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Authorities in California Search For Answers After Deadly Shooting in California; Sri Lanka Marks One Week Since the Easter Terrorist Attacks; Spain's Political Crossroads. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired April 28, 2019 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00]

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Authorities in California search for answers in the deadly shooting at a California synagogue as the community mourns the loss of one of it's own.

Plus, a nation on high alert, Sri Lanka marks one week since the Easter attacks that took place there.

Also ahead this hour, mixing humor and history. Washington hosts a comedian list White House Correspondents dinner.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell, the CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

At 5:00 am on the U.S. East Coast we start in the state of California, the aftermath of the shooting at the synagogue in San Diego and we're learning new details about the woman who was killed in that attack.

Authorities have identified this woman, 60-year-old Lori Kaye, as the woman who was shot and killed by the shooter. A friend says that she died after stepping between the gunman and wounded Rabbi. The Rabbi told the friend, Kaye saved his life.

Here's how a member of the congregation is remembering her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED NASSERI CONGREGATION CHABAD MEMBER: She was friendly, she was welcoming, she was one of those people that you want to know as a friend. She -- I don't -- I can't say anything mean or bad about her, as when I think of her I can only smile. I mean, all I can say, the community lost a great soul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: And the story of the heroic act came as Jews were marking the last day of Passover. Officials say a 19-year-old suspect is in custody and he reportedly wrote a manifesto.

It references past shootings and claims responsibility for arson at a California mosque. Here's the U.S. President Donald Trump speaking about that shooting on Saturday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America's heart is with the victims of the horrific synagogue shooting in Poway, California, just happened. Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, prays for the wounded and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community. We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated. Just happens, must be defeated.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: CNN's Sara Sidner has more now on the attack from the City of Poway.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The City of Poway, California, is in mourning after a 19-year-old suspect opened fire in a synagogue shooting those who were there to celebrate the end of Passover.

This is the eighth day of Passover, a day when Jews remember those who have died, their relatives who have died. Now there is fresh pain after one woman was killed, three others injured, including the Rabbi -- one of the Rabbi's here at the synagogue.

Now what we know about the suspect is that he was captured a couple of miles from the synagogue and he's 19-years-old and police say that he actually was engaged by an off-duty border patrol agent who happened to be here inside of the synagogue when the shooting took place.

This also happened on the very same day six months ago, of the worst and most deadly anti-Semitic attack in recent U.S. history. That happened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and that mayor reached out to the mayor of Poway and here's what he said.

STEVE VAUS, POWAY, CALIFORNIA MAYOR: They'd be standing with us, they'd be praying for us and they're having a vigil there starting shortly for the community of Poway.

SINDER: The police also say that they are looking into what they are referring to as an open letter that they believe was written by the suspect. In that open letter the suspect refers to other attacks on other places of worship, including the devastating attack in Pittsburg at the Tree of Life Synagogue and in Christ Church at the mosque there. They are also delving into his background, looking into if he is affiliated with any other particular groups. At this point they have not found any affiliations.

We should also mention that this is a community shocked by this, in part because there is a very strong interfaith community here. If you will look behind me you will see the synagogue. Just down the streets -- just down the street, just walking distance there are two churches.

One of them, an Orthodox church, that will be celebrating Easter -- eastern Easter, if you will, tomorrow. We do expect a lot of folks bringing flowers, a lot of people showing that this community is strong and this community plans on sticking together through one of their most tragic days. Sara Sidner, CNN, Poway, California.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

[05:05:05]

HOWELL: Keeping in mind, there have been a number of high profile attacks at places of worship this year alone. Saturday's synagogue shooting comes exactly six months after the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

Starting in March, three historically African-American churches were burned to the ground in Louisiana. Just last week bombers targeted churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, the blast came on Easter Sunday, the blast killing hundreds of people.

And then last month, a gunman also targeted mosque in Christ Church New Zealand, dozens of people were killed and wounded there.

Let's talk about all of this now with Amy Pope. Amy is a former member of the U.S. National Security Council under the former president Barack Obama. She is now an Associate Fellow with Chathum House, a think tank, joining us live this hour in London. Good to have you with us Amy.

AMY POPE, ASSOCIATE FELLOW CHATHAM HOUSE: Thank you.

HOWELL: This attack, it is the latest in several we've seen around the world targeting these soft targets, places of worship. What sort of things, Amy, if anything, can be done to try to protect or guard against attacks like these?

POPE: I think number one is that we need to use our intelligence much more effectively. There are -- there was, at the Department of Homeland Security, a unit that was focused on tracking homegrown extremism, violent extremism around the country as well as sharing information with extremism with our partners around the world.

And that particular unit has just been gutted, and that's troubling at this moment in time when we're seeing a rise in this kind of attack on people within a religious community in particular.

I think there's a lot more information that is out there and a lot more information that should be shared.

HOWELL: I want to take a moment to look at hate crimes, specifically. The FBI stats around hate crimes since 1998, if we have that graphic to show our viewers, you can see the trend line here, it is on an uptick recently. The numbers focused here in the United States.

What can authorities due, Amy, to try to get ahead of this? To crack down on these groups or even better identify those individuals who might be radicalized by the rhetoric that's online, the things that they're espousing?

POPE: Well, the first is to use the tools that we have effectively. We've seen at the Department of Homeland Security a mismanagement of resources, over focus on our manufactured crisis at the border when the real issues are happening within the homeland.

And so, we need to make sure that we're linking up law enforcement agencies around the country, that they're sharing information, that they're using social media -- the extremist group's social media as a tool to radicalize converts.

The federal government, the state governments, other interested citizens can use social media to identify people who may be becoming radicalized and then a lot can happen at the local level to identify people who may be feeling alienated. We often see signs that people are going to take some sort of action before it happens and making sure people know what those signs look like.

HOWELL: From your previous remarks here, I get a sense of where you may go with question, but the U.S. President has spoken out about what happened in San Diego. He is calling it a hate crime, but the question to you -- the greater question, what do you make of this administration's attitude and policies regarding hate crimes against anyone, whether it be over religion, whether it be over race or sexual orientation?

POPE: The problem is this administration is not consistent, right? You see from the president's remarks at Charlottesville, he suggests that there's some sort of similarity between people who are protesting on behalf of communities and those who are committing hate crimes.

There should not be that kind of parallel drawn. We need to treat this as a very serious threat that it is. Homegrown extremists can do far more violence as we've seen in Pittsburg, which is my own community and San Diego and others. I mean, this is a serious threat and the president needs to take it as seriously as he can.

HOWELL: Amy Pope, we appreciate your time and perspective today. Thank you.

POPE: Thank you.

HOWELL: Now to Sri Lanka, one week after the bombs exploded across that country, police are taking action to find the people responsible and the community is still trying to heal.

(SINGING)

(PRAYING)

HOWELL: Sri Lanka's Archbishop held Sunday Mass inside his own home, after suspending services at church, churches across the country. In the meantime we're learning more about the attacks that claimed 253 lives. [05:10:15]

This video just released shows the moment of an explosion in the Kingsbury Hotel. Security Forces are trying to root out the terrorists behind the attacks, carrying out many raids in the country.

On Friday, 10 civilians were killed when suicide bombers blew up their house. Six suspected terrorists were also killed. Our Sam Kiley was at that home. And we warn you, before you see his report, some of the video here is graphic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAM KILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The moment of grim triumph for Sri Lanka's forces: Mohamed Niyas, directly connected to the Easter massacres in the capitol lies dead, gunned down in a street battle in the far east of the country, where the terror group first put down roots.

He died alongside five other suspected terrorists in three blasts in an inferno, taking nine civilians with them, three women and six children. Another woman was caught in the crossfire. Police believe they were members of the suspected terrorist family.

MAJOR GENERAL ARUNA JAYASEKERA, EASTERN COMMANDER, SRI LANKA: Believed to be, perhaps, the relatives or maybe some - the people - civilians.

KILEY: The suspected terrorists were indeed bound by family ties. Niyas' brother-in-law, Hashim, was the spiritual leader of the group, and he attacked the Shangri-la hotel in Colombo with a suicide bomb on Easter Sunday. Authorities had warned that more terrorists were on the loose after the attacks last week that killed more than 250.

This room is hot by the fire caused by what the military say was an explosion of a suicide bomber's motorcycle. Inside the room, there are the charred remains of what appear to be children, possibly some adults. It's a charnel house. Last weekend, churches and mosques were told not to have services, while Sri Lankan forces sought out more members of Hashim's group, which he started in nearby Kattankudy.

All the local villages were evacuated to a school for their own safety. It was this Muslim community that delivered the terrorists into the hands of the police. And they will remain critical to this country's fight against terrorism. The terrorists rented the house where they died, only two days before the Easter bombings.

He says they took the house for rent on the 18th and left in a couple of days, and they came back yesterday with more people, nearly eight. And the landlord became suspicious. They arrived just hours after Sri Lankan authorities found a staggering amount of explosives and bomb- making material in a lock-up about three miles away.

One-hundred and fifty sticks of gelignite explosive; 100,000 ball bearings Islamic State flags and the uniforms police suspect were used by the terror groups in videos before the Easter attacks, proof that those Easter massacres were by no means the only mass killings the ISIS gang had planned. Sam Kiley, CNN, Kalmunai, Sri Lanka.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Let's get a closer look now at the aftermath of the Sri Lanka attacks with Jeffrey Gettleman. Jeffery is the Southeast Asia bureau chief for "The New York Times," joining this time from Colombo, Sri Lanka. Good to have you with us, Jeffrey.

JEFFREY GETTLEMAN, SOUTH ASIA BUREAU CHIEF, NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you.

HOWELL: So I'd like to start by getting your thoughts around the article that you co-wrote with colleagues in "The New York Times." You talked about the breakdown in intelligence monitoring that happened there in Sri Lanka, specifically, Jeffrey, that memo that warned of a possible suicide attack, but that memo that was never passed on. And in the article, you suggest everything from political infighting to a brain drain, as a result of the civil war, that led to missed warnings and a botched investigation.

GETTLEMAN: Yes, this place has been really hard-hit and full of grief because of these attacks. People are shocked. They're saddened by the loss of loved ones. Everywhere you look in the city, you see white funeral flags, flapping in the wind, marking where somebody lost their life.

On top of that is this growing frustration that this could have been prevented, because the Sri Lankan Government had very detailed information, weeks before this attack, about the names of the people, where they live, their cell phone numbers and what they were plotting. And that intelligence was provided by the Indian Government to Sri Lanka. They had been watching some of the terrorist suspects.

And the Sri Lankan Government did nothing about it. And a memo was circulated, shortly after the attack, showing that the government had this information. The public has found out about this. And it's just compounded the sense of sadness and anger and frustration and the government doesn't have any good answers.

[05:15:00]

HOWELL: The questions about the missed warnings, both within the country and, as you point out, warnings from other countries, also, Jeffrey, in the fluctuation of the death toll numbers. As reported initially, 350 people killed, then reduced to 253 lives lost the next day. What do you make of that? What does that say about the government's handling of the aftermath?

GETTLEMAN: I'm glad you brought that up. We don't want to pick on Sri Lanka right now. This country has been heavily hit by a serious attack that killed lots of innocent people. Men, women, children that had nothing to do with any wider global political agenda were blown apart. So we have to be sensitive to that.

But at the same time, there're some real questions about the competence and the ability of the government here to deal with these things. For instance, every day since the day of the attack, the death toll was steadily increasing. The government kept saying, "Oh, we identified more people who died. We located and did DNA tests," or "hooked up with relatives." Every day, the death toll kept going up to 359.

Then, two days ago, all of a sudden, they said, "No, we made a mistake. It's 250 dead." And that just raised a lot of questions about, "Well, why did you keep raising the death toll all those days if there were some," you know," some issues about the number counting?" And then even - perhaps even more unexplainable was the government put out a warning that there were six terror suspects on the loose, that these people were highly dangerous, were connected to the attacks and were maybe plotting new attacks.

In that information that the police released, they included the picture of a student at Brown University, in the U.S., that has nothing at all to do with what happened here. And that young woman quickly sent out some messages on social media saying, "My picture appeared in the Sri Lankan Media. I am totally unconnected to what happened."

And again, we asked, like, "How did - how did that happen? Why were the police just kind of cruising through Facebook and social media looking for pictures?" So there's a lot of frustration and concern, from even before this happened to now.

HOWELL: You know, there's a separate article, that I read as well, that asks a basic question, and I'd like your thoughts around this. Is there a sense that there, in Sri Lanka, that somehow, since the civil war, the government has somehow become complacent -too complacent?

GETTLEMAN: I think this place was enjoying the fruits of peace. They had fought a really nasty civil war for three decades, and tens of thousands of people were killed. And in 2009, that ended, and for the last 10 years, there was a sense of a renaissance of a rebirth of blast walls coming down, of metal detectors taken away, of police officers and soldiers being removed from the streets, and just this feeling that this country had put those dark days behind it.

So I do think they let down their guard. They were focused on building the economy, moving forward, bringing in terrorists. They were not thinking of a massive terrorist attack. And I - and I think that we've seen now the results of that, that they might have been overconfident.

But you know, everybody is going to make mistakes, not reading intelligence exactly the way it should be read. What's really striking in this case was there were several repeated, detailed warnings, talking about these specific people attacking churches in this way, and nothing was done about it. That's what's really the most frustrating, and there's no good answers to that.

HOWELL: Jeffrey Gettleman, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

GETTLEMAN: Thank you.

Washington journalists celebrated one of their biggest nights of the year, but the U.S. President didn't want anything to do with that event. We'll have that story ahead. Plus, Spain is holding elections in the middle of a deep political crisis. What is at stake in this boat and why Europe is paying close attention?

[05:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Welcome back. The polls are open in Spain this hour. It is the third general election in four years there and the results are far from certain.

This live image in Madrid, Spain, you see people there making their choice. In fact, the choice may just add to the countries political turmoil. Voters are set to choose from five parties, none are expected to win outright. And forming a functional coalition government could be a challenge.

Also, a new far-right party called Vox could pick up seats in the countries Parliament. CNN's Isa Soares traveled to one area where that party is gaining ground.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Crammed between the sea and the Andalusia Mountains and as far as the eye can see is a shimmering white city draped in plastic. This is El Ejido in southern Span and here produce is king.

With each plastic greenhouse growing much of Europe's fruit and vegetables, from peppers to courgettes, tomatoes, to aubergines. But the most important seed sprouting here isn't produce, but a political party.

Vox is Spain's first elected far-right party since the death of Dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, and it's entry is already shaking up the political landscape. I meet Vox's local candidate. Last year they won nearly 30 percent of the vote in regional elections here in El Ejido, with a pledge of national unity to stop to put a stop to corruption and illegal immigration.

JUAN JOSE BONILLA, VOX CANDIDATE FOR EL EJIDO (through translator): I am 42-years-old and I grew up in El Ejido. I was born in El Ejido, so I've run up and down this town. Today we don't dare let our children do the same. There's no safety, there are robberies, rapes, there is a lot of crime.

SOARES: Who do you blame, migrants?

BONILLA (through translator): Yes, Spanish people commit the crimes and migrants commits the crimes, but the majority are migrants.

SOARES: But a walk through El Ejido shows how much this region is dependent on seasonal labor. Mostly carried out by migrants from North Africa.

What Vox has been able to do in southern Spain is exploit voter frustration, in particular the question of immigration. And while the number of migrants coming in to and from across the Mediterranean have, in fact fallen, Spain has become one of the main entry points for migrants, with roughly 63,000 arriving in Andalusia last year alone.

The world in needed (ph) here the culture differences make many Spaniards feel uneasy. Despite this, I struggle to find anyone who will openly acknowledge they're Vox supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language.

SOARES: This woman tells me as people want to change, they want to change and to try something new, but unconsciously they don't know at Vox is.

We're fed up of so many migrants, tells me this lady. They come without paperwork, they do what they want, what they feel like, we're very tired of them, she says.

Across Spain Vox has been derighted (ph) as far-right populists, anti- Islam and anti-immigration. In fact, it's leader, Santiago Abascal, is borrowing from President Trump's book.

You leaders says he wants to build a wall in the border, Spain's border with Morocco and he wants Morocco to pay for that wall, do you believe that?

[05:25:00]

BONILLA (through translator): I don't care if the wall is made of bricks, steel or wire, what we want is to close the door so that migrants don't flood Spain, because Spanish people cannot stand that flood of migrants.

SOARES: While their message may seem unfiltered, it is one that is resonating with many Spaniards, who feel abandoned as well as betrayed by Spain's main political parties.

Isa Soares, CNN, El Ejido, Spain.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HOWELL: Isa, thank you. Earlier is spoke to CNN Espanola reporter, Vera Catono, based in Madrid. She explains why this election is particularly so complicated.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

VERA CATANO, CNN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: Electoral centers opened this morning in Spain at 9:00 am local time. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez from the Socialist Party is one of the favorites to win this election, although, as you said, there won't be apparently a big majority and there will be necessary to agree between different parties to make agreements or even a coalition and Spain has this tradition.

We remember the (inaudible) election in 2015, then 2016 they had to repeat this election because of a very fragmented Parliament that couldn't allow to form government. And in this situation now in 2019, we are in a more even fragmented situation with also this new party you talk about it, this far-right Vox who appeared in 2013. Due to corruption cases that have been effected, what we call traditional parties, but also due to the economical crisis.

So, that would explain these five parties that we have now, which makes a big difference between what we had before 2015. We have to remember that in Spain there were mainly two parties, the socialists and the people's party. And once there sometimes there was the right who won and sometimes it was the left who won.

But now we have lot of different parties, these main five parties that could get a big result today. Although, as you also said, the result is still uncertain, because there's a lot of undecided voters yet. So, of them will decide their vote today.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HOWELL: And that again was CNN Espanola Reporter, Vera Catano reporting from Madrid.

The U.S. president is on the campaign trail, firing up his base in one of the states that was crucial to his 2016 victory, but his trip is more than a political rally.

It was also a very pointed snub of the White House Correspondent's Association Dinner, their annual celebration of the first amendment.

[05:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Welcome back viewers here in the United States and around the world. This is CNN Newsroom. I'm George Howell in Atlanta, with the headlines we're following for you this hour. Polls are open in Spain for that country's third general election in four years, and voters will choose among five national parties, including a new far-right party called VOX that is growing in popularity there.

Sri Lanka's archbishop had Sunday mass in his home, after suspending services at Catholic churches throughout the country. This, as the island nation marks now one week since the terror attacks that killed 253 people. Shortly after, hundreds gathered outside St. Anthony's shrine for a candlelight vigil. Dozens were killed there last Sunday.

We're learning new details about the deadly shooting that took place at a synagogue that outside of San Diego, California. The victim killed has been identified as this woman, Lori Kaye. A friend of the victim says that Kaye died stepping between the gunman and a wounded rabbi. The rabbi told the friend, kaye saved his life. Israel is reacting to what happened in Southern California, and our Oren Liebermann is live in Jerusalem with that reaction.

Oren? OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George, this shooting happened just as the Sabbath, the day of rest, the day of peace and tranquility was ending here. And that is a sharp reminder of another shooting that happened just as Sabbath was ending here, six months ago, the Pittsburgh shooting. Of course, we've seen some very powerful reactions from Israel's leaders.

Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, put out a statement this morning, condemning the attack and saying, the country's thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, as well as the others, as they recover. I'll read you a part of the statement. He says, "The Jewish people will never let anti-Semitism to triumph the murderous attack on the Jewish community during Pesach, our holiday of freedom.

And just before Holocaust Memorial Day is yet another painful reminder that anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews is still with us everywhere. No country and no society are immune. It's also worth pointing out that President Reuven Rivlin points out that this attack came on the last day of the holy - the holiday of passover, another very sharp blow to the Jewish community, not only in California and the U.S., but Israel and around the world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the world needs to intensify its fight against anti-Semitism. In a statement just after the president's statement, He said, "I condemn the criminal attack in the synagogue in California. It is a strike into the heart of the Jewish people. The international community should intensify the battle against anti-Semitism." He also said later this week, he would have a special discussion with those who work to combat anti-Semitism. George?

HOWELL: And - or - and of course, this happening just six months after the last shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

LIEBERMANN: There are certainly parallels here, including as I pointed out just simply when this happened in terms of the time in Israel. The Sabbath here is a day of rest. It is a quiet day today, where not much news is generated, sort of come out of the Sabbath, that day of rest.

And to suddenly see this news and, of course, the news six months ago with the Pittsburgh shooting, as another horrific element to an already horrific attack at that Chabad Synagogue in California. So another painful reminder of what - of the anti-Semitism that remains out there, and very much so to Israel, as it was still, in many ways, dealing with the Pittsburgh attack, now to deal with this attack for not only the Jewish community in the U.S. and Israel but around the world as well.

HOWELL: Oren Liebermann, thank you for the report. Now to Washington, we go. The annual White House Correspondents Dinner that took place on Saturday, the U.S. president was not a part of that event. It is the third-straight year that Donald Trump has boycotted the dinner. In fact, his entire administration was a no-show.

[05:35:00] The president has often attacked the news media, but this time, historian Ron Chernow told the room full of journalists not to be discouraged in the pursuit of journalism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD CHERNOW, HISTORIAN & KEYNOTE SPEAKER: This is as good as any to take stock and rededicate yourself to the highest standards of journalistic integrity and accuracy. Donald J. Trump is not the first and won't be the last American president to create jitters about the 1st Amendment. So be humble, be skeptical, and beware being infected by the very things you're fighting against. The press is a powerful weapon that must always be fired with reluctance and aimed with precision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: We get more now from CNN's Kaitlan Collins on the story.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The 2019 Correspondents Dinner had a very different feel than the past ones, and not just because the Trump administration wasn't here, per President Trump's direction, but because of a shooting at a synagogue outside of San Diego that loomed over Washington, as reporters gathered here for a meeting to celebrate the 1st Amendment.

Now, in the past, this celebration has been sometimes about celebrities that were here or administration officials, or even the president himself who's been in the room. But this year, without hardly celebrities or any administration officials, really the point of this, the point of the dinner and the focus of it, was back to journalism and back to the 1st Amendment. Most of that was reflected in who they had speak.

Instead, it's typically a comedian, as it has been in the past, but after last year, with the back and forth with Michelle Wolf and Sarah Sanders, they invited a historian this year. And during his speech to reporters, He talked about the relationship that presidents have had with the press, dating back to George Washington, all the way to President Trump, who has, at times, deemed the media "the enemy of the people."

Now, this historian talked about how that relationship has always been adversarial, at times, tough, and, at times, tense. But his main focus was the reporters are here (ph), the ones that continue on throughout the administrations, and his focus was on journalism, certainly something very different than the past, but according to reporters in the room, something that was a welcome change.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House Correspondents Dinner.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Kaitlan, thank you. He's done it in the past. President Trump chose to hold a campaign rally, a counter-rally, instead of attending the dinner. This year, he went to Green Bay, Wisconsin. It's a battleground state that was crucial to his 2020 election. Of all things he said - of 2016 election, I should say.

One of the more provocative was the idea of sending undocumented immigrants to so-called "sanctuary cities," one of the things he said at the event. His own administration has denied it's even under consideration. But the president proudly told his supporters it was quote, "A sick idea that he - and he was already doing it."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Last month alone, 100,000 illegal immigrants arrived at our borders, placing a massive strain on communities and schools and hospitals and public resources, like nobody's ever seen before. Now, we're sending many of them to sanctuary cities. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

They're not too happy about it. I'm pound to tell you, that was actually my sick idea.

(APPLAUSE)

Hey? Hey? What they - what did they say? "We want them." I said, "We'll give him to you, thank you." They say, "We don't want them."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: America's most powerful gun lobby is under investigation over its finances. The New York Attorney General's Office confirms to CNN, it is investigating the NRA amid questions about its tax-exempt status. It comes as the group's president, Oliver North, says he will not serve a second term. His announcement follows a reported power dispute with the organization's CEO, Wayne LaPierre. He allegedly accused North of extortion and pressuring him to resign.

In Seattle, Washington, a terrible incident on Saturday claimed four lives on a very busy street. Take a look here. This construction crane broke loose from a building. Part of it toppled on to a major intersection. The crane operators were killed along with two people in cars. Witnesses, of course, shocked by what they saw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALICIA JONES, WITNESSED CRANE COLLAPSE: I saw people running from the - I'm sorry, people running from the interstate, and I knew something was wrong. And that could have been me, you know, because I was going to go to the grocery store, and I normally go to QFC. I would gone off the - that way, and that could have happened to me.

ISABELLE KERNER, WITNESSED CRANE COLLAPSE: That makes me feel like I could have been dead if I had just been - I was supposed to be late this - to this meeting. I got there, I think, at 2:15 or so, and if I was, you know, just a few minutes (ph) stopped at the end and stood because they couldn't make it, I could have been one of the cars that this crane has fallen on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:40:00]

HOWELL: Well, it's now known yet what caused that crane to fail. The mayor of the city that an investigation will take some time, but she also praised those who stepped up to help and marveled at the survival of a mother and baby in a badly damaged care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNY DURKAN, SEATTLE WASHINGTON MAYOR: As many of you know, a crane fell off the top of the building and because of that four people have unfortunately died. We also saw some miracles, a mother with her young child that you can see that was horrifically hurt and injured, but she was able to get out.

We've also seen community come together here, the hotel that's very near by opened it's doors for anyone to come into, had let victims and other workers in. We've seen the workers come together themselves, just trying to determine what happened and how this came about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Still ahead, ramped violence plagues a coastal state in Mexico. The Federal government is sending support, but the question, is it enough to curb what's happening there.

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HOWELL: Welcome back there. Pope Francis is directing half a million dollars in Vatican charity funding to programs helping Central American migrants in Mexico. That money will be used for food, for housing and other aid. The Vatican says, it wants to bring attention to the plight of thousands of people who are stranded in Mexico, people who are unable to reach the United States.

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The Pope has called for the U.S. and other countries to approach migration with compassion.

In the meantime, there is another major crisis in Mexico playing out right now, this in the coastal state of Veracruz. It's being hit with a wave of deadly violence. In the first three months of 2019 almost 700 murders were reported there. The latest victim, the 25-year-old mayor of one small town. Rafael Romo has this report.

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RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A candlelight vigil for a woman who's untimely death as left an entire town in mourning. Maricela Vallejo was shot to death as she was traveling on a highway near Mixtla de Altamirano, a small town in the Mexican state of Veracruz, where the 25-year-old was the mayor. Her husband and their driver were also killed.

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Christ for justice can be heard around the state of Veracruz. The mayor's death only days after an armed attack at a party that left 13 dead, including a one-year-old baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ROMO: A brother-in-law of one of the victims says he had been threatened months before the shooting. Veracruz located on the Gulf of Mexico continues to be plagued by a wave of violence. According to government figures, there were nearly 700 homicides in the state between January and March.

The state's governor is asking for support from Mexico's newly created National Guard. The Federal government has been responding by sending soldiers and increasing security in state highways.

ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO: (Speaking foreign language).

ROMO: Reacting to the violence, Mexican President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said violent crime is the result of failed economic policies as well as corruption of past governments which robbed the Mexican people.

He took office in December, promising, among other things, a reduction in crime. But, in the first three months of this year, nearly 8,500 people were murdered in Mexico, an increase of just over 10 percent compared to the same period last year.

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Veracruz has been, for years, the epicenter of a turf war between criminal gangs. A bloody conflict that seems to have no end. Rafael Romo, CNN.

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HOWELL: After the break we'll have more on Mozambique's long road to recovery. Much of that country is in chaos after being hit by back- to-back cyclones. We'll have the latest on the devastation.

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HOWELL: A heartbreaking scene to show you in Northern Mozambique. Entire communities there are destroyed, in ruins, after being hit by Cyclone Kenneth. You can see the strength, the power of these winds, the storm that flattened so many homes. At least five people are dead, thousands have been displaced. The terrible conditions continue in Mozambique. Even more rain is expected, which could triggers floods and mudslides. Our Rick Folbaum reports all of this happened as the country was struggling to recover from another very powerful storm.

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RICK FOLBAUM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the second time in six weeks, Mozambique was wallowing water, after a powerful storm blew across its blower. Cyclone Kenneth, with winds gusting at 280 kilometers an hour, made landfall on Thursday, but officials say more rain and, with it, more misery is on the way.

DANIEL TIMME, UNICEF, MOZAMBIQUE: We're expecting major flooding in the end of the rainy season now because the rivers are already swollen and the soil is just saturated.

FOLBAUM: More than 30,000 people from high-risk areas have already evacuated, according to the U.N. Officials are advising others to move to higher ground, as the lingering rains, which could last through Monday, pose new threats to areas already devastated by the initial impact of the storm.

TIMME: Houses are destroyed. Thousands of people, again, are in temporary shelters, in school buildings, in churches that have not been untouched. And now, they need, again, urgent assistance.

FOLBAUM: Aid agencies were already struggling to keep up with the demand for food and water and medicine in Southern Africa, after Cyclone Idai hit the region in March, killing hundreds of people. Entire cities in Mozambique were cut off, and the country is still reeling from a cholera outbreak and the loss of vital corps. Officials worry the new storm might strain the system.

JENS LAERKE, SPOKESMAN, UNOCHA: Surges from (ph) Kenneth may require a major new humanitarian operation, at the same that the ongoing surges from (ph) Idai response (ph), targeting 3 million people in three countries, remain critically underfunded.

FOLBAUM: A new for help that could continue to grow in a country that is already weary from weathering the storms. Rick Folbaum, CNN.

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HOWELL: And now, our meteorologist, Ivan Cabrera is here.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Devastating pictures coming in overnight, and I'm really now beginning to see the scope of what happened here. This is Cyclone Kenneth, of course. And as I widen this out, you'll be able to see. My goodness, this is the first view that I've had as far as - yes, there was a storm surges, right? We talked about a dye (ph). This is the cyclone here (ph).

You see the water to the north of the picture there, and you see the roads full of sand. That is a telltale sign that the ocean came in and just leveled. I mean you see the community here. It's just a completely - it's almost wiped out, right? And this is the scene repeated all along the coast, as a result of not just the storm surge, but now, we're dealing with the rain and the aftermath that will continue for some time.

Significant threat of flooding and also mudslides, there's some hilly terrain there that we have to be concerned about. And we could be looking at even more rain, as far as the total from what we have from the dye (ph). This is the problem here. The storm is well inland. It's dissipated, as far as the circulation, but what has not dissipated is the rain. Do you see that blob of orange there? That's indicative of some very strong storms dropping down, tropical rains.

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We're talking several inches an hour at times here. So we have more on the way over the next several days; in fact, another 10 inches is not out of the question. And that is going to make a mess as well for recovery efforts, as they try to get things set back to normal and try to reach some villages that probably are still cut off here.

We'll keep you posted on things in Mozambique. I want to take you to the Northern Hemisphere for something that, well, typically we don't see this time of year. Let's take you in to Chicago. Some snow fall yesterday, through the day, on this Saturday. There, you see some, my goodness, some backyards. Wrigley Field, we have some now on the ground.

We've got two and a half inches of snowfall, and what that does is, well, that takes us back in time here. On the maps, you'll be able to see 2.5 inches of snowfall, and that was enough to set a daily record. And this is now the latest snowfall we've had in Chicago in 30 years. I have to go back to May 1989. George and I weren't even born yet, back then.

So it's a long time, right? Here's the system. It continues to move out. Chicago, you're down with it now. We'll get some rain out of it across the northeast, but not a huge steal. This is another storm. This one is even more powerful. It's going to be a blizzard. It's not going to be heading to Chicago, but the northern plains will get hit with 60 mile an hour winds. And we're talking the potential for, well, a foot-plus of snow. I'll leave you with some pretty pictures, the hyacinths, frosty. They shouldn't be, but there they are.

HOWELL: You know, when it snowed in Chicago in May, when we were there, several years ago, we were like, "Really?"

CABRERA: Yes, it happens, but not this late, usually.

HOWELL: Yes.

CABRERA: Goodness.

HOWELL: Ivan, thank you.

CABRERA: You bet. HOWELL: Thank you for being with us for Newsroom. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. The news continues here on CNN, right after the break.

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