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Tough Words from President Trump on North Korea; Questionable Trip to Iraq by Jared Kushner; Buried Alive in Colombian Mudslides; Change of Tone. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 3, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Tough talk from Donald Trump. He says he'll deal with North Korea with or without China's help. How that statement might go over when he meets the Chinese President later this week.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Also this hour, the President's son-in- law, Jared Kushner, is in Iraq right now. But it's not clear why he's there.

HOWELL: And in Colombia, a town in grief after more than 200 people die in mudslides while the search continues for dozens still missing.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. This is CNN Newsroom.

U.S. President Donald Trump says the U.S. is ready to deal with North Korea's nuclear threats with or without China's help. This new ultimatum just days before Mr. Trump is set to meet in Florida with China's President Xi Jinping.

HOWELL: In a new interview, President Trump told the Financial Times, quote, "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."

CHURCH: Now earlier, CNN spoke with one of the journalists who interviewed Mr. Trump.


DEMETRI SEVASTOPULO, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, FINANCIAL TIMES: It's difficult to tell with Donald Trump, but he certainly has rode back some of his more controversial stances on China since he's been elected President. He clearly wanted to do some kind of deal, and North Korea, as President Barack Obama told him after he was elected, is the most imminent threat that the U.S. faces. So I think he wants to do something about it. You know, he would like the Chinese help if that's at all possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: As we heard there, it's important to remember Mr. Trump

campaigned aggressively against China. Here are some of the statements he made during the campaign trail.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't continue to allow China to rape our country, and that's what they're doing. It's the greatest theft in the history of the world.

The greatest abuser in the history of this country. They can't imagine. They can't even believe that they can get away with what's happening.

China is responsible for nearly half of our entire trade deficit. They break the rules in every way imaginable.


HOWELL: Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is following this story live for us in Seoul, South Korea. Ivan, good to have you.

So U.S. Allies from South Korea to Japan will be watching to see how this meeting goes with the President of China in Florida with the U.S. President Donald Trump.

Here's the question, though. Will this new pressure play well with China? Why would they be inclined to help just given the past, the sound bites we just heard a moment ago, the President's tone toward China?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean that's right. In this Financial Times interview, I do think that Donald Trump is far more measured and takes care to express respect for Xi Jinping in a way that he didn't when he was out on the campaign trail as you heard there. But he did very clearly send this kind of warning message, which was deliberately ambiguous, that, hey, the U.S. can go it alone when it comes to North Korea.

Among the myriad issues and kind of points of tension between the U.S. and China, the biggest foreign policy challenge for the moment does seem to be North Korea with a great deal of speculation among North Korea watchers about whether or not the regime of Kim Jong-un will try to carry out a sixth nuclear test sometime in the near future.

And here Donald Trump does seem to be issuing a challenge, saying, hey, if you don't get on board, China, we're going to go it alone. What that policy could be, that's the big question here because previous administrations have been wrestling with North Korea, trying to figure out how to try to deal with it.

Many of them -- all of them have said the path to Pyongyang runs through Beijing, that Beijing has the most leverage when it comes to North Korea. But China has been only willing to go so far in isolating North Korea, even when it breaks United Nations Security Council resolutions with its nuclear tests, with its missile tests as well.

So a big conundrum here, and we don't know what measures the Trump administration may take. Would the Trump administration seek to punish with sanctions Chinese companies that do business with North Korea? That could be one measure, which certainly would do damage to the bilateral U.S.-Chinese relationship. George?

[03:05:05] HOWELL: CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson live for us in Seoul, South Korea. Ivan, thank you for the reporting.

CHURCH: Well, in a matter of hours, President Trump will meet with the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the White House. Human rights activists accuse Mr. El-Sisi of being a ruthless dictator. Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, never hosted Mr. El-Sisi, and instead criticized his human rights record.

The Trump administration says a strong relationship with Egypt will help fight ISIS. The two leaders actually did meet in New York last September before Mr. Trump took office. And Mr. Trump praised the Egyptian leader as, in his words, "a fantastic guy."

Well, Scott Lucas is a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham. He is also the founder of E.A. World View, and he joins us now. Great to talk with you as always.

So let's start with what we're seeing here with President Trump hosting Egypt's President and what impact this change in approach could have.

SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM SHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS PROFESSOR: Well, it could well be pragmatic reasons for this. Before the Egyptian revolution of 2011, Egypt had been a key player, a key broker in trying to facilitate, for example, talks between Israel and Palestine.

Egypt of course, has, you know, is in the Arab league and has change in relationship with the number of countries including with Syria with whom he's reconcile recently despite the Assad regime's attacks on its own people.

So there's a pragmatic reason for these talks, but I think the wider message here is that the Trump administration really has signaled, look, we don't really care about human rights. In recent weeks they have renewed arms shipments to Bahrain despite long standing claims that the Bahrain monarchy has suppressed dissidents and does imprison them for a long time.

It just days ago, that it accepts President Assad's continued stay in power in Syria, however problematic that is. It really he's even downgraded mentioning of human rights in the State Department's report that came out recently.

So I think it's very much we don't care how authoritarian you are. If we think you can satisfy our interests in the Middle East or get us back into the game in that region, then we'll talk to you. CHURCH: And we're seeing similar shifts, aren't we, with President

Trump's approach to North Korea, now saying the U.S. could go it alone if China doesn't step up and restrain North Korea. What do you think he means by saying he'll go it alone, and do you see this as perhaps posturing, showing strength before he meets with China's leader? And if so, will that work?

LUCAS: Well, this was tougher to read because I don't think Donald Trump knows what he's talking about to be honest with you. This is typical Trump style as, you know, as the businessman, which is I'm going to go in tough. I'm going to tell you I'm going to win and I'm going to make the other side listen to me.

Well, he might have been able to do that in business, he might been able to do that in the republican primaries, but it's much more difficult to bully the Chinese or to intimidate them.

And remember, he's not just doing this about North Korea. He's doing this on trade as well. We will stand up for American businesses. We will make sure that China doesn't rape our country. On North Korea specifically, he's asked, what are you going to do? Let's say you go on your own. He says, oh, I have to keep that a secret.

But then he issues a statement which is actually quite troubling, which says when we hit areas in the Middle East, we don't tell people in advance. Now is he honestly saying the U.S. is considering military action or cyber warfare? I don't think he is, but I think that's because he actually doesn't have any options. He's just going to put up a strong line with the Chinese, and I suspect next week we will see very little change in the actual U.S. policy.

CHURCH: So what do you expect to come out of President Trump's meeting with Xi Jinping on Thursday? We already know, of course, that President Trump campaigned aggressively against China in the lead-up to this. He knows this is going to be a very tough meeting. How do you think it will play out?

LUCAS: Well, you can never predict with Trump, but I think it will play out at least publicly that both sides will, you know, play nice with each other. You know, that there will be ceremonies and dinners at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The question is what Trump does around that. If he then hits Twitter the next day and says, look, I told Xi Jinping exactly what we're going to do. We won't be bullied, we won't, you know, nobody can make us do it. Then that will undo everything he does.

I think this is going to be a very, very tricky visit in part, remember, because the State Department has been sidelined. We know that Rex Tillerson went out to Asia, went out and talked to regional countries. But in fact, the State Department is woefully understaffed and are really at sea right now as to what they're doing with their Asian policy.

So, lots of public, you know, style, but what happens in terms of substance, that's far more troubling.

CHURCH: All right. Scott Lucas, thanks so much for joining us from Birmingham, England, where it's just after 8:00 in the morning. Many thanks.

[03:10:01] HOWELL: The U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser have traveled to Iraq. Jared Kushner's exact itinerary is still unclear but he's expected to be back in the United States early this week.

His trip comes while the campaign to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS continues to push on. Reuters News Agency reports Iraqi forces put fighting there on hold Sunday to ensure safe passage of civilians.

Following the story, CNN's Muhammad Lila is live in Istanbul Turkey with us this hour. Muhammad, what more do we know about Jared Kushner and why he is in Iraq?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know a few key details, but the overall visit is still shrouded in a fair degree of secrecy. A senior administration official has confirmed to CNN that Jared Kushner did travel to Iraq over the weekend. We know that of course Kushner is the son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, son-in-law to President Trump.

And we know that this visit was at the invitation of the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, and we know that he was with Dunford this weekend. But what we don't know is, for example, where was Kushner in Iraq specifically? Who was he visiting with? And the most important question in all of this, why did Jared Kushner travel to Iraq in the first place?

You have to remember that what's going on right now in Iraq is not primarily a diplomatic issue. It's overall a military operation that's happening to dislodge ISIS and to defeat ISIS in Iraq. Of course Kushner has no diplomatic experience, no foreign policy experience prior to this appointment in the new administration. And certainly has no military experience.

So the question is what role could Kushner play in Iraq, especially by this surprise visit this weekend? That's something a lot of people are still scratching their heads over.

HOWELL: All the while the fighting continues. The efforts in Mosul to retake that city. Tell us more about the strong reaction, though, that we're hearing from Russia about the U.S. account for civilian deaths there.

LILA: Well, it's a really interesting story. There was a war of words over the weekend where the Russian government put out a very harsh statement criticizing the United States response to the death of civilians in a number of air strikes towards the middle part of March.

Now, the Pentagon did come out and confirm that the air strikes did take place and that at least in some way those air strikes led to the deaths of as many as 140 or 150 civilians.

And Russia was very critical of that because in its defense, the Pentagon came out and said that they were aware that ISIS had been using human shields, for example, that they had some sort of video evidence that ISIS was taking civilians from their homes and putting them into areas where ISIS had snipers on rooftops, effectively hoping that they wouldn't be hit by air strikes. And if they were, that there would be a large civilian casualty.

Well, Russia over the weekend in their statement, very, very critical of that United States position, saying, look, if the United States had video surveillance of ISIS taking civilians to places to use them as human shields, then it's up to the United States to release that video footage to the rest of the world to prove that those claims are true.

And more than that, Russia of course criticizing the U.S., saying, look, if the United States knew that was the case, then why would they target buildings in the first place where they knew there were civilians.

And a really interesting twist on this, George, is that what Russia said this weekend, accusing America of targeting civilians, is the exact same thing that America has been accusing Russia of for the last year or so in Syria.

Remember that America has been very critical of Russian air strikes in Syria, saying that Russian air strikes have been calling -- has been causing civilian casualties, while in this case it looks like Russia getting a bit of revenge and accusing the United States of the same thing in Iraq.

HOWELL: That is some important context to point out. Muhammad Lila, live for us following the story in Istanbul, Turkey. Thank you for the reporting.

Still ahead here on Newsroom, entire neighborhoods are buried after deadly mudslides hit the nation of Colombia. We have details on the search efforts for survivors.

CHURCH: And while the U.S. is rolling back measures to protect the environment, China is stepping up as a leader on climate change. That story still to come. Stay with us.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT REPORTER: Hi, there. I'm Patrick Snell with your CNN World Sport headlines.

We start in Miami with Sunday's occasion seeing two legends of the sport locking horns once again. Roger Federer taking on longtime rival from Spain, Rafael Nadal. But in 2017, Federer really has been the main man against the man from Majorca. He beat him again 6-3, 6-4 to win the Miami Open. So far this year the Fed has capture the title at the Australian Open in Indian World in California too.

You know, anything that could have gone wrong for Brazilian star Lucas di Grassi pretty much did on Sunday despite a huge amount of diversity. The South American keeping his cool and somehow emerging triumphant after a disastrous qualifying session. He then broke his rear wing on the third lap.

By the time he came out of the pits he was actually in last place with nothing to lose, he decided to come in for his replacement car much earlier than he planned and it paid off, he took the checkered flag two seconds ahead of the Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne.

In the Scottish Premier League, the title race is already over. Glasgow giant Celtic wrapping up their sixth league title with eight games still left to plan.

On Sunday, Brendan Rodgers men driving hard 5-nil in a game that featured a hat-trick from Scott's Sinclair. Celtic have dropped just four points all season, but really they've had no other challenges at all.

That's a look at your World Sport headlines. I'm Patrick Snell.

HOWELL: In southwestern Colombia, rescue workers are struggling to find survivors after deadly mudslides. Heavy rains triggered the disaster over the weekend. Thousands of people lost their homes and need clean water and food at this point. The Colombian President is offering help.


JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): To those who lost their homes, we will build new ones in a safer place. In the meantime, we will give them a monthly rent stipend of $87, and I have asked the housing minister to begin this initiative today.


CHURCH: Officials say more than 200 people have been killed. And Rafael Romo has more on this story. And we need to warn you some of the images in his report are disturbing.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: They pick through mud, sticks, and debris, searching desperately for survivors.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): 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, and 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANTOS (through translator): 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 the 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 translator): 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.

[03:20:07] 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 translator): I hope somebody has her somewhere out there. She is called Louisa. If you ask her daddy's name, she might say it.


ROMO: While others contend with a mounting death toll.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.

HOWELL: Let's get the very latest on the forecast for that region and what caused this disaster. Our meteorologist Karen Maginnis is live.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And George and Rosemary, we had a culmination of a lot of events that took place here. Take a look at this, the water vapor imagery. Here you can see clusters of thunderstorms where you see those brighter colored areas.

Now we will go through Friday, then into Saturday morning. We put a circle around this huge storm complex. It encompasses Mocoa. It is that department right along the border with Ecuador and into Colombia. A massive system. It may not have lasted long, but it produced enough rainfall that the culmination of events, the topography of this area, the timing.

People were asleep Friday night going into Saturday morning. Once the rain started coming down and they saw very heavy rainfall through the month of March, an amazing amount of precipitation.

Now, the President of the company -- the country said about 500 millimeters of rainfall fell. We don't get a lot of reports in some of these more isolated areas, but needless to say, this is the time of year when we so see that uptick in moisture. March and April are rainy months, then we see secondary rainy season that comes at the end of the year.

The other factor is this is part of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. It is wrapped around the globe, pretty much follows where the equator is but depending on the season. It could be slightly south of the equator or slightly north of the equator.

This is moving. We saw the very heavy rainfall in Peru about a week to a week and a half ago. And now it looks like that concentration of moisture is trekking further towards the north. So as we see the movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, the ITCZ, that's where we see these bigger clusters of storms.

So the topography, the terrain of this region where they had three rivers coming together, we have the high mountain peaks. Some of that moisture coming in off of the Amazon River basin bumps into the mountains and just rings out across this region.

So in the southern hemispheres, the ITCZ still lingers towards the equator, gradually moves towards the north. And that kicks off the tropical season into the northern hemisphere. So there really is a cluster of events that took place here. And I'll just show you kind of the topography of this region.

Now, you go about 500 kilometers to the south of Bogota, and there is this Mocoa region. It's isolated and now devastated by the severe storms. Back to you guys.

HOWELL: Karen Maginnis, thank you.

CHURCH: Well, we know President Trump plans to talk about trade issues and job losses when he sits down with China's President this week. But we'll wait and see if the president tackles the U.S. and China's dramatic role reversals on climate change.

HOWELL: While Mr. Trump is rolling back some regulations into protecting the environment, China's president is touting the virtues of environmental protection.

CNN's Will Ripley reports this would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Two dramatically different photo ops just hours apart. Chinese President Xi Jinping planting trees in Beijing, talking about protecting nature. President Trump signing an executive order in Washington dismantling President Obama's climate change policies.

The leaders of the world's two biggest polluters switching sides. China ready to take the lead on going green.

"I'm a bit shocked," says this Beijing resident. "But that's OK. Our national leaders are paying much more attention than before."

"I don't feel like President Xi has done very much," he says. "We're not seeing the results."

It's true there are still many smoggy days in Chinese cities like Beijing. But as the U.S. seems to be reversing course on climate change, China is changing its approach.

Even the hard-line state newspaper Global Times is calling out Trump and urging Americans to stop his climate policies.

[03:25:04] For years, the Chinese government misled the public on pollution and suppressed environmental activists.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the facts are not in compliance.


RIPLEY: Now they're working together, creating this app showing real- time pollution data, pressuring violators to clean up their act.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now finally there's a -- there's a real political will to try to control the pollution.


RIPLEY: Times have definitely changed as the U.S. rolls back environmental regulations, China is investing hundreds of billions of dollars in clean energy, like this wind turbine factory and a Chinese tech firm buying into U.S. electric car maker Tesla.

Many Chinese are fed up with toxic smog, a deadly by-product of decades of economic growth believed to kill more than two million people in China each year.

"Other countries have experienced pollution," says this man. "So we have examples of how to deal with it."

The world's biggest polluter hopes to put bad air in the past as the second biggest now faces an uncertain environmental future.

Will Ripley, CNN, Beijing.

CHURCH: We'll take a very short break here. But still to come here on CNN Newsroom, the honeymoon for the new U.S. administration and Russia looks like it could be over. Moscow is pointing a very angry finger at the Pentagon over civilian deaths in Iraq.

HOWELL: And did Russia spread fake news in the U.S. using internet troll factories? We have a look as CNN Newsroom continues.


CHURCH: And a very warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. HOWELL: And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for

you this hour.

The U.S. President Donald Trump is telling China help solve the North Korea nuclear threat or the U.S. will go it alone. The President didn't offer any more details.

In a new interview with the Financial Times, Mr. Trump says that he will bring up the topic of the North Korean threat when he meets with the President of China, Xi Jinping, on Thursday at his resort in Florida.

CHURCH: Ecuador's election is over but the electoral council may not declare a winner for days to come. Leftist candidate Lenin Moreno has a narrow lead over his conservative rival Guillermo Lasso with more than 96 percent of the votes counted. Lasso disputes the result and is alleging voter fraud.

HOWELL: Rescue workers are searching for survivors in southern Colombia after heavy rains triggered deadly mudslides here. More than 200 people were killed. Many others are still missing.

Power and water supplies to many areas have been cut off because of the disaster.

Colombia's President is promising to build new homes and to provide financial help to the many people who have been affected there.

CHURCH: Pakistani police are investigating a horrifying attack at a Sufi shrine over the weekend. Knives and clubs were used to kill 20 people in Punjab province. Police have arrested the shrine's custodian, who they describe as mentally unstable. Four other suspects were also taken into custody.

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

HOWELL: Mr. Trump could not get enough support to replace Obamacare, and his second attempt on a travel ban, that's on hold.

Our Ryan Nobles has more now on the week ahead for Donald Trump.

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 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 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 interested in that type of offer. Take a listen.


ADAM SCHIFF, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: 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 walking 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: Ryan, thanks.

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.

Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Moscow and joins us now live. So, Matthew, what's going on here? Is this a case of payback now that Russia is condemning the Pentagon over civilian deaths in Mosul?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's certainly a part of it. The United States and its various U.N. Ambassadors, including Nikki Haley, the current U.N. Ambassador for the United States, has been severely critical of Russia and its actions in Syria, accusing Moscow of war crimes with regard to the humanitarian situation there and the civilian casualties caused by its bombing campaign.

I think there's a sense in which the Russian defense ministry are now responding in kinds by criticizing the civilian deaths and the reasons for them. They were caused by the U.S.-led coalition in Mosul, in Iraq, particularly the suggestion last week by a coalition spokesperson, the U.S. coalition spokesperson that basically ISIS is using buildings in which civilians are housed as shields to prevent them from being attacked.

[03:35:10] Why, then, said the Russian defense ministry -- why does the U.S. coalition having this administration make strikes with their smart bombs in building with civilians dooming them to a terrible death?

And so, it's this idea of double standards that's been quite pervasive throughout the criticism of Russia towards the United States over several years. In other words, that civilian deaths when caused by the United States are accidental, but when they're caused by Russia, they're human rights abuses and war crimes. And this is a reference to the hypocrisy of that, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Right. And Matthew, Mr. Trump had signaled throughout his campaign and earlier in his presidency that he did want to start a new relationship with Russia, a reset if you like. Is that a thing of the past, and does this mean Trump's honeymoon with Russia is over?

CHANCE: Yes, I'm not sure that honeymoon really took off, did it? I mean, there was no real contact in the post-inauguration period of Donald Trump with the Russians that could be seen as policy in any way.

But certainly the expectation when Donald Trump came into power, came into office in the White House, was that he was going to turn around the relationship with Moscow. He promised to do that during his campaign, saying he would look again at recognizing Crimea as being a part of Russia.

Crimea was of course annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014. He criticized NATO. He said he would work with Russia on the issue of international terrorism and the conflict in Syria. None of that has come to pass, and so, you know, this latest spat as well with the Russian defense ministry criticizing U.S. military action in Iraq, it's all part of the deterioration and the vanishing of those hopes of a better relationship, and the deterioration in the relationship between the two countries.

CHURCH: All right. Our Matthew Chance bringing us up to date on the situation from Moscow in Russia. Just after 10.30 in the morning. Many thanks.

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

CHURCH: Last week, experts told the U.S. Senate intelligence committee that the Russian government had an army of internet trolls active during the campaign. As Brian Todd reports, they aimed to push fake news in the run-up to November's vote.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It started with several tweets alleging a terrorist attack at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey last summer. Russian state media outlets, R.T. and Sputnik, posted variations of the story. Soon even Donald Trump's campaign manager apparently thought it was true, repeating it on CNN.


to cover this week but I haven't seen covered. You had the NATO base in Turkey being under attack by terrorists.


TODD: No attack had in fact occurred at the base. 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 dissent and confusion in the west.


CLINTON WATTS, SENIOR FELLOW, FOREIGN POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE: They have a coordinated information campaign and a deliberate strategy. So 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.


TODD: How easy is it for them to spread bogus stories?

WATTS: Once they build an audience with their accounts, it's very easy to do that just through amplification. Anytime you have the ability to promote a story hundreds or thousands of times, then that puts it into trending feeds. Once it's in a trending feed, it takes on a life of its own.


TODD: Experts who research Russia's fake news campaigns testified by 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 show time series, Homeland. A troll factory where hundreds of employees toil away, posting fake tweets under fake names.






TODD: Their marching orders, post phony stories and tweets and spread them as widely as possible.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You find a new set of talking points in your folders get outrage.


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 infected with viruses and harnessed to do their bidding.

[03:40:00] Analysts say Putin's goal is to create distrust among Americans and their allies in their political systems.


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


TODD: When asked about accusations of Russian interference in America's elections, Vladimir Putin said, quote, "read my lips, no."

But experts who testified before Congress said 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 be traced directly back to him.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: We turn to Ecuador now, and hundreds of people are protesting the outcome of the Presidential election near the electoral council offices.

Polls closed hours ago, but the electoral council won't declare a winner for days. Leftist candidate Lenin Moreno is declaring victory. He has a narrow lead over his conservative rival, Guillermo Lasso with more than 95 percent of the votes counted.

But Lasso alleges voter fraud took place, and he wants a recount. The outcome of this election could determine the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Lasso vows to remove him from Ecuador's embassy in London if he wins. HOWELL: In France, the presidential race is tight ping with less than

a month to go until Election Day. Polls show the 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. Listen.


GERARD ARAUD, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: If I were asked before November the 8th, you know, whether Madam Le Pen would be elected in France, I would -- 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.


HOWELL: And in Serbia, the nation has a new President. Conservative Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic won Sunday's election by a wide margin. He said the Balkan country had voted for his policy of joining the E.U. without turning away from its traditional allies, Russia and China. Supporters say he represents stability. Critics though, say he has become increasingly authoritarian.

CHURCH: We'll take a short break here. But still to come, landmarks around the world turned blue to mark world autism awareness day.

HOWELL: And a radio host is seeing red over the stereotypes connected with the condition. That's all ahead. Stay with us.


CHURCH: Iconic landmarks around the world were bathed in blue to mark world autism awareness day on Sunday. From Iceland to India and across the Persian Gulf to North America, the aim is to support autism research efforts. In the U.S. alone, autism rates are now one in 68 children.

HOWELL: In the Gulf region, the United Arab Emirates has some of the best autism treatment centers to be found.

CHURCH: So much so that one Saudi radio host picked up his whole life to move to the UAE just so his son could have access to them. This is their story.


HASSAN AHAMD DENNAOUI, SAUDI HIP-HOP GURU: My name is Hassan Ahmad Dennaoui, better known as Big Hass, and I host Saudi's first F.M. hip- hop radio show.

Hello, welcome to leisure party as your man Big Hass. See 99.99 percent of Arabic, you know, music is all about only love.

You know, we have other issues, community issues, social issues, and, yes, political issues. I started really getting into hip-hop in 2008 when I started listening to hip-hop from Syria, from Iraq from Palestine. I'm like, wow. And these rappers were my news source. You know, I would listen to them and educated me about what's going on in the region.

Really, so this is my hero. Ahmad is six years old. Two thousand ten, we were blessed with a baby boy. Three, four years down the line, we found out that he's autistic. Like, he's the best thing that ever happened to us, of course, and a shout out to this woman. I say it live on TV. She's doing really great. My better half.

You know, Dubai is a bit different place than Jeddah, a bit more open of course. We moved here exactly a year ago, and now he's starting to speak. He has -- he's starting to be much more aware about his surroundings.

Say hip-hop.


DENNAOUI: When I say on the air that my son is autistic and I'm not ashamed of it. And when I like take a picture of my son, for example, I always usual the hash tag, autism is not a disease or autism parent. And I get like, some people are very like, a bit rude. They say, why are you so proud? Like he's disabled.

And I engage with a discussion. I think that's what we want in the Arab world. As a radio host, that's what I try to do.

The number one difference between like Saudi Arabia and the UAE is the awareness that people have. The USE has done a great job with just making the awareness. A lot of events happened. OK. That's what autistic is like, you know?

And my son being autistic it just has opened another dimension for me. So it supports local talents. Changing perception about hip-hop. It's talking about my son, it's talking about how he changed me, how he made me more patient. I want Ahmad, my son to be the person he's destined to be, to become a man that can be depend on himself, you know, which is very challenging when it comes to autism. But I will definitely fight for that to happen.


HOWELL: That's a good story.

CHURCH: Very inspirational.

HOWELL: Indeed. Still ahead here, the President turns down a chance to throw out the

first pitch to celebrate the start of Major League baseball season here in the United States. Why he's saying no thanks to a presidential tradition.

CHURCH: Plus, Donald Trump used to drive this car. His old Ferrari just sold for a record amount of cash. We'll tell you just how much it was.


MAGINNIS: Hello, everyone. I'm CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis and this is your Weather Watch.

Violent storms have already turned deadly across the Deep South right along the Gulf Coast in the State of Louisiana. This violent weather manages to make its way towards the east, all the way from the Tennessee River valley down towards the mouth of the Mississippi.

As you take a look at the forecast radar going into Monday, this is where we could see the potential for violent storms. Maybe an isolated tornado. Damaging winds as well as large-size hail, all in an area right around the east central or west central sections of Georgia down towards Mobile, Alabama.

Rainfall could be significant in a number of areas. Already severe flooding has taken place across the lone star State of Texas towards the east and into Louisiana. That shifts a little bit further towards the east, so the Deep South feeling the effects of the eruption of springtime weather.

We have seen an above normal amount of tornadic activity already for the past three months. Denver, sunshine and 13 degrees. Rain expected for Chicago. Atlanta, some strong to some violent storms. And New York City, mild weather. But by Thursday, it's going to be dramatically cooler.

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, the Major League season has begun, and fans, celebrities and politicians are packing stadiums to celebrate.

HOWELL: But the U.S. president won't be taking part in what's been long an American pastime.

CNN's Jake Tapper explains.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: 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: Did you always know you were going to go into this business? TRUMP: 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 man 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. Most of my practice pitches were much better.


CLINTON: I think I was a little nervous.


[03:54:59] 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 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? Well, perhaps we'll find out next season.


HOWELL: It's such a cool thing to do. Why not?

CHURCH: I don't understand it. Especially since he can play baseball, right? So, what's the problem?

HOWELL: I don't strike the ball. Anyway.

So a car that used to belong to the President just sold for a record amount of money. Donald Trump hasn't driven this 2007 Ferrari in years, but it left an auction in Florida for a record $270,000.

CHURCH: Unbelievable amount there. And experts say that is the highest price a Ferrari like this has ever sold for. It's fairly new with just over 6,000 miles or about 10,000 kilometers on it. The car also comes with proof of its famous owner. There's a copy of some paperwork with the president's signature.

HOWELL: Thanks for being with us for CNN Newsroom. Early Start is next for our viewers in the United States.

CHURCH: And for everyone else, stay tuned for more news with Isa Soares in London. And have yourselves a great day.