Return to Transcripts main page


South Korean Prosecutors Seek Former President's Arrest; White House Regrouping After Obamacare Repeal Failure; Paul Ryan's Political Future After Health Care Failure; Assessing Trump's Leadership So Far. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 27, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: Conflicting account in Iraq about what caused the explosion that killed dozens of civilians in Mosul. Also, new developments in South Korea: prosecutors there, seeking an arrest warrant for the former President Park Geun-hye. And the protests in Moscow, Sunday, that put one of Vladimir Putin's biggest critics behind bars. It's all ahead here this hour. Thanks for joining us, we're live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen. And this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Our top story: the U.S. and Iraq are investigating claims that many civilians have been killed in recent coalition airstrikes in Mosul. The U.S. confirms, it did strike an ISIS truck packed with explosives on March 17th in the western part of the city but there are questions about the collateral damage. An Iraqi Commander says, the blast killed dozens of civilians in nearby homes, but Iraq's government says ISIS may have booby trapped those buildings. We get more now from CNN's Arwa Damon, she's in Irbil.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The investigations are still ongoing, but what we have been able to at least preliminarily piece together is that, on March 17th. According to one of the local counter-terrorism commanders, as the forces were advancing there was a truck that they believe was laden with explosives driven by a suicide bomber that was advancing on forces and an air strike was called in specifically against that. The force of the explosion then caused a number of homes to collapse.

We spoke to an eyewitness who lived a few houses down who described a pretty terrifying scene and said that, as he and his family were fleeing, they could hear people screaming, screaming things like "we're alive, please save us". And he said that in at least one of the homes there were around six families that were sheltering there because, they believed that it was a fairly steady - sturdy structure. Just the homeowner himself, his family was made up of 17 individuals and it took the civil defense team quite some time - days, in fact, to actually be able to reach the site because of the intensity of the fighting.

And according to the head of the civil defense team, at least 80 bodies were pulled out of the rubble. One of the Iraqi Generals who is the spokesman for the Iraqi Military -- Joint Military Command, he said that they believe that in one house alone there were 130 people. Now the Iraqis are saying that because of how densely populated this part of Mosul is, and because of these various reports of civilian casualties they are going to be modifying their tactics, using less air strikes, advancing more on foot.

These are very narrow streets. Using more drones, using more precision artillery. But this is the ugly reality of the battle that they are facing. ISIS is holding the civilian population hostage. People when they do try to flee, based on what we have been told, if ISIS catches them they turn them back at gunpoint. They don't allow families to leave houses that ISIS then uses as fighting positions. And this was one of the big concerns even well before this battle for Mosul even began: the fate of the civilian population. Arwa Damon, CNN, Irbil.


ALLEN: The top U.S. Commander in the Middle East says, coalition and Iraqi forces are doing what they can to keep innocent people safe. He says in a statement: "The death of innocent civilians in Mosul is a terrible tragedy. We are investigating the incident to determine exactly what happened and we'll continue to take extraordinary measures to avoid harming civilians."

U.S. and Iraqi troops have been trying to recapture Mosul from ISIS, since October. In this latest offensive. Now, the U.S. is sending hundreds more soldiers from the 82nd airborne division to help in the fight. The U.S. Military says it's a temporary mission to advise and assist Iraqi forces. I spoke last hour with CNN Military Analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona about the situation; I asked him if there's anything that can be done to minimize human casualties in the fight against ISIS.


RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST LIEUTENANT COLONEL: Unfortunately, there's little to be done. As long as ISIS continues to hold these people hostage in the city - as Arwa said, this is a very densely populated part of the city, the old town, a very narrow street, a lot of people there. And as long as those families are kept there against their will and there's fighting, unfortunately, there's going to be these kinds of incidents. One of the things, when the Iraqis make these advances and they see these fighting positions oftentimes they will call in air strikes.

If you have got troops in contact and you call for an airstrike, most likely you're going to get it. So, it's up to the Commander on the ground to gauge how much danger he's putting the civilian population in. And a lot of times, they err on the safety of their own troops because this is a no-win situation for these Commanders. They're being faced with these booby-trapped cars. They come rushing at them. They have to act very quickly.


[01:05:29] ALLEN: Our thanks to Rick Francona for that analysis. U.S. backed rebels in Syria have retaken a key military airbase from ISIS, it's close to the country's largest dam: the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates river. ISIS captured the airbase in 2014 and murdered more than 200 Syrian soldiers. The terrorist also controlled the dam, and U.S. led forces, hope to retake that as well. The U.N. has warned the dam could collapse from high water levels, air strikes, or even sabotage by ISIS.

South Korean prosecutors want to arrest and impeached President Park Geun-hye for involvement in a corruption scandal, ended her presidency earlier this month. Prosecutors have accused her of abuse of power and their investigation about alleged corruption. And now, they're seeking an arrest warrant. Let's find out more from CNN's Paula Hancocks, she's live in Seoul. Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Natalie. Well, prosecutors have requested this arrest warrant. And what happens now is it will go in front of a judge. That judge will hear why the prosecutors believe they need this arrest warrant. And then a decision may be made. Now prospectors in their statement say, that they believe some grave violations have been committed by the former president. They also say, that they're concerned that there may be a possibility of Park Geun-hye destroying evidence, as they say, and an awful lot of investigation has been ongoing for some time.

They questioned Park Geun-hye just last week. It was about 14 hours of in all of that interrogation of the former president. Park Geun- hye, herself, has denied any wrongdoing. She has apologized. But she's apologized for - to the people being confused, there being chaos for this issue being in the forefront but not for any wrongdoing. Her lawyer has said in the past as well, that he believes this is a politically motivated witch-hunt. But at this point, we are waiting for later in the week, potentially two or three days away to hear whether or not the judge agrees that the arrest warrant is necessary. Natalie.

ALLEN: This has happened before in Seoul. She's not the first to face something like this; is that, right?

HANCOCKS: Well, that's right, yes. There's been two former presidents of South Korea as well who have been arrested on corruption allegations. And in fact, the Head of Samsung, the South Korean company, Jay Y. Lee is currently in prison. He has been arrested as well, there was an arrest warrant requested for him. The judge initially said, no. And then the next time it was requested the judge said, yes. It's generally if prosecutors fear that there may be evidence destroyed or that the individual may be a flight risk. But what we've seen in this prosecutor's statement is allegations of bribery, of coercion, of leaking documents, and also of abuse of power. Bribery itself could hold a minimum of ten years imprisonment, if that bribery was over a certain amount of money which allegations suggest it was, according to prosecutors. So certainly, this is a fairly fast-moving investigation and prosecutors believe that they have enough evidence that an arrest warrant is necessary. Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. Paula Hancocks for us in Seoul. Thank you, Paula. We have a developing story now in Japan: an avalanche struck a group of high school students taking ski lessons about 200 kilometers north of Tokyo. A teacher told officials eight of the students show no signs of life, and six are injured. 32 students and teachers were able to get down safely from the slope. Emergency crews are having trouble reaching the area due to poor weather conditions.

Police and protesters clashed in Moscow, Sunday, as planned anti- corruption rallies took place across Russia; hundreds of people were reportedly detained. Among them, opposition leader Alexei Navalny. In a series of tweets, he downplays his detention and urged people to keep marching; many did. State media though report 8,000 people turned out for the Moscow rally that's despite the Kremlin declaring it, illegal. Joining me now is former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief, Jill Dougherty. Jill, thanks for being with us. Always appreciate it. First off, I want to talk about these rallies being held on the streets of Russia. What are they about?

[01:09:59] JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Well, they are about corruption. They are really the biggest protest that we've seen since going back to that 2011-2012 when there were anti-government protests organized by the same man: Alexei Navalny, he is an anti- corruption crusader. Obviously, he gets his message out by Internet, by the web. And these were, you can say directed most specifically to the Prime Minister, Mr. Medvedev, because Navalny did a movie about the alleged corruption, having owning big homes, and mansions, and vineyards, and yachts, and all sorts of things. But really, it's a general anti-corruption scene for all of these demonstrations. And they were all over Russia, in about 80 to 100 different cities.

ALLEN: And what are the risks, the folks that put these together, or call for people to come out - what risks are they seeing? And what would you say about what looks like as we saw the video there, the heavy-handed response by police? Was it?

DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, in some case, yes. I've looked at a lot of the video. And you can absolutely see, you know, police cracking heads. Sometimes they were fighting back. But mostly, it was people walking up and down one of the main streets in Moscow. And just by their very presence showing that they supported this. Now, what could happen? Well, of course, you could get your head cracked in. But in a broader sense, people were arrested.

The estimates are kind of all over the place. But it looks about maybe 600, 700, 800 people. So, significant numbers of people arrested. And it's not clear how long they would be held, whether they would be prosecuted. You know, back in 2011 and 2012, many of those people had to go through quite long terms in jail and prison. And so, we'll have to see how they treat them this time.

ALLEN: And despite these protests, as you say, the largest we've seen in a few years, are most Russians still behind Putin, and those who work with him?

DOUGHERTY: You know, Natalie, this is a hard thing to say. Yes, I would say generally among average people out in the inter-land, yes, they support Putin. His ratings are usually around 80 percent. Now, whether that is totally believable - but we do know, that there are great numbers of Russians who support him. But in the big cities, and apparently in cities - if you have 80 cities across Russia, there is some dissatisfaction. And I think one of the main feelings, as I listened to some of those interviews, is that people feel that their future, and the future of their children, and their grandchildren - the futures have been stolen by corruption.

It's something that the government itself has recognized is a problem. But the people who feel now that the government really is the problem. You know, there is a political significance to this, too. Because done forget, that back in 2011-2012, Vladimir Putin accused Hillary Clinton of getting the sign to people to come out on the streets and demonstrate. So, there is another political side to this. State Department condemned the arrests and said that it was a shame that people, you know, who should be able to demonstrate freely are not being able to. But there is a question of how the Trump administration might react more swanly to this. There's a high political significance.

ALLEN: Jill Dougherty for us, as always. Thank you, Jill.


ALLEN: A stinging defeat on Capitol Hill lead the U.S. Republican leader's role in question. Paul Ryan. We'll tell what you the White House is saying ahead. Plus, Hong Kong has a new leader. Why pro- democracy activists say her election was a mere formality. We'll have a live report.


[01:16:23] KATE RILEY, CNN WORLD SPORT HEADLINES ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN WORLD SPORT Headlines. If anyone thought Mercedes and three-time world champion, Lewis Hamilton were going to have things all their own way, then they better think again. After Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel victory on Sunday as a highly dramatic season opening Australian Grand Prix. Hamilton qualified on pole position in Melbourne but he knew that Vettel was going to be quick. Hamilton was struggling with his ties and it was Vettel who took the lead and held on for his first F1 victory since 2015.

England's World Cup 2018 qualifier with Lithuania on Sunday at Wembley, a game which took place amid heightened security in the wake of this past week's terror attack right in the heart of London. (INAUDIBLE) were laid in memory of those who lost their lives following the atrocity in Westminster. The players, observing a minute of silence in their honor.

Goals from Jermain Defoe and Jamie Vardy, sealing a 2-0 win for the English and appeared losing in Bulgaria this weekend was the last draw for their Netherlands head coach, Danny Blind. He's being dismissed from his position according to a Dutch football federation statement on Sunday after defeat to the Bulgarians. The Dutch have now lost five of their last nine competitive matches under him. They're currently fourth in the group, a six points behind leaders France. And that's a look at all your Sports Headlines. I'm Kate Riley.


ALLEN: Last week's defeated health care legislation in Washington is raising questions about who will shoulder the bulk of the blame and what happens to the Trump agenda now moving forward? A Fox News host is calling on the Speaker of the House to step down. But as Athena Jones reports, the White House says it supports Paul Ryan.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, as the White House recovers from this devastating loss last week, the failure to repeal Obamacare after years and years of promising to do so, they are spreading the blame around a bit. We've heard the President blame Democrats in the House. Also this morning on Twitter, he blasted the House Freedom Caucus. That is the conservative block of about 30 members of the House who blocked this bill because they felt that it didn't go far enough to undo -- in undoing Obamacare.

One person the White House is not blaming is House Speaker Paul Ryan. Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, was asked this morning on "Fox News Sunday" whether the President thought Speaker Ryan should step down. Here's what he have to say.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS SUNDAY ANCHOR: But does he want Paul Ryan to step down or not?

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: No, he doesn't. And he is -- talked to Paul Ryan yesterday for about an hour. He believes what he said in the oval office on Friday. He doesn't blame Paul Ryan. In fact, he thought Paul Ryan worked really hard. He enjoys his relationship with Paul Ryan, thinks Paul Ryan is a great Speaker of the House.


JONES: So there you heard the Chief of Staff saying the President feels that Speaker Ryan is a great Speaker of the House. But the question remains how this White House is going to work with Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. And not just with the Republican leadership like Speaker Ryan and others, but also with the House conservatives. The President has been blasting and with moderate Republicans and potentially Democrats.

We heard Reince Priebus say over and over again during that interview that they were open to talking to Democrats. The issue here is that the President, whether on Twitter or simply in comments to the press, has been blasting both Democrats and that House Freedom Caucus, those conservatives. And is that conducive to later working with those groups? We've heard House Speaker Ryan say just last week that doing big things is hard. And doing big things is going to require the White House figuring out how to maneuver things on Capitol Hill so that the President can get done some of the big things he wants to get done. Back to you.

[01:20:32] ALLEN: For more on this, let's bring in CNN Political Commentator John Phillips, a Trump supporter and Democratic Strategist Dave Jacobson. Thank you gentlemen for joining us.



ALLEN: Let's talk about health care and the failure to replace Obamacare we saw this week. First, President Trump praised Ryan for his efforts, now tweeted to watch a Fox anchor who said this is all Ryan fault. She is a friend of Trump's. Let's listen to what she said on her program.


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Paul Ryan needs to step down as Speaker of the House. The reason? He failed to deliver the votes on his health care bill, the one trumpeted to repeal and replace Obamacare, the one that he had seven years to work on, the one he hid under lock and key in the basement of Congress, the one that had to be pulled to prevent the embarrassment of not having enough votes to pass.


ALLEN: All right, she did not meant words there. John, do you think this is all on the shoulders of Paul Ryan here?

PHILLIPS: Well, I think we can call that a Maddow moment because earlier in the day, they were promising new information on the President allegedly wiretapping Trump and that's what I think motivated Trump to put that tweet out there and tell everyone to tune in to Judge Jeanine. And I don't think he meant to put the message out there that Paul Ryan should be replaced as Speaker of the House. And look, with health care, success has a thousand fathers and failures, and orphan. And we don't need more polls to figure out which -- where the paternity is on this thing.

Paul Ryan was the guy who carried the water for this bill or Trump in the House of Representatives. It didn't work out. They are moving onto the next one. And I think that conservatives, specifically conservatives in the House and conservatives in the media made a mistake here. They were right to hold out until the very last minute to try to fix this bill and make it better. But at the end of the day, you have got to be with him because the failure of this bill is not going to produce a Speaker that's more conservative than Paul Ryan. If anything, it's going to push Trump to try to make coalitions with the Democrats, and that' something that these conservative members don't want to see. We saw it here in California with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was a disaster. And we could theoretically now see that at the federal level.

ALLEN: All right. So the fractured Republican Party does not want Trump going over to the Democrats, but what are his options, Dave, right now?

JACOBSON: Going back to the Paul Ryan dynamic with the Judge's comments, right. There is no secret that there has historically been tremendous animosity with Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan. It got so bad during the campaign that at one point Paul Ryan said what Donald Trump had said was, quote, "textbook racism", or the textbook definition of racism. And moreover, I mean this is a -- Donald Trump is guy who will never blame himself, who never apologizes for anything, whether it was lying about his inaugural crowd size or the fact that there was three to five million dollars so-called voters -- three to five million so called voter fraud votes that were cast in the last election. So this is a guy who thrives off of dysfunction and chaos. And he's clearl1y perhaps trying to fan the flames of this existing rift within the GOP conference.

ALLEN: So how does he move forward then if he likes to feed on the rift?

JACOBSON: Well look, that's the question, right? I mean, you have got this sort of looming budget resolution, continuing resolution coming up next month. And I think that's a real question. I mean, the Republicans have the White House. The House of Representatives, and the Senate and they couldn't put forward a comprehensive, quote, "repeal and replace bill," 1that they have been campaigning on for seven years. It's what partially led to them getting back in power. And I think it really raises questions about whether or not Donald Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress can govern. I think it's going to really impose a major question whether or not he can find a way to build consensus within the House of fractured Republican conference or if he makes a pivot and starts to work and collaborate in a meaningful way with Democrats.

ALLEN: And John, there has been a lot of talk about this bill wasn't up to snuff, to put it none scientifically. And that Trump really didn't have the details when pressed about it from certain factions in the Republican Party.

[01:25:17] PHILLIPS: Well, Paul Ryan was certainly the lead on pushing this legislation. And I think we learned two big things from the failure of trying to enact this bill. One, we learned that Trump is a lot more moderate of a Republican than most people probably assumed. We know he is a hawk on immigration, we know he's a hawk on crime and punishment. But outside of that, he is a fairly blue state moderate Republican. And that's what you saw reflected in this bill. The other thing that we saw is that he is not afraid to roll up his sleeves to go and try to whip up votes. He met with the conservatives in the House on multiple occasions, was dialing for votes doing what he thought he had to do to get a majority. It didn't work out, but he's going to learn a lot of lessons. It's going to help - they are going to help him out when he tries tax reforms, or infrastructure, or immigration, other subjects.

ALLEN: Dave, let me ask you. After this week, and lot has been written about the falsehoods and the exaggerations coming from this President and his low approval ratings to boot. One to ten, where do you give his leadership so far?

JACOBSON: I give it a one. I mean he is a failed President at this point. It's unprecedented that he's got such low approval ratings. In fact just last week, a poll came out that Donald Trump had a 37 percent approval rating. Moreover, Quinnipiac put out a poll showing them only 17 percent of Americans supported the GOP-led health care bill. And let me go back to the actual substance of the bill. This wasn't a moderate bill. I'm going to agree to disagree with my good friend John Phillips. Look, this was a bill, according to the CBO, that would take away health care essentially for 24 million Americans over the course of the next ten years. It gave massive tax cuts to billionaires and to big insurance corporations, and then it gutted services for poor, working people, and seniors.

ALLEN: All right I'm going to give the last word to you, John. One to ten, your friend here gave him a one.

PHILLIPS: Well, I think the only thing bigger than the number I would give him are his hands. So, on every level.

ALLEN: Some would dispute that as well, John.

PHILLIPS: He picked the judge from the list. He told us that he was going the pick the judge from, illegal aliens are not born in the country like they used to. They are going to Canada now, TPP was killed. I am a very happy camper here in California.

ALLEN: All right. Gentlemen, we thank you both. John Phillips, of course, and Dave Jacobson, thank you.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

JACOBSON: Appreciate it.

ALLEN: Hong Kong's new leader is not expected to have much of a honeymoon period. Next, why she was elected over another candidate more popular than she. Plus, America's Amazon, excuse me, showing off its drone delivery technology. Ahead, what needs to happen before we can start getting our packages dropped out of the sky.



[01:31:44] UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: All I could hear is bang, bang, bang, like loud. I thought it was probably a tourist or someone just firing something. People started running. And I said, why are people running. Then I moved forward and I could see there was a car smashed in the parliament wall.


HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN ANCHOR: Those comments from one witness of this terror attack here in London that took place yesterday afternoon. British officials have been warning for some time that an attack was possible, indeed, even likely, and Wednesday, it struck here at the very seat of British power, the British parliament.

Police say the attacker was Islamist inspired. He drove through a crowd of people on Westminster Bridge, wounding dozens before crashing into a fence near the parliament building, as we just heard from the witness. The assailant then got out and managed to get into the confines of the parliament itself and then stabbed an unarmed policeman. That office was 48-year-old Keith Palmer, a 15-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police force here in London, a force mainly responsible for counterintelligence across the U.K. Keith Palmer, you can see a picture there. He died in the attack, along with three others. The suspect himself was shot dead by officers at the scene.

British politicians are responding to the attack. Prime Minister Theresa May urged Britain to send a message of defiance.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Tomorrow morning, parliament will meet as normal. We will come together as normal. And Londoners and others around the world, who have come here to visit this great city, will get up and go about their day as normal. They will board their trains, they will leave their hotels, they will walk these streets, they will live their lives.


VAUGHAN JONES: Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted, "Heartbreaking. This is not the first attack on London or, indeed, on our parliament, and won't be the last, but our values will prevail."

And the former U.K. Independent Party leader, Nigel Farage, the man behind Brexit, he's also taken to Twitter, to say, quote, "Very upset and depressed by the terrorist attack in Westminster. Unfortunately, not surprised.

Well, "Politico, Europe" reporter, Silvia Borrelli, is with me.

Silvia, Nigel Farage's tweet there saying he's not that surprised. I know you yourself were in London when it happened. And you've got experience as swell from the Brussels attack. Your reaction to what we've seen on the streets of London.

SILVIA BORRELLI, REPORTER, POLITICO, EUROPE: Well, definitely not unexpected. I mean, the terror threat has been severe in London and will remain so. Like the Metropolitan Police said, this was something expected. Of course, we didn't hope for it, but everyone was sort of prepared, both the public and the police. The police reaction was quite swift and the public, from what I can tell, reacted calmly. There were no panic scenes, and life really carried on as usual. Last night, when I got on the Tube to get home, people were calm, reading their paper, and I didn't really feel like anything had happened. Although, of course, everything was different because during the day, the news flow, and all the things that were happening in Westminster and the fact that the parliament was on lockdown, and all the streets in this area were closed. Clearly, you know, the traffic crazy and people trying to understand what was going on. There was very little information at first.

[01:35:21] VAUGHAN JONES: Now there's an overwhelming view that security forces were on the scene so quickly and that the situation was handled very well, indeed. Would you say that is better perhaps than we may have seen in continental Europe?

BORRELLI: Well, yesterday, for example, I was a few blocks away in the city and I tried to get over here to report because my colleagues in Westminster were on lockdown so they couldn't get out. But can assess the roads surrounding this area up to the Embankment, which a few blocks back. So it seems like the reaction was very quick and very effective.

In Brussels, last year, it was different. There were bombs involved. There were multiple attacks. I think it was a bit harder for the police to coordinate at the time of the attack. But of course, last year in Brussels or even Paris, probably the fact that the attack was happening with something that the police and the intelligence service had managed as well.

VAUGHAN JONES: This is, of course, a murder investigation and a terror investigation. So we want to be sensitive when talking about politics as well. But Theresa May, the British prime minister, is due to be triggering Article 50 and starting this long and possibly painful divorce from the European Union next week, next Wednesday. Do you think Britain's security could be imperiled by a divorce from the European Union given these sorts of attacks taking place?

BORRELLI: There are people who actually say the contrary. They say open borders and the current immigration policy is what has made Paris flood into Britain. I really think it depends on the coordination of intelligence services, despite the presence of the U.K. within the E.U., and you know, the police carrying on with their jobs and the intelligence services doing what they're actually already doing. But of course, this is going to part of the talks on security and making sure the public in secure and these threats can be somehow managed is something that is going to be part of the talks.

VAUGHAN JONES: Silvia, thanks very much. I know you'll join me again later on in the next couple of hours.

And it's going to be an interesting topic to throw in the mix, if you like, with politics here in London, given the fact that Theresa May is due to be triggering Article 50 next week. Will she still do it within the time frame now that she has terror atrocity on her hands as well.

Plenty more coming up on what is going on in London, including all the political fallout from it as well.

Do stay with us. After a short break, we'll be back.


[01:40:55] VAUGHAN JONES: Hello. I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones, live for you in London.

We are covering the terror attack outside parliament yesterday. The man behind that vicious attack is dead. The police are not naming him publicly, even though we understand they do believe they know his identity. Now witnesses say this individual mowed down pedestrians with his car

on Westminster Bridge right in the heart of the British political scene. One woman had to be pulled from the River Thames itself. The assailant then went on to crash into the metal fence around the houses of parliament, where he then fatally tabbed a police officer. In all, four people are dead. At least 40 others were wounded, and many of them are still being treated for serious injuries at hospital. Police have called the attack, quote, "Islamist related" terrorism.

I want to bring in Dal Babu. He's the former chief superintendent for the Metropolitan Police here in London.

Dal, thank you very much for joining us this morning.


VAUGHAN JONES: Your reaction, first of all, to what we start of the streets of London yesterday?

BABU: Shocking news. Really disturbing that he happened so close to parliament. My sympathies go out to all the families.

I was a police officer at the House of Commons some years ago. I used to run a team, a security team. Those officers, particularly the palace gates, would know who the M.P.s are. Because that's an open gate. And I think the individual then made his way in through the open gate. So it's a really, really sad day.

VAUGHAN JONES: You mention and open gate. Are you surprised that this sort of thing has happened?

BABU: If you look at the road, where we are now, it's adjacent to parliament. It's is in the heart of democracy. It's an open democracy. And so I think you have to make a decision about how much access people have. And people do -- members of the public will walk by as M.P.s go in and drive in and drive out.

VAUGHAN JONES: It's been described as an Islamist-related terror attack, though we don't yet have any claim of responsibility from any particular group or individual. What does that do for somebody like you and the work that you do in trying to counter religion extremism? How does this kind of terrorist atrocity affect the work that you're trying to do?

BABU: I think what we need to do is understand how diverse London is. Almost half of London is from one or two backgrounds. One in 12 of the London population are Muslim. And by and large, people get along very, very well. It's an incredibly safe place to be. I think, Mark Rowley (ph), the assistant commissioner, said yesterday that it's important that we work together. Sadiq Khan -- we have a Muslim mayor -- has said exactly the same. And I think the individuals trying to perpetrate these crimes do it to try and drive us apart. And as the prime minister said that won't happen. It didn't happen in the attack we had just prior to the Olympic announcement, and I'm sure it won't happen now. We just need to make sure we're no complacent. VAUGHAN JONES: It was just last weekend that they had a terror training session within London as well. How prepared is the Metropolitan Police force, compared to other forces, not just across the country, but across Europe and the wider world as well, dealing with this kind of incident.

BABU: Yeah, the training exercise, it happened behind you on the Thames. Prior to that, there's been several exercises at tube stations and mass open areas. So the Metropolitan Police is probably the best police service in the world. It's well prepared. People in London should be very, very confident. Tourists should be very confident. I'm afraid if someone has mental health issues comes along and does what they do, then that's a very difficult thing to contend with, particularly if they drive a car. But I think the police are very well prepared. And they will now be looking at reassurance patrols. Everywhere you go in London you'll see additional police officers. Sadiq Khan has announced, prior to this attack occurring, there will be additional neighborhood officers. And the neighborhood officers will be the key to making sure people feel safe and secure.

VAUGHAN JONES: The area around us immediately is locked down at the moment and will probably stay like that for the coming hours. Do you think Westminster itself, the Palace of Westminster, will be more secure now going forward? Will it be left open to the public as a result of this?

[01:45:10] BABU: Well, I mean, you have to remember this is not the first time that Westminster has been targeted. Airey Neede (Ph), almost 40 years ago, was actually killed by the Irish Republican Army actually inside Westminster when a bomb was placed on his car. And the IRA in the past have planted a bomb inside Westminster. So unfortunately, it's an iconic site, Westminster, parliament, and it will continue to be a target for individuals. But it's a safe place, incredibly safe. When I was running a team here, we were an unarmed team. And if you look at how things have progressed now, you have armed officers there. And I know they're -- quite rightly, they are able to deal with individuals once you get into the palace yard.

VAUGHAN JONES: Just briefly, Keith Palmer, the police officer who was killed in this incident, he was unarmed. Your thoughts on that?

BABU: Well, I mean, I just feel incredibly sorry for his family. I think when you leave, as a police officer, you expect to go back home. And I think he has made the ultimate sacrifice. I think it's really important to understand, when we criticize police officers, just how incredibly tough their role is. And my thoughts go out to Keith's family in his tragic loss.

VAUGHAN JONES: All of our thoughts are with his family as well.

Dal Babu, many thanks for joining us.

BABU: Thank you.

VAUGHAN JONES: We appreciate it. And we will be back here, live from London, with this ongoing investigation. Plenty more of this breaking news story after this terrorist struck at the heart of the British parliament.



[01:50:33] VAUGHAN JONES: As the sun rises here in Westminster, London, residents are having to come to terms with another terror atrocity on their streets.

This is the latest that we know on yesterday's events in the heart of Westminster. British police are not yet naming the man behind the deadly terror attack. He plowed his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before stabbing an unarmed police officer. In all, four people are dead. At least 40 others are still wounded. The police shot and killed the suspect in the aftermath of the attack. They've called the, quote, "Islamist related terrorism."

More coming up this hour and in the coming hours as well.

For now, over to you, Isha?

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hannah, thanks very much.

It could be the beginning of the end for Obamacare. Republican-backed legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is up for a vote in the U.S. House Thursday. Republicans need at least 216 votes and, so far, dozens of them have signaled they will vote against it. To win more support, House leaders now want to eliminate an Obamacare provision that requires insurers to cover maternity care, mental health treatment, prescription drugs, and other so-called essential services. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 24 million Americans would lose their health care under this Republican plan. The bill would eliminate the individual mandate that requires everyone to have health insurance or pay a fine. It would dramatically restructure Medicare, the government health program for the elderly and disabled. But some popular parts of Obamacare would stay in place, including coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing children to remain on their parents' health plan up to the age of 26.

Let's bring back our guests, radio talk show host, Ethan Bearman; and Trump supporter, Jim Lacey.

Guys, thanks for staying with us.

Ethan, to start with you, it's unclear whether this will actually pass, whether the White House and Speaker Ryan will get the victory they so desperately needed.

Listen to what White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, had to say about basically what it all means if it fails.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOIUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is no Plan B. There's Plan A and Plan A. We're going to get this done.


SESAY: Plan A, Plan A and no Plan B. That's all guaranteed if they succeed.

ETHAN BEARMAN, TALK RADIO SHOW HOST: There are real questions. The conservative wing of the Republican Party, the House Freedom Caucus, for example, the majority of members have come out against this bill, the Trumpcare bill, the Ryancare bill, whichever term you want to give it. The American Health Care Act, 22 of them, if they say no -- and the last number I checked was still 23, of them saying no. If 22 of them say no, this bill will fail. Plus, you still have the Senate to deal with, let alone the House.

I think this is -- this was not the right move. They didn't go far enough for the actual Republicans and conservatives.

James, to you now. Massie, Congressman Thomas Massie had a stark warning for the president, should this bill actually pass. Take a listen to what he had to say earlier on, on CNN.


REP. THOMAS MASSIE, (R), KENTUCKY: We're afraid he's a one-term president if this passes. We are trying to save him. The phone calls to my office are running 275 against versus four. Only four votes from my constituents are in favor of this. So this -- and electorally, voting for this is bad today and it's going to be really bad in two or three years when the changes start kicking in and health insurance prices are going through the roof.


SESAY: James, is he right? Does this carry huge risks for the president down the line?

JAMES LACEY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: No, I don't think it is, because Donald Trump campaigned for a year and a half before he was elected president to do exactly this. What's going on now is Donald Trump is delivering on his campaign promises and that interest converges with the interests of Paul Ryan and congressional Republicans, who have been saying for seven years that Obamacare is wrong. You know, not one House Republican, seven years ago, voted for Obamacare. So this is a fulfillment of a campaign pledge to the American people.

I think what some of the congressman, perhaps this congressman is missing is that Donald Trump really had coattails that maybe those in -- some of the commentators in the media don't want to recognize. If you go back and do an analysis, Donald Trump won 230 congressional districts. In other words, he was elected president in 230. Hillary Clinton only 205.

(CROSSTALK) LACEY: He probably beat Massie in his own congressional district.

SESAY: You're point being, he carried all these districts so he has in these districts for this health care bill. But is this the bill the American people were expecting? That's the question.

[01:55:07] LACEY: Yeah, I think that that's a fair question because it's such an enormous bill. Obamacare, as put in place by the Obama administration, involved in billions and billions of dollars and pages and pages of regulations. So, of course, deconstructing it is going have many, many moving parts. And it's fair to say that there can be argumentation. But the bottom line is this, this is the bill that Paul Ryan supports and --


LACEY: -- the President Trump supports.

SESAY: We'll let Ethan get a word in here.

BEARMAN: And Speaker Ryan had six years to prepare this repeal and replace bill and he didn't get it right, and he upset conservative. Clearly not a single Democrat is going to vote for this. And by the way, it's going to be done on the backs of those who have the least economic means and those who are the most sick, and that is going to hurt them in 2018.

SESAY: We're counting down to the vote. We shall see if it passes.

I think one thing we can all agree on is the White House needs this win.

Ethan Bearman, Jim Lacey, thank you so much for being with me.


SESAY: Thank you.

And I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUGHAN JONES: And I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones, here in London.

We'll be back with plenty more of our breaking news coverage after this.


[02:30:12] SESAY: Hello, everyone. I'm Isha Sesay, in Los Angeles.