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U.S. Court Hears Arguments on Trump Travel Ban; Trump: Russia May Not Be Controlling Ukraine Violence; Syria Responds to Slaughterhouse Accusations; 7-year-old Bana's Letter to Trump; The Appearance of "Cashing In" as First Lady; Two U.S. Firefighters Help Rescue Refugees. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 8, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:26] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles and London. Ahead this hour --

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump calls his travel ban common sense -- the case now in the hands of three judges.

VAUSE: Syrian slaughterhouse -- the government now responding to accusations that it hanged thousands of government opponents.

SOARES: And American firefighters, spending their vacation in the Mediterranean Sea, rescuing refugees.

Hello and a very warm welcome to our viewers right around the world. I'm Isa Soares in London.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

A U.S. appeals court could rule at any time on whether to reinstate President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban. A three-judge panel heard arguments just a few hours ago.

SOARES: The Justice Department says national security is the President's responsibility, not that of the court. But Washington State's Attorney General says restoring the travel ban would throw the country into chaos.

VAUSE: I asked victim rights attorney Lisa Bloom about the judge's focus on whether anyone from the seven banned countries had committed an act of terrorism whilst in the United States.


LISA BLOOM, VICTIM RIGHTS ATTORNEY: That's the justification for the Trump travel ban that these seven countries are inherently dangerous so they had to act quickly to block travelers from those countries. And in fact, as the court seems to be pointing out through their questions, nobody from any of those countries had committed a fatal act of terrorism in the United States.

You know, the difference between being in court and being in a political process is in the court, you actually have to have facts that are backed up by evidence. And apparently there was none on that point.


VAUSE: Joining me now California talk radio host Ethan Bearman and Stanford University research fellow Lanhee Chen. Thank you for both being with us.

You know, well, the legality of the President's travel ban is now before the court. We are in fact hearing from the Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly here before Congress on Tuesday and he did admit that there were problems, there arose confusion and he took responsibility.

Listen to this.


JOHN KELLY, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: In retrospect, I should have -- this is all on me, by the way -- I should have delayed it just a bit so that I could talk to members of Congress, particularly the leadership of committees like this, to prepare them for what was coming.

We did have to step back and kind on re-cock in that first 24-hour period because of action by one of the federal courts.


VAUSE: Lanhee -- it seems General Kelly is at odds with the President and the White House spokesperson Sean Spicer who seemed to think that the travel ban was working just fine.

LANHEE CHEN, STANFORD UNIVERSITY RESEARCH FELLOW: Yes. Well, I think General Kelly is pointing out something that I think is rather apparent to those who observed the process which is that the process itself did have flaws. It resulted in an executive order that probably was overbroad for what the administration wanted to do.

And ultimately these things work best when there's buy-in from all of the different substance of officials involved -- the Secretary of Homeland Security, certainly being key among them.

But if you'll notice in his comments, he did not disavow the basic point of the executive order which was to put controls on migration to the United States, certainly from the seven countries in question as well as to deal differently with refugee flows into the U.S. So that issue is something that General Kelly clearly did defend.

VAUSE: But Ethan -- we do have, almost what seems to be two different realities within this administration, what you hear from the President and then what you hear from others within his cabinet.

ETHAN BEARMAN, TALK RADIO HOST: Yes. I mean this is a shocking disgrace. You know, Lanhee points that you know, the underlying premise is good. Great -- I want to go to the moon but let's build a tin can that's not actually going to get there. Let's not communicate with engineers or calculate it properly, the trajectory.

This was botched from the beginning. And General Kelly, while being wonderfully a principled man fell on the sword today for the President. And it was a grand mistake because, you know, what we have here is an administration that's so interested in doing things in a corporate way without recognizing how government agencies work, how the constitution functions in the United States of America. And now it's in front of the Ninth Circuit which very well could short circuit this whole plan for the President.

VAUSE: Ok. Ethan and Lanhee -- stay with us because Isa -- even though the travel ban is on hold, it is still being felt around the world.

[00:05:01] SOARES: It is. It is indeed -- John. Many people, as our viewers will know, in limbo as they wait a decision.

Our Jomana Karadsheh is following international reaction. She joins us now from Amman in Jordan.

And Jomana -- talk us through the impact this legal back and forth that's having on the lives of those trapped by this -- by this travel ban.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you've got two categories at least that are being impacted, Isa, coming from those seven countries. You've got visa holders and these are applicants who were hoping to get to the United States, whether it's students, people going for medical treatment, people going to visit family. So it really has disrupted their lives.

Some people have taken advantage of what they've seen as this window of opportunity to try and get to the United States while this legal battle is ongoing, while you have others who are waiting to see what happens because they are concerned about this uncertainty.

They have seen what happened more than a week ago to other people who were traveling. They were in the air when the executive order went into effect and people got deported, pulled off planes, so some have avoided that kind of situation.

And you've got the other categories. You're talking about refugees coming from those countries. According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, they say within those 120 days that no refugees are allowed in the United States, that pause in accepting refugees, about 800 of the most vulnerable refugees in the world were to be resettled in the United States within those four months.

And that really has an impact on them more than anyone can imagine. After years of covering refugees, Isa, especially in Iraq where I spent a long time, we've seen people when they're told that they are going to finally be able to get to the United States after waiting sometimes for years before they can travel, they're given a travel date and people are told sometimes, you are in the final stages, get ready to go.

It's quite an emotional journey. People prepared themselves. They pulled their children out of school. They sell their belongings because they can only travel with one bag when they go to the U.S. So you have these people who are left to say the least, in this limbo.

SOARES: Yes. People who have been waiting for so long, waiting for that light at the end of the tunnel.

Jomana Karadsheh -- there for us in Amman in Jordan. Thanks very much -- Jomana. Very good to see you.


VAUSE: Ok. Back with Ethan and Lanhee Chen.

So the Pentagon also seems to be at odds with the President over Russian involvement in the fighting in Ukraine. This is what Donald Trump told Fox News on Sunday.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: You talked to Putin last week. You had a busy week last.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm pretty busy -- busy week and a half.

O'REILLY: But within 24 hours of you on the phone with the Russian leader, the pro-Russian forces stepped up the violence in Ukraine.


O'REILLY: Did you take that as insult.

TRUMP: No, I didn't because we don't really know exactly what that is. Their pro-forces, we don't know -- are they uncontrollable? Are they uncontrolled? That happens also. We're going to find out. I would be surprised. But we'll see.


VAUSE: On Tuesday, the Pentagon said it was deeply concerned and in regards to the (inaudible) fighting said this. "Russia has its fingerprints all over what is going on in Eastern Ukraine."

So Lanhee -- again, there are these contradictions within the administration and these are fairly foreign policy issues.

CHEN: With respect to Russia, certainly very serious. And I think this is one area where you're seeing fissures with in the Republican Party -- John, over exactly how we should be addressing Russia as they continue their aggression and continue frankly in many ways to work against American interests.

You saw John McCain, the U.S. senator from Arizona, take to the floor of the Senate to remind people that Vladimir Putin is what he calls a killer and a thug. And I think that that demonstrates the division between the Trump administration, or actually probably just the President in many ways, and other members of his party because this is very serious, indeed.

VAUSE: And Ethan, one of the long-term implications here if you have the President saying one thing about Russia and the Pentagon and it seems everyone else, saying something different.

BEARMAN: Well, this is two presidents in a row now. President Trump is continuing the tradition of not understanding how to engage Russia. He's gotten the exact wrong approach. You can't reach out an open hand and just assume that Vladimir Putin is going to respond in a way that the United States wants.

In this case, we have a 1994 treaty with Ukraine that we have not fulfilled under President Obama and we're not fulfilling under President Trump. And just showing a weak hand is not something that Vladimir Putin is going to respect. We have to show a strong hand like President Reagan did back in the 80s.

VAUSE: And these conflicting messages from Washington that are coming just hours after Russian foreign minister had praised the U.S. president and his approach to the crisis in Ukraine.

Isa -- you have more on that.

SOARES: Indeed -- John.

Let's get reaction to these contradictions you were just discussing there. CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me now.

[00:09:58] And Clare -- we have seen pretty measured comments from President Trump when it comes to Russia and the surge of violence in Ukraine. How does the Kremlin view the tone now coming from the U.S. and indeed from the Pentagon?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think Isa -- all along we've seen that President Trump has gone out of his way not to criticize or directly insult President Putin and certainly we're seeing the same from the Russians -- Isa.

As you said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov coming out yesterday and saying that he thinks President Trump's approach where he's trying to get to grips with the situation on the ground in Eastern Ukraine is the right one. He called it a qualitative shift from the previous administration. So certainly the Kremlin saying they appreciate that.

Lavrov also saying that he believes Washington is starting to understand that simply restoring control of Eastern Ukraine to Kiev is not the solution. But of course, as we see from all those mixed messages coming out of Washington it's not exactly clear that Washington does think that given the contrast between what President Trump has been saying and what we've been hearing from his Pentagon.

But I think the key is that Russia is very keen not to let this Ukraine issue get in the middle of a possibility of improving its relationship with the U.S. We've seen public statements from President Putin and his foreign ministry in the last week or so accusing Ukraine of stoking the violence in the East of its country in order to garner sympathy and perhaps even money from the U.S.

So certainly Russia is very concerned that this conflict could come between what it hopes will be, as Lavrov said, a qualitative shift in its relationships with the U.S. -- Isa.

SOARES: Clare Sebastian there for us in Moscow where the time is 11 minutes past 8:00 in the morning. Thanks very much -- Clare.

So John -- it's called a quality shift -- qualitative shift in tone. Back to you.

VAUSE: Isa -- thank you.

And more than just an issue of tone or difference of opinion -- Lanhee and Ethan -- there is this ongoing issue with the President who continues to make false and misleading statements like this one.


TRUMP: The murder rate in our country is the highest it's been in 47 years right. Did you know that? 47 years. I'd say that in a speech and everybody was surprised because the press doesn't tell it like it is. It wasn't for their advantage to say that but the murder rate is the highest it's been, I guess from 45 to 47 years.


VAUSE: It's not and Jake Tapper took that up with Trump senior aide Kellyanne Conway.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: I think I was handed a fact sheet that perhaps the President was referring to when he talked about that today with the sheriffs.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's FBI crime reports. But -- to say that there was a spike in murder rates, between 2014 and 2015 is true. And to say we need to bring that down and we need to have law and order -- all that's fine.

He said it was the highest murder rate in 47 years and the media doesn't report it. And again -- Kellyanne, the media doesn't report it because it's a lie.

CONWAY: But I think he is relying upon data perhaps for a particular area. I don't know who gave him that data but --


VAUSE: You know, Lanhee -- everyone makes mistakes. We all do it. But instead of crunching the record, this administration seems to want to find new and inventive ways of twisting the facts.

CHEN: Well John -- I think there's a couple of things here.

First of all, this would not be the first time that an administration has said something that's either patently false or frankly difficult to prove true. If you think back to the Obama administration's claim regarding the Affordable Care Act that if you liked your plan, you can keep it. That ended up being a falsehood, I'm sure that they knew at the time it probably wasn't going to be possible.

In the case of this administration, I think unfortunately it hindered their ability to make progress on an agenda that Republicans want to make progress on. And I think that's the big challenge. So hopefully they can calibrate this a little bit because it is becoming, certainly at the very least, a distraction; at the very most, an impediment to them making progress on some important issues.

VAUSE: Ethan -- do you see this as just essentially all administrations, you know, gild the lily a little.

BEARMAN: I mean obviously, all administrations do. But this administration is two weeks old and it's every single day we're getting a series of lies told to us and then his spokespeople come out into the media (inaudible) -- that it's the media's fault for not reporting it correctly when they're just telling us lies. This is unbelievable.

Clearly the violent crime rate is not at a high. These are facts, Jake Tapper, I can't believe -- he is an amazing human being for keeping his calm during that interview with Kellyanne Conway. But it's day after day.

It is nothing like the things that the Obama administration did. Yes, they lied to us. Yes, they had lied about the Affordable Care Act, I totally agree with Lanhee. But day after day, two weeks into an administration -- this is dangerous territory and it becomes the ministry of truth, very Orwellian.

VAUSE: You know, we've seen in the past two weeks, whenever the President does not like a story or someone within the administration doesn't like a story or an opinion poll, they label it fake news. Despite the accuracy, they keep calling it fake news. And I think now we know why.

[00:15:05] Listen to one of the senior advisers from the administration.


SEBASTIAN GORKA, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: There is a monumental desire on behalf of the majority of the media, not just the pollsters, the majority of the media to attack a duly-elected President in the second week of his term. That's how unhealthy this situation is.

And until the media understands how wrong that attitude is and how it hurts their credibility we are going to continue to say "fake news". (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So Lanhee when you listen to that, it does seem that this goes beyond just what average politicians do. You know, they may not be entirely transparent. They may not be entirely honest. But there does seem to be a strategy here to muddy the waters, to attack the media, to go after people's credibility. So essentially they can go after their own agenda in a way or delegitimize the people who are meant to hold them accountable.

CHEN: Well John -- I think this is a carry over from the strategy we saw during the campaign which was to pit sort of the mainstream media, if you will, against things that then-candidate Trump was trying to point -- he was trying to get across, things he was trying to do. And I do think it's a continuation of a strategy.

Look, I think that there's a fair argument here about them trying to establish legitimacy of the presidency. But certainly it would seem to me that they would get much farther along if they simply address those things which clearly were not true as not true and those which are true and those which do make their point and really kind of emphasizing those things rather than sort of doubling-down on this narrative. But obviously it's part of the strategy they've had all along.

VAUSE: Very quickly Ethan -- do you think the administration has grasped, you know, the seriousness of the words that come from President as opposed to the candidate.

BEARMAN: Oh, I think that they grasp it entirely. I think this is their strategy. You attack the media, you demonize the media, you weaken that with their base. This is a strategy of strongmen of the 20th century and it's a method for manipulating people. And that's why I call it the ministry of truth.

We have a list of fake terror attacks as well that came out today. The one in Australia (AUDIO GAP) and misleading and for any (AUDIO GAP) Jonathan Gruber over the Affordable Care Act to not equally put the pressure on this administration to tell the truth, for shame on you.

VAUSE: Ok. Ethan Bearman, Lanhee Chen -- thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

BEARMAN: Thank you.

VAUSE: And you can see Jake Tapper's entire interview with Kellyanne Conway coming up in a little less than three hours from now. Tune in at 8:00 a.m. in London, 4:00 p.m. in Hong Kong. Set your DVR, you will not want to miss it -- Isa.

SOARES: For sure.

Well, coming up next. An activist group labels a Syrian prison a human slaughterhouse. We'll tell you why and how the Syrian regime is responding to the accusation. [00:18:03] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Welcome back everybody.

Syria is denying it conducted mass hangings of up to 13,000 opponents at what an activist group calls a human slaughterhouse. Amnesty International says mostly civilians were secretly executed twice a week over five years at this prison north of Damascus. The report was based on interview with 84 witnesses over a year and accuses senior regime officials of authorizing the hidden crackdown on dissent.

But the regime calls it completely false, intended to harm Syria's reputation. Syria media reports death sentences are not imposed until cases are fully processed.

Joining me now Gayle Tzemach-Lemmon. She is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Gayle -- thanks for being with us.

Are you surprised by this report from Amnesty International?

GAYLE TZEMACH-LEMMON, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: No. I wish I could say I were. You and I have talked about this -- John, for months and months and months now, what is going on in Syria.

And I think the only difference now is that you see this catalog of real horrors. I mean absolute hell that you cannot really explain until you read it. And I -- you know, I find myself, and I've seen a lot and reported on a lot, and I had to put it down.

Because you listen to people who find out their last wish as they're about to be hanged. People who didn't have enough weight to be hanged were taken down from nooses and had their necks broken. I mean all of this, people knew what's happening. But to have it catalogued in one place I think still packs a power that frankly the war in Syria has failed to really produce over years and years of its continuation.

VAUSE: You know, according to Amnesty, the last report they had was from December 2015. They added there's no reason to believe these executions have stopped.

LEMMON: Yes. And in fact, you know, one former State Department official I talked to today said to me, you know, why are you surprised? He kind of made fun of me a little bit for being so shocked and really talking about how surprising I sound, just how awful this was.

And he said to me, you know, this is what we've been talking about for months. This is what we've been talking about for ages. He said this is what's going on in the Assad regime. And the world has watched it in real time on YouTube and in, you know, devices from their hands to their laptops and no one has done anything to stop it.

And so I think there were a lot of people who are -- I wouldn't say jaded -- but you know, glad to welcome a lot of other people to the reality of what they've been seeing for years. VAUSE: The report says these hangings would have been authorized at the very highest level of the Syrian regime. From what you understand of how that government works, does that ring true?

LEMMON: There is no reason to think it does not. Right? I mean you look at who has been disappeared -- right. You're talking about dissidents, activists, military folks who might have wanted to leave the regime. And you know, this is a war that has run out of adjectives to describe. It's hell.

And I think what this report does is once again give the world one document, one thing to look at and decide what happens next. Will there be something in the international kind of prosecution or court case. Will people actually be allowed to send investigators in?

But there is very little reason to believe that there is a weaker position for the Assad regime because of this, because it has allies that are not going to leave it, including Russia and Iran.

VAUSE: Yes. Ok, Gayle -- it's a disturbing report. We didn't go to some of the real gruesome details because --


VAUSE: -- they are shocking.

But we appreciate you being with us. Thanks -- Gayle.

LEMMON: Glad to join you.

SOARES: Now the travel ban by U.S. President Trump indefinitely suspends refugee admissions from Syria which is in the middle of a horrendous civil war as you just heard there John talk about.

Before the Syrian government brutally retook Aleppo, the world saw how terrifying life really was there from a seventh-year-old girl -- seven-year-old girl, I should say. And you're looking at Bana Alabed, her mom and her two little brothers, now live in Turkey.

But before they escaped, Bana used Twitter, if you remember, to bring awareness to their suffering.

Well CNN has now spoken with Bana and her mother. And joining us again is our Jomana Karadsheh from Amman because Jomana -- you have really been talking throughout all this time here on CNN.

Tell us a bit more about Bana Hamed and what in fact she is writing now to President Trump. What was her message?

KARADSHEH: Well, Isa -- as you mentioned after the Syrian regime recaptured Aleppo, you had hundreds, thousands of families who were forced out of their homes there. And Bana and her family were lucky to be invited by the Turkish government into Turkey where they are now. We traveled to Ankara, where we got to catch up with Bana and her family.


[00:25:00] BANA HAMED ALABED, SYRIAN REFUGEE: You promise me you will do something for the children of Syria. I am already (inaudible).

KARADSHEH: Bana's letter to President Trump last month was full of hope that America's new leader would hear her pleas. Pleas from a seven-year-old refugee who became the face and voice of Syria's children after tweeting with her mother about life under siege in Aleppo.

But far from extending a hand of friendship, America's President slammed the door. Bana and her family know they're more fortunate than others. Because of Bana's high profile, they were admitted into Turkey in December.

At a park in Ankara, war seems like a distant memory. Bana's three- year-old brother Noor, born into war had never been to a playground before arriving in Turkey.

ALABED: I have (inaudible) so much faith and -- there is no bombing.

KARADSHEH: At the age of five, her brother Hamed (ph) is too young to remember life before war. The impact is evident. Whenever he sees strangers, Hamed hides.

Fatimah says there's no escaping the trauma they suffered. Now her children are overwhelmed by the simplest of things.

FATIMAH ALABED, MOTHER OF BANA: When they saw this fruit which is (inaudible) and the sweets and clean water, my kids thought they are in heaven.

KARADSHEH: Fatimah and Bana want to keep speaking out for Syrian refugees. They hope President Trump would quote, "delete his decision".

F. ALABED: Like he has now avowed to ban the people, he has avowed to make a difference in this world. And make all the world (inaudible) the Syrian people --

KARADSHEH: Bana might be too young to understand why the American president may not have the time to write back to a little Syrian refugee girl.

"I sent him a letter asking to help Syrian children. I would love Syrian children to stay alive", she says. "But he banned Syrians but children are not terrorists."

A plea from a child once in danger, now in safety, for the millions of others living in fear.


KARADSHEH: And Isa -- Bana and her family say that they're happy in Turkey. They do not want to apply for resettlement for refugee status in the United States. But they were hoping to visit America. They were hoping to go to a conference in support of refugees in Los Angeles this year. And they're also hoping to go and meet some of the quarter of a million followers they've had on Twitter, people who supported them during the siege of Aleppo. But now they can't, they say.

SOARES: What a strong and very bright young girl. Hope her message gets heard all the way in Washington.

Jomana -- thank you very much. John.

VAUSE: Isa -- time for a short break.

When we come back, lawyers for the first lady, Melania Trump are making a tricky argument in a lawsuit against the "Daily Mail". We'll take a closer look in just a moment.


[00:30:00] ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Isa Soares live in London.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Vause live in Los Angeles, time to check the headlines. The U.S. Appeals Court is expected to rule this week on whether to restore President Donald Trump's travel ban.

The judges heard arguments Tuesday from the U.S. Justice Department that national security is a president's responsibility. Washington State Attorney General, which ones the ban has placed, said reinstating that ban would actually throw the country into chaos.

SOARES: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has sworn in Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. She was confirmed after Pence cast an historic tie-breaking vote ending a tough battle in the Senate. Democrats debated through Monday night and into Tuesday morning in an effort to stop her confirmation.

VAUSE: Iran's supreme leader is thanking President Donald Trump for showing the true face of the U.S. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized Mr. Trump over human rights saying the travel ban has damage America's moral standing on the world's stage.

SOARES: There has been no claim of responsibility so far, but a suicide bomber targets a Supreme Court employees in Afghanistan on Tuesday. The bomber detonated explosives as the workers left the courts for the day. At least 20 people were killed and dozens more were injured.

VAUSE: The U.S. First Lady Melania Trump is getting low profile since her husband's inauguration last month, but her lawyers had been busy. They are suing the owner of "The Daily Mail" which published and then retracted a story which they say falsely alleged the First Lady once work for an escort service causing her emotional and economic damages of at least $150 million.

Part of that lawsuit argues Melania Trump "had the unique once in a lifetime opportunity as an extremely famous and well-known person as well as a former professional model, brand spokesperson and successful business woman to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have gone at multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which the plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world."

Civil rights attorney and attorney at the Bloom firm Lisa Bloom joins us now for more on this legal action.

Lisa, since the details of that lawsuit were made public, we've heard from representatives of -- from Melania -- for Melania Trump, I should say. They issued this statement.

"The First Lady has no intention of using her position for profit and will not do so. Any statements to the contrary are being misinterpreted."

It seems reading that lawsuit, that's a pretty easy mistake to make.

BLOOM: This is really shocking. First of all, Melania Trump is responsible for court documents that are filed in her name. I would expect that as a grown woman she would have read it and approved it. And this was just filed yesterday. And the word speak for themselves.

They say that she was intending to use this once in a lifetime opportunity of being First Lady to cash in and make millions of dollars on fragrances and clothing and jewelry.

You know, there's no other First Lady in U.S. history who has ever done that, because our customs are that first ladies do actually good things for the community. There's no law I suppose that would prevent her from cashing in but most Americans would find that highly repugnant.

VAUSE: OK. There's no law about, you know, cashing in as you say. The lawsuit does mention, you know, products like clothing and make up. Could all this be seen as an abuse of public office for private gain?

BLOOM: Well, absolutely in a moral sense. I mean, the First Lady has such an important job. And first ladies typically are helping children or in Michelle Obama's case military families, fighting childhood obesities.

They typically take on a cause and use the power of their position to help people. The idea that she intended to use this position to make money and a family that's already so wealthy. She's married to a billionaire, it just makes no sense at all. You really have to scratch your head.

VAUSE: Well, could -- you know, these claims of damage to her commercial interest, could this just be a way to maximize the payout she might ultimately be awarded in this case.

BLOOM: Well, yes, but that's disturbing, too, right, if they are making allegations in the lawsuit in order for her to get more money against "The Daily Mail."

I don't condone what "The Daily Mail" did running a false story about her, but they did retract it. They did take it back and made it very clear that it was not true. So I don't know why she is even pursuing this.

You know, "The Daily Mail's" lawyers are now going to have the opportunity to take her deposition, try to recur over the calls, as her tough questions, ask her about this language.

I would expect that they would do that. A good lawyer would do that. So I don't know why she's even choosing to pursue this thing.

VAUSE: Well, I guess the argument could be that, you know, she has a right to protect her reputation. She had commercial interests before she became First Lady and, you know, she has a right to protect those in court.

BLOOM: Yes. Well, a lot of us have rights to do things, but it doesn't mean we should exercise those rights. And I tell my clients all the time, you may have a good lawsuit, but it's not in your interest to file it at this time.

And Melania Trump, first lady, this is how she wants to spend her time over something that was retracted, that doesn't make a lot of sense either.

VAUSE: All right. Lisa, we'll leave it there. Again, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

BLOOM: Thank you.

SOARES: Now two firefighters from Colorado risk their life to save refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Their remarkable story of heroism, that's coming up here.

Plus, an infant with a heart defect gets entangled over President Trump's immigration ban, but hope for her live-saving surgery is now within reach. We'll have those, both those stories for you, after a very short break.


SOARES: Welcome back. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Now more than 5000 migrants fleeing their homes died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea last year. It was a deadliest year on record. That is according to United Nations.

Hundreds have already died this year. Anna Cabrera profiles two U.S. firefighters trying to save other refugees from the same fate.


TOM PICKLES, U.S. FIREFIGHTER: You never know what you are going to get. We know where the search area is and we just prepare for the worst.

[00:40:00] I have a certain skill set as most people on this department do. And I feel like I would be wasting it if I didn't use it for our greater cause.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look for people with life jackets.

JIM HOUCK, U.S. FIREFIGHTERS: We pull up on the scene and there was lifejackets in the water and people in the water and we are ready to work.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me know if you anyone without life jackets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Grab this guy here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll get you. Come here, my friend. Relax buddy, I got you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's intense. It's amazing how quickly things can change and it's amazing how dire the circumstances can be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come and rescue me, come and rescue me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of shouting. There's a lot of crying. There's a lot of people, you know, who are just standing there and floating there and just helpless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are hypothermic, they are exhausted. Who knows the last time they had eaten, probably days ago.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Did you learn where this people where from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are launching off of the Libyan Coast. And so they are coming from places like Senegal, Libya, Sierra Leone, Iraq and a boat full of Syrians, too, which if you look at a map, they had to be quite a journey for them.

They are trying to get somewhere where they might actually be able to make something for themselves. There's people who are fleeing oppressive governments. They're fleeing war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three. Excuse me, just stand below.

There was one gentleman, we had a small fiberglass vessel that there's about 25 on board and half of them were children under the age 10. A lot of kids.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How old is Youssef. One year.

HOUCK: He just wants to find a safe place to live and a place that he can, you know, raise his family.

CABRERA: What do you think about the president's travel ban that affects some of the citizens of countries in which you were countering refugees?

PICKLES: First and foremost, when we were there, we are apolitical. We are just preventing people from dying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grab the rope right there. Grab the rope. Grab that rope. All the way in my friend.

HOUCK: From my experiences with these people there, they are no different than anyone else you ran into in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Climb. Climb my friend.

PICKLES: YOU know, if I -- if I was absolutely living in Central Africa or the Middle East and I was trying to get my family away from violence, I would probably be doing the exact same thing that they were doing.

They are just a product of pure random chance of what country where they were born in.


VAUSE: And a little baby girl from Iran temporarily caught up in President Trump's travel ban who will get the critical surgery she needs.

Four-month-old Fatameh Reshad was admitted to a hospital in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday. She was born with a life-threatening heart defect which could have been treated in Iran. Doctors in Oregon say they are optimistic about her prognosis. The girl's family was initially denied a visa to the United State over the weekend but state and federal officials intervened so they could get a permission to enter the United States.

Well, guys, some good news. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause in Los Angeles.

SOARES: And I'm Isa Soares in London. "World Sport" is up next. Then, of course, John and I will be back for another hour of news from right around the world. You are watching CNN.