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AQAP Is Sharing Bombing Techniques; Flynn Seeks Immunity; Protesters Set Fire to Paraguay's Congress; Flynn Seeks Immunity; Schiff Reviews Controversial Intel at White House; Top U.S. Officials Meet with NATO Allies; MS State Snaps UConn's Win Streak; True-Life Holocaust Story. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired April 1, 2017 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): An exclusive CNN report. U.S. intelligence agencies believe terror groups may be closer to making bombs that can go undetected at airport security. We'll have details.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): President Trump is dodging questions about former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his ties to Russia but he did tweet about it. More on this and reaction from Moscow.

HOWELL (voice-over): And in Paraguay, angry protesters they (INAUDIBLE) fire you see there over efforts to change the constitution.

From CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): And I'm Natalie Allen. NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: A CNN exclusive leads our newscast. U.S. intelligence officials believe ISIS and other terror groups have found new ways to hide explosives in laptops and other electronic devices.

HOWELL: In fact, they believe the terrorists may be testing the devices on stolen airport security equipment in order to find out how they get them on to planes undetected.

CNN also learned intelligence on this helped prop the recent U.S. ban on larger electronic devices in cabins in certain flights into the country. The ban also includes the nine airlines you see here.

ALLEN: CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruikshank says this is a real and serious concern.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERROR ANALYST: It's serious because these terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda in Yemen, developing new ways to try to get bombs onto a/please, including by concealing them inside laptops.

They're perfecting some of those techniques, the intelligence suggests. They are obtaining detection systems to try to probe their weaknesses. And so there's significant concern that they may stage future attempts to try to get a bomb onto a Western passenger jet.

But at the same time, the state-of-the-art systems which are deployed in airports in the United States and Europe and certain other parts of the world, including places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, those state-of- the-art systems are actually very good at detecting the kind of explosives that groups like Al Qaeda in Yemen are developing, even when they're concealing them inside laptops.


ALLEN: We get more now on the story from our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: U.S. officials have grown increasingly concerned about the threat against aviation that they are seeing, not just from ISIS, but also al Qaeda in Syria and al Qaeda in Yemen.

(voice-over): U.S. Intelligence and Law Enforcement Agencies believe that ISIS and other terror groups have developed innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices that can fool airport security screenings. The concern is heightened because there is U.S. Intelligence suggesting that terrorists have obtained sophisticated airport security equipment to test how well the bombs are concealed.

CNN has learned this new intelligence once a significant part of a decision earlier this month to band laptops, tablets and other electronic devices from the passenger cabin of planes flying directly to the United States from ten Middle Eastern and North African airports. Demanding instead that they be stored in checked luggage.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Elevated intelligence that were aware of indicates terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressive in pursuing innovative message to undertake their attacks to include smuggling of explosive devices with these various consumer objects.

STARR: Officials have told CNN there was credible and specific intelligence that ISIS would try to attack aviation assets. And a hint from a top U.S. commander about why the accelerated effort on the ground in Syria is against the group.

LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDER, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: There's an imperative to get isolation in place around Raqqa. Because our intelligence feeds tell us that there is a significant external operations attack planning.

STARR: Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen AQAP has for years been actively trying to target commercial airliners destined for the U.S. looking for ways to create bombs that contain little or no metal content to evade airport security measures, including hiding explosives in the batteries of electronic --


STARR: -- devices like laptops. And in February 2016, a wake-up call. When a laptop bomb, according to Somali authorities, was used to blow a hole in this Somali passenger jet. The plane landed safely despite the attack claimed by the al Qaeda affiliate al- Shabaab. CNN has learned the explosives were hidden in a space created by removing parts of the DVD drive.

The Transportation Security Administration gave CNN a statement noting that while they will not discuss specific intelligence, they continue to monitor all the threats that they see and that they will change security procedures as they see fit -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


HOWELL: Joining us now to talk more about this is Bob Baer, a CNN intelligence and security analyst.

It's always good to have you with us, Bob.

First of all, given the new information that we have, how significant is the risk?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: We're missing a lot of things in this report but I would say they're closer to being able to get on an airplane with a small amount of explosives or a chemical mix. And with one of these bombs placed in the right position and that would be against the skin of the airplane, against the fuselage, they're closer to being able to knock out an airplane.

HOWELL: This new information suggests that they're able, now, to use some of the screening equipment that's in airports.

Bob, I don't know if our viewers around the world know this but, you know, that was your job to build and test, to understand these bombs back, you know, during your time at the CIA. So explain to us the level of sophistication when using the exact equipment that we see in airports today.

BAER: Well, that's exactly it, George. I mean, they were very with good to begin with. These are engineers. There's a Saudi we know of named al-Siri who has got very well along to make airplane bombs but it's technology that really does go back 40 years.

And I've constructed these things, either with groups that have gotten past American security, TSA security. This is very doable. And we know that they've been testing these things, whether it's in Somalia, where a hole was blown in the fuselage but the plane was low enough that it didn't break up.

They also are understanding how to get accountable mixes on airplanes, which are very hard to detect. Even TSA equipment can't detect it because they don't admit nitrates.

And that's how they usually -- this airport equipment, they detect bombs, they pick up traces of nitrates when you go through a scanner. But I think this is a genuine threat and I think that they've imposed this ban on computers and iPads and the rest of it for very good reason.

And, frankly, this doesn't surprise me, you know, they're getting better at this and they're more determined, as well.

HOWELL: CNN intelligence and security analyst, Bob Baer, thank you so much for your insight.

BAER: Thank you.

HOWELL: Sources tell CNN the FBI may not be interested in giving Michael Flynn, the former NSA adviser, immunity.

ALLEN: Flynn's lawyer says his client has a story to tell. Those are his words. But he wants assurances against unfair prosecution. Here is CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


QUESTION: Any comment on Michael Flynn, Mr. President?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump facing new questions tonight on Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser whose shadow still looms large at the White House.

Flynn is offering to testify, in exchange for immunity in the growing probe of Russia meddling in the 2016 election. Flynn, a retired Army general, fired after only 26 days in office for misleading the administration about contacts with the Russian ambassador.

The president took the unusual step of inserting himself in an ongoing investigation, saying on Twitter: "Mike Flynn should ask for immunity, in that this is a witch hunt, excuse for a big election loss by media and Dems of historic proportion."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer amplified that message today.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He believes that Mike Flynn should testify. He thinks that he should go up there and do what he has to do to get the story out.

ZELENY: The immunity offer for Flynn was rebuffed by the Senate Intelligence Committee and drew skepticism from Republicans Congressmen like Jason Chaffetz, who took issue with the president's characterization of the Russia probe as a witch hunt.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: No, I don't think it's a witch hunt.

Look, it's very mysterious to me, though, why, all of a sudden, General Flynn is suddenly out there saying he wants immunity. I don't think Congress should give him immunity.

ZELENY: It all adds up to another head-spinning moment at the White House, considering what the president said about immunity last year on the campaign trail.

TRUMP: If you're not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?


ZELENY: It was a frequent attack against his rival, Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: Did anybody ever see so many people get immunity?


ZELENY: After leading attacks of his own at the Republican Convention...


ZELENY: -- Flynn had this to say about immunity.

FLYNN: When you are given immunity, that means that you have probably committed a crime.

ZELENY: At the White House today, Spicer said it was not hypocritical to suddenly support immunity, if it brought to light the president's belief that conversations with Trump aides were swept up by government surveillance.

SPICER: He's saying do whatever you have to do, to go up, to make it clear what happened, take whatever precautions you want or however your legal counsel advises you.


ALLEN: Let's bring in Leslie Vinjamuri to talk about the developments in Washington over the past few days, she's a senior lecturer in international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the London School of Economics. Nice to see you again, Leslie.


ALLEN: Morning and evening and whatever it is. Flynn, wanting immunity, wrapped up the intrigue over whether he does have the story to tell, as his lawyer indicated this week.

Where does this put the story on the global stage?

VINJAMURI: Well, I think people here in Europe and beyond are very puzzled by this ongoing apparent distraction. This is an extraordinarily important time for the United States; Rex Tillerson just met with the foreign ministers of NATO.

The White House is preparing to meet and greet the head of Egypt, the head of Jordan and then China, China's leader on Friday.

And meanwhile, Washington's entire focus is on these ongoing investigations and now the former national security adviser requesting immunity, which is unheard of this early in an administration or, frankly, at any point.

So the optics are not good. The White House looks like it's sort of lost control over its agenda and in the recent aftermath of a very significant loss on health care. But it's very puzzling and it's really out of character and very unusual at this point in an administration to see this.

ALLEN: Leslie, the U.S. Defense Secretary traveling in Europe, played down the hope of cooperating with Europe in the near future. And with the U.S. investigation heating it, it doesn't look like there's any room for cooperation.

What do you say?

VINJAMURI: That's right. Trump came into office saying he was going to in effect reset relations with Russia. That seems to be completely off the table now.

In fact, Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, said yesterday that it was very important that Russia move away Crimea, that it comply with any agreements that had already been set and that removing sanctions were not on the table.

So this is a very significant walkback from President Trump from everything he told us about really rethinking that relationship with Putin. It's not surprising, not only because of the broader strategic concerns and our partnership with Europe but also this ongoing investigation of the potential relationship between Trump and his team and Russia.

So it's very unlikely that we'll see any backtracking or resetting of this that relationship right now.

ALLEN: One Russian official said relations haven't been this bad, maybe, since the Cold War.

Is that overstating it or is that dead on?

VINJAMURI: I'm not so sure how much that actually captured in terms of what's going on. There's been the assertiveness of Russia is something that President Trump has inherited. It's not something that's very recent. That goes back to Crimea and Ukraine.

But, of course, the investigation of these allegations makes it just much more difficult to manage that relationship. So the relationship between the U.S. and Russia has not been good for a couple of years now.

But what we thought was that it would get better under President Trump and, of course, Congress has not been willing or wanting to support that. There hasn't been widespread support for that in a foreign policy establishment, either.

Nonetheless, Trump thought that he alone, through this relationship that he was hoping to forge with President Putin, could turn things around. But that's obviously not going happen right now.

ALLEN: And so, as you kind of characterized it, we've seen a sloppy start with this administration.

Where do you see, perhaps, it coming together?

VINJAMURI: Well, I think that in terms of forging a different kind of partnership with Russia, I suspect we won't see much change. That will continue to see U.S. pressure on Russia with respect to Ukraine.

And in some ways, a continuity of the policy of the previous administration with the major exception of the current administration. We're going to continue to be bogged down by these ongoing questions.

First of all, what has Russia done?

To what extent did it try to meddle in the U.S. elections?

And if those investigations and the findings become more serious, we have to wait and see where that goes. That could make this relationship with Russia much worse, OK.


VINJAMURI: But I think this broader question is one that is not new and will continue to plague the current administration. So I don't anticipate this relationship to get better in the short term, potentially getting quite worse.

ALLEN: Leslie Vinjamuri, we appreciate your thoughts on this story and we'll probably be talking again. Thanks for joining us this morning.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

HOWELL: Another story we're following, the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, she and her husband's combined assets could exceed $700 million. This according to a new financial snapshot of about 180 of the men and women serving in the president's White House.

Chief strategist Steve Bannon made about $2.5 million last year and Gary Cohn, Trump's chief economic adviser, the former president of Goldman Sachs, netted more than $75 million. These are the assets that they had when they first walked through the White House doors before they were advised to divest certain holdings.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, demonstrators storm Paraguay's congress and they lit the building on fire. We'll tell you why they are so angry.

Plus, protests and growing alarm in Venezuela. But the president said he can fix it. We'll explain next on CNN NEWSROOM.






HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

I want to tell you about the situation playing out in the capital of Paraguay. Angry protesters there set the country's constitutional building on fire Friday night.

ALLEN: The outrage is directed at the ruling party for trying to pass a law that would allow the current president to run for another term. Our Rafael Romo reports.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: The demonstrators stormed the congressional building and set it on fire. There were also clashes with police on streets surrounding the building. The violence stems from a decision by the ruling Colorado Party to create an alternative senate with the purpose of passing a law that would allow current president Horacio Cartes to seek re-election, which is forbidden under the current constitution.

A group of 25 senators started holding sessions Tuesday for that purpose. The 45-member senate requires a simple majority of 23 votes to pass legislation, meaning the rogue senators have two more votes than required.

Meanwhile, protesters indicated they will stop the violent demonstrations once they get a commitment from President Cartes that he will stop seeking re-election. In a statement issued late Friday, President Cartes said democracy is not attained through violence.

Paraguay lived under a dictatorship for 35 years, ending in 1989. Alfredo Stroessner, a Paraguayan military officer, took power after an armed coup in 1954 and ruled the country for the next 3.5 decades -- Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


HOWELL: Let's get some more information on what's happening now with a journalist and his story there. Laurence Blair, he is a freelance journalist on the phone with us from Asuncion.

Laurence, good to have you with us. I know that you tweeted earlier that the situation there looked like a war zone; looking at one of your most recent tweets, I'll read it.

It says "Downtown Asuncion calm, clearing up underway. Police in control of congress and adjacent plaza. Protests may resume in a few hours."

Tell us more about what you saw over the last few hours and where things stand now.


Right now, things are a bit calmer. I've just been walking through the streets of the downtown area quite close to congress. I went right up to the congress building as well and really it's a complete change from two, three hours ago.

You know, there is no one there now. There are a few firefighters picking through the wreckage and a police guard. But, really, all the protesters have been dispersed and most likely have gone home.

We have a few dozen protesters who are in jail here, temporarily at least, and it's worth saying that we also have had protests elsewhere in the country. So let's stay with the southeast of the country, also north in Paraguay (INAUDIBLE) in major cities. There have been smaller protests but still there have been some arrests there.

Thinking about it here in Asuncion, it was just a few hours ago at the headquarters of the Liberal Party, which is the main opposition party here, there there's pretty horrific scenes, blood stains on the floor. An young activist there has been reportedly shot by police and he died in hospital a few hours later.

So I think right now things are calm but I think in a few hours, when everyone begins to wake up again and the media begin to pick up again, I think we're going to see some quite serious questions, not only of the government's efforts towards re-election but I think also of their handling of tonight's protests.

And I think in particular, there may well be some criticism (ph), in fact, there already are, of the president, Horacio Cartes, whose only statement so far on tonight's events was a Twitter post, a Twitter image a few hours ago condemning the violence. So I think there's really been an absence of leadership and I think there will be some quite serious questions in the morning for the administration.

HOWELL: You talked about Twitter and I've been reviewing your Twitter feed. The handle is lablair1492 for viewers who want to see the images like the one you talked about, the images of blood stains on the floor.

But you pointed this out, that people are in jail, there are a number of people who have been injured. The casualty numbers still unknown at this point. Help our viewers here in the United States and around the world understand the frustration and the anger of the people we're seeing in these images here --

[04:25:00] HOWELL: -- about this young democracy facing this critical issue of re-election.

BLAIR: Sure, absolutely. We do have a few -- we have a few dozen arrested already, at least one confirmed death. I wouldn't be surprised if we hear of one or two more.

But it's early to say. I think the anger is -- it's hard to gauge how widespread that is. I think a lot of Paraguayans are quite angry. I think a lot of them probably expected a lot better from their politicians.

As you mentioned, it's a young democracy. In many ways, Paraguay has not fully shedded the skin of that dictatorship. The Colorado Party, to which (INAUDIBLE) belonged, has remained in power more or less constantly since (INAUDIBLE) was forced from office. And a lot of his former allies remain in government.

So I think there's already very low expectations and a lot of apathy towards the government. But I think in particular, the handling of this issue of re-election has sort of lit a flame, really, under this discontent.

In particular, in fact, it's been very badly communicated or barely communicated at all. I think people are quite angry that there seems to be a sort of backroom attempt to pass -- to force through this legislation without really giving it a proper hearing.

And I think that that's the other key point to mention here. Lots of Paraguayans, almost all of the political class at least, are in favor of re-election in some form or another eventually happening, the reason being, they want -- it's a greater degree of institutional stability.

Currently what happens is, after one or two years in office as president, a succession struggle begins immediately and your program sort of runs out of steam.

So I think there are arguments in favor of presidents being able to have a second term but there are ways of doing that which would be a bit more deliberative and more gradual which are on the table, a constitutional reform, for example, which would involve a slightly longer process.

HOWELL: And, Laurence, I'm going to have to interrupt you as we're going to have to move forward. But we will have you in the next hour again to tell us about the fluid situation playing out there. Laurence, thank you for being with us and, of course, we'll come back to you.

ALLEN: We turn now to Venezuela, the president and the country's national defense council are asking the Supreme Court to review a ruling that critics say amounts to a government coup d'etat. Nicolas Maduro has vowed to step in after the attorney general slammed the high court's decision. It would strip the opposition-led national assembly of its powers. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): As the head of state, invested with authority and constitutional power, this impasse will be resolved in the quickest and best way possible.

We will hand over to our people another constitutional victory through dialogue, through the heights of politics, through the heights of the state.


ALLEN: The ruling has sparked violent clashes in the Venezuelan capital. Mr. Maduro is also calling for dialogue with the opposition.

Next here, President Trump walks out of an official ceremony. We'll show you what happened.

HOWELL: Plus, two of the most influential men in the White House are abroad and they're spending most of their time walking back past comments of the president.

CNN is live from Atlanta, Georgia, at this hour on our networks both around the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.


HOWELL: At the White House on Friday, President Trump did not appear to be in a cordial mood. He walked out of an executive order signing ceremony like this. Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, everybody. You're going to see some very, very strong results very, very quickly. Thank you very much.

MAJOR GARRETT, CBS NEWS HOST: Mr. President, with your tweet, were you trying to tell the Justice Department to grant immunity to Michael Flynn?

Is that your intention, Mr. President, sir?

Mr. President, was that your intention? Was that your intention, sir?


ALLEN: As you just heard, White House pool reporters asking Mr. Trump questions about his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. The president ignored them, moved to another room, where he signed the pair of orders aimed at targeting foreign trade abuses.

The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says he has now viewed the same documents that sparked a new controversy for the Trump administration. The White House is accused of sharing intel reports with committee chairman Devin Nunes. Our Jessica Schneider reports.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee arrived at the White House to examine documents, the Trump administration pushed back against concerns it coordinated with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: It's not in our interest to talk about the process. What occurred between Chairman Nunes and coming here was both routine and proper.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The administration continues to deflect questions about whether it provided the documents Devin Nunes said revealed the incidental collection of communications by President Trump and his staff.

SPICER: The unmasking and leaks is what we should all be concerned about. It affects all Americans, our liberties, our freedom, our civil liberties.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): But Ranking Member Adam Schiff questioned the timing of this letter from the White House, inviting the committee to view documents the National Security Council discovered in the ordinary course of business.

The letter was sent on the same day that "The New York Times" identified White House officials, who allegedly provided Nunes with intelligence reports during his secret visit to the White House grounds.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIF.: The timing certainly looks fortuitous and probably more than fortuitous.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Nunes has repeatedly declared it was a whistleblower who provided the documents.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIF.: We invite whistleblowers to come forward. And, in fact, we've had many people come forward to the committee in recent weeks.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: By holding the meeting on the White House grounds, it makes it appear that someone in the administration was coordinating the release of this information to you.

Is that not the case?

NUNES: No, it's not the case. In fact, I'm quite sure that people in the West Wing had no idea that I was there.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling Chairman Nunes' actions "bizarre" and says there's no doubt the White House set Nunes up for political purposes.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Of course he was a dupe. He was duped. Now let's just -- that's the most innocent, most benign characterization, that he was duped. But he should have known better, when you're the chairman of the committee.


HOWELL: At least one Trump official seems to take Russia's meddling very seriously. The U.S. Defense secretary Jim Mattis met with his British counterpart in London on Friday and said the Kremlin was, quote, "mucking around" in other people's elections.

This as U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson met with the top NATO diplomats in Belgium. He also criticized Russia and said that NATO allies had to do more. Here is our Nic Robertson with details.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: His first visit to NATO HQ as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson came to deliver a clear message. Allies must pay their way to meet the 2 percent GDP defense spending threshold.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have three important areas we want to talk about. First is ensuring that NATO has all of the resources financial and otherwise.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): A few hundred miles away, James Mattis on his first trip to London as U.S. Secretary of Defense, also offering a corrective to President Trump's assertion NATO is obsolete.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The point I would make is that NATO stands united, the transatlantic bond is united.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In London, the joined-up message received loud and clear. The U.K. one of only four NATO allies meeting that 2 percent threshold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Mattis and I have agreed that others must now raise their game. And those failing to meet the 2 percent commitment, so far, should at least agree to year-on-year real terms increases. ROBERTSON (voice-over): The Mattis-Tillerson coordination belies what many see as the chaos of Trump's administration so far. On Russia, both secretaries also joining forces to contradict Trump's early warmth toward Putin and ready NATO for more Russian aggression.

MATTIS: Excuse me. Russia's violations of international law are now a matter of record.

TILLERSON: We want to, obviously, have a discussion around NATO's posture here in Europe, most particularly Eastern Europe in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In two months, President Trump will be here for a NATO leaders' summit. Secretary Tillerson has been stressing allies need to make their financial commitments clear before then.

So he said Trump's visit can be, quote, "a success." He didn't say what the alternative would be -- Nic Robertson, CNN, NATO Headquarters, Belgium.


ALLEN: Matthew Chance joins us now live from Moscow.

We often pepper you with questions, Matthew, about what Russia thinks about all of this. But it is interesting to hear the words from the Secretary of Defense from the U.S. talking about Russia in his view "mucking" into our elections.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is and you're right to point out that. It is a big turnaround from the situation the Russians thought they would be in when it comes to this new Trump administration.

Remember, Candidate Trump was somebody who stood in front of his potential electors in the United States, promising to build a better relationship with Russia.

"Wouldn't it be great for us to get along," he said, or to paraphrase what he said, with Moscow. And none of that has come to pass.

He spoke --


CHANCE: -- about how the NATO military life was obsolete. He spoke about how he wants to cooperate with Russia on issues of international terrorism, particularly on the conflicts in Syria and other issues as well. A lot of it has come to pass and that's immensely disappointing, I think, and frustrating from a Russian point of view.

Again they thought this relationship was going to get better under Trump and it seems to have gotten a whole lot worse. President Putin in Russia a few days ago saying the relationship with the U.S. is now at zero level, worse than it's been, in other words, for some time. ALLEN: And when Putin was asked about whether Russia was involved in the U.S. election and he just said a flat no. And he spoke out about it.

CHANCE: Yes. He did. He said, "Read my lips. No," he said.

And this was the first time he's spoken out on this issue since the inauguration of Donald Trump.

But, of course, other Russian officials in his Kremlin and in the Russian government have routinely gone out and said this is fake news. This is the corrupt media. This is a witch hunt, using the same kind of language that the Trump administration uses when the conversation is about collusion between the United States and Russia. They're flatly denying it.

At the same time, I think there's an element of the Russian political society as well. But it is pointing to what has become a circus in the United States essentially from a Russian point of view, the political infighting, the arguments over whether Russia was involved or not.

And there's some satisfaction in that, in the sense that, by comparison, the Russian political system under Vladimir Putin looks stable. It looks like it's a preferred option to the chaos that is unfolding on a daily basis in their old -- in the politics of their old Cold War rival in the United States.

ALLEN: Well, that's an interesting point to be made, for sure.

Thank you, Matthew Chance, for us in Moscow.

Well, President Trump has three meetings meantime.

Sorry, George, go ahead.

HOWELL: No, of course. Yes, the president does have several meetings. One of the meetings with world leaders next Monday with Egypt's president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. He'll visit the White House in his first visit to Washington since being elected in 2014.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump will host King Abdullah of Jordan and then, on Thursday and Friday, the president of China, Xi Jinping, will visit Mr. Trump in Florida at Mar-a-lago. It will be their first time to meet face-to-face.

ALLEN: And of course President Trump has said it's going to be a tough meeting.

HOWELL: Still ahead here, fans just witnessed one of the greatest upsets in sports history. We'll show you a shot that will go down in the record books.

ALLEN: From Mississippi State, that's coming up.





ALLEN: Well, we talked about Paraguay and their -- sorry, we're in Peru now. I apologize. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced because of those deadly landslides and the flooding that Derek has told us about. Many Peruvians still need clean water, food and medicine.

HOWELL: The country's infrastructure has also been severely damaged. You see a great deal of the problem there. Major highways have been wiped out; economists estimate the cost of rebuilding is more than $6 billion.


ALLEN: It is an upset for the ages. The UConn women's basketball team finally lost a game for the first time since November 2014. And here is how it happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five to get off a shot. William on the drive. Pull up, pull up. She got it! She got it! She got it! One of the great upsets in history, Mississippi State in overtime --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- at the buzzer. Morgan William, Mississippi State has ended the streak at 111 consecutive games. It's over.

HOWELL: You should see the smile on Natalie's face here as we talk about this. The loss snapped the longest win streak in college basketball history. Mississippi State now moves onto the national championship. (INAUDIBLE) face South Carolina for a shot at the title.

ALLEN: How about that.

Connecticut, all hats off to you, too. They had not lost a game in 111 games.

HOWELL: It is amazing.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, we profile a film that pays tribute to a woman who became a hero to hundreds of people during World War II.


(SPORTS) ALLEN: "The Zookeeper's Wife" is a new Hollywood film that tells the incredible story of a woman who hid Jews in a Polish zoo to protect them during the Nazi era.

HOWELL: CNN's Oren Liebermann has the story of one of the people who lived through that experience.



OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Black and white pictures from Moshe Tivosh's childhood, a youth spent in hiding, now brought to color in the new film --


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): -- "The Zookeeper's Wife."

Set in Warsaw, Poland, during World War II, the movie tells the story of Antonita and Ians Zabinski (ph), who made a courageous decision during Nazi occupation of Poland.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Moshe Tivosh was one of those Jews. He escaped from the nearby Warsaw Ghetto. His family split up to make it easier to hide. Tivosh was 5 years old when his family sent him to the zoo with his little sister.

There, they met Antonita Zabinski (ph).

MOSHE TIVOSH (through translator): When I saw their face, I knew we'd arrived at a good place. She radiated goodness. She hugged us.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Tivosh stayed for three weeks before he was smuggled to another hiding place.

TIVOSH (through translator): I held my sister's mouth --


TIVOSH (through translator): -- because she would cry for our mother and father. (INAUDIBLE) Zabinski completed with his mother, bringing us food so we were not hungry there.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Zabinski (ph) and her husband hid hundreds Jews in World War II. Israel's Holocaust museum named them "righteous among the nations," non-Jews who helped Jews survive the Holocaust.

Academy Award winner Jessica Chastain plays the title character.

JESSICA CHASTAIN, ACTOR: At the end of the day it's a movie about hope, about family and about love. When it shows no matter how dark life can be, how dark it gets, love will always be there and you can find it. LIEBERMANN (voice-over): That's a lesson Tivosh learned in his own life. He was reunited with his family after the war. He moved to Israel, where he started a family of his own, proudly telling his own story and the story of "The Zookeeper's Wife" -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Caramiel (ph).


ALLEN: Very sweet. Want to see.

Thanks for joining us this hour. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. More news from around the world after the break. This is CNN NEWSROOM.