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Court Upholds Impeachment of South Korean President; FBI Chief to Testify about Russia Investigation; U.S. Government Bureaucracy Called "Deep State"; Iraqi Forces Making Progress in Mosul; French Presidential Election. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired March 11, 2017 - 02:00   ET



CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A second day of protests in South Korea. We'll bring you the latest from the massive rallies in Seoul with our correspondent, Will Ripley.

And upbeat U.S. jobs report has the Trump administration cheering but concern over its ties to Russia remain.

And a city turned warzone: what life is like inside Mosul. Our Ben Wedeman speaks to those who chose to stay.

Hi, everyone, thank you very much for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta. And CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


VANIER: We're monitoring celebrations and protests in South Korea this hour after the constitutional court upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. You're looking now at live images from the capital, Seoul. Demonstrators rallying against Park and her supporters have also taken to the streets.

Some protests turned violent on Friday and at least three people were killed. For more on this, our Will Ripley joins us now love from Seoul.

Will, can you describe what it's like right now to be in the capital of South Korea as the country goes through this upheaval?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, the symbolism out here is incredible. There is a physical barrier in place symbolizing the great division in South Korea right now. On this side we have the supporters of President Park. You can hear patriotic music. You see signs of veterans of past wars.

Then you go through the physical barrier, through this place barricade and you get to the people who support the impeachment of the president, those who have been out for months on the street opposing President Park.

You can see in the middle there's essentially a no man's land with thousands of Seoul police officers here to try to keep the peace, to make sure that protesters from that side of the divide don't move their way over here to try to encroach upon the much larger demonstration down the road here.

It's incredible how everything changes. You go from the patriotic music down that way to K-pop. People are more upbeat. There were chants, "Jail President Park," we heard walking over. Also the demographics, a lot of older people on that side of the divide. Many young faces in crowd here.

So there's a generational divide and an ideological in South Korea now.

VANIER: And has Ms. Park reacted to her impeachment yet?

RIPLEY: We know from media reports that she remains at this hour in the Blue House. There have been reports that she was despondent, that this took her by surprise. She thought against all odds that the constitutional court would throw out her impeachment and she would regain her presidential power.

But instead she's found herself immediately stripped of all presidential powers. We know that repair work is happening right now at her residence in Southern Seoul, a residence that she has not lived in since she was elected in 2013.

It is possible that she may move to her residence tomorrow after proper security procedures have been put in place. She's been stripped of pretty much all of her benefits. But the one benefit that she will receive for the next 10 years is security protection.

And as a polarizing figure in this country who now faces the very real possibility of criminal prosecution over this corruption scandal, we don't expect her to be making any public comment for quite some time.

Those close to her, though, her allies of course say that this is incredibly painful and difficult time to go from the height of leading the country as the first female president to now this, the president ever thrown out by impeachment -- Cyril.

VANIER: All right, Will Ripley, walking us through the streets of Seoul city center, thank you very much. We'll continue to cross live to Will over the coming hours. Thanks a lot.

To the legal fight over U.S. president Donald Trump's new travel ban. A federal judge is telling Washington State's attorney general to file an amended complaint challenging the ban.

He said until that happens he cannot determine whether his ruling freezes Mr. Trump's original executive order applies to the new one. But the Trump administration is also facing a new controversy involving Mr. Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and it can't seem to escape the shadow of Russia. Jeff Zeleny has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEFF ZELENY, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Was President Trump aware his first national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, was registered as a foreign agent to represent the government of Turkey?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: Just so we're clear, you wouldn't -- the -- General Flynn filed with the Department of Justice two days ago.

ZELENY (voice-over): White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Flynn's lobbying business was private and took place before he joined the administration although, at the same time, he was advising the Trump campaign last year.

SPICER: That is not up for the government to determine. There are certain private citizens' activities that you conduct and you seek counsel on --


ZELENY: -- or professional advice.

ZELENY (voice-over): Flynn's contract with the government of Turkey ended after the election. Spicer dismissed a series of questions about the lobbying disclosure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The person who is in line to be the national security adviser may need to register as a foreign agent. And that doesn't raise --

SPICER: It's not a question of raise a red flag, John. It's a question of whether or not they gave them the advice that they are supposed to.

ZELENY (voice-over): On day 50 of the Trump presidency, this was the latest distraction at the White House. It has been a full week now since President Trump leveled the explosive accusation that President Obama was spying on him at Trump Tower. But again today, still no evidence.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all very much. We're going to get to work. Thank you.

ZELENY (voice-over): Asked three times, the president would not say whether he had any proof to back up his unsubstantiated charges. The White House is now trying to keep its focus on health care.

TRUMP: And that's what people want. They want repeal and replace.

ZELENY (voice-over): Yet Washington is consumed by Russia and the widening investigations into any connections between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

The congressional probe includes allegations of presidential wiretapping, which no one seems to know about but Mr. Trump. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee,

told CNN's Manu Raju today he has seen no evidence but suggests the question will come up when FBI director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill later this month.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIF.: He is certainly prepared for the question and I don't see any reason why he can't answer it. He may even welcome the opportunity.

ZELENY (voice-over): The top Republican on the committee, Chairman Devin Nunes, echoed his comments from earlier this week, that he had not seen any proof to back up the president's claims.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIF.: We want to find that out but at this point I just don't have anything to tell you.

ZELENY: All this talk of Russia from here at the White House to Capitol Hill have consumed and complicated the president's agenda. The White House is desperately trying to get back to health care and other matters. We'll see if President Trump tweets again and disrupts that this weekend -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


VANIER: The U.S. Justice Department abruptly fired 46 federal prosecutors on Friday. The latest development, President Trump then called two of them to ask them to stay.

All of the attorneys were political appointees from previous administrations who knew they might be replaced eventually. But forcing all of them to retain all on the same day was highly unusual.

It raises the question, did the Trump administration believe these prosecutors were part of a so-called "deep state," trying to compromise its agenda. White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about this at his briefing on Friday.


QUESTION: Does the White House believe there is such a thing as the deep state that is actually working to undermine the president?

SPICER: Well, I think that there is no question, when you have eight years of one party in office, that there are people who stay in government or affiliated with -- you know, joined and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration.

So I don't think it should not come as any surprise that there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration and, you know, may have believed in that agenda and want to continue to seek it. I don't think that should come as a surprise to anyone.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: Julian Zelizer joins us now to discuss all this. He's a historian and professor at Princeton University.

Julian, you heard Sean Spicer there saying essentially that over the course of two Obama presidencies a body of civil servants that are leaning in his favor, sort of organically develops and that they can hinder the work of the next administration, in this case, the Trump administration.

What do you think about that?

JULIAN ZELIZER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It's not a surprising statement. The discussion of a deep state is something that is very common actually in conservative circles, especially in the right-wing media. It's a term really to connote the entrenched power of liberals and Democrats in the bureaucracy.

And it's also something we have heard in other terminology in years past. Richard Nixon used to always worry about the liberals who were buried in the bureaucracy and who were not going to allow him to do what he wanted to do. So this is very much part of the Republican/conservative imagination.

VANIER: Well, OK, so imagination you say.

For our international viewers, how much truth is there to that?

ZELIZER: Well, there is truth to it. I think what it refers to is the fact that you have civil servants certainly in all of the agencies who are there over the course of a career. They're not just there because of Obama. Some have been there much longer. And they are committed to the programs that they run.

And if someone is trying to tamper with them or undermine them, they might push back. We have seen this both -- Republicans and Democratic presidents have faced this before. So there is some truth to that.

And the intelligence agencies are also another form of ongoing bureaucratic power, where, if you mess with them, there could be some pushback. So I think it's not totally untrue that there are --


ZELIZER: -- parts of government that outlast any president and sometimes won't be happy with the agenda of a new administration.

VANIER: Forty-six federal attorneys were fired -- or told to resign, I should say -- on Friday. And they were told that they had to hand in their resignations on the same day.

Is this a case of the Trump administration fighting the deep state?

ZELIZER: Well, no, this is something other presidents do. I think what -- Bill Clinton did this also in a very quick moment of his presidency. Often it's more staggered than what we're seeing today. What makes it different is just President Trump's ongoing battle with

all government institutions. It's so severe and it's so aggressive that, when you have this happen, this kind of a firing, it feels to many people that there is something more to it, that this is actually an attack on institutions rather than part of the normal process, where presidents cleanse government of appointees from former presidents.

VANIER: All right. Another interesting thing that arose on Friday, the latest jobs report; 235,000 jobs created in the month of February. That's the first full month of the Trump administration; unemployment now down to 4.7 percent, the lowest it's been in a long time. Wages are up as well.

I'd like you to listen to Sean Spicer again, the White House press secretary, what he had to say about this.


SPICER: I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly, "They may have been phony in the past but it's very real now."


VANIER: So the job numbers were phony during the Trump campaign but they're real now. He is actually laughing about this.

This is not serious, is it?

ZELIZER: Well, you know, it's kind of tongue in cheek presidency and press secretary, meaning they sometimes openly joke about things that they used to say and they dismissed all these numbers all the time when good numbers came out from the Obama administration.

And now there with a chuckle, he's saying, well, believe these numbers because we're telling them to you.

And I think that's part of the theater that we see from this administration. Some people will say, look, there's no credibility.

So when these numbers come out, how should the Trump administration benefit from them?

But the Trump administration doesn't really care and they kind of just move forward to the current moment and forget about what they had said before about this kind of data.

VANIER: All right, Julian Zelizer, thank you very much for your time. Thanks a lot.

ZELIZER: Thank you.


VANIER: Stay with us. When CNN NEWSROOM returns, the battle for Western Mosul rages on. We'll take you inside the bullet-ridden neighborhoods.




VANIER: Russia and Turkey are cementing --


VANIER: -- their alliance over Syria. Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on Friday in Moscow. They pledged to work together to end the Syrian civil war. This is an unlikely pairing since the countries support opposing sides in the conflict.

But they do both oppose ISIS. Turkey and Russia brokered a cease-fire deal in Syria in December.

The United Nations says aid workers are providing emergency food and water supplies to nearly 4,000 people trapped in Western Mosul. The battle is taking a horrible toll on civilian, with tens of thousands fleeing in the last few weeks. There are also reports that a dozen people may have been exposed to chemical weapons by ISIS.


MATTHEW RYCROFT, U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: We call on all parties to take all feasible precautions with a view to avoiding harm to civilians and civilian object in accordance with international humanitarian law.

We express our strong support for the coordinated efforts of the United Nations and the government of Iraq to address the humanitarian crisis. And we express concern over reports of possible use of chemical weapons by daish and we look forward to the results of our investigation into those allegations.


VANIER: Meanwhile, Iraqi forces are making progress in their fight to recapture all of Mosul from ISIS. But as Ben Wedeman reports, there's not much left to save.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how you get around West Mosul. You run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The soldiers here in the southern neighborhood of Danadan aren't confident of victory.

"The situation here is very good," says Ahmed (ph). "ISIS has run away. There are no problems in this area." His comrade, Ali (ph), agrees.

"ISIS is finished," he says.

The battle passed through here just a few days ago, leaving massive destruction in its wake. Attack helicopters are busy overhead.

WEDEMAN: This is what the Iraqi military says is a liberated area but there's gunfire nearby and not a civilian to be found.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Just a few blocks away, most of the houses are empty and many of the few who stayed behind are leaving. There's no running water, electricity or food.

Omahamed (ph), however, staying put. She and her family hid out in their basement for 16 days while the battle raged around them. Their only food was cold porridge made of flour and water.

"The children were afraid," she recalls. "We gave them and the old folks medicine to make them sleep through the whole thing."

She's the exception. Thousands are fleeing the city every day.

"Our house was destroyed," Ivania (ph) says. "ISIS had forced us out. Then it was hit by a rocket."

Meriam (ph) left her home this morning and now enjoys a cigarette, forbidden under the rule of ISIS, although, she says, they weren't above a few sins of their own.

"They took pills, they drank alcohol, they oppressed us," she says. "But when they came to you, they'd say 'God says this, Muhammad says that.'"

Their experiment at being holier than thou has ended in this -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, West Mosul.





VANIER: All right. Let's see what's happening on the Indian island ocean of -- island of Madagascar, which was hit hard by a deadly cyclone earlier this week and is still struggling with the aftermath. Our meteorologist, Karen Maginnis, from the CNN International Weather Center joins us now with more on that -- Karen.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it has been dreadful and we have seen the number of fatalities skyrocket over the last 24 and 48 hours. We weren't getting a lot of information once this tropical cyclone made landfall late in the morning on Tuesday. But it just kind of trailed right down the spine, the center of the

island and now has moved to the south. Still at tropical storm -- or tropical cyclone intensity. Right now Reuters is saying 38 fatalities associated with this system and it has left thousands upon thousands displaced.


VANIER: Now French voters are weighing the prospect of electing a far right leader as president. The first round of voting is April 3rd, six weeks from now. A victory from the National Front's Marine Le Pen would have huge implications across Europe. Change, however, is exactly what many voters want. Our Melissa Bell was introduced to one French town run by the far right by one of its local officials.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (INAUDIBLE) packed into one town. It's very rural. It used to be industrial. There's an agricultural center that's disintegrated. There's also a history of corruption in local politics. It's a place that represents the French public opinions.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Henin Beaumont is Christophe Szczurek, the town's deputy mayor since 2014, when the far right National Front took over after nearly a century of Socialist rule. Its once prosperous streets are deserted, the coal mines on which it was built, closed.

Unemployment is roughly twice the national average. Henin Beaumont was natural Socialist territory.

So what changed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You can explain it by people being fed up in France and around the world. That's what's at the heart of this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): As a Frenchman I've seen roamers get more help than I do. I understand what she means when she says we need to put a stop to this because, in France, we don't feel at home anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I think those who vote for National Front don't admit to it. Today I think we stigmatize people who vote for National Front. I don't like having someone dictate my vote to me.

BELL (voice-over): And sure enough, many of the locals we spoke to were not willing to share their thoughts on camera.

Not far from the town hall, this charity helps some 600 families to survive. The food is sold at 20 percent of its normal price. The man who created this supermarket says that to his -- [02:25:00]

BELL (voice-over): -- customers, many of whom are trying to survive on less than 400 euros a month, a corruption scandal involving the last Socialist mayor was just too much.

For many, the National Front suddenly seemed the only party worth voting for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It didn't bring an answer but it brought a way out. Voters say to themselves, I've had enough. Let's go to the other side. In many towns today, there are families that can no longer afford to live. That's the system we're in, where money rules and kills families.

BELL (voice-over): Freida (ph) used to shop here. Now this daughter of Algerian immigrants works here but she says she still struggles to survive and she explains that she's not put off by the National Front's anti-immigrant rhetoric.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We feel like we've been duped. We've been lied to so much. She is credible, though while at her words not be credible. Why? Because it's Madame Le Pen? I don't agree with that.

BELL (voice-over): Back at the town hall, Christophe Szczurek says that where Henin Beaumont has led, the rest of France is now likely to follow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's the way the wind is blowing. Whether it's France, Donald Trump's victory or Brexit, there's a real willingness for change in a lot of countries. Globalization creates winners, losers and often it's the little towns, the rural ones, the ones we don't hear of because the media doesn't cover them.

BELL: Everyone we spoke to today has said that for the first time in decades, things had been done for their town, they also all said without exception that they would be voting National Front in the presidential election.

Very few of them, though, were willing to speak to us on camera, a remainder that, even here, in National Front territory, there is still a vote that dare not speak its name but that is determined to express itself in the ballot box -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Henin Beaumont.


VANIER: This coming Tuesday, March 14th, is My Freedom Day. CNN is partnering with young people all around the world for a student-led day of action against modern-day slavery. Driving My Freedom Day is a very simple question.

What does freedom mean to you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom is remembering who we were before the world told us who we should be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom to me is for every individual to have access to the basic necessities of human life as well as for every individual to be able to freely express themselves without any limitations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom to me is having my own thoughts and being able to express them.


VANIER: We want to hear what freedom means to you. So join the conversation. There's still time. Post a photo or video using the #MyFreedomDay.

Thank you very much for watching CNN. I'm Cyril Vanier. MAINSAIL is next. But first I'll be back with headlines.