Return to Transcripts main page


Diplomatic Row between Turkey and The Netherlands; Political Uncertainty in South Korea; U.N. Global Starvation Forecast; Trump Fires "The Sheriff of Wall Street"; Zelizer Op-ed, "Trump Is Winning"; Wild Boars Roam Fukushima. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired March 12, 2017 - 03:00   ET



CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tensions rise between Turkey and the Netherlands as Turkey's foreign minister is barred from holding a rally in Rotterdam. We'll have the latest on the heated back and forth.

Plus the U.N. says millions of lives are at stake as famine spreads across four different countries.

And he was known as the sheriff of Wall Street but now that U.S. attorney is out of a job. We look at what might have been behind his firing.

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


VANIER: A diplomatic row is escalating between Turkey and the Netherlands, sparking protests to break out in both countries. It began Saturday when Dutch officials refused to let the Turkish foreign minister's plane land for a rally in Rotterdam, citing security concerns.

Later that day, Dutch police also blocked Turkey's family affairs minister from the Turkish consulate. Turkey responded by sealing off the Dutch embassy in Ankara and said the Dutch ambassador should not return to Turkey for some time.

The Turkish foreign minister says the actions by the Dutch government are unacceptable.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This decision is a scandal by all means and it is unacceptable. This does not suit diplomatic practices. This is the most extreme point in diplomacy. A written flight permission issued to a foreign minister is canceled with another written document. This is completely unacceptable.

VANIER (voice-over): The Dutch far right leader, Geert Wilders, tweeted about the Turkish family affairs minister, saying, "Go away and never come back. And take all your Turkish fans from the Netherlands with you, please, #bye-bye."

Earlier, CNN's Jonathan Mann spoke to the former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, James Jeffrey, about the growing tension between the two countries.


JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO TURKEY: Turkey, like Germany and other countries, has hundreds of thousands of dual national Turkish European Union citizens.

And running campaigns in these countries, you will remember, Barack Obama, as a candidate in Berlin in 2008, is not uncommon. But the problem is that the Right in Europe, particularly strong in Netherlands before the parliamentary elections next week, sees the Turks as Muslims and thus bad.

The Left in Germany, Netherlands and elsewhere see the Turks as too supportive of the President Erdogan and what they see, with good reason, as his authoritarian policies.

So the result is a perfect storm. Europe needs Turkey and Turkey needs Europe, given all the threats and challenges we have in the world today. And this is a real mess.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The way you described it, you passed over quickly the fact the Netherlands is having its own election next week ahead of the Turkish referendum.

In the Dutch case, is that what this is really about, the Dutch government trying to influence the outcome of that election?

JEFFREY: It's hard to say, Jonathan. Again, I've been following this in Germany and Netherlands and elsewhere and you have two sets of issues. Europe is horrified that the Right, be it Le Pen in France, the alliance (INAUDIBLE) Deutschland in Germany, or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands will win a ever-growing part of the population and put pressure on the governments in these countries to shift to a much more anti-immigrant, much more nationalistic frame of mind.

By the same token, there is tremendous opposition to Erdogan and his authoritarian policies on the Left and the Center Left in Europe. So all of this comes together. And the result is this terrible situation.


VANIER: The Dutch prime minister responded to the escalating situation, saying the Netherlands want no part in the political campaign of Turkish ministers.

A new political era dawns in South Korea after the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye. Her opponents rallied in Seoul on Saturday, many to demand her arrest.

This comes after a report on Friday upheld her impeachment over a corruption scandal. And election to decide her successor is said to be held within 60 days. And Seoul's ties with China, the U.S. and North Korea all hang in the balance.

Pyongyang has already reacted. According to state media, a North Korean official called Park's removal "a historic victory" for South Koreans. Our Alexandra Field is in Seoul and joins us now with the latest.

First, I want to ask you about the mood in Seoul.

After months of protests and the impeachment, that many people in South Korea see as victory, what is the feeling in Seoul now?

Are Koreans ready to put all of this behind them or is it still an open wound?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it is to some extent still an open wound. You do have about 86 percent of people here, according to local polls, who supported the justices' decision to uphold the decision --


FIELD: -- by lawmakers to impeach the former president, Park Geun- hye. But a lot of them whom we have spoken to over the last couple of days, who have still been out demonstrating say that, yes, there was victory here. There was success. This is how democracy works and this is what it should look like.

But they're still calling for further action here. They would like to see the former president arrested.

She has now been stripped of her title and her power and also her immunity, which means that she could face charges from prosecutors. At the same time, there is still a small but very vocal faction of people who continue to express their outrage with the impeachment decision itself.

And looking forward to them, they are still hoping to see Conservative Party rule in this country. That is the party that has been in power for the last 10 years and they have been out in the streets defending conservative rule. They want to see that when this next election happens within 60 days -- Cyril.

VANIER: OK, and there's obviously still a lot of uncertainty facing the country right now. Run us through what's going to happen in the next few weeks in South Korea.

FIELD: The next step is the former president has to leave the Blue House just behind me. That is the official residence of the president here in South Korea. She has not yet left. We're told that her private residence is still being brought up to speed in terms of extra layers of security that will be needed for her to move back there.

So she will have leave the Blue House. There are still questions now about whether prosecutors will be able to go inside and execute search warrants in relation to the corruption scandal that led to her impeachment. She had previously blocked those search warrants, citing secure government documents inside.

It will now up to the acting president to decide whether or not those search warrants can be executed.

On a global front, this election will be coming up in the next two months. The whole world will be watching this. What you will have, potentially, is the Conservative Party, vying to maintain power here. They'll be challenged by the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party has already mounted a candidate which has been -- who has been leading in the polls. And if the Democratic Party goes back into power after 10 years of conservative rule here in South Korea, you could see a very different position on North Korea.

The Democrats here have taken a more liberal approach. They advocate conversation and negotiation as opposed to conservatives, who have been in power. And they have long advocated stronger sanctions against North Korea.

Another flashpoint between these two parties is the deployment of the THAAD missile system, that's that U.S. designed missile system that started to be installed here in South Korea just in the last week.

The Democratic Party line has been to oppose that. The Conservatives, of course, approve moving forward with that under former President Park -- Cyril.

VANIER: Alexandra, is it reasonable, at this stage, just briefly, to assume that the Democrats are going into this what is going to be an election season with a stronger hand?

FIELD: Look, at this point, and it is very early. You have got about 60 days potentially until the election. It's got to be called by the acting president. But they do have a candidate who is well ahead in the polls.

That is of course also because the Conservative Party hasn't yet mounted their candidate. We are just learning now that they will put up a candidate, name a candidate by the end of this month. So then you will have a little bit more understanding of what this race would look like.

But yes, you could step back and look at this when you talk about the numbers and you talk about the fact that some 86 percent of people are now saying they approved of the impeachment. Maybe perceive that as a lead for the Democratic Party. It certainly has been what it looks like in the streets when you see these tens of thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people who are protesting President Park. But there is that vocal faction of conservatives, largely an older group, part of the older demographic here, who are very committed to seeing conservative power in this country.

So it will be a question of the candidates once they're named here -- Cyril. VANIER: All right, reporting live from Seoul, South Korea, Alexandra Field, thank you very much.

Syrian authorities are trying to determine who is responsible for Saturday's twin explosions that killed dozens of Iraqi Shiite pilgrims in Damascus. The attacks happened at one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in Syria. The Syrian government called the bombings cowardly and is urging the U.N. to condemn them. More now from CNN's Ben Wedeman.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The twin suicide bombers left more than 40 people dead, around 120 wounded. It turns out most of the victims were Iraqi pilgrims going to Shia shrines in a cemetery in the old city of Damascus.

Now it's not clear at this point who was behind these bombings. But given the identity, the nationality of the victims and also the location of the attack, it's more than likely that the attackers were indeed from ISIS.

Meanwhile, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to Chinese journalists in which he said that he and President Donald Trump share a common view when it comes to fighting terrorism and fake news. He also went on to say that American troops in Syria there without the permission of the government in Damascus are considered to be invaders. That doesn't necessarily mean that --


WEDEMAN: -- the Syrian government is going to do anything about it.

Syria, backed by Russia, Hezbollah and Iran, as well as the United States, which is backing Arab and Kurdish fighters, as well as Turkey which is backing factions of the Free Syrian Army, all say they want to take part in the liberation of the de facto capital of ISIS in Syria, Raqqa. How that's going to work out is anybody's guess.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Irbil.


VANIER: The U.N. is asking for immediate help to save millions of people on the brink of starvation. Officials are calling the situation inside Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Kenya the worst humanitarian crisis in decades. An estimated 20 million people could die without assistance. Here's how one U.N. official explains the emergency.


STEPHEN O'BRIEN, U.N. UNDERSECRETARY FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS: We stand at a critical point in our history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations. Now more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death.



VANIER: In Somalia, officials say 110 people have already died of starvation. We want to talk more about this with Fay Hoyland. She's the media manager for Save the Children in Somalia.

First of all, Fay, the U.N. saying this is one of the biggest humanitarian crises in over half a century.

Does that square, the severity of what they're describing, does that square with what you are seeing in Somalia?

FAY HOYLAND, THE MEDIA MANAGER FOR SAVE THE CHILDREN IN SOMALIA: It definitely is. I've traveled a lot with Save the Children and I've never seen, you know, a situation as devastating as I'm seeing here in Somalia.

And there are 2.9 million people here that are at threat of famine. And you know, malnutrition cases are increasing every day, 360,000 people are suffering from malnutrition; 71,000 of those are severe cases.

I went to a malnutrition clinic at Save the Children court (ph) here in Garowe (ph) a few days ago and it's full of, you know, really, really sick children that are hungry and pain. Their mothers are terrified about what might happen to them.

You know, mothers and children are having to walk long distances for days in search of food and water. And the water they can get hold of is contaminated, it's causing cholera and acute watery diarrhea. And people are dying from that.

You know, our sources say 200 people have died from cholera and AWD so far. And there's about 8,000 cases. And people are dying every day over here.

VANIER: The U.N.'s World Food Programme, the WFP, is active in that part of the world.

Can it reach everyone?

HOYLAND: You know, U.N. is really active here and we are working with the U.N., but they have said that we need $825 million. And only half of that, I believe, they have pledged to date. The U.K. government has stepped up and they pledged 100 million pounds, but we need the rest of the international community to step up as well.

We need more funding. You know, Save the Children is here, we are ready to save lives, we want to save lives, but we need more money in order to do that.

VANIER: How do you reach all the people you need to reach when there is conflict? And certainly that's the case in all four countries that are

threatened right now and specifically the case with Shabaab and Somalia.

HOYLAND: You know, it is a problem. Conflict is a problem here and it does provide barriers to access. But we are doing as much as we can. And we are working, you know, in partnership with the government as well, to deploy a mental health unit and to reach places and food discrimination, but we're trying to reach every one we can, but yes, conflict, you know, does pose a problem.

VANIER: I suppose my question is, even assuming and I understand that is a big if at this stage, you were provided all the resources you need to reach everyone, would that be a possibility in Somalia?

HOYLAND: I think there might -- you know, there is still that problem, that risk that we cannot -- we cannot reach everyone. But, you know, we are working with partnership with NGOs, the government and the U.N. We are doing, you know, what we can.

VANIER: All right. Fay Hoyland, fantastic work. Thank you very much for talking to us and taking the time today.


VANIER: We will take a short break. When we come back, one of the most celebrated federal prosecutors in the U.S. Justice Department is sacked by the Trump White House, along with dozens of other U.S. attorneys.

Plus for the first time since President Trump took office, an intruder gains access to the White House grounds and the president was inside at the time.





VANIER: To U.S. politics with a new development that rocked an already shaken Justice Department. President Donald Trump on Saturday fired the legendary federal prosecutor, sometimes called the sheriff of Wall Street. CNN's Laura Jarrett has this report.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN U.S. JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, after a stunning standoff with the White House on Saturday, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, is out. But we're also learning what exactly he was told and by whom. The president did not call him. The Department of Justice did. The acting deputy attorney Dana Boente called him and asked him if it was true that he was refusing to resign. Bharara said that it was and then Dana Boente later called him back and said if that's true, then the president says that you are fired.

Now the question is, what suddenly has changed since November when Bharara says that he was told that he could stay on and continue through Trump's presidency. So that is the real question here, is what's changed since November?

Now the White House is not saying much and referred us to the Justice Department. The Justice Department is also not saying anything other than Bharara has been asked to step aside. And so the question is what will we see in these coming days about why exactly we have seen a difference from November until now -- back to you.


VANIER: An arraignment is set for Monday for a man found outside the White House late on Friday while President Trump was inside. The Secret Service says 26-year-old Jonathan Tran was carrying a laptop, a book by Mr. Trump two cans of Mace and a letter claiming information about Russian hacking.

Agents found Tran outside the south entrance of the White House shortly before midnight. He told them he had jumped the fence. Now this is the first known intrusion of the complex since Mr. Trump took office.


VANIER: Julian Zelizer is with us now. He's a historian and professor at Princeton University.

Julian, you wrote a very interesting article for today, it's titled, "Trump Is Winning."

Now why do you make that assessment?

Surely it's an assessment that will be shared by a lot of conservatives; I'm not sure it would be shared by the majority of political analysts at this stage.

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, right now, President Trump is someone who is still governing like a Republican and his main audience remains Republicans.

So I tried to highlight a number of ways where, if you are one of the voters who supported him, if you are a member of the Republican Party and were ambivalent about him, that there is still a lot to like about what he has been doing in the first half of 100 days.

VANIER: Such as?

ZELIZER: Well, the number one thing is he has been pushing through a series of major deregulations on the economy, deregulations on financial institutions, deregulations of the climate that have been on the list for Republicans --


ZELIZER: -- for many years.

And he has been making a lot of progress while we are focusing on the tweets, focusing even on the ban on refugees. The economic deregulations have been moving forward swiftly.

He has also raising questions about the legitimacy of government in part through himself and what he did, does, but also through his attacks on the judiciary, on the intelligence agencies.

And all of this is part of what conservatives have been arguing for a long time, that government is not a legitimate institution. This is something that's not good for Democrats.

VANIER: That's one of the very interesting parts of your article. You connect the dots basically; his criticisms with respect to the electoral system, judges, intelligence community, all sort of comes together and makes sense when you explain it and say that he is actually advocating against a powerful federal government.

ZELIZER: Absolutely. Look, in the end Republicans believe in markets over government while Democrats still tend to believe that government has an important role in American life.

And so if you have a president who is really raising question about the legitimacy of every branch of government, including the presidency, because of the way he is acting, that, in the end, that really does hurt the basic argument of the Democratic Party.

VANIER: But how does it benefit Republicans -- which is something you write in your article?

ZELIZER: Well, the policies themselves benefit Republicans, all these executive orders to deregulate the economy. Obstruction also tends to benefit Republicans, meaning if not a lot is happening on the legislative front, which is exactly what is going on right now, that's fine with many Republicans because the they don't want big government. So obstruction is OK.

Even if it looks like the Republicans are moving slowly on some new great society that's really not what they want. So there, too, right now, markets are gaining a primacy they haven't had for the last eight years.

VANIER: But how much of this is intentional by Donald Trump?

Because you present this as a coordinated assault on federal government and the legitimacy of a central government. When you read some of the tweets and some of the accusations, leveled by Donald Trump at various federal agencies or members of the government, sometimes it just feels very impulsive.

ZELIZER: I think that's a good, fair question. It's one we don't know at this point. Some hints, though, suggest that it might be more intentional than we think. He has been very consistent in making these kinds of attacks before he

was president and since the inauguration. When you have that much consistency in attacking our institutions and going after rigged parts of politics, it suggests that he does actually know what he is talking about.

And the other thing is, Steve Bannon, one of the top advisers for a long time. has talked about tearing down the institutions of a government and the state that he does not think is legitimate. So a lot of this is out of a playbook, that Bannon has been very clear about.

So there is some evidence that this isn't all haphazard.

VANIER: All right, Julian Zelizer, thank you so much.

And you know, that article that you wrote, it's on, very interesting, connects a lot of the dots that don't always seem to be connected. I would recommend that our viewers read it. Thank you very much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

VANIER: Six years after the powerful earthquake and tsunami devastated Fukushima, Japan, some residents are just now getting permission to return to their home. But when they arrive, they may find some unexpected company. Amara Walker explains.


AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After six years, former residents evacuated from some towns near the nuclear power plant in Fukushima will soon be allowed to return home. But in their absence, wild boars have taken up residence.

The boars used to live in the mountains away from people. Now they roam freely, walking down otherwise deserted streets and grazing in yards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): After people left, the wild boar's eco-system changed, they began coming down from the mountains and now they're not going back. They found a place that's comfortable.

WALKER: As nuclear refugees prepare to return home, local authorities say the boars have to go and have hired hunters to capture and kill them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I think it's a considerable risk the wild boars pose when they come down from the mountains to the residential areas and attack people or collide with cars.

WALKER: The boars could also pose a radioactive threat from consuming plants and animals within the radioactive exclusion zone. The Fukushima government imposed a ban on consumption of wild boar meat shortly after the disaster -- [03:25:00]

WALKER (voice-over): -- Amara Walker, CNN.


VANIER: All right. Spring is not here yet. Karen Maginnis at the CNN Weather Center, thank you so much.

Thank you, everyone, for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier, back with the headlines in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)