Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

U.S. Big Banks to the Rescue for First Republic's Infusion; European Shares Rebounds after Credit Suisse Lifeline; U.S. Authorities Released Video on the Black Sea Encounter; Poland Pledges Four Fighter Jets to Ukraine; Three Hospital Employees Charged over Virginia Man's Death; Tornado, Hail hit Central US states; Trump's Face Legal Woes on Multiple Fronts; Protest Intensify in Israel; Protests Erupts in France Over Pension; Finnish President Visits Turkey; Massive Seaweed Bloom Heads to Florida. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 17, 2023 - 03:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. Ahead on "CNN Newsroom".

Big banks pumped billions of US Dollars into a troubled regional one. Will that be enough to calm the fears of investors and stop the contagion from spreading?

Three more arrests following the death of this black man in a Virginia state hospital, that brings the total number of second-degree murder charges in the case to 10.

And, a tornado in Texas, and that's not all. Severe weather hits parts of the U.S.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is "CNN Newsroom" with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will be back on Capitol Hill hoping to assure lawmakers there's no crisis with American banks. Sources tell CNN she pulled together a deal for 11 major banks to deliver a $30 billion infusion to First Republic, the latest regional bank on the verge of failing. Here she is.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I can reassure the members of our committee that the banking system is sound and that Americans can feel confident that their deposits will be there when they need them. This week's actions demonstrate our resolute commitment to ensure our financial system remains strong and the depositary savings remain safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRUNHUBER: The banking turmoil has sent stock prices on a wild ride over the past week. And the need for a $53 billion loan for Credit Suisse has rattled international markets, as you can see, there they're up right now.

Michael Hiltzik is a business columnist for the L.A. Times, and he joins me now from Los Angeles. Thanks so much for being here with us. How worried should we be about a systemic meltdown here?

MICHAEL HILTZIK, BUSINESS COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I think the chance of a systemic meltdown has largely passed. The fact that 11 banks stepped up to rescue First Republic, that's a good sign, that's a sign that banking industry, in general, recognizes that a lot of these banks realize this has come under pressure from shareholders, and share investors are essentially solvent and solid. And they just need help to through this moment of chaos.

BRUNHUBER: I've been following your columns. You've been writing about what brought us here. The fact that SVB's problems were hiding in plain sight, as you said. So why is that? And what does that say about the current of our -- oversight of our banking system?

HILTZIK: Well, it's not a good sign for the -- for the level oversight in our system, and I think the fed, which is -- which was the primary regulator of Silicon Valley Bank, is going to come under a lot of scrutiny. In fact, they've started their own self-examination.

The question is going to be why wasn't the fed really scrutinizing banks like SVB more closely, when it knew its own regime of raising interest rates was going to give these banks a certain amount of heartburn, and that's exactly what happened.

Banks were all holding long-dated securities, treasury securities, government-backed agency mortgage securities. And we all know that when interesting rates are on the rise, the value of those securities declines.

So this is something that the fed really should have been on top of, going back a year. And it should have been really pressing, said the managements of these banks, to explain what they were going to do about the changing trend.

BRUNHUBER: The talk now is how to prevent this from happening again. Certainly, part of the conversation was the deregulation of banks that happened during the last administration. So what more needs to be done do you think? And is there the political will to do it?

HILTZIK: I think at this point, there's a lot of political will to do something. The question is what. I think, making sure that the fed takes much more seriously its responsibility to monitor the safety and sound of the banking system, that's topic A on Capitol Hill, no doubt.


BRUNHUBER: Trading gets under way next hour in European markets after the European Central Bank raised interest rates half a point to fight inflation.

We'll get more now from CNN's Clare Sebastian.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Despite the recent turmoil in the financial markets and despite this decision coming on the same day a major European bank, Credit Suisse, was forced to borrow more than $50 billion from the Swiss Central Bank. The European Central Bank stuck to its guns, going ahead with a half-percent rate raise in its blitz to Telegraph last month. Why?

The ECB president Christne Lagarde was very clear. Inflation at 8.5 percent in the euro area is too high, and they're not seeing progress in bringing it down.

They are, however, she said, closely monitoring the financial markets, keeping a close eye on whether banks' tightening on lending. They have other policy tools, she said, to tackle that while fighting inflation at the same time.

CHRISTINE LAGARDE, EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK PRESIDENT: I believe that there's no trade-off between price stability and financial stability. And I think that, if anything with this decision, we're demonstrating this. We are addressing the price stability issue, by raising the interest rate by 50 basis points, which is what we have intended, and because inflation is projected to remain way above our target and for too long. And separate from that, we also are monitoring market tensions. We stand ready to provide any kind of additional facilities if needed.

SEBASTIAN: Stocks in Europe closed higher, Thursday. At the rack of that, Credit Suisse gaining 19 percent, reversing most of Wednesday's losses despite lingering questions about whether the credit lines from Swiss National Bank is enough or whether it might end up being taken over. European banks overall though were mixed. Investors here in Europe, just as in the U.S. worried that still more problems could come to light.

Clare Sebastian, CNN, London.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. military is assessing its drone operations in the Black Sea region after that encounter with Russian fighter jets earlier this week. Officials tell CNN Russia has recovered some small debris from the drone, which crashed the waters south of Ukraine. U.S. has also released a video that it that says shows the Russians are lying about forcing down the aircraft.

We have more now from CNN's Natasha Bertrand.


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER (voice-over): This is the moment just before a Russian fighter jet collided with a U.S. drone over the Black Sea. The thick plumes of smoke, jet fuel being vented by Russian SU-27 as it passes. We don't see the moment of impact, but here's the propeller of the MQ-9 Reaper drone undamaged and here it is later, clearly damaged.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It had to have been some kind of an impact. And I don't think, you know, while the fuel spill on top of the aircraft, on top of the MQ-9 would have been significant, I don't think it would have caused that damage.

BERTRAND (voice-over): The newly-declassified footage appears to directly contradict Russia's claim that the aircraft did not make physical contact.

ANATOLY ANTONOV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: There was no collision, you see that, and the problem is that we did not contact to this drone.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STRATEGIC COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS (voice-over): The Russians have been just flat out lying. Flat out lied about their accounts.

BERTRAND (voice-over): The U.S. has not yet determined whether the pilots intended to directly hit the drone, forcing the U.S. military to crash the drone into the black sea some 80 nautical miles from land.

GEN. MARK MILEY, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We know the intercept was intentional. We know that the aggressive behavior was intentional, we also know very unprofessional and very unsafe. The actual contact of the fixed wing Russian fighter with our UAV, the physical contact of those two, not sure yet.

BERTRAND (voice-over): But CNN is learning that the Russian pilots did not go rogue. U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence say the pilots were ordered to harass the drone by senior officials and Russia's defense ministry. For now, the drone's wreckage fate is unclear.

The U.S. has no naval assets in the Black Sea that can readily retrieve it and the Russians have already reached the crash site and recovered some small pieces of debris. But the U.S. took steps to wipe the drone software, officials tell CNN, making it highly unlikely that Moscow will glean anything valuable from its remnants.

MILEY: We did take mitigating measures. So we're quite confident that whatever was of value is no longer of value.

BERTRAND (on-camera): CNN has also learning tonight that the U.S. military is conducting a review of the drone operations over the Black Sea to better assess how to deconflict with the Russian fighter jets that are operating in roughly the same area.

However, there's not currently a moratorium on drone flights in the region because we are told that the U.S. actually conducted another surveillance mission using roughly the same kind of drone in approximately the same area of the Black Sea just hours after the collision took place between the Russian fighter jets and the U.S. MQ- 9 reaper drone.

Natashia Bertrand, CNN, at the Pentagon.



BRUNHUBER: Ukraine is about to receive fighter jets from a NATO country for the first time on Thursday, Poland promised to deliver four of its MiG-29 planes left over from the Soviet-era.

And for more on this, Salma Abdelaziz joins us from London. So Salma, what more can you tell us, what impact that might have and whether it will spur other nato countries, the U.S., for instance, to follow suit.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A hugely significant move, Kim, from Poland, a country that feels like it's on the front line of this war, now promising, now pledging to give, just in a matter of days, four MiG fighter jets. These are Soviet air jets that were about 30 years old. So, they were near the end of their life span, if you will.

Now, Poland saying they're sprucing them up. They're going to send them, of course, to Ukraine as quickly as possible. You can't really emphasize just how much Poland has been impacted by this war.

Russian missiles have landed right up near that border. It was Poland that had to receive millions of refugees, millions of people displaced by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. So it seems quite logical to see that Poland is making this precedent setting, this precedent a meeting this long standing Ukrainian request for fighter jets for aircrafts for planes to support its military's fight.

But the question is, does this put more pressure on other allies, on other NATO members, and particularly the United States? You'll remember, it was just a few weeks ago that President Biden had to respond directly and publicly to President Zelenskyy's repeated pleas for F-16 fighter jets from the United States. President Biden saying, at the time, that the U.S. military had assessed it was not necessary that the fighter jets were not needed by Kyiv's army at the time.

And now, top U.S. officials emphasizing, that is still the case, despite Poland's move. I want to read you something that John Kirby, a top U.S. official, said in response to this announcement from Poland. "It doesn't change our calculus with respect to F-16s. These are sovereign decisions for any country and we respect those sovereign decisions."

What's important to note here in the bigger context, Kim, is just how extraordinary this is. At the beginning of the conflict, a decision to provide fighter jets would be seen as escalatory, would be concerning to NATO and other allies because, it would be viewed, that may be potentially Moscow would see that as direct participation in the conflict, and that would further provoke the war.

But what's -- what we're learning as we go through this conflict, is what was seen as escalatory and dangerous at the beginning is now necessary and required on the front lines. You're seeing allies really becoming more and more flexible as they meet the demands on those battlefields.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, the ground is shifting. Salma Abdelaziz, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

The Russian installed leader of the occupied parts of the Donetsk region says there's no signs of Ukrainian forces giving up on the city of Bakhmut. But he claims the city's only remaining supply line is coming under stronger Russian fire.

David McKenzie has more.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the moment a Ukrainian soldier downs a Russian jet near Bakhmut, according to Ukrainian authorities, as both sides are publicly confident in their battle to control the city. With fewer than 3,000 civilians remaining, Bakhmut has been effectively destroyed, amid the ongoing Russian offensive. But Ukrainians are unwilling to let go, despite their heavy losses.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There was a clear position of the entire command, strengthen the sector, and destroy the occupiers to the maximum.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): To counter the onslaught, Ukraine needs equipment and ammunition. President Zelenskyy has long-called for fighter jets. In a significant move today, Poland says it will provide several of its Soviet-era MiG-29 combat planes in the coming days.

ANDRZEJ DUDA, POLISH PRESIDENT (through translator): we will hand over four aircraft to Ukraine. The remaining machines are being prepared and serviced for handover.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): A move Ukraine hopes will inspire others to speed up their support.

OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): It's particularly important to quickly provide Ukraine with the necessary ammunition.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): For both sides, the situation on the front line remains complicated. And troops from Russia's Wagner private military group have made very limited gains in the last week in Bakhmut, gains that U.S. military officials say are coming at enormous cost.

MILEY: Right now, there's intense fighting in and around Bakhmut. And the Russians are making small, tactical advances, but at great costs.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): according to the American research group, the Institute for the Study of War, these small advancements at the great expense of manpower, artillery and equipment, may hinder Wagner's ability to surround the city.


Its chief, Yugeni Pergushion (ph), who has recruited as many as 40,000 prisoners for this fight, according to a White House official, has repeatedly criticized Moscow over the lack of ammunition to supply his fighters. But his mercenaries are holding firm, persisting with the offensive in and around Bakhmut and so are the Ukrainian troops.

UNKNOWN (through translator): The enemy constantly attempts to attack us. And we defend our positions quite effectively. We've been standing here for quite long already. And our brigade hasn't given up any positions.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): A show of defiance as Ukraine hopes it will get more military support in time for a possible counter-offense.

David McKenzie, CNN, Kyiv.


BRUNHUBER: The United Nations is pressing Russia for a longer extension of its green deal with Ukraine. Moscow says it has agreed to extend the deal for 60 days after it expires this Saturday. But the U.N. says the original agreement negotiated last year requires a 120- day extension. Moscow later blamed U.N. incompetence for the different timeline, which the UN denied. Turkey, which helped brokered the original agreement, says it's helping to help resolve the issue.

Alright, much more to come on "CNN Newsroom".

Three Virginia hospital employees are charged with second-degree murder in the death of a black man in custody. More of that story after the break.

And later, severe weather watches are still in place across portions of the U.S. We will tell you about Thursday's wild weather, and what Friday has in store, coming up. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: More people have been arrested after a man died at a mental health facility in Virginia. Three hospital employees have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Irvo Otieno. Seven sheriff's deputies are also charged.

CNN's Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three more people charged with second-degree murder in the death of the 28-year old Irvo Otieno in custody. All three are employees of the Central State Hospital Mental Health Facility in Virginia where Otieno was taken on March 6th. That's in addition to seven sheriff's deputies already charged with second-degree murder.

CAROLINE OUKU, MOTHER OF IRVO OTIENO: He was murdered. He's murdered the breath out of my baby. They murdered my baby.

TODD (voice-over): His family has now seen video of the fatal incident.

LEON OCHIENG, BROTHER OF IRVO OTIENO: At what point do we stop preserving life? At what point do we consider mental illness a crime?

TODD (voice-over): Prosecutors say Otieno died of asphyxiation after being held down for 11 or 12 minutes.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR OTIENO FAMILY: Restrained so brutally, with a knee on his neck, the weight of seven individuals on his body, while he's facedown, handcuffed, with leg irons.

TODD (voice-over): Otieno was arrested on March 3rd after police say they responded to a burglary call next door to his home. And took him to the hospital for evaluation, where he became quote, "physically Assaultive." His mother says she pleaded with the police.

OUKU: They pulled him off treatment, took him to jail, didn't take him down with any medicine.

TODD (voice-over): After a weekend in jail, where prosecutors say video shows Otieno was pepper sprayed, punched and mistreated, he was brought to the Central State Mental Facility on March 6th, where authorities alleged he became combative.

CRUMP: And the videos are never confrontational with them. He is not posing a threat to them. He's not violent or aggressive with them.

TODD (voice-over): In court this week, an early glimpse of the deputy's potential defense. One lawyer citing this --

EDWARD NICKEL, ATTORNEY FOR DEPUTY BRADLEY DISSE: The ongoing issues that he had been -- that they had been having with this individual with regards to his disorderly conduct, with regards to his aggression, with regards to his resistance.

TODD (voice-over): But his family says he needed help.

(on-camera): What do you want to see happen to these deputies, either of you?

OUKU: Justice. I would like them put away, if you ask me, for life that they don't see the light of day again. What they did to my son was horrific, horrific.

TODD (on-camera): We've reached out to the Central State Hospital Mental Health facility for their response to three of their employees being charged with second-degree murder. We've not heard back.

We have also reached out to the attorneys identified so far for the seven deputies charged. We heard back in detail from the lawyers for just one of them, Deputy Bradley Disse, who told us their client looks forward to being vindicated in court.

Brian Todd, CNN, Dinwiddie County, Virginia.


BRUNHUBER: Millions of people in Central U.S. face the threat of severe weather, Thursday night. Tornado watches were issued for portions of Texas and Oklahoma, along with southwestern Arkansas, and northwestern Louisiana. At least one tornado was spotted near Fort Worth, Texas. Sirens in nearby communities like Richardson warned residents to take shelter. The manager at a local car dealership described what it was like. Here he is.


DAVID MULLINS, GENERAL MANAGER, AUTOS OF DALLAS: I looked up. And you can see it was coming from this way. And then, this was coming from this way. And you can see circulation in it. So, I thought it would be best for everybody to get inside, and right at that time, it just like quadrupled in density with the storm.


BRUNHUBER: The weather system also brought heavy rain and hail. Even the airport took precautions, quickly moving passengers to the basement during a tornado warning.

CNN Meteorologist Derek van Dam has more now on the Severe Weather Thursday, and what's in store across the U.S. today.


DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They say, everything is Bigger in Texas. And apparently, that includes the size of the hail that falls from the sky. Just get a load of this comparison picture.


This is coming out of the greater Dallas-Fort Worth region, just west of Fort Worth, in fact. That's a clementine, and that is a three-inch hailstone. You certainly don't want to be end of that, when it falls from a thunderstorm cloud, right?

These are the reports coming in from the National Weather Service. Just really impressive hailstones that fell from Fort Worth to Weatherford as well as Mineral Wells, two and a half to Three inches, that's the size of hailstones.

There was also 12 reports of wind damage, 49 reports of hail damage in particular. But the National Weather Service highlights some of the larger hailstones that were reported. Those are two inches or larger in diameter. And there was actually nine reports of that and you saw a picture of just that a moment ago.

Now, there's still the potential of severe weather as this line moves eastward. So, heads up Shreveport to Lake Charles. This is a scenario that will see the line of storms move through the overnight hours and into the early morning hours of Friday across the Gulf Coast region.

Here it is on our forecast radar. There's the showers and thunderstorms kind of picking up some of that moisture. Maybe, perhaps, a little bit of circulation from the Gulf of Mexico. But they start to peter out as you get into the middle of the day on Friday. And really, we just focus our attention on precipitation though along the entire Eastern Seaboard.

Here's a chance for severe weather for Friday. Damaging winds, can't rule out on tornado, although the risk is not as high as we experienced on Thursday. Panama City, Mobile to New Orleans. The 30a corridor right along the Florida panhandle has a potential for some strong to severe weather.

Look at the rainfall totals across that region, could see 1 to 3 inches locally. And we're anticipating some snowfall across the Great Lakes. In fact, lake-enhanced snowfall possible across the Upper Peninsula into portions of Minnesota as well as Wisconsin. So, look out for 6 to 12 inches of snowfall across that region.

Back to you.


BRUNHUBER: Donald Trump is facing increasing legal jeopardy. We'll have details on internal investigations and multiple jurisdictions.

And new protests are underway in France after the government forced through controversial pension reform. It's not going over well. We'll have the story after the break.

Please, stay with us.



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is "CNN Newsroom."

Several investigations into former U.S. President Donald Trump are heating up with possible indictments in the works. CNN's Paula Reid has the story.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Trump facing increasing legal jeopardy and criminal investigations in multiple jurisdictions. In Washington, D.C., a former White House aide, Margo Martin, who followed Trump to Mar-a- Lago, appeared before a grand jury as a part of the special counsel's investigation into classified documents found at the Florida estate.

And his former fixer and personal attorney, Michael Cohen, appearing twice this week before a grand jury in New York, investigating hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

MICAHEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY: It was like they -- it was being on trial.

REID (voice-over): Cohen had already met with investigators 20 times to share what he knows.

COHEN: What I can tell you is that they are questioning of me started out at like 35,000 feet. And by the time that I hit the 20th interview, we're down to like three feet, ready to land. The grand jury was the actual takeoff back to, we'll call it accountability- ville.

REID (voice-over): Cohen helped to facilitate $130,000 in payments to Daniels right before the 2016 election. Daniels also spoke with investigators Wednesday via Zoom. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has invited the former president to testify as is the right of potential defendants in New York, but he declined and his lawyer says if he is indicted, that would actually catapult him back to the White House.

JOE TACOPINA, DONALD TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I think it will ultimately embolden him, embolden his supporters and give him more strength. Plus, it will be proven to be wrongly accused.

REID (voice-over): And down in Georgia, the Atlanta Journal- Constitution spoke with five jurors who served on the Fulton County's special grand jury investigating Trump's actions in the state after the 2020 election, revealing they had heard a previously undisclosed recording of a conversation between Trump and the late former Georgia house speaker, David Ralston where Trump pushed for him to call a special legislative session to overturn Joe Biden's win in the state.

A source confirmed the existence of a recording to CNN. One of the jurors recalled Ralston basically cut the president off, telling Trump, I will do everything in my power that I think is appropriate. Ralston has since died and the recording has not been made public. But it echoes the now infamous call made to Georgia's secretary of state around the same time.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE U NITED STATES OF AMERICA: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.

REID (on camera): And CNN has learned that Special Counsel Jack Smith has subpoenaed dozens of Mar-a-Lago staffers in his investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents. We've learned from sources that he has subpoenaed everyone from close aides to housekeepers, groundskeepers, even servers at the resort. They want to know if anyone has seen or heard anything related to classified documents or boxes that could have contained classified materials. Paula Reid, CNN, New York.


BRUNHUBER: Protests intensified for another day in Israel against the government's plan to overhaul the judicial system.


In Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and cities across the country, crowds packed the streets and expressed their discontent. Protesters say the planned legal reforms would weaken the country's courts and erode the judiciary's ability to check the power of other government branches. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the proposed changes while in Berlin on Thursday for a meeting with the German leader.

Netanyahu insists the reforms don't threaten Israeli democracy. Chancellor Olaf Scholz says that Germany is monitoring the situation with great concern.

After weeks of strikes and demonstrations across France, the Macron government has pushed through unpopular pension reform plan igniting tremendous anger. Have a look.


New protests are underway right now in Paris. These images just coming in that appear to show union members blocking a road. Workers are furious over the retirement age being raised from 62 to 64. On Thursday, clashes erupted between demonstrators and riot police with fires set in the streets. Leaders are already organizing a new strike for next week.


CATHERINE PERRET, LEADER WITH CGT UNION (through translation): Given the support from a vast majority of the population that has mobilized for weeks. The unions continue to independently demand the withdrawal of this reform with calm and determined action. They have decided to call for a new day of strikes and demonstrations to be held March 23rd.


BRUNHUBER: The (inaudible) reforms were supposed to be voted on by the national assembly where the bill would have been defeated. So, the Macron government is using special constitutional powers to enact the bill. When lawmakers realized their vote was being skipped, they jeered the prime minister. Listen.


BRUNHUBER: Some even sang the national anthem. The prime minister, who delivered the news, came face to face with the backlash. Have a look.


ELISABETH BORNE, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translation): I wasn't angry. You know, I was very shocked. It reflects the fact that a certain number of opposition groups do not respect our institutions. Some of them have said it clearly. They want chaos in the assembly and in the streets.


BRUNHUBER: And streets across France were filled with demonstrators Thursday, furious over the government's tactics. CNN's Jim Bittermann has this report from Paris.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For weeks, the protests and strikes have continued, trying to stop the government from enacting changes in the (inaudible) retirement system, changes which would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 years old. Thursday, the French parliament was meant to vote on the new law, which had already been passed by the French senate.

But before the vote in the lower house, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the government had counted votes and realize that it would lose. The prime minister went before the national assembly and announced that there would be no vote. That the law would be enacted by decree. Something allowed by the French constitution, but something that further enraged the opposition.


BORNE (through translation): We cannot bet on the future of our pensions. This reform is necessary. It's also because I am attached to our social model, and because I believe in parliamentary democracy. It is your reform on parliament text for you to compromise between the two assemblies that I am ready to engage my responsibility.


BITTERMANN: Outside the chamber where protesters had gathered, there was further outrage that went on for hours. The spontaneous demonstration that moved to Place de la Concorde in central Paris and was finally broken up by police using a water cannon and tear gas. The prime minister and our government now face the possibility of a no confidence vote, which could bring down the government if it succeeds.

And a French joint union committee announced plans for another round of strikes and demonstrations next Thursday to keep up the pressure in the parliamentarians to vote against the government plan. Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.

BRUNHUBER: Still ahead, North Korea confirms it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile Thursday morning. And a potentially critical moment for Finland as Turkey is expected to decide on Helsinki's NATO bid. Coming up, a live report from Istanbul. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: North Korea confirmed what was initially reported by South Korean and Japanese officials. Its launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday morning. These images released by state media appear to show leader Kim Jong-un overseeing the operation accompanied by a child believed to be his daughter.

The ICBM was fired into the waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula according to officials in South Korea and Japan. It's the fourth such ICBM launch from Pyongyang in less than a year.

Finland may soon be one step closer to joining NATO. The Finnish president is in Ankara today at the invitation of Turkey's president. Both leaders have hinted that Turkey will ratify Finland's bid to join NATO. Lawmakers of all 30 countries in the bloc need to approve new members.


Turkey, along with Hungary, had been two of the holdouts for Finland's membership. Turkey has also raised objections with Sweden joining NATO. CNN's Nada Bashir joins us now live from Istanbul. So, Nada, will it happen, do you think? And if so, how soon?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Kim, we've heard the hints, the illusions from both the Finnish president as well as Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And that was certainly the sense we got yesterday from the Finnish president who was visiting the province of Kahramanmaras, one of the hardest hits in the epicenter of last month's earthquake.

He said, according to Turkish state media, told reporters that he believes President Erdogan has important messages to convey in today's meeting. And today is going to be a long day for both leaders. They are set to meet to discuss bilateral relations. And there is expected to be a joint press conference later this afternoon around 9:45 am eastern time.

And chief of course among the priorities to be discussed is expected to be Finland's bid to join NATO. And over the last few months we have seen Turkey expressing its reservations around Finland's accession to the alliance. And in particular, Sweden's accession to the alliance. Both nations of course expressing their intentions early on last year to join the alliance together.

Now, Turkish president has accused Sweden in particular of harboring and being too lax when it comes to groups Turkey considers to be a terrorist organization namely Kurdish organizations in the country. But we have seen over the last few months, intense negotiations. That was acknowledged by the Finnish president yesterday, telling reporters during his visit to Kahramanmaras, that Finland has done everything that is expected when it comes to making that bid to join the NATO alliance, including taking part in negotiations with Turkey.

And of course, we have also seen some policy changes in both Helsinki and in Stockholm. So, this will certainly be a key focus of the talks today. And as you said there, we have heard some hints from President Erdogan as well as the Finnish president just on Wednesday. President Erdogan told reporters that Turkey will fulfill its promise and do as its needed. And so, some suggestions there that perhaps. And of course, we also heard from the Finnish president, according to his office, telling reporters that it was understood that in the instance that Turkey should agree to ratify Finland's succession to NATO, the Turkish president would request a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders. And that Finland had in turn accepted that invitation.

So, this is certainly expected to be a focus of today's talks. We will wait for the press conference later this afternoon, a joint press conference between the two leaders. And of course, there are still many questions around whether or not this might lead to Turkey softening its position on Sweden too.

BRUNHUBER: All right. We'll be watching for developments today. Nada Bashir in Istanbul. Thank you so much.

Still ahead, environmental and economic hazard is washing up on the beaches in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The culprit, a massive seaweed bloom. We'll have that story straight ahead. Please stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Georgia football star Jalen Carter has been sentenced to 12 months' probation over his involvement in the fatal car crash in January. On Thursday, Carter entered pleas of no contest to charges of racing and reckless driving. Carter's teammate and a team staffer were killed in a crash just hours after they celebrated the Bulldogs national championship victory.

Bus drivers can sometimes be the last line of defense in a fight against human trafficking. In the latest CNN Freedom Project documentary, "Fighting for Mercy", CNN travels with the Kulczyk Foundation to Tanzania where they witnessed one driver's quick thinking to identify two children who may have been in a trafficking situation and ultimately bring them to safety.


ANGELA BENEDICTO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR & FOUNDER, WOTESAWA DOMETIC WORKERS ORGANIZATION: (Inaudible) today. We have seen the impact of domestic servitude to the children. And that's why prevention is so important.

We have different ways to prevent human trafficking in the country. Kassim Anthony (ph) is the best agent in Angola (ph). Every morning when the busses line up, when people starting to go to different places in Tanzania, Qassim (ph) is there to inspect on the bus to see if there is a young child under age.

DOMINIKA KULCZYK, PRESIDENT, KULCZYK FOUNDATION: Kassim is trying to prevent children from ever being abused.

TEXT: On this morning, Kassim finds two young boys preparing to board a bus. He brings them in for an interview.

KULCZYK: When he was speaking to the boys, he was smiling. He was very kind. He was really friendly. He was doing everything to make the boys feel comfortable and safe.

BENEDICTO: When he interviewed them, he found that they were coming from Burundi. Together with the police officers, they interviewed the boys and when they found that they are coming from Burundi, then they went directly to migration to the border and they had meeting with border migration and they decided to take them back to their families.


BRUNHUBER: Tune in this weekend to watch the full documentary, Fighting for Mercy. It's about one group's battle against forced child labor in Tanzania. And it will air several times this weekend including the times there on your screen.


It could be the largest sargassum seaweed bloom in history, spanning from the Coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico, and it really causes a mess when it comes ashore. The smelly seaweed is currently impacting beaches in Barbados. Officials there say it's hurting the country's tourism industry. And it's so large that it can be seen from space. The enormous bloom is on a path toward Florida and is expected to reach the state's beaches by July.

Well, news for all of you die-hard fans of the T.V. series "The Crown," season six of the Netflix series will detail how Prince William and Kate Middleton first met. Filming is underway and is set to recreate the royals first meeting at university in Scotland 2001. The sixth and final season of "The Crown" is due to stream later this year.

That wraps this hour of "CNN Newsroom." I'm Kim Brunhuber. "CNN Newsroom" with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo is next.