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Growing Animosity between the Netherlands and Turkey; South Korean President Says Goodbye; Putin Aide Denies Russia Tampered with U.S. Election; Congressman Draws Fire for Immigration Tweet; Syrian Jihadists Claim Twin Bombings in Damascus; ISIS Destroys Mosul. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 13, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:11] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Turkey's president compared the Netherlands to Nazis as the diplomatic row continues between the two countries.

South Korea has a snap election coming within two months after the dramatic ousting of its president. We'll go live to Seoul about that.

And an argument on Twitter between a U.S. congressman and a former first daughter over who should be allowed to live in the United States.

It's all ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for joining us. We're live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

Our top story, Turkey's president threatens strong retaliation against the Netherlands after the country blocked two Turkish ministers from holding political rallies on Dutch soil Saturday. That sparked angry protests on the streets of both countries.

The Dutch government said it barred the ministers because it was worried about keeping order. But the Turkish president compared the Netherlands to Nazis and warned the country will pay the price.

CNN's Atika Shubert has more on the growing rift between these two countries.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rotterdam has returned to normal after Saturday night, riot police were called in to disperse hundreds of people who had gathered here at the Turkish consulate angry at the banning of a number of Turkish political rallies. A number of people were arrested, a few were injured but the streets are quiet now.

On a diplomatic level however, still very tense; harsh words from the leaders of both countries. The Dutch Prime Minister on a Sunday talk shows insisted the country would not quote, "be blackmailed". Meanwhile, Turkey's president said the Netherlands was fascist and racist and that this was all a dangerous game of election politics. Take a listen to what both leaders had to say.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): If you sacrifice Turkish-Dutch relations to the elections that will be held on Wednesday, you will pay the price. You will pay the price. We haven't started to take the necessary steps yet.

MARK RUTTE, DUTCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We are absolutely willing to de-escalate. But, of course, these utterings of the President of the Turkish Republican do not help and they're completely unacceptable.

SHUBERT: The diplomatic fall-out may not end with the Netherlands. Denmark has announced that it will now postpone the visit by the Turkish prime minister precisely of rising tensions. And of course, this all happens just three days before the elections in the Netherlands. We'll have to wait until Wednesday to find out how this fared in the minds of voters.

Atika Shubert, CNN -- Rotterdam.


ALLEN: South Korea is getting ready for a snap election possibly in May to replace ousted President Park Geun-Hye. She left the presidential Blue House on Sunday after a court on Friday upheld her impeachment over a corruption scandal.

She was greeted by supporters at per private residence. Her critics want her arrested and local media say expected to be interrogated by prosecutors, a lawmaker spoke on Park's behalf Sunday.

MIN KYUNG-WOOK, MEMBER OF SOUTH KOREAN PARLIAMENT (through translator): I am sorry that I couldn't fulfill my duty as a president until the end. I thank people who have supported and believed in me. I will accept all the results. It will take time but I believe that the truth will definitely come out.


ALLEN: CNN's Paula Hancocks is following developments from Seoul. She joins us now live. Hello to you -- Paula.

And certainly no one knows what's next for Park Geun-Hye.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right -- Natalie.

I mean it was a fairly defiant tone coming for the impeached president apologizing really only for not being able to fulfill her term, still maintaining her innocence. But for many people in South Korea, they want to see her face justice.

We have heard from special prosecutors. They have recommended that she is indicted as a bribery suspect once she loses presidential immunity. That has now happened. And even though you see that many pro-Park supporters were there outside her house, there is a feeling of a sense of closure according to the anti-Park protesters that that closure needs to come with a continued investigation into the former president.

But this issue has ramifications that reach far wider than just South Korea.


HANCOCKS: Scenes of pure joy, a stark contrast to disappointment and anger just down the road. South Korea is bitterly divided but the implications of the Park Geun-Hye's impeachment reach far wider than these shores.

North Korea still technically at war with its southern neighbor has been watching the scandal very closely even showing relative restraint since corruption allegations emerged last October.

North Korean state-run media Friday called Park a common criminal.

[00:05:04] DAVID KANG, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: I think that in some ways North Korea is probably enjoying all this unfortunately and hoping that a president gets elected who's going to take a more engagement stance. And I would say that probably appears likely.

HANCOCKS: The latest polls show liberal candidate Moon Jae-In is the front-runner so far but two months before the election has to be held anything could happen. Past liberal presidents were more willing to engage with North Korea; this could be a potential sticking point with the Trump administration in the U.S. who publicly, at least, seems more hardline in their approach.

And there is THAAD -- the U.S. anti-missile defense system which started arriving in South Korea on Monday which liberal candidates have already said they don't want.

JOHN DELURY, YONSEI UNIVERSITY: In fact I would suspect part of the reason for accelerating the deployment of THAAD is not just responding to North Korean missile threats but also trying to get the thing in place before potentially you have a liberal president who says, I'm not sure about that.

HANCOCKS: China has been clear about its opposition to THAAD. South Korean businesses say they're suffering due to boycotts that the Chinese government says they didn't put in place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this something we want? Do we really want to have a problem with China? A lot of Koreans worried about the problem with China causing economic problems within Korea. So tensions are very high.


HANCOCKS: One of the first tasks that the next president will have is to try and heal the wounds, heal the division in this country that has been laid bare by this corruption scandal -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Right. And the election is in May. That's coming up quickly. Does anyone have any idea who the (inaudible) might be?

HANCOCKS: Well, it has to be held within 60 days. The expert assumption at this point could be on or around May 9th, that's the estimate.

There are a number of candidates that could come forward just waiting for them to give their official presidential bid at this point. As I stay there was that liberal candidate, Moon Jae-In, who has been the favorite for many weeks now in recent polls and also among experts.

And there is an expectation that the former president's party itself, the conservative party is likely to face a backlash from this impeachment and so certainly the money at this point seems to be on the liberal candidates.

But of course, there is less than 60 days. But in South Korean politics, that's a fair amount. Things could still change -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. We thank you -- Paula Hancocks for us there in Seoul.

A top Republican is calling on U.S. President Donald Trump to either retract his wiretapping allegation or offer up proof. In a string of recent tweets Mr. Trump accused former President Barack Obama of ordering a tap on his phones during the presidential campaign. A spokesman for Mr. Obama denied the claim. Former and current intelligence officials also reject it.

Senator John McCain tells CNN he has no reason to believe the allegation either.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: President Trump has to provide the American people not just the intelligence committee, but the American people with evidence that his predecessor, former president of the United States was guilty of breaking the law because our director of National Intelligence, General Clapper, testified that there was absolutely no truth to that allegation.

So I think the President has one of two choices, either retract, or to provide the information that the American people deserve because if his predecessor violated the law -- President Obama violated the law, we've got a serious issue here to say the least.


ALLEN: Meantime a long time top aide to Russian president Vladimir Putin flatly denied accusations that Russia interfered with the U.S. election. Dmitry Peskov dismisses the conclusions of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and insists Trump campaign officials' contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. were simply about the two countries' relations. He spoke with CNN's Fareed Zakaria. Here it is


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Did the Russian government have any collaboration or serious communication back and forth with Donald Trump's campaign during the election campaign last year?

DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESMAN: The answer is very simple. No. The answer is very simple, no. And the fact that Russia is being demonized in that sense comes very strange to us. And we are really sorry about that because this is -- the whole situation takes us from -- takes us away from the perspective of getting our relationship to a better condition.

[00:09:53] We -- quite unexpectedly we were faced with a situation when Russia all of a sudden became a, let's say, nightmare for the United States. And we sincerely cannot understand why American people and American politicians started the process of self-humiliation.


ALLEN: Well, for more perspective on this, these latest comments, CNN contributor and former Moscow bureau chief for CNN Jill Dougherty joins us live from Seattle, Washington. Jill -- thanks. Good to see you.

Peskov just seemed like the voice of reason there. He is a spokesman but is Russia being demonized here? Are they this nightmare for the United States for no reason? What are your thoughts on it?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it might be a nightmare for them certainly, Natalie, because it is. I mean it's a difficult situation right now and on some level you maybe could make that argument that they're being demonized.

But you know, I think the most interesting thing that Dmitry Peskov said was that America is humiliating itself. That's said in kind of a different way. To me, I thought of that as something kind of new because what he was saying, and he went on in that quote to say, look, America is the biggest country in the world. It's the most powerful and it has very old and very stable political system. So how can you possibly say that it could be hacked or influenced by another country?

So there's a lot of irony, I think, in that comment. But what they're really saying is, number one, we didn't do it. And by the way, how can you even make that point? At the very same time that Russian controlled, I should say state-controlled Russian media are making the point, a completely opposite point, that the American political system in chaos. That it's been weakened beyond repair; that politics is run by people with money and power and the media are in control. I mean it's a very different narrative.

So I think again, you're right that Peskov is trying to sound like the voice of reason but he has a very specific message that he's carrying right there. ALLEN: Absolutely. And yes, he almost turned it to suggest, as you

say, that the United States is just paranoid right now. But 16 agencies saying that Russia had a hand in the election gives reason for the Americans to be extremely worried about their influence.

DOUGHERTY: Well, you could say that, of course. But for the Russians, I mean this is something that Mr. Peskov has said many times. Where's the proof? Where's the beef? You haven't proven it therefore it can't possibly be true.

But I do think another very interesting thing that I would flag from that interview, it's quite good, quite long -- and when he said, and here's the quote, Trump is pragmatic, but we don't have a proper understanding of perspectives of the future of our bilateral relationship.

What he's saying, translated, is really, we're not quite sure where the Trump administration is going with this relationship.

And that is the thing that you feel in Russia and from Russians right now, that they, in the beginning perhaps thought the relationship would get much better. That was the promise of Donald Trump. But right now, it's going into uncharted territory of a lot of criticism of Russia, making it very difficult for President Trump to really move forward on any plane to, let's say, be nice to the Russians, compliment them or look for a better relationship.

It's very difficult because actually I would argue we have to have a better relationship. But right now it's very, very dynamic, unpredictable and very raw. A lot of criticism and nobody, including in Moscow, knows where it's going.

ALLEN: Yes. Very interesting. Who would think that relations between the U.S. and Russia would be just like completely up in the air? But that seems to be where we are right now. Hopefully it will go somewhere positive.

Thank you so much, Jill Dougherty, as always for your input.

The Dutch Trump is finding support in the country of the real Trump. Next, why a U.S. Republican congressman is being criticized for an endorsement that some say supports white nationalism.

Also ahead here the calendar says it's almost spring but don't tell that to parts of the northeast U.S. They are bracing for a blizzard. Pedram will have that for us -- coming up here.


ALLEN: And welcome back.

A U.S. Republican congressman is being criticized for a tweet that some say support white nationalism. Steve King is known for his anti- immigration rhetoric and he's now supporting the man dubbed "the Dutch Trump". Wednesday's election in the Netherlands will test the rise of far right politician Geert Wilders seen here. He has relied on a nationalist agenda. Mr. King wrote on Twitter, quote, "Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies."

This tweet was supported by the leader of the Ku Klux Klan. But others were quick to condemn the comment. Hillary Clinton's daughter Chelsea wrote quote, "Clearly the congressman does not view all our children as well, all our children -- particularly ironic and painful on the Jewish religious holiday of Purim."

Joining me now is Ellis Henican, Metro columnist and best selling author and political analyst. Ellis -- thanks again for joining us. How are you?

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, Natalie. Good to see you.

ALLEN: Good to see you too. Well, we just saw that Twitter back and forth between Representative Steve King of Iowa and Chelsea Clinton. King has taken heat in the past for tweets white Christian -- I'm paraphrasing here -- superiority.

[00:20:02] In some way does he speak for the Trump base who are not happy to welcome more Muslims to this country -- some of them?

HENICAN: Well, yes. I mean there is clearly part of the Trump base. I don't know if it's the majority but it's a lot of people who sure helped him get elected who are not only opposed to illegal immigration, they're highly suspicious of legal immigration, one of the causes that the Attorney General Sessions has made his own over the years.

ALLEN: And there is an issue that has come up already with the revised travel ban involving Muslims already getting pushback from another judge. Before it was Seattle, now Wisconsin and this is involving a Syrian mother and child granted amnesty set to join their husband and father in the United States in Wisconsin from Aleppo, Syria. And this revised travel ban blocked them and now this has gone to court. Is this a sign of more to come?

HENICAN: Well, there will be more to come. Listen, any time you have one of these broad travel ban that applies to everyone in the nation you know you're going to get some just heartbreaking individual cases, people who are tremendously sympathetic to suffering terrible things.

And so if you want to defend that policy in general terms you do have to be willing to try and explain away those uncomfortable human stories. That's a great example of one right there.

ALLEN: And Kellyanne Conway had said that this new ban would pass, her words, "legal muster". Would the Trump administration, they would be expecting pushback, wouldn't they? Or are they trying to set this travel ban where it could stand up to any court in the country?

HENICAN: Well, both. I mean clearly, they're expecting legal challenges. I think that they believe that the second version of it is tidier, a little more carefully constructed than the first one. And where the courts are going to come down on this, I don't think anybody really knows yet.

ALLEN: Let's talk about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He's on his way to Asia. His first trip as Secretary of State.

North Korea is on the table, China; and the media not invited, not at the table. What do you make of that?

HENICAN: No. And he's been awfully quiet as secretary of state. I think he's dealing with the perception right now that he doesn't really have a seat at the table. You know, we had a Mexican diplomatic official in town this past week. Tillerson and the folks at the State Department didn't even know the man was there.

The -- obviously meetings and issues that are being discussed inside the White House that Tillerson does not really seem to be involved in. So maybe he will be able to capture some of that on his trip. But so far -- a very faint figure in the administration, I think.

ALLEN: Right. And what does that signal? We already know that Donald Trump does not like the news media -- a lot of the news media, not all. And now, you know, one of his top administration members is not inviting the news media and the Secretary of State is the person that we appoint to let us know about U.S. foreign policy. They are the explainer-in-chief.

HENICAN: That's a really good point. It's certainly different from John Kerry and about the last several dozen secretaries of state who considered it an opportunity to explain the American view of the world to the folks through the media. This administration has taken a real different approach on that, yes.

ALLEN: Right -- a new administration and a new day for sure. Ellis Henican joining us. Thank you -- Ellis.

HENICAN: Good to see you.

ALLEN: Spring is beckoning but, oh, no, it's not. Pedram Javaheri is here with it now. We've been talking during the commercial because everyone like to talk about the weather, of course; and New York among other cities bracing for a blizzard.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. What an incredible pattern -- right.

ALLEN: Right.

JAVAHERI: From just a couple of days ago --

ALLEN: Right.

JAVAHERI: All the anomalies that we were talking about. And you know, one of the more remarkable statistics is thinking about the first couple of months of the year so far -- over 9,000 record high temperatures have been set across the United States versus about 1,000 record low temperatures. So a 9 to 1 ratio for highs beating cold temps out.

And you know, we go from all that --

ALLEN: And that's so far this year or the winter last year as well?

JAVAHERI: Just so far this year in 2017.

ALLEN: Goodness gracious.

JAVAHERI: Yes. So now, it's flipping just like that and now we're talking about extreme cold and a lot of storm. So we'll break down exactly what --

ALLEN: You make it make sense for us, young man.

JAVAHERI: We're going to try. There's about 103 million people Natalie that are sitting here with winter weather advisories, winter storm alerts, blizzard warnings. You do the math -- that's one in every three people in the United States that are going to deal with incredible winter weather in the next 24 or so hours.

And see the area indicated in green? Right there among the most densely populated quarter of the United States. That's where blizzard watches are in place as well.

[00:25:00] So we know winds are going to be howling. It is going to be cold. In fact at this hour, it feels like 14 below zero out of Boston, 17 around Halifax, Quebec and Montreal 20 below zero, and New York City minus 5. These are areas where the temps, of course were in the 70 Fahrenheit or about say they were 10 or 15 degrees Celsius a couple of days ago.

But here comes the snow showers. By the way, they have not picked up more than an inch of snow in the city of Chicago since December 17th. The heart of winter has gone quiet. Here comes the first round of it and that's actually part of the storm we're watching here because as that storm system pushes away from the Midwestern United States and centers itself with the northeastern U.S., we're watching what's happening right around parts of the state of South Carolina because a storm is also exiting that region.

Look what happens with these two storms as we go into Tuesday morning -- they join forces. As this happens you get tremendous energy with the storm system and depending on the track of it if it stays close to land, we're talking incredible numbers and historic snowfall total for this time of year.

One of the models suggests potentially 24 more inches in an area where 50 million people could get at least a foot of snow in this area. That would include parts of New York City, back towards the west around Philadelphia into eastern Pennsylvania potentially more than two feet possible.

Another model takes the storm a little farther offshore and lessens the amounts but by less amounts we're talking still 12 to 18 inches again including New York City" parts of New Jersey on into Boston. This would be in the forecast going in for much of Monday night into much of Tuesday.

What's most impressive to me even after you consider two feet of snow -- are the wind speeds; these are miles per hour. Look at New York City. If the storm system tracks as close to land as we is possible, you can see wind gust around New York City exceeding 90 miles an hour. Just a model here, it could shift dramatically but it kind of puts it in perspective.

Montauk if you were to (inaudible) towards the coastal communities, winds could exceed over 100 miles an hour, these are gusts into the afternoon hours there of Tuesday. So again, you put this with a blinding snow coming down, this is a dangerous go (ph) we know hundreds of flights will be impacted if not thousands of flights impacted across this region of the United States.

Here's a way to look at it. Look at the roller coaster weather temperature there for Boston -- 73 degrees Fahrenheit, that is about 22 degrees Celsius just a couple days ago; now we're talking a good foot of snow on the ground potentially in a couple days and spring is about a week away now -- Natalie.

ALLEN: It's really bizarre.

JAVAHERI: Bizarre is the only way to put it, absolutely.

ALLEN: Absolutely -- 9,000 record high temps. And the fact that Chicago has had like barely scant snow -- Chicago.

JAVAHERI: Barely anything -- yes.

This is the first time in 146 years actually of weather keeping. They went January and February without an inch falling in Chicago.

ALLEN: Well, March is always our wild card month, though, right.

JAVAHERI: It is happening -- exactly.

ALLEN: Yes, it is.

All right. Pedram -- thanks so much.

JAVAHERI: Thanks -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Iraqi forces make a disturbing discovery as they retake western Mosul from ISIS. We'll have the latest on the battle and what they found. Ahead here.

Also, dozens of people buried alive in Ethiopia under mountains of trash. We'll tell you how that happened and about the hunt for survivors.

[00:28:01] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [00:31:30] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

Here are our headlines this hour. The feud between Turkey and the Netherlands are heating up. The Turkish president called the Dutch government fascist and Nazi-like after they turned away Turkish ministers who tried to speak at a rally in Rotterdam, Saturday. That sparks angry protest in both countries. The Dutch prime minister says the Turkish president's remarks are, quote, "unacceptable."

An alliance of Jihadist groups claim responsibility for twin bombings in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The umbrella group says they targeted Syrian soldiers and Iranian militias. Iran has supported fighters for the Syrian government regime. Activists say at least 74 people were killed.

South Korea's ousted president has thanked her supporters and indicate successful results of her impeachment. That according to a congressman who spoke on Park Geun-hye's behalf. Park left the presidential residence, Sunday, after a court upheld her impeachment, Friday.

Iraqi forces say they have taken back more than half of western Mosul from ISIS. The military says its troops have hit two ISIS strongholds inflicting heavy losses on the militants. Almost 100,000 civilians have escaped since the offensive to retake Mosul began last month. On Sunday, officials say more than 10,000 were taken into nearby refugee camps.

Iraq's military also says they have discovered a mass grave in northwest Mosul. They believe it contains the remains of about 500 people.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has seen the devastating impact ISIS has had in Western Mosul. He went to the city's museum where militants have reduced priceless artefacts to rubble.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ancient treasures that survived the ravages of time fell victim to the folly of man. The remains of statutes dating back to the Syrian empire more than 2,500 years old lie in pieces on the floor of the Mosul museum.

Two years ago, ISIS militants took sledgehammers and jackhammers to the museum's collection, posting a video of their vandalism on social media.

"Characterizing the pre-Islamic inhabitants of Mesopotamia as idol worshippers and unidentified man declares the ancient antiquities must be destroyed, even if they're worth billions of dollars," he says.

Iraqi forces battling ISIS in west Mosul recently regained control of the museum. (on-camera): This is all that remains of one of the museums, a Lamassu. A winged-bull, a symbol of the might of the great Syrian empire.

Not only did ISIS go to the trouble of breaking apart these statues, but they also chipped away the face. And as you can tell, the battle still rages all around us.

(voice-over): It wasn't all about implementing ISIS's twisted interpretation of Islam. When their cameras weren't rolling, they were looting the museum. Captain Fatus of the Iraqi Federal Police explains why there's a gaping hole in the museum floor.

[00:35:06] "This vault," he says, "contained artefacts that weren't on display. ISIS took them out and sold them outside of Iraq." All, however, is not lost. Three-quarters of the museum's collection was moved to Baghdad before ISIS seized Mosul because this museum was set for renovation.

As fate would have it, the final joke was on ISIS. Many of the statues they toppled with such gusto were cheap replicas. They were fakes.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, West Mosul.


ALLEN: A landslide has killed at least 46 people searching for food at a garbage dump in Ethiopia. A journalist on the scene says piles of trash seem to have collapsed. Authorities are still searching for possible survivors. Many people rely on the landfill outside Addis, Ababa, to make a living. They sift through the rubbish, scavenging what they can to survive. And official says the government is trying to resettle the people who live at the garbage dump.

In Northern Haiti, celebrations for music festival became the scene of a deadly bus crash. Officials say at least 38 people were killed when this bus plowed into a parade crowd, Sunday. We are learning the driver was already fleeing another hit-and-run crash. And eyewitnesses said people were still trapped under the bus pleading for help when it finally stopped. Police are still searching for the bus driver.

March 14th is My Freedom Day. CNN partnering with young people around the world for a student-led day of action against modern day slavery. Something we've been reporting on for years now.

Driving My Freedom Day is a simple question, what does freedom mean to you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those who have freedom forget how important it is. And I think it's the right to express yourself without interference, whoever or wherever you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom means being able to express myself and every aspect of my life and not feel persecution and retaliation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom to me means having no limitations. It means you have the opportunity to create vision for your life. Freedom is also the opportunity to chase your dreams and aspirations.


ALLEN: We want to hear what freedom means to you. All the young people around the world, please join in. Post a photo or video using the #MyFreedomDay. We hope to hear from you.

All right, coming up here. Here's a strange one. What do Belgian beer and space discovery have in common? Well, apparently, they've got something in common and we'll explain that next.


[00:40:11] ALLEN: Well, imagine the time it takes to train for a major bicycling race only to find when it's the time for the event, you can't really get on your bike.

You can't blame the cyclist who couldn't compete in South Africa, Sunday. Look at this. Heavy winds. That's what knocked them down so much that it finally cancelled Capetown's yearly cycle tour. Some bikers had already started. In this video, you can see the racers desperately trying to hold on to their bicycles. Mother Nature not having it.

Well, the recent discovery of seven earth-like planets has researchers saying we are in the golden age of finding planets that just might support life. The scientists who found this remarkable new network named the planets with their love for Belgium and beer.

CNN Erin McLaughlin has that for us from Belgium.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nestled in a valley of Belgium's ardent mountain range, an almost a 900-year-old monastery known as Orval Abbey. Trappist monks have been brewing beer here since the 12th century.

Now this world famous trappist monastic beer has inspired then name of one of the most extraordinary astronomical finds ever.

Trappist is the nickname of a system of 7 earth-size planets orbiting a dwarf star just 40 light years away. They're known as exoplanets because they're outside our solar system. Three of the planet sits in the habitable zone of the star. It's possible they could sustain life.

Exoplanet pioneers Michael Gillon and Emmanuel Jehin discovered the Trappist system, part of a project at the University of Liege in Belgium. From a modest laboratory, they monitor Trappist. Robotic telescopes thousands of miles away in Chile and Morocco. Each night, Trappist searches the heavens, because the telescope feed is online, they can monitor it from anywhere there's Internet. Dips and brightness around the stars indicate possible planets. Incredibly, Gillon says he discovered the first Trappist exoplanet while sitting on his couch at home.

MICHAEL GILLON, ASTRONOMER: I saw this drop of brightness that I was searching for -- I've been searching for for five years. Oh, wow, it looks really like an earth-size planet.

MCLAUGHLIN: Gillon had a unique idea, to search ultra cold dwarf stars smaller than the sun.

GILLON: I was looking on one planet, then we saw two. It was becoming crazy. Three -- completely crazy. And then in 2016, four, five. It was like a kind of (INAUDIBLE).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're kind of joking. It's not possible. How many planets are there?

MCLAUGHLIN: What separates this from other exoplanet discoveries, the star is small enough and the planets are close enough for scientists to search for traces of alien life.

Back at the abbey, Brother Xavier says he's extremely proud of the Belgian discovery.

As for the question of life on other planets --

BROTHER XAVIER (through translator): If there are possibilities of discovering life and other forms than what we know now, that would be a lot. The more we have stories that give meaning to human life, that gives an essential meaning to us all.

MCLAUGHLIN: A philosophical response to a question asked for thousands of years. Now renewed hope, the answer is out there.

Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Liege, Belgium.


ALLEN: We will leave you to ponder that one. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

"World Sport" is next. At the top of the hour, more of CNN NEWSROOM with my colleague, Cyril Vanier. Thanks for watching.