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Paris Shooting Overshadows French Election; Trump Changes Tune on First 100 Days; Twelve Killed in Venezuela Violence; China Works for Cleaner Air; Trump Goaded over Tax Returns. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired April 22, 2017 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): With little more than a day to go before the French presidential election, the latest terror attack casts a shadow on the final hours of campaigning. We'll have the latest from Paris.

Plus a CNN exclusive report. The FBI has intelligence suggesting that Russian spies tried to use Trump advisers, including this man here, Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign.

And how China is trying to fight this, suffocating smog, by cleaning up its act. We'll take you inside a Chinese coal plant.

Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier live from the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta.


VANIER: Millions of French voters head to the polls on Sunday to begin the process of choosing a new president. This is happening as the nation is coping with a new terror attack, an assailant who apparently supported ISIS shot a police officer to death in the middle of the Champs-Elysees on Thursday night.

We've now learned that the gunman had been under investigation by French counterterrorism officials for the past several weeks. We get the latest from CNN's Melissa Bell in Paris.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was 9:00 pm on the Champs-Elysees, Paris's most famous street and its policemen targeted. Authorities say Karim Cheurfi had parked alongside police and opened fire with an automatic weapon.

Within minutes one police officer was dead, two more wounded. And the killer, a Frenchman, taken down. The ISIS claim of responsibility would follow in short order. Within 24 hours of the attack, Paris' prosecutor was able to say more about the assailant.

FRANCOIS MOLINS, FRENCH PROSECUTOR (voice-over): A piece of paper which was discovered next to Karim Cheurfi's body probably fell from his pocket. It carried a handwritten message, defending the cause of Islamic State.

Also several other pieces of paper were found between the two seats of the vehicle which carried the addresses of several police forces. Finally, in the boot of the car the officers found a large black bag containing a pump action shotgun, rifles, two large kitchen knives, secateurs and a Quran.

BELL (voice-over): Throughout the morning raids were carried out in a number of locations. Three members of Cheurfi's family were taken into custody. As the investigation gathered pace, the government met to discuss security ahead of Sunday's vote and the likely political fallout.

With less than 48 hours to go until polls opened, France's prime minister expressed his fear that one candidate might try to add fuel to the fire.

BERNARD CAZENEUVE, FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): The candidate of the Front National, like every drama, seeks to profit from and to control the situation to divide. She seeks to benefit from fear for exclusively political ends.

BELL (voice-over): Marine Le Pen has put the fight against Islamist violence at the heart of her campaign. Controversially, she wants all terror suspects thrown out of France and the country's borders closed. Within 12 hours of the attack, she went on the offensive.

MARINE LE PEN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FRONT (through translator): I demand that an investigation be opened with the objective of dissolving associated and cultural organizations that promote or finance fundamentalists' ideologies. The hate preaches must be expelled. The Islamist mosques must be closed.

BELL (voice-over): Le Pen repeated her intention of having all terror suspects, some 10,500 people, expelled if elected president. Shortly afterwards, her main rival, the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, took to the airwaves with his reply.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): Do not give in to fear. Do not give in to the vision. Do not give in to intimidation.

BELL (voice-over): With the campaign ending at midnight Paris time, the only measure of the choice the French have made will be the poll itself, a vote that the world will be watching.


VANIER: Tune in to CNN for full coverage of the French presidential election, round one. We'll have a special program on Sunday evening. Hala Gorani and our correspondents, Melissa Bell, Jim Bittermann, bringing you results as they come in.

Now to a CNN exclusive report. We're learning that U.S. intelligence officials have gathered information that suggests Russia tried to use advisers to Donald Trump to infiltrate his 2016 presidential campaign. CNN's U.S. Justice correspondent Pamela Brown has the details.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We've learned the FBI gathered intelligence last summer that suggests Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisors, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign, according to multiple U.S. officials.

Now Carter Page's critical speech of U.S. policy against Russia in July of 2016 at a prominent Moscow university is one factor. it's part of what raised concerns in the bureau that he may have been compromised by Russian intelligence. But the new information adds to this emerging picture of --


BROWN: -- how the Russians tried to influence the 2016 U.S. election not only through e-mail hacks and propaganda, sometimes referred to as fake news, but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit.

The intelligence that was gathered led to that broader FBI investigation into the coordination of Trump's campaign associates and the Russians as FBI director James Comey has referred to.

But the officials we've spoken with made clear they don't know whether Page was aware the Russians may have been using him because of the way Russian spy services operate.

Page could have unknowingly talked with Russian agents. Now he disputes the idea he has ever collected intelligence for the Russians, saying that at times he actually helped the U.S. intelligence community.

He told CNN, quote, "My assumption throughout the last 26 years I've been going there has always been that any Russian person might share information with the Russian government, as I have similarly done with the CIA, the FBI and other government agencies in the past."

And it is important to note that within the Trump campaign, Carter Page was viewed as someone who had little or no influence. But he was one of several Trump advisors whom U.S. and European intelligence detected in contact with Russian officials. The FBI investigation is still ongoing -- Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: Carter Page was a Trump campaign adviser on foreign policy. He has said he met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., at a conference connected to the Republican National Convention in July of last year.

Page has volunteered to talk to the committee about its Russian investigation, saying that he, quote, "never did anything improper." Next Saturday marks 100 days since President Trump took office. The number has become a benchmark in U.S. politics to measure a president's success. Mr. Trump has slammed this standard as ridiculous but he actually used it in his campaign to boast about how much he would have accomplished by then. Our Jim Acosta explains.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a critical milestone for any president but nearly 100 days in office, President Trump complains this is no time to judge his performance.

"No matter how much I accomplished during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days -- and it has been a lot, including Supreme Court -- media will kill."

But, in the leadup to the 100-day mark, the president has repeatedly tried to make the case he's putting points on the scoreboard.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're now in the process of rebuilding America and there's a new optimism sweeping across our country.


ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president has yet to follow through on many of the promises he said he could accomplish in his first 100 days in office, such as health care reform, imposing term limits on members of Congress and tax reform.

During the campaign, the president promised there would be so much winning, the American people would grow tired of it.


TRUMP: We're going to win so much you may even get tired of winning and you'll say please, please, it's too much winning.


ACOSTA (voice-over): In fact, the president laid out his 100-day agenda at an event just weeks before the November election.


TRUMP: Coming up, just think about what we can accomplish in the first 100 days of a Trump administration. We are going to have the biggest tax cuts since Ronald Reagan.

On the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington.

Ethics reform will be a crucial part of our 100-day plan as well. We're going to drain the swamp of corruption in Washington, D.C.


ACOSTA (voice-over): So far, much of what the president has done has come through executive orders, not legislation.

The White House is taking another stab at repealing and replacing ObamaCare, something the White House hopes can actually pass the House before Mr. Trump hits that 100-day milestone next week.


TRUMP: The plan gets better and better and better and it's gotten really, really good and a lot of people are liking it a lot. We have a good chance of getting it soon.


ACOSTA (voice-over): But standing in the way, the prospect of a government shutdown. Congress has until next week to pass a bill to fund the government. One potential obstacle: the White House is still insisting on money for one of the president's biggest promises, a wall on the Mexican border.

In the Oval Office, the president didn't sound worried that a shutdown could actually happen as he hits 100 days in office.



TRUMP: I think we're in good shape.



VANIER: President Trump made it clear he did not much like a controversial refugee deal with Australia. Well, now his vice president in Sydney is revealing just what the U.S. plans to do about that deal. We'll talk about that next.

Also coming up, China loves coal but not the pollution that comes with it. We'll see how China is cleaning up its coal act. Stay with us.




VANIER: Welcome back.

We want to take you back to our top story at the moment, the terror attack in Paris and what kind of effect it might have on the presidential election. First round of voting is less than two days away now.

Julien Theron (ph) is a political scientist with the University of Paris 2.

Julien, the question that could change the future of a country, do you expect the latest terror attack to significantly impact Sunday's vote?

JULIEN THERON (PH), UNIVERSITY OF PARIS 2: Well, I think that terrorism was already a huge topic because, as you know, we suffered two huge attacks in 2015 and minor attacks afterwards.

But, indeed, if it was already developed in the programs, the attack yesterday was actually -- the day before yesterday was really impacting on the campaign. Three candidates actually stopped their campaign at this moment and some reacted during the interviews that was going on on TV in live. So meaning that a lot of them tried to react differently.

But the right-wing candidate, Francois Fillon, and the far right candidate, Marine Le Pen, tried to appear as very strong on that, criticizing the government and saying that it's necessary to take some more actions regarding to terrorism.

VANIER: Marine Le Pen says that with her policies, some of the previous attacks in France would have been avoided.

Do French voters believe that she has the answer to terrorism?

THERON (PH): Well, actually what she proposes is really about a xenophobic program and an anti-European actions, saying that she wants to close the borders and to take some measures against double nationality residents and nationalists that would be responsible for terror attacks, meaning that what she wants to do is to appear as the person explaining that terrorism come from abroad when actually a lot of terror attacks were made by nationals, meaning that would not be actually efficient.

VANIER: What the reaction from Emmanuel Macron to the latest attack?

I think that might surprise some of our international viewers. He told French people immediately after the attack that this threat and these attacks would continue.

Do you think that makes him more or less credible in the eyes of French voters?

THERON (PH): Well, I think that it's necessary for the French to understand that resilience is absolutely necessary regarding to terror risk. It doesn't mean that the government can't act.

It means that regarding intelligence work, you can fight terrorism but sometimes one of the events, as it is clandestine, can actually occur and it's what we have seen. Emmanuel Macron wants --

[03:15:00] THERON (PH): -- to recruit 10,000 more policemen and he says something that is a more, longer-term solution, meaning that it's necessary to make peace in the Middle East, to stabilize this region, to actually extinguish the very roots of terrorism, including in France.

VANIER: All right, Julien Theron (ph), political analyst in Paris, thank you very much for coming on the show. Pleasure to have you.

THERON (PH): Thank you.

VANIER: Now U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is meeting with political and business leaders in Australia. At a joint news conference earlier, Pence and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reaffirmed their country's strong ties.

Pence said Washington will honor a refugee deal with Australia, under which more than 1,200 asylum seekers will be resettled in the U.S. This even though President Trump once called the deal, which was brokered by the Obama administration, a "dumb" deal.

Officials say at least a dozen people were killed near the capital of Venezuela when demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and looted businesses. This comes after weeks of anti-government rallies across the country. Several more people were killed after the supreme court tried to strip parliament of its powers. Rafael Romo reports.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Some of the victims were electrocuted when, according to reports, a power cable fell to the ground as a group of people tried to loot the bakery in the neighborhood known as El Baye (ph). The rest of the fatalities were from gunshot wounds.

The death of a 23-year-old woman in the city of San Cristobal in Tachira State has outraged the opposition. The government says Paula Ramirez was shot by an opposition protester but her family says she was killed by pro-government armed militias.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): She called us. She was in San Cristobal and called us.

She asked her father, "Father, father, what can I do?

"The armed militias are shooting.

"What can I do?"

I told my husband, Joaquin, "Tell the girl to run and hide somewhere."

The call dropped and we didn't hear anything else. Moments later, somebody called us and said she had been killed.


ROMO (voice-over): Protesters illuminated a building in Caracas with a message calling President Nicolas Maduro a murderer and another one, asking the national guard, whose members have been clashing on the streets with protesters, whether they're as hungry as the rest of Venezuelans.

Meanwhile, Caracas mayor Jorge Rodriguez, a government supporter, says that the opposition is to blame for the violence. They have been destroying buildings, Rodriguez said, adding that this new face of violence is nothing less than terrorism -- Rafael Romo, CNN.


VANIER: Chinese officials say the country's military was not on high alert due to North Korea. The defense ministry is denying that bomber jets were preparing for a possible crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Our David McKenzie has the latest from Beijing.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a rare statement, the ministry of defense here in China has slammed those reports, saying that they're simply, quote, "not true," that there is no sense of high alert from the bombers regarding North Korea.

They say that the forces on the border of China and North Korea are, in fact, in a normal level of combat readiness and training. China has repeatedly tried to diffuse the tension in North Korea and the situation that is ongoing there.

In fact, they've been praised in recent days by President Trump for squeezing the economy of North Korea, particularly on coal imports into China, which is the major source of currency for Pyongyang.

Well, we've looked into that. And in the last few days, there have been at least six cargo vessels docking from North Korea in China, those cargo vessels containing coal. It's unclear whether that coal has been offloaded. And the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs saying that there is no sense that their embargo has been lifted or that they are breaking U.N. sanctions.

But certainly a question mark there. They are saying that it could be that they are giving the crew humanitarian assistance.


VANIER: At least east Afghan soldiers have been killed in a Taliban attack at their army base. Officials say six insurgents disguised in military uniform opened fire at the base in Northern Afghanistan during Friday prayers. The Afghan army says the battle lasted for six hours and NATO is calling this attack "barbaric."

To China now, where Beijing is promising an end to its toxic smog. As people across the globe gear up this Saturday for rallies marking Earth Day, CNN's Matt Rivers takes a look at China's love-hate relationship with coal.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China loves coal. It's cheap and efficient. You can pile it up and burn it to heat your house and it's also powered the economic miracle here over the past 30 years.

But China also hates coal because it's a major reason the skies above places like Beijing are often choked with toxic smog. So enter the San Ho power plant, the happy medium between both sides.


RIVERS (voice-over): It's a so-called clean burning coal facility just outside of Beijing. Instead of pumping out high levels of pollution, the plant's technology allows it to keep emissions low by retrofitting power units and turbines and recycling wastewater. Emission levels are monitored real-time in this gleaming control room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): People used to look at coal and saw something dirty and polluting. But we have resolved the problem through the technologies you see here. Currently no other forms of clean energy, be it wind, solar or even nuclear, can satisfy China's total needs.

RIVERS (voice-over): The plan is part of a drive across China. The country's environment minister says the cleaner technology will be installed at all coal power plants nationwide by 2020.

RIVERS: China puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other country on Earth. Frankly, it's not even close. But by 2030, the country wants its CO2 emissions to peak. In order to do that, it's going to need plants like this one burning cleaner coal.

RIVERS (voice-over): It's a model that other countries are trying to emulate, big coal producers like Australia and the United States, which, for the first time in a while, has someone who likes coal a lot in the White House.


TRUMP: The action I'm taking today will eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom and allow our companies and our workers to thrive, compete and succeed on a level playing field for the first time in a long time, fellows. It's been a long time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recent technology that can be deployed elsewhere in the world and indeed should be deployed elsewhere in the world. The lessons that China has learned can be exported --

RIVERS (voice-over): But some environmentalists remain skeptical about the whole concept. They say focusing on so-called clean coal directs investments and subsidies in the wrong direction by ignoring a simple fact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coal is still one of the most hazardous fossil fuels in the world and still generating a lot of negative impact on our pollution and carbon emission and also on water consumption. If we want to solve the problem from the very beginning, we need to change our energy structure, not only just cleaning the coal.

RIVERS (voice-over): Still, despite the criticism, China appears committed to the cleaner coal approach for now, thanks to the abundance of coal. In a country with skies like this, eager to turn the so-called black gold into a silver lining -- Matt Rivers, CNN, San Ho, Hubei Province, China.


VANIER: And we were just telling you Saturday's Earth Day, so what is that exactly?

A quick word. Created in the U.S., the first Earth Day was held in 1970. It's credited with sparking the environmental movement. It helped prompt U.S. lawmakers to create the Environmental Protection Agency, those three letters you keep hearing about, the EPA, and it passed critical revisions to the Clean Air Act.

Now every year Earth Day is celebrated by more than 1 billion people in 193 countries around the world.



VANIER: There's an old saying that nothing is certain but death and taxes, right?

Well, it's definitely not certain when U.S. President Donald Trump will release his tax returns. He says he can't because he's under audit but that is just not enough for comedians and critics. Our Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Why won't President Trump release his taxes?

His critics goad him by calling him chicken, using chicken masks, even a chicken dance.


MOOS (voice-over): As tax day comes and goes, what isn't going away is all the poking at the president.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Show us your taxes. Show us your taxes.

MOOS (voice-over): Stephen Colbert threw Mardi Gras beads because they're often thrown to get women to reveal their assets. The president is being goaded by Democrats, like New York City mayor

Bill de Blasio, who released his own 2016 taxes, tweeting, "See, President Trump?

"It's not that hard."

He's even being goaded by impersonators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's release them, boys. Release the taxes. There we go. There we go.

MOOS (voice-over): The president's least favorite impersonator, Alec Baldwin, once taunted the president, "Release your tax returns and I'll stop impersonating you."

Even Easter was used to egg on the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently the Easter egg hunt is still going on because Trump hid those Easter eggs as well as he hides his tax returns.

MOOS (voice-over): And Sean Spicer reading to kids...


MOOS (voice-over): -- was Photoshopped into Spicer reading a book titled, "My Taxes," by Donald T. "I Paid Them."

But what critics like most to use against the president are his own words.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASS.: How many clips have you got here?

He would reveal them after this. He would reveal them after that.

TRUMP: If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tax returns absolutely.

I have no objection to certainly showing tax returns.

Well, I'm thinking about it.

We're working on it right now and at the appropriate time you'll be very satisfied.

I don't mind releasing. I'm under a routine audit and it will be released and as soon as the audit's finished, it will be released.

MOOS (voice-over): But even for Trump supporters, that audit line has become taxing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as I'm aware, the president says he's still under audit.

MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VANIER: And that's it from us. We're back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.