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GOP Lawmakers Face Angry Town Halls; White House Sending E.U. Mixed Messages; Top Trump Officials in Mexico for Crucial Talks; Interview with Former Mexican Foreign Minister; Bizarre Twist in Murder Investigation of Kim Jong-Un's Half-Brother; Katy Perry Gets Political at Brit Awards. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired February 23, 2017 - 02:00   ET



[02:00:13} JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Great to have you with us. We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause, live in Los Angeles. It is 11:00 Wednesday night on the west coast.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Isa Soares, live in London. And it is now 7:00 a.m. Thursday morning in the United Kingdom. Thank you for joining us.

Furious constituents are confronting Republican lawmakers in town hall meetings across the United States. Senators and representatives are facing questions about President Trump's policies on a range of issues, including health care and immigration.

Kyung Lah reports about the battle to be heard getting louder



KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The growing grassroots with public outrage against Congress visceral and visible in town halls across America.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On nation, under God --


LAH: White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, explaining what the administration believes is behind this.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think some people are clearly upset. But there is a bit of professional protester manufactured base in there. LAH (on camera): Are you a political operative?

COURTNEY MORGAN (ph), PROTESTER: Absolutely not. I'm a nurse. I'm a mom. I have never contacted my Congress person before this.

LAH (voice-over): We met Courtney Morgan (ph) in Utah, a professional nurse but not a professional protester.

After the election, she founded a local group called Utah Indivisible.


LAH: Did this Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz's town hall. It was so packed, police told us about a thousand people couldn't get inside. About those crowds? The White House calling them loud and small.


LAH: But from Utah to Louisiana, we saw large passionate crowds with pointed questions.









LAH: These constituents maintain they do represent their district. In Virginia, wearing stickers, showing off their zip codes. Grandmother Ann Tucker formed Virginia's Indivisible 757.

ANN TUCKER, FOUNDER, VIRGINIA'S INVDIVISIBLE 757: I think they are trying to delegitimize what they must perceive to be a powerful grassroots movement.

LAH: How did it begin? The local groups are following this, the Indivisible guide written by these former congressional aides based on 2009 Tea Party tactics used against their Democratic bosses.

(on camera): Are you making any money on this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Making any money? No. This is not a money-making venture.

LAH (voice-over): Ezra is the only full-time employee. He just left his real job and he is yet to be paid. They wrote the guide shortly after the election, posted it online and it became a viral sensation, viewed 15 million times. He said Republicans called them professional protesters at their own peril.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is sad they would make that claim without any evidence at all. These are their constituents, the members of Congress. These are folks who feel really strongly about the direction of the country.

LAH (on camera): What they also feel very strongly about is what they heard from Sean Spicer, what they are seeing from the president regarding their involvement here in these town halls. It is making it more heated, making them more passionate, and making them want to continue to show up.

Kyung Lah, CNN, New Jersey.


VAUSE: Let's bring our political panel in. CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston, joining us from Atlanta. And in Los Angeles; and CNN political commentator and Trump supporter, John Philips; and Democratic strategist, Dave Jacobson; and Republican consultant, John Thomas.

Keeping in mind what we just heard from Sean Spicer, let's go back to August 2009, a young Jake Tapper asking about the Tea Party protests.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is the White House contention that the anger some members of Congress are experiencing at town halls, especially over health care reform, is manufactured?

ROBERT GATES, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think some of it is, yes. I think you've had groups today, conservatives for patients' rights that have bragged about organizing and manufacturing that anger.


VAUSE: Mark, a different time, a different White House, but a remarkably similar response.

[02:05:02] MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANLAYST: No doubt. A couple of things. One, when we talk about these organized protests, two levels. First, are they paid protesters? Are they actually getting a monetary sum to show up and to protest the Republicans holding town halls? No. Are they being organized in some way by these small grassroots groups? Yes. Are they being organized by groups in Washington? Yes. For instance, Planned Parenthood has been very active to help drive out folks to the town halls to get them to protest on the issue of health care. The bottom line is this is how politics works. Does it matter if Planned Parenthood to get folks to show up against Republicans when it comes to the issue of Obamacare? I don't think it matters. I think that they are being paid is red herring offered up by the White House. VAUSE: John Phillips, people are showing up at town halls, as Mark said, are probably liberals, probably organized by Planned Parenthood. Does that make it any less powerful?

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. What was different about the Tea Party was it brought new people on table. It splintered the old FDR/New Deal coalition that provided Democrats their margin of victory from the 1920s to Obama. When they started to splinter off and Republicans started to peel off aspects of that coalition, it created a new governing majority, not just at the presidential level but the you look at the state legislatures, the Congress. They started voting Republican tickets up and down line. You're not seeing that with these groups. You're seeing the usual suspects, people being organized by professional political operatives. And that doesn't produce electoral wins for Democrats. If they thought it was, they would be investing in places like Utah. They won't spend money there because they'd be wasting it.

Dave, you're a Democrat. Are those people who are being brought into the political process, these people that never demonstrated before?

DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think anecdotally there was a testimonial you had that showed a woman who had not participated in the political process. That's a testament there are new people coming into the process. Really, there's electricity on the ground, a ground swell. It's organic. It's smart for groups like Planned Parenthood or to capital on it. But that energy is independent of the institutional players.

VAUSE: John, Jason Chaffetz, Republican from Utah, face a town hall meeting two weeks ago.

JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: He did. He is not in jeopardy of losing his seat. No doubt they are outraged but there's also a lot of people outraged against Obama in the last eight years. 74 percent wanted a change in direction and they voted for Donald Trump. The proof is in the pudding. Not so much the people coming up to the protests and the rallies. It is, can Donald Trump show measurable improvement for those who don't go to the rallies, people who invest in the stock market and looking for more returns. That will decide the next election.

VAUSE: Mark Preston, to you, is this an issue if they don't address these issues? They could repeat the mistakes Democrats made. They lost control of the House.

PRESTON: I think so. It's at their own political peril. We won't see a mid-term now, a year and a half. Where the problem could be for Republicans is the Independents voters, who did break for trump, who might have voted for Obama in 2008, 2012. If they see that the protests continue, they start to see opposition to policies that Republicans are putting in place, and, quite frankly, if we can't get an Obamacare plan or a similar type of plan that Republicans have promised for many years, that will be problematic for Republicans in the midterms and I think for Donald Trump in 2020 if he runs again.

VAUSE: Let's take a look at the numbers for Donald Trump. Approvals at historic lows.

John Phillips, those numbers, 38 percent approve. They're similar to numbers Trump had during the campaign. Is there a risk now that he'll just govern for his base to hold on to the supporters?

[02:10:00] PHILLIPS: The country is split 50/50. Donald Trump never lit up the polls, as you mentioned, during the presidential campaign. These are in the same ballpark. What was interesting to me is, he had

these sorts of numbers back then, and you had other Republicans on the ballot in purple states, blue states, and what happened in down-ballot races when we were told that Donald Trump's poor numbers or numbers that weren't above 50 percent would kill Senate candidates in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin? Those Republicans won reelections in presidential years when they had no business winning re-election. I'm not worried about it at all.

VAUSE: A few hours ago, we had the candidates vying to be the chair of the Democratic National Committee debating right here on CNN. Here's a snippet of that debate.


KEITH ELLISON, CANDIDATE FOR DEMOCRTIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: Donald Trump has always done a number of things, which legitimately raised the question of impeachment.

TOM PEREZ, CANDIDATE FOR DEMOCARTIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: And the Democratic Party needs to take the fight to Donald Trump. When we lead with our values, when we lead with our conviction, that's how we succeed.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, CANDIDATE FOR DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE CHAIR: What we have to do as a party is recognize that same struggle for belonging is true whether you're an grandmom trying to make sure you won't be separated from your family, or a transgender kid in a high school who just needs to go to the bathroom like everybody else. We're all in this together. That has to be the message.


VAUSE: John, to you, we heard Keith Ellison, in the beginning, raising the possibility of impeachment. Democrats would like that to happen. But with Republicans controlling both houses, that won't happen.

THOMAS: It won't happen. It's red meat for the base. What I learned is you have Keith Ellison, who is largely flawed in the sense that he has anti-Semitic accusations against him, and Perez was an advocate of TPP, who is trying to distance himself from it, so if they -- whichever one is in charge of the DNC, they'll have to devolve their message on an economic level if they want to build the party.

VAUSE: Dave, to you, as a Democrat, what direction is the party heading in?

JACOBSON: Well, the DNC recognize what the challenge was in 2016. I think there were conversations about the economic populism, talking jobs, the middle which we need to concentrate moving forward as a party about. I think structurally it really moved away on how to rebuild the party. That was one of the biggest challenges and missed opportunities for the candidates, talking about that.

VAUSE: Finally, the Trump administration rolling back the federal protections for transgender students. The Obama era advices public schools to allow children to use bathrooms which corresponded to their gender identities. Protests for transgender rights outside the White House.

Mark Preston, this issue apparently brought a lift with the new secretary and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, pushing for it.

PRESTON: John, sources are telling CNN that Betsy DeVos went to Jeff Sessions said she didn't agree with it, you don't want to support it, which led to a meeting between the education secretary, the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump. Basically, she was told that she needed to get on board. Her opposition was that she was concerned, John, that it would appear they were rolling back protections given to students. And many activists saying that is what will happen.

But what we did see from the new education secretary was statement she released after this information was released, "We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and to ensure they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment. This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation. No individual school district or state can advocate."

The White House is saying that the guidance that was put out by the Obama administration on this issue last year legally did not stand up. They believe that this is a states' right -- John?

VAUSE: Finally, to you, John Phillips, how does this all play out? What does that say on where the power lies in the White House?

PHILLIPS: The larger thing is it shows how far we've come with gay rights. This is a president who came into office and spoke on "60 Minutes," saying he won't try to change it. He had an open gay speaker at the national convention. He is continuing the Obama administration's executive order on protecting the rights for gays and lesbian who are doing business with the government. The fact that this is where the debate is has shown great progress on this issue.

VAUSE: OK. We'll leave it at that.

John Phillips, Mark Preston, Dave Jacobson and John Thomas, we appreciate you all being with us.


SOARES: Thanks very much, John.

E.U. leaders are reportedly getting mixed messages from the White House, and how that might impact future relations between some of the closest allies in the world. We'll bring it to you next.

[02:15:02] VAUSE: Top U.S. officials are headed to Mexico to try to patch up strained relations with one of the U.S.'s biggest trade partners.




VAUSE: Welcome back. We're learning about another possible contradiction in foreign policy coming out of the White House. Chief strategist, Steve Bannon, told a German envoy that the E.U. was a, quote, "flawed institution, "and he would rather work with European countries on a bilateral basis.

SOARES: A week later, Vice President Mike Pence pledged to the E.U. leaders.

Let's bring in Atika Shubert, joining us from Berlin.

Atika, how are these comments by Steve Bannon that Europe is flawed playing out in Germany? What has been the reaction?

[02:19:42] ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly among lawmakers and diplomats here, it causes a lot of anxiety about the mixed messages they're getting out of the White House. To be fair, this apparently was a meeting that happened between the German ambassador to the U.S. and Steve Bannon in the week before Vice President Pence and others in the administration came on the European tour. In it, one of the diplomats described the meeting as being combative, in which Bannon described this anti-E.U. world view where he wanted to deal with nations individually.

This is clearly something that Germany feels very strongly about. They feel E.U. is a pivotal part of the, of Europe. And it is the sort of organization with which kind of binds the security trade and political agreements through the continent here. So Germany is in general, anxious about this. But on the other hand, they were slightly reassured by Vice President Pence's comments in Brussels as well.

SOARES: And we have heard as well, you're talking about mixed messages. But we have heard from President Trump saying that the E.U., for Germany, all these mixed messages comes at a crucial time in Europe. We have Brexit but also key elections in Germany, France, as well as the Netherlands. Does this hurt the chancellor at all?

SHUBERT: Well, I think it puts more pressure on Angela Merkel. Not only is she trying to be reelected but she is trying to rebuild the relationship with the U.S. administration, what used to be Germany's closest ally. A lot of this meeting have been the German emissaries trying to understand Trump administration, their world view, the philosophy. There's been a lot of handwringing here on what exactly Germany can do to try to improve that relationship. Whether it will hurt her chances is too soon to say. Elections are not until September. There's till the Dutch and French elections to go. There has been a rise in that nationalism populism. So far, it hasn't affected her own approval ratings, as much as you might expect in the upcoming elections.

SOARES: Atika Shubert, there for us in Berlin. Thank you, Atika. Good to see you.


VAUSE: With more on this, Dave Jacobson and John Thomas joining us once again.

So, Dave, we got this sort of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing going on. Mike Pence looks very much like the mainstream politician. In fact, someone said it had a subject and a verb. We're not used to do. It is business as usual. Saying the E.U. is essentially flawed. This just heaves strong traditional allies who stood by the United States for many, many years.

JACOBSON: Senator John McCain was right. The left hand is not talking to the right hand. You have Mike Pence totally out of the loop. The chief strategist is saying something completely different from the vice president. This is the second case where the vice president was out of the loop. When it came to what was being told to the vice president, he was left out of the loop of that. So it undermines the credibility of the White House and legitimacy of what anybody says that's part of the White House apparatus besides Donald Trump.

VAUSE: John, it does look like the vice president is not part of this inner circle, and many times it is a circle of the two, Donald Trump and Steve Bannon.

PHILLIPS: I think you have to look at two dramatically different styles. Bannon and Trump are one school of thought, every looks like a nail and you're the hammer. Vice President Pence is your classic politician in soft-shoeing everything. I think a lot of is it a difference in approach. But it may be a good cop/bad cop. Bannon comes in and lays it down and the vice president smooths it over.

JACOBSON: But the question is, you have Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, going to Mexico today, having conversations.


JACOBSON: Right. Another clean-up. But the question is, is the president of Mexico going to believe whatever Rex Tillerson says? The president has these knee-jerk reactions where he pivots. He is the true shape shifter. It undermines anyone who works for him, whether the vice president, secretary of state or anybody else.

VAUSE: Some people have asked this question, John. Does the secretary of state speak for the president when it comes to foreign policy in Donald Trump has very definite views on foreign issues? PHILLIPS: Sure. You have to assume that he does. I'm sure there

will be differences. But he serves at the American of the president. You have to believe he speaks for the president.

VAUSE: You have this madman theory. Keeping everybody on edge. Looking at one issue, unpredictability. In some cases, you're almost verging into schizophrenia.

JACOBSON: We're not on the verge of it. We are. He flips like 180 degrees every other day. This is a guy who said abortion should be a punishable offense and then flipped his position. He is alienating our closest allies saying Germany is at the same level of Russia as he approaches the presidency. And so I think the calculus is just mind boggling.

[02:25:20] THOMAS: This is going to be messy. He came in as a change candidat3e to tear up the establishment, to tear up the Iran nuclear deal.

VAUSE: Do you see long term consequences of this schizophrenic foreign policy? They say one thing, then something else. Rinse, wash repeat.

THOMAS: The White House communications director has his work cut out for him.



VAUSE: There is concern in Europe that the president and Steve Bannon simply don't appreciate the role the European Union has been playing in the last 70 years when it comes to keeping the peace and prosperity, not just for Europe but you the rest of the world.

JACOBSON: Yes. I don't understand the calculus. You're alienating our closest allies. We have the NATO alliance. And then you're caressing Putin, who is a known dictator, who has been a long-time adversary of our country, who sought to undermine our election, who sent a spy boat and broke an international treaty, and sending a cruise missile. All of this at a time when he is putting distance between our allies, whether Australia, that terrible phone call with the prime minister, Mexico, of course, and our NATO allies. It's really undermining alignments.

VAUSE: How do you explain all this.

THOMAS: I think he's been largely consistent. There are some differences --


THOMAS: No, there are some differences between cabinet members but I think he is consistent in trying to renegotiate these deals for better deals. And he is standing strong with countries like Israel, which hasn't had an ally like us in years. VAUSE: OK.

THOMAS: I think he is getting more right than wrong, John.

VAUSE: We'll see.

Only one month.


VAUSE: 47 to go.

OK, John and Dave, thank you very much for being with us.


SOARES: Thanks very much, John.

Just ahead, high-level U.S. diplomacy in Mexico. Top Trump officials meeting soon with the Mexican president in a bid to get relations back on track.


[02:30:25] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live in Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. It is 11:30 here this on a Wednesday night.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Isa Soares, live in London now.

Just hours from now, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will sit down with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto and other top officials. The high-level talks come at a low point in relations between the two countries.

We get more from CNN's Michelle Kosinski.



MICHELLE KOSINKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mexico City where thousands of people have taken to the streets over the last month, protesting Trump White House policies. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and homeland security secretary, John Kelly, arriving tonight with a tall order for the first neighborly visit, get the U.S./Mexico relationship back on track.


KOSINKI: Mexico has threatened boycotts. President Nieto canceled his trip to the White House last month amid the tensions and Trump tweets about the border wall and who will pay for it.

Today, from the White Houser -- SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRTARY: The relationship with Mexico

is phenomenal right now and I think there's an unbelievable and robust dialogue between our two nations.

KOSINSKI: A Mexican official says their side goes into these talks with President Trump's promises --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will build the wall. Mexico will pay for the wall.

KOSINSKI: -- a no go. The official stating, Mexico will not pay for a wall.

Also, with the new immigration order, there could be hundreds of thousands or even millions of people deported.

(on camera): Mexico says it does have an obligation to take back its own nationals but not deportees from other places. And many have come through Mexico from Central America.

(voice-over): The government official adding Mexico needs to see the following in these meetings, respect for the relationship that has been built over decades, acknowledgement that Mexico is an enormously important trading partner, $1.5 trillion in trade every day, and acknowledgement the U.S. is lucky to have such a good neighbor in Mexico.

Such is the price of moving forward, after all the words from President Trump, going back to the campaign trail.

TRUMP: They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists.

We have some bad hombres here and we're going to get them out.

KOSINSKI: He even used the phrase "tough hombres" on a phone call with the Mexican president this month, threatening to send U.S. troops there to help.

Former Obama deputy secretary of state, Tony Blinken, says the strain between these neighbors or fences could take far more than this visit to heal.

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It helps but not enough. It is turbulent because of all the talk of a wall. And it is especially turbulent because of the various immigration executive orders. That's a conversation Mexico needs to be in on, on the takeoff, not on the landing.

KOSINSKI: Michelle Kosinski, CNN, the State Department.


VAUSE: And the Mexican foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda, is with us from Mexico City with more on the troubled U.S./Mexico relationship.

Thank you for being with us.

What are the options here for the Mexican government as you see it, should it decide to push back against the Trump administration?

JORGE CASTANEDA, FORMER MEXICAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, John, that I think the Mexico than government should push back. I think it should have pushed back before. Mexico has many bargaining chips in its relationship with the United States with which to respond to the Trump administration's aggressive, unfriendly offensive attitude toward Mexico. This is especially true now.

VAUSE: Would you see the Mexican federal government might join operations targeting drug traffickers or organized crime? That sort of thing?

CASTANEDA: It certainly should. It should begin by saying that there is no way in the world that Mexico will accept deportees that are not Mexican, and that the United States is unable to prove they are Mexican. The issue is not that they are Mexican or not. The issue is who carries the burden of proof? That's the U.S. That's the first point.

Second, Mexico should stop doping the United States' dirty work on our southern border and stopping Central American minors or refugees of people fleeing the violence in Central America from going to the U.S. If they want to go to the United States, let them go. Let them through. And thirdly, we should obviously stop any kind of cooperation on drug enforcement, and even on terrorism issues if the United States and the Trump administration continues to have this anti-Mexican insulting attitude of signing and making public these guidelines, on the eve of the arrival of two high-level U.S. officials in Mexico.

[02:35:34] VAUSE: Refusing to accept non-Mexican citizens who pass through Mexico on the way to their way to the U.S. Under the Trump plan, they will be essentially dumped back into Mexico. The Mexican government said it will not accept them. How does that work? Stopped at the border by Mexican agents?

CASTANEDA: I don't know if you've ever crossed the border. There are check points, barriers. So the Mexicans that the U.S. deports come into Mexico, American visitors, millions enter Mexico. All they have to do is identify themselves as Americans or Mexicans. The U.S. wants us to send a Honduran, we say no. As easy as that, we don't let them, period.

VAUSE: So is there a political incentive for the Mexican president to try to work with this White House?

CASTADENA: I think he's making a mistake bending over backwards to be nice. President Nieto is looking like a wimp, frankly. I think he is making a big mistake by trying cooperate at all costs with the United States. He shouldn't do so. Hopefully, he will show some backbone during Secretary of State Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security Kelly's visit to Mexico today and tomorrow. Frankly, the people in Mexico are getting more and more upset and outraged at the way President Nieto is bending over backward for the Trump administration. This is not playing well.

VAUSE: Finally, I would like to get your reaction to Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, saying the relationship with the U.S. and Mexico is phenomenal right now -- his words. He went on to say there is an unbelievable and robust dialogue.

CASTANEDA: It was funny. He's a great comedian. And I think he is probably funnier than his imitation on "Saturday Night Live."

But he may be a specialist on this matter. I'm not sure he can follow Mexico on the map. I've been following the relations for 40 years and never in my lifetime have I seen a worse relationship. Never have I seen a crisis like today. I was foreign minister, my father was foreign minister, my brother was deputy foreign minister. I think I know a little bit about this relationship. And I think the White House spokesman really does not know. As the Swedish former foreign minister and prime minister said, what exactly was he smoking?


CASTANEDA: I hope it was Mexican.

VAUSE: So with that, Mr. Castaneda, I think we'll leave it there. Thank you for being with us.

Jorge Castaneda, the former foreign minister to Mexico.

Thank you, sir.

CASTANEDA: Thank you.

SOARES: Fascinating interview there.

A bizarre new twist in the murder investigation of Kim Jong-Un's brother, and how it could affect potential U.S. talks with Pyongyang. We'll bring you that story next.


[02:42:14] VAUSE: 18 minutes before the top of the hour. Welcome back, everybody.

Police have arrested at least nine people as they try to shut down the pipeline protest camp in North Dakota.

SOARES: Authorities closed it ahead of seasonal flooding. At least 50 protesters are refusing to leave. Completion of the oil pipeline stalled under Barack Obama, but President Trump revived the project.

VAUSE: Now to the murder of the North Korean leader's half-brother. Malaysian officials are asking Interpol to issue an alert for North Korean suspects in the murder of Kim Jong-Nam.

SOARES: And we are learning more about an attempted break-in at the morgue where the body is being held.

Our Brian Todd has the story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stepped up security at the morgue in Kuala Lumpur where the body of Kim Jong-Un's half- brother is being kept. A top Malaysian police official says someone tried to break into the mortuary. He wouldn't say whether the suspects were North Korean.

TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCMEENT ANALYST: It would look like North Koreans but we don't know.

TODD (on camera): What would they do with the body?

FUENTES: That's a good question. We don't know what they would do with it other than ship it somewhere else other than possibly cremate and it destroy it and then argue the evidence was untrue.

TODD (voice-over): It is another bizarre twist in a case that is boiling with intrigue.

Malaysian police say the excuse offered by one of the female suspects, that she thought she was participating in an innocent reality-TV stunt when she rubbed something in Kim Jong-Un's face is not true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALAYSIAN POLICE OFFICIAL: These two ladies were training to swipe the deceased face to -- the four suspects would give, put the liquid on their hands. They're supposed to wipe it over his face. After that, they ran and went to clean their hands.

TODD: South Korean officials say Kim Jong-Un's remine ordered the hit. North Koreans deny the accusation, calling it defamation, but experts say the North Koreans have used this tactic before.

UNIDENTIFIEDC MALE: The mean of delivering might differ but North Korean agents are known for having used poison, liquid poison to assassinate defectors, dissidents and Christian missionaries.

TODD: In 2011, North Korean spies were thwarted when they tried to assassinate a well-known defector in Seoul.


TODD: A South Korean official in Seoul showed CNN a weapon they claim was intended to be used in the attack, a poison needle inside a ball- point pen.

Now indications of a broader conspiracy in Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian police say they want to question two additional North Korean suspects who they say are in Malaysia, a worker at North Korea's embassy and an employee of a North Korean airline.

The assassination in broad daylight could complicate how the Trump administration will deal with Kim Jong-Un's regime. An early indicator could come soon on whether to approve visas for a North Korean delegation to come to New York City. "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" reports information talks are proposed for next months between North Korean officials and former U.S. officials.

Joel Whit has attended similar talks.

[02:45:36] JOEL WHIT, U.S./NORTH KOREAN RELATIONS, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: It sounds weird but you can brainstorm with North Koreans if you know them and they know you. In that context, we've had very productive discussions about the future of U.S./North Korean relations and about their nuclear weapons and missile program.

TODD (voice-over): Analysts say while any talks with North Korea might provide a positive opening, they warn not to expect too much. They point out North Korea has often reneged on agreements in the past and that Pyongyang will never fully give up their nuclear weapons program

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Still to come, the Brit awards, including a Kay Perry performance with giant skeletons and a political message.




[02:50:08] VAUSE: A look now at a close call between a passenger jet and actor Harrison Ford's small plane in southern California.

SOARES: Here you can see Ford's single plane flying over the jet, which is slowly moving on the taxiway. The small plane then lands on the taxiway nearby. This happened last week. Representatives at Ford haven't confirmed he was the pilot. Federal aviation authorities are investigating.

VAUSE: Katy Perry is not shy about her politics. She campaigned and raised money for Hillary Clinton. Now she's taking her political message across the pond.




SOARES: Well, this is from Katy Perry's performance at Wednesday's Brit Awards. Those giant skeletons are dressed like President Trump and the British prime minister. Some people say, well, they're just puppets.

For more on this, the Brit Awards and the big winners of the night, let's bring in CNN's Max Foster and Andrew Trendell, senior News Reporter for NME.

Max, you were meeting the staff at the red carpet. What were the highlights of the night?

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPODNENT: All the talk on the red carpet was about Grime, which started in London. You had the big stars turning up. Ultimately, it was a Little Mix versus stormsy sort of battle really. So pop versus this thing that was grown up in London. Little Mix won that award. So this big manufactured pop band obviously doing incredibly well. My daughter is a huge supporter. I have to be careful about offending them here.

But Grime didn't win. Is it because this is a music industry event. They didn't create Grime. They created Little Mix. Grime emerged in the streets of London, but it didn't transpire. A lot of news commentators feel this is getting a bit boring now. They're not recognizing Grime properly.

SOARES: And, Andrew, it's not just Grime. Also, I was reading that the awards were pretty boring opinion what was your take on that?

ANDREW TRENDELL, SENIOR NEWS REPORTER, NME: Well, it was definitely an improvement on last yearly, after the "Brits so white" foray. I feel that the inclusion of Grime was to appease that. A lot of it is industry back slapping. Where if you boil down to it, Grime created itself. When Grime started to break, the radio didn't play it. They people wanted it and the radio had to respond. So I think the rest of mainstream music media is trying to catch up. So that's why there were no Grime winners.

SOARES: And for our international, when you say "Brits so white," they felt many people felt Brits weren't diverse enough. This year, much better?

TRENDELL: In terms of performance and representation at the ceremony, yes. But no Grime winners, and it's the dominant force in music right now.

SOARES: Diverse on the front pages really.

Max, some said it doesn't match the likes of the Grammys that were pretty political in their tone. Was it political? We bring up Katy Perry a's performance. Some are interpreting that in a political way. What was your take?

FOSTER: I know and we're having to read between the lines, aren't we? It was confirmed that was, indeed, Donald Trump and Theresa May, but it really does look like them when you compare it to them meeting, wearing similar outfits. And all the white houses surrounding Katy Perry. One of them fell off the stage, which was a viral moment as well.



FOSTER: She has called it an era of purposeful pop. So I think she's using visuals to give a message. And you know, it's interesting, debating this last night, because

there's been this debate in the media, should we be responding as the media when we're criticized by the White House. Should the pop industry be responding?


FOSTER: I think this is her response to that, saying this is the message. I'm not going to talk about judgements.

SOARES: Read between the lines.

Let's talk about one of the big winners of the night, David Bowie.


SOARES: Tell us about the awards he received and how he was really received on the night.

TRENDELL: He won best British album or best album, generally best album, and best British male, which some people might find strange because he died a week into the year.


SOARES: 10 days, in fact.

TRENDELL: That's largely a reflection of how he still has an impact. It still doesn't feel like he's dead. Because when he released "The Next Day," he didn't give a single interview to any of that. He still just cast this amazing shadow and dominating the media without being present and that really hasn't changed if you think about it.

SOARES: Was that the highlight of the night, would you say?


SOARES: The tributes being paid to him.

[02:55:05] TRENDELL: I think last year's tributes were far more moving.

FOSTER: Much bigger, wasn't it? The George Michael moment was probably the most moving.

TRENDELL: The speech. The performance was a bit --


FOSTER: Yeah. Coldplay.

There there's a great line about David Bowie, and someone said, if he was here tonight, he wouldn't be here tonight.


SOARES: Because what? He doesn't support -- what's the --


FOSTER: Like living artists would be getting the award.

TRENDELL: That's why they didn't give him the Mercury Prize because he would have wanted someone active to win it. That was far more fitting of the time.

SOARES: Name the number-one performance of the night?

TRENDELL: 1975. Just their amazing self-fulfilling prophecy of them becoming the biggest band in the world, a show stopper.

SOARES: Max, for your daughter?

FOSTER: Little Becks, for my daughter.


SOARES: Thank you very much, Max Foster. We know where he stands.


You have been watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares, in London.

VAUSE: I'm fascinated. The only Grime we have is in the shower at home.


I'm John Vause.

Rosemary Church picks up our coverage right after this.