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Merkel to Meet Trump in Washington; Travel Ban Blocks Syrian Doctor's Return to U.S.; Fight Against ISIS Comes at Considerable Cost to Mosul People; Venezuelans Scavenge Garbage Looking for Food; White House to Defund PBS, NEA to Increase Military Spending. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 17, 2017 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: Ahead this hour, the U.S. Secretary of State has arrived in South Korea for his first official visit, amid growing threats from the North, and political upheaval at home.

SESAY: Plus, the White House refuses to back down despite top lawmakers' claims that there's no evidence Donald Trump was wiretapped by Barack Obama.

VAUSE: And later, Venezuela's economic collapse with the growing shortage of food, many are digging through the trash to find their next menu.

SESAY: Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: Great to have you with us, I'm John Vause. Welcome to the second hour of NEWSROOM L.A. U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is in South Korea for the second leg of a trip which will also take him to China. He arrives amid heightened tensions and uncertainty on the Korean peninsula.

SESAY: South Korea is in political turmoil, after the elected President, Park Geun-hye, was forced out of office just days ago, and North Korea is agitated over annual military exercises between Washington and Seoul. Well, CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us now from the DMZ. And Paula, those there in South Korea and in the region, will be closely looking for clues on Washington's declared new approach when it comes to dealing with North Korea.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Isha, we've heard the top U.S. diplomats saying that the policy that the United States had towards North Korea for the past 20 years has failed. What we haven't heard, is what he intends to replace that with or what this new North Korean policy of the Trump administration will be. There will be a very eager ear listening out for any indication of any potential changes going forward in the way that Washington deals with Pyongyang.

Now, we know that Tillerson has just been in the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. He's been meeting with the top military brass to try and get debriefed into exactly what the situation is here, at the moment. And as you say, it is fairly tense. He'll then be going to meet the acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn and his South Korean counterpart, the Foreign Minister. But it's an interesting time for him to come to South Korea, considering most of the people he's meeting probably won't even be in power within a couple of months.


HANCOCKS: South Korea has no President. Its people are sharply divided. The government said it's business as usual, when it's anything but. This the South Korea that U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is visiting.

DUYEON KIM, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: It's only a matter of time until the North is able to successfully launch a long-range missile set with the nuclear device, aimed at the U.S.

HANCOCKS: Top topic is North Korea. Kim Jong-un's determination to set the U.S. in its nuclear sites. North Korea describes itself as a nuclear state, a term Washington says it will never accept. One policy, at least, the Obama and Trump administrations agree on. But the more North Korea tests, the more it improves. The next four years are crucial. Tillerson arrives at the U.S.-South Korean military drills are well underway. War games that infuriate North Korea, and it resulted in threats from Pyongyang of nuclear war. North Korea gets very nervous this time of year. The annual military drills which the United States and South Korea say, are defensive in nature. But Pyongyang, still see this as a threat and says they see the U.S. forces as hostile. The U.S. disagrees.

JAMES KILBY, UNITED STATES NAVY REAR ADMIRAL: To build that relationship requires trust, to operate together. So, that requires practice and working through a series of exercises.

HANCOCKS: And military hardware apparently, the U.S. THAAD Missile Defense System is arriving in parts. South Korea wants assurances it will be fully operational to conquer the threat of North Korean missiles, as soon as possible. The next President coming in, in a couple of months, is likely to be liberal and is likely to not want it.


HANCOCKS: So, I think it's safe to say that officials in North Korea will be watching this visit very closely, to see if they get kind of insights into what this new policy is going to be. Isha.

SESAY: All right. Our Paula Hancocks reporting there, from the DMZ. Paula, always appreciated. Thank you.

VAUSE: The White House says, the President is standing by his allegations, that former President Barack Obama, ordered surveillance on the Trump campaign and Mr. Trump last year.

SESAY: And that is despite new denials from Top Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress. CNN's Jeff Zeleny, reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is even more isolated tonight, in his unsubstantiated claim: President Obama, was spying on him at Trump Tower. After saying this to Fox News, Wednesday night:

DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Wiretap, covers a lot of different things. I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.

ZELENY: The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee for the first time said, they see no evidence to support the President's assertion. Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower, was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016; Senators Richard Burr, a Republican; and Mark Warner, a Democrat said, in a joint statement. At the White House, that blunt, and bipartisan assessment sent Press Secretary Sean Spicer into a frenzied string of explanations, for something that has increasing indefensible. He had this exchange with our Jim Acosta.

[01:05:33] JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You were just quoting Sean Hannity there. The House and the Senate Intelligence Committees are -

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I also quoted - I know, I get you're going to -

ACOSTA: -- FBI Director, you're citing Sean Hannity -

SPICER: No, no. OK. You also look over - you also tend to overlook all of the other sources. Because I know you want to cherry pick it. No, no, but you do. But where was your concern about the New York Times reporter? You didn't seem to have a concern with that.

ACOSTA: We have done - we've done plenty of reporting on all of it.

SPICER: No, no. But you want to cherry pick one commentary - one piece of commentary.

SPICER: These connections between the - based on the Associates of the President to the Russians, that has been looked at.

SPICER: No. But, how do you know all this? How do you seem to be such an expert in this?

ACOSTA: I'm saying that, this has been looked at, Sean.

SPICER: How do you know it's been looked at? Hold on, hold on.

ZELENY: For nearly two weeks, the President's wiretapping claim has hung over the White House like a storm cloud. As one Congressional Leader after another, has discounted it. Speaker Paul Ryan, added his voice again today to the list of skeptics. PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SPEAKER: The

Intelligence Committees, in their continuing, widening, on-going investigation of all things Russia, got to the bottom at least so far with respect to our Intelligence Community, that no such wiretap existed.

ZELENY: The White House says; the President still stands behind his wiretapping accusation. And he acknowledged learning it from conservative news sites, not the Intelligence Agencies at his disposal.

TRUMP: I said, there's a lot of wiretapping game talked about. I've been seeing a lot of things.

ZELENY: But none of those things has added up to any evidence. He asked Congress to investigate and now the answer has been the same, from both parties and both sides of Capitol Hill. It's all heading toward a full boil next week, when FBI Director, James Comey, is called to testify before Congress. Adam Schiff, the Top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told our Manu Raju, he expects Comey to also debunk the wiretapping claim.

ADAM SCHIFF, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM CALIFORNIA: But on that question, he should be able to answer it and put that to rest once and for all.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Do you think he'll say no, the President was not wiretapped?

SCHIFF: I do, because there's no evidence of this at all.

ZELENY: Now, Congressman Schiff said, that FBI Director James Comey will put an exclamation point on all of this when he testifies on Monday. And then the Congressman believes the ball is back in the President's court, to explain what he calls a baseless accusation. We'll see if that happens next week. Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


VAUSE: Joining us now here in Los Angeles: Former L.A. City Council Woman, Wendy Greuel; Republican Consultant, John Thomas; and Talk Radio Host, Mo'Kelly. Thank you all for being with us. Wendy, first to you, Sean Spicer on Thursday, as part of the, you know, the evidence to back-up the President's claim. He was highlighting the stories about the FBI looking into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Have you ever seen a White House Spokesman, argue so forcefully that his boss was actually under investigation by the FBI?

WENDY GREUEL, LOS ANGELES CITY FORMER COUNCIL WOMAN: That is a very good point. I've never seen anything like it today. I mean, watching that was kind of like someone imploding in front of our eyes, and trying to make up things and be able to convince people that he was right. When in fact, all you have to do is look at Donald Trump's tweets that he did two weeks ago, blaming President Obama that he was wiretapping early on in that campaign. It's just not true. You have Senate, Republicans, and Congressional Republicans, and Democrats saying it is not true, there is no evidence. We're wasting time and money, when we could be working on some really important issues facing this country.

SESAY: So, John, to that point, with, you know, everyone making the point that everyone on Capitol Hill is running as far as they can get away from the President on this issue. Who exactly the President, and Sean Spicer, trying to convince now with this argument? Because, I mean, the kind of - the case - for most people to open and shut.

JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I think he's trying to buy himself some time. I think he's trying to widen the discussion.

SESAY: But who do they think they can convince now, with this argument?

THOMAS: 45 percent Of Americans? That is just pretty big audience.

SESAY: So, this is just about his -

THOMAS: Yes, yes, it is. He has to retain credibility, so that - if they're - even if it's not a direct wiretap, that he can somehow claim even if a small victory, he can claim that victory on Monday.

VAUSE: He's just like the Swiss guard in 1527. He is trying to buy time.

THOMAS: He is just like that.

VAUSE: Mo, to you though, you know, how much political capital do you think President Trump is willing to basically spend during, you know, this defense of what seems to be, the indefensible right now, and what actually, you know, is not getting done?

MO'KELLY, TALK RADIO HOST: Well, I don't know if he has political capital left, at this point. You would think in a conventional White House, that he would've spent it all at this point. But it seems like he just keeps on ticking, he's like the energizer bunny, there's nothing you can do to stop him. And that's good and bad. It's good it shows his resilience, but at the same time, we're missing a larger point. Our President is having domestic policy influence and dictated by what he watches on television, this is happening again and again.

He's getting his opinions and as quote unquote "intelligence" from Fox News, he's getting it from Breitbart, who knows, "House of Cards," as well. I mean, at this point, if you really want to influence what America's going to do in a policy sense, well, put it on Breitbart, put it on Fox News, and then have the President react. And as far as political capital goes, I don't think he cares at this point because he's still willing to fight for things which are, as everyone has said, indefensible.

[01:10:47] SESAY: Wendy, it is mystifying I think, this people around the world, to hear the President and the White House essentially base their argument on news media reports. I mean, people around the world saying, you're the President of the United States, you can verify this information with credible sources.

GREUEL: With an easy call to the FBI Director. I mean, what it is - it's reckless and the problem is that, when he may actually tweet something in the future that's true, people aren't going to believe him and it might be a very serious issue that we're trying to address in this world. And they're not going to believe them because of the recklessness in which, he is putting out his information and not telling the truth.

VAUSE: And John, what about you, citing evidence from the failing New York Times, you know, the fake news outlet, the New York Times. I mean, that seemed bizarre to me that this is what they're going back to, to back-up the President' claim, you know, a publication which, you know, they ridiculed.

THOMAS: Yes. I think, If I'm running the Comshop over there, what I would advise to the team is, be consistent in your sources that you use. And if you discredit one, no matter how tempting it is to go back, you can't go back. And I think that's where they're shooting themselves in the foot, is the inconsistency. And they've got, you know, Donald Trump who has a loose relationship with linguistics. I mean, he talks in, sometimes, best of his but he intends generalities; and sometimes generalities when he means, specifics. It's a - it's a hard road ahead for him.

SESAY: All right. Well, Mo, to that point of, you know, taking him - taking him literally as opposed to seriously or which, you know, people have parsed the words for days now. The President did say on Fox News on Wednesday; you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks, as he defended the tweet he put out. Again, should we take him literally or seriously? I mean, what are your expectations?

MO'KELLY: My expectation is, I should not take him seriously and that is saddening because he's the President of the United States, and leader of the free world. But we've heard this type of rhetoric before, he said he was going to find some interesting things in Hawaii when he was researching the birth certificate of Barack Obama. He said that he saw Muslims celebrating after 911. He said that he saw people dying, jumping from the tower after 9/11. He's told us a lot of things. At this point, the American should realize that his credibility is questionable at best, he has earned our disbelief at this point.

VAUSE: So, Wendy, you know, let's connect the spots during the argument that he was making on Thursday. You know, it seems like, you know, the best defense is a strong offense, you know, he sort of just watered out this on which the Trump votes off and due. In this case, he was asking the reporters, you know, why weren't you this hot on the story when the House Intelligence Chairman - in Intelligence Committee Chairman came out and said there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia? You know, you've got to mention. Isn't that a fair argument, to an extent here?

GREUEL: I think they have looked at both sides. I mean, you know, they have written articles that have said, well, there's no connection here and there. But there's also a lot of data out there that shows there was some kind of connection, that they have actual kind of e- mails back and forth, and they have a, you know, someone who had been their nominee and that had met with some of the -

VAUSE: Is there like a - is there like a disparity here, between a negative story that Donald Trump; everyone goes crazy on it. There's a positive story, and it barely rates a mention.

GREUEL: No, because they do mention. But what happens is, Donald Trump, and Sean Spicer, and all of them start getting angry and bitter and fighting back, and then the story continues. Any good communications our politician says, you know, cut the story if it's a bad one short, as quickly as possible. They continue to kind of want to feed something, when they're losing that game.

THOMAS: But your point is right, to a degree about Trump's tax returns when the 2005, you know, were released, and it turns out he pays a lot in as a percentage. Hillary Clinton who, you know, destroyed him in September in debates and Senator - multiple Senators: Senator Sanders and others, never apologized.

VAUSE: Right.

THOMAS: So it hurts their credibility.

VAUSE: OK. Let's go quick into the budget because they've outlined a budget proposal that was also at the White House briefing before Sean Spicer went full Melissa McCarthy. Mick Mulvaney, the Budget Chief on Thursday, he outlined some of the budget priorities and defended why social programs are being cut - social programs like after school care, and school lunches. Listen to this.


[01:15:01] MICK MULVANEY, UNITED STATES OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET DIRECTOR: Let's talk about after school programs generally. They're supposed to be educational programs, right? And that's what they're supposed to, they're supposed to help kids who can't - don't get fed at home, get fed so they do better in school. Guess what, there's no demonstrable evidence that they are actually doing that. There is no demonstrable evidence actually helping results, helping kids do better in school which is what, when we took your money from you to say look, we are going to spend it on after school programs the way to justify it was these programs are going to help these kids do better in schools and get better jobs. And we can't prove that it's happening

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be clear we're saying the administration with this budget is saying that no after school programs out there are doing their job and helping educate these children?

MULVANER: Again, now you are asking the question I don't know the answer to. But I don't believe we cut all the funding for those types of things.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SESAY: Well Kelly, hearing that what are your thoughts? It is a remarkable statement of principles and values there from the manager of the O.M.B. I mean, it's hard to understand how this administration is seeing this to the lens of just metrics and results, something that actually has such an important impact on the lives of millions in this country.

MO'KELLY: Well for me, it's cognitive dissonance. If you want to talk about wasteful spending in Washington but you somehow omit the fact that our President is at Mar-a-Lago every single weekend or our First Lady is living in New York for no real discernible reason months at a time and the millions of dollars that we are spending every single day just for that which could help fund Meals on Wheels or any of these other educational programs in which they are trying to cut. It says to me that we are speaking out of both sides of our mouths as Americans. What we want to bring down the national debt, we want to decrease the deficit but at the same time, if the President wants to go to Florida, that's OK.

VAUSE: So John, if you look at what's happening in this budget proposal and if you look at the replacement plan for Obamacare, a lot of the people who are going to be hit the hardest by all this are those Trump voters, those blue collar voters who voted for Donald Trump. They are going to, you know, share or bear a big burden of these cuts in spending.

THOMAS: Yes, I mean on the health care plan undoubtedly, if they're -- these Trump voters rates go up, I mean they're going to hold Trump and the Republicans accountable in the mid-terms. But I think the broader point the White House is trying to make is, look we like all these things but when you don't have money to do everything you have to go to the basics of what a government should do and that is by keeping its citizens safe. We're not doing that well and we're not funding that well until we do that, we have to make hard decisions. SESAY: When you look at the hard figures, the percentage of the budget for these programs is very, very small.

GREUEL: It's very small. But the impact that it has is incredible, so, whether it's seniors who literally are living day-to-day by those Meals on Wheels programs that are coming to them or the after school programs. I helped establish one here in Los Angeles. And there are studies that show kids are doing better in school when they are in an after school program. When they have a safe place, if they want the world to be safe, we want our kids to be safe and if they are able to be in a place where they are learning, that is so much better for our future because it's shown if kids don't have a good education, they're ultimately going to go into jails and juvenile justice systems. And I think we need to invest in our children.

THOMAS: I don't think we're disagreeing with that. We're saying the government should be paying for it.

VAUSE: OK. Great, any more of that we shall leave it. John and Wendy as well as Mo, thank you all for being with us.

SESAY: Thank you. Thank you very, very much. All right, quick break now. When we come back, President Trump wants the U.S. military to get billions of dollars in new cash, while the heart of U.S. diplomacy is set to lose billions of dollars. We'll talk to the man who used to work at the State Department, next.


[01:20:52] SESAY: The heart of U.S. diplomacy, the State Department is bracing for dramatic budget cuts. U.S. President Donald Trump is proposing a 28 percent cut in State Department funding. That's about $10.9 billion. Foreign aid spending in the budget would be slashed by 38 percent and it reduces payments to the United Nations for climate change and peacekeeping efforts. The plan also increases funding to fortify U.S. Embassies abroad and it provides $3.1 billion in commitments to Israel. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is defending the plan.


REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES STATE SECRETARY: The State Department is coming off of a historically high level of budgetary resources in the 2017 budget. The level of spending that the State Department has been undertaking in the past - in particular in this past year, is simply not sustainable.


SESAY: Well let's go now to David Tafuri in Washington for some reaction. He has worked for the U.S. State Department and the United Nations. He also was a firm policy adviser for Barrack Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign. David, thank you so much for being with us. This budget proposal has drawn sharp criticism from those on the left as well as foreign policy and development experts. But the President's Director of the Office of Management and Budget had this to say on Wednesday. Take a listen.


MULVANER: There's a very deliberate attempt here to send a message to our allies and our friends such as India and our adversaries with other countries shall we say, which is that this a hard power budget, that this administration intends to change course to a soft power budget to a hard power budget. And that's a message that our adversaries and our allies alike should take up


SESAY: So David, Mr. Mulvaner there saying the President is sending a message of strength. What's your take away from these numbers?

DAVID TAFURI, FORMER UNITED NATIONS AND STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well this is a little odd. Normally, a hard power and soft power go together quite well. So President Trump has proposed huge increases in military spending. I think that's a positive if we use the money well. However, the State Department and A.I.D. budget cuts are a big mistake. Here's why. We face unprecedented uncertainty around the world we have fledgling democracies around the world that are on the verge of failure. We have a battle with Islamic fundamentalism and for the hearts and minds of the people in the Middle East and soft power needs to go hand in glove with hard power in order to effectuate our form policy objectives overseas. So for instance, I've spent a lot of time in Iraq, I serve with the state department in Iraq, I was just in Iraq in December. The military campaign against ISIS is going quite well. However, I was at the State Department last week, they talked about how some of the most difficult questions in Iraq after ISIS is pushed out have been kicked down the road. And our diplomats have to take leadership in Iraq then work out to those questions, questions about who is going to govern the areas that have been cleared from Mosul. How are we going to change the government in Baghdad so it's more supportive of some of the minority communities that ended up having ISIS attack them? And how are we going to ultimately keep Iraq together or let Iraq break apart, but make sure that Iraq is never again a home for fundamentalist, radical terrorists like ISIS.

SESAY: Well David, the nation's top diplomat is in support of the proposed cuts. He's framing this as more - as an issue of dollars and cents rather than the administration's principles and values. So let me ask you this, is there an argument to be made about out of control spending at the State Department when it comes to foreign aid and development programming?

TAFURI: Well I don't think so. You know, the State Department budget is less than the increase that is proposed for the Department of Defense. Now, can we spend some of this money better? Yes, we absolutely can. I would have liked to hear this administration come up with creative ideas to use the money better to effectuate our objectives abroad. But we spend less than one percent of our overall budget on foreign assistance abroad. Someone like Senator Rubio who's Republican has talked about that and has talked about how important it is that we keep spending that budget in order to project soft power in addition to hard power. There are other people in the administration including Secretary Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, who has also talked about how we need our diplomats alongside our military generals in order to make an impact overseas, in order to make sure that hot spots like Iraq, like Afghanistan, like Syria are not places where we have to keep our military forever. We need diplomatic engagement in addition to military engagement. And having a strong State Department budget and a foreign assistant's budget is an important part of that.

[01:25:41] SESAY: David, you know, one can't help but think that if you are a dictator sitting in some corner of the world or you're a terrorist group that is looking to blight freedoms and project, you know, your propaganda, that this is a good day when you see a proposal like this, a proposed budget like this. I mean, what are the consequences for U.S. leadership in the world if this - if these cut are actually enforced?

TAFURI: Well you're absolutely right. This is a good day for dictators. You know, some of the programs that we do are anti- corruption programs, they are democracy building programs overseas. We try to build up civil society overseas; we try to build up free press overseas. All of those things are a threat to autocrats, to dictators. They don't like that type of funding and programming by the U.S. So those are the things that are really going to be jeopardized by these cuts. And again, I would like to see the Trump Administration put their stamp on foreign assistance. They can change it a little bit; they can try doing things a little bit differently but don't cut it. Because like you said, we're only going to end up helping the world's autocrats.

SESAY: David Tafuri, joining us from Washington. Very much appreciated it. Thank you so much for the insight.

TAFURI: Thank you.

VAUSE: Time for a short break. When we come back, they disagreed a little in the past but now Angela Merkel and Donald Trump have to work together. A look at their very first meeting when, we come back.


[01:30:20] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching "CNN NEWSROOM" live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.


The headlines this hour --


VAUSE: During the U.S. election campaign, Germany's leader was an occasional target for then-Candidate Donald Trump and now she is heading to Washington.

SESAY: In a few hours, the German chancellor will visit the White House.

Atika Shubert reports on how important and maybe awkward their meeting could be.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A massive blizzard may have thrown a wrench in their plans causing some to view it as a bad omen for the hotly anticipated meeting if two of the world's most powerful leaders, U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Who could blame them, with comments like this from then-Candidate Trump after migrants were blamed for hundreds of sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, on New Year's Eve last year.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The German people are going to riot. The German people are going to end up overthrowing this woman. I don't know what the hell she's thinking.

SHUBERT: It wasn't the first time that Trump had publicly railed against Merkel. On the campaign trail in August 2016, he again assailed her decision to take in a large number of refugees.

TRUMP: In short, Hillary Clinton wants to be America's Angela Merkel.


TRUMP: True.


TRUMP: And you know what a disaster this massive immigration has been to Germany and the people of Germany. Crime has risen to levels that no one thought they would ever, ever see. It is a catastrophe.

SHUBERT: But just a year earlier, Trump sang Merkel's praises, telling "Time" magazine she was probably the greatest leader in the world adding, "She's fantastic and highly respected."

That opinion seemed to turn, however. And when "Time" chose Merkel as the person of the year in 2015, Trump tweeted his displeasure, "I told you 'Time' would never pick me. Despite being the big favorite, they picked the person who is ruining Germany."

After his election, Merkel was cordial, congratulating Trump on his victory but with a thinly veiled message, too.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translation): Germany and America are bound together by values, democracy, freedom, respect of law, and respect of people, regardless of their origin, the color of their skin, their religion, gender, sexual orientation or their political beliefs.

SHUBERT: In response to Trump's continued criticism of her policy of taking in refugees, she said simply, "I think we Europeans have our fate in our own hands."

And when Trump declared the media the, quote, "enemy of the people," here's how she responded.

MERKEL (through translation): I think a free and independent press is of the essence. I have great respect for journalists. We at least here in Germany have always done best when we show respect for each other and when we show mutual respect.

SHUBERT: Merkel said that Friday's meeting with Trump will focus on talking together rather than about one another, a nod perhaps to the importance of mutual respect between two of the most powerful people in the world.

Atika Shubert, CNNM, Berlin.


SESAY: To be a fly on the wall of that meeting.

VAUSE: It will probably go well. They have to work together.

SESAY: They have to, yes.

VAUSE: We shall see.

SESAY: We shall see.

VAUSE: One important to note to that, Donald Trump will have a joint news conference with Angela Merkel at 1:20 p.m. eastern time. It will be interesting to see who he takes questions from --


VAUSE: -- after that White House briefing on Thursday.

[01:35:08] SESAY: A federal judge in Maryland has suspended Mr. Trump's 90-day ban on immigration from six Muslim-majority countries. This, after similar ruling from a federal judge in Hawaii.

VAUSE: The White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the Trump administration plans to appeal both of the decisions.

A doctor from Syria was one of the many people affected by the travel began. He was studying in the U.S. but was stopped from returning after a trip to Turkey.

SESAY: CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has his story.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Khalid al Malaji (ph) said good-bye to his wife of five months, he thought it would only be for a few days. More than two months later, he is stuck in Turkey and in travel ban limbo. Late last year, the Syrian doctor known for his humanitarian and medical work, enrolled at a master's program at Brown University in the United States. In January, he flew back to Turkey to check on his Syria projects. His wife stayed behind in the U.S. When he tried to return to America, his student visa had been revoked. With a legal battle over the travel ban, al Malaji (ph) doesn't know if he will be able to return to the United States any time soon.

KHALID AL MALAJI (ph), DOCTOR STOPPED FROM RETURNING TO U.S.: My wife, she is still like struggling. She is there, friends are supporting her. But at the end I have to decide if I will wait until when because I might get the visa from the new administration and I might not get it.

KARADSHEH: He hoped to use the master's degree in public health to do the more in Syria, to try and make a difference in a place where medical care is so desperately needed.

He and his wife, also a doctor, have been overwhelmed by the support they've received.

AL MALAJI (ph): Everyone, like faculty members, friends, colleagues, neighbors, families, brown president, the governor of Rhode Island, they all contacted me, called me, made sure that if I need anything. They contacted my wife, if she needs anything.

KARADSHEH: Being away from her has been difficult.

AL MALAJI (ph): My wife, she is almost four months pregnant. We are very happy. She is taking care of herself. Now she is past the first three months were difficult for her. As Syrians, we learned hope in the last five years a lot. Yes, I still hope that things will change and I will get visa and I will go back to my university. But at the end, we learned, also, to have always a plan "B."

KARADSHEH: For now, al Malaji (ph) says his priority is to be reunited with his wife before their baby girl's arrival this summer.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


SESAY: A painful situation.

VAUSE: So many people are caught up in this situation. There is so much confusion out there, too.

SESAY: I know. Such anxiety.

Next on NEWSROOM L.A., the only way some are finding food is by digging through the trash. Why Venezuelans blame the government.


[01:41:29] SESAY: We turn now to Mosul where Iraqi forces are awaiting the battle to retake the western part of the city from ISIS. Their advance has been slow but steady.

VAUSE: Iraqi troops are closing in on a key mosque where group's leader declared a caliphate two years ago. Capturing the mosque would be a significant gain as well as a huge symbolic victory.

SESAY: Iraq's gains against ISIS have come at considerable cost for the people of Mosul. Their city has been reduced to ash and rubble.

VAUSE: Many have had enough with tens of thousands fleeing the city.

CNN's Ben Wedeman reports from Mosul.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They keep on coming. However, with whatever they could take. Happy to have made it out of Mosul alive.

"The shelling was violent. I haven't slept in two days," says this man.

"It was hard," she says. "We stayed inside without anything, not even bread."


WEDEMAN: Their city now a bleak landscape of violence, destruction, and death.


Hadisha says she still has four walls and a roof but her home is a charred shell. ISIS fighters ordered her family to leave. She refused, so they doused it with gasoline and set it on fire.

"My children survived, thank God," she says, "but why did they do this?"

(on camera): We are just over a mile from the Grand Nuri Mosque. That is where, on July 2014, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the so-called caliph of the Islamic State, made his first public appearance, and the Iraqi forces are just blocks away.

(voice-over): The state he declared for Mosul has turned to rubble and ash.

So many of its inhabitants, now homeless and hopeless.

Struggling through the mud with his mother's wheelchair, this man is going for good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost everything. Our hearts, our beliefs, our belongings. We don't belong to here anymore. We want peace.

WEDEMAN (on camera): Will you come back?


WEDEMAN: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No more. I can't. I'm so scared. They will kill us.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): And so many of us who supported Baghdadi, either dead --


WEDEMAN: -- or prisoners like these, fate unknown.


WEDEMAN: This is what has become of Baghdadi's state.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, west Mosul.


VAUSE: The economic crisis in Venezuela is so bad many are looking for garbage just to find food.

SESAY: With the government refusing humanitarian help, there's no immediate solution in sight.

Our Michael Holmes has more on the growing disaster.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Adrianna Sanchez is 19 years old. And she holds her 17-month-old daughter while she digs through the garbage searching for food. She is looking for leftover bread or vegetables. Sanchez also has a 3-year-old son and works cleaning houses. A single mother, she says her husband was murdered and this is the only way to feed herself and her children, even if it means getting sick.

[01:45:19] ADRIANNA SANCHEZ, VENEZUALAN RESIDENT (through translation): Once I ate rice with worms in it and I got a stomach sickness. I did not notice it. Now, well, I'm going to check before I eat it.

HOLMES: This is everyday reality for the poorest in Venezuela. The country's economic crisis has turned into a humanitarian one, leaving people more and more desperate.

Jose Gadoi (ph) is an unemployed construction worker. He says his hungry children cry to him asking for food and he has no choice but to hunt through the trash with many others.

JOSE GADOI (ph), UNEMPLOYED CONTRUCTION WORKER (through translation): There are thousands of us looking through the trash to eat. Thousands of us, not one or two or four, there are thousands who are on the streets looking for something to eat to survive. If they sell you something, it's two flour breads or a bit of rice. Sometimes when you line up, there's nothing left. You have to go home without anything.

HOLMES: A Venezuelan living-condition survey found that nearly 82 percent of Venezuelan households were in poverty last year, compared to 73 percent in 2015. According to the survey, three-fourths of those interviewed lost an average of nine kilos over the last year because of lack of food.

The Venezuelan government has refused aid from international organizations, including the U.N. That is hard to swallow for these people who have no choice but to scavenge for food to survive.

Michael Holmes, CNN.



SESAY: Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts are struggling to stay alive after the Trump administration proposed budget cut backs that they've been expecting.

VAUSE: The White House is defending the budget measures which see a big increase in defense spending.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: The message that the president sent is that we want to defund those and there are defensible reasons for doing that. It's a simple message by the way. I put myself in the shoes of that steelworker in Ohio, the coal miner and family in West Virginia, the mother of two in Detroit, and I'm saying, OK, I have to go ask these folks for money and I have to tell them where I'm going to spend it. Can I look them in the eye and say I want to take money from you and give it to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? It's something we can't defend any more.


[01:50:03] SESAY: PBS is already trying to rally public support on Twitter, giving nine reasons to love PBS, claiming, "It's one of America's best investments, costing $1.35 per individual each year."

VAUSE: The National Endowment for the Arts can't campaign for its own survival because it's a U.S. government agency. But it issued a statement saying, "We are disappointed because we see our funding actually making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large and small, urban and rural, in every congressional district in the nation."

Ted Johnson is a senior editor with "Variety." He joins us with more on this.

Ted, good to see you.

SESAY: Hello.

TED JOHNSON, SENIOR EDITOR, VARIETY: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: So when it comes to making America great again, that doesn't include literature or the arts or PBS or "Sesame Street." If you look at the budgets of the agencies, they want to cut, it's less than $1 billion, it's a lot of money. But in the scheme of the budget, it's a drop in the ocean. A lot of people are comparing that to the big increase that the defense budget will be getting in this proposal. What is the back story here? Is this cutting waste and doing something which is essentially something they can do without, saying we don't need the arts but they need defense or is there more to this?

JOHNSON: Two things. These proposals to cut the Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding and also to cut the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities, they are not new. They have been around for a long time. The Heritage Foundation, the conservative group, has had that on their agenda for -

VAUSE: Since Reagan.

JOHNSON: Yeah, since Reagan. And, yes, budget priorities are part of the equation, the idea that we want to slim down the federal budget. But there is this whole idea that these are organizations that cater to the elite, especially the urban elite. And you talk to people who are parts of these organizations or advocates for these organizations and they say that, you know, there's just no truth to that. I mean, these are -- these have broad appeal, not just in urban areas but in rural areas, whether it's talking about the arts or whether it's talking about individual stations, depending on this federal funding for their livelihood.

SESAY: The funding is framed for elite. Listen to this. Dan Gainer (ph), from the Media Research Center, a group opposed to funding, tweeted this: "There is no legitimate reason for the government to fund left-wing media." And also this, "There are a ton of liberal billionaires who could fund NPR and PBS with change they find in their couches. Let them."

It is a mischaracterization, back to that point, of who these programs serve?

JOHNSON: That's why as you talk to advocates, as I talked to advocates today, they are pretty confident now that this budget is on Capitol Hill, now that Congress will come up with their own appropriation, they will have a very good case. For example, Public Broadcasting, the advantage that advocates have there is a Public Broadcasting station in every congressional district. And they do have Republicans on Capitol Hill actually out there supporting them, on record as supporting them. So you know, when the big lobbying campaign starts in earnest, I think there will probably be a number of Republican lawmakers who will think twice before making these cuts.

VAUSE: With that in mind, budgets are about choices, and choices are about values. One boy managed to sum this up in a town hall meeting with Republican Senator Tom Cotton.


UNIDENTIFIED BOY: And he's taking all the parts in PBS Kids just to make a wall.


UNIDENTIFIED BOY: He shouldn't do that.


VAUSE: Out of the mouths of babes.

Had a tweet from Comedian Bill Ichner (ph), who tweeted this to Ivanka Trump, "Hello, dear, at which point will you tell your children that your father killed Snuffalupagus (ph)?"

It has to pass Congress. It's unlikely to pass, right? Donald Trump will not kill off "Sesame Street?"

JOHNSON: Yeah. Jim DeMint, the president of the Heritage Foundation, used to be a U.S. senator, and the last time that public funding was threatened for Public Broadcasting, he complained of the Muppet lobby. Because that's what seems to happen, is they send Big Bird to Capitol Hill with all these parents, and that is a pretty effective message to lawmakers, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. So I think that -- I wouldn't be surprised. I think this time around, there is so much attention to these cuts, you're going to have things on social media. They're going to pull out all the stops to make sure that this funding is retained.

[01:55:08] SESAY: For all those folks working in this space, it has to be a shock to the system to see this proposal after having Barack Obama in the White House, who was a supporter of arts and culture.

JOHNSON: That's true. And these proposals were made during the Obama administration, but it didn't have that shock to the system because they always knew that Obama would never accept that budget. You know, he would never sign that budget document. Now, you can make the case that the votes are actually there. And this is actually a genuine possibility. But that said, talking to people today, there seems to be a degree of confidence, when all is said and done, we are going to see the NEA and the NIH and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

SESAY: Big Bird will still be there.

JOHNSON: Yeah, Big Bird will still be there. They may be whistling in the graveyard, but we'll see what happens.


SESAY: We'll be watching closely.

VAUSE: Absolutely.

SESAY: Thank you.

VAUSE: Big Bird turns up on Capitol Hill, we'll know something has happened.

SESAY: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause.

Stay with us. A lot more news after this break.


[02:00:09] VAUSE: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

SESAY: Ahead this hour, the White House refuses to back down --