Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Lifts Some Tariffs on Canada and Mexico; Trump Claims He Was Never Warned about Flynn; U.S.-Iran Tensions; Voting Underway in Australia; Brexit Talks Break Down; Missouri Passes Abortion Legislation; Trump Organization Employed Undocumented Immigrants for Years; Sudanese Troops Target Female Protesters; Mexico City Choking on Air Pollution. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 18, 2019 - 03:00   ET





DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm pleased to announce that we've just reached an agreement with Canada and Mexico.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): U.S. president Donald Trump drops tariffs on aluminum and steel from Canada and Mexico.

Australians go to the polls to vote for their next prime minister, possibly their sixth one in as many years.


ANIBAL ROMERO, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: Some of these employees were the most trusted employees of the Trump family. They've been working there for 10, 15 years.


VANIER (voice-over): CNN talks with 19 undocumented workers once employed by the Trump Organization.

We are live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta. I'm Cyril Vanier. It is great to have you with us.


VANIER: The U.S. hopes the road is now cleared for a new North American trade agreement after a bitter dispute with two close allies seems to have come to an end. The U.S. says it will lift steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico imposed a year ago for national security reasons.

Canada and Mexico are also ending their retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. The U.S. president calls it a win. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Hopefully, Congress will approve the USMCA quickly and then the great farmers and manufacturers and steel plants will make our economy even more successful than it already is.


VANIER: The Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau agreed, saying getting the new deal ratified is a top priority.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Obviously, these continued tariffs on steel and aluminum and our countermeasures represented significant barriers to moving forward with the new NAFTA agreement.

Now that we've had a full lift on these tariffs, we are going to work with the United States on timing for ratification. But we're very optimistic we're going to be able to move forward, move forward well in the coming weeks.


VANIER: The three countries have been negotiating for some time now. Mexico's president says, "To strengthen trade and good understanding in North America the Mexican government consulted with the Canadian government and promoted the trilateral dialogue."

President Trump seems convinced his campaign was illegally spied on and he says whoever did it was committing treason. Now it is true one campaign adviser was under FBI surveillance. But that was legally sanctioned by the courts. So it's not clear what Mr. Trump was alluding to.

Meanwhile, we're getting fresh insights into the Mueller probe and one key witness who gave the special counsel a lot of insider knowledge early in the investigation. We get the latest from CNN's Pamela Brown.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump today an Twitter tirade, complaining again about the origins of the Russia investigation and repeating unfounded claims his campaign was spied on, tweeting -- quote -- "Treason means long jail sentences and this was treason."

Before taking issue with new details surrounding his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, saying -- quote -- "It now seems that General Flynn was under investigation long before was common knowledge. If that --


BROWN (voice-over): -- was the case and with me being one of two people who would become president, why was I not told so that I could that make a change?"

But that's not true. Several people, including President Obama, warned Trump about hiring Flynn when they met in the Oval Office, according to a former Obama administration official. A couple months later, acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn may have been compromised by the Russians.

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I had two in- person meetings and one phone call with the White House counsel about Mr. Flynn.

BROWN: Newly unsealed court documents offer more details about Flynn's cooperation with the special counsel, Robert Mueller's probe, showing that Flynn was one of a select few people in the Trump campaign who were involved in discussions about whether or not to contact WikiLeaks regarding stolen Democratic Party e-mails.

Flynn also provided Mueller with multiple examples of people potentially attempting to influence his cooperation. A partially redacted court memo reads -- quote -- "Either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation. The defendant even provided a voice-mail recording of one such communication."

The Mueller report published that voice-mail from the president's personal attorney to Flynn's attorney. "If there's information that implicates the president, then we have got a national security issue. So, you know, we need some kind of heads-up."

Even though Michael Flynn provided evidence, including the voicemail, to Robert Mueller's team, the special counsel did not prosecute anyone on the president's legal team or anyone associated with Congress as part of the obstruction probe.

If Robert Mueller does testify -- and we know there are negotiations going on between Capitol Hill and Robert Mueller and his team -- this is likely a question that will be brought up.

But a source on one of the congressional committees telling CNN that Robert Mueller will likely not testify before the first week of June -- Pamela Brown, CNN, the White House.


VANIER: China is offering support to Iran amid Tehran's recent standoff with the U.S. On Friday Iran's foreign minister met with his Chinese counterpart, who reaffirmed China's support for the full implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal.

This comes as rising tensions with the U.S. appear to be easing slightly, at least for the moment. CNN's Ryan Browne has more.


RYAN BROWNE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump making it very clear that he for one does not seek war with Iran at this time. Now U.S. officials have said that they've observed some of those missiles that had sparked initial concerns about a possible Iranian attack, some of those missiles that had been put on commercial shipping vessels in the areas in the waters near Iran have returned to port and have been offloaded.

Now U.S. officials are not ready to say exactly what took place there. But it could possibly be a sign of some kind of reduction of tensions and attempts to deescalate the situation as the U.S. has moved additional warships and bombers into the region in response to what U.S. officials are describing as an increased Iranian threat.

Now we're also being told that an unidentified drone flew over the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Thursday, sparking security officials there to enter into what is called a lockdown.

Now the U.S. very much keeping a close eye on Iran and its proxies to see if there's any additional threatening moves from Iran. But we're being told that the U.S. for now is very much in a wait and see approach -- Ryan Browne, CNN, the Pentagon.


VANIER: Joining me is Behnam Ben Taleblu. He's a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He's talking to us from Washington.

So Mr. Trump had a tweet on Friday, criticizing the media for their inaccurate coverage of this story. But that's not my point. He ended this tweet with this.

"At least Iran doesn't know what to think, which at this point may very well be a good thing."

So my question, is Iran confused about the U.S. strategy right now that we know of?

And if so could that really be a good thing at least from the U.S. point of view?

BEHNAM BEN TALEBLU, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Well, great to be with you. I think the Islamic Republic of Iran has had a hard time reading the Trump administration, which is why, early in 2017, you saw Iran pull back from some of its most provocative activities, be it medium-range ballistic missile tests or, in fact, harassment of naval vessels in the Persian Gulf.

However, once President Trump restored the sanctions on Iran on May 8th, 2018, during that first year of "max pressure," quote-unquote, Iran's policy was patience in the face of pressure. Under year two of max pressure Iran is engaging in graduated escalation, trying find out that is this just tough rhetoric from Washington or is there something behind this rhetoric?

Will this be enough just to deter Iran or is the administration looking to do something else? VANIER: And max pressure is continuing. As we know, the U.S. is sending an aircraft carrier and Patriot missiles to the region.

What does Iran think --


VANIER: -- when it sees this extra American firepower headed its way?

TALEBLU: Well, hopefully, Iran thinks the truth, which is that most of this is a course correction. It would be good to note that, for most of 2018 during the most sensitive times of the U.S.-Iran standoff, be it May 8th, when the U.S. left the nuclear deal, or November, when the U.S. restored oil sanctions, Washington did not have a single aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

This is actually a contravention of the past decade or so of U.S. policy in the region. Moreover, even though Iran has returned to using ballistic missiles from its own territory and firing them into the backyard of its Arab neighbors, Washington last fall had stripped the region of four Patriot missile defense batteries.

So in my view, sending the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln strike group as well as adding one Patriot missile defense battery to the region is a course correction and hopefully Iran understands that the administration means business and that it can infer from this hardening of the U.S. posture in the region that it cannot afford to let any escalation spiral and come back to the table in good faith.

VANIER: I just want to emphasize this observation of yours because it's really interesting and I think it gets lost in some of the coverage. You say course correction.

TALEBLU: That's right.

VANIER: In other words, the Trump administration is showing more military muscle but starting from an unusually low level by U.S. standards. That's what you're saying.

TALEBLU: That's right. Because if you broaden the aperture out a little bit, it is unknown exactly where some of these Patriot missile defense batteries have gone. Many allege it was to a theater of conflict in Northeast Asia, basically, to deter North Korea at more sensitive times of the standoff last year as well as getting to the fact that American naval vessels aren't as widespread as many people think there are.

And it gets to the point about how many ships does the American public and American government want in its Navy and where American vessels are present in some areas of the world means they're going to have to be absent from other places.

VANIER: And do you think this renewed pressure, then, can force, can pressure Iran into renewed negotiations?

TALEBLU: Well, this is where history is imperative because there are only a handful of times in the four-decade history of the Islamic Republic of Iran where Iran's leaders have done an about-face. The Iran-Iraq War is one of them.

In the first 7.5 years of the eight-year conflict, Khomeini, the founding father of the Islamic revolution, said war, war, war until victory. His goal, like President Bush, was to topple the Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. He failed. But only after immense cost and immense pressure did he do a 180 and accept a U.N. cease-fire resolution, which he likened to drinking from a poison chalice.

The goal now is to get Khamenei, Khomeini's successor, to feel the pain of the sanctions and to come to the negotiating table, even though he is today saying he will not come and talk with America. So it needs to be maximum pressure for Iran to realize that there is no way out but through other than a capitulation.

VANIER: Where do you stand on the John Bolton part of this story, the president's national security adviser, who famously advocated regime change in Iran?

Listen first to what a U.S. senator had to say about him on CNN earlier today.


SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): John Bolton would very much like to go to war. He wrote and has said multiple times, look, Iran will never stop their nuclear program. The only way to respond is to destroy it. He sees the world and he says, I don't want negotiations, I want bombs.


VANIER: So allegedly John Bolton, the warmonger.

Where do you stand on this?

TALEBLU: Well, when you look at some of the history of Mr. Bolton before coming into office, he is consistent. He doesn't like limited arms control agreements. He doesn't believe international institutions are going to be what's defending America's security or America's military posture abroad.

But when you look at the Trump administration's Iran policy under multiple national security advisers, the primary aim is to get Iran to ink a broader agreement when the U.S. actually ended up leaving the JCPOA nuclear deal.

So here personnel matters but U.S. policy matters even more. And no matter who has been implementing it, the policy has been max pressure, get sanctions on the country and bring Tehran back to the negotiating table.

VANIER: Max pressure, both military and economic. And that's what we're seeing now. Behnam Ben Taleblu, thank you so much for joining us today. TALEBLU: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

VANIER: The first polls close soon in Australia's election, where the top two prime minister candidates are widely unpopular. We'll have the latest from Australia when we come back.

Plus another U.S. state passes restrictive abortion legislation. We'll have more on the controversy in just a few moments.






VANIER: Welcome back.

Voting is under way in Australia's national election. And in the next hour, polls in the eastern part of the country will begin to close.

Opposition Labor Party leader Bill Shorten is hoping to unseat incumbent prime minister Scott Morrison. If Shorten wins, he will be the sixth leader in six years. Mr. Morrison has only been in office for eight months. This is likely to be a tight race.

But Australians don't seem to like either candidate, with a quarter of them saying that they didn't know who would make a better prime minister. There could be a record number of third party votes -- that's something else to look out for -- largely because Australia has compulsory voting.

Earlier I spoke with "The New York Times" correspondent Jamie Tarabay about what Australians think of their prime minister candidates.


JAMIE TARABAY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, most of the vote is, I'm particularly tired with Mr. Morrison per se. I think they're tired of the revolving door that the coalition government has really kind of exposed or sort of put the entire electorate through.

You know, in the six years that the liberal national coalition has been in power, they've had three different prime ministers in charge. So there is a conversation here about, if Mr. Morrison loses, he's essentially going to -- it's more -- it's as much a repudiation of their frustration with the politicians as it is an --


TARABAY: -- embrace of a change and the policies that the Labor Party's promising.

VANIER: What about Bill Shorten?

TARABAY: No one likes him. It's really interesting. No, it's -- he has consistently --


VANIER: Why? How? Tell me about that.

TARABAY: You know, so we talk about revolving doors. When the Labor Party was in government, Kevin Rudd was elected and he got pushed out and replaced by Julia Gillard. And then she got pushed out and she was replaced by Kevin Rudd.

And Bill Shorten was one of those people that the -- sort of people referred to at the time as one of the faceless men behind both of those coups. So there is an aura of untrustworthiness around him. He's woefully unpopular, compared to his Labor Party compatriots, particularly people like Senator Penny Wong, who, if Labor wins, is going to be Australia's first Asian Australian foreign minister.

His deputy prime minister or deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek, is also extremely popular. And he's kind of hoped that his association with them will sort of temper a little of the sort of disdain or distaste that most voters have for him and vote for Labor, the party, rather than Bill Shorten, the politician.

VANIER: So he could be riding their coattails. That's interesting.

It used to be that almost all Australians voted, a vast majority voted for one of the two main parties, right?

Center right, center left. And that, as you're explaining, has changed.

So what are the alternatives?

TARABAY: A lot of -- we are -- it's not so much that we're seeing a wave of populism but we are seeing a slew of independent candidates. And a lot of these people are challenging establishment candidates, like former prime minister Tony Abbott, in one of the sort of most expensive real estate suburbs in Sydney, specifically on his climate change policies.

And everything he's been doing, some would argue, to disrupt and prevent real change from the coalition government from moving forward and embracing an actual really productive energy policy.

So it's not just that we're seeing a lot of right-wing populists but we're also seeing a lot of left-wing independents, who are specifically targeting liberal candidates, especially because of their climate change platforms.


VANIER: That was "The New York Times" correspondent Jamie Tarabay, speaking to me earlier. Brexit talks between prime minister Theresa May's government and the

opposition Labour Party have broken down. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn blamed May's government, calling it weak and unstable. But May said the Labour Party lacked a common position. CNN's Phil Black has more on the failed talks from London.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Expectations were never high for these talks. The distrust was too great, the differences too vast and there was really strong opposition in both the Labour and Conservative Parties to the whole idea. And yet the leaders decided to pursue them anyway.

The prime minister, Theresa May, did not have a lot of choice. It had long been blindingly clear that she simply didn't have enough support among her own Conservative MPs to pass a withdrawal agreement in Parliament.

So this was a late, desperate attempt to secure a compromise with people who are not her natural political allies.

In the end, the talks lasted around six weeks. Both sides say they were serious and constructive but ultimately collapsed, with each leader saying the other party lacked unity and flexibility.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: So when we come to bring the legislation forward, we will think carefully about what we've had with these talks -- the outcome of these talks. We will also consider whether we have some votes to see if the ideas that have come through command the majority in the House of Commons.

But when MPs come to vote on the bill, they will be faced with a stark choice. That is to vote to deliver on the referendum, to vote to deliver Brexit or to shy away again from delivering Brexit with all the uncertainty that that would leave.


JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, U.K. LABOUR PARTY: The government has not moved its position fundamentally. There are fundamental disagreements. We want to have a customs arrangement with the European Union that protects jobs and trade and we want to have a dynamic relationship on rights.

We put those views very strongly to the government and the withdrawal agreement bill will be brought forward. I don't know what the contents of that bill will be. I haven't seen it.


BLACK (voice-over): So Theresa May's goal still appears to be beyond reach. Somehow finding the changes in the withdrawal agreement that can secure a parliamentary majority and, in doing so, secure her legacy as the prime minister, who delivered Britain's exit from the European Union. She now has only a couple of weeks to make it happen -- Phil Black, CNN, London.


VANIER: Missouri has become the latest state in the U.S. to pass legislation that severely restricts abortions. The bill prohibits abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy. Doctors would face up to 15 years in prison for violating that.


VANIER: It must still be signed by the governor but the governor has already voiced his support for the measure.

Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio have passed so- called heartbeat bills. Alabama is the most restrictive of all, making abortion illegal in nearly all instances, including cases of rape and incest.

These states all passed measures contradictory to the longstanding Supreme Court ruling protecting women's right to choose. CNN's Natasha Chen has more on the controversy in Missouri.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Missouri House of Representatives passed this bill 110-44 after about two hours of debate on Friday. Like some other states, they looked at the moment a fetal heartbeat can be detected. But here they specifically outlawed abortion after eight weeks.

Now in case a judge strikes that down, they also have provisions for a ban after 14 weeks, then 18 weeks, then 20 weeks, all dependent on the outcome of any legal challenges.

There is also a trigger here to completely outlaw abortion, should Roe versus Wade ever be overturned. There's also no exception here for rape or incest. And that caused a lot of emotional debate today, including a moment, where protesters were asked to leave the gallery. Here are some tense moments from the debate.


CRYSTAL QUADE (D), MISSOURI STATE REPRESENTATIVE: When you each see me in this hallway, remember what you're doing to little girls who were like me because that abuse is me and you simply don't care.

And to the women of this state and the women up here, I'm sorry. I'm sorry there aren't enough of us in this chamber to stop this. I'm sorry you're viewed as second-class citizens. Now it's up to you to change this.

MARY ELIZABETH COLEMAN (R), MISSOURI STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Abortion is the ultimate in might makes right. It is saying that if I don't have the ability to kill my child that, I, as a woman, cannot obtain whatever dreams and beliefs I may have.

It's saying that my economic opportunities will be limited if I do not pay that price with the blood of my child. Our freedom cannot bought with the blood of our children.


CHEN: The bill does not criminalize going across state lines to seek an abortion but it does require that anyone in Missouri referring someone to an out of state abortion provide educational materials, including information about the possibility that an abortion could cause pain to a fetus.

The House also passed an emergency clause which means, as soon as the governor signs this in about a week's time, it will immediately go into effect -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Jefferson City, Missouri.


VANIER: Severe weather strikes the American heartland. We'll have the latest on the storm system ripping through the central U.S.

Plus CNN talks to a room full of people with something particular in common: they're undocumented and they've all worked for years for Donald Trump.





VANIER: And a warm welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. Let's look at your headlines.


VANIER: We're also following severe weather in the U.S. Midwest. Tornadoes have been spotted in several states.



VANIER: We want to share with you the story of Central American immigrants working illegally in the United States, paying taxes, working long hours as they try to provide for their families. This particular group of people labored for a large corporation that owns hotels and golf resorts.

They said their undocumented status was common knowledge and some were told it didn't matter. Until recently, most were long-time employees of the Trump Organization. More now from CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They arrived in vans. They arrived in SUVs.


KAYE: Most of them coworkers, some of them friends. There were 19 of them, each with a story to tell. They all took the elevator to our studio, three elevators, in fact.

What were all these people doing here?

All of them wanted to talk about their years of working for Donald Trump's golf clubs. They also all have another thing in common.

(on camera) Raise your hand, how many of you are undocumented workers?

And how many of you worked for the Trump Organization?

Raise your hand. All of you.

(voice-over) All of them say they worked for Mr. Trump at his various golf courses in New York and New Jersey, some for more than a decade, despite being in the United States illegally from countries including Mexico and Guatemala.

They brought with them their work uniforms and stacks of pay stubs from their former employer. Jose Juarez worked as a waiter at Trump's Westchester golf club for 10 years and often served Donald Trump.

JOSE JUAREZ, FORMER WAITER AT TRUMP GOLF CLUB: He used to come and I would serve him a Diet Coke out of the glass bottle into a plastic cup with ice.

KAYE (on camera): Do you think he knew where you were from?

JUAREZ: Yes, he knew I was from Mexico.

KAYE: You told him?


KAYE: Do you think the President knew that you were undocumented?

JUAREZ: I think so.

ROMERO: This was an open secret.

KAYE (voice-over): Lawyer Anibal Romero represents 38 undocumented workers, including this group, all of whom worked at Trump properties. He says 11 of them were quietly fired in January from Trump's Westchester club after the club did an audit in the midst of the government shutdown and the fight over the border wall. The rest of these workers quit given the toxic environment.

ROMERO: Some of these employees were the most trusted employees of the Trump family. They've been working there for 10, 15 years. Some of my clients had, you know, the keys to, for example, Eric Trump's house in Westchester, New York.

KAYE: Nearly all of these 19 undocumented workers told us they've met Donald Trump. Sandra Diaz is from Costa Rica and worked as a housekeeper for four years at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey.

SANDRA DIAZ, FORMER HOUSEKEEPER AT TRUMP GOLF CLUB: I worked really close to him in his house. I always I with him with Melania, with Ivanka. Always I stayed inside the house with all the family. They know me. I have keys. I have to go in. I have to take care of all clothes. Everything in this house, I have take care.

KAYE: Sandra told us she believes Donald Trump knew she was here illegally because he has to sign off on everything at the club.

(on camera) How do you feel when you hear the President say that people like yourselves shouldn't be in the country?

DIAZ: I feel really bad.

KAYE (voice-over): All of the workers paid taxes but were not given benefits. Victorina Morales also worked at Trump's golf club in New Jersey as a housekeeper. For five years she made Trump's bed and dusted off his golf trophies.

(on camera) Did you ever tell the management at the golf course that you were undocumented or that you didn't have the right paperwork?

(voice over) She told us, yes, she told her supervisors but was told legal papers didn't matter as long as she did the work.

(on camera) What documents, (foreign language), did you show when you applied for the job?

(voice-over) Victorina says she didn't show any paperwork when she got the job. But in 2016, she was suddenly asked for legal documentation. She says when she told her manager she didn't have it, she got his cousin to take her to a --


KAYE (voice-over): -- house in New Jersey to get documents and that her manager himself paid the $175 fee for her fake documents.

ROMERO: There is another client I have in Westchester who presented fake documents and he was told that they weren't -- they didn't look good enough. So they had him return three times to get fake documents that looked better.

KAYE (on camera): Did Donald Trump know where you were from and do you think that he knew you were undocumented?

(voice-over) Victorina told me Trump once asked her where she was from and she told him Guatemala. She says the majority of housekeepers were undocumented and that Trump must have known. Margarita Cruz worked as a housekeeper at Trump's golf club in Westchester, New York for nine years.

(on camera) What do you think when you hear Donald Trump talk about undocumented workers and how you shouldn't be allowed in this country, yet you worked at his golf club?

(voice-over) Margarita says Trump is a hypocrite. That he says they are bad people, rapist and traffickers. But they are honest, hard working people who worked hard for him.

ROMERO: He's been benefiting from undocumented labor for many, many years. It's sad that he's been lying to the American people.

KAYE: We reached out to the Trump Organization several times asking for a response to these allegations and the fact that the Trump Organization had employed undocumented workers for years. We didn't get a response.

But the organization give a statement to "The New York Times," who has also done some reporting on this issue, telling the paper that the Trump Organization has strict hiring practices and if an employee submitted false documentation to circumvent the law they will be terminated immediately.

One other note: most of the workers we spoke with in our story are now facing deportation. Only one of them, Sandra Diaz, who we talked to in that story, is now a legal permanent resident here in the United States. But she only got that status long after she stopped working at Trump's golf club in New Jersey -- back to you.


VANIER: That was Randi Kaye reporting there. Tremendous story.

Ahead, CNN's exclusive reporting from inside Sudan, where anti- government protests are a daily ritual and women are singled out for abuse by the security forces.





VANIER: In Sudan, women have been taking to the streets for months now, putting themselves at the heart of the biggest anti-government protests in decades. Those protests led to the ouster of the country's long-term dictator Omar al-Bashir last month.

But now with the military in power, clashes are continuing. And CNN has uncovered evidence that regime forces targeted female demonstrators during the uprising. Our Nima Elbagir has spoken to some of these women. Here's her exclusive report. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This the moment Sudanese forces opened fire on protesters. You see the man behind the camera is a woman. She is chanting, bullets won't kill us. Staying silent does. They begin to chase. Her camera cuts out as a soldier stands over her. The woman was brutally beaten by government forces and she's not alone.

CNN has spoken to hundreds of women throughout the months of the uprising in Sudan. They say they were targeted by government forces for the worst violence because they were women. We put the question to former Sudanese intelligence officers. They refused to be filmed but agreed to be quoted, telling CNN, "They were commanded by their superiors, 'Break the girls, because if you break the girls, you break the men.'"

But it didn't work.

The next day, this woman is back at the site, limping, but defiant.

NIDAL AHMED, PROTESTER (from captions): I fell and six or seven men in uniform started to beat me. When I stood up, they hit me on my backside and said, "Run." This happened to all women.

WIFAQ QURAISHI, ACTIVIST (from captions): I was subjected to many detentions and each was different. Sometimes they force you to strip and take nude photos and sometimes they threaten you with rape.

ELBAGIR: And yet still, she, like others, persevered.

QURAISHI: We are suppressed at home, oppressed on the street, at university, at work, on public transport, all of these things motivated the girls to take to the street.

ELBAGIR: In a conservative society, taking to the streets was brave enough. Publicly speaking out about the price and others say they were forced to pay, braver still. Women's rights activists say women were targeted because they were so integral to the uprising saying that 60 to 70 percent of the protesters were female.

NAHED JABRALLAH, WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST (from captions) Even the slogans were centered around women. "Rise up, this revolution is woman."

ELBAGIR: Rape was being used as a weapon of oppression?

JABRALLAH: These sexual assaults accomplish two things -- the oppression of the victim and it used to terrify others.

ELBAGIR: Whatever they did, whatever they tried to do, I didn't work.

AHMED: I'm staying out of the streets so that tomorrow can be better for all of us. For us, for those before us and the next generation.

ELBAGIR: A new generation that's already making its voices heard -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Khartoum, Sudan.


VANIER: One of the most densely populated cities in the world is also one of the dirtiest. Thick smog is bringing Mexico City to a standstill. We'll have that story when we come back.






VANIER: One of the world's largest cities is in the grips of crippling air pollution. High temperatures, car exhaust and smoky wildfires are conspiring to make Mexico City's air especially hazardous. That means more than 21 million people must now cope with the choking smog. CNN's Rafael Romo explains.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): The thick black layer seems to cover everything. It's been hovering over Mexico City, one of the most densely populated capitals in the world, for several days.

"It's terrible but what can we do?" this woman wonders. "It's making us all sick."

Mexico City officials declared an environmental emergency Tuesday due to severe air pollution exacerbated by wildfires.

But some residents say they believe officials have been too slow to react to the emergency in a city of more than 21 million that has been plagued by air pollution for decades.

"There's plenty of opportunity to take action and do something drastic but they have waited for too long," this resident said.

Elementary schools were ordered closed on Thursday. Some public works projects have been suspended. And drivers have been asked to stay off the roads. Authorities have also recommended residents avoid exercising outdoors.

Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum says her administration working on a comprehensive plan to address not only the current emergency but also air pollution in the long term.

CLAUDIA SHEINBAUM, MEXICO CITY MAYOR (through translator): In order to reduce pollution, we have to go to the sources. In the case of Mexico City's metropolitan area, it has to do with vehicles --


SHEINBAUM (through translator): -- with factories and, recently, with higher temperatures and wildfires.

ROMO (voice-over): According to Mexico's Department of the Environment there were as many as 100 wildfires burning in a total of 20 out of 32 states in the country this week.

The United Nations declared Mexico City the most polluted in the world in 1992. Since then, the megalopolis has reduced pollution by 50 percent, according to one estimate, by establishing regulations to protect the environment, including vehicle restrictions and expanded use of public transportation.

But the improvement isn't enough for people who now feel they need to cover their noses just to get past their front door -- Rafael Romo, CNN.


VANIER: Music fans worldwide are eagerly awaiting Saturday's grand finale of Eurovision. The often cheesy annual song contest -- let me correct that -- the always cheesy annual song contest pits countries against one another. And this time, performers from 26 nations have made it to the last round.

Nearly 200 million viewers are expected to tune in to this extravaganza, broadcast this year from Tel Aviv.

But controversy has threatened to overshadow the competition. Israel has sought to use the spotlight to rebrand itself as a fun holiday destination, while activists have been calling for boycotts of the event over Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

One last thing: the viral world is saying goodbye to a cat who became a star just for looking so glum. Grumpy Cat, as she came to be known, went viral after her photo appeared online. And that led to TV appearances, to a clothing line, even a spot in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.

Her publicist -- because, of course, she had a publicist -- says that Grumpy Cat died at age 7 of complications from an infection. For the record, her owner says that she was actually very sweet and very docile.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. CNN NEWSROOM continues next with Natalie Allen and George Howell. You are in great hands. Have a terrific day.