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Russia Controversy Engulfs White House; Trump Delays Reworked Travel Ban; Makeshift Clinic on Front Lines Near Mosul; "Return to Mosul"; Texas Ranch Lets Visitors Drive Tanks and Shoot. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired March 4, 2017 - 03:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president headed to Florida this weekend, as tensions rise over questions about Russian involvement in the presidential campaign. We'll have that story for you.

Separated at the border: a new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security, when it comes to immigration in the U.S.

And a possible chemical attack: the latest from the battle to retake Mosul and those trying to help the victims there.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: The U.S. president, Donald Trump, is at his Florida resort this weekend. But the controversy over reported contacts between his campaign aides and the Russian ambassador to the United States continue to shadow his administration.

Mr. Trump's attorney general will submit amended testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. Democrats want to know why Jeff Sessions did not reveal information during his confirmation hearing, that he met with Russia's ambassador twice last year. White House correspondent Athena Jones has more now.



ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump discussing school choice and having a light-hearted moment with students in Orlando...

TRUMP: So you want your own business?

And you're going to make a lot of money, right?

But don't run for politics after you do.

JONES (voice-over): -- before heading to his Mar-a-lago resort for the weekend, leaving behind a firestorm brewing over his aides and their contacts with Russian officials during the presidential campaign.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALA.: I should not be involved investigating a campaign I had a role in.

JONES (voice-over): His attorney general, Jeff Sessions, admitting to meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and not disclosing it during his confirmation hearing. Trump is standing by him.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you still have confidence in (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Total.

JONES (voice-over): The president releasing a statement last night, saying Sessions could have stated his response more accurately but it was clearly not intentional, accusing Democrats of "a total witch- hunt," and today tweeting photos of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer with Russia's Vladimir Putin in 2003, calling Schumer "a total hypocrite" and of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi with the ambassador in 2010, demanding an investigation.

Schumer responding, saying he would happily talk (INAUDIBLE) my contact with Mr. Putin and his associates, took place in 2003 in full view of press and public under oath. Would you and your team?"

Many Democrats say Sessions' recusal isn't enough. Some are arguing he should re-appear before the Judiciary Committee to testify under oath.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONN.: I want to know from him why he falsely denied that he had that meeting.

JONES (voice-over): Meanwhile, more Trump advisers are under scrutiny for meeting with the Russian ambassador. Senior aide Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn sat down with Kislyak in December at Trump Tower for a 10-minute introductory meeting, according to a senior administration official.

And several Trump campaign national security advisers met with Kislyak during the Republican National Convention in July. Carter Page telling MSNBC last night ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not going to deny that you talked with him in Cleveland.


JONES (voice-over): -- and J.D. Gordon telling CNN his discussion was only about building a better relationship between the U.S. and Russia, not about the campaign.

J.D. GORDON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I talked to Ambassador Kislyak there in Cleveland but I talked to dozens of other ambassadors there in Cleveland as well.

JONES (voice-over): Meanwhile, Vice President Pence is facing scrutiny for his use of a private e-mail account to conduct state business while governor of Indiana, after regularly criticizing Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server on the campaign trail...

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We commend the FBI for re-opening the case, following the facts, because, here in America, no one is above the law.

JONES (voice-over): -- a comparison Pence dismissed today during a visit to Wisconsin.

PENCE: There's no comparison whatsoever between Hillary Clinton's practice and having a private server, mishandling classified information, destroying e-mails when they were requested.

JONES: So the White House is calling this an apples to oranges comparison, the comparison between Pence's private e-mail account and Clinton's private e-mail server.

Meanwhile, we're still waiting for the administration's new travel ban. It had been expected this week but as the week drew to a close, a spokeswoman for the White House said there are no announcements about the ban as of yet and that, quote, "We'll let you know when we're ready to roll that out." -- Athena Jones, CNN, --


JONES: -- West Palm Beach, Florida.


HOWELL: Athena, thank you.

Despite the controversy over Russian contacts that is consuming the White House, the former head of the CIA says it is in the U.S.' interest to find areas of cooperation with Russia, wherever possible.

Retired U.S. Army general David Petraeus says the most important thing is to be realistic about Russian motives and goals. Petraeus spoke exclusively to CNN's Fred Pleitgen.


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It's very clear what Vladimir Putin's objectives are. In many cases, they are unacceptable to us and NATO and our allies and partners around the world.

Having said that, there could be some convergence of interest when it comes to the defeat of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda and perhaps to stopping the bloodshed in Syria, as an overall objective, as well. FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And could that be a springboard towards better relations, do you think?

PETRAEUS: Again, I would go into this with my eyes very wide open, with a very, very realistic appraisal of what Russia has done and what Putin would like to do.


HOWELL: Another person connected to Donald Trump says he met with the Russian ambassador as well. CNN's Jim Sciutto takes a closer look now at Carter Page and his views on the Kremlin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard you might be announcing your foreign policy advisory team soon, if there's --


TRUMP: -- Carter Page, Ph.D.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): March 2016: Carter Page's name is announced by then-candidate Donald Trump. Page was known more as a businessman than a foreign policy expert. He is an energy executive and former investment banker with ties to Russia.

He lived in Moscow for three years while working for Merrill Lynch. During that time, he worked as an adviser to Gazprom, the Russian- controlled energy giant, which is run by a former aide of Vladimir Putin when he was the mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s.

In 2008, Page came back to New York and founded his own company, Global Energy Capital LLC. Page also started writing columns for "Global Policy," an academic journal, where he was critical of sanctions and of the Obama administration's relationship with Russia.

Three months after Page is named as one of Trump's advisers, he attended a meeting of foreign policy experts in Washington. And, according to "The Washington Post," he stunned the crowd by praising Russian president Vladimir Putin, also saying a Trump presidency would be good for U.S.-Russia relations.

PAGE: Thank you very much.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): A month later, Page was in Moscow for a speech at the new economics school. He told the crowd that he didn't want to comment on the U.S. election but was sharply critical of U.S. foreign policy.

PAGE: A failure of U.S. analysts and leaders to consider these principles has often allowed Washington to disregard proposed ideas that are actually not contrary to America's interests.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): It was during this trip to Moscow that Page allegedly met with Russian nationals who were under U.S. sanctions, an allegation that Page has denied multiple times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you have any meetings, I'll ask again.

Did you have any meetings last year with Russian officials in Russia, outside Russia, anywhere?

PAGE: I had no meetings, no meetings. I might have said hello to a few people as they're walking by me at my -- the graduation speech I gave in July but no meetings.

You know, I think it's really just a political stunt from the get-go.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Months after Donald Trump named Page to his foreign policy advisory team, a Trump campaign spokesperson gave him a new moniker, "informal adviser."

Then one month later, communications director Jason Miller changed Page's status again, writing in an e-mail to "The Hill," quote, "He's never been part of our campaign, period."

After the election, the Trump White House continues to deny any close connection between Carter Page and their campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carter Page is an individual who the president- elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Carter Page later said that while he was part of the foreign policy team, he did not work directly with Mr. Trump and did not work on anything substantial relating to Russia policy -- Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: And there may be far less to Carter Page's relationship with President Trump than he claims. Listen to this exchange that Page had with CNN's Anderson Cooper.


PAGE: I never briefed him. And in reality --

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Did you ever meet him?

PAGE: -- I never shook his hand. I've been in many rallies with him from Arizona to North Dakota to many in New York.

COOPER: Rallies?

PAGE: You know, which is meetings, you know, so it's --

COOPER: Well, let me ask you about that because you have said repeatedly that you were in meetings with the president. You were in Moscow --

[03:10:00] COOPER: -- in December of 2016, you held a press conference at the Sputnik headquarters and you, apparently to reporters, you deny claims that you had never met Donald Trump during your time as adviser.

And you said, "I've certainly been in a number of meetings with him."

That implies I'm in a meeting, in a conference room, around a table.

You're now saying that those meetings were actually rallies?

PAGE: That is -- listen, if you look at the definition of meetings in Russian and -- in a Russian context --


COOPER: Do you speak Russian?

PAGE: Yes.

COOPER: Really?

PAGE: I get by. I can understand what's happening in meetings and I can get my ideas across. But it's --

COOPER: So you're saying you were using the Russian definition of meetings...

So to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been to rallies?


PAGE: No, I've not -- you know, I've been in smaller crowds.

COOPER: No, no, no, I'm saying hundreds or tens of thousands of people who have been to Donald Trump rallies, can they say they've been in meetings with Donald Trump?

PAGE: I've been in smaller ones as well.

COOPER: What's the smallest?

I mean, have you actually been in a meeting where foreign policy was discussed?

PAGE: Anderson, listen, they were often discussed in rallies, et cetera, as well.

COOPER: Right, I know. But you know, if I go to a rally of Donald Trump's, it doesn't mean I'm an adviser to Donald Trump or doesn't mean I'm going to a meeting with Donald Trump. I happened to be at -- I'm at a rally.

So you went to a bunch of Donald Trump rallies?

PAGE: Yes, and things like that, exactly.


HOWELL: The United States is considering separating children and adults who enter the country illegally at the southern border with Mexico. A senior Homeland Security official says the proposal is meant to stop people from exploiting children.

Right now, when adults come into the U.S. with children, authorities usually release them and families can stay in the country.

President Trump has delayed signing a revised travel ban to replace the executive order that he issued a few weeks ago. That original order banned citizens of seven Muslim majority nations from entering the U.S. but legal challenges suspended it. I spoke earlier about the matter with Larry Sabato, the University of Virginia's director at the Center for Politics.



LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: I don't mind the delay at all because it suggests to me that, this time, they're trying to get it right. They obviously screwed it up badly in its first iteration and we know what happened with all of the so-called judges and what their view was of the original executive order.

So the fact that the administration is trying to do it right this time is a good sign. Let's hope they succeed.

Whether you agree or disagree with the general idea, you want them to pull back wherever they can and wherever the law and the judicial system will eventually not permit them to do what they want to do anyway.

HOWELL: So the travel ban delayed but, Larry, this question, how important is it for this administration to make sure that they reintroduce another travel ban, especially for Donald Trump's base?

SABATO: There's no question that Trump's base is enthusiastic about the travel ban and they want to see some version of it in effect.

But let's remember Trump's base is getting everything they've ever dreamed of, at least in terms of immigration. Our border control agents have been aggressively enforcing border control laws and the directives from the Trump administration.

In fact, many critics say they have been much too aggressive in their sending back to various countries individuals who really don't merit being deported.

So I'm not worried about his base. Maybe he is. But that base is not going to get everything it wants. And, in this case, they would be better off waiting for a well-considered alternative.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, the very latest in the battle to retake Western Mosul, where U.S. medics are putting their lives on the line to provide life-saving care to the wounded.

Plus, Malaysia releases and deports a suspect in the Kim Jong-nam murder case. What he's saying about the investigation as CNN NEWSROOM continues.





HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

There are new developments to report in the murder case of Kim Jong- nam. Malaysia has issued an arrest warrant for the man that you see here, a North Korean airline worker. He's wanted for questioning in the death of the North Korean leader's half-brother.

In the meantime, Malaysia has released this North Korean citizen. He was held as a suspect in the case but Malaysian authorities say they don't have enough evidence to charge him. He's being deported now to Pyongyang and said this to reporters after arriving in Beijing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I realized that this is a conspiracy, a plot, to try to damage the status and honor of the republic.


HOWELL: Two women have been charged with murdering Kim. Malaysian officials say he was killed with VX nerve agent at the Kuala Lumpur airport.

Twelve civilians are being treated for injuries from a suspected chemical attack in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The Red Cross says their symptoms are consistent with a blistering chemical agent.

In the meantime, about 46,000 people have cleared out of Western Mosul just this past week alone, as the offensive against ISIS drags on. But up to 800,000 remain trapped inside there and a team of U.S. medics are treating casualties. Ben Wedeman reports but we do warn you, many of the images you'll see in this report are disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got 100 of Tramadol and 75 of Ketamine.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scorched by the flames from a suicide car bomb, an Iraqi soldier lies in shock and pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a wet -- we'll -- I'll do a layer of wet first.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Medics at this frontline clinic struggle to stabilize him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we're going to get him on that same helicopter?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Is that something -- it might not be too late. He's going to call me back. He might not be able to get out of here for 30 minutes.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): This volunteer group, New York City Medics, is working just a 10-minute drive from the battle for Western Mosul.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead, (INAUDIBLE). Grab his arm. Make sure he's OK.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Most have never been in a war zone. They treated only one civilian while we were there, a little girl with a toothache. Her family fled Mosul earlier that morning. The rest were soldiers, many with multiple wounds.

Jeff Evans normally works in Boulder, Colorado.

JEFF EVANS, MEDIC: So that guy had a gunshot wound right under his arm, like right below his armpit and I think he's actually escaped from it penetrating his lung. So I think it bounced down into his gut. But I mean, that's a critical patient, you know.

The first thing he said was, I don't want to die. I want to be able to go fight again.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Some of the injured here are coming straight from the battlefield.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is shrapnel.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Here they check their wounds...


WEDEMAN (voice-over): -- change their bandages and send them on to the nearest hospital. The team comes from all over the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Sorry, sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put a little bit of water on it. OK.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The head doctor from Germany. Jeff left behind his wife and 11-year-old son to come here.

EVANS: I think as a father and as a husband, that the onus is on me to live through example and to do things that show my son how important it is to live --


EVANS: -- in a way, a selfless life.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): A selfless live, saving lives, a very long way from home -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, south of Mosul.


HOWELL: Ben, thank you for the report.

Last November 4th, CNN correspondent Arwa Damon and camera man Brees Lennay entered Mosul with advance units of the Iraqi army looking to liberate that city from ISIS. Their convoy was ambushed and then they spent 28 hours under siege.

Two months later they returned. And in this excerpt from their special report, "Return to Mosul," Arwa and Brees go back to reunite with the family that sheltered them.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the kitchen window that, at one point, the troops were having to shoot and fight out of.

The stairway that they were hiding under.

DAMON (voice-over): And then Matad (ph) came in. And we had really bonded that night, mostly because she treated me as if I was one of her daughters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

DAMON (voice-over): These people, they have such kindness and humanity, it really never ceases to amaze me.

DAMON: The last time we came, he's saying, it was so chaotic and it was such a surprise, there's a lot that they weren't able to say just yet. I think I've been officially adopted.

We're going to go see the baby, my namesake.

DAMON (voice-over): This family, in sharing their home with us and the soldiers, they may very well have saved our lives and that experience forges a unique bond.


DAMON (voice-over): Baby Arwa was so oblivious, just sleeping peacefully.

But what kind of an Iraq was she going to grow up in?


HOWELL (voice-over): "Return to Mosul," a CNN special report with Arwa Damon, it airs several times this weekend. You can catch it on Saturday at 7:00 pm local time in Abu Dhabi. That is 3:00 pm in London, only here on CNN.

Parts of Northern Australia are on alert as a tropical cyclone forms in the region. Our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri, is here to tell us more about it -- Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm curious, where's the rainiest city you've lived in?

HOWELL: I think you know that, Seattle.


JAVAHERI: Absolutely. What has occurred in Darwin, Australia, where the cyclone is, it has rained about twice in the last couple of months than you get in an entire year in Seattle. And more is coming.

We'll show you exactly what's going on across the region. In Darwin, Australia, the summer of 2016 into 2017, 1,800 millimeters of rainfall have come down. Compared to Seattle, 900 millimeters in an entire year is what comes down.

In London, about 600 millimeters is what you expect in an entire year. And we're getting that in a matter of couple months.



HOWELL: It's definitely a different take on the tourist attraction. Maybe you already know everything about World War II weaponry.

But what about being inside a tank and firing its guns?

CNN's Richard Roth visited a ranch in Texas, where the star attractions are vintage tanks that really work.



RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who were you expecting, General Patton?

I'm from Manhattan. I don't have a driver's license and I'm a bleeder.

Can I drive this tank? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes and yes.

ROTH: All right. Let's do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do it. You'll go up first.

ROTH: I'm so glad I wore a business suit.

Did I tell you I have flat feet that should disqualify me?

Ready for service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Richard.

Let's go.


ROTH: Oh, my god. Look at that drop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let it roll. Give it a little gas.


ROTH: I feel like we're going to fall straight down in this tank.


ROTH: Sometimes I think diplomacy is best backed by military force. So here we go up this hill.

Now those sound like gunshots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they're shooting.

You're pretty much going to have the gas pedal all the way forward.

ROTH: Oh, my god, I blew it.

How did I do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a lot worried at the beginning.

ROTH: Now you tell me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, well, it's over now.

ROTH: So we're done here, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, no, no.

Range is hot. (INAUDIBLE).

I think you killed the mountain.

ROTH: Oh, my God. It was so hot. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's hot. It's a flame thrower.


HOWELL: Richard typically reports for the United Nations for us here at CNN. I guess blowing off a little steam there.

Thanks for being with us for NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'll have your world headlines right after the break.