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U.S.-Russia Relationship at Low Point; N. Korea Monitor: Nuclear Site Primed and Ready; China Turns Back North Korean Coal Cargo Ships; U.S.-led Coalition Preparing to Drive ISIS from Raqqa. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 13, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:03] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour:

About the only thing Russia and the United States agree on right now is that their relationship is nearing an all-time low. Can the two nuclear superpowers bridge their widening rift?

Primed and ready -- ominous satellite imagery raising concerns about the possibility of another nuclear test in North Korea.

And preparing for a showdown with ISIS in Syria -- the American general in charge shares exclusive details about the operation with CNN.

Hello. And welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay.

NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

U.S. President Donald Trump is making some stunning reversals. Changing his tune big league compared to his campaign rhetoric.

First, there's NATO. He hosted the Secretary General at the White House Wednesday and now says he no longer considers the alliance obsolete which is exactly what he said on the campaign trail.

Then there's the growing rift with. Mr. Trump often talked about building a better relationship with Vladimir Putin but now --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would be wonderful as we were discussing just a little while ago if NATO and our country could get along with Russia. Right now, we're not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia.

It would be a fantastic thing if we got along with Putin and if we got along with Russia. And that could happen. And it may not happen. It may be just the opposite.

I can only tell you what I would like to do. I would love to be able to get along with everybody. Right now the world is a mess. But I think by the time we finish, I think it's going to be a lot better place to live. And I can tell you that. Speaking for myself, by the time I'm finished, it's going to be a lot better place to live in because right now it's nasty.


SESAY: Well, the biggest issue right now, the U.S. and Russia settling their differences over Syria. And that was the focus in Moscow in meetings between U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and president Putin himself.

So the big question, where exactly do things stand in regard to Syria?

CNN's Michelle Kosinski has more from Moscow.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Four hours of crucial, contentious talks with Russian officials, including an unscheduled meeting with President Vladimir Putin himself. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov finally faced the press.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The current state of U.S.- Russia relations is at a low point. There is a low level of trust between our two countries. The world's two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIA FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The many hours we spent with Rex Tillerson together and with the President of the Russian Federation were not spent in vain. We understand each other better.

KOSINSKI: The most that was likely to come from this, an agreement to keep on talking, a working group to tackle the most critical issues. President Trump also weighed in today from the White House.

TRUMP: Right now we're not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia.

KOSINSKI: But dark shades of the deep divisions still seep through all the attempts at common ground. Russia still won't accept Syrian President Assad's responsibility for the chemical attack, repeatedly insisting on a full investigation.

The U.S.'s view --

TILLERSON: The facts that we have are conclusive that the recent chemical weapons attack carried out in Syria was planned and it was directed and executed by Syrian regime forces.

KOSINSKI: Tillerson says Assad's days are numbered. Russia explained at length why ousting him now could be disastrous. On the delicate issue of Russia's interference in the U.S. election --

TILLERSON: As to the question of the interference with the election, that is fairly well-established in the United States. It's one that we know is serious enough to attract additional sanctions.

KOSINSKI: While Lavrov again called for more information.

LAVROV: Not a single fact has been confirmed. We saw those facts. We don't know. Nobody has shown us anything.

KOSINSKI: The rhetoric from both sides has been stark and relentless. And still yet to meet -- presidents Putin and Trump, who laid out the problems here most bluntly today.

TRUMP: Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person. And I think it's very bad for Russia. I think it's very bad for mankind. It's very bad for this world. But when you drop gas or bombs -- this is an animal.

[00:05:10] KOSINSKI: Defending the missile strikes on Syria that Russia considers illegal.

TRUMP: That's a butcher. So I felt we had to do something about it. I have absolutely no doubt we did the right thing.

KOSINSKI: What you didn't hear out of this though, was Russia backing away from supporting Assad any time soon. And a State Department official I talked to said they see the chances of this happening in the near term at next to zero.

That Putin is deeply worried that if Assad suddenly goes now, that's a power vacuum. Terrorists rush in. Russia isn't blind to Assad being a terrible choice. But at this point they see him as the best if not the only choice.

So what the U.S. wants Russia to do is convince Syria to look again at a ceasefire then the political process. The problem is, though, nobody knows how long this could take or really how willing Russia will be to play.

Michelle Kosinski, CNN -- Moscow.


SESAY: Well, let's turn to Josh Lockman, a lecturer in international law at the University of Southern California, and CNN's Paula Newton who joins us from Moscow. Welcome to you both.

Paula -- to start with you there in Moscow, as we saw from that piece from Michelle Kosinski, there was some glaring and some tough talk. But at the end of the day both the U.S. and Russia sticking to their positions -- leaving one to wonder whether the meeting between Lavrov and Tillerson was anything more than political theater.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there certainly was a lot of political theater on display. Vladimir Putin really being the one who caused a lot of it by basically keeping everyone wondering as to whether or not there would be a meeting. Then they met for two hours.

The key thing here though is that they agreed to disagree; at least agreed that we need to get to a better place here on so many different levels, on so many different issues but specifically on Syria.

And I think to note that likely as Michelle was just saying, they talked about how would we get to a ceasefire. Again, apparently Donald Trump thinking that we should try and get to a point where there is a no-fly zone, where there are humanitarian corridors.

These things were discussed. It doesn't mean that there was any progress whatsoever. But what was really interesting here is when you bring in was in play around it.

Again, Donald Trump seeking to isolate Syria further; and in that regard seeking to isolate Russia further. I mean, his language was so strong on Assad, calling him a butcher and an animal.

And then almost at the same time when all of this was going on here in Moscow, you had the resolution in front of the U.N. Russia again refusing to condemn the chemical attack in Syria, it vetoed. More interesting than that, though, China abstained.

And I think in that, actually, that was the message here in Moscow too that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government more than anything else Isha. The point is you continue to stand in Syria, we will seek every time that we can to isolate you further.


And Josh, to you. You had Paula mention that U.N. Secretary Council resolution that was vetoed by Russia. I mean could there be a clearer signal than that that Russia intends to stand by Syria and doesn't intend to change its position any time soon?

JOSH LOCKMAN, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: No, it does seem to underscore, Isha that Putin seeks to preserve the regime as much as possible. But we have seen signs just last week and over the last five and a half years on and off that the Kremlin support for Assad is not unconditional. They've said that as much.

And so in the coming days and weeks, we'll see and kind of test that proposition whether Putin sees perhaps down the road, toward a post- Assad future if you will, an the opportunity to still preserve Russian influence in Syria, albeit not with Assad himself or his cronies.

SESAY: Paula -- to that point about what Putin may see down the road, do we think that may be a reason he actually met with Tillerson? That basically, it does signal the fact that Russia doesn't want to see an escalation in the situation, despite what they're saying publicly?

NEWTON: Absolutely. They can't afford to. First off, there is the battle with ISIS. And that is a point of agreement, perhaps not in method, but certainly in the end game. And they know that within the next few months, they're really hoping to deal quite a blow especially in Raqqa, in Syria to ISIS. And on that they can agree. You know, you step forward another year -- I think it was discussed before, Isha -- I mean the Russian military is stretched. It's costing money. It's costing lives. It has been difficult. As successful as it has been, its military involvement in Syria has come with a price.

[00:09:53] And at that point, as Josh said, he's looking for -- Russia is looking for that influence, to maintain that influence in Syria but hopefully not having to maintain the level of intensity -- military intensity that they have on the ground and on the seas in Syria. And that's key.

And the other thing that can't be overlooked, Isha, is of course those sanctions. Sure they were imposed because of what happened in Ukraine. But that is hurting Russia. And they want to get to a point where at least they can see the end of sanctions and return to some economic normalization.

SESAY: Josh, final question to you. To pick up on what Paula was talking about in terms of the rhetoric, the rhetoric we heard from Trump talking about Assad being a butcher. We heard Secretary Tillerson saying that the Assad regime is coming to an end.

I mean it's hard to see what the negotiating strategy is going forward for the U.S. when it comes to dealing with Russia and Syria.

LOCKMAN: It is hard. I mean it's been a dizzying turn of events over the last few weeks. We've seen tremendous reversals not just on Syria and Russia, but also NATO today. You know, then-candidate Trump calling NATO obsolete; and now obviously reversing that position.

So reading the tea leaves, if you will, it seems to indicate that the rhetoric now is hardening against the Assad regime. This would seem to indicate that the Trump administration, along with European and Arab allies, the regional allies as well, Turkey and others, seek to put pressure as much as possible to re-ignite the political process that seeks an end to the Assad regime.

I think that there are other tools that the administration can play. But it seems that last week's strike coupled with the rhetoric we're seeing and obviously other efforts that may take shape in the coming weeks may signal that Trump himself is reversing his previous position and sees an opportunity to intervene here decisively.

SESAY: All right. Paula Newton there in Moscow; Josh Lockman joining us from L.A. -- my thanks to you both.

Now former CIA director and U.S. Defense secretary Leon Panetta is underscoring the challenges of Washington and Moscow overcoming their differences. In an interview with Christiane Amanpour, Panetta said this. "It's good that Tillerson met with President Putin face-to-face but he knows that Russia still shows no movement on key issues." He said "President Trump's willingness to use military action in Syria does give Washington leverage in negotiations with Moscow." And he said "Former President Obama should have enforced his red line on the use of chemical weapons in 2013." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There is no question that I thought President Obama, once he drew that red line that they should not use chemical weapons, should have in fact followed through. I think that would have been important.

And it's true that they did negotiate an agreement. But clearly, that agreement did not get rid of all the chemical weapons. And the Russians have not effectively enforced that.

So we are now at a stage where Syria obviously still has chemical weapons. They still have the potential to use those weapons. And I think the most important position for the United States is that we do not want to see those kinds of weapons used again. And we will do everything we can to prevent that from happening.


SESAY: Well, Panetta says the next few months will show whether Moscow and Washington can indeed reset their relations.

Turning to North Korea now. A U.S.-based program that monitors the country says it's warning that another nuclear test could be coming -- a report from 38 North. The satellite imagery shows a major nuclear site is, quote, "primed and ready". Any kind of launch or test would no doubt be seen as a response to the recent U.S. naval deployment near the Korean Peninsula.

Kim Jong-Un warned the U.S. it would use any means necessary to address what it considers, quote, "act of aggression". It is unclear if China will try to diffuse the situation, but President Trump says they're willing to help.

Meanwhile, he is flip-flopping on a campaign promise to label China currency manipulators. Here is what he said about meeting his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.


TRUMP: President Xi wants to do the right thing. We had a very good bonding. I think we had a very good chemistry together. I think he wants to help us with North Korea. We talked trade. We talked a lot of things. But I was very impressed with President Xi. And I think he means well. And a I think he wants to help.


SESAY: Well, joining us now, Alexandra Field in Seoul, South Korea and Matt Rivers in Beijing. Welcome to you both.

Alex -- let's start with you -- all eyes on North Korea to see whether indeed they will attempt a missile test in the coming hours or days. We know they've got that important anniversary coming up of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the nation's founder. Any signs of stepped up activity at those sites? [00:15:001] ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. You

are seeing the signs of stepped up activity recorded just yesterday. This is satellite data that is being monitored by a U.S.-based group.

It really just confirms the speculation that has been held for months now by officials in the U.S. and frankly around the world that North Korea is preparing for another nuclear test, which would be its sixth nuclear test.

The activity that's being observed in these images seems to indicate some kind of movement around a command center. Also in an administrative center and at the north portal of this site which is the country's main nuclear facility.

Just weeks ago, you had other intelligence gathered by satellites which showed that there was some digging apparently happening at some of the tunnels on-site. And really, this is a trend that has been observed for months now, really since the beginning of the year. You've had reports that there was resumed activity at this site.

All evidence or indicators that the country was preparing for a nuclear test, which U.S. officials say they are now capable of pulling off really at any moment. So the question is when exactly do they time that test?

You've seen four ballistic missile launches just since the start of the year. It would seem that if they are ready to pull off this test that it could be somewhat imminent, at least that's the speculation from officials in South Korea.

The defense ministry has suggested that the national holiday, this celebration of the founder's birthday could be a time at which North Korea might decide to conduct a nuclear test. We know that they timed these tests for maximum impact, maximum provocation.

The other big factor here, of course, Isha, which you can't ignore is the fact that the USS Carl Vinson has been redeployed to the waters off the Korean Peninsula. That is the aircraft carrier strike group. The U.S. said it's there because of provocations from North Korea. North Korea sees its presence as a provocation in and of itself, of course -- Isha.

SESAY: Matt -- with these growing tensions as well as these efforts to rein in North Korea, we're hearing that China actually turned back a fleet of North Korean coal carrying cargo ships. Why should this be seen as significant?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a continuation I think of a policy that Beijing announced back in the middle of February. It was on February 18th that China said that it would be halting coal imports from North Korea for the remainder of the year. And coal is one of the ways that North Korea makes hard currency. It's one of its biggest exports on a year-to-year basis. And China, of course, is the biggest buyer of North Korean coal.

So it was back in the middle of February that China said it would be reaching a limit or nearing a limit that was imposed by a U.N. Security Council sanctions program. And so China said it wouldn't be importing any more coal.

And so this recent turning away of those coal-laden ships that the President discussed during that press conference really it seems to be -- is showing that China is committed to continuing to follow through on what it said in February.

And of course the long criticism of China, when it comes to the Security Council is that it doesn't really enforce the sanctions that are levied against North Korea. So this does appear to be further proof that they are willing to do that.

And that follows up CNN's own reporting. A source close to the North Korean government's operations in the port city of Dandong in northeastern China where a lot of that coal used to come in has told CNN that there were other ships that were turned away, multiple ships, nearly every single one turned away during the month of March as well.

So the Chinese do appear committed to not allowing coal from North Korea into the market here.

SESAY: It certainly does seem that way.

Alex -- back to you. We know that in North Korea, optics are everything. And we understand that Kim Jong-Un was leading a special forces operation some time ago. Tell us about that and again, the message being sent here.

FIELD: Yes, certainly this is a time where Pyongyang is putting on a show for the world. This was information that was released by the state news agency KCNA. Word that Kim Jong-Un himself had led this military exercise which they were touting as a spectacular sort of success. And, of course, it comes again just a day or two days rather before this major holiday in that country which is the celebration of the founder's birthday. So these are some of the theatrics that you see coming out of Pyongyang around this time.

The concern on this side of the peninsula, though, here in South Korea is what the next move from North Korea could be. And a big reason that concern has ratcheted up more than usual because remember, people who live here in North Korea do see nuclear tests. They do see missile tests quite frequently out of North Korea.

Their concern now is how Pyongyang might react to the presence of the USS Carl Vinson -- again that carrier strike group that has returned to the region there -- wondering how provocative this will be for Pyongyang.

You actually have the acting president here in South Korea speaking this morning saying that South Korea is working in close conjunction with their allies, the U.S., in terms of plotting whatever the next move is here.

[00:20:04] Of course, the big fear here in South Korea is that the U.S. could be planning some kind of preemptive strike against North Korea. Officials in South Korea reassuring people that they are in close contact with the U.S. government and working together on security plans.

SESAY: Incredibly tense time on the Korean Peninsula. Alexandra Field joining us from Seoul; our own Matt Rivers in Beijing -- we appreciate it. Thank you to you both.

And time for a quick break.

Still ahead, a military showdown is looming against ISIS in Syria. The U.S. general in charge of the operation speaks exclusively to CNN about when that battle will start. We'll have the details. They're coming right up.


SESAY: Hello, everyone.

The U.S.-led military push to dislodge ISIS from the Syrian stronghold of Raqqa could get under way soon, possibly within months. Since 2014, the terror group has lost a huge amount of territory in its so- called caliphate. Those losses are shown in green on your screen here.

Our own Nick Paton Walsh spoke exclusively with the U.S. commander now making the final preparations to liberate Raqqa.


[00:24:58] NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He commands the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and flies now over a battlefield that seems to go from impossibly complicated to worse day by day. But the next key fight for ISIS' de facto capital Raqqa is now very close.

LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE: I certainly hope that the assault on Raqqa is under way by this summer.

WALSH: Complete by when?

TOWNSEND: I don't know. It's up to them.

WALSH: Months?

TOWNSEND: It's up to them.

WALSH: Will you be surprised if you're still fighting that fight by 2018?

TOWNSEND: In Raqqa city? Yes.

WALSH: Another long hard fight he may well need more U.S. boots on the ground for.

TOWNSEND: Right now I think we have the resources we need there to isolate, to do the task that we're doing right now which is to complete the isolation of Raqqa. After the isolation of Raqqa will come the assault. And we're still evaluating what resources we need.

If I need more resources, I'll go to my leadership, my chain of command and tell them what we need to get the job done.

WALSH: Now, he must evaluate another possible complexity or enemy after President Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against the Syrian regime backed by Russia for a chemical weapons attack in Idlib.

Has your thinking about Russian or Syrian regime involvement and Raqqa had to change since the air strikes in the past weeks or so against Syrian regime targets by the U.S.?

TOWNEND: Yes. I would say that probably our thinking has changed a little bit. But I'm not -- I couldn't say specifically how.

WALSH: Are you having to take into account the possibility the Syrian regime might use sarin against U.S. facilities or assets here?

TOWNSEND: Sure, we have to take that into account. I'm not greatly concerned by that.

WALSH: Is it a risk in your mind? Do you worry about it when you wake up in the morning?

TOWNSEND: Of course it's a possibility so it's a risk. I think it's a very small risk.

Let me just say on that last question. I don't think the Syrian regime wants to pick a fight with the United States or the global coalition against ISIS. And, you know, if you take what you just said a step further, that's what they're doing. They're choosing to directly fight the United States and a global coalition. I don't think they want to do that.

WALSH: U.S.-backed rebel Syrian forces are isolating Raqqa from the north, east and west and may very soon move to isolate from the south nearer where Russian and regime forces are. Yet he said he is, as of now, not coordinating the Raqqa push with Russia or Syria at all.

Do the regime or Russian forces have any role in your planning for the liberation of Raqqa?

TOWNSEND: Right now we are not planning. We're not -- we are not planning or coordinating with them. They're not even -- they're not even located near Raqqa.

WALSH: But they don't figure as part of your operations to liberate that city?

TOWNSEND: We think that they have their hands full doing their tasks in Syria. And they're probably happy the less -- the Syrian Democratic Forces and the coalition tackle Raqqa.


SESAY: Our own Nick Paton Walsh there. Quick break.

Donald Trump weighs his options on health care reform. Up next, what he is considering to force Democrats to the bargaining table.


[00:31:50] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.

The U.S. secretary of state says relations with Russia are at a low point. Rex Tillerson met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday. The two countries are locked in a dispute over a deadly chemical attack in Syria.

U.S. President Trump is reversing his long held position that NATO is obsolete after meeting with NATO's secretary general, Wednesday. Mr. Trump said NATO leaders assured him the group would focus on battling terrorism going forward. In fact, NATO has been fighting terrorism for years. Mr. Trump reiterated other NATO members need to pay their fair share for defense.

German football club Borussia Dortmund (INAUDIBLE) was postponed after explosions targeted the team. They wound up losing 3-2 against AF Monaco. Authorities have detained a suspect in connection with the three blasts near the team bus. They say that suspect and another are associated with, quote, "The Islamist spectrum." A letter found at the scene called for German Jets to stop flying over Syria.

And anyone who was aboard that now infamous United Airlines flight is getting refunds for their tickets. They were forced to witness police officers dragging a bloodied man off the overbooked flight Sunday night. Some passengers told CNN the airline called to apologize and told them they would get their money back.

Well, he couldn't repeal and replace ObamaCare like he promised. So now U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to not reimburse health insurers who cover low-income Americans. Mr. Trump tells the "Wall Street Journal" he doesn't want to hurt people, but he thinks the move would force Democrats to the negotiating table. 7 million people qualify for the cost sharing subsidies, which reduce patient's deductibles and co-payments. Without the reimbursements, insurance companies could try to pull out of the Obamacare marketplace.

Well, joining me here in L.A. is Wendy Greuel, a former L.A. city councilwoman and in San Diego Gina Loudon is a host of "America Trends" and a Donald Trump supporter.

Ladies, welcome. So good to have you with us.

Let me start with you, Wendy.

The president threatening this health care move that would impact low- income Americans in an attempt to force the Democrats to the negotiating table. Will the democrats take the bait? WENDY GREUEL, FORMER L.A. CITY COUNCILWOMAN: I don't believe so. I mean, the fact is that Donald Trump is trying to go after those that have few options. He is going after the less fortunate, those that desperately need this health care. I don't think the Democrats are going to stand behind and say it's OK to do that or be threatened or bullied by him.

He failed in getting the health care bill passed that he wanted to push forward. And now he is desperate in some of the things that he is doing. Bottom line is 21 million people would lose their health care under the plan that the Republicans and Donald Trump put forward.

SESAY: Gina, to you. I mean, is this a sign of desperation on the president's part? I mean, you got to accept that this is a pretty high stakes move that will affect many of his own voters.

GINA LOUDON, HOST, AMERICA TRENDS: Well, first of all, I think we have to take into consideration that ObamaCare is failing Americans and it's the hardest on the poorest Americans who can't afford to be forced into premiums that they can't afford to begin with.

If you look at the president's plan and the plan of conservatives and free marketers in general, you'll see that their plan says that they can participate in things like health savings accounts that cost a lot less where you don't have to pay for things that you aren't even ever going to need.

[00:35:00] That's the case for example with college students maybe who are single and who don't need to be, for example, paying for maternity coverage or something like that. And so it gives people the ability to sort of be captains of their own ship.

And I think to say that just because you're in a lower income bracket, you can't handle being captain of your own health care is a little bit demeaning to low income people who are simply trying to live the American dream like everybody else.

SESAY: Well, Gina, what about the simple fact that according to the data, more than half of this country approves of Obamacare? They like Obamacare.

LOUDON: I think it depends on which polls you look at. Certainly during the election, we saw a lot of polls that were very conclusive about how people were going to vote, for example. And those proved not to be true.

But I also think that we've gotten away. We kind of -- we spouted this narrative for so long that the government is somehow responsible for people's health care when it's absolutely not constitutionally true.

And so I think that when people realize the benefits and the cost savings and the freedoms, frankly, in a free market plan, I think that they're going to want those sorts of freedoms again. I think that's what Americans -- part of what makes America great.

SESAY: Wendy?

GREUEL: I'm not sure making America great is putting 7 million people with no health care. And the fact is --


LOUDON: Nobody is doing that.

GREUEL: Well, he is suggesting that they will not be reimbursed for the kinds of care that they need. There's nothing more important than --


LOUDON: But nobody is saying they're not going to be covered.


GREUEL: He is saying that he is not going to reimburse those insurers which therefore then they will not get that care. That's the bottom line if he is threatening people's health care. People's lives by what he wants to do because he failed in the legislation.

Bottom line is as Isha said, the polls demonstrate that people want health care. They don't want to get rid of Obamacare. And what Trump is proposing is going to damage the least likely to be able to afford any kind of health care.

SESAY: All right, let's switch gears because I wanted to also talk about Paul Manafort who has a signalled that he is planning to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent.

Now we know that if that was to happen, he would be following in the footsteps of former national security adviser Michael Flynn who also retroactively filed.

I mean, Gina, does this not just bring up long-standing questions about the people President Trump has in his inner circle? The people that he has relied on or is relying on for advice and counsel?

LOUDON: No, not at all. Paul Manafort was around during the convention time. That's when he was helped Trump with his convention approach to win the Republican National Convention. And after he won, Paul Manafort left.

Let's not forget that just because he is dotting Is eyes and cross his Ts doesn't mean he is guilty of anything. We tend to confuse that. We're all about the guilt and the accusations now rather than actually about what has actually taken place.

This investigation, according to Comey has been going on since July and has yielded nothing. With all the leaks from this administration, you would bet if there was anything here, we would know about it by now.

And let's not also forget that John Podesta's brother is also going to go ahead and register. As the media has brought this issue to the forefront, people are going ahead and registering. That's not very surprising at all. It's not even probably really big news considering all the things on the national scale -- international scale.

SESAY: Wendy, Gina said a lot there. I'm going to give you a chance to respond.

GREUEL: Well, it begs the question of I think there needs to be legislation that says if you do not register, that you are a foreign agent at the time in which you are operating as a foreign agent, that there has to be some consequences for that.

To suggest now -- I kind of forgot that I needed to register to me is outrageous. And this is a concern to people about all of the connections to Russia and the challenges. And of course you've seen that it's not only with Paul Manafort.

He wasn't just on cabinet, he was the campaign manager. He was focused in on helping Trump get elected. Let's not forget that.

SESAY: Gina Loudon, Wendy Greuel, always a pleasure. Thank you, ladies.

LOUDON: Thank you.

GREUEL: Thank you.

SESAY: All right, still to come here, why the break up between the national football league and the city of St. Louis is getting a whole lot messier.

Plus, an ambitious art project unveiled in America's gateway city. Wait until you see how the artists did it.


SESAY: St. Louis, Missouri is known as America's "Gateway to the West." And now aerosol artist Paco Rosic is commemorating the city's history in a breathtaking mural.

He is using spray paint to cover 93 square meters of walls, ceilings at a St. Louis buildings. It features scenes and celebrities from the city's history, including explorers Lewis and Clark, the Gateway Arch, and the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. Rosic first hit it big when he recreated the Sistine Chapel mural in spray paint on a ceiling of a building in Iowa. Now he said he is looking for venues in other cities where he can work his magic. Pretty cool stuff.

Well, staying in St. Louis now. And the city is suing the National Football League and the Rams organization. The complaint says they both misled the city and failed to use proper protocol when the Rams left for L.A. last year.

St. Louis claims it's lost millions of dollars and thousands of jobs while the team profited from the move. The NFL says the league worked closely with state and local officials, and that the process was honest and fair at all times.

Well, thank you for watching. I'm Isha Sesay in Los Angeles. "World Sport" is up next. You're watching CNN.