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U.S. Demands China Do More on North Korea; Trump Meeting with Egypt's President El Sisi; Showdown on Capitol Hill over Supreme Court Nominee; Jared Kushner Travels to Iraq; Russia Blasts U.S. for Civilian Deaths; Heavy Rains Trigger Deadly Mudslides in Colombia; Look at Trump's Week Ahead; Russia Criticizes U.S. for Iraqi Civilian Deaths; How Russian Internet Trolls Produced Fake News During Election; FOX Backs Bill O'Reilly Despite Harassment Scandal; Trump Turns Down Chance to Throw First Pitch; Disney Princes No Longer Damsels in Distress. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired April 3, 2017 - 02:00   ET




[02:00:33] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and of course all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm George Howell, from CNN world headquarters. NEWSROOM starts right now.

It is 2:00 a.m. On the U.S. east coast. The United States president is demanding that China do more to solve North Korea's nuclear threats just days before the president is set to meet with the president of China at his resort in Florida.

CHURCH: President Trump told the Financial Times and I'm quoting here, "China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won't. And if they do, that will be very good for China. And if they don't, it won't be good for anyone." Mr. Trump also said, quote, "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will."

HOWELL: Earlier, CNN spoke with the Washington bureau chief of the "Financial Times," who said that Mr. Trump wouldn't be more specific on exactly what unilateral actions the United States could take. Listen.


DEMETRI SEVASTOPULO, WASHINGTON BURUEAU CHIEF, FINANCIAL TIMES: He didn't want to be drawn on what he would actually do, and he made it clear he wasn't going to tell us. But I think there's a range of options. During the campaign, he talked about even sitting down and having a hamburger with Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean dictator. That's at one end of the spectrum. The other end of the spectrum, a preemptive strike on North Korea's nuclear facilities, and then a whole other range of things you could do in between in terms of sanctions that the U.S. has considered in the past but not done. I think we're not going to know until he meets the Chinese president at Mar-a-Lago later this week and they have their first conversation about what they're going to do about North Korea and where they can cooperate.


CHURCH: Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, joins us now from Seoul in South Korea.

So, Ivan, let's start by establishing what China is actually able to do here. Do we sometimes think that it has more leverage over North Korea than it really does?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly is an important trading partner for North Korea, and past administrations have said -- have repeated this mantra that China needs to do more to rein in Pyongyang, to further isolate it. It's a refrain that has been repeated over and over again really for decades now.

So one of the measures is that the Trump administration could seek to punish Chinese firms, banks, for example, that do business with North Korea. And of course, as we just heard from the "Financial Times" journalist there at the other end of the spectrum is the possibility of preemptive strikes.

I want to play some sound this weekend from the former defense secretary of the Obama administration, Ashton Carter, who was asked that very question. Let's take a listen to how he responded.


UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: How do you think North Korea would respond?


UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: A preemptive strike on a launch pad, say.

CARTER: It's quite possible that they would, as their consequence of that, launch an attempted invasion of South Korea. As I said, I'm confident of the outcome of that war, which would be the defeat of North Korea. But, Martha, I need to caution you. This is a war that would have an intensity of violence associated with it that we haven't seen since the last Korean War.


WATSON: Now, that's the nightmare scenario there, Rosemary. This is all speculation of course because Donald Trump seemed to be aimed for very deliberate ambiguity in his interview, not stating what exactly the U.S. could do unilaterally against North Korea. But this is a very, very complicated foreign policy challenge, and it is perhaps a bit of an explanation of why past administrations have not been able to solve it with simple solutions.

Worth noting that Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump's secretary of state, in a visit to the region just a couple weeks ago, he did state clearly that the era of strategic patience, that U.S. approach to North Korea has failed. It's time for other options. The question is what exactly does that mean -- Rosemary?

CHURCH: That is the big question, of course. When Donald Trump talks in terms of going it alone, we're not hearing what role Japan or South Korea would play in that. Is some of this perhaps posturing in preparation for his meeting with the Chinese president?

[02:05:10] WATSON: I think you just answered your own question there, Rosemary. I mean there's an unmistakable message to Xi Jinping before he arrives in Florida at that opulent golf resort owned by Donald Trump for that first bilateral meeting between the two leaders. There's clearly a message being sent to Beijing.

Then there's that other question, go it alone. Does that mean without close U.S. and political military and allies, South Korea, and Japan, where the U.S. has tens of thousands of troops stationed? Also, going it alone without South Korea, which perhaps stands the most to lose, as Ashton Carter just pointed out in the previous clip we played. All very big, very important questions.

Another point to note, this week the U.S. is conducting tri-lateral exercises in the sea with the navies of Japan and South Korea, aimed against threatening submarines potentially coming from North Korea. That's an example of how these countries work together. It's hard to imagine the U.S. going it alone without these two integral allies from the region joining on board as well -- Rosemary?

CHURCH: Indeed.

All right. Many thanks to our Ivan Watson joining us from Seoul in South Korea, where it's just after 3:00 in the afternoon.

HOWELL: And in just a matter of hours, the president will meet with the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el Sisi at the White House.

CHURCH: Human rights activists accuse el Sisi of being a ruthless dictator. Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, never hosted el Sisi, and instead criticized his human rights record. The Trump administration says a strong relationship with Egypt will help fight ISIS.

HOWELL: Let bring in David Siders, a senior political reporter with "Politico," live via skype from Stockton, California.

Good to have you with us.

First, let's talk about the meetings that are set for this week. The meeting with the president of Egypt, this will be a new thing to see here in the United States, to see the president of Egypt. What are the optics of that meeting happening?

DAVID SIDERS, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, it's the first time since 2009. The Obama administration did not meet with the president. I think the optics are difficult. On the one hand, you have, as you pointed out, critics on human rights abuses and dictatorship at large. And then on the other, you have the president trying to maybe turn the conversation to some kind of foreign policy that isn't Russia, and maybe this is an opportunity for him.

HOWELL: Let's talk about the president's upcoming meeting with the president of China. He's ratcheting up the rhetoric for sure with this unilateral possible move on North Korea. How will that play with the president of China? This is a president, Donald Trump, who has prided the value of being unpredictable.

SIDERS: That's true, and I think that that is a difference with the Chinese government, which is said to have been better prepared maybe for these meetings and to have taken some time. On the other hand, we read a report, I think it was "The New York Times" today, about Jared Kushner really making some inroads in connections with the Chinese. You know, I'm not sure what that stand says to the Chinese president, and I don't know what his thinking is coming into it. But I think your last guest was probably right, that this is the start of a negotiation. So it's maybe not so surprising to see President Trump come out with the statement that he did.

HOWELL: Let's talk about the road ahead. It does promise to be a busy one on Capitol Hill. The Senate set to vote on the Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and the possibility that Republican Senators may employ the nuclear option to get him in.

SIDERS: Yeah, I think so. They certainly sound committed to doing that, and I'm not sure anything's changed with the recent vote counts except for the fact they may have to.

HOWELL: That will be interesting to see because, obviously, they look back at when the Democrats did the same thing.

And this brings us to the other question about the budget showdown that is looming ahead. The possible government shutdown. They will need Democrats -- the Republicans will -- to buy into this. But will they get that?

SIDERS: It's so interesting to have watched President Trump on all of these different things that you're talking about, right? From the meeting with the Chinese president and Egypt and then these issues here. They are kind of all bundled up in a way that he has a lot of goals, and he's only a few months in right now. And yet, so far, some pretty significant failures. So you have to think from the administration's perspective, if he can get one victory, a good meeting with the Chinese president, for example, a good reception on Egypt, maybe not human rights protesters, that the week could possibly push him in a positive direction for once that we haven't seen in the last few weeks. I'm not sure that happens. The polling suggests it probably doesn't. But at least it's an opportunity to watch this week to see if the president can make some gains.

[02:10:16] HOWELL: David Siders is a senior reporter with "Politico." Thank you so much for your time with us. We will watch and wait to see how this week plays out.

SIDERS: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, U.S. officials mulled an immunity deal for former U.S. National security adviser, Michael Flynn, this weekend. This as documents from the office of government ethics show Flynn did not disclose speakers' fees from Russian companies in February. Flynn's lawyer says his client has a story to tell but wants assurances against unfair prosecution in exchange for his testimony.

HOWELL: Be sure to keep all of this in mind. This comes as investigations are under way into Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. election. The U.S. president has tweeted his support for an immunity deal. But the top Democrat on the House Intel Committee isn't so sure about that. Here's what he told CNN Sunday.


ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think we start out with a very healthy skepticism. There's a lot we need to learn before entertaining anything like this. There's a lot we need to learn from other witnesses. But I start out, I think, with a very healthy skepticism.


HOWELL: Schiff said he would need to consult with the Justice Department to decide whether Flynn's testimony would add any value to the overall investigation.

CHURCH: U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser has traveled to Iraq. Jared Kushner's exact itinerary is unclear, but he's expected back in the U.S. early this week.

For more, CNN's Muhammad Lila joins us from Istanbul in Turkey.

Good to chat with you, Muhammad.

So do we know exactly why Kushner is in Iraq, and what does he hope to achieve while there?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, this visit has been shrouded in a fair degree of secrecy. What we know that's been confirmed to CNN by a senior administration official is that Jared Kushner, who is Donald Trump's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, did travel to Iraq over the weekend. We do know it was at the invitation of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford. We know he's been with Dunford over the weekend, but that's about all that we know. We don't know why he visited Iraq in the first place. We don't know who he was visiting with in Iraq in the first place. We don't even have an exact timeline of when he arrived or when he would be leaving. This raises a lot of questions. What it does show, of course, is it shows once again the ascendancy of Jared Kushner and his role within the White House. Remember when Donald Trump first came to power, there was talk about handing over the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to Jared Kushner, hoping that he could solve that. It seems now that he's in Iraq, perhaps the White House is hoping he might have a role in somehow leading or being involved in the operation to dislodge ISIS from the city of Mosul as well. But, again, with this visit, there are a lot more questions than answers at this point.

CHURCH: Yeah, indeed, there are. And while that's playing out, what is the latest from Mosul and, of course, reaction to Russia blasting the U.S. for civilian deaths there?

LILA: Well, on the ground we know that according to the Iraqi government, about 400,000 civilians are still trapped inside that part of Mosul where the fighting is still raging. The fighting is still fierce. Iraq kay troops on the ground say they've opened up humanitarian corridors hoping people will be able to flee. We know, of course, ISIS does not want that to happen. They've been accused of using human shields.

This is some of where the war of words has been taking place over the weekend between Russia and the United States. We know there was a series of air strikes that led to more than 100 civilian deaths. The Pentagon has come out and said that the air strikes led by the United States were at least in some way responsible for those civilian deaths. And over the weekend, Russia blasted off over those deaths, basically accusing the United States of not being forthcoming about their role in that. You have to remember that when those air strikes took place, the Pentagon came out and said that they had video surveillance footage showing that ISIS was taking civilians into buildings and using them as human shields as ISIS snipers went into the rooftops and shot out, knowing that the United States might not target them because there were civilians inside.

Russia, in a statement over the weekend, blasting the United States, saying, look, in the United States had this information and knew that ISIS has been using civilians as human shields, why would the United States approve air strikes on some of these buildings?

And, you know, it's very interesting with this war of words taking place, the argument that Russia has been making about these air strikes that killed civilians is the exact same argument, Rosemary, that the United States has been making about Russian air strikes in Syria. For more than a year now, the United States has been accusing Russia of indiscriminate air strikes that have killed civilians. This weekend, it looks like it was Russia's turn to fire back with the same accusations against the Pentagon.

[02:15:09] CHURCH: Still many questions to be answered on that issue.

Muhammed Lila, joining us there from Istanbul in Turkey, as you watch and monitor developments inside Iraq. Many thanks to you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, a story we've been covering throughout the weekend, these deadly mudslides. Entire neighborhoods buried. A look at the search for survivors ahead.

CHURCH: And did Russia spread fake news using in the U.S. Internet troll factories? We will take a look after this very short break. Don't go anywhere. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



HOWELL: Welcome back. We're following the situation in southern Colombia. Emergency workers are digging through mud and debris looking for survivors. Torrential rains triggered mudslides. Those mudslides killed more than 200 people over the weekend.

CHURCH: Homes are destroyed, power lines cut off, and families are searching for missing loved ones. Many desperately need clean water and food.

Here's our Rafael Roma with more.

And a warning, you may find some of the images here in this report disturbing.


[02:20:09] RAFAEL ROMO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They pick through mud, sticks, and debris, searching desperately for survivors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): The floodwaters got stuck up in the mountain, and when it came down, many people didn't have time to react and they were washed away.

ROMO: Mudslides have killed over 200 people in the southern Colombian town of Mocoa. As people line up waiting to identify the bodies of their loved ones, rescuers are left scrambling, searching to find the 100-plus people still unaccounted for.

UNIDENTIFIED RESCUE WORKER (through translation): There are many families telling us, my son is missing. My father is missing. My mother is missing. And we're trying to do a list of missing. We still don't have it. The number of dead people has risen in an incredible way in the last hours. It breaks my heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): I am looking for my three daughters and a tiny granddaughter. They disappeared when it happened, and I haven't been able to find them. I ask the whole world, the whole society, to help me. I need help. Whether they are dead or alive, I want to see them. I ask all my friends and neighbors to help me because I won't see the end. I will not rest.

ROMO: The deadly torrent began Friday, triggered by unusual heavy rainfall, the rivers surrounding Mocoa started to overflow, unleashing a surge of mud through the city.

Now displaced residents are recovering whatever they can carry. With nowhere to go, they take shelter wherever they can.

Some hold out hopes for missing loved ones. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I hope somebody has her

somewhere out there. She is called Louisa. If you ask her, her daddy's name, she might say it.

ROMO: While others contend with a mounting death toll.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


CHURCH: We do want to get the latest on the forecast for the region and what caused the disaster.

Meteorologist Karen Maginnis joins us with that.

Karen, those images are just heartbreaking. How is the outlook going forward?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We'll show you that coming up in just one minute. But it's sort of the same scenario in that the topography was one of the ingredients that contributed to this disaster. The timing of these storms when they came overnight and into the early morning hours. And then just the regular hydrology of the region, what we normally see this time of year. Here you can see kind of the cab of this large truck just kind of tipped over. They have their pants rolled up. One person is sitting on a log. These huge trees and debris just kind of lined everywhere. It is a dreadful situation.

Let's show you, as Rosemary was asking, what can they expect in the forecast? Well, this time of year, we start to see that flow coming in off of the amazon river basin. The intertropical convergence zone. It literally is a convergence area, and it's wrapped all around the globe. But depending on the time of year will determine where those showers will congregate. Here you can see pockets of heavy storms. Here is Mocoa, and it looks like there could be another 50, possibly 100 millimeters of rainfall. It's hard to say. We don't have a lot of locations that give us information regarding how much precipitation. But there are estimates, satellite estimates that we look at. They're saying about 500 millimeters occurred here in a very short period of time. The ground was absolutely saturated. Here's the equator. This is the ITCS, that Intertropical Convergence Zone that sweeps that moisture up. But they are lying at the base of Andes. It is in a valley, three rivers coming together. So you've got the topography, the terrain. You've got that moisture bumping into the mountains, and it brings that moisture out, and it can be very substantial.

Rosemary and George, this was just very poor timing. This moisture moved up from the south and is just part of the season. It is their rainy season right now.

CHURCH: And with horrendous consequences as well.

Many thanks to you, Karen.

HOWELL: Thank you, Karen.

In Australia, people have started the difficult process of cleaning up after Cyclone Debbie caused severe flooding.

CHURCH: Residents are returning to their homes to clear debris and repair damage just days after evacuating. Much of the Australia's east coast was hit hard, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. Authorities say at least three people were killed in that storm.

We'll take a break here. But still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, there's been plenty of heat but not much light as the U.S. and Russia ramp up the rhetoric. We're live in Moscow to find out why the Kremlin is telling off the Pentagon.

[02:24:59] HOWELL: And for more than a century, U.S. presidents have thrown a ceremonial first pitch to celebrate the start of Major League Baseball, the season. But this president, Mr. Trump, is not playing ball. The reason why as CNN NEWSROOM continues.


CHURCH: A very warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and of course all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell, with the headlines we're following for you this hour.


HOWELL: The U.S. President is looking for a win this week. That's after not being able to accomplish, so far, two of his campaign promises.

[02:30:00] CHURCH: Mr. Trump could not get enough support to replace Obamacare, and his second attempt on a travel ban is on hold.

Our Ryan Nobles has more on the week ahead for the president.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've said this, many times, but this could be one of the most important weeks in Donald Trump's presidency. It starts with a series of important meetings with foreign leaders, capped with a summit with the president of the China. Among the big topics in that summit, North Korea. This, after an interview in the "Financial Times" where Trump calls out China, telling them that they need to be part of the solution on the Korean Peninsula.

It could also be one of the first big wins for the Trump administration this week as his nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, is expected to be confirmed. We're not sure yet if that confirmation is going to come with the customary 60 votes, but Republicans have assured the White House that the confirmation will come even if they have to invoke the nuclear option. This, though, as the cloud of Russia continues to hang over this White

House and the news that the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has said that he is willing to testify if he is granted immunity.

The ranking Democrat on the House Intel Committee, Adam Schiff, has said they may not be that interested in that type of offer. Take a listen.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We don't want to do anything that will interfere in any case that the Justice Department may decide to bring. We also have to determine whether he really can add value to our investigation, whether we need him to learn information we can't learn from other sources. So it's very early, I think, even to be considering this.


NOBLES: Meanwhile, the president himself is still talking about the investigation, trying to argue that there is really nothing to see here. He tweeted on Sunday morning, quote, "The real story turns out to be surveillance and leaking. Find the leakers."

This, as the president kicks off a very important week here in Washington.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, at the White House.


HOWELL: Russia has a serious objection to the Pentagon's description of its actions in Iraq.

CHURCH: Moscow is stepping up its criticism of the U.S. military, calling Pentagon comments about civilian casualties in Mosul absurd.

HOWELL: Our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is live in the Russian capital following this story for us.

Matthew, it's good to have you.

So when it comes to this issue of civilian deaths, the U.S. had strong criticism for Russia during its military operations in Syria and now it seems Russia is returning the favor.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean I think, you know, part of this criticism is the Russians are making of the U.S. military action in Iraq is they're saying once again double standards are at play. Any deaths caused by the Pentagon are accidental, and any deaths caused by the Russians are on purpose. And they're saying that, you know, they've been condemned in the past for human rights abuses and war crimes in their action in Syria, but essentially, this is exactly what's taking place at the hands of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The Russian Defense Ministry's statement criticizing the Pentagon references a coalition spokesperson, his comments from last week when he told reporters that ISIS is smuggling civilians into buildings so we won't see them and trying to bait the coalition to attack. Why, then, said the Pentagon statement, is the U.S. coalition having this information, making strikes with their smart bombs on buildings with civilians, dooming them to a terrible death? Again, this idea that there are double standards at play and that the United States are killing civilians just as the Russians have done in Syria.

The other part of this criticism is about the general deterioration of the relationship between the United States and Russia. The Trump administration, from a Russian point of view, was meant to be a presidency that was going to deliver a much better, much more fruitful relationship between Washington and Moscow. But none of the promises essentially that were made by Trump candidates have come to pass, and over the past couple of weeks in particular, we've seen growing criticism coming from the Trump administration toward Russian actions in Syria and in Ukraine and other issues. That's now being reciprocated by the Russians.

HOWELL: So we're seeing the stepped-up criticisms about the efforts that are taking place in Iraq. Here in the United States, we have the continued investigations into possible ties with Russia and the Trump world, Trump campaign and Trump administration. So the question, with all of these things happening, is there any sense of hope that there could still be a possible restart in relations, or is there less hope now?

[02:34:47] CHANCE: Well, I think there's got to be less hope. I mean the whole atmosphere was charged with the possibility of the United States under Donald Trump building a better relationship with Russia. He promised during his campaign that he would look again towards annexing Crimea -- sorry, recognizing Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014 from Ukraine, recognizing it as a sovereign part of Russia. He spoke about the NATO military alliance being obsolete. That was music to the ears of the Kremlin. And he spoke about the possibility of cooperating with Russia on international terrorism and in the conflict in Syria. But because of the charged political atmosphere in Russia -- sorry, in the United States, none of that has come to pass. So the hopes that were held by many people in Russia that the Trump administration was going to be a turning point in the relationship between these former Cold War rivals really has come to nothing. And now, I think we're seeing a much bigger deterioration in the relationship between these two countries.

HOWELL: 9:35 in the morning, where our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is following the story in Moscow. Thank you so much, Matthew, for your reporting.

CHURCH: And in the meantime, U.S. House and Senate committees are investigating alleged meddling by Russia in the U.S. presidential election.

HOWELL: Just last week, experts told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that the Russian government had an army of Internet trolls actively working during the campaign. Our Brian Todd reports they aimed to push fake news in the run-up to

November's vote.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started with several tweets, alleging a terrorist attack at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey last summer. Russian state media outlets, RT and Sputnik, posted variations of the story. Soon, even Donald Trump's campaign manager apparently thought it was true, repeating it on CNN.

PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANGER: There's plenty of news to covering this week but I haven't seen covered. The NATO base in Turkey was under attack by terrorists.

TODD: No attack occurred. Researchers say it's an example of fake reports spread online on purpose with the help of pro-Russian users in what's believed to be a disinformation campaign supported by Vladimir Putin, all designed to influence elections and sow descent and confusion in the West.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have a coordinated information campaign and deliberate strategy. They pick their objectives in the information space.

TODD: In another case, a leaked e-mail from Hillary Clinton's campaign in which she asked a question about a treatment for Parkinson's disease was spun into a fake story alleging she was sick, triggering allegations and chatter that the Democratic candidate had the disease. Researchers say the story was shared and reposted by pro-Russian sites and read eight million times, evidence, experts say, of how Russia was trying to throw last year's election.

(on camera): How easy is it for them to spread bogus stories?

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Once they build an audience with their accounts, it's very easy through amplification. Every time you're able to promote a story, that puts it into trending feed, then it takes a life on its own.

TODD (voice-over): Experts who research Russia's fake news campaigns testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, explaining how Putin's government uses an army of trolls, online critics who push their agendas, to confuse and frighten audiences in the West, an idea that played out dramatically on the Showtime series "Homeland," a troll factory where hundreds of employees toil away, hosting fast tweets under fake names.







TODD: Their marching orders? Post phony stories and tweets, spreading them as wide as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You'll find a new set of talking points in your folders. Get outraged.

TODD: Experts say the real-life troll factories used by Russians may not look as slick as the TV version, but they are real. They say paid trolls who spread fake reports can amplify their impact using botnets, thousands of other people's computers harnessed to do their bidding. Analysts say Putin's goal is to create distrust among Americans and their allies and their political systems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They didn't just want to discredit U.S. elections. They wanted to discredit Hillary Clinton. Sowing division in the European Union. These are all things that are part of the Russian agenda.

TODD (on camera): When asked about the accusations of Russia's interference in America's elections, Vladimir Putin said, quote, "Read my lives, no."

But experts who testified before Congress say we can expect Putin's government to continue to support fake news campaigns. They say, for Putin, it's easy, it's effective, and best of all, for him, it often can't by traced directly back to him.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Speaking of elections, into France, the presidential race is tightening with less than a month to go now until election day.

CHURCH: Yeah, and polls show centrist, Emmanuel Macron, and far right leader, Marine le Pen, as front-runners. Conservative Francois Fillon trails behind them.

The French ambassador to the U.S. explained how a win for le Pen could mean the end of the Eurozone.


[02:39:57] GERARD ARAUD, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: If I were asked before November the 8th, you know, whether Madam le Pen will be elected in France, I would have answered never. But after what happened in this country on November the 8th, you know, I'm obliged to say that actually she may be elected. She may win the elections in France. And she has said very clearly that she wants France out of the E.U. And frankly, it's not bragging, but if France is out of the E.U., it's the end of the E.U. and the end of the Eurozone. So a lot of things will depend on the result of the French elections.


CHURCH: And Ecuador's presidential election is over, but the electoral council has yet to declare a winner. Hundreds of people have gathered outside the council's offices in protest of the election's apparent outcome.

HOWELL: Leftist candidate, Lenin Moreno, is claiming victory. He has a narrow lead over his conservative rival, Guillermo Lasso, with more than 96 percent of the votes counted. Lasso isn't accepting defeat and has alleged there was voter fraud.

In the meantime, WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is slamming Lasso on Twitter. Lasso made a campaign promise to remove him from Ecuador's embassy at London if he wins the election.

CHURCH: Media giant 21st Century FOX is backing one of America's most influential TV personalities, FOX News host, Bill O'Reilly. That is despite a report in "The New York Times" stating that O'Reilly and the company paid several women a total of about $13 million to keep silent and not pursue litigation after they accused him of harassing them.

HOWELL: This was the headline in "The New York Times" this weekend, "Bill O'Reilly thrives at FOX News even as harassment settlements add up." O'Reilly denies the harassment claims.

Our Brian Stelter has the story.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: According to "The New York Times," there are a series of instances when women who worked with O'Reilly in various capacities, sometimes as a guest on his show, sometimes as a correspondent or reporter at FOX News, alleged harassment by O'Reilly, usually, some form of sexual harassment, an improper advance of some sort. In another case, verbal harassment, not in a sexual nature but abusive or bullying. In five of those cases, O'Reilly or FOX settled the cases. So there was no publicity around most of these. There was publicity around one of them, though. This was back in 2004, a case involving O'Reilly and a woman named Andrea Macris (ph). There was a $9 million settlement that got a lot of attention. But the other cases, until now, were not known about. These were private. O'Reilly wanted to keep them that way. He said he didn't want his kids to know about these people who were seeking money from him.

He said these charges have no merit, these allegations of harassment have no merit. But other people in and around FOX say O'Reilly clearly has a reputation, and they believe other women beyond the five I'm talking about could be coming forward.

These accusations about O'Reilly suggests a broader problem, a toxicity in the culture of FOX News and raise questions about how much the Murdochs know or want to know about the situation there. There's one woman month has not sued or asked for money from O'Reilly. Her name is Wendy Waltz (ph). She said, in 2013, O'Reilly was having her as a guest on his show, but then stopped having her on when she refused his advances. In fact, she said he was going to get her a job and then reneged on that commitment. She's going to hold a press conference on Monday with her attorney, who says they want an independent investigation of FOX. That's why I suspect this is not going to go away for FOX anytime soon.


HOWELL: Brian Stelter, thank you.

Still ahead, Donald Trump will not throw the first pitch to celebrate major league baseball's opening day. The reason he won't take part in this presidential tradition is next.

CHURCH: Plus, the Disney princesses are not damsels in distress anymore. They're a lot stronger and braver now, and we will explain their makeover when we come back.


[02:46:58] HOWELL: Another season of Major League Baseball has started, and fans and celebrities and politicians are packing stadiums to celebrate what has long been America's pastime.

CHURCH: Yeah, but there is one notable exception.

Here's CNN's Jake Tapper.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT & HOST, STATE OF THE UNIION (voice-over): Not this year. President Trump declined the Washington Nationals' invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day. He cited scheduling conflicts. A surprising decision from the new commander-in-chief, who discovered America's pastime long before he discovered the boardroom.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, A.C. 360: Did you always know you were going to go into this business?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. I wanted to be a baseball player.

TAPPER: That was no childhood fantasy. Trump was a star player at the New York Military Academy. His coach told "Rolling Stone" he was once even scouted by the Phillies.

TRUMP: I was captain of the baseball team. I was supposed to be a professional baseball player. Fortunately, I decided to go into real estate instead.

TAPPER: He's already stepped up to the mound for the Cubs, the Red Sox, and his beloved Yankees. But even the leader of the free world apparently gets nervous when he goes into his windup. George H.W. Bush, a college baseball star at Yale, was visibly upset

after a wide pitch at Orioles opening day in 1992. Bill Clinton took note and tried to avoid the same fate in 1996.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I practiced for a week before then. I went out, and I paced off the distance in the backyard of the White House.


CLINTON: Most of my practice pitches were much better. I think I was a little nervous.

TAPPER: One of George W. Bush's most unforgettable moments as president came at the 2001 World Series in New York, just weeks after the attacks on America.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The gravity of the moment never really hit me until the first step coming out of that dugout. Standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium was by far the most nervous moment of my presidency.

TAPPER: So in this long history of presidential pitches started by Taft, how will Trump stack up?


TAPPER: Well, perhaps we'll find out next season.



CHURCH: Presidential nerves apparently.

[02:49:11]HOWELL: I guess so. Jake Tapper reports there for us.

Still ahead, the classic Disney princess is trading in her glass slippers, and she's not waiting for her prince anymore either. Stay with us. We'll tell you why.




HOWELL: Welcome back. Disney has hit box office gold with the release of its last block buster, a live action remake, "Beauty and the Beast."

CHURCH: It is part of a new strategy to update classics for a contemporary audience showing girls as powerful, strong, and courageous.

Maggie Lake has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Snow White pined for her elusive prince in the early days of Disney.


CARTON CHARACTER: That's my girl.

LAKE: Today, there's a new breed of heroine, out to overturn all the stereotypes.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: For every girl who dreams big, there's a princess to show her it's possible.

LAKE: Princesses have always been celluloid royalty at Disney, winning the hearts of millions for decades. Today, they're hoping to both empower and inspire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These Disney princesses, they're not just wearing ball gowns. They're getting down and dirty, and they're fighting, and they're speaking their minds. It's incredibly powerful, especially for these young audiences to see that.


LAKE: Disney has every incentive to keep their princess franchise humming. "Frozen," featuring two strong heroines, is the best performing movie in Disney history, taking in over $1.25 billion worldwide.

And with just a few weeks in theaters, "Beauty and the Beast" already has earnings of more than $700 million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've been smart enough to recognize that they needed to evolve to sort of suit the times, and they couldn't be mired in the sort of "someday my prince will come" mentality.

EMMA WATSON, ACTRESS: Come into the light.

LAKE: "Beauty and the Beast" is just the latest film that has changed with the time. Emma Watson, who plays Belle in the latest remake, knew immediately that her character needed a reboot.

[02:55:09] WATSON: In our film, she's actually an activist within her own community. She's teaching other young girls in her part of the village to read.

Who said that?

LAKE: And Disney's efforts to freshen up its catalog is just beginning, with its new films blending live action and cutting-edge animation. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you look at their 22 live actions that are

in the works, we have several that will feature strong women like Snow White, the Little Mermaid, Mulan.

LAKE: Princesses have always been in Disney's DNA. And the studio wants to preserve its beloved stories for the generations of princesses yet to come.

Maggie Lake, CNN Money, New York.


CHURCH: It's about time, too.

HOWELL: Absolutely.

CHURCH: Well, a bidder in Hong Kong is taking home an Andy Warhol portrait of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung.

HOWELL: The painting of the former Chinese leader sold for just over $12.5 million Sunday to a private Asian collector. Warhol started painting Chairman Mao in the early 1970s. That's when ties between China and the United States started to thaw.

CHURCH: That's it for us for now. Thanks for watching. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell.

Another hour of news from around the world just after the break.

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