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Korean Talks; Trump White House; Rohingya Nightmare; Trump Touts 'Positive' Korea Talks But Wants Action; Manchurian Conspiracy Theory In U.S. Politics; Trump Response To Moscow's Actions Raises Questions; Lack Of Leadership Cited On Battling Cyberattacks. Aired 2- 3a ET

Aired March 7, 2018 - 02:00   ET



[02:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: This is "CNN Newsroom" live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour.

ISHA SESAY, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: Just months after saying wipe America off the face of the earth, North Korea now says it is willing to talk to the U.S. about giving up its nuclear weapons.

VAUSE: The White House economic advisor quits (INAUDIBLE) president just another chaos-free day for the Trump administration.

SESAY: Plus, (INAUDIBLE) gives us a 360-degree look at the Rohingya crisis as the ethnic cleansing campaign continues in Myanmar.

VAUSE: We would like to welcome you to this third hour. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. "Newsroom L.A." starts right now.

Well, the U.S. and North Korea may be getting closer to the negotiating table, but there is a lot of skepticism about the intentions of Leader Kim Jong-un. After unprecedented meeting with Kim in Pyongyang, South Korean envoys now say the North is willing to talk to the U.S. about giving up its nuclear weapons.

VAUSE: The White House is cautiously optimistic, but North Korea has made similar promises in the past and broken every one of them. A senior U.S. official says, "all options are on the table and our posture toward the regime will not change until we see credible moves toward denuclearization. What we are looking for is concrete steps toward denuclearization."

SESAY: President Trump was asked Tuesday about North Korea's sudden willingness to talk.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think that they are sincere. And I think they are sincere also because the sanctions and what we are doing with respect to North Korea including, you know, the great help that we have been given from China, they can do more, but I think they have done more than certainly they have ever done for our country before. So China has been a big help. I think that's been a factor.


SESAY: Andrew Stevens (INAUDIBLE) from Seoul, South Korea. Andrew, let's just start with the very basic question of whether we have heard anything out of Pyongyang corroborating what the South -- what South Koreans are saying.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, we haven't, Isha. What has been running in local media in North Korea are pictures of the meeting that Kim Jong-un had with the delegation from South Korea and they were pictures of a beaming Kim and his wife was at the dinner with South Korean delegations as well as his sister. It was more of an optics than anything concrete. So, the North Koreans are letting South Korea speak at the moment for them.

And the South Koreans have been saying today, pretty much echoing this very cautious note. Even the president, President Moon, saying today that it was too early to be optimistic about it. We are just at the starting line. And he was reported as saying also that the endgame here is not preventing proliferation, it is not a moratorium, it is actually the denuclearization.

And that concrete steps which the U.S. is asking to see, that was echoed by Japan today as well. Japan saying, no, we have been down this path before. We have to judge this on their past efforts to denuclearize which have, as we know, been completely unsuccessful. They have said they would denuclearize over the past two decades and there has been willingness on the west part, on South Korea's part to go along with that. But in the end, North Korea has kept firmly to its nuclear capability because it is always thought that was its only real security for the regime to stay in power.

SESAY: A lot of caution in response to these words ascribed to North Korea. Andrew Stevens, joining us there from Seoul, always appreciate it. Thank you.

We can go right now to Philip Yun, who is an adviser on North Korea on the U.S. President Bill Clinton. He joins us from San Francisco. Philip, good to have you with us. I want to pick up on what --


SESAY: Good evening -- what Andrew was just saying there. There has been no word to all this offer of a deal, if you will, from North Korea. No word of it in North Korean media. So in effect, no confirmation from Pyongyang.

[02:05:00] How much can we read into this?

YUN: Well, I think with North Korea, you never get too high and you never get too low. I think it is absolutely correct. I think the first thing we have to make sure is that in fact that's what the North Koreans are offering. I think it would be great and helpful if the North Koreans in some way reconfirm that.

I think also it takes a little time for us to actually hear from the South Koreans what North Korea said because there have been many instances where there have been miscommunication between the parties, not only South Korea and North Korea, but also the U.S. and North Korea. So, that is something we have to confirm.

These are fairly significant moves on the part of North Korea in terms of concessions, saying that nuclear -- denuclearization is on the table. The other thing that they have also talked about which is significant is a moratorium on missile testing and the nuclear testing which I think is potentially significant as long as talks between the U.S. and North Korea continue.

SESAY: It is interesting that again, as told by South Korea, the North has expressed this intention. But then website (INAUDIBLE) which you know well and they are (INAUDIBLE) on the North, they are saying that there are suspicions that North Korea actually restarted their act presumably to produce plutonium. If that reporting is indeed accurate, if that is accurate, how then do we read Kim Jon-un's willingness to hold talks?

YUN: Well, there is good news. The good news is the moratorium in the sense that North Korea cannot improve its nuclear capability and its missile capability. But what you just talked about is in fact true. North Korea at this current rate is producing one nuclear bomb with material every eight weeks.

And my guess is that they continue to do so. In certain ways, this is an insurance policy as they are adding up more and more things that they can bargain with during this time of negotiations and talks. So that's definitely the downside of this. It would be very helpful if the North Koreans said they wouldn't produce anymore, but I don't expect them to do that.

SESAY: Is this moment that we've arrived at? Is this because international sanctions to North Korea actually starting to really hurt?

YUN: Well, it's -- it's -- it's unclear. I'm uncertain that the U.S. administration would like to think that sanctions and these threats and possibly a bloody nose unilateral strike may have forced the North Koreans to align their calculations on this.

It is also possible that the North Koreans have decided that they've advanced far enough to have a reliable deterrent because it is actually what we think exists. And in fact, in November, they said they have the deterrent.

So, it's really unclear and the whole point of this conversation, to have a conversation with North Korea, is to find out exactly what they are thinking, what it is that they want. We have no idea exactly in certain respects what they want and what it means in particular in specifics -- I mean, the only American that spoken with Kim Jong-un has been Dennis Rodman and I think we can do a lot better than that. SESAY: Well, you say that, but there is no South Korean ambassador -- U.S. ambassador to South Korea. And the top man in the State Department on North Korea has announced his retirement. So, I know you are looking to do better, but really, how much of a challenge is this going to be for the U.S. to kind of handle this the right way?

YUN: Well, that's something that -- there is some concern. I mean, in certain ways, maybe it is possible if the United States may not be able to take yes for an answer in the sense they have been talking about having denuclearization on the table. The North Koreans have said yes with security assurances which we don't really know what that means.

But we don't have -- you know, there are some concern on whether we can actually execute on these talks given the personnel issues that are going on. And that is something we have to concerned about and everyone is going to be watching.

SESAY: Yes, all will be watching. Philip Yun, always a pleasure. Philip Yun in San Francisco. Thank you.

YUN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, another day and another senior aide quits the White House. Chief economist Gary Cohn has announced he will be leaving in the coming weeks. Sources called Cohn the only good guy left and a moderating voice to Donald Trump's protectionist policies. Cohn is a strong defender of free trade. He openly opposed the president's plan for steel and aluminum tariffs.

Less than a week ago, Hope Hicks, one of President Trump's most trusted adviser also resigned. But despite the shakeup, the president claims all is well inside the White House. There is no chaos, he says. And everyone wants to work there.


TRUMP: You know I read where oh, gee, maybe people don't want to work for Trump, but believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. So many people want to come in. I have a choice of anybody. I could take any position in the White House. And I will have a choice of the 10 top people having to do with that position. Everybody wants to be there. The White House has tremendous energy.

[02:10:00] It has tremendous spirit. It is a great place to be working. It is just a great place to work. The White House has a tremendous energy and we have tremendous talent.


VAUSE: And then Gary Cohn quit. Joining me now, California talk radio host Ethan Bearman and California Republican National Committeeman and hat wearer Shawn Steel. Good to see you, guys. Thank you for coming in.

Ethan, it seemed pretty obvious that Cohn's resignation was on the way when we saw that empty chair at the White House news conference with Sweden prime minister. But apparently Cohn had warned the president repeatedly. If he went ahead with this plan to impose new tariffs, he will quit. Trump did it anyway.

ETHAN BEARMAN, TALK RADIO HOST, KGO-AM: Yes, I mean, well, I don't know who actually believes that they can change Trump's mind about things. That's really the challenge here. Why did Cohn take the job thinking that he suddenly was going to turn Donald Trump who on the campaign trail was all about protectionism and populism? Why would he suddenly become a free trader?

Just because you're Goldman Sachs guy and Goldman Sachs has been well represented in Washington for a long time doesn't mean you're suddenly going to commit this president to be a free trader. I mean, it was never a good fit in the first place.

VAUSE: Yes. He was a Democrat arguing against the tariffs and the Republican president was arguing for them. It was like a freaky Friday roller coaster. Shawn, in all of this, the president is denying the White House is in chaos. He said that he like to have this kind of conflict among his advisers. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I like conflict. I like having two people with different points of view. And I certainly have that. And then I make a decision. But I like watching it. I like seeing it. And I think it is the best way to go. I like different points of view.


VAUSE: Team rivals (ph), one thing. Game of thrones, completely another thing, which is what this White House is like. But then does the president actually listen to an opinion that does not agree with his own?

SHAWN STEEL, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEEMAN: You know, he gets all kinds of opinions and we see that he is constantly changing and modulating positions. But you look at team of rivals, Abraham Lincoln.


STEEL: The cabinet officers (INAUDIBLE). Then (INAUDIBLE) FDR. Notorious for having conflicts and wars and people resigning in turnovers. He liked that kind of energetic confrontation. And then you look at LBJ taking over JFK's office. So, this is a model (INAUDIBLE) American presidency.

Gary Cohn who is a Democrat and a free trader in itself is unusual. I have a lot of respect for him. He is the one that helped -- the key energy behind the tax reform. He is the key energy in deregulation. He has done a good job. He spent over a year. And a lot of times, these jobs was as high pressure in the kind of money that he can make. A year is a pretty good service but --


BEARMAN: -- we haven't seen it compared to Obama.

BEARMAN: Shawn, come on.

VAUSE: Bush or Clinton or Reagan or H.W. Bush.


BEARMAN: -- gladiators fighting in the White House and for the president sitting there like (INAUDIBLE) over it, it is insane that --


BEARMAN: -- bad for our government.

VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) was ready to quit last year when the president seemed to side with the neo-Nazis and the nationalists --


VAUSE: -- denied this (INAUDIBLE). But apparently, you now, he decided to draw a line in the sand over tariffs. So, Ethan, as the (INAUDIBLE) put it, Cohn resigned over Trump's comments towards aluminum. This is what he goes to war on? This is what he calls to quit service?

BEARMAN: Right now the Muslim may not.

VAUSE: But in particular, the challenge though, when President Trump seemed to side with the neo-Nazis.

BEARMAN: I agree with you. This is -- absolutely very good people on both sides.

VAUSE: Both sides, yes.

BEARMAN: And Stephen Miller is sitting there smiling at the same time. So any of these people that are sitting in the administration are absolutely complicit to all of the bigotry, the racism, the xenophobia that is going on, the painting of the other, the blaming the victims, that is what this White House is about. Absolutely wrong.

STEEL: Ethan is a startling example of a great division in America. Half the people think that Ethan is absolutely making no sense whatsoever. And I like it --

BEARMAN: (INAUDIBLE) half people?

STEEL: American half of the people. And you're talking to them. You're talking to the people that hate Trump. The fact is that Trump is going to get a good replacement for Gary Cohn. I am going to make a --


STEEL: It is going to be one of your own people at CNN.

VAUSE: We will wait and see.

STEEL: Stephen Moore.

VAUSE: OK. He was the economic adviser during that day.


STEEL: You heard it first. You heard it first.

VAUSE: OK. Sources told -- at the White House told CNN, the administration is trying to downplay Cohn's resignation. The source said officials are lumping in Cohn with other recent announced departures of White House communications director Hope Hicks and Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. New York people, they all end up back in New York.

Shawn, the president himself is actually from New York. (INAUDIBLE) different in a way. The stocks took a hit when the word came out, dropped about 300 points. Asian markets had been in the mix. The futures (ph) are down on the list. So there will be ripple effect from Cohn (INAUDIBLE).

STEEL: I think whenever you have a person that important

[02:15:00] is going to be some noise, but frankly 300 points compared to 26,000 market, the highest in American history of black unemployment, the lowest measurement with a robust economy, this is a very much of a minor nuisance that some news organizations are trying to make a big deal. But it's business in Washington D.C. with a disruptive president that's gone after people that just don't like the way business has been -- that is changing business.

VAUSE: OK. Big deal or modern usage, you will be the judge. Stormy Daniels AKA Stephanie Clifford, the porn star who allegedly had an affair with Donald Trump before he was president, she is now suing him, alleging that there has agreement, the one which she received $130,000 or so allegedly. She says it was invalid because it was never signed by Trump.

He has filed a lawsuit. After discovering Ms. Clifford's plan, Mr. Trump with the assistance of his attorney, Mr. Cohen, aggressively sought to silence Ms. Clifford as part of an effort to avoid her telling the truth, thus helping to ensure he won the presidential election.

Ethan, this does seem to, you know, (INAUDIBLE) to the complaints which already filed with Federal Elections Commission that Donald Trump, he knew about the money, he knew about the $130 grand that Cohen allegedly, his lawyer, allegedly paid. And he essentially is in violation of (INAUDIBLE).

BEARMAN: Yes, I mean, I think that this is one of the another step in the direction that should the Democrats take the House of Representatives in the midterms, Cook report just came out, says 60 percent chance now, if that happens, this situation plus after the bizarre number of situations yesterday, any of that ends up being true as well, you can have impeachment here. This isn't the first time I am saying that through this whole process.

VAUSE: Shawn, when it comes to presidential candidates behaving badly, there is one thing the Department of Justice takes very seriously, buying a woman's silence. (INAUDIBLE) that works out. It was (INAUDIBLE) in the end, but the DOJ set down a real marker on that one.

STEEL: You know, you got to enjoy the expanding career of storming. She is a porn star. This is a moment of glory, suing the president of the United States. It is a lot of fun. But at the end of the day, this was not any spectacular news. You are doing the same kind of things that Bill Clinton walked away from. Jack Kennedy had this issue. I don't think anybody (INAUDIBLE) --

VAUSE: No, no, no. Ethan --

STEEL: Here is the point --


BEARMAN: He has several between 13 and 19 women accusing him of sexual abuse --


STEEL: -- you don't even know. You are making up number. You are pointing the numbers up.

BEARMAN: They found his own admission on the "Access Hollywood" tape. That would be a violation of law, what he did, not only that, we know that he cheated Marla Maples. We have a history of abuse.

STEEL: He doesn't say that. Come on.

VAUSE: Putting aside any moral judgement here, you know, fair enough, there are issues of FEC law, of electoral law, of recording campaign donations. A $130 grand that Michael Cohen says he paid out of his own pocket and now hears that it was a campaign contribution, hush money, to help Donald Trump win the presidency and that's the issue.

STEEL: We just don't know. We are going to find out. We will get to the bottom of it. There is going to be a lawsuit and public information. But rumors is not going to change the president.

VAUSE: You know what do we know? Trump's alias. David Dennison. I don't know if it is in a lawsuit. So, yes, David Dennison. OK. Donald Trump's AKA David Dennison. Sounds like a stage name.

STEEL: Sounds like imaginative lawsuit.

VAUSE: Well, we will see. Shawn, love the hat.

STEEL: Thank you. VAUSE: And Ethan, good to see you, thank you.

BEARMAN: Thank you.

SESAY: Quick break here. Leave or you will be killed was no child should ever hear but Rohingya children say Myanmar government soldiers warned them and their families to get out. Also, a filmmaker who is telling stories from these young refugees, next.


SESAY: Myanmar's campaign of terror is still happening with a disturbing twist. The U.N. says ethnic cleansing of Rohingya people is ongoing more than six months after deadly crackdown on this Muslim minority. A top U.N. human rights official says that Myanmar government is now using forced starvation in an apparent effort to drive the remaining Rohingya from their homes and across the border into Bangladesh.

Last fall, photographer and filmmaker Thomas Nybo captured the journey of refugees in making as they flee murder, rape, and torture in Myanmar. His film for UNICEF is called "Flight of the Unwanted." It is a 360-degree look at this tragic exodus respective of Rohingya children.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): More than 600,000 Rohingya flee Myanmar in a matter of months. Six out of 10 people are children. The head of United Nations calls it textbook ethnic cleansing. The government of Myanmar denies it. They say the Rohingya are burning their own villages, killing their own people.


SESAY: Thomas joins us now from Atlanta. Thomas, good to have you with us. As you know, there have been no shortage of images of the Rohingya living in the refugee camps of Bangladesh. Help us understand your reasons for making this film and what you want people to take away from it.

THOMAS NYBO, PHOTOGRAPHER AND FILMMAKER: I wanted people to experience in a small way what is like to be Rohingya, not just the exodus, the flood of people from Myanmar, but what life is like there, and focusing too on giving traumatized children a chance to heal.

There is a girl on the film, 9-year-old Asma (ph) who is remarkable and I chose to speak to her not because she had the worst story that I heard but because she was very animated about her dreams of wanting to open a restaurant.

She is this beautiful soul who I met at UNICEF, child from this space who likes to jump rope and play with her friends, and she wants to open up this restaurant. And a friend of mine, Patrick Brown, introduced me to her and I spent a lot of time with her. After several weeks, she started to share her own personal story without my having asked. Her father was shot and stabbed to death in Myanmar. And what stood to me was, humanity of giving these children a chance to heal. We know the numbers. We know now that there are -- when you factor in the previously arrived Rohingya, we have close to a million people in what is now the world's largest refugee camp.

The needs, we know about this. We know about the coming monsoon season. I think we like -- we need to bring it down to a personal level and get to know girls like Asma (ph) or boys like 15-year-old Fisel (ph) who I met early one morning. His arm was shot off in Myanmar. He was carried by his neighbors into the jungle and had to recover for two months. Now, he is healthy, but, you know, missing an arm and being separated from his family. The challenges are endless.

SESAY: So, as you tells about 9-year-old Asma (ph) and 15-year-old boy, what is clear is that these children have witnessed unspeakable horrors. And we see it in the art that they are producing. You showed some of that in the film. And images of soldiers with guns and blood. Talk to me about the level of trauma you witnessed spending time in these camps.

NYBO: One of the nice things about spending three and a half months there over the past year is you see the drawings when the children first arrived of these horrific scenes, helicopters descending on their villages, soldiers burning down their huts, their neighbors being mowed down with gunfire, so you know the trauma is there. Now, here we are fast forward six months and I am seeing a new set of drawings. I am seeing hope in the eyes. I am seeing

[02:25:00] drawings of children jumping rope. I am seeing girls drawing flowers. I am seeing boys drawing flowers. I am seeing eyes looking to the future and not just from the past. Of course, the trauma is there. The trauma is going to have to be dealt with for many of these children for the rest of their lives, and the cases where they had parents murdered, closed relatives murdered. So, it is an evolving story.

SESAY: You said in the beginning of this conversation that you had been in Bangladesh for over three months. I know that you have been all over the wild. I know that you photographed camps all over the world, met children all over the world in conflict films and post- conflict zones. What has this been like for you personally, Thomas?

I mean, this is now the largest refugee camp in the world. These people have undergone, you know, a whole new level of trauma and barbarity. What it has been like for you making this film and being immersed in the space with these kids and their families?

NYBO: First and foremost, it has been an honor and I don't take it for granted. It has also been one of the most challenging stories -- the most challenging story I have worked on in a career of more than 15 years. And what especially difficult about it is the world's attention is easily diverted to the next crisis, but the Rohingya are in limbo, so the suffering continues. And it is different if you just drop into a story for a week. But when you see the same community of people months after months, here we are six months later. Actually, my first trip there was back in April, a year ago. And their situation hasn't really improved or stabilized.

I am haunted many nights, kept awake, thinking of girls like Asma (ph), boys like Fisel (ph), who are doing their part to heal. But what are the adults doing? What is the rest of the world doing to alleviate the suffering of the Rohingya? What are we doing to make sure that they have basic human rights and a semblance of hope?

SESAY: That is the question that we ask a great deal around here as well. Thomas Nybo, thank you for making this film and providing a voice to the kids there in Bangladesh in these refugee camps and thank you for all that you do.

NYBO: Thank you, Isha.

VAUSE: When we come back, we will head to Syria and the crisis in Eastern Ghouta. The violence there continue despite a U.N. mandated ceasefire, despite Russia order for humanitarian pause. Aid agencies will again try to deliver much needed humanitarian supplies in the coming hours.

And the British government is promising robust action after the mysterious illness of a former Russian double agent. Their warning to Moscow also ahead.


[02:30:28] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back everybody. Glad to have you with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour. The White House wants to see North Korea take concrete steps towards denuclearization before engaging in direct talks. South Korea says the North is willing to talk to the U.S. about giving up its nuclear weapons. President Trump says he believes North Korea is being sincere.

VAUSE: President Trump's top economic adviser has resigned. The White House says Gary Cohn will leave his post in the coming weeks. He strongly disagreed with the president's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum inputs.

SESAY: Cohn's departure and the threat of a trade war are pushing Asia's financial markets lower, you see that, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Sydney all in negative territory. And the U.S. markets could be in a bumpy ride not looking pretty at the horizon. The Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P futures are all pointing lower.

VAUSE: The U.N. says more than 1000 children have been killed all in this year across Syria. The worst of the fighting continues in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta just outside the capital where more than 400,000 people are under siege and facing critical shortages of food, medicine, and other supplies. Eight agencies will try again to deliver humanitarian aid on Thursday (INAUDIBLE) cut short of delivery on Monday. Jomana Karadsheh joins us live phone from Amman, Jordan with more of this situation. So Jomana, we have a situation on the ground now where at least one of the major rebel groups is refusing this Russian offer to negotiate a withdrawal from East Ghouta, what more can you tell us?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, on Tuesday, we heard from the Russian Ministry of Defense coming through their Facebook page saying that they're pretty much-offering amnesty to rebel fighters in Eastern Ghouta and offering them safe passage with Russian protection for them and their families to leave that rebel enclave. And shortly after that, we heard from one of the main groups there Faylaq al-Rahman rejecting this offer saying they categorically refuse to leave Eastern Ghouta. They say that they are not even in touch with the Russians and they say that this offer is against Security Council Resolution 2401 that calls for that 30 days truce that calls for the -- for allowing the delivery of aid into Eastern Ghouta. We also heard from one of the top leaders of the rebel groups. They are describing this as psychological warfare by the Russians against the people of Eastern Ghouta.

So what you essentially have is you've got both sides really digging in right now with the rebels saying they're not going to leave. And we heard from President Assad on Sunday saying that the fight is going to continue in what he described as this fight against terrorism and, you know, the government line has always been that these rebel groups are holding civilians hostage in Eastern Ghouta that they're using them as human shields, and you have both sides pretty much blaming each other for why civilians are unable to leave. So it feels right now, John, that we are looking at a repeat of scenarios that we have seen in the past in places like Eastern Aleppo for example where this is -- you will -- the regime will end up capturing this part of the country. It's a matter of time. It seems a lot of people feel this way and of course, in the midst of all of this, it is the civilians who continue to suffer and who continue to pay the heaviest price, John.

VAUSE: Yes. It's a matter of time of how many people are going to die. Jomana, thank you.

SESAY: Well, Britain is putting Russia on notice over the pan poisoning of a former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal. Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson says the case echoes a deadly poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko back in 2006. The U.K. inquiry found that President Vladimir Putin probably approved the plot to kill him. But Moscow says Johnson's comments are rip from an anti- Russian campaign script. CNN's Erin McLaughlin joins me now from Salisbury, England. And Erin, what are we hearing from investigators? Are they following any concrete leads?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isha, at this point, we still do not know what happened to 66-year-old Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia found on the park bench. Just behind me, you can see there that bench now covered by a police tent. The police cordon around this non-descript shopping mall in Salisbury remains in place as an investigation continues. Counterterrorism authorities now at the helm of that investigation although authorities say that they do not believe that this is any way tied to terrorism that counterterrorism police having been brought and to lead the investigation due to the unusual circumstances which British authorities are taking extremely seriously.

[02:35:15] Later today, at Downing Street, we expect the Home Secretary Amber Rudd to chair a covert meeting which isn't usually held during emergencies or in a case of regional or national British emergencies. This as British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson yesterday looking to Russia saying that if there is Russian involvement in this case that they can expect a robust British response. Take a listen.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: If these suspicious prove to be well funded then this government will take whatever measures we deemed necessary to protect the lives of the people in this country, our values, and our freedoms. And there are now pointing fingers (INAUDIBLE) point fingers. I say to governments around the world that no attempt to take innocent life on U.K. soil will go either unsanctioned or unpunished.


SESAY: All right. There are some audio problems there with Erin McLaughlin joining us from Salisbury, England with the latest on the apparent poisoning of that former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

VAUSE: OK. We will take a short break. When we come back, is being called gratuitous cruelty carried out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security? A mother of a seven-year-old daughter seeking asylum from far land to the Congo only to be separated now for months by immigration officials apparently without reason.


VAUSE: Right now, a little girl just seven-year-old is being held by immigration officials in a Chicago detention center. At the same time, her mother is at a facility in San Diego. According to lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union when they crossed the border from Mexico. They presented themselves to border agents. The mother explained they were fleeing extreme violence in the Congo and requesting asylum. The mother known as Ms. L was interviewed by an asylum officer who determined that Ms. L did had a significant possibility of ultimately receiving asylum and therefore allowed her to move on to the next stage of the long asylum process.

In other words, they did everything right. They followed the rules. They pass the initial screening but then four days after that for no apparent reason, the ACLU alleges officials decided to send the little girl on her own to Chicago and when the officers separated them, Ms. L could hear her daughter in the next room frantically screaming that she wanted to remain with her mother. No one explained to Ms. L why they were taking her daughter away from her or where her daughter was going, or even when she would next see her daughter.

[02:40:12] That was four months ago. They're still separated and no one seems has explained why. Lee Gelernt is the lead attorney on this case for the ACLU. He is also the Deputy Director of the Immigrants' Rights Program. So Lee, has there been any suggestion that maybe the mother here, the daughter who's only seven, there's a link of terrorism, that they some kind of criminal violation, drug smugglers, have they done anything which would suggest why this is happening?

LEE GELERNT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS PROGRAM: No, they haven't. This has been in a horrific situation. The mother -- there's been no allegation that the mother is any way of danger to anybody much less her daughter. There has been no suggestion that she's been abused or neglectful. They just took this little girl away. The little girl was frantically screaming, don't take me away from my mommy, sent her to Chicago. It was four days before the mother even could talk to the daughter. They've only talked to a handful of times by phone, never ever a video hookup, so they could at least see each other. She would -- the mother was never told why she was losing her daughter, never given an explanation. To this day, they've never given an explanation.

VAUSE: Given everything that they've already gone through making it all the way from the Congo to the United States and now this, what is their emotional state especially given the fact that they rarely get to see each other or talk to each other?

GELERNT: Yes. I have not been able to talk to the daughter. But the mother is distraught, depress, not eating, not sleeping, you know, I think it's like any mother who's already been traumatized by having to flee potential death in her home country, make it to this country, and then lose her daughter. It's just unthinkable and the mother is just in a constant state of fear for her daughter. It's, you know, it's one of the -- I've been doing this work for more than 25 years. I think that discussion I had with the mother out there in San Diego where she is in a prison was as tough of discussion as I've ever had doing this work. It's just horrific.

And unfortunately, it's not just this one mother and child, you know, it's not a one-off case. It's happening in hundreds of cases across the country and what the administration keeps saying is, well, we don't quote and quote a policy. But that's just deflecting the fact that they in practice or doing it in hundreds of cases across the country. So there are mothers and fathers sitting in detention centers and their little boys and girls have been sent away for no apparent reason. What we're hearing from the administration is, it's a way to deter people from coming to this country. If people hear that they may lose their child, maybe they don't come here even if they have a legitimate asylum claims. That's just flat out wrong.

VAUSE: Lee, with that in mind, I'd like to read you a part of an editorial from "The Washington Post", the only principle at work, if it can be called that, is the idea that future asylum seekers might be deterred if they are convinced that the United States is actually a cruel and more heartless place than their native country. That seems to be incredibly harsh and incredibly difficult policy for anyone really to look at and think that that is what this country stands for.

GELERNT: Right. And, you know, there are a lot of people who disagree with the ACLU about a variety of immigration policies and we get that. And we know that there's a lot of people out there that may have different views on the larger immigration issues. But I think everyone regardless of where they are and those large immigration issues ought to stand up and say, this is just one step too far, and the United States, we don't rip a kid away from their parents no matter what we think about the larger immigration issues. And I think the response we're getting to the lawsuit suggest that it's not just half the country who agrees that this little girl shouldn't have been taken away from her mother. I think everyone out there pretty much feels like, this is just a step too far.

VAUSE: Yes. Lee, we are at time. But please, keep us updated because we will continue to follow this story and hopefully there will be justice.

GELERNT: Thank you for having me.

SESAY: There's a lot of people actually believe in cases like this have become common now.

VAUSE: Yes. The one study, I mean (INAUDIBLE) that there's documented at least 53 cases in the last 12 months.

SESAY: Very quick break. A Cold War thriller considered throughout there to really happen is now part of political conversation right here in the United States. We'll talk about "The Manchurian Candidate."


[02:46:18] VAUSE: In 1962, The Manchurian Candidate, over the cinemas across the U.S., it was a Cold War thriller over the dark film war type fill. The movie begins with American soldiers being captured by Chinese communist during the Korean War. One soldier is brainwashed and program to become an assassin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now then, Raven, take that scarf and strangle at Movoli, at to death.

RAVEN: Yes, man. Excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, serge. Cut it off -- what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why you Ted plea? Now you just sit quietly, cooperate.



VAUSE: OK. So, then in the movie, two years later, he is ordered to kill a presidential candidate. But, here's the thing, at the time the movie was a fluffed at the box office because a fluffed was considered just too farfetched. But now, that idea of an international conspiracy took place a foreign agent in the White House for real, maybe this isn't so crazy.


SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER (via telephone): Mueller thinks such Trump is the Manchurian.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He thinks he's -- I'm sorry, he thinks he's what?

NUNBERG: Keeping Trump at the Manchurian Candidate.


VAUSE: CNN's National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem, joins us now from Cambridge, Massachusetts. OK, Juliette, you know, maybe we're putting out info lights on here. But, you're so much was seem to have an hour after hour. I think it's often difficult to pull everything together.

So, let's start with the president's response to Russian hacking, a question which he was asked to yet again, on Tuesday. Of this time, the question came from the Swedish journalist. Listen to this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an election year for both of our countries. I want to ask you, Mr. Trump. What do you think Sweden should learn from how the Russian influence campaign affected the presidential election in the U.S.?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever. But certainly, there was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals.


VAUSE: OK, at least, he acknowledges there was meddling. But again, he tried to word down Russia's involvement, even 13 Russians have actually being indicted. So, this isn't of myself kind of stands out it's just being weird.

KAYYEM: It is, and not only the key source say whether this other mysterious country or these mysterious individuals in the basement -- you know, are hacking our elections. I really think it's interesting that he -- that he uses the term "meddling", it seems sort of fun, like they're playing the game, right? That it's sort passive and child's play.

When you're actually, you know, sort of look at what happened here and the United States, it was a -- it was a targeted effort by the Russians across various States, and using both fake news and the released of a material about Hillary Clinton, to essentially, sort of target her and therefore also promote Donald Trump.

So, it's even the words that he is using making seem like its all one big joke. Just where all this sort meddling each other, rather than what Mueller certainly finds is that this was a targeted campaign, and the question is was there, in fact, collusion?

VAUSE: Well, exiling jokes to the Intelligence Community, and the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, you know, history of the lawmakers on Tuesday. And this now he summed up the Russia threat.


[02:50:05] DAN COATS, UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We assessed that Russia is likely to continue to pursue even more aggressive cyber-attacks with the intent of degrading our Democratic values and weakening our alliances.


VAUSE: Which is kind of how'd you think a president would talk? But, you know, all the agencies, they doing what they can to stop -- you know Russia on the attacks. But they doing without direction and without leadership from the president who is meant to be the commander in chief. Again, it's weird.

KAYYEM: Yes, weird is the -- is the nice way to put it. This part of the storyline about Trump sort of continuing acceptance of what happened to this country in 2016. To me, it's the most disconcerting for he just suggests that he's positioning this nation to sort of suffer of the same fate again in 2018.

He has not directed the agencies in a meaningful fashion, the search is working on their own. There is no strategy coming from the White House. No one has been told to do this or not do that. You know, it's not just the intelligence and the agencies at this stage. We also have to use diplomatic and law enforcement efforts.

And then, of course, just, you know, before everyone forgets, the sanctions which were clearly put in place to harm Russia, to make them feel -- to make them feel of consequences of what happened in 2016 have not been implemented.

So, sort of across the board -- you know, the evidence shows that Donald Trump is just simply not positioning this country to be in a better defensive mode heading into 2018, which is now really only like a few months away of the stage the elections.

VAUSE: OK, we're going to sort of a conspiracy theory therapy here. Kind of -- listen to the State Department, because The New Yorker is reporting there is another memo from Christopher Steele. He or the Russia dossier fame. He sent this to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In that memo, he says "People were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump's initial choice for Secretary of State that would be Mitt Romney." Romney famous in quote out Russia as a global threat back in 2012. There's also reporting that $120 million dollars, the State Department has not spent a penny of to fight Russian interference. Overall over here in the State Department has being guttered. And then, we linked this is something else, Donald Trump has continuingly undermined the credibility of the Intelligence Community like this.


TRUMP: Think it was a disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out. I think it's a disgrace, and I say that, and I say that. And that's something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do. I think it's a disgrace.


VAUSE: OK, so here's the point, he used essentially won the Cold War, and no small puff because he had really good spies and a really good intelligence. It had soft power which came from the State Department. So, Vladimir Putin must be unable to believe his good fortune right now.

KAYYEM: I think that had exactly right. I think, whatever the motivation was for Putin sort of desire to have Trump win, which made in financial motivations or the sanctions or whatever of -- the passiveness by which this president is addressing the future in sort of positioning this country for what is likely to happen in 2018. And 2020, was probably not on Putin's agenda and he's probably quite pleased with it.

And I want it -- you know, get to your -- sort of this is all sound conspiracy theories. You know, it's some stage, it's actually sort of ignoring reality and the fact to sort of just say, "Well, all of this is just sort of anything coincidences. And you just take every piece that were going over since Donald Trump has become president. More only mentioning probably back 25 percent of them.

You know, you just get a consistent level of evidence -- it's just consistent evidence that is leading to a rational person. Not a conspiracy theories to believe that Trump's motivation is to protect himself from whatever -- any concerned or go in the battle with Putin and Russia.

What we have forgotten in this long line is remember, he told the American public that Putin told him that he had nothing to do with the 2016 election, and he believe Putin at that stage. So, this is Donald Trump is doing everything he can to not sort of shake the bear, as they say. And doing a lot to disrupt the world order in putting our allies in Europe, Canada, Mexico and elsewhere to disrupt the world order. They have led the stability since after World War II, and certainly, since the Cold War. VAUSE: And look, this could be again, this could be totally coincidental but we now have Donald Trump's threatening tariffs on steel and aluminum. And that is causing -- you know, upset among traditional allies, which is threatening retaliation, which are now threatening a trade war.

You know, there is so much discontent being sold out there by these actions. At the same time, the emasculation of the State Department, the scrutiny of the Intelligence Community possibly doing nothing about Russia's interference in the election. It just paints a picture which somehow looks like Manchurian Candidate.

KAYYEM: Right, and that is -- well, certainly, looks like a president who is disinterested. That would be the best way to put it, disinterested in taking on Russia. The worse way to put it in is motivation or to protect Russia for a variety reason that will probably find out when the Mueller investigation is done regarding -- you know, financial dealings or ties to the Russians and ways that he does not want to expose.

But it's a great point about -- sort of making our allies angry. You know, it's very (INAUDIBLE), the Canadians are so angry that just a kind of hard to do. You can't do that accidentally let alone the Europeans and others. And when we talk about Putin being been so grateful for everything that Trump is doing to disrupt this stability. Remember, the other country -- of course, laughing all the way did the bank in China. Because in this flurry, of this -- of sort angry our allies and not taking on Russia. The rest of the world is looking elsewhere. And in the end, Trump is not -- Trump is sort of made the U.S. irrelevant. In the major issues of our time, trade, economy, environment, law enforcement, all of those issues.

VAUSE: Yes, at least at the movie, the main character, the Manchurian candidate was brainwashed. So, he had an experience.


VAUSE: Julliete, good to see you. Thank you.

KAYYEM: Good to see you.

SESAY: Nowhere else to go after that.

VAUSE: Pretty much a time to go, (INAUDIBLE).

SESAY: Time in say goodbye.


SESAY: You been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause, please follow us on Tweeter @CNNNEWSROOMLA or add for a CNN. (INAUDIBLE) plug

SESAY: @ishasesaycnn. VAUSE: Are you eating (INAUDIBLE)? I do. A news continues of Rosemary Church, later.

SESAY: And I talk to them. You've been watching CNN.

VAUSE: Come back tomorrow.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Another top level, it's just hours after Trump insists there's no chaos at the White House, his chief economic adviser quits and the markets are rattled.

Cautious of amid the more very possible breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang says it's willing to talk about giving up its nuclear weapons. At the U.K., threatened retaliation if it can prove Russia poisoned its former spy.

Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, here at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. This --