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U.S. Congress Investigates Russia; Russian Reaction; Devastating Floods in Peru. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 20, 2017 - 00:00   ET


[23:59:57] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Again, the key question, will he testify about whether President Trump was wiretapped by President Obama, a claim for which there is no evidence? What will he say? We'll find out.

I'm John Berman. Good night.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. is hoping for answers from this man -- FBI director, James Comey. He's going to testify publicly in a few hours about the agency's Russia investigation.

And how is the Kremlin reacting to being front and center of the controversy here? The government says it's just not interested. We'll go to Moscow for more on that.

Plus Donald Trump says North Korea's leader is acting very, very badly. We'll see if the U.S. is serious about finding new ways to contain Pyongyang.

Thank you very much for joining. I'm Cyril Vanier, live from Atlanta.

And your CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

The White House is facing a potential turning point at this very early stage in President Donald Trump's administration. The FBI director is scheduled to testify at a public hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Monday. The big topic: Mr. Trump's unsubstantiated accusation that former President Barack Obama ordered a tap on his phones, allegations of Russian involvement in the U.S. election and of ties between associates of Mr. Trump and Russians known to U.S. intelligence.

Those allegations got their start with an event back in June of last year when the server of the Democratic National Committee was hacked.

CNN's Ryan Nobles takes it from there.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The initial hack was soon connected to the Russian government. And wasting little time, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager linked the hack to then-candidate, Donald Trump.

ROBBY MOOK, CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: They possessed those e-mails that Russian state actors were feeding the e-mail to hackers for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.

NOBLES: Then just as the Democratic National Convention was about to start, WikiLeaks unloaded a trove of DNC e-mails, among them damaging private conversations. It did not take long for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, to embrace the hack and Russia's potential involvement.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

NOBLES: As the Clinton campaign worked to contain the political damage, Trump refused to back down from his kind words about Russia and its controversial leader, Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP: I've already said. He is really very much of a leader, far more than our president has been a leader --

NOBLES: Days before the second presidential debate in October, two major bomb shells. First, the Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence issued a statement blaming Russia for the hack. And second, WikiLeaks released another batch of stolen e-mails, unloading the inbox of top Clinton advisor, John Podesta. At that debate, once again Trump attempted to take the focus off Russia.

TRUMP: She doesn't know if it's the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking.

NOBLES: WikiLeaks wasn't done. More DNC e-mails were released on November 7th. The next night -- a new president.

TRUMP: I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.

NOBLES: As he started to build his new administration, Trump still resisted blaming Russia.

TRUMP: It could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace. I mean they have no idea.

NOBLES: President Obama ordered a full review of how Russia meddled in the election which concluded it was working to help Trump.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Based on uniform intelligence assessments, the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC.

NOBLES: Just 22 days before Trump took office, President Obama imposed new sanctions on the Russian government. On that same day, incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn spoke on the phone with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. It was later revealed he also texted the ambassador and met with him in person at Trump Tower, an administration official has told CNN.

Trump associates, including Vice President Mike Pence called the meetings introductory. MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.

NOBLES: But that turned out not to be true. Flynn specifically spoke about the sanctions but Flynn wasn't the only one. Some Trump associates also held meetings with the ambassador at the Republican National Convention but insist they were only introductory gatherings.

Attendee JD Gordon told CNN then-Senator Jeff Sessions was one of them. But appearing before a Senate hearing on his conformation, he said this when asked about possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not have communications with the Russians and I'm unable to comment on it.

NOBLES: But after taking office, Sessions, now attorney general, admitted that he too as a senator met with Kislyak twice during the campaign but he said it was in his capacity as a senator, not a member of the Trump campaign. Sessions decided to recused himself from any investigation related to the campaign.

[00:05:06] Amidst all this, the President himself took to Twitter making this shopping claim. Quote "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during this very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad or sick guy."

The accusation was made without any evidence to back it up but led the White House to ask Congress to add this wrinkle to their broad investigation into Russia's role in the election. But at this point even Republicans contend the evidence just isn't there.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.

NOBLES: Monday congressional leaders will attempt to unpack the many layers of this controversy with the goal of making the situation clear for the American people.

The White House continues to insist there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government setting the stage for Monday's hearing where high-ranking officials such as FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency director Mike Rogers will testify.

Ryan Nobles, CNN -- Washington.


VANIER: And the Kremlin also rejects the allegations that Russia interfered in the U.S. election. Just last week, the government told CNN they won't be watching Monday's hearing at all.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins me now from Moscow for more on that. Nick -- I suppose you can put me down as a skeptic here. I find it hard to believe Moscow is taking no interest in this.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Kremlin spokesman says they'll be too busy doing other things but yes, you can be pretty sure somebody somewhere here in Moscow with a government job will be keeping an eye on what Director of the FBI James Comey actually says in a matter of hours from now.

Obviously, they've denied involvement. They've kept distance. They've referred through their spokesperson at the Kremlin Dmitry Peskov to the constant allegations they interfered in the electoral campaign as quote, "a broken record with a futuristic song".

But at the end of the day, this plays deeply into two aspects here. I think to some degree there is possibly the Kremlin relishing the idea that they're seen internationally as able to at a distance pull the strings of the electoral campaign despite denying they had anything to do with it. That reestablishes some element of the Soviet grandeur that Vladimir Putin is so keen to burnish again.

But at the same time too, if you think that in the larger context that there was part of a Kremlin, the hope maybe Donald Trump conspicuously absence in his criticism of Vladimir Putin -- pretty rare for a Republican American presidential candidate and president, might possibly Donald Trump finds some way of aligning himself closer to Russian policy assisting their objectives in the Middle East or even Ukraine?

That's pretty tough now frankly as a proposition for the White House because if they're seen to be too pro-Russian, all of the scrutiny, all of the accusations of collusion with Moscow will be brought to the fore again. So possibly, Moscow here enjoying the chaos in Washington right now -- the partisan bickering, the undermining frankly of the office of the President of the United States this scandal has introduced, but also possibly on a policy front realizing maybe relations between Moscow and Washington will be just pretty tough for years to come.

VANIER: Yes, Nick. That was going to be my question. To what extent does this dent a possibility of a warming and improvement of relations between Washington and Moscow?

WALSH: -- from a practical point of view, you know, Hillary Clinton tried with Sergey Lavrov in the beginning of the Obama administration to quote "reset" relations with Moscow. Introducing that large theatrical button at a press conference they gave. It lasted a matter of months, frankly because the whole thing went downhill if you basically realize that Russia and the U.S. or off on completely different pages when it comes to foreign policy, geopolitical rivals, frankly.

And that's engrained in the establishments of both nations. The hope that maybe Trump, as I said, who has this very kind of macho mano a mano notion of Vladimir Putin as somebody he can sit down with at a table and strike deals with. He called him a tough cookie to Fox News just in the past hours or so over the weekend. That idea that the two man could suddenly have some rapprochement and can fix all these issues, well that may well have been more in Donald Trump's perhaps imagination to some degree.

They're very different individuals. Donald Trump a real estate developer born with perhaps millions in his own bank account from his own family wealth. And you know, Vladimir Putin somebody born on the mean streets of St. Petersburg in the post war years, where poverty and disease was rife, who grew up, went through the KGB in East Germany and rose up through the ranks to become prime minister remarkably and is now possibly one of the longest serving presidents this country will actually have -- or I should say leaders of a country, he's changed his role here.

So very different men but I think the idea they might both sit down together and suddenly sweep aside decade of foreign policy rivalry here was to some degree far-fetched but even more difficult frankly given the fact that Russia, Russia, Russia is all you seem to hear now surrounding the Trump administration with its many controversies -- Cyril.

VANIER: Nick Paton Walsh, live from Moscow. Thank you very much.

[00:10:00] A public hearing called by the House Intelligence Committee is a rare event. These hearings are usually classified and happened behind closed doors.

Criminal defense attorney Troy Slaten joins me now from Los Angeles with more on how these events work.

Troy -- the first question I want to ask you is I know James Comey is going to be under oath but does that mean he has to say everything he knows in answer to the questions that he's going to be asked?

TROY SLATEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Certainly not. And you are correct to point out that usually these are secret classified briefings when the FBI director is called to brief members of Congress. Because they're asking for this to be a public hearing under oath, on the record and for the entire world to see, he can only comment on things that are not currently classified. And even if it they're not classified, he may not want to comment on things that are the subject of ongoing instigations.

VANIER: And he has the authority to do that, he's allowed to not comment, even for something that's not classified?

SLATEN: Well, he can tell the members that he is happy to brief them in a closed session. So this committee has both closed and open sessions. Obviously when the cameras are there tomorrow, that's an open session.

VANIER: All right. So it sounds, based on what you're saying, that really the perimeter of information, the amount of information that we could get in this public hearing is actually quite limited.

SLATEN: It is. And obviously Democrats are looking for FBI Director Comey and NSA Director Rogers to comment on President Trump's wiretapping claim, the claim that President Obama had Trump Tower, himself, and members of his campaign and transition team wiretapped.

Republicans on the other hand want to talk about the intelligence community's unmasking of names, including famously General Flynn, the former national security advisor who had to resign after it turned out he was unmasked during an inadvertent surveillance on the Russian Ambassador Kislyak.

VANIER: All right. Troy Slaten -- thank you very much.

And that sheds an interesting light on what's going to happen in the U.S. in a matter of hours and the amount of information that may be out there but just not available to the public in the end. Thank you very much -- Troy.

SLATEN: That's right. Goodnight.

VANIER: Stay with CNN for live coverage of the House hearing on Russia starting at 9:00 p.m. in Hong Kong, 1:00 p.m. in London. That's right here on CNN.

We're going to take a short break.

When we come back, a closer look at what could come out of the intelligence community's hearing from both sides of the spectrum.

Plus North Korea latest provocation is testing U.S. President Donald Trump. How he and his administration are reacting to Pyongyang's rocket engine test.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Happy first day of spring across the northern hemisphere. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

Some Midwestern storms to tell you about across places such as Chicago on Monday afternoon; Indianapolis. Travel plans across this region certainly going to be impacted at least into the early afternoon hours. And the mild air that's in place quickly shifts here. We get some cold air that comes in towards the middle of the week. But again, as you would expect in late march, it is all short lived.

In places likes New York, 10 to 14, down to 3, quickly back up to 6; and in the nation's capital as well the cherry blossom festival getting ready to get underway. And you notice conditions there are also improving here at least the next couple of days before cooling off towards the middle of the week.

Chicago will go with some of the storms around 13 degrees; Winnipeg, a little blustery at around 8 degrees; Vancouver, British Columbia, beautiful as always, around 12 degrees there.

Some clouds expected and wet weather expected to come back right into the picture there across parts of California. Of course we've had a break with a lot of those storms being displaced off to the north. But notice much of California, including parts of central, even around maybe southern California as you approach Santa Maria into Los Angeles, some wet weather expected over the next couple of days.

25 degrees in Mexico City, sunny skies; some showers come back in Havana; San Juan, Puerto Rico looking at temps into the upper 20s, some afternoon rains in their forecast; and down across South America, Chico 17.


Let's go back to our top story this hour. The FBI director is scheduled to testify at a public hearing of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee on Monday. James Comey will more than likely answer questions about President Trump's wiretapping accusation against his predecessor and about allegations of Russian involvement in the presidential election.

Joining us now, Jeffrey Lord, CNN political commentator, contributing editor for the "The American Spectator", and supporter of Donald Trump; also with us Peter Beinart, CNN political commentator, contributing editor for "The Atlantic".

Let me go to you first -- Jeffrey. As a supporter of Donald Trump, what constitutes a good day and a bad day on Monday?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all let me say that I've already seen a story out there that indicates that Director Comey is going to say that they did not tap the President- Elect's telephone. My question is there's a whole series of "New York Times" stories that say that there was a broad investigation, those are -- that's the "Times" phrase not mine -- into Trump associates. And clearly this information was gleaned by electronic surveillance of some kind.

I want to know who's doing it, first. And who's saying -- these stories attributed to the FBI, the CIA, other intelligence agencies, the NSA, the Department of the Treasury.

I would like to know, a, is that correct and b, who leaked this information? Because it's all -- you know, you're not supposed to be doing that.

VANIER: All right. Well, that squares with what Mr. Trump has said himself. He's more interested, and some other Republicans are more interested in knowing where some of the leaks have come from than the actual answers to what I humbly think Americans themselves are potentially more interested in, which is was there any collusion? What was the level, extent and nature of the contacts between the Trump supporters, associates and Mr. Trump and the Russians.

And just before I get to you Peter -- again Jeffrey -- don't you want the answers to those questions too?

LORD: Sure. Sure. I mean this is just my personal belief. I believe that all of this was leaked to lend the illusion that there was in fact some sort of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign to steal the election which I think is absolutely bogus. There hasn't been a shred of evidence that that's what happened.

But I would like to see. I want to know. And I want to emphasize one other thing. I want them to be questioning people in the government, not people in the press. Leave the press alone.

VANIER: Peter.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there are two issues here. There are a lot of things that we need to know about what about the Trump campaign and Russia's involvement in the election. And also, I agree with Jeffrey here, we should know who leaked the information about General Flynn.

And, you know, consistent with things like sources and limitations of knowing everything about what happens behind the veil of national intelligence, we should also know as much as possible about what kind of surveillance was at the Trump campaign. I agree with all that.

But there's a separate issue and it's the one that Jeffrey and the Trump supporters keep alive (ph) which is when the President of the United States speaks, it's important to establish whether he's speaking the truth or not.

[00:20:04] And the President made a very specific series of claims about Barack Obama ordering wiretapping. Sometimes he put that in quotations, sometimes he didn't. And overwhelmingly Comey will be just yet more evidence of the fact that overwhelming that is not true.

And the danger with Donald Trump is that the man lies so promiscuously and frequently and never was willing to be held to account. This is important for our government. If Donald Trump said something that's not true, he needs to admit it's not true. And then we can talk about all the other things that Jeffrey and I both think are important.

VANIER: Jeffrey, I sense you're probably going to disagree. Honestly I didn't hear anything there that one should disagree with.

LORD: Well, number one, as somebody who worked for President Reagan and I certainly saw this with President Bush 43. Anytime anyone in either administration did something, the President didn't necessarily know about it. For example, President Reagan did not know about Iran contra. His staff did this but President Reagan was blamed.

At the Abu Ghraib prison situation, President Bush had no knowledge whatsoever that Iraqi prisoners were being abused by American soldiers, yet the "New York Times" and others blamed him for it and said he was responsible.

My point is the president of the United States, as President Kenney once said, is the responsible officer of the government. If there were members of the Obama administration, as noted by the "New York Times" who are spreading this information, receiving classified information and spreading this out to leave some sort of trail of bread crumbs to other government agencies, that's illegal. And that's President Obama's responsibility. Frankly, I would like to hear President Obama testify in front of Congress about this.

BEINART: The problem, if I can just say, is that Jeffrey's doing what Trump supporters have been doing relentlessly for two weeks, which is basically they're confronted with the reality of what Donald Trump said and then they say something else and say that something else might be true. Maybe it might be true but it's important when we have a president that he's held to account about his words and whether his words are true.

And nobody, including I think Jeffrey, is willing to say with a straight face that they think that what Donald Trump tweeted two weeks ago Saturday morning is true. And we need to acknowledge that. Trump needs to acknowledge that.

And then we could --


LORD: But Peter -- I mean this concern about this kind of thing. I mean if you like your doctor, you can keep it. President Bush was responsible supposedly, according to President Obama for the financial crash, which was not true. I mean on and on went this kind of stuff for eight years and there were no objections heard.

BEINART: Jeffrey -- if you want to say that Barack Obama also lied and that was also (inaudible) we can agree with that. He happens not to be the President right now. This is again a game of hide the ball.

There are lots of lies that are being told in the world -- all of them are bad. But we happen to be talking about one that was uttered by the President of the United States in which he accused a former president of a very serious crime. That's our conversation here, as you know.

VANIER: All right. Gentlemen -- I'm going to have to stop it here. Peter Beinart, Jeffrey Lord -- thank you very much.

LORD: Thank you -- Cyril.

VANIER: Of course, we're going to continue talking about this and covering this here on CNN.

Dozens of people died and thousands were left homeless in unusually devastating floods that have swept across large parts of Peru.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now with the latest. Pedram -- how is the situation now?

JAVAHERI: Yes. Cyril -- it doesn't look like it's going to improve anytime quickly. And you know, you see some of those photos like this coming out of areas in Peru where a woman kind of recovered herself and brought herself up from the rubble there with a mud flow that she got trapped in.

And we know the fatality numbers now approaching 100 people and what's remarkable about this, Cyril, if you were to ask me where is the driest, single spot on earth, if you were to direct to a spot say on a map anywhere in world where it would be the driest spot on earth, I would direct you right here towards northern portions of Chile on (inaudible) coastal areas of Peru there where we know it is extremely dry.

The Andes Mountains act to inhibit any moisture or thunderstorms to make their way toward to western side, a very cool area there with water temperatures typically cool that will keep a lot of the thunderstorm activities at bay.

But you notice the past several weeks across parts of Peru; here's what it looks like. The areas you typically expect right on the immediate coast, notice there is no coloration. Maybe no rainfall has come down.

One area, rather curious, right here on the northern portion of Peru there where we had tremendous rainfall come down. In fact, you take a look at what has transpired across this region we're talking rainfall amounts over 280 millimeters -- that is almost 15 times what is considered normal to come down for the month of March.

And you think about what has occurred here in the last couple of weeks. We know again, approaching about 100 fatalities, 70,000 people homeless, some 900 districts or half of the country's districts underneath a state of emergency.

And the reason this is all transpiring is pretty fascinating because, go to the floor perspective of the map here and the area I'm going to show you what it looks like right across this region.

[00:25:00] Northern portions of Peru -- see that dark color contour. That area -- that is where the sea surface temperatures are the most anomalous of any place on earth. They're about 5 degrees Celsius above normal for any spot on earth. We don't have a spot that is that much above average. In fact typically cool waters come off of the ocean there and inhibit thunderstorms forming.

This go-around, we have this, of course with warm waters right beneath me here that are allowing these thunderstorms to really blossom. And that is continuing what officials there actually are calling a localized type El Nino pattern that's in place there with the heavy rainfall that's expected.

And notice the next three days still getting rainfall with temperatures around 32 or so degrees, 80 plus percent chance of getting rain in the next couple of days again in an area that typically sees no rainfall.

In fact, you work your way down towards northern portions of Chile there are spots that have gone 14 to 20 years without a single drop of rain coming down. So it speaks volumes about how dry typically these coastal communities are across this region and the rain keeps coming down.

And we'll show you a video here coming out of parts of Peru. It really shows you the nature of what's going on with the water rescues in place, communities literally cut off. So you're going to have to get people out of here with helicopters. And of course, you see what a treacherous go that is there with the helicopter either landing on the water or hovering above the water and it becomes a very dangerous go.

And this pattern looks to continue for at least the next couple of weeks. So we're going to watch this here with more rainfall in their forecast -- Cyril.

VANIER: All right. Pedram Javaheri -- yes, very impressive pictures there. Pedram with the science behind the very severe weather that we've seen in Peru recently.

Thank you very much.

JAVAHERI: Thanks -- Cyril.

VANIER: We're going to take a short break.

When we come back we'll address fears that the simmering North Korea nuclear threat could soon boil over and how the Trump administration is responding to the latest provocation.

Plus fighting conflict with humor. The Banksy Hotel starts accepting guests on Monday. Will it make any difference to its neighbors in the West Bank? We'll have a look, ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to our viewers around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Here are the top stories we're following this hour.

U.S. lawmakers will finally hear from the FBI director on alleged Russian involvement in the U.S. presidential campaign. James Comey will testify at a public hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Monday. Also expected are questions about President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claim that former President Obama tapped his phones.

Israel's defense minister is threatening to destroy Syria's air defences if they fired Israeli aircrafts again. Syria fired missiles at Israeli jets overnight Thursday into Friday. Syria saying the jets struck a military site near Palmyra, but Israel insists that they targeted a weapon's shipment that it belongs.

And also in Syria, state media report that thousands of rebels and their families are evacuating a district of Homs as part of a Russian backed deal with the government. But critics say its part of a starved or surrender policy. They say rebels are besieged and bombarded until such evacuation deals are reached.

Sanctions, diplomacy and military threats against North Korea have done nothing to slow its nuclear ambitions. And on Sunday, the North announced yet another provocation claiming it had successfully tested a rocket engine. That technology could help the regime reach its goal of developing a long-range missile. North Korea says the world will soon witness that the test was a great victory.

U.S. President Donald Trump claims North Korea's main ally, China, has not done enough to stop the threat but China denies that and is urging the U.S. to take a cool-headed approach. On Sunday, Mr. Trump did not give details on how he plans to deal with North Korea.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That meetings with North Korea, he's acting very, very badly. I will tell you he's acting very badly.


VANIER: All right. Will Ripley joins us now from Beijing.

Will, with Rex Tillerson now having spent three days in Asia and match were being done, I think there are two main things we want to address here. The U.S.-North Korea relationship to the extent that we can call it a relationship and the U.S.-China relationship.

Tell me, first, do you expect, now that the dust is just starting to settle, just starting, are you starting to see how the U.S. may approach the North Korea threat under this Trump administration?

RIPLEY: I have to tell you, Cyril, and I went through the transcripts from press availability in Japan, South Korea and here in China. And Secretary Tillerson was asked very specific questions about what the United States will do. What the red line would be for military action and he just didn't answer the questions.

He did not give any specifics. All he said is that he's going to have conversations with U.S. allies -- South Korea, Japan and also conversations with China. So that lead me to believe, Cyril, that they may not know yet what their plan is for North Korea.

It's easy for a new administration to come in and say that everything that's been done for the past 20 years is a failure but then actually come up with something else considering all the different things that had been tried over the years. That's much more challenging.

And in fact the State Department just put out within the last 30 minutes, a note that their special representative for North Korea Ambassador Joseph Yoon on the ground here in Beijing and he's also -- he will be visiting with counterparts in Seoul for the next -- for most of this week trying to figure out and hammer out specific details about how to handle North Korea.

So I think the short answer, Cyril, we don't know what the United States under the Trump administration will do if North Korea tests another nuclear weapon or launches an ICBM and both of those are very real possibilities, possibly very soon.

VANIER: All right, Will. And if I can now get you to focus on the bilateral relation between the U.S. and China. Are you getting a sense of where that's headed under the Trump administration? RIPLEY: Well, look, during the campaign, Donald Trump campaigned on a lot of anti-Chinese rhetoric. He promised to brand Beijing a currency manipulator on day one. That didn't happen. Then he put into question the long-standing U.S. policy of acknowledging the one-China policy when it comes to Taiwan.

He said why did the U.S. have to be bond by that. Chinese President Xi Jinping froze all discussions about everything until Donald Trump step -- dialled back and said he would acknowledge the one China policy. But then just before Secretary Tillerson's visit, Donald Trump was tweeting, again blaming China for the situation, for the problems with North Korea.

The U.S. has refused to budge on the issue of the THAAD missile defense system, even though Beijing is very unhappy about that. The components keep moving into Beijing and the state media here has been very kind, very polite about the visit with Secretary Tillerson.

As far as we know, the meeting in the United States between President Trump and President Xi is still on. So I think it's a safe bet that right now both sides are still trying to feel each other out. Certainly doesn't seem to be any overt hostility even though they have very big disagreements about some of these major issues including, by the way, how to handle the North Korea situation.

[00:35:20] VANIER: Will Ripley reporting live from Beijing. Thank you so much.

Malaysia wants to make more arrests in connection with the murder of Kim Jung-nam, the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader. Officials say that includes some North Koreans and at least one, quote, "important person."

Kim Jung-nam was critical in his family's dynasty as South Korea blames the North for the killing but North Korea denies that accusation. Investigators say Kim Jong-nam was poisoned last month with a nerve agent considered a weapons of mass destruction. The suspect says she thought she was on a TV prank show when she smeared the liquid on his face at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

A dramatic shift in Indian politics has left millions of people stunned. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sworn in hard-line Hindu priest Yogi Adityanath to lead India's most populous state Uttam Pradesh.

His election as chief minister is worrying the Muslim minority here. Adityanath has made hateful comments in the past, including of accusing Muslim men of trapping Hindu women into marriage in order to convert them. He's also advocated for Hindus to convert 100 Muslims for every Hindu that adopted Islam.

We're going to take a break. When we come back, it's afternoon tea, loads of artwork and a mission. The Banksy Hotel froze open its doors in the West Bank. We'll talk to an expert about its possible impact and all things banks.


VANIER: Welcome back. He's a secretive artist with a very public mission. Banksy's West Bank Hotel begins hosting guest in the few hears to come. He calls the hotel a three-storey cure for fanaticism.

Banksy is launching his world of hotel in the hope of bringing Israeli tourists and dialogue to the West Bank barrier.

He is from London. He is William Ellsworth-Jones, journalist and author of "Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall."

William, first of all, I mean, how much of this is art and how much of this is a potentially business venture?

WILLIAM ELLSWORTH-JONES, AUTHOR, BANKSY: THE MAN BEHIND THE WALL: I don't think it's a business venture. I think it's art. I think he really cares about the whole Middle East and this is an installation. He's not trying to make money out of it. He's trying to make a point out of it.

VANIER: What kind of reception do you think he's going to get bearing in mind that this is in Bethlehem so it's not like New York, it's not London. It's not a place where there's necessarily a whole lot of traffic.

ELLSWORTH-JONES: Well, I think he's already got some dancers amongst Palestinians who wonder whether some trivializing it all and making it a bit like Disneyland. I disagree with them. But I think the way people who go anywhere to see a Banksy production and they will, it's a fairly exciting hotel, not with a great view but it's something very, very different. And I think you'll feel it.

VANIER: I want our viewers to take a look at some of his work. Well, we can narrow it on some of the things you can find in the hotel. There's that particular portrait or painting above a bed of an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian protester having this pillow fight, or there's this classic bust with a tear gas canister swirling around it. This is typical of Banksy's work.

ELLSWORTH-JONES: He's making several points and he always is. It's -- you look at it at different levels. But, yes, there's a pillow fight going on. But there's much more than that, obviously. These are men who are sort of fighting a fight that never seems to end. It just goes on and he's showing what it means to both sides of this picture.

I think you have to look at Banksy and realize that he is making a joke some of the time, but it's a very serious joke if you can talk about that. He's making a big point about. He's being committed to that Middle East over the years.

He was in Gaza in 2016. He's been in Bethlehem a couple of times before. It's not a one off venture. He's making a point that it really matters.

VANIER: It feels, opening up a hotel, though, it feels like a much sort of bigger scale than what he's done in the past than painting on a wall.

ELLSWORTH-JONES: Yes, it is, because one of the things about the hotel is he's in control of it. If you remember over the recent years when Banksy's painted something on a wall, any old wall, people are coming around very soon afterwards and trying to steal the wall and stealing the wall, taking it off bit by bit.

The hotel, he owns or he's got it for now. He paints in that hotel. No one's going to steal it. And if you're a guest, you have to put down a $1,000 deposit to start with and you won't get it back until you've checked out at the hotel and they've been up and checked your room to make sure you haven't put a wall or something slightly less in your suitcase.

VANIER: William Ellsworth-Jones joining us from London. Thank you very much.


VANIER: And Starbucks is planning to expand it's services in Hong Kong. The Seattle-based coffee joint is promising to deliver your favorite beverage to your doorstep there.

The venture comes after mobile orders have become increasingly popular. While the launch date hasn't been set, Starbucks Hong Kong and Macau executive director is certain it is going to happen. The new home delivery service will help baristas handle to-go orders and long lines.

And that wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. "World Sport" is up next, but I'll be back with Natalie Allen at the top of the hour with more news from around the world. Stay with us.