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Court Upholds Impeachment of South Korean President; Trump Didn't Know of Flynn Firm's Work for Turkey; U.S. Government Bureaucracy Called "Deep State"; Iraqi Forces Making Progress in Mosul; Pope Considering Priesthoods for Married Men; Kids Crash Dad's Interview on Live TV. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired March 11, 2017 - 03:00   ET



CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Emotions running high in South Korea right now as the president is impeached for good.

What is next for the country at this critical juncture?

We'll have the latest from Seoul.

And dozens of U.S. federal prosecutors forced to resign on Friday. Some of them only finding out from watching the news.

Plus Pope Francis suggests a new way to get more priests, let married men sign up. We'll talk to CNN's religion commentator later in the show.

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

We're monitoring celebrations and protests in South Korea this hour after the constitutional court upheld the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.


VANIER (voice-over): You're looking at pictures from Seoul city center shot a short while ago. Demonstrators have been rallying for and against Ms. Park. Some protests turned violent on Friday. At least three people were killed in the violence.

The acting president has called for unity; a snap election is set to be held within 60 days. For more, let's join Will Ripley live from Seoul.

Will, give us a sense, again of what it's like to be in the South Korean capital right now.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fortunately, Cyril, we have not seen today what Paula Hancocks was right in the middle of yesterday, the violence, the tear gas, the protests that got out of hand at certain times. And we know at least three protesters were killed. But on both sides of this very divided line -- and we took you to the

pro-Park protest. This is the anti-Park protest and it is peaceful. But the mood is remarkably different. Over there it felt like a political funeral.

Here you can see with the tents and food vendors and the K-pop music blasting in the distance, this feels more like a carnival, a celebration, these are the people who by the hundreds of thousands came out night after night for months, demanding that President Park be impeached, demanding an end to government corruption.

What we are seeing is almost a victory lap for these people, who have been fighting for so long. More than 75 percent of South Koreans wanted impeachment to happen. And so you see a lot of smiles and a lot of young faces. People who say they are ready for change.

And now election needs to happen within 60 days. It's expected that these people will be voting in a new president come May 9th -- Cyril.

VANIER: What will it change for the country's politics?

RIPLEY: If the progressive leaders take over, which, according to public opinion polls, the progressive candidates have more than half of the public support, it could mean a dramatic shift in the way that South Korea deals with China. It could mean a dramatic change in the way that South Korea deals with North Korea.

They could be willing to engage with North Korea. They might be less likely to cooperate with United States military policies, like the THAAD missile defense system.

Of course, that is all speculation because the new presidential candidate hasn't been voted in yet. You have people on the other side of the political spectrum saying that they fear a veer towards communism in this country.

So there are very deep divisions, often along generational lines as well as ideological lines. You saw a lot of older veterans on that side of the protest, supporting President Park. You see a lot of younger faces in the crowd here.

Two different moods indicative of what South Korea faces as they try to unify behind their new leader moving forward.

VANIER: Will, as I look at the crowds around you I wonder, is this one of the last times we're going to see them?

We have become accustomed to seeing people rally in central Seoul every week for the last several months.

Are they going to disband now that they've obtained the definitive impeachment of the president?

RIPLEY: That is certainly the impression we're getting out here, Cyril. And you can see it's harder to move through the crowd because there are so many people and expected to be more into the evening. This is closure for many. If, tomorrow, President Park leaves the

Blue House, which will be a significant moment -- she spent much of her childhood in the Blue House; her father led the country for almost two decades.

For her to leave in disgrace, the first woman president and now the first president of South Korea to leave by impeachment, that will be closure for these people. That will tell them they have won and that democracy worked and there has been, for the most part, a peaceful transfer of power.

You think about South Korea in the 1960s when there, were demonstrations that resulted in dozens of deaths, 100 people killed in one case, where the government opened fire.

And yet out here you see (INAUDIBLE) democracy, people who were able to make their voices heard. They let the government and they judiciary know how they felt --


RIPLEY: -- and for 75 percent of the population here, they got the outcome that they wanted. They have President Park out, potentially facing criminal prosecution because she now loses her immunity and they get to vote in a new leader and perhaps take this country in a new direction.

RIPLEY: All right, Will Ripley, fantastic, thank you so much. Will giving us a sense of what it's like to be in Seoul today. Thanks a lot.

Now to the new controversy surrounding U.S. President Donald Trump's former national security adviser. The White House insists that the president did not know that Michael Flynn's firm did work for Turkey that would require him to sign up as a foreign agent.

Flynn filed those papers just a few days ago. But the White House is acknowledging Mr. Trump's transition team was aware of the potential filing because Flynn contacted an attorney for this transition. More now from CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


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 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: Now to an investigation by a highly secretive division of the FBI. Sources tell CNN federal investigators are continuing to examine if there was a computer server connection between the Trump organization and a Russian bank.

Internet data shows that last summer, a computer server owned by Russia-based Alfa Bank pinged a computer server being used by the Trump organization over and over again.

CNNMoney investigative reporter Jose Pagliery has the details.


JOSE PAGLIERY, CNNMONEY CYBER SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: What these servers are doing is that a Russian bank was repeatedly looking up the unique Internet address of the particular computer server in the United States being used by the Trump organization.

In the computer world, it's nothing more than looking up someone's phone number over and over again. While there isn't necessarily a phone call, it usually indicates an intention to communicate, according to several computer scientists we spoke to.

Now a group of computer scientists who obtained these leaked Internet records, records that frankly they were never supposed to make public, they were puzzled as to why Alfa Bank in Russia was doing this.

Was it trying to send e-mail to the Trump organization? They just couldn't tell.

Now last summer during the presidential campaign, the Russian bank looked up the address on this Trump corporate server some 2,800 times. That's a whole lot. And to put it in context, that's more lookups than this Trump server received from any other source.

The only other entity we know of that was doing this many Internet lookups for this Trump server was Spectrum Health. This is a medical facility chain led by Dick DeVos, the husband of Betsy DeVos. And if that name sounds familiar, that's because Betsy DeVos is later appointed by the president as U.S. Education Secretary.

Those two entities made up --


PAGLIERY: -- 99 percent of the lookups. And it's that that computer scientists found very strange. Now all the corporations involved say they've never communicated by e-mail with the Trump organization. And they have different, sometimes competing explanations for that server activity.

But they have not provided any proof to CNN and they don't always agree about what's going on.

For example, the Russian bank thinks it was receiving Trump hotel e- mail marketing last summer, which would make sense because a lot of its executives stay at Trump hotels.

But they weren't able to provide CNN with a single e-mail to back up that theory. Meanwhile, the American marketing company that was indeed sending Trump e-mails out says it wasn't doing so at that time in the summer.

Alfa Bank for its part did stress that none of its top executives have any affiliation at all with President Trump or the Trump organization and they put out a very firm statement. They said that neither Alfa Bank nor its principals, including Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, have or have had any contact with Mr. Trump or his organization.

So in essence what we have got here is an unanswered mystery.


VANIER: And 46 federal prosecutors were asked to resign on Friday by the U.S. Justice Department. President Trump later asked two of them to stay on.

Many of the U.S. attorneys were blindsided by the firings, only learning about it from the media. All of them were political appointees from previous administrations. And replacing them isn't what is unusual. All new presidents do it at least to some extent.

But the process is normally done over many months or even years in some cases, not in one day, as was the case on Friday.

The sudden dismissals raised lots of questions. Among them is whether the Trump administration believes its agenda is being compromised by career civil servants. This entrenched bureaucracy is sometimes referred to as the "deep state."

White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about this 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.


VANIER: Still ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, the battle for Western Mosul rages on. We will be taking you inside the bullet-ridden neighborhoods with Ben Wedeman.

Plus, Pope Francis may be shifting his stance on one of the church's oldest practices, marriage and the priesthood. We'll tell you why.




VANIER: Russia and Turkey are cementing their alliance --


VANIER: -- in Syria. Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on Friday in Moscow and pledged to work together to end the Syrian civil war. It may seem like an unlikely pairing since the countries support opposing sides in the conflict. But they both oppose ISIS and both countries brokered a cease-fire deal in Syria in December.

The United Nations says aid workers are providing emergency food and water supplies to really 4,000 people trapped in Western Mosul. The battle is taking a horrible toll on civilians, with tens of thousands of people fleeing in just 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: 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 knowing that you're safe anywhere in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For us, freedom is act on your own will and choosing your own career.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom to me means the opportunity to live without oppression. Freedom means the ability to live.


VANIER: We want to hear what freedom means to you. So post a photo or video using the #MyFreedomDay and join the conversation.

Pope Francis is studying a possible change to the priesthood and marriage in the Catholic Church. He is suggesting that he is open to letting married Catholic men become priests.

Most priests are required to be celibate. But historically, Protestant priests who convert can remain married and give the Catholic sacrament so there are exceptions. Pope Francis told a German newspaper the shortage of priests is an enormous problem for the church.



VANIER: Father Edward Beck joins us now. He's our CNN religion commentator. He is a Roman Catholic priest himself. So of course we're interested in having your views on this.

What's strikes me is it seems -- it doesn't seem; the pope is presenting this as a matter of necessity rather than a fundamental ideological change.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Yes, he says there's such a priest shortage and it almost makes it sound like we are being forced into it now.

I think some would hope that we would be choosing it because it might be the right thing do to do finally. You know, Cyril, after the first thousand years of the church, priests could be married.

And then when they started to give property to their children, it was a sociopolitical issue and then it changed. And then of course we spiritualized celibacy. But it was really nothing to say that priests couldn't be married from the beginning.

The disciples were married, the apostles. And so what the pope has said is it's a discipline. It's not dogma. It can change.

So now he is saying with the shortage, especially in remote areas, he's thinking about perhaps married priests. Now of course, it has to be you're married already and then you can become a priest.

If you are already a priest and single you can't get married and stay a priest. So again there's a kind of a little bit of a double standard, which some priests don't appreciate what they're hearing right now. But we have to see how it evolves.

VANIER: So why is there so much resistance to this if, as you say, for the first millennium of the church, this was actually allowed?

BECK: Well, I think it's a few things. Roman Catholicism right now is the only celibate clergy that's required to be celibate. And it kind of gives Roman Catholics a little bit of distinction and I think the people in the pews actually like it. They like that we can't marry, that they see it as a sacrifice. They see us being more available 24/7 for them. We're not worrying about a wife and children. And so they've gotten used to it, they've gotten used to service on demand.

And so they think, well, if he is married with kids, maybe not as available.

Who is going to support the wife and the kids?

And yet, of course, Protestant traditions, Eastern Rite Catholics have done it and other clergy have done it. So of course it's possible but I think it's a matter of bringing people along to seeing the possibilities and getting used to that kind of a change.

VANIER: If there is such a need for extra clergy, what does that tell us about vocations and the dwindling number of people who are willing to become priests?

BECK: Yes, vocations are certainly on the downslide and that is pretty universal. A little up in Asia and Africa, where the church is growing. But certainly Western Europe has been decimated; the United States, decimated.

And so what it says is that, for whatever reason, that approach toward being a clergy, being a priest, is no longer kind of appealing to people. You know, in modern society, celibacy is not making as much sense to people. And they're saying, well, why can't you be married and have children and still minister?

And we have lay ministers, who are actively involved in ministry and we can see that it works. You may know we have Protestant priests, who have come from other traditions with their wives and kids, converted to Roman Catholicism and they now function as Roman Catholic priests.

So you see, it sets up a bit of resentment if you are in a parish with a guy who is married with their kids, functioning as a Roman Catholic priest and you, because you weren't married, are a Roman Catholic priest and can't get married, you say, well, hey, this guy is married. It can work.

What about me?

And so you see it's an evolving conversation that needs to happen and is happening and Pope Francis is pushing the conversation further down the road.

VANIER: Father Beck, thank you so much for your insights, thanks.

BECK: You're welcome, thank you.


VANIER: The island nation of Madagascar suffered a terrible blow from a deadly cyclone this week and it could take a while before the island recovers. Let's find out more with meteorologist Karen Maginnis, who joins us now from the CNN Weather Center -- Karen.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It has been devastating, Cyril, as you can imagine. The equivalent of a category 4 tropical cyclone slammed onshore to the northeastern quadrant of Madagascar and just moved down the spine of the island nation and now is still holding together, even as we go into just about a week of this surviving even making landfall.

It produced staggering amounts of rainfall. We have reports that as many as 38 people dead and thousands have been displaced.



VANIER: Karen Maginnis, thank you so much.

Just before we wrap up the show, we want to play a moment that played out on live TV. And this is bound to make you smile.

Professor Robert Kelly was being interviewed live by the BBC when his children rushed into the room uninvited, and it's a moment any parent can relate to, especially if you work from home.


ROBERT KELLY, PROFESSOR: Scandals happen all the time.

The question is how do democracies respond to those scandals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what will it mean for the wider region?

I think one of your children has just walked in, I mean, shifting sands in the region.

Do you think relations with the North may change?

KELLY: I would be surprised if they do.

Pardon me. My apologies.


KELLY: Scandals happen all the time, the question is how do democracies respond to those scandals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what will it mean for the wider region? I think one of your children has just walked in, I mean, shifting sands in the region, do you think relations with the --


VANIER: Best interview on South Korean politics ever.

Thank you very much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. Do stay with us.