 Biden launched his first run for President.
BIDEN: Today I announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America.
SAENZ: His campaign tanked after charges of plagiarism. 20 years later, Biden made a second run for the White House, but after a poor showing in
Iowa, dropped out again. Later landing in a different spot on the 2008 Democratic ticket.
[14:20:00] BARAK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: The next Vice President of the United States of America, Joe Biden.
SAENZ: The often times blunt Biden at President Obama's side. Vice President for eight years. The two forged a close friendship, cemented
even deeper when tragedy hit a second time.
BEAU BIDEN, SON OF JOE BIDEN: My father, my hero, the next vice President of the United States, Joe Biden.
SAENZ: In 2015, Biden's eldest son Beau died after a battle with brain cancer.
BIDEN: Beau was my soul. Beau is my conscience.
SAENZ: The grief ultimately impacted his decision on the 2016 race.
BIDEN: Unfortunately, I believe we're out of time. The time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination.
SAENZ: Now after months of deliberations, Biden is giving a third run for the White House a go. His more than four decades long career is set to
face a fresh look, from legislative successes like the Violence Against Women Act.
BIDEN: I wrote that act myself with my own hand.
SAENZ: To his experience on the foreign stage. But other areas of his career will undergo renewed scrutiny, like his role in crafting the 1994
crime bill and his handling of the 1991 testimony of Anita Hill.
BIDEN: Professor, do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth so help you god?
ANITA HILL, ACCUSED U.S. SUPREME COURT NOMINEE OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: I do.
SAENZ: As he prepares to take his front-runner spot in the Democratic primary field. Those closest to Biden say he's ready for the challenge
KAUFMAN: When Joe Biden looks in that mirror, he's not going to stop and not do this, because it's going to be hard or he might lose or anything
else. He does it because he won't feel right about himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Let's talk more about Biden's campaign launch, the focus on the disturbing events in Charlottesville, Virginia right out of the gate. Our
next guest is in Charlottesville, Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Larry, clearly Joe Biden is positioning himself in direct opposition to Trump, saying this is a national emergency. We can't have eight years of
Trump. But will it be a success of strategy, to just be the anti-Trump and not go further and actually propose policies that are different from Trump.
LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR POLITICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: He has some big appearances coming this week, before blue collar
audiences in the states that Trump carried, blue collar states he carried and he can't win re-election without them. You raise an important point.
And the truth is, this is the only way that Joe Biden can run. This is what he offers that's different from the other 19 candidates and there may
be two more. Soy think he starts out as a modest front-runner, but no more than that, Hala.
GORANI: We have the polling numbers by the way, and we are eons away from the actual significant dates in terms of the primaries. And he's at 27
percent, and I believe number two is Bernie Sanders at 20 or 21 percent. His age. He's 76 years old.
GORANI: Does that -- is that going to work against him?
SABATO: I'm sure it will work against him, and he would be 78 by the time he was sworn in as President in 2021. What helps him is the fact that
Bernie Sanders is even older. He would be close to 80 when sworn in, and as we all know, President Trump is not a spring chicken, he's also in his
GORANI: Let's talk a little bit about the gaffes. I guess part of that makes him likeable. There have been several complaints from women that he
touched them inappropriately. That type of thing, is that something that's going to get in the way?
SABATO: It's terrific that he sponsored and pushed through the violence against women's act, but that alone does not absolve him responsibility for
the touchy-feely accusations. He's going to have to be extremely careful, it's tough for Joe Biden to be careful in what he says and the way he
GORANI: He ran in '88. He ran again in 2008. What sank his campaigns then and why would this be different?
SABATO: Fundamentally, he turned out to be a really poor Presidential candidate, and he didn't raise much money. I think he's gotten better on
the campaign trail after eight years as Vice President, but we're still waiting to see whether he can finally raise money, and we don't know that
that's going to happen, he's going to have to prove it.
[14:25:06] GORANI: Biden/Trump in virtual kind of one on one polling, he comes out ahead. I mean, of the entire field, who do you think is best
equipped to beat Donald Trump and why?
SABATO: As of today it would be Joe Biden, simply because he has the heft after two terms as VP, and especially under Barack Obama who still retains
wide popularity. I think he's the best, but, you know, we have so long to go. And it's not just Joe Biden's gaffes, it's going to be gaffes and
problems and scandals affecting the other 19. So it's pointless to guess at this point.
GORANI: I can't help but notice that the two front-runners are white men. I think Elizabeth Warren and correct me if I'm wrong, but is she in the top
four, the first female?
SABATO: Yes. And Kamala Harris.
GORANI: There you have it. So the top three according to this latest poll, anyway, and we have Pete Buttigieg the newcomer as well. Is this not
going to be the election that will finally get us a female President?
SABATO: Well, you wouldn't predict that today. But again, I think some of these four women who are running. And by the way, that's totally
unprecedented to have more than one-woman candidate. To have four U.S. Senate candidates who are women. Anything can happen there and I'll tell
you one thing, there is no way Democrats will accept two white males on ticket. Those days are gone forever.
GORANI: It's a new year, however you look at it -- Larry Sabato, appreciate it. It didn't take long for Trump to respond to Biden's
campaign announcement. He welcomed Biden into the race with a tweet belittling his intelligence. Some have stuck better than others, let's
talk more about this with a branding expert,
Noelle Nikpour, author of "Branding America." These grade school level name calling strategies, in some -- and by the way, Noelle, before I get to
you, let's listen, we have a little montage of some of the nicknames Trump has used against his opponent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Cryin' Chuck Schumer.
Lyin' Ted Cruz.
Low energy Jeb Bush.
Crooked Hillary Clinton.
He's running against Wacky Jackie.
Sleepy Joe Biden.
Little Adam Schiff.
The legendary low I.Q. Maxine Waters.
GORANI: There wasn't Lyin' Ted Cruz in there or Little Marco Rubio. Are these effective, Noelle?
NOELLE NIKPOUR, AUTHOR OF "BRANDING AMERICA": As a matter of fact they are effective, and it's strange, because America in our elections, we've never
had to deal with school room, elementary school level campaign style. This was a first, I think it was shocking when Trump got in the last elections
when we had 16 candidates. Jeb bush was clearly thought of as the front- runner, and he labelled him low energy.
And it really had an effect. It had an effect on his campaign. Not only did it have an effect on when people would perceive how he would come to
the microphone. But it started to affect the fund-raising, which as you know, is detrimental to a campaign. If it starts affecting the money.
GORANI: Why is it effective, because you have other candidates -- I can't imagine Barack Obama doing that, Joe Biden will see, why do these tactics
resonate with some voters?
NIKPOUR: I think partly because -- I remember being a political pundit and dealing with branding, I was in shock that a professional person running
for the highest office in the United States would be name calling. Little Marco Rubio. Lying Ted. I mean, these labels not only were shocking to a
lot of the people, in America. But it -- they were also -- they stuck to the name. And it's -- like with Lying Ted Cruz.
That weren't on and all -- he almost lost his United States Senate seat because a lot of the voters in -- which we call a red meat district in
Texas, which mainly goes Republican. He almost lost the seat, because a lot of those people like Donald Trump will never forget that Trump labelled
him lying ted.
GORANI: Also, I guess Ted Cruz had Beto O'Rourke competing against him, and that also -- he was kind of the new wonder kid there. Here's my
question, Noelle. Does this mean we are now -- the new reality is, that this is how you wage political campaigns? This is the new normal for
political campaigns, where we just name call each other third grade level nicknames? Because if it was effective for Trump, presumably Democratic
candidates will feel that this is something they need to embrace as well?
NIKPOUR: Let's hope not. This is really -- I think it's embarrassing to the United States of America that we had this type of election, that we
have third grade tactics with professional grown men calling each other names. I think that what needs to happen, in these upcoming elections for
2020, Trump is obviously going to stick to the playbook of name calling. He did it with Sleepy Joe.
[14:30:00] NOELLE NIKPOUR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: -- of America that we have this type of election that we have third grade tactics with
professional grown men calling each other names.
I think that what needs to happen in these upcoming elections for 2020, Trump is obviously going to stick to the playbook of name-calling. He did
it with Sleepy Joe. But what in return needs to happen is no one needs to get on the same low level as our president and call names back.
Don't say anything about President Trump or any of his shortcomings. Keep it above board and just simply ignore it. You just simply have to ignore
it. This is not what our country is about. This is not what the issues are at hand. We have immigration, we have health care, we have a lot of
important issues and we don't need to be focusing on campaigns with name- calling.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Noelle Nikpour, thanks for joining us, author of "Branding America," appreciate it.
Coming up, Daniel Craig held a news conference about the newest "James Bond" movie from the Jamaican home of Bond creator, Ian Fleming. So, we
have a question for you, which Bond movie was named after Ian Fleming's estate? If you'd like to hazard a guess, tweet me @HalaGorani.
We'll be right back.
GORANI: As protesters in Sudan continue to hold out against the country's latest military rulers, the families of the dozens killed by Sudanese
government forces over the three months of protest are still mourning their dead.
But as deadly as the protests have been, CNN has learned, it could have been much worse. Documents obtained by the London-based group, the Dossier
Center, and shared with CNN, detailed a plan very similar to that which is believed to have played out during the 2016 U.S elections.
This time, put forward by a shadowy Russian mining company linked to a Putin confidant under U.S. sanctions, Yevgeny Prigozhin. It offers to help
crush the protesters, spread misinformation and keep Omar al-Bashir in power. At stake, a strategic Russian naval presence on Sudan's red sea
CNN's Nima Elbagir has this exclusive report.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He was just 17 years old, in his first year of university.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): January 8, government forces in Khartoum opened fire on unarmed protestors. A
teenager, Mohammed El-Fateh (ph), is among the first to die. His mother tells us, he knew there was a chance he'd be killed that day.
[14:35:11] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was Mohammed's hope that the government would be overthrown. Our hope is that the same
way Bashir killed our son, he must be executed, killed.
ELBAGIR: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is ousted, but the crowds gather still outside the military headquarters. Today, they're chanting,
"Only blood washes blood." They want justice for the dozens of lives lost during a pro-democracy process, but it could have been so much worse.
CNN has learned that in January, Russian advisors to the government drew plans to suppress the protests.
Government sources in Sudan say they worked from an office in Khartoum belonging to an obscure Russian mining company called M Invest.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): We just asked in those offices, and they told us that this was another mining company, not M Invest. But this is the exact
address that we've been given by numerous sources, and there really isn't any other Russian company matching the description that we were given of M
Invest right here.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): CNN has discovered that M Invest had sophisticated plans to disrupt the process, painting them as a foreign plot, fabricating
evidence that protestors were being paid, that they are destroying mosques and schools.
ELBAGIR (on camera): The evidence comes from thousands of documents shared with us by the London-based Dossier Center. They paint a picture of an
operation prepared to go to great lengths to keep Omar al-Bashir in power. But why would an obscure mining company care?
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Because M Invest is part of a business of Yevgeny Prigozhin, one of Russia's most prominent oligarchs and a man close to
President Vladimir Putin.
The documents reviewed by CNN offer no confirmation that official Russian security agencies were involved directly in trying to suppress the protests
in Sudan. But Sudan was at the heart of a Russian drive to expand its influence in Africa.
Russia had bet big on Omar al-Bashir. It wanted logistical help for their navy at Port Sudan.
In January, activists circulated images of heavily-armed men observing the protests. Government and military sources in Sudan say they were private
Russian contractors, embedded with Sudanese government forces.
ELBAGIR (on camera): At the same time, M Invest was working on a plan to discredit the leaders of this process, recommending that looters, so-called
looters, should be executed, putting together a social media campaign suggesting that Israel was behind the process and saying that lesbian, gay,
and bisexual activists were working among the protestors. Something that would have been utterly unacceptable in the deeply Islamic and conservative
society here in Sudan.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Multiple government and military sources in Sudan tell CNN that Russian advisers were placed in government ministries and the
national intelligence service. According to one senior figure in Bashir's regime, their plans involved what he called minimal but acceptable loss of
The regime did begin to implement the M Invest plan, smearing students as trying to foment civil war, limiting Internet access and even devising a
fake social media campaign to start disputes and disinformation. The same playbook U.S. prosecutors say Russia's Internet Research Agency used to
disrupt the 2016 presidential election. The agency and M Invest both tied to Yevgeny Prigozhin.
He's previously denied any ties to election meddling, and calls to his company for this report went unanswered. And when he apparently felt
Sudan's government was slow to act, Prigozhin evidently wanted more. In a letter to Bashir in mid-March, he accused the government of inaction and
warned that the lack of active steps to overcome the crisis is likely to lead to even more serious consequences.
As the process gained strength, Prigozhin wrote again, praising Bashir as a wise and farsighted leader, but urging immediate reforms.
Senior officials in Khartoum tell us that Bashir hesitated. Within a week, he was gone. But M Invest is not.
The documents we've reviewed showed that it has close ties to Sudan's military and they're in charge now. The families of the fallen prey that
their sacrifices are not in vain.
[14:40:07] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm happy that Mohammad's dream of freedom was realized. I'm grateful to God, and I hope
-- dear God, forgive me.
ELBAGIR: The Kremlin and its oligarchs may have other ideas. But for now, here in Khartoum, the fight for freedom continues.
GORANI: Well, Nima joins me now from Sudan's capital, Khartoum. The protesters still don't have what they want, which is a transition to a
fully civilian government, what's the latest on that, are they still protesting? And are they likely to get what they're asking for?
ELBAGIR: The numbers are even greater. Every day, it feels like the numbers down as the protest site grow. There was an extraordinary impasse
over the last few days, but it seems that the transitional military counsel is attempting to blink first, if we can put it that way.
There were three key figures within the counsel that were absolutely unacceptable to the protesters, because they were blamed, they were accused
of being key to the suppression of the process over the last few months.
They have now tendered their resignations, and the counsel is looking at whether or not to accept them. The counsel, after pushing that forward,
has now said that it wants to retain sovereignty even if there is some kind of civilian transitional counterparts to the military council.
So it often feels here like it's one step forward and two attempted steps back. But through it all, Hala, the protesters have remained outside of
military headquarters, they're very aware that that's where their strength comes from and they don't look in any danger of seeding that, Hala.
GORANI: All right. Nima Elbagir, thanks very much for that exclusive reporting.
Russian -- and speaking of Russia, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, says he's happy with the outcome of his summit with Kim Jong-un. A few hours
ago, Mr. Putin and the North Korean leader, wrapped up their first face to face meeting.
But as Matthew Chance reports from Eastern Russia, Mr. Putin maybe using the summit to have a say in U.S./North Korean nuclear talks.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heaving himself out of his specially imported stretched limo, the North
Korean dictator gets a red carpet reception from Russia's strong man president. This is the first these two autocrats have actually met.
The first chance to discuss Kim Jong-un's nuclear weapons and how Russia might help get rid of them. This is classic Vladimir Putin inserting
himself yet again into an international crisis.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): I'm sure your visit to Russia will help to develop our bilateral relations and will help
us to understand the ways we can settle the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
CHANCE: Putin says Kim has asked him to inform the U.S. about North Korea's position. This now looks increasingly like a three-way nuclear
negotiation with the Kremlin bang in the middle.
Details were sparse, but there was no shortage of diplomatic niceties at this summit. President Putin giving Kim a saber and a special Russian tea
set. Putin was gifted an elaborate ceremonial sword.
Later, a formal reception dinner, for both leaders, these optics are key, growing allies with a close personal bond. Not the isolated figures often
portrayed in the West.
CHANCE (on-camera): Well, these talks seem to have been pretty short on specifics. What exactly they talked about, when it comes to disarmament on
the Korean Peninsula is unclear.
We do know though what they got, because we got into this room where the reception was held. You can see here, there's a plate of bulgur wheat and
beef, some confectionaries, and chocolates, and this little cheesecake, a chocolate cheesecakes with the North Korean and the Russian flag.
Outside the Vladivostok summit, a final farewell after what the Kremlin describes as constructive talks.
Next up for Putin is China, another key ally, leaving his new North Korean friend to explore this Russian city on his own.
GORANI: Matthew Chance reporting there. Everything you need to know about the Kim-Putin cheesecake.
Still to come tonight, President Macron is responding to months of protests in France. We'll tell you about his promises and also what reforms he
wants to institute. A live report from Paris is just ahead.
[14:45:01] GORANI: French president, Emmanuel Macron, pledged tax cuts and other reforms as he addressed the nation today. But he's also calling for
a return to law and order.
The president is responding after national debates and months of those Gilets Jaunes protests across the country. The yellow vest moment says
it's fighting for social equality. Though there's been a lot of property damage and in some cases, violence during their demonstrations.
The president though says he understands their frustration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC (through translator): This time has transformed me too. I think I've touched much more deeply
the depth of it. What many of my fellow citizens living the pains, the misunderstandings and we are a country -- I said this myself before the
election. We are waiting for a huge amount, sometimes too much. And so we can think it is unfair and so on. And sometimes I was not aware of that
expectation. This expectation justifies certain anger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: So he was taking questions. This is not a very common thing for French presidents to do it. I believe the last time he did it was in 2017
after he was elected.
Mr. Macron, you might remember, had to postpone his original announcement, because of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire.
Let's get more with Melissa Bell. She joins me now from Paris. So he made a lot of promises. He's not popular, I mean, in terms of his popularity
rating in the country. And he's just the latest French leader to try to push through reforms, isn't he?
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and you're right, that more than five months now of Gilets Jaunes protests have gone on so
long, Hala, that we've seen its transformation of the course of the last few months. From one that began, you'll remember as a protest about the
hike in the fuel duty to one that morphed into question's spending power. Emmanuel Macron, each time, seemed to concede and make new offers, new
concessions that might appease the protesters and it never seemed to go away.
On Saturday, we had the 23rd Saturday in a row of Gilets Jaunes protest. And what we've seen is, those vast numbers have shrunk. It is now a much
smaller number of people who take the streets. But there are, of course, more radical, more revolutionary.
And still the truth, Hala, what we hear on the streets or where amongst them Saturday after Saturdays that what they want is the departure of
Emmanuel Macron. So it's very difficult to see how this exercise. Very unusual to say for the French president. He's simply has done it.
Nicolas (INAUDIBLE) remember, had instituted these big gatherings of the French and international press for press conferences at which he would
filled questions. Emmanuel Macron just hasn't done it.
Apart from those moments when he's had a foreign dignitary in town and spoken to the president's result of that, we haven't had this before. So
very eagerly anticipated. And yet very difficult to see what he might have announced that would have appeased the yellow vests.
And yet, a number of important announcements, tax cuts for the middle- classes, the cutting of France's notoriously bloated civil service. And yet, very little in the way of concrete measures about how it's going to be
[14:50:07] We understood, as we listen to him that this is a man hoping to turn a crisis into an opportunity and transform the second part of his term
in office. Give it a kick start, pick up his program reform. But we heard very little about the 35-hour week. Is he going scrap it? Will it stay?
How will those pension reforms affect people and how will they be afforded? All of these questions remain in the balance. And I think there are almost
more questions as we get to the end of this, as there were before he began.
But, yes, an idea that he is trying to appease the yellow vest to move in their direction, to make the lives of the ordinary French middle-classes
easier finance than they were before. Because that's what it's become about, Hala. Those who have and those who have not. Those who can get to
the end of the month and those who can't and that was specifically with those tax cuts for the middle classes, what he was trying to address.
GORANI: Well, I'm not sure having more questions than answers at the end of a news conference is necessarily what he was hoping for. But he did
mention that his intention to close ENA, which is the school that forms civil servants, which is -- I think and it's very interesting, because this
is -- by definition, the elite of the elite in France go there, they're very small graduating classes.
And disproportionately, they feed the top echelons of government and business.
BELL: That's right, and you know France well, and to anyone who does, Hala, ENA has almost mythical status. This is really one of the sacred
cows of France. Created in 1945 by Charles de Gaulle. It has since then schooled nearly half of all presidents and prime minister. So many of
France's ministers, so many of its former and current CEO's, it has become that 100 year intake.
It is one of the hardest exams anyone could prepare for. It forms France's elite and it has, of course -- it was created in order to widen access to
those who couldn't afford the fancy schools, the smartest rather than the wealthiest. But, of course, it has become synonymous with the elite. So
that is one of his very important measures.
Will it go anyway to speaking to the ordinary concerns of real people who are trying to get through every month? That for the time being is far from
GORANI: All right. Melissa Bell, thanks very much.
Coming up, Malek, Rami Malek. The new James Bond film has its villain. That story in full when Gorani, Hala Gorani returns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bond, James Bond.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Bond, I suppose --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, that was the moment in 1962 that the world was introduced to James Bond on the big screen. And today, Daniel Craig announced he would
return as James Bond one more time. Craig was joined by several other cast members in Jamaica at the estate of Bond creator, Ian Fleming, for the
That estate, by the way, I asked you, well, a lot of you guessed correctly, it's called Goldeneye, and that is the answer to our little trivia question
that we asked you earlier.
Who else will be in the 25th bond film? And what do we know about the huge movie hitting theaters this weekend? "Avengers: Endgame." Let's put those
question to our -- those questions to our senior entertainment writer, Lisa Respers France.
I'm interested in James Bond. I'm going to confess to not knowing a thing about the Avengers. But I'm interested in James Bond. Rami Malek is the
new hot actor. He's going to play a villain. And also, we know who will be contributing to writing the screenplay as well. Lisa.
[14:55:11] LISA RESPERS FRANCE, CNN SENIOR ENTERTAINMENT WRITER: Yes. Well, you know, he's fresh off of his Oscars win. "Bohemian Rhapsody" was
huge for him and people are so excited to see what kind of energy he's going to bring as a villain.
I mean, James Bond movies, you kind of almost want to see them for the villain, just to see the interaction between that character and James Bond.
So people are super excited.
GORANI: All right. And what about how are they going to make this more interesting to a wider public, I wonder? I mean, some meaty female roles,
RESPERS FRANCE: Well, you know, there's always been a lot of debate about James Bond. But as to like how it can survive an era of safe sex and
things like that, it seems like such a throwback. But he's gotten the band back together. Jeffrey Wright, some other characters who had been in the
former film are coming back for this.
So we're going to get to see a different type of James Bond. He's no longer going to be Agent 007 when the film kicks off. He's going to be
relaxing in Jamaica, and then you see how he gets pulled back into being a spy.
So they're hoping that the combination of that and the fact that it's going to be the last film, according to Daniel Craig for him, is going to really
going hold the audience's interest.
GORANI: All right. Relaxing. It's very middle aged. We're just relaxing in Jamaica and then come out of retirement for one last mission and then
After Daniel Craig, who is it going to be? Because --
RESPERS FRANCE: That's the speculation.
GORANI: -- that's the name that keeps coming back, but do we know?
RESPERS FRANCE: Of course. We don't know. And that's part of the fun, is the speculation of who could be the next James Bond. There's been debate
on everything from having a James Bond of color with Idris Elba too. Why not make it Jamie Bond and have a woman take over the franchise?
People want to see something new. They want to see something fresh. And there's a sense that James Bond, the franchise could easily be revitalized
if you just tweaked it a little bit by making either a person of color or a woman.
GORANI: Yes. Why not?
RESPERS FRANCE: Why not?
GORANI: Avengers: Endgame. Yeah. Avengers: Endgame, what's -- tell me about that. Educate me.
RESPERS FRANCE: So I've seen the film. No spoilers here, I'm not giving you any spoilers. I'll just say it was one of the best Marvel films that I
have ever seen before. It definitely, to me, was the best Avengers film ever. And I feel like it was the perfect tribute to Stan Lee's memory.
We, of course, lost him not too long ago, and I feel like Stan Lee would be so incredibly proud of this film just because of the action and the themes
and I think people are going to love it. If you go to see it, plan on seeing it more than once.
GORANI: I will -- you've convinced me. Lisa Respers France, thanks so much.
RESPERS FRANCE: Thank you.
GORANI: Pleasure talking to you.
RESPERS FRANCE: Great talking to you.
GORANI: I'm Hala Gorani. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up next. Stay with CNN.