Return to Transcripts main page


New Delhi Prepares For Cyclone Fani To Make Landfall; The Family Of A Chinese Student Paid $6.5 Million For A Place At Stanford University; Judge: Trump's Business Dealings Conflict with Presidential Reponsibilities; Hundreds Of Thousands Evacuated Ahead Of Cyclone Fani; Barr Skips House Hearing Over Questioning Rules; House Democrats Weigh Contempt Citation For Barr; Sudan's Ousted President to Face Criminal Inquiry; Arrest Warrant issued For Key Opposition Figure; U.S. and Russia in Standoff Over Venezuela. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 3, 2019 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: -- Chinese family paid $6.5 million so their daughter could go to Stanford. Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause, and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

We begin with breaking news out of India. In the past hour, a major storm made landfall on the east coast of India with winds up to 240 kilometers per hour. Fani is the strongest cyclone to hit India in 20 years. 200 million people are in the storm zone which stretches from northeast India to neighboring Bangladesh.

Flights are canceled, hundreds of cyclone shelters are open and the military has been put on standby. Earlier I spoke Kirti Mishra of the Catholic Relief Services about the efforts that are underway in the wake of this monster storm hitting India.


KIRTI MISHRA, HEAD, CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES, ODISHA: The people are in evacuation centers where the government is providing food, water, and supplies there. As of now, the weather is really bad. Landfall process has already begun in (INAUDIBLE) with wind speed of 180 kilometers up to 200 kilometers per hour.

As of now, the report are coming in this way but it is likely to increase to 220 or above kilometer per hour in the area. The rains are heavy and we are getting reports from the field. The trees have collapsed, poles are uprooted. Some of the walls of the buildings have collapsed, and there is a report -- one death has also been reported by the local media. That the update from the field.

VAUSE: Right. You know, the authorities are warning that some districts will see you know, almost total devastation. What are you and other aid workers expecting once this storm has passed? How bad do you think it will be.

MISHRA: Any storm in the past that we have seen has caused really a very severe devastation and storms like Fani is expected to cause similar or more devastations where -- whatever path the cyclone is crossing through. Depending on the severity, people will need help. Their fishing boats, their nests, their crop, everything is going to be affected. And we as CRS, Catholic Relief Services and our partners are working on the ground with providing necessary support to the government and the local authorities in evacuation process.

As soon as the cyclone passes too, we are ready with tarpaulin, with plastic sleeping masks, and other items to support the affected population with the life-saving needs.


VAUSE: Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is with us for more on this. OK, so we've made landfall. At this stage is it too early to know if some people can breathe easy if others should be more concerned perhaps. So what are we looking at with the track?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL WEATHER ANCHOR: Well, now that the storms over land, we're getting land interaction. It's lost its energy source which is the Bay of Bengal so we're going to see weakening continue which is good news. But the brunt of the storm still impact in Odisha and the West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh regions as we speak.

Let's get to the graphics see the latest from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center and really what we have here is a triple threat because we have storm surge, we have catastrophic devastation from strong winds, we have the potential for flooding from excessive rainfall.

The latest from the JTWC 240 kilometer per hour sustained wind. That makes it equivalent to a super typhoon, a Category Four Atlantic hurricane for example. This storm is packing quite a punch and it's really just creating an excessive amount of rainfall across this area as it starts to impact the region.

You can see just how impressive the satellite imagery is across this region. There is some good news though that we have seen the weakening trend begin already. This is the latest radar. Here's the Puri region near the Odisha state, and that is where the cyclone made landfall. And that is on the right quadrant of this storm system.

I'll talk about why that's so dangerous in one moment. Now the India meteorological department has three states along the east coast of India under its highest warning level possible. So we talked about storm surge. India meteorological department calling for one and a half meters.

Here at the CNN weather department, when we compare this to equivalent storms of equal magnitude and strength, we believe we could see three to four meters of coastal storm surge along the Odisha state as well as the West Bengal region.

This is because the strongest winds on the right quadrant of the typhoon or the cyclone I should say starts to pull up all that energy. All the associated water just pushed up from the sea onto the land and causes the potential at least for catastrophic damage to storm surge. And on top of that we've got the wind threat with winds gusting. We already have had reports over 180 km/h. On top of that, we have

the potential for several months-worth of rain just in a 24 hour period. I mean, check that out. You can see John, 400 millimeters plus possible in that area and in a short period of time as well. That spells a recipe for disaster.

[01:05:16] VAUSE: And you know, areas where you know, people live in these you know, very flimsy houses, that's basically a total devastation in some parts of the --

VAN DAM: They're very vulnerable, weak infrastructure. And 10,000 villages are at risk from the path of Fani.

VAUSE: OK. As we continue to keep it closed on this, any major updates I'm sure you'll let us know.

VAN DAM: Absolutely.

VAUSE: Well, in an interview on Fox News a short time ago, the U.S. President said outright former White House Counsel Don McGahn should not testify before Congress. McGahn quit the administration in October last year but not before telling Robert Mueller the President ordered him to remove Mueller as special counsel.

Meanwhile, the current acting White House Counsel Emmet Flood has said a letter to the Attorney General Bill Barr complaining about the Mueller Report. That's the same report which President Trump claims totally exonerated him, but it didn't.

Flood says Muller's team played politics with this investigation and should have made a legal decision on obstruction of justice. We have details now from CNN's Manu Raju.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The Judiciary Committee will come to order.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The clash between the Trump administration, House Democrats took a dramatic turn after Attorney General Bill Barr was a no-show and a highly anticipated hearing about his handling of the Mueller report. NADLER: We will have no choice but to move quickly to hold the

Attorney General in contempt if he stores or fails to negotiate in good faith.

RAJU: Nadler spent coming after Barr defied a subpoena to turn over the full unredacted report to Capitol Hill. Democrats ridiculed the Attorney General saying he was too scared to appear with Congressman Steve Cohen bringing a glass chicken and a bucket of KFC for a fact.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): It shows the fact that he is a coward and he's a chicken and that's his new name is Chicken Barr.

RAJU: Barr boycotted the hearing over the Democrats demands that he also be questioned by staff lawyers, an extremely rare request.

DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): We go back to a circus political stunt.

RAJU: Republicans accused Democrats of sabotaging the hearing for political gain.

COLLINS: My question is what are the Democrats scared of? They don't want Bill Barr here today. They've had the report, they've read it, they don't like what's in it.

RAJU: But some believe that Democrats strategy may have dragged this fight out and could backfire since they may have lost their best chance to question the Attorney General.

Haven't you in a sense made it harder to get the answers that you've been asking for?

NADLER: We cannot concede to the administration the ability to control the manner in which Congress does its job.

RAJU: The rhetoric intensified outside of the hearing room. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi charging that the Attorney General lied to Congress.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The Attorney General of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That's a crime.

RAJU: A charge the Justice Department called reckless, irresponsible, and false. Republicans said the real goal is to impeach President Trump.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Nadler has been wanting to impeach the day after the election. He can't have the facts to prove of why he should but he will not stop.

RAJU: Yet while Pelosi tamps down calls for impeachment, a growing number of Democrats say the continuing defiance of congressional demands means that may be their only option.

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): If the Trump administration wants impeachment, they're doing a good job of pushing the Democrats there. It's unifying the caucus.

RAJU: Today's standoff comes as there are new questions about what Barr has been discussing with the White House including concerns that Trump or others in his administration have suggested or directed Barr to open investigations.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no please, sir.


HARRIS: It seems you would remember something like that and be able to tell us. RAJU: Now, Nancy Pelosi tried once again to tamp down talk of

impeachment telling reporters that impeachment is essentially the easy way out because it would end at the Senate's edge. Of course, the Senate controlled by Republicans and no desire there to try to remove the president from office but she wants to focus instead on investigations, on oversight. That includes bringing in the special counsel Robert Mueller to fight.

Democrats and the House Judiciary Committee hope to bring him in by mid-May even as the Republicans in the Senate don't want to bring in the Special Counsel. But one Republican Senator Mitt Romney told us today that he would like to hear from the Special Counsel in public. But at the moment he is in the minority of his party. Manu Raju, CNN Capitol Hill.


VAUSE: Staying with U.S. politics now and Linda Feldmann, Washington Bureau Chief of the Christian Science Monitor joins us. Linda, welcome back. Good to see you.


VAUSE: OK. to the Democrats and you know, many others, it's obvious that Barr lied to Congress a number of times. There's a separate law which deals with lying under oath to Congress. It has very specific requirements. It's not just your garden-variety perjury. So the question will be if the Attorney General lied, did it rise to the level where it could be prosecuted.

And the answer to that might just explain the reaction we had from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to this question. Listen to this.


[01:10:23] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should he go to jail for it?

PELOSI: There's a process involved here and as I said, I'll say it again, and whatever questions you ask, the community will act upon how we would proceed.


VAUSE: You know, so it's anything but definitive. So I guess legally, legally Barr is in the clear. Politically though is it a different story?

FELDMANN: Politically it's -- that's a tricky question. So William Barr has gone through this interesting evolution in public thoughts. So when he first became Attorney General, the thinking was that he was a serious man. He wasn't a Trump -- he wasn't in Trump's pocket. He was an establishment Republican. He was going to bring some kind of order and stability to the Justice Department and provide serious service as the Attorney General. Well, it's quickly become clear that he really is in some ways Donald

Trump's best friend because he is very vigorously defending the president and in -- so in the view of Republicans, he's defending the presidency, and then it isn't about Donald Trump in particular, but that William Barr has this very particular view of a strong presidency and how he as a member of the executive branch doesn't have to basically do what Congress wants him to do. So he's really testing his theory of the law.

VAUSE: There is this bigger question of what they will do with Barr and you know, holding him in contempt is one option. But from a practical sense, it doesn't mean a whole lot. And after that, Democrats don't really have a lot of options for forcing Bill Barr to appear.

There is however the rarely used nuclear option of inherent content which we would see the sergeant-at-arms arrest the Attorney General, bypassed the courts, and lock him up. You know, would Speaker Pelosi actually go down that road?

FELDMANN: I honestly do not see it. That tactic has not been used since 1935. It would be dramatic. I mean talk about a made-for-T.V. moment. It would be -- it would be literally unbelievable. And I do not think we will see that. I think the likelier scenario is that they take him to court knowing full well that they -- the Trump administration can just run out the clock.

We have an election in a year and a half and we're going to get there before we get any kind of legal resolution on whether William Barr was allowed to do what he did which is not hand over the document.

VAUSE: Yes. And you know, for everyone or anyone who has played the slightest bit of attention over the last two years, they will know that the president considers the Mueller inquiry nothing less than unprecedented harassment. And now he has revealed how we managed to cope with it all. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People say how do you get through that whole stuff? How do you go through those witch hunts and everything else? And you know what we do, Mike, we just do it, right. And we think about God.


VAUSE: Think about God. The President was hosting the third National Prayer Breakfast and claimed because of him it's now safe to say Merry Christmas again. He also said because he's president, people are using the word God again.

I'm not a religious scholar but what, the eighth or ninth commandment depending on your religion, thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor. In other words, don't lie right. It seems that comes often a lot when we talk about this president. FELDMANN: Right. So Donald Trump -- so the answer the question of

how he's coping obviously when he's speaking at a prayer event, it will -- it will turn to talk of God. Donald Trump is not known as a religious man. He goes to church maybe on Easter. He has not lived a life without sin. He has had you know, he has issues with women over the years.

So hearing talk -- hearing Donald Trump talk about God kind of makes people chuckle. I think his -- the really the honest answer that question is that he copes by watching a lot of television and doing a lot of tweeting, and talking to his friends on the phone, talking to Sean Hannity and Chris Ruddy, and other people, and Rudy Giuliani, people who make him feel good about himself.

VAUSE: You know, there's not all the time spent in reflective prayer for this president.


VAUSE: But you know, it's blatant pandering right?

FELDMANN: Right, exactly. No, and this is -- I mean, and this is important because the Christian conservatives and religious conservatives, this would include conservative Jewish people are an important part of the Trump constituency, and he really couldn't have been elected without them and he's giving them what they want. He's giving them conservative judges --

[01:15:15] And even though this is not an issue that, really, that Donald Trump personally cares about, it is very important to religious conservatives, and they are getting what they want.

VAUSE: Yes, absolutely. Linda, thank you so much. Good to see you.

FELDMANN: Sure, my pleasure.

VAUSE: Next up on CNN NEWSROOM, Venezuela orders the arrest of the country's most prominent opposition activist, after he escaped house arrest this week, to join the apprising, intended to topple the Maduro regime. And the fallout of Britain over the Defense Secretary, who was sacked, accused of leaking confidential information to the media.


VAUSE: Less than a month after Omar al-Bashir was forcibly removed as Sudan's president, he now faces questioning for money laundering and financing terrorism. The chief prosecutor issued an interrogation order on Thursday. Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

The Sudanese military seize power last month, an abrupt end to Bashir's 30 years as president. Protesters marched through the streets of the Capital on Tuesday, calling on the military to transfer authority to Sudanese government.

In Venezuela, opposition leaders are calling for public employees to strike on Friday. They'd hope two days of street demonstrations would trigger a military apprising against President Nicolas Maduro, but it didn't happen.

And said scenes like this, have conveyed the impression the military is solemnly with Nicolas Maduro. The President declared the soldiers' patriotism would never break. He called the troops, the people responsible for this week's unrest, would be ratted up.

(INAUDIBLE) was backed up by an arrest warrant for key opposition figure, Leopoldo Lopez, he caused a sensation earlier in the week, escaping house arrest, appearing briefly in public, just as street protests were getting underway.

Lopez and his family have since taken refuge in the Spanish embassy in Caracas. He came outside briefly to give a short statement.


LEOPOLDO LOPEZ, KEY OPPOSITION FIGURE, VENEZUELA (through translator): I want to say to all my brothers and sisters in Venezuela and around the world, we are not going to rest, we are not going to rest for one single moment. We are not going to rest under any circumstance from the challenge and promise we have taken on, which is to end usurpation.


[01:20:10] VAUSE: The political tension in Venezuela has put Russia, Maduro's key backer, at sharp odds with the United States. That's because the Trump administration recognizes the National Assembly President, Juan Guaido, as Venezuela's head of state.

We get more now from CNN's Fred Pleitgen, reporting from Moscow.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATINAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, the crisis in Venezuela rapidly turning into a standoff between the U.S. and Russia, Washington, accusing Moscow of meddling in America's backyard.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, UNITED STATES: Look, the Russians like nothing better than putting a thumb in our eyes, it's not ideological, it's just good-old-fashion-power politics. That's why we have the Monroe Doctrine which we're dusting off in this administration.

PLEITGEN: Russia's Foreign Minister, firing back.

SERGEY LAVROV, FOREIGN MINISTER, RUSSIA (through translator): I believe that the boldly announced intentions of returning to the doctrine, which is 200 years old, is disrespectful, not only to the Venezuelan people, but in general, to the people of Latin America.

PLEITGEN: While the Trump administration supports Venezuela's opposition leader, Juan Guaido, and says embattled President Nicolas Maduro must step down immediately. Russia remains fully committed to Maduro. Secretary of State Pompeo even telling CNN, the Russians talk Maduro out of leaving office.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: They had an airplane on the Tarmac, he was ready to leave this morning, as we understand it. The Russians indicated he should stay.

PLEITGEN: Maduro and the Russians deny that version of events. Meanwhile, the U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton saying, Moscow is undermining American interests in Latin America.

BOLTON: This is our hemisphere. It's not where the Russians ought to be interfering. This is a mistake on their part. It's not going to lead to an improvement of relations.

PLEITGEN: Nicolas Maduro is a long-standing ally of Vladimir Putin. The Russians flew nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela, last year, a direct show of force against the U.S.

And even now, the Russians have soldiers on the ground in Venezuela, though Moscow claims they are only trainers and maintenance personnel.

While President Trump and Vladimir Putin have repeatedly declared their mutual admiration for one another, the crisis in Venezuela could be turning into a high stakes game of chicken between Washington and Moscow, President Trump alluding to the option of U.S. military force in an interview with FOX Business.

TRUMP: We are doing everything we can do, short of, you know, the ultimate. And there are people that would like to have us do the ultimate.

PLEITGEN: And the Russians for their part, certainly showing no signs of backing down. Moscow says it wants to mobilize other countries in the United Nations, to counteract what it called America's schemes in places like Venezuela. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.


VAUSE: Britain has a new Defense Secretary, Conservative M.P. Penny Mordaunt was named (INAUDIBLE) on Thursday, and succeeds Gavin Williamson. He was sacked by the Prime Minister over a leak, involving the telecommunications firm, Huawei.

The embattled Prime Minister Theresa May is now in a he said she said with a former ally, about what really happened. It did not go unnoticed by members of the opposition.


TOM WATSON, DEPUTY LEADER, LABOUR PARTY, UNITED KINGDOM: The Prime Minister believes her former Defense Secretary leaked information from National Security Council, he vehemently denies it. Only one of these accounts is accurate. The damning letter from the Prime Minister was a result of her understanding that to leak from that committee is an abdication of responsibility and public duty. It is indicative of the malaise and sickness at the heart of this ailing government. It is indicative of the sorry state, the party opposite find themselves in.


VAUSE: CNN's Phil Black reports from London now, with more details surrounding the leak.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL FREELANCE REPORTER: The sacked, now former British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, insists it wasn't me. And his denials have been so strenuous they've included, controversially, swearing on the lives of his own children.

But the British Prime Minister Theresa May, says there's compelling evidence suggesting his responsibility for leaking information on discussions with the National Security Council. The clues are on the name, the National Security Council considers the most sensitive national information.

It is where there are discussions, and decisions made, on issues critical to the U.K.'s safety and security, and it's all supposed to happen in the strictest of confidentiality. In this case, the government says the concern is not so much the substance of the leak.

Reportedly, permission for Chinese company, Huawei, to help build part of the U.K.'s 5G telecommunications infrastructure, instead, the government says what it's really worried about is protecting the forum, the sanctity of the National Security Council, the code of silence that's supposed to shroud. It's working, and so Theresa May ordered an inquiring, and she says it found no other credible explanation.

[01:25:11] She says she was also concerned by the lack of openness and the fact that Gavin Williamson wasn't perhaps as helpful as he should have been, in working with that inquiry. And so, he's out. And the government says it considers the matter, closed.

Except, in the United Kingdom, telling national secrets can be a crime. It's covered by the Official Secrets Act. The government says it will not be referring this to police for investigation. And the police say they probably won't investigate if they don't receive an official referral.

So, it is possible that the matter is closed. But in parliament, opposition MPs said, this can't be the end of it. The issues are too serious, and it shouldn't be up to the government to decide if a crime has been committed. Some also argue there is an issue of fairness here.

Williamson has been accused of wrongdoing, he denies it. They say there should be some official process for determining the truth. Politically, this is all bad for Theresa May. Williamson was an ally, someone rapidly promoted by her. He was her Chief Whip. That is her Chief Parliamentary Enforcer, the person responsible for implementing her policies and tactics within the party. So now, there's already, extraordinarily weak Prime Minister, has lost a close senior ally in cabinet, and possibly, created a new very well-informed adversary within her own party.


VAUSE: Phil Black reporting there. We'll take a short break. When we come back, India's strongest cyclone in 20 years had made landfall on the east coast. Million people have been evacuated, hundreds of thousands have taken shelter, and the country, bracing for the worst.

Also ahead, the U.S. College Admission scandal has gone global. A family in China paid the alleged mastermind, a ton of money, for a spot at Stanford.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody, I'm John Vause, with an update on our top news this hour. House Democrats left an empty chair for the U.S. Attorney General, who refused to appear before a Congressional Committee on Thursday. Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler says he is now considering citing William Barr for contempt of Congress.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Venezuelan opposition activist, Leopoldo Lopez, he escaped house arrest earlier in the week, just as anti-government protest beginning underway. Lopez and his family have now taken refuge inside the Spanish embassy in Caracas. The Spanish government says it has no intention of turning them over to the Venezuelan authorities.

Major storm has just made landfall on India's east coast, cyclone Fani arrived with winds of 240 kilometers an hour, the strongest in 20 years. Significant storm surge and wind damage are expected. More than a million people have been evacuated from vulnerable and exposed areas.


More now on India's response. We go live to New Delhi and CNN's Bureau Chief there. Nikhil Kumar joins us this hour. So Nikhil, we know that the preparations have been done. The prime minister tweeted earlier before the storm made landfall. He said, "Chaired a high level meeting to review the preparedness relating to Cyclone Fani. The Central Government is ready to provide all possible assistance that would be required. Prayers for the safety and well-being of our citizens."

OK, now that the storm has made landfall, what should we know precisely about how those preparations are playing out? Just how ready are they for this storm?

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: So John, I want to take you back to 1999 when you had that other large storm, the one - you know, this is the biggest since then according to our own CNN weather experts. And back then, thousands of people died because both the state and the central government just weren't prepared. They didn't have a national disaster authority. Because of the lack of preparation, we saw a very, very high death toll.

This time around over the last decade and a half, India has effectively built itself a disaster management infrastructure, which we've seen in action elsewhere in the country and even internationally during times of natural disasters. That's what's been put into motion this time. So you mentioned more that a million people evacuated. Thousands of villages evacuated basically trying to clear the coast to make sure that the loss of life is hopefully zero or at least minimized as much as possible. And we've seen in previous storms in recent years that they have managed to be much, much better prepared in the face of such natural disasters.

This particular area in the Bay of Bengal, you know, when we talk about climate change around the world and areas that may be at threat, this is one of the locations around the world that is always singled out because it's a low-lying area, it's very reverie (ph). Now, you can imagine when a strong storm comes in, all that water, all those rivers and estuaries around that area that effectively crisscross that entire coastal area like a spider web almost that that becomes a major risk. You have a massive risk of storm surges and so on.

So the authorities over the last few days have been moving to take people as far away from the coast as possible, people who were in temporary sort of patched huts and other wondrable (ph) structures, moved them into stronger structures. We've seen thousands of personnel deployed around the area. We know that the navy is on alert. They have ships in the area to move in with additional supplies if need be. So the preparation it seems right now to be pretty good. That's not to say that there isn't a very significant risk still to the people in the area. So we're going to have to wait for the storm to play out. As you say, it's made landfall. I think the next few hours from everything we understand will be crucial to see if this preparedness has paid off or not. John -

VAUSE: Yes, that's what happening immediately. The other big question, though, is how ready and how prepared are they once the storm has passed to try and rebuild these areas because the damage to many districts is expected to be total - as well, total devastation is one prediction.

KUMAR: That's absolutely right. So on - you know, the immediate focus on minimizing the loss to life, making sure that people are secure, but of course as you say, once this passes, the emphasis will then shift to rebuilding, making sure that the livelihoods that are destroyed. And that's a big risk that people have been talking about in recent days that, you know, if you take people away, you save their lives, it's still the case that the infrastructure, the fishing villages, the boats, et cetera in the area that they're expected suffer massive damage. So once this has passed - and hopefully it will pass with as little damage as possible and as little loss of life as possible, once that happens, of course, the emphasis will then shift on rebuilding the whole area, making sure that the people who have been moved away right now that they can return to their homes because, remember, this home for all those people. This is where they live, they earn living that all of that can be put back in place. That'll no doubt be a much, much longer process, a process for which funds are already being earmarked, but as you say, today is just the beginning of what will be a long process. John -

VAUSE: Yes, the strongest cyclone in 20 years would be almost a category five hurricane on that scale which obviously means devastation to so many parts. Nikhil, we appreciate the update. Thank you. And now for the admissions scandal rocking the U.S. university system. The family of a Chinese student paid $6.5 million to William Rick Singer for a place at Stanford University. Singer has pleaded guilty to charges that he worked with wealthy families to get their children spots at the best schools using bribes and false test scores, but the mother of the Chinese student says she believes she was making a legitimate donation to Singer's foundation. In a statement, she said she was told it was to help students in need, those who could not afford to go to Stanford. The family and the student have not been charged. We get more details now from Brynn Gingras.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT: This particular family is so significant because it's the most amount of money at $6.5 million that U.S. attorneys say any family paid Rick Singer. Now, what's unclear according to our source is if this family, who we've learned is from China, gained any sort of advantage for their child to get into school, if they took advantage of that college scheme because they have not been charged with any crime at this point and neither has their child.


We do know that child did go to Stanford, though, and that school certainly distancing themself from all of this new news saying, quote, "it is important to clarify that Stanford did not receive $6.5 million from Singer or from a student's family working with Singer." Again, according to sources, it's possible this family did nothing wrong and that is still be investigated. However, what we did learn is that this family was connect to Signer by a man named Michael Wu. He was a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley, and that company says he no longer works with them because he would not participate in its own internal investigation into the college scam. I actually did speak to Wu's attorney who says that it was Morgan Stanley who was the trusted source for Wu introducing Singer, so there's sort of a back and forth going on there. But this really just gives you a good idea of how large this scheme is, how much money it really raised for allegedly Rick Singer and how widespread going all the way to China.

Also, important to note that we've learned through a source that federal prosecutors have issued more subpoenas to parents. They are investigating others, looking to get financial records, phone logs, and other evidence, possibly more charges coming down as this case seems to just get bigger and bigger. I'm Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.

VAUSE: Still ahead on CNN, profiting from the presidency - how one judges ruling might just open up Donald Trump's financial records for democrats in Congress.


VAUSE: Here's the thing about the Trump administration. While the Russia investigation may be closed, there are still literally dozens of criminal and congressional investigations as well as other legal battles still underway, and on one front allegations the president violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution there's been a major legal win for democrats. The emoluments clause bans gifts or payments from foreign governments to the president of the United States, and a district court judge ruled that a case brought by congressional democrats could move forward. The Justice Department representing the president wanted the case dismissed, and according to court documents they argued that emolument should be narrowly construed to mean profit arising from an official's services rendered pursuant to an office or employee. In other words, gifts or money paid to the president through his businesses and not directed to him are fine. Judge Emmet Sullivan, though disagreed.


Here's part of his ruling. "The president's definition, however, disregards the ordinary meaning of the term as set forth in the vast majority of founding era dictionaries is inconsistent with the text structure, historical interpretation, adoption, and purpose of the clause, and is contrary to executive branch practice over the course of many years."

Richard Painter was the White House Ethics Lawyer during the George W. Bush administration. He joins us now to explain the significance of this decision and what comes next. So Richard, there are several legal actions alleging conflict of interests between Trump the business man and Trump the president. What does this really mean for those cases and what does it now mean for the process of discovery? Is the door now open to the vault where democrats can get those financial records that they've been seeking from Trump world?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, there are two cases that have ever been decided in the history of the Untied States by the federal courts interpreting the emoluments clause of the Constitution, and those two cases were decided the past year, both of them involving Donald Trump. The emoluments clause of the constitution prohibits anyone who receives and profit - who holds a position of trust with the United States government from receiving any profit or benefit from a foreign government. And that's what an emolument is - a profit or benefit. It's very, very clear the definition of emoluments in a dictionary at the time Dr. Samuel Johnson's dictionary specifically said an emolument was a profit or benefit.

And so, all these courts did in the cases against Donald Trump is interpret the word emolument to be exactly what people thought it meant at the time, and the Justice Department has made an absurd argument that an emolument has to be some payment in connection with some foreign office or in connection with your office in the United States, and that's just simply way too narrow a definition. So where we're going to with this is the plaintiffs in these cases are going to be able to tame (ph) discovery and find out about the emoluments going into the Trump business empire from foreign governments. One case, the plaintiffs or the democrats in the United States House and Senate. The other case, the plaintiffs are the attorney general, the State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Those two cases are proceeding. Furthermore, the House Judiciary Committee can, itself of its own accord, demand information about emoluments. That's profits and benefits received by Donald Trump, and that's exactly what they should be doing.

VAUSE: Just by reading the newspapers, there does seem to be overwhelming evidence the president is raking in the money from foreign sources. The Washington Post reported late last year business from Saudi-connect customers continued to be imported after Trump won the presidency. Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 last year to reserve rooms at Trump's hotel in Washington. This year, as in 2018, Trump's hotels in New York and Chicago reported significant upticks in bookings from Saudi visitors. This headline was pretty blunt. Saudi Arabia is making Trump hotels profitable again, and in that story (inaudible) from the Philippines which is one country booking rooms at Trump's hotels is quoted as saying, "it's a statement that we have a good relationship with the president." Now that a judge has taken this, you know, rule of the day (ph), this broader definition of an emolument, what could possibly be the argument that Trump has not profited illegally and is in breach of the emoluments clause?

PAINTER: I don't see any reasonable argument that he has not received profits and benefits from foreign governments. The foreign governments are renting rooms in the hotel, the foreign governments are renting quarters for their diplomats and Trump buildings in New York and around the country. This is a very bad situation. We also have Trump buildings down in Florida where we have a number of Russian oligarchs have purchased buildings, units. We have no idea whether that money's coming from a foreign government, and this is exactly what the founders had in mind. They did not envision a President of the United States or any other senior official who would be an inn keeper and then charge exorbitant fees for people to come over, book rooms, and visit with him. That is not what the founders wanted. It is unconstitutional, and President Trump needs to cut it out.

VAUSE: There is an interesting opinion piece in Time by Kathleen Clark, and ethics lawyer. She writes about the Department of Justice which has always taken a very hard line on the emoluments clause. The department has issued more that 50 legal opinions declaring that the clause prohibits important federal officials from accepting anything of value, even taking gifts from such powers unless Congress consents. At every turn, the Justice Department was on the look out to make sure that federal officials did not accept direct or indirect foreign government payment.


As she goes on to write that two years as the president was facing these legal battles, the Justice Department essentially flipped, taking the same approach as Trump's own lawyers. Has anything like that happened before, the Department of Justice abandoning long- standing policy? It seems like it's a politicization of the Department of Justice.

PAINTER: This is definitely a politicization of the Department of Justice and of the Office of Legal Counsel which gives advise interpreting the Constitution and the statutes of the United States. Of course, that's advice is not binding. The courts have the ultimate say, and it is very clear that the courts - two courts here disagree with the interpretation of the Department of Justice, and they've done this in other instances as well. They did it on the anti-nepotism statute for decades. The Department of Justice interpreted the anti- nepotism statute to apply to the White House. When I was the White House Chief Ethics Lawyer, they told me that nobody in the White House could hire a relative into a position in the White House and they showed me a letter that'd been written to Jimmy Carter telling him he could not have his son be a White House Intern. Well, that opinion was just flipped on its head in January 2017 so Donald Trump could bring in Jared and Ivanka. So we have seen this with the Trump Justice Department they're willing to do a 180 turnaround on their interpretation of the law in order to accommodate President Trump, and this not the proper role of the Justice Department.

VAUSE: Very quickly. We are out of time, but what's the long-term consequences of that?

PAINTER: Well the longtime consequences is the undermining of the rule of law. When you have a president who does not believe that he has to follow the emoluments clause, he does not have to follow the anti-nepotism statute, he doesn't not have to honor subpoenas from the United States House of Representatives, he does not have to avoid his own financial conflicts of interest as has every other president in recent memory, he does not need to disclose his tax returns even though every other president has disclosed the tax returns, he's spending our money trying to prevent the Treasury Department from turning its tax returns over to the House of Representatives. The list goes on and on. This president has no respect for the rule of law.

VAUSE: Richard Painter, good to see you and thank you.

PAINTER: Thank you.

VAUSE: Facebook says it's removing dangerous individuals and groups from its social media platforms. On Thursday, the company banned several high profile and controversial figures. Says it's trying to crack down on hate speech and anything that could lead to violence. CNN Business Reporter Donie O'Sullivan has the details.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Hi there. Yes, among those who Facebook banned from its platform and labeled as dangerous are the right-wing conspiracy theorists Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan, the of the nation of Islam who is notorious for using anti-Semitic language. Now, Facebook has been coming under increasing pressure to clean up its platform. Just last month it banned representation and praise of White Nationalism. That came just after the suspect in the New Zealand terror attack streamed the massacre live on Facebook. Now, Facebook and its platform Instagram, which it also owns, have been working for weeks to try and remove copies of that video of the attack from its platforms. However, just this week CNN found several copies of that video circulating on both sites. Once we brought it to Facebook's attention, they took them down. Back to you.

VAUSE: May those controversial figures be unfriended without a fight. Well, Facebook announced the ban before it deleted the accounts on Thursday. Some users redirected their thousands of followers to other channels. CNBC reported that Alex Jones quickly opened a new account and livestreamed himself ranting about the ban.

The second woman accused of using a nerve agent to murder the half brother of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has been released from prison in Malaysia. She's expected to return home to Vietnam, and her release likely means no one will every be convicted for the murder. (inaudible) argue that the pair that had been duped into carrying out the attack at an airport in Kuala Lumpur two years ago. Kim's relative died minutes after the nerve agent was smeared on his face. North Korea denied any involvement in the murder.

New details out in another international mystery. And arrest warrant has been issued for the man now identified as the ring leader of a raid on North Korea's embassy in Madrid back in February. CNN's Brian Todd has new details on the suspect considered armed and dangerous.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONENT: Adrian Hong is on the run. His face is plastered on a U.S. Marshall's wanted poster, and he's allegedly armed and dangerous. Hong, who strangely uses the name Oswaldo Trump as an alias, is accused of being the mastermind behind the bizarre raid on North Korea's embassy on February 22.


According to court documents from prosecutors just unsealed in Los Angeles, US and Spanish officials accused Hong and several others of breaking into the North Korean embassy using knives, iron bars, machetes, and fake guns.

They tied up embassy staff members and beat them, court documents allege, before making off in embassy vehicles with a stash of thumb drives, hard drives, computers, and a t least one cell phone.

The North Koreans call it a grave terrorist attack. Spanish authorities have asked the US to find and arrest Adrian Hong but his lawyer tells CNN the US marshalls aren't the only people hunting for him.

LEE WOLOSKY, ATTORNEY: We know from credible sources that the North Korean government is seeking Adrian Hong and some of his associates from the provisional government Free Joeonand is seeking to target them for assassination.

TODD: The goal of Hong's group, the provisional government of Free Joeson is to over throw Kim Jung Un's regime. US authorities raided Hong's apartment last month but he wasn't there. His lawyer says that Hong is scared for his life and that he denies

roughing up anyone at the North Korean embassy. He says they were invited into the embassy that day and he points to these surveillance photos of another member of the group entering.

Attorney Lee Wolosky says members of the group had contact with someone at the embassy in the days before the incident. But why would members of a group which wants to over throw Kim Jung Un be invited into that embassy.

WOLOSKY: It is there where the defections generally occur. It is individuals posted outside of North Korea who when given the opportunity will choose to defect.

TODD: So did they go to the embassy to help someone defect?

WOLOSKY: They have said that they were responding to an urgent situation in that embassy. And I really out of concern for the safety of some people who may still be in that embassy I would prefer to just leave my answer for now at that.

TODD: US prosecutors now say Hong's group tried to get a top embassy official to defect but quote, he would not betray or desert his country. Still analysts say Hong's group has succeeded in embarrassing the violent and vindictive North Korean dictator.

BRUCE KLINGNER, HERITAGE FONDATION: He would see it as a threat. He's assassinated or executed any number of senior officials that he saw or perceived to be a threat.

So he would go after these members as much as he could.

TODD: Adrain Hong's attorney is slamming the Justice Department telling CNN he is dismayed that the department is executing warrants against Americans based on the accounts of North Korean officials.

The attorney says he is worried that Adrian Hong or other members of the group might eventually be extradited to North Korea. Justice officials tell CNN anyone extradited to Spain will get due process under Spanish law and they've indicated they're not likely to facilitate any extraditions to North Korea. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: With the US Attorney General openly defying congressional Democrats, one Congressman took a little deep fried revenge. Political Poultry on the menu just ahead.


VAUSE: The original Chewbacca is played in Star Wars by Peter Mayhew, who has died aged 74. His family said he put his heart and soul into his role as Han Solo's wookie sidekick. Despite that growl and his height - over seven feet tall, 2.2 meters - Mayhew's Chewie was a gentle and kind character. Harrison Ford, Han Solo himself, called Mayhew a kind and gentle man possessed of great dignity and noble character. "We were partners in film and friends in life forever, over 30 years, and I loved him."

Well, over the years we've had Chicken Little. There's also a Chicken Horse, movie characters Chicken Joe, Ernie the Giant Chicken. Now add to the list, Chicken Barr, also known as the 85th Attorney General of these United States. Here's Jeanne Moos.

JEANNE MOSS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Attorney General William Barr was supposed to be on the menu for grilling in the House Judiciary Committee. Instead, they settled for chicken, a ceramic chicken and a bucket of KFC. It was only 9 in the morning when Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen chowed down on chicken purchased the night before. A better breakfast choice would have been -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kentucky Fried Chicken and Waffles are back!

MOOS: - but the Tennessee democrat was making a show of the no show attorney general placing the statute atop the chicken bucket and proclaiming -

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), T.N.: Chicken Barr should have shown up today and answered questions.

JERRY NADLER, CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY: We're narrowly at this point I would introduce the witness.

MOOS: Instead, there were split screen shots of his empty seat. The hearing was gaveled to a close despite republican protests.


MOOS: The mike was cut off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) to the procedures -

MOOS: And Congressman Cohen transported the chicken to the witness table and placed it in front of the honorable William P. Barr's placard as photographers rushed in to capture the 1950s vintage statue made by a staffer's uncle. Cohen even tweeted this image of a feathered attorney general. Wait a minute, is that a chicken impersonator I hear squawking outside the committee room, interrupting Chairman Nadler live on at least three networks.

But not everyone was amused. Leave the childish name calling to Trump, please. Don't stoop to his level. The Congressman kept his statue handy for interviews.

COHEN: The message is that Bill Barr is a chicken.

MOOS: Hashtag chicken Barr inspired jokes. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he was afraid to testify, but representative Cohen treated his chicken tender. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN Newsroom. I'm John Vause. The news continues right here on CNN after a very short break.