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U.S. Military Investigating Civilian Deaths; ; Trump Shakes Off ObamaCare Loss; London Terror Attack; Carrie Lam Elected Hong Kong's New Leader; Las Vegas Shooting Suspect Surrenders; Undocumented Immigrants Not Reporting Abuse; E.U. Protests Held across Europe; "I'm President and You're Not"; "Star Wars" Fans Mark Earth Hour Event. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 26, 2017 - 05:00   ET




IVAN WATSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Allegations of civilian casualties. A U.S. defense official says they are investigating whether civilians were killed in airstrikes in Western Mosul last week.

And Hong Kong's new chief executive makes history and promises to heal her divided city.

Live from Hong Kong, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Ivan Watson. And CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


WATSON: We are getting grim images out of Iraq's second largest city. where the fight against ISIS is intense and civilians have been fleeing in panic. The U.S. military and Iraq's defense ministry are looking into whether U.S.-led airstrikes targeting ISIS may have killed Iraqi civilians in Western Mosul this month.

Some of the victims are said to be women and children. The Pentagon confirms warplanes struck ISIS fighters in one raid on March 17th. A U.S. Defense official tells CNN, quote, "It seems civilians were killed and injured, although," he adds, "it's still unclear exactly what happened."

CNN's Ian Lee is following all of this for us and joins us now from Cairo, Egypt.

It's good to see you, Ian. First of all, let's set the scene here, it's Iraqi forces that are on the ground, Ian, fighting and they are being supported by U.S. warplanes and they're presumably carrying out airstrikes to help protect the Iraqi forces on the ground.

But now it appears that something went terribly, terribly wrong.

What more can you tell us?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ivan. There's close coordination between Iraqi forces on the ground and the coalition forces in the air, helping them target different buildings, the Iraqi forces calling in these airstrikes.

We're getting new information from the Joint Operation Command, the Iraqi command, painting a bit of a different picture to what happened on that day, where an explosion or multiple explosions reportedly killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians. They are saying that that day that ISIS had vehicle-borne, improved explosive devices, these are basically truck bombs, usually armored, packed with explosives.

These were by ISIS in the neighborhood on that day. Now they're saying from what they are hearing from civilians is that ISIS detonated these trucks to slow the advance of ground forces, of Iraqi forces.

They are also saying that civilians are telling them that civilians are being used as human shields, that they are being brought into this area, their houses are booby-trapped, anything to slow down Iraqi forces although, we have to say that neither, none of this information has been independently verified.

But this is what we are hearing from civilians fleeing Mosul. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are being fired on and Islamic State would not let the families out. We went out in the middle of the night. People were killed. But thank God we managed to escape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We were fired upon from coalition air force. The snipers go to the top of buildings that have families and the air force strikes these buildings, killing them and everyone in the house.


LEE: Now, Ivan, both Iraqi and U.S. military officials say that this isn't going to slow down the operation, despite the calls from some local provincial leaders to do so. The U.S. military also reiterating that their goal is zero civilian casualties although we know that is nearly impossible.

WATSON: That's been one of the enormous challenges of trying to uproot ISIS from Mosul, is that it is a densely populated city with hundreds of thousands of civilians there. And you can't just simply flatten the place because you'll hurt so many innocent people.

It's hard to imagine a potentially worse or more horrific situation for the civilians, who are trapped in the middle of this awful and grinding urban conflict -- Ian. LEE: That's right. And especially, Ivan, when you look at where they are fighting right now in Western Mosul, in the Old City. This is an area with old buildings, narrow alleyways --


LEE: -- densely populated. So any large explosion runs the risk of killing a large number of civilians.

Iraqi federal police saying that they had to switch up their tactics because they wanted to minimize civilian casualties. And they said they are using more snipers and more drones. They're holding back -- they are still using mortars but they're not using them as much.

And they also aren't using as many mechanized units when they're going into this aerial. A lot of their fighters are now on foot.

Also, I expect fewer airstrikes in this area because, as we have been talking about, the risk of collateral damage is just so high. But they are intent on continuing to push ISIS out of this area, although ISIS digging in and not afraid to use civilians as human shields -- Ivan.

WATSON: It's just a horrible, horrible situation there.

That's Ian Lee, live from Cairo. Thanks very much for bringing up to date, Ian.

Now "Los Angeles Times" reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske, she was at the scene of the March 17th airstrike on Friday one week after it happened. She spoke with my colleague, Cyril Vanier, earlier about what she saw there.


MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE, "LA TIMES": There were some areas where homes were just completely destroyed in rubble. So we had to sort of pick our way through. And we could see parts of people still stuck under the rubble, hands, feet; there were some remains that were wrapped in blankets. Most of them that they had retrieved, they put in body bags, in these blue body bags.

And they unzipped some of those because they wanted to show us that some of those victims were women, including at least one pregnant woman, and children. There were some babies as well.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: And how many people do they believe were killed on that occasion?

HENNESSY-FISKE: Well those numbers vary. The civil defense people that we talked to had said they thought it was about 200. They had retrieved more than 100 remains by yesterday.

And a photographer from the "LA Times" and I who were there, we roamed around and we saw about 50. There were some other photographers there. They saw about the same number of remains. It was a very crowded street. There were a lot of families with

children. And they told me that Islamic State militants had forced more people in the area and that they had been sheltering inside the homes when the incident happened.

VANIER: So in your assessment, at least 50 people were killed. That is a very significant death toll.

Tell us more about what the residents described about the area and what was happening at the time when the air raids took place?

HENNESSY-FISKE: Well, they had been living under Islamic State. There had been some militants in the area; they said it was a small group. They said that the fighters had brought a -- what appeared to be a truck with explosives, what they called suicide car to the area, had parked it there days before.

And that, when some militants had returned, part of the strike happening in the evening, on that Friday, that there had been one on top of the roof, a sniper. And then some in the streets. So they had stayed inside of their houses because they felt threatened, that they saw them, shooting up at the aircraft.

And then this explosion happened. Some of the people I talked to said that the houses just started coming, the buildings started falling down on them. Some saw that truck that was parked on the street explode. It wasn't clear why that was, if that was triggered by the strike or not.

And some did manage to escape unharmed. Some of the houses were still standing and people were in them on Friday. But a good number of them were destroyed.


WATSON: In U.S. politics, the Trump administration says it has not given up on getting rid of ObamaCare, despite a humiliating loss in Congress. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says the issue will be fought again when conditions in Congress are more favorable.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the president and I are grateful for Speaker Paul Ryan and all the House Republicans, who stood with us in this effort to begin the end of ObamaCare.

But as we all learned yesterday, Congress just wasn't ready. You saw it, with 100 percent of House Democrats, every single one, and a handful of Republicans actually standing in the way of President Trump's plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.


[05:10:00] WATSON: U.S. President Donald Trump shook off his first legislative loss. On Saturday he tweeted, quote, "ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great health care plan for the people. Do not worry!"

We get the latest from CNN's Athena Jones.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House is indicating that tax reform will come next. One big question is what lessons were learned from the failure of this repeal effort that can be applied to any future legislative effort?

One senior administration official told me that going forward we can expect to see the White House get more engaged on the front end when it comes to legislation, shaping the language and the strategy.

The other big question is how the president's own sales pitch might shift. The White House has been saying in recent days that the president was all in on this bill, that he took this personally, that he was very much involved in having face-to-face meetings with members of the Republican caucus and also phone calls from early in the morning until late at night.

But if you talk to some members of the Republican caucus on Capitol Hill, they indicate that some of the president's sales tactics might be a bit lacking.

For one thing, they say that he didn't offer a strong enough rationale for why members should vote yes on this bill, other than a political one, the idea of giving him a legislative victory in his first 100 days.

And perhaps even more important here, is many members got the sense that the president did not have a good grasp of the details of this bill, the nitty-gritty policy details. Some members wanted to talk to him about their specific concerns about specific policies contained in this bill and he wasn't able to address those concerns.

My colleague, Dana Bash, reports that two sources tell her that during a Freedom Caucus meeting on Thursday night, that is the conservative wing of the House, the House Caucus, one of the members brought up a concern about one of the policy areas and the president said, "Forget about the little stuff."

He didn't say "stuff." He used another four-letter word that starts with an S.

In another meeting with moderate members of the House, one congressman from Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent, told the president that he was a no and the president replied, "Why am I even talking to you?"

A congressional aide, a GOP congressional aide tells my colleague, Jim Acosta, the bottom line her is that the president didn't care or particularly know about health care. And if you are going to be a great negotiator, you have to know about the subject matter.

So according to some members of the president's own party, he might need how to work on his dealmaking skills when it comes to dealing with Capitol Hill -- back to you.


WATSON: OK. To get some insight here, I'm now joined by Brian Klaas. He's a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics and he's also the author of "The Despot's Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy," which I'm sure could be the subject of a fascinating discussion.

But for now let's focus on U.S. politics, Brian. With Trump's loss here of this health care legislation, he's trying to put the blame squarely on the Democrats.

Is that an argument that will work among his supporters?

BRIAN KLAAS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: I don't think so. The Republicans, remember, voted 60 different times while President Obama was in office to repeal ObamaCare. And then when it came to governing, they did nothing. They failed to cobble together the votes for the bill.

They've continually said the Democrats are to blame for this. I think that's a political mistake to continually say that, though because even though it is true that no Democrats supported this bill, the bill was polling at 17 percent support.

Americans were not behind it. So the more that the White House reminds people that the Democrats derailed unpopular legislation, the more that that will play into the hands of Democrats going into the 2018 midterms.

WATSON: All right, Brian, this is within the first 100 days of President Trump's administration.

What is this setback likely to do to his very ambitious agenda going forward?

KLAAS: Well, it's a huge problem for him because, you know, the White House did not back away from claims that Trump was the grand dealmaker, the closer. Sean Spicer used those terms repeatedly this week and yet there was no deal. There was no close.

And so we're going to new legislation; I mean, a lot of people are saying, well, we'll go and we'll take care of tax reform and infrastructure. Those are extremely complex bills, too. Tax reform is extremely contentious. And the Republicans have to face reality that they have a divide in their caucus.

The far right, the Freedom Caucus, does not see remotely to eye-to-eye with the moderate Republicans, many of whom are worried about the re- election prospects in 2018. Some of whom were in districts that Hillary Clinton won. And they are not going to come together on all of these issues. So the health care bill is a --


KLAAS: -- canary in the coal mine for Republican legislative agenda that simply has to grasp the reality that there's a stark divide in their caucus. So now they have to decide, can we go together on issues that are bread-and-butter issues for conservatives, try to get some easy wins that are not tax reform, not infrastructure?

Or do they try to work with moderate Democrats, who are also vulnerable for 2018 and try to actually have some bipartisan consensus to pass the legislation?

WATSON: All right, Brian.

And what about health care, in general?

Here you have the U.S. president warning about ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act, blowing up.

Is there going to be some crisis for millions of Americans who rely on the Affordable Care Act for their health care?

KLAAS: Absolutely. And I think this tweet that he sent in the aftermath of Trumpcare's demise was really reckless, to say that your health care is going to explode. And then to follow that up, 100 characters later, with, "Do not worry," is a contradictory message.

A leader needs to take responsibility for the fact that this is really important to a lot of Americans. It is something that takes a lot of time and it's something that takes a lot of consideration.

And to be able to fix it and get it right, it is difficult. But Trump needs to come together with Democrats, with Republicans and say, look, ObamaCare is imperfect. But we can fix it. We can tweak it. It takes some technocratic expertise, which Trump may need to learn.

But they can do it. And you can't just say, we're going to let it explode and then come together. People rely on this for their well- being, their family's well-being. So I think that it takes a little bit of sobriety and a little bit pause and to think, let's figure it out, let's take a deep breath, let's not rush this and let's get it right because there are problems with ObamaCare but they can be fixed.

WATSON: All right, Brian Klaas from the London School of Economics, thank you very much for your insight.

KLAAS: Thanks for having me.

WATSON: Now let's move to the U.S. state of Ohio, where we are following a disturbing story. Police in Cincinnati say at least one person is dead and 14 wounded at a mass shooting at a nightclub.

According to the police, several of the victims are in surgery with life-threatening injuries. The club has been identified as Cameo on the city's east side. Police say they do not have any suspects at this time but are interviewing witnesses.

The club was reportedly packed with hundreds of people at the time, which was about four hours ago. The police chief said scene inside was chaotic. The police spokesman said there's no reason to suspect terrorism at this time. And we will of course keep you updated as more details become available.

Now to Hong Kong, a story taking place here. The city has a new leader. Next, why some say the election was hardly democratic.

Plus, CNN has been talking to a British counterterrorism official about Wednesday's attack in London. Find out why investigators think the assailant was probably working alone. Stay with CNN.




WATSON: Welcome back to CNN, broadcasting live from Hong Kong. I'm Ivan Watson and it's here in Hong Kong that an election committee has selected Carrie Lam as the city's new leader.

She is seen as Beijing's choice for the job. And she defeated a candidate who has more popular support. She is the first woman to be selected as Hong Kong's chief executive. Earlier she addressed some of the concerns that are leading pro-democracy activists to protest her election.


CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Hong Kong, our home, is suffering from quite a serious divisiveness and has accumulated a lot of frustrations.

My priority will be to heal the divide and to ease the frustrations and to unite our society to move forward.


WATSON: Our Kristie Lu Stout joins us from the convention center in Guanchi (ph) where the ballots were cast.

Good to see you, Kristie.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: It's good to see you, Ivan. And this is where the announcement was made at Hong Kong election headquarters a couple of hours ago. And when it was announced that the new leader was Carrie Lam, the first female chief executive in the history of the territory, there were cheers in the public viewing area.

But do keep in mind, according to the public opinion polls, she's not the people's choice. She is the choice of the near 1,200-member election committee, said to be broadly based on the Hong Kong people but really packed with pro-business and pro-Beijing interests. There's been a lot of criticism about the makeup of the election

committee and even the process of how the vote went down today, including from somebody named Eric Cheung, I spoke to him earlier, he's a professor at Hong Kong University. He's a solicitor. He is also a member of the election committee himself. Hear what he had to say.


ERIC CHEUNG, HONG KONG UNIVERSITY: What we saw today tells the world that the election is not a genuine one at all. It's really an appointment, in effect, by Beijing.


STOUT: So Eric Cheung (ph) of Hong Kong University, also a member of the election committee, calling this not an election, not even a selection but an appointment by Beijing.

I should also add that Carrie Lam, now elected by the 1,200-member election committee as the new chief executive of Hong Kong, she has to be approved by Beijing.

Now this is a process that was criticized in 2014; as you remember, in the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protest. They wanted to change the system, they wanted something called universal suffrage, one person, one vote. Ultimately, that was not granted.

But we saw a number of those pro-democracy activists and leaders out today as the votes are being secretly casted and counted during this election process. People like Nathan Law (ph) or even Joshua Wong, the teenage activist, we witnessed him getting caught up in scuffles with police at one point.

Now dealing with the division, dealing with the continued demand for universal suffrage is one of the many challenges ahead for Hong Kong's new leader. And she acknowledges challenges in the speech that she gave after the announcement was made.

But a number of challenges ahead for the new leader of Hong Kong, a major financial hub, home to some 7 million people, who really had no say in electing their new leader -- Ivan.

WATSON: Yes, and it is really striking, Kristie, when you consider the fact that she got 777 votes to get this job out of a population of some 7 million. It doesn't make for much of an electoral mandate.

Kristie Lu Stout, live from the election campaign center, thanks very much, Kristie.

Now chances of severe weather continue across the Central United States and meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now with the latest.


[05:25:00] WATSON: Coming up next, was the London attacker a lone wolf?

A British counterterrorism intelligence official has been talking to CNN. And we'll have that after the break.




IVAN WATSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It's great to have you with us. I'm Ivan Watson with the headlines this hour.


WATSON: The U.S. military and the Iraqi government are investigating coalition airstrikes to determine if civilians were killed accidentally. The Pentagon is looking into a bombing raid in Western Mosul on March 17th that targeted ISIS.

There are allegations women and children died. Iraq's defense ministry is also probing several other coalition airstrikes in Mosul this month.

WATSON: And joining me now to help explain this is retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

Rick, good to see you. The reports are certainly disturbing, if it's possible that as many as 200 civilians could have been killed in one or more airstrikes in Mosul.

Wasn't this part of the initial concern when the operation began to try to evict ISIS from this densely populated city?

Isn't that one of the major challenges the U.S. and Iraqi forces had?

How do you push a militant group out of a place with tens, hundreds of thousands of civilian residents?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, we knew this was going to be a problem. And as ISIS was bottled more into this densely populated area, any use of air artillery was going to cause civilian casualties.

The objective is to minimize the risk to the civilian population. Unfortunately, when you're dropping high explosives into a very compact area, this is what happens.

The problem is knowing what's underneath where you're striking. And this is an intelligence problem. It's also a fast-moving problem, a fluid problem.

So when these targets pop up and the Iraqi unit on the ground calls for air support, if the target is a validated target, it meets all the requirements, the Americans will strike the target. And I think that is what has happened here.

So we have to look at, is there a systemic problem in how we call in the airstrikes?

WATSON: Rick, there seems to be some difference of opinion, at least, or in the facts in the reporting on this from the Iraqi government and the U.S. military Central Command, about which days there may have been airstrikes carried out that could have resulted in civilian deaths.

Can you make sense of how many of these incidents could have taken place that could have led to potentially such a high number of civilians killed?

FRANCONA: Yes, and there's so many airstrikes that happen in a short period of time, that you try to document as best as you can. But when bullets are flying and bombs are dropping, people are moving, shots are being fired, a lot of the paperwork and recordkeeping isn't up to date.

And it takes time to go back and get all that correctly. So these investigations will sort this out. But it's a painstaking progress. It's also very painstaking to figure out what happened when you don't have people really on the ground. We can't get into some of these areas yet.

We will be able to get in there once the Iraqis secure the area. But by that time, a lot of the evidence that we need will be gone.

WATSON: Let's get back to the battlefield itself in Mosul.

Where does the fight now stand in this bloody and deadly effort to try to uproot ISIS from that Northern Iraqi --


WATSON: -- city?

FRANCONA: Well, you know, the city is isolated; it's surrounded. They're being -- ISIS is being pushed from all sides. They are being compacted into this tiny area. And that's why you see such vicious fighting.

There's no escape for these ISIS fighters. They're going to have to either surrender or die. And most of them have chosen to die. They are going to take as many civilians as they can with them. That's why we're seeing this uptick in civilian violence.

The Iraqis, to their credit, have said, OK, let's just take a break and see what happens. The only problem with taking a break is we know what's going to happen, ISIS is going to rearm, regroup, reposition their forces.

So I think the Iraqis are trying to do the right thing by taking the pause, let's calm, let's reassess our procedures and see if we can stop as many civilian casualties as we can.

I know the leader of the Nineveh Council has asked that all operations cease until we can guarantee the security of the civilian population. That is just impossible in this fast-moving, very dense populated area.

WATSON: Calls for a pause in this grinding battle. Retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona, thank you very much for your insight.

FRANCONA: Good to be with you.

WATSON: In London police have released all but one of the people arrested in connection with Wednesday's attack outside Parliament. Investigators do not currently see a direct ISIS hand in Wednesday's attack. A British counterterrorism official tells CNN no evidence has emerged to show assailant Khalid Masood was communicating with the terror group. Nina dos Santos reports.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: Authorities say that they still believe Khalid Masood was working alone when he plowed his car into innocent bystanders on Westminster Bridge and then went on to fatally stab a police officers at the gates of Parliament. That's according to a British counterterrorism official who says that although ISIS may have claimed Masood is working as one of its soldiers, there's a lot of skepticism surrounding that claim, largely due to the fact that a video of Masood hasn't emerged after his death, pledging allegiance to the group in contrast to what we saw in the aftermath of similar attacks in Berlin and also Nice.

What we do know is that Masood was active on the encrypted WhatsApp messaging service just two minutes before mounting the pavement on the bridge. And we also know from the embassy of Saudi Arabia in London that Masood had visited the kingdom on numerous occasions, twice to teach English for about a year at each time between 2005 and 2006 and 2008 and 2009.

But it's his last visit in 2015 that is probably also going to be of more interest to authorities; he visited on a religious pilgrimage visa, finding out who he was in contact with over there and also here in the United Kingdom will be crucial to piecing together the parts of the puzzle that see this British-born convert to Islam with a known violent criminal past become radicalized with such devastating consequences -- Nina dos Santos, CNN, outside Scotland Yard in London.


WATSON: Moving to Afghanistan, where the Pentagon says a U.S. drone strike has killed an Al Qaeda leader. The U.S. military says Qari Yasin was responsible for the Marriott hotel bombing in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2008; 54 people died when a truck packed with explosives blew up outside the hotel in a massive explosion. Yasin was killed last Sunday in Afghanistan, the Pentagon says. The Las Vegas Strip is now completely reopened after police say a man shot two people, killing one of them. The suspect surrendered after a long standoff on Saturday. The shooting happened on a public transportation bus near the Cosmopolitan hotel on the Strip. Our Rachel Crane has more.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After a very tense few hours, the suspect is now in custody. Law enforcement officials say that they were able to get him off that bus that he was barricaded on without firing any shots and that the suspect cooperated with police.

Now the Strip has reopened to pedestrian traffic and vehicular traffic after being closed for several hours during this incident. We do know, however, that one person lost their life, another person injured.

Now, of course, in light of recent terrorist attacks in Europe, people called into question if this was terror related. We now know that this was in fact not terror related at all nor was it related to an earlier incident that occurred at the Bellagio hotel, where three masked men robbed a fine jewelry store.

One of those men actually wearing a pig mask. In that incident, no shots were fired, nobody injured. But after a very tense few hours in Las Vegas, things are finally starting to get back to normal.


WATSON: Now to the African continent, where health workers are preparing to vaccinate more than 100 million children against polio across West and Central Africa. It's part of a drive by the World Health Organization to contain an outbreak of the disease in conflict- hit northeast Nigeria.



MICHEL ZAFFRAN (PH), WHO: This vaccination campaign constitutes one of the largest synchronized campaign in history. A total of 190,000 vaccinators will be fanning out in 13 countries, going door to door to vaccinate every single under 5 child.

We need to synchronize the campaign and vaccinate all of the children at the same time so that the virus has nowhere to hide. And we can end polio for good in Africa.


WATSON: Stay with CNN. We'll be right back.


(MUSIC PLAYING) WATSON: Welcome back to CNN, broadcasting live from Hong Kong.

European leaders gathered in Italy's capital Saturday to mark 60 years since the signing of the Treaty of Rome. The agreement led to the creation of the E.U. but not everyone celebrated. Demonstrations for and against the bloc broke out across Europe. Our contributor Barbie Nadeau filed this report earlier from Rome.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There were six separate demonstrations in Rome today. Those for the continuation of the European Union, there were British people here, Scottish people here, lamenting the fact they are leaving the European Union.

There were Europeans lamenting the fact that there is a European Union. There were migrants, refugees that were demonstrating against closed borders. There were far right contingents who were demonstrating against migrants and refugees.

All in all, we don't have the exact number of people who were on the streets in Rome today. But the security forces, as you can see behind me, have been in full force all day long, trying to keep --


NADEAU: -- order as the day goes on.


WATSON: For more on the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, my colleague, Cyril Vanier, spoke earlier with Dominic Thomas. He's the chair of the department of French and Francophone studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Cyril asked him about the health of the E.U.


DOMINIC THOMAS, UCLA: Well, it's a health bill and I think it's a report card. And if we're going to look at a report card, we have to start off by asking ourselves, what was the European Union supposed to be doing?

And what did it decide it was going to be doing 60 years ago, when it set out on this journey?

It was never supposed to be a state. What it did is it asked if member countries to delegate some of their sovereignty for the greater interests. And it was designed to be a family of democratic European nations, committed to working together for peace and prosperity.

In terms of peace, the success is unquestionable. It would be unthinkable today for France and Germany, for example, to go to war.

The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize was given to the European Union in what was a very important gesture. And in terms of prosperity, of course there's been much discussion over the financial crisis, the Greek crisis and so on.

But if we compare the Europe of today to where it was 60 years ago, it has absolutely unambiguous that it has benefited enormously from this kind of articulation. I think what was so interesting about today was the declaration signed on by the 27 members of the European Union -- the British, of course, were not there -- and the commitment to four major ways of sort of thinking about the European Union as it goes forward the question of sustainability, of security around the question of terror, of building a social Europe and I think perhaps most interestingly of building a stronger Europe that is committed to multi-lateral policies.

And I think this is very forward-looking, it takes into the account the challenges that it has faced lately over the migrant crisis, the terror crisis. And it is an institution that is trying to think where it needs to go as it heads beyond the 60th birthday.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: And about that, European leaders, I believe it was Jean-Claude Juncker, who said Europe would still be around to blow its 100th candle 40 years from now.

Do you see it surviving that long?

Because some people are asking that question.

THOMAS: Right, I do. And I think the fact that there were demonstrations is, of course, indicative of the particularly since Brexit of the kind of divisive rhetoric organized around the European Union.

I thinking today we saw it in a declarations of the various presidents of the council, the commission and of the parliament is a deep recognition of the fact that the European Union's liberal economics policies and globalization have left people behind, that the Europe of the north, east, west and south are not the same and that there are tremendous inequities within European countries.

And that the European Union needs to listen to people and understand the particular problems that confront them. And they are deeply aware of the fact that the far right and that various populist parties on the Right and on the Left have exploited these fault lines, either through their anti-E.U. policies or they have exploited them through their kind of xenophobic protectionist policies.

And I think that if the European Union was relevant 60 years ago in the aftermath of the horrors of the Second World War, the kinds of divisiveness we see today around the world mean that the European Union's commitments to democracy and to tolerance are as important as they have ever been.


WATSON: In Belarus, the government appears to be cracking down on protests. Reuters News Agency reports hundreds of people were arrested in Minsk on Saturday.


WATSON (voice-over): Demonstrators in Minsk were beaten as they were taken away in a police truck. They are angry about falling living standards and a tax on citizens out of work for six months.

This is the latest wave of anti-government protests in recent weeks against the Belarusian president. He suspended attacks after the backlash but demonstrations continued.


WATSON: People have plenty to say, meanwhile, about Donald Trump's interview. Quote, "I'm president, you're not." Up next, we'll see how it has become quite a joke.




WATSON: Welcome back to the program.

Reaction is pouring in to pore a quote from U.S. president Donald Trump. No one can argue with Mr. Trump when he told "Time" magazine, quote, "I'm president, and you're not."

But some say that comment sounds a bit familiar. Jeanne Moos reports.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "TIME'" cover, "Is Truth Dead" pays homage to a 1966 big question cover, "Is God Dead?"

But do you know what isn't dead?

Donald Trump's ego.

As we saw when he met with trucking CEOs, the president isn't shy about blowing his own or anybody else's horn. Consider how he ended the "TIME" magazine interview on the question of his credibility, "I can't be doing so badly."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I'm president and you're not.



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And you are not.

MOOS (voice-over): The quote ignited Internet mockery.

"I'm a narcissist and you're not." "I'm rubber and you're glue."

Some thought President Trump sounded Pee-wee Hermanesque.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're an idiot.

PEE-WEE HERMAN, COMEDIAN: I know you are but what I am?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you are but what am I?

HERMAN: I know you are but what am I?

MOOS: But the president's supporters like a man who knows what he is.

Alpha male president commented one. "Oh, Trump, this is why we love you."

MOOS (on camera): I'm president and you're not.

Does that remind you of anyone?

CHEVY CHASE, ACTOR: Good evening. I'm Chevy Chase and you're not.

Good evening. I'm Chevy Chase.

CROWD: And you're not.

MOOS: One critic reacted to the "TIME" interview by tweeting, "Days --


MOOS (voice-over): -- without embarrassing the U.S.? Zero."

But others brought up Barack Obama's presidential pronouncement on a Jimmy Kimmel "Mean Tweets" segment. Back when it looked like Trump would lose, the then candidate tweeted, "President Obama will go down as perhaps the worst president in the history of the United States."

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Well, @realDonaldTrump, at least I will go down as a president.

MOOS: Well, we all know who got the last laugh.

Actress Sally Field captioned this photo, "Eastbound and demented."

But he's the trucker- in-chief and we're not -- Jeanne Moos, CNN...

TRUMP: If I ever fell, would they be happy?

MOOS: -- New York.


WATSON: And finally, a dark hour aimed at shedding light on climate change. As Moscow's Red Square, that was among the cities all over the world

that turned out the lights on major landmarks to mark Earth Hour.

In Paris, the Eiffel Tower plunged into darkness to call attention to global warming. People and businesses also dimmed their lights for an hour at 8:30 Saturday night local time.

In Manila, "Star Wars" fans got creative. They held light saber duels to mark the 10th anniversary of Earth Hour, started by the World Wildlife Fund.

Well, that wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. On behalf of me and the rest of the program, thank you for watching. For viewers in the U.S., "NEW DAY" is just ahead. For other viewers around the world, "BELIEVER" with Reza Aslan starts in just a moment. Thank you for watching CNN, the world news leader.