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Mudslides Kill More than 200 in Colombia; Ecuador Votes for President; Flynn Left Russia Income off Disclosure; Controversies Overshadow Trump White House; Iraqi Christian Community Becomes a Ghost Town; Art Heals the Scars of Domestic Violence. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired April 2, 2017 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Rivers of mud and flood debris in Colombia kill more than 200 people, hundreds more either injured or missing.

A look at the Trump administration's increasingly difficult relationship with Russia.

Plus like a rolling Nobel Prize winner. Bob Dylan finally accepts his award and he does it his way.

Hello, everyone, thank you very much for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta and your CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


VANIER: Mudslides in Southern Colombia have killed at least 234 people. Authorities are searching for survivors. More than 200 people are still missing at this stage. Some families were barely able to escape after torrential rains overflowed three rivers. Dozens of homes were destroyed.

The Colombian president visited the region affected on Saturday. A CNN crew was there when the president spoke with a victim.


(Speaking foreign language)


VANIER: The Colombian president also says he suspects climate change could be partially to blame for all this. Our Rafael Romo has more.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: It all happened very fast. According to a witness, it started raining Friday night about 10:30. And the floodwaters rose so fast that people had to run for their lives. Many houses were flattened, bridges collapsed and highways were washed away.

It happened in Mocoa, capital of Putumayo province in Southern Colombia. Mocoa is surrounded by three rivers which overflowed as a result of some of the heaviest rains the city has seen in years.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said in just one night Mocoa got about one-third of the rain that would normally fall in a full month. The president also said the death toll would likely rise because there are still many people who are missing.

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, PRESIDENT OF COLOMBIA (through translator): We do not know how many there are going to be. We are still searching. But the first thing I want to say is that my heart, our hearts, the hearts of all Colombians are with the victims of this tragedy.

ROMO (voice-over): Santos has declared a state of emergency in the region. Electrical power and water were out in the Mocoa and the hospital system was shut down, according to firefighters. About 1,000 police officers and soldiers are helping in the search and rescue efforts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The difficulties we are facing are that it is still raining in the region and the avalanche turned up a considerable amount of land.

There are mobility issues on almost 80 percent of the roads and, where the road ends, it is three hours to the place where the avalanche took place.

ROMO: President Santos reported authorities have found 10 children who are alone and officials don't know if their parents died or are trapped somewhere in the debris -- Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


VANIER: How did this happen and what's the forecast for the people in that region right now?

What can they expect?



VANIER: We're staying in Latin America. A lot of news coming from the continent today.

In Venezuela, an abrupt about-face by the country's top court. The supreme court has reversed its ruling to strip the congress of its lawmaking powers.

The original decision published on Wednesday sparked violent protests. The high court is stacked with supporters of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, who now says the controversy is over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): I acted quickly, without delay and in the early morning hours of today, April 1st, we had completely overcome the controversy which had emerged.


VANIER: Despite that declaration, as you can see there was still anger on the streets of the capital Saturday. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Caracas, clashing with police, armed with tear gas. They're furious that authorities postponed local elections which had been set for last year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We want to save the constitutional threat through peaceful means. The only thing we are asking for in the streets is elections. We want constitutional order reinstated by the people, demonstrated at the voters booth.


VANIER: And Paraguay reeling after a protester was killed in violent clashes with police on Friday. A vigil was held for the 25-year old on Saturday. He was part of a demonstration that set the country's congressional building on fire.

That violence sparked by the ruling party's effort to allow President Horacio Cartes to run for another term. Cartes is calling the protester's death "unjustifiable." Two top government officials and several police officers have already been fired.

Voters will head to the polls in just a few hours to pick a new president for Ecuador. They're deciding between the pro-business candidate, Guillermo Lasso, or another five years of leftist policies with his rival, Lenin Moreno. The election will also affect the future of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

Lasso has promised to kick Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London if he wins.

So let's remind you why Assange has been living in Ecuador's London embassy. In November 2010, the Stockholm criminal courts issued an arrest warrant for Assange based on allegations of sexual assault from two WikiLeaks volunteers.

The following month, Assange turned himself in to police in London, he denied any wrongdoing and his supporters claim that the charges were politically motivated. Assange was then placed under house arrest.

In May 2012, the U.K.'s supreme court denied Assange's appeal against extradition to Sweden.

The WikiLeaks founder feared Sweden would then extradite him to the U.S., where he could face the death penalty for publishing government secrets on WikiLeaks. So the following month, Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy and was later granted asylum; he's been there ever since.


VANIER: To U.S. politics now. There are new revelations about President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. We're learning that he did not list payments from a Russian television network, RT, and two other companies linked to Russia on a financial disclosure form that he signed in February.

The payments do appear, however, on an amended form that was signed by Flynn on Friday. Ryan Nobles has the details on this.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House has just released financial disclosure forms from former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The forms tell us quite a bit about where Flynn made his money in 2016.

He took in a total of $1.5 million. He also had three different income sources, from speeches among them. The television network RT, which is the state-run television network. Also a cargo company and a cyber security firm.

Each one of these speeches paid Flynn at least $5,000. That's the minimum necessary to be reported on these forms. But we know through House Democrats that the speech that he gave to RT allowed Flynn to make as much as $45,000.

What's interesting about these three expenditures is that Flynn did not report these income sources on his February form but then added them on his March form.

The RT speech in particular is something that we've known about for some time. But we'd originally been told that the income from this speech was given for a speakers' bureau, not from RT directly.

This updated financial disclosure form shows the speech was indeed paid for by RT specifically.

You can bet this information is going to become a big issue for Democrats in particular as they continue to investigate the Trump campaign's connection to the Russian government as the Russian government's attempts to intervene in the American election -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: There's also another aspect to the Russia controversy dogging the Trump White House. A U.S. official tells CNN it is believed two White House staffers worked closely with House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes and may have given him intelligence reports.

That's significant because Nunes' committee is investigating alleged links between Trump campaign aides and the Kremlin. CNN's Fredricka Whitfield has more on how all this unfolded. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Here's President Trump on March 15th hinting at something.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): On March 21st, pressed for evidence of the president's wiretapping claims, press secretary Sean Spicer might have done some foreshadowing as well.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: Let's see how the week goes.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): The following day, March 22nd, some started getting suspicious. The chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, who also served on the president's transition team, briefed the media and the White House before his own Intelligence Committee about getting his hands on intel of incidental collection of Donald Trump and his associates.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIF.: It bothered me enough that I went over to the White House because I think the president needs to see these reports for himself.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): Nunes presented no evidence but on March 27th, we learned he viewed documents on White House property.

The administration's response to questions over communication with Nunes?

SPICER: It doesn't really seem to make a ton of sense.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): But Thursday, March 30th, "The New York Times" reported two White House officials played a role in providing Congressman Nunes with the evidence he is describing.

Within minutes of the report hitting, the White House invited the highest-ranking lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to view classified materials.

Friday, March 31st, Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, takes the White House up on that offer.

After leaving the White House, he issued a statement which said, quote, "It was represented to me that these are precisely the same materials that were provided to the chairman over a week ago.

"Nothing I could see today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures and these materials should now be provided to the full membership of both committees.

"The White House has yet to explain why senior White House staff apparently shared these materials with but one member of either committee, only for their contents to be briefed back to the White House," end quote.

At home in California, Nunes again defended his actions and offered more details on his White House meeting.

NUNES: This is something that I've known about for a very long time from people who were not affiliated at all with the White House or anybody there. The challenge was finding a place to be able to view this information, to be able to get my hands on this information.


VANIER: That was CNN's Fredricka Whitfield reporting.

James Davis joins us live. He's the dean of the School of --


VANIER: -- Economics and Political Science at the University of St. Galen in Switzerland.

James, I'm not actually sure there's an answer to the question I'm about to ask you.

But how can Donald Trump put all the Russia suspicions and questioning behind him?

JAMES DAVIS, UNIVERSITY OF ST. GALEN: Well, there are so many questions and so much suspicion now that it will be difficult to put it behind him. I think what he needs to do is get in front of the story.

If there's nothing to hide and the president has continued to say there's nothing to hide, then why the defensiveness?

Why always play defense when you could get out in front of this, provide the committees with the information they need, provide it to them in a way that's honest, transparent, open; not behind closed doors, not in the night, when most of the White House is asleep?

Get in front of this story and show the American people that, in fact, there is nothing there if, that is, in fact, the case.

VANIER: Donald Trump's defense seems to be to blame the media and the Democrats but mostly the media, it seems, who are, in his view, intent on pushing a false Russian narrative. To me it seems he's not doing himself any favors and that only fuels suspicions.

DAVIS: No, that's right. And I mean, this president has claimed that he was going to be the president that drained the swamp; this was going to be the president that had extreme vetting for people in his administration, for people wanting to come to this country.

What we're discovering this week again is he could not even vet the man he selected to be his national security adviser in a way that would lead us to all think that this is a professionally run administration. We had a man in the White House responsible for coordinating the

foreign and security policy of the United States of America who was on the payroll of a media organization that most serious analysts regard to be a propaganda outlet of the Russian government.

And either the president didn't know this or the president didn't think that this was very important. Either way, that's something that the American people need to know. And insofar as the press is pointing this out, they're only doing their job.

VANIER: James, let's take a broader look at the Trump presidency going into its 11th week. The travel ban has been blocked by the courts. The repeal of ObamaCare has failed. The president has a full-blown war on his hands with parts of his own party. And he's got no support from the opposition, the Democrats.

How does Donald Trump right this ship going forward?

DAVIS: Well, the president needs a win. He needs to find a win to give a different dynamic to this administration, to shift the narrative to one of success and moving forward, rather than one of fighting, of disputes with the Congress, disputes with his party, even disputes with the permanent government, the bureaucracies.

I think the way to get a win is clear. You either have to find some unity in your own party or you have to reach across the aisle. The issues that he could reach across the aisle are on are clear. That would be a reasonable health care reform, fixing the things that even the Democrats suggest are in need of fixing or work on infrastructure.

But he has not shown really a willingness to do that so far. He's preferred to try and do this all within the Republican Party. But as the health care reform debacle showed, he doesn't have control of his own party.

VANIER: All right, James Davis, thank you so much for coming on the show. Thanks for your insights.

DAVIS: Thank you.

VANIER: We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll head to one Iraqi town which has basically been abandoned. A report from inside Qaraqosh, Northern Iraq, ahead.





VANIER: Welcome back.

Airstrikes aimed at ISIS in Iraq and Syria have killed hundreds of civilians. That's according to a report by the U.S.-led coalition. It covers Operation Inherent Resolve, which began in 2014.

The coalition says since that time, airstrikes have likely killed at least 229 civilians and even that number will rise because the report doesn't cover airstrikes in mid-March on a neighborhood in Mosul which are still being investigated.

A senior Iraqi health official told CNN more than 100 bodies have been recovered from that site in Mosul.

A Christian community right outside the town of Mosul was abandoned after ISIS took over years ago. More than 60,000 people fled as militants looted, vandalized and burned homes.

One of the town's biggest churches even became a target practice range. And the rest of the area, well, it became a ghost town. Our Ben Wedeman has more.



BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A small flock has returned for mass in the charred ruins of the Church of Mary the Immaculate in Qaraqosh near Mosul.

ISIS set fire to the church and used its courtyard as a firing range.

Jakub Panak (ph) came home to Qaraqosh a week ago and has yet to recover from his shock.

"I felt pain," he recalls, "my eyes filled with tears."

Setvana (ph) is back just for mass and says, "This is the first time I returned to this church."

And then she's at a loss for words.

Archbishop Yohanna Butos Moshi (ph) struggled to help residents through the trauma but worries the specter of ISIS still hovers nearby.

"We expected everything in Qaraqosh. Theft, damage and destruction," he tells me.

"But arson, for us, is a message, a threatening message that the idea of ISIS is still here in the region. And that's what we fear."

Today this once-prosperous Christian community is a ghost town of empty streets, blown-out buildings, gutted shops, everywhere reminders of ISIS' hatred for everything Qaraqosh stood for.

Workers have erected a large cross at one of the main roundabouts to signal the town's liberation. But it's just a symbol. Before ISIS took over this town in the summer of 2014, more than 60,000 people called it home. Now months after it was liberated, only a handful of families has

returned. Without electricity and running water, without help to get life moving again, most residents are hesitant to return.

Businessman Tofiq Sukka (ph) moved back two months ago. At a generator running nearby he shows a list of everything ISIS looted from his businesses.

"The central government," he says, "hasn't restored power or water. It's completely neglecting the Christians."

Some residents have returned, briefly, to bury the dead. Friends and relatives bid final farewell to 83-year-old Nasira, a nun who fled Qaraqosh and died in Erbil. She, at least, has returned in death to the town of her birth -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Qaraqosh, Northern Iraq.


VANIER: Pope Francis will visit the Northern Italian city of Carpi on Sunday, the site of a devastating earthquake back in 2012. More than 20 people were killed and dozens of buildings destroyed in the 5.8- magnitude quake. The pontiff will celebrate mass and visit the badly damaged cathedral of Mirandola.


VANIER: In Russia, lawmakers there voted to decriminalize some forms of domestic violence early this year. But survivors of abuse are finding new hope outside the halls of power. Our Clare Sebastian reports on a tattoo shop that is changing lives.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tattooing a scar is like painting on a crumpled sheet of paper, says Zhenya Zakhar. The popular tattoo artist in the Russian city of Ufa (ph) started seeing women turn up in her salon looking for tattoos to hide their scars.

Victims of domestic violence.

Last summer following the example of a Brazilian tattoo artist, she placed an ad on social media, offering the service for free.

ZHENYA ZAKHAR, TATTOO ARTIST (through translator): They came in droves. I then understood how serious the problem is here. In the first month, around 100 girls came to see me.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Today, a red rose is taking shape over seven months' worth of knife scars. "Anna" says she was just 18 when her boyfriend started drinking and cutting her with kitchen knives. For legal reasons we are concealing her face and real name because he was never charged with any crime.

"He was my first great love," she tells me.

"I thought the violence would stop." In Ufa (ph), a city of 1 million people, between the Volga River and

the Ural Mountains, Zhenya is not the only one waging a quiet war against domestic violence. A few miles away, Viktoria Levina (ph) shows us the paperwork she

submitted to local authorities to set up a crisis center specifically for domestic violence victims, something that doesn't yet exist in the city.

VIKTORIA LEVINA (PH) (through translator): I have this strong internal motivation because I've encountered this problem myself. And at least in my own town, I want women to have some kind of support in these situations.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Her website is already up and running and she hopes one day she'll be able to provide women free legal and psychological help, perhaps even a shelter.

Back at the tattoo salon, before-and-after photos, a reminder of the acute need. This woman was pregnant when her husband took her to the woods and stabbed her in the neck. Now in place of the wound, a butterfly.

ZAKHAR (through translator): When they leave here with a smile, it's wonderful. It makes me want to work to do something good.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Looking at her rose, "Anna" says she feels relief, past wounds redrawn -- Clare Sebastian, CNN, Ufa (ph) Russia.


VANIER: Finally, Bob Dylan has now received his Nobel Prize in literature. The legendary singer-songwriter accepted the award in Sweden on Saturday, nearly six months after it was announced that he'd won.

No cameras were there for the ceremony and Dylan made no comments before or after the event, doing it his way as he's been doing it since the award was announced.

All right. Thank you very much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. That's it from us. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment, stay with us.