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Stormy Daniels More Eager to Win Her Case; Voters in Egypt Head to the Polls; Shake Ups in the White House are Becoming a Norm for Trump; Inferno in Siberian Mall Kills 53 People; Carles Puigdemont is Arrested in Germany; U.S. Defense is Ready Every Nanosecond. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 26, 2018 - 03:00   ET


[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We now know she does not like being called a liar. She does not like being called a victim. Just ahead, more on Stormy Daniels' first extended interview about her alleged affair with Donald Trump before he became president.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, polls are open in Egypt where incumbent President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is facing only one main rival.

HOWELL: And later, our CNN exclusive takes you inside Bill Gates' quiet $1.6 million project. To get there we're live in Nigeria.

And we are live at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewer here is in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. This is CNN Newsroom.

An adult film star says she is telling her story of an alleged affair with Donald Trump now to set the record straight. Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Mr. Trump's attorney Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 to sign a nondisclosure agreement to keep her from telling her story. Cohen says he made the payment with his own money, and that's raising questions about whether campaign finance laws were violated.

HOWELL: After that payment was reported in the media, Daniels signed statements denying the affair. In an interview on the CBS program 60 Minutes, Daniels explained why she should be believed now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: How do we know you're telling the truth?

STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: Because I have no reason to lie. I'm opening myself up for, you know, possible danger and definitely a whole lot of (muted).

COOPER: The president watches 60 Minutes. If he is watching tonight, what would you say to him?

DANIELS: He knows I'm telling e truth.


HOWELL: Our Brian Stelter has more on that interview.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, yes, a porn star breaking her silence about an alleged affair with now President Trump. This allegation dates back to 2006 when Trump was the star of NBC's The Apprentice. A woman named Stephanie Clifford whose stage name is Stormy Daniels described the alleged affair in a sit-down with CNN's Anderson Cooper. The interview was broadcast on CBS' 60 Minutes, the highest rated news program in America, which means tens of millions of people are likely to see this interview.

Now Daniels talks about having sex with Donald Trump. She says she was not attracted to him. She viewed it as a business deal. She says at first she kept it a secret. But in 2007 when she spoke to a tabloid magazine, the story was buried, and then she says she was physically threatened. Here is how she described the incident to Cooper.


DANIELS: I was in a parking lot going to fitness class with my infant daughter. Taking the seats facing backwards in the back seat, diaper bag, you know, getting all the stuff out. And a guy walked up on me and said to me, leave Trump alone. Forget the story. And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said a beautiful little girl. It would be a shame if something happened to her mom. And then he was gone.


STELTER: So that alleged threat date backs to 2011. And then on 2016 and the run-up to the presidential election, Daniels accepted a payment of $130,000 from one of Trump's personal attorneys. This has been described as hush money, essentially buying her silence. But now Daniels says that was inappropriate. It was invalid. The contract is not legal. She says she should be able to speak freely to defend herself.

So now there is lawsuits and countersuits. Questions about campaign finance. And in the middle of all this, a U.S. president and a porn star. Now we don't know for sure if President Trump tuned in for the interview, even though he is a frequent TV watcher. We do know he was at the White House while his wife Melania Trump, the first lady, was at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

We have not heard from Melania Trump either, but we did hear from her spokeswoman on Sunday night after the interview aired. The spokesman, Stephanie Grisham tweeting the following, quote, "While I know the media is enjoying speculation and salacious gossip, I would like to remind people there is a minor child whose name should be kept out of news stories when at all possible."

Now Daniels also has a child, a daughter. And I think the question that's raised by these interviews, now broadcast on television, first with a woman named Karen McDougal who alleged an affair with Trump in the mid-2000s. Now Stormy Daniels who is making similar allegations. The question is what do people tell their children about the U.S. president and his apparent sex life?

These are stories that are actually in some ways reminiscent to the 1990s when Bill Clinton was in the news. There was lot of sympathy back then for Hillary Clinton. Now the same is true for Melania Trump. And we head into a workweek here in the U.S. with questions whether the president will say anything more or whether his lawyers will say anything more about Stormy Daniels.

Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.

[03:04:54] HOWELL: Brian, thank you. Though Daniels did not refer to Michael Cohen when describing the alleged threat in the parking lot, Cohen's attorney says his client had nothing to do with the incident and doesn't believe it even occurred.

CHURCH: In a letter to Daniels' attorney sent after the interview aired, Brent Blakely, the attorney for Michael Cohen wrote this. "I hereby demand that you and your client cease and desist from making any further false and defamatory statements about my client that you immediately retract and apologize to Mr. Cohen through the national media for your defamatory statement."

CNN legal analyst and attorney and legal affairs commentator Areva Martin joins me now via Skype from Chicago. Great to have you with us as always.


CHURCH: So now that we've heard from both Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, we see that their stories share a number of similarities in relation to references allegedly made by Donald Trump to his wife Melania and his daughter Ivanka and similarities in the nature of the allege sexual encounters both women experienced. How does that help them in terms of being credible and believable?

MARTIN: Well, there is strength in numbers. I think that we're hearing from two different women, although they had separate relationships, they tell very similar stories about their affairs with Donald Trump. Both women initially denied the affairs. And then later came back and in fact admitted that they did have an affair with him.

Credibility is going to be a big issue in the lawsuits that both women have pending. But I think looking at both women and hearing how passionate they were about wanting to tell their stories and claim their narrative, it's pretty clear to me that both women are now for the first time probably telling the truth about relationships they had with Donald Trump.

CHURCH: And Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti has implied he has pictorial evidence of the alleged affair with this tweet posted just days before the 60 Minutes interview went to air. And he says in, this you see the picture there of a CD next to a vault. And he says this, "a picture is worth a thousand words. How many words is this worth? Hash tag 60 Minutes, hah tag please deny it."

And then he tweeted this early Sunday. Note, a, "not all of our evidence will be mentioned, displayed tonight. That would be foolish. B, we are not sure what CBS will include, but we know a lot from the full interview will have to be cut because of the time allowed. C, tonight is not the end. It's the beginning." So what impact could any such evidence have on the president and the outcome of this story legally if there is any such evidence.

MARTIN: Well, clearly, if there are text messages, photographs, or any kind of evidence that could corroborate Stormy Daniels' story, that's going to give more credibility to her lawsuit and to her claims. I think all of us are waiting with baited breath tonight thinking that the 60 Minutes interview would share some of that information.

We know that Stormy Daniels' attorney has been talking a great deal through texts, through tweets about this evidence. And I think the American public wanted to see some of that evidence. He started this morning by telling us he is not going to reveal all of this case. I don't think that's unusual for a lawyer there is litigation that is probably going to be pretty extensive in this case. So we'll have to wait as that evidence is rolled out.

But I think today she made a pretty compelling case for the fact that she had a sexual encounter with Donald Trump and his team, Michael Cohen and company went to great lengths to prevent her from sharing that information. Just about 11 days before the presidential election.

CHURCH: Right. And of course the Access Hollywood tapes that became public just days before the 2016 presidential election made it clear to everyone how Mr. Trump treated some women. So should anyone be surprised by the revelations of both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal? And what's achieved exactly by these revelations? Where does it take the story of Donald Trump's presidency?

MARTIN: Rosemary, I don't think anyone is surprised. We knew going into the 2016 election that Donald Trump had a history of having affairs with women outside of his marriage. He had out of 12 or plus allegations of women who had come forward to claim that he had sexually harassed them or sexually assaulted them. We saw the Access Hollywood tape, which bragged about grabbing women by the private parts.

So these indiscretions, his infidelity aren't news to the American public. But we had not heard about the efforts to enforce a nondisclosure agreement. We heard tonight that Stormy Daniels was threatened. She says she was both physically threatened in the parking lot in Las Vegas, and she believed that she was harassed and intimidated into making false claims about the relationship that she had with Donald Trump. So that is news.

[03:10:04] And when Trump's team talks about the fact that he had affairs kind of baked into the election and that this has already been litigated, I would submit that's it not baked into the equation. And we haven't had the kind of information that we had from both Karen McDougal and now Stormy Daniels where Trump and his team are tried to enforce nondisclosure agreements and are intimidating, if we are to believe Stormy Daniels, this these women into, you know, forcing them into keep their stories about the relationship private.

CHURCH: We will be watching very closely for the legal outcome of this story. Areva Martin, always great to have you on the show. Thank you so much.

MARTIN: Thank you.

HOWELL: The U.S president has been silent on Stormy Daniels and her interview on 60 minutes. On Sunday, he even ignored questions about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you going to watch 60 Minutes? What about David Shulkin? Does he still have your confidence? Is Stormy Daniels a liar, sir?


CHURCH: Meanwhile, a source tells CNN the president may soon fire Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. White House officials have no comment at this time. But one of Mr. Trump's friends says there could be another staff shake-up.


CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: The president told me he is perplexed by all of these report there's chaos at the White House or mass staff changes. He told me that he thinks the White House is operating like a smooth machine, his words. He did say that he is expecting to make one or two major changes to his government very soon. And that's going to be it.


HOWELL: Let's talk about all this with Amy Greene. Amy is an American political science researcher and professional at Sciences Po, live for us in Paris via Skype. Good to have you with us at this hour.

Let's talk more about this possibility of more turnover at the White House. A source telling CNN the secretary of Veterans Affairs may soon be seeing the door. And also questions about whether John Kelly could also be on the bubble. What does this mean?

AMY GREENE, AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCHER: Yes, there was also some speculation about Ben Carson as well. We also had in addition to what you mentioned, George, the question of the secretary of defense wondering if he would be able to work with John Bolton in the capacity of national security adviser.

So what you see is a president perhaps sending a message that he is not shocked by the seeming revolving door coming in and out of the White House. But truly you see that the type of staff turnover, which is particularly elevated.

When you add that fact to the fact of having a number of appointments, for example, at state but not just in the State Department, that have yet to be filled, more than a year after the inauguration of this president, you can see that his leadership strategy looks nothing like previous presidents which liked to surround themselves with expertise.

Whereas, you have here a president who clearly believes himself to be the best strategist, the best policy adviser and the clear master of the different issues at stake when we know that politics can't run that way.

HOWELL: All right. But John Kelly, a big question there. Will he stay or will he go? We'll have to wait and see. But the president's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski even suggested President Trump may choose to be his own chief of staff. Listen.


COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He is the decision- making, and he loves to have all the information brought to him. I see him as the hub with a number of spokes coming out. And candidly, I'm not advocating for General Kelly to leave. I think he should stay.

But if he were to go, I don't think there is one person who is the chosen one to step in and fill that role. So it couldn't see a scenario where the president is giving instructions to a small core group of individuals who are then implementing on his behalf.


HOWELL: So, again, General Kelly brought in really to guard the president, to police about who has access to the president of the United States. But here Lewandowski suggesting that the president I supposed could police himself?

GREENE: Yes, I mean, it seems -- it seems like a bit of a tricky proposition. I think it also sort of misunderstands, you know, sort of what the role of chief of staff could be. Perhaps it's just a line that the, you know, the people around the president, the president's entourage are spreading, you know, in order to save them from the embarrassment of losing from someone like Kelly who has, you know, lasted beyond what perhaps people imagined and has been seen as doing a decent job with some gaps.

So really, the question is does the president actually believe this, or is this sort of a political talking point in order to stave off further embarrassment. But nonetheless, I mean, perhaps the president sees himself as being the hub.

But in any case, the chief of staff is really there to protect the president who should be just making decisions and obviously has other things to worry about than arbitrating between the different currents and the different opinions within his staff. The chief of staff is there to do that. [03:14:56] So if he were not able to keep John Kelly on board, I think

that would be quite embarrassing for the president and it would need to be spun in a significant way.

HOWELL: All right. So the constantly changing cast of characters at the same time the Russia investigation continues onward. And the president's legal team seems in flux. Several attorneys turning down offers to work with the president for various reasons, though, he tweeted on Sunday many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me. Amy, if you could help square that circle.

GREENE: Yes. I mean, basically what you have here is a pushback from the legal community. It kind of goes into what we're just talking about with staff shake-ups which is that, you know, some of the complaints of the president's lawyers you see Dowd stepping down simply because or in part because the president doesn't listen to his advice.

You have a president of the United States who believes he is his best lawyer, who believes he is his best strategist, who knows how to do the job of lawyering better than his best lawyers would.

And so, it comes back into this question of the capacity to listen, the capacity to solicit expertise, the humility to understand that the president of the United States cannot fight every front, assuming that he is the primary expert on any of those issues.

So you have this notion within the legal community. And it's been reported that there is a stigma attached with working with the president in many law firms refused to be included in the discussions because it either sends a bad message to the rest of the legal community, or effectively they find themselves, you know, face-to-face with a potential client who in any case would be very little likely listen to the expertise and the counsel that they have to offer.

HOWELL: All right. And the last question here as we head into the week now we have to look back at the weekend. The hundreds of thousands of people who came together in rallies across the United States and around the world, quite frankly, demonstrating for gun rights in the United States. The President of the United States, though, not in Washington. He was in Florida when those demonstrations took place.

And aside from a statement released from the White House noting the Justice Department is establishing rules regarding bump stocks, no other word from President Trump on that matter this weekend. How does that play with the president moving into the week? This issue not going away.

GREENE: The issue is not going away. And the Republican Party should be, you know, quite concerned. We have a mass mobilization led by students who worked collectively who were able to mount this national movement, or at least crystallize a national sentiment that has been sort of label, I mean, we're able to materialize into this huge worldwide rally within the space of just a few weeks, essentially. What we see at this rally is this sort of youth awakening, kind of

comes along with the Trump -- with the Trump elections. This notion that young people have to be political agents. They have to take control of the political circumstances around them.

And you have a group of these young people who are, if they're not already eligible to vote, will by the time the midterms come around and have already begun to register en masse to be able to exercise this right.

So, clearly going into the week, it's not an issue that will be going away. Rick Santorum released a statement that, you know, high school students should learn CPR rather than worry about gun control. It's completely tone deaf.

The question now, how does the Republican Party regroup and how do they address the valid concerns of now what we see as a massive popular uprising to impose stricter gun control.

HOWELL: Many people did see that as a head scratcher. Amy Greene, thank you so much for your time.

GREENE: Thank you, George.

CHURCH: After this short break, a fire ripped through a shopping mall in a Siberian city. Fifty three people are dead. And many children appear to be among the victims.

HOWELL: Plus voting is underway in Egypt for the nation's president. But it's essentially a one-man race. CNN is live in Cairo with the report ahead. Stay with us.


CHURCH: At least 53 people have died in a fire at a shopping mall in south central Russia. Earlier, officials said 16 people were missing. We don't know yet what caused the fire on Sunday in the Siberian city of Kemerovo. Investigators believe the fire started in the cinema hall. The flames caused the roof for two movie theaters to collapse. About 47 people were injured.

HOWELL: And that shopping center was packed when the fire started. More than 100 people were evacuated. Witnesses say some people jumped from the windows trying to escape the flames.

On to Egypt now, where polls are open for the first day of the nation's presidential election. Voters have three days to cast their ballots, but there is little doubt that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will win a second term as president.

CHURCH: His campaign posters are plastered all over Cairo and you won't find many posters of his only remaining rival Mousa Mostafa Mousa. Critics say his candidacy is a sham, that he is a puppet of the government simply meant to legitimize the election after other contenders quit the race out of fear. Moussa, though, insists his campaign is for real. HOWELL: And CNN is live just outside of a polling location in Cairo.

Our Ian Lee following the story for us. Ian, why did the government make it so difficult for people to challenge Sisi?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, George, you know, at this polling station, this is one of 11,000 that are across the country. And we've been seeing people line up to vote. And you're right. They have just two options. You have President Abdel Fattah Sisi. And Moussa Mostafa Moussa.

That doesn't mean there weren't other people who tried to challenge the president. You had a former army general, Sami Anan, you had a former presidential candidate from 2012, Ahmed Shafik, a human rights lawyer, Khaled Ali, all very prominent people. All of them withdrew from the election for various reasons. Some citing intimidation from the government. Sami Anan, the general, he was actually arrested. They say he broke a number of laws in announcing his candidacy since he was from the military.

But when you talk to analysts, they say, you know, even when you stack the president up against all these different candidates, that he would probably still would win. Because President Sisi -- President Sisi still has a fair amount of popularity.

[03:25:04] They say that the one thing the government was afraid of and the reason why they had all these candidates withdraw is the fact that they don't want to have a real robust campaigning season where criticism could be launched at the president. And they don't want that to spiral out of control and create instability that we saw in 2011.

So, from what analysts are telling us, they wanted to clamp down early to stop any spread, any discontent, George.

HOWELL: OK. So from the looks of it, it looks like the conclusion of this election is a foregone conclusion that Sisi will win. But the broader question here, what does this election actually mean, then, Ian?

LEE: All right. So just look behind me real quick. This is a polling station. In the early morning hours we saw people who were lining up here, getting in to vote. Further down they got some music playing, there have people with shirts that are trying to encourage people to come out and vote that say Egypt first, the play off Donald Trump's famous slogan. They also have get down and vote. A

And that's the real thing here, George, is turnout. How many people are actually going to come out. President Sisi is essentially for again conclusion that he is going to become the president again. So how many people are going to feel the urge to go out and support him, giving him a broad mandate.

When you look at previous elections, presidential elections here in 2012 and 2014, the voter turnout was around 50 percent, so that is the benchmark really of a good turnout. Around 50 percent. Anything lower and it won't be that broad consensus. Anything more and, George, that's a mandate. HOWELL: All right. Ian, we'll continue to follow it. Thank you so

much for your time and reporting in Cairo.

CHURCH: Another story we're following. Catalonia's ex-president is reportedly set to appear before a German judge on Monday. Carles Puigdemont was arrested in Germany on a European warrant after crossing the border Sunday.

He has been living in self-imposed exile from Spain since the Catalonia independence referendum last September.

HOWELL: The Spanish government wants to charge him with sedition and rebellion. But Puigdemont's attorney doesn't believe that he'll be extradited.

In Barcelona, protests broke out on Sunday after the news of Puigdemont's arrest. Clashes with police erupted and pro-Catalan separatist. Authorities some people suffered minor injuries.

CHURCH: We'll take a quick break. But still to come, the Kremlin has its eyes on Washington. The U.S. president is weighing a decision to expel Russian diplomats after the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter. The latest from Moscow in just a moment.

HOWELL: Plus deep in the heart of the United States and the front line against nuclear missile threats. An exclusive look inside the U.S. Strategic Command as CNN Newsroom pushes on.


CHURCH: A very warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States, and of course, all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Let's get you updated on the headlines we're following for you this hour.

Saudi Arabia says it intercepted seven missiles fired into its territory from Yemen on Sunday. A Saudi official reports all the missiles were destroyed, but an Egyptian national was killed by falling debris. Riyadh accuses the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels of launching those missiles.

CHURCH: At least 53 people were killed in a fire at a shopping mall in the city of Kemerovo in south central Russia on Sunday. Officials say about 16 people are missing. Many of the victims are feared to be children. It's unclear what caused that fire.

HOWELL: A porn star in the United States says she was threatened into keeping quiet about an alleged affair with Donald Trump before he became president. In an interview on the CBS program 60 Minutes, Stormy Daniels said that a man approached her and her infant daughter in a parking lot. This back in 2011 and suggested something could happen to Daniels if she told her story. The White House denies the affair.

CHURCH: Now during the CBS interview, Stormy Daniels refused to confirm whether she has evidence of an affair with President Trump.

HOWELL: But her attorney has hinted at it. He says this isn't just a salacious story about a porn star and the president. Here is what he had to say.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: This is about the cover- up. This is about the extent that Mr. Cohen and the president have gone to intimidate this woman, to silence her, to threaten her, and to put her under their thumb. It is thuggish behavior from people in power. And it has no place in American democracy.


CHURCH: Moscow is urging the United States to show restraint as President Trump considers expelling a group of Russian diplomats in response to a chemical attack in England.

HOWELL: The Russian embassy issued a statement saying this in part, quote, "Russia-U.S. relations are so multilayered, strategic stability of the entire world depends on it. They should not be taken hostage by such clearly staged stories."

CHURCH: And CNN's Matthew Chance joins me now from Moscow with more. Matthew, now we are getting word that President Trump considering a recommendation to expel a group of Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of this former Russian agent and his daughter. How is this news being received in Moscow? We've heard some reaction there. But what's the word that you're hearing?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think publicly they're playing it down. But behind the scenes, there is bound to be some concern. Not least because this isn't just the United States. That's potentially about to announce expulsions of Russian diplomats, but other countries as well in the European Union are also considering the option of expelling Russian diplomats from their countries or possibly recalling their own diplomats from Moscow.

And so what we're seeing is a concerted international rebuke on Russia. By the United States, the European Union and of course Britain. This all follows the expulsion just last week of 23 British diplomats, which was in itself a response to the expulsion from Britain of 23 Russian diplomats.

And so I suppose the danger is from the Russian point of view that this whole situation could spiral into a never-ending tit for tat. I expect what the concern is in Moscow right now.

[03:35:04] CHURCH: Yes, and if the United States and perhaps these other countries does go ahead with the expulsion of these Russian diplomats, what might Moscow do in response?

CHANCE: Well, Moscow has made it clear certainly in the case of other countries that are considering expelling Russian diplomats that it will respond in kind. When the British expelled 23 Russian diplomats following the decision by the British government after they said that Russia was highly likely to have carried out the nerve agent attack in Salisbury against Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, Russia didn't waste any time at all in announcing the 23 British diplomats would also be expelled.

They also went further than that, you may remember. They closed down the British consulate general in St. Petersburg and shut down the operations of the British Council which is a cultural exchange organization funded by the British government.

So a tit for tat response is what we can expect, but possibly more than that. I mean, the Russians are not adverse to escalating in their response even further.

CHURCH: We'll watch this very closely and see what happens. Our Matthew Chance joining us live from Moscow where it is after 10.30 in the morning. Many thanks to you.

Well, now to a CNN exclusive. We go inside the underground bunker where the U.S. Strategic Command is on alert for nuclear missiles around the world, around the clock.

HOWELL: Its mission isn't just to track threats but also to respond to a nuclear attack.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more on this CNN exclusive.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: If a nuclear-tipped missile is launched anywhere in the world, the U.S. military instantly responds. Four-star general John Hyten is alerted as soon as any missile threat is detected. He comes out of his office, head down these stairs to is bunker deep underground in Omaha, Nebraska.


JOHN HYTEN, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES STRATEGIC COMMAND: This is the battle deck at U.S. Strategic Command.


STARR: General Hyten in charge of the U.S. nuclear arsenal watches along with his highly disciplined staff 24/7 for all incoming ballistic missiles.


HYTEN: I have six computer screens in my office. They all go off there is a verbal alarm that goes off, those people are telling me, there are executives telling me there's about 10 different ways to make sure that the commander knows that it's time to move.


STARR: Ready to advise President Trump on how to deter enemies, and if needed launch a U.S. attack. CNN was given exclusive access to the general. We were there when an actual missile alert sounded.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry, we have to ask you to leave for a moment.


STARR: The op center had just picked up signals of likely Russian missiles fired in Syria. Every time the alarm sounds, highly classified data detailing the threat is sent instantly to General Hyten. In this case, the launch was quickly assessed as not a threat to the U.S.


HYTEN: Our strategic forces are always ready to respond, and everybody should know that, that they're ready this minute under the ground, under the sea, in the air, we are ready to respond to any threat. And the adversaries of the world, including Kim Jong-un, have to know that.


STARR: Hyten watches diplomatic action carefully but worries about missiles and bombs North Korea's Kim Jong-un may still have hidden away.


STARR: Your gut says he still kept building?

HYTEN: Well, I'm confident he didn't stop building things when he stopped launching things. Now I can't go into the intelligence, but I've worked with rockets a long time. I know how long they take to build.


STARR: Strategic Command is also keeping a close eye on Vladimir Putin's claim of new high-speed Russian intercontinental attack weapons.


HYTEN: We have very good intelligence capabilities, and we watch very closely. So nothing he said surprised me.


STARR: In a real world emergency, there is an urgent scramble.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had to get the president of the United States on the phone. STARR: Secretary of defense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary of defense, yes, ma'am.

STARR: Secretary of state?


STARR: CIA director?


STARR: There is nobody you can't --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, ma'am, there is nobody we can't get on the phone.

STARR: General Hyten can rapidly brief the president.


HYTEN: The pictures that we see on the screen will tell me exactly where the missile is, how high it is, how fast it is going, where the impact point. All those kind of issues happen in a matter of a small number of minutes.


STARR: And if a missile is headed for the U.S., that's when this safe, which sits under a desk, get opened. Inside an exact copy of President Trump's nuclear launch checklists.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In this room, there are only two people that can have access this that safe. That is me as the battle watch commander and my strike adviser. Nobody else can touch it. One of us has to be in this room at all times.


STARR: General Hyten would be one of the first to know if President Trump orders a nuclear launch.


[03:40:00] HYTEN: He asked me very hard questions. He wants to know exactly how it would work.


STARR: But for the general and his team, success is never taking the nuclear code out of the safe because that means deterrent has worked.


HYTEN: If somebody launches a nuclear weapon against us, we launch one back. They launch another. We launch another. They launch to, we launch. You're on an escalation ladder that ends up nowhere. The key is to stop that behavior before it gets bad.


HOWELL: Barbara Starr there. Thank you.

CHURCH: All right. We'll take a short break here. But still to come, Bill Gates is using his clout to push for change in Nigeria. The message the billionaire is sending the government. That is next. Back in a moment.


HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN newsroom.

CHURCH: Yes, Bill Gates is committed to investigating more than a billion dollars in Nigeria where the current administration has faced criticism for inaction on key issues like terrorism and the sluggish economy.

HOWELL: And now Gates, in an exclusive interview with CNN, is calling on the government to do more.

CNN's David McKenzie spoke to the billionaire philanthropist and he joins live this hour in Johannesburg. It's good to have you with us, David. Mr. Gates had a very clear message to any potential candidates. What did he have to say?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he certainly said that it was time to speak out. And this is highly unusual that Bill Gates will speak openly like this. Particularly in a forum when he was in fact in some ways lecturing the president of Nigeria to do better.

Take a look.


MCKENZIE: This is where Bill Gates is quietly spending more than $1.6 billion of his fortune. His money helping to eradicate the scourge of polio in Nigeria. But grinding poverty remains. And for many, an absence of political leadership.


MCKENZIE: So the once silent partner is speaking out.

[03:45:01] GATES: I am saying that the current plan is inadequate.

MCKENZIE: Directed squarely at politicians, the public rebuke is a rare departure for Gates and his foundation. But it comes as a critical time. Africa's biggest economy is heading into the 2019 election was the continent's largest youth population. Nearly eight million of them are unemployed.

Why are you thinking that it's good to give hard facts to Nigerian leaders right now?

GATES: Well, Nigeria has all these young people. And the current quality and quantity of investment in this young generation, the health and education just isn't good enough. And so I was very direct.

MCKENZIE: In many ways, the informal sector is the engine of Nigeria's economy. But many people here will tell you that the growth of Africa's biggest economy is in spite of the government, not because of it.

Out on the streets they say the government is often absent, or present in the form of an official asking for a bribe. Nigeria is rated one of the most corrupt countries.

So, you know, what do you think of the message that Bill Gates is bringing here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bill Gates is saying the truth.

MCKENZIE: Moses Atendu (Ph) works in a bank near the market. He says vendors like this women selling IFFO don't have steady electricity and they can't access loans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All these people are trying to survive.

MCKENZIE: And are they being helped?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Strong will to survive every day.

MCKENZIE: The government says it has welcomed Gates' message and is working to do better for the people. A population that by 2050, will be bigger than in the United States.

Do you see the potential for Nigeria when you visit people in this country and go out on to the streets?

GATES: I really do think of all the countries I've seen, it really hangs in the balance. If they can get health and education right, they will be an engine of growth not just for themselves, which will be those 400 million people, but for all of Africa.

MCKENZIE: Moses says Nigerians don't need to be given much to succeed.


MCKENZIE: If they could just be provided with the basics. He says the talent of Nigerians will shine through.


MCKENZIE: Well, the story of Nigeria is really one of the potential for the entire African continent. The per capita GDP, George, has been steadily rising, but a study commissioned by Gates suggests that if they don't invest in health and education, that real progress could flat line, and you could see the huge youth population in Nigeria being a risk to the country and not a bonus. George?

HOWELL: David, we heard just a bit the sentiment on the street. But the broader question, do Nigerians feel the politicians will actually listen to Gates' message?

MCKENZIE: Well certainly people we spoke to welcomed the message of Gates and his partners in the country and appreciate the tough talk as it were from someone who is normally a pretty behind the scenes.

But there is a sense of a reality check maybe. We spoke to human rights lawyer who works for one of the biggest nongovernmental organizations there. He said, well, it will all be proved through the actions. He says they and others have been telling the government to do better for years now, to limit corruption and to work on health and infrastructure.

If you just go down those markets and those streets you see how the power goes out all of the time. And people cannot access loans. So, many of them don't bother paying tax. The problems for Nigeria to get itself into that middle income territory is a very difficult to overcome. But many people think that now is the time to do it if they're going to do it at all. George?

HOWELL: David McKenzie live for us in Johannesburg, thank you for the report.

Still ahead here on newsroom, how pro basketball players are demanding change after an unarmed man was killed by police.

CHURCH: Plus, the pope celebrates Palm Sunday and delivers an encouraging message to the world's youth. We'll have that in just a moment.


CHURCH: More questions in Sacramento, California about the police shooting of an unarmed African-American man a week ago. Investigators are looking into why the audio feed on two of the body cameras the officers wore were turned off after the shooting. And what they discussed after the sound died.

HOWELL: Police fired 20 bullets at 22-year-old Stephon Clark who was in his grandmother's backyard. About seven minutes later, an officer can be heard saying hey, mute. Then the video goes silent. Officers say they believe Clark had a gun but later found it was just a cell phone.

Sacramento's hometown pro basketball team is channeling the community's outrage over the shooting. The Sacramento Kings paid tribute to Stephon Clark on Sunday before their game against the Boston Celtics. Both teams wore warm-ups featuring Clark's name and the slogan accountability, we are one. CHURCH: Members of both teams also appeared in a public service

announcement that played during that game.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Black, white, brown, we are one.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will not stick to sports. We will not shut up and dribble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is bigger than basketball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Change can be uncomfortable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Change is necessary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to act.





CHURCH: The National Basketball Association backed the show of support for activists against police brutality.

Well, the pope is urging young people to keep speaking out. Palm Sunday this year coincided with World Youth Day. It also came one day after survivors of the Florida high school shooting massacre led massive rallies against gun violence in the U.S. and around the globe.

[03:55:04] HOWELL: During the pope's Palm Sunday address, he urged young people to keep fighting and to keep making their voices heard.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. Just keep quiet.

There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive. It is up to you not to keep quiet, even if others keep quiet. If we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you, will you cry out? Please, please, make that choice. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Some powerful words there from the pope. And we want to thank you for watching CNN Newsroom this hour. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell. For our viewers here in the United States, Early Start is next. For viewers around the world, news continues with our colleague Max Foster live in London. Thanks for watching CNN Newsroom, the world's news leader.

CHURCH: Have a great day.