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North Korean Threat; Government Shutdown?; 100-Day Standard; Satellite Images Give Rare Glimpse Inside Raqqa; Macron and Le Pen Begin Runoff Campaign; Trump Says He Wants To Speed Up Mission to Mars. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:57] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump resorts to schoolyard name- calling at Kim Jong-Un as concerns rise that North Korea could be preparing for another nuclear test.

SESAY: The first 100 days. Trump used to brag about the benchmark while making lots of promises. So how many have been kept?

VAUSE: Plus, political outsiders vying for the Elysees palace, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen waste no time getting back on to the campaign trail.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause at CNN's World Headquarters in Atlanta.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay in Los Angeles. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

VAUSE: As the nuclear crisis with the North Koreans escalates U.S. President Donald Trump now seems to be taunting their leader. A few hours ago the White House confirmed to CNN Mr. Trump told conservative journalists "I'm not so sure Leader Kim Jong-Un is so strong like he says he is. I'm not so sure at all."

The U.S. is now sending a nuclear-powered submarine to South Korea. And at any moment Pyongyang could defy the world with a sixth nuclear test.

SESAY: Well, North Korea often uses state holidays to show off its military and Tuesday Pyongyang is celebrating the founding of its armed forces. On top of that North Korea has detained another American citizen and is threatening to sink a U.S. warship.

Well, Mr. Trump wants the U.N. Security Council to impose new sanctions and says the status quo is unacceptable.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a real threat to the world whether we want to talk about it or not. North Korea is a big world problem. And it's a problem we have to finally solve. People had put blindfolds on for decades, and now it's time to solve the problem.


VAUSE: Paula Hancocks joins us now live from Seoul, South Korea. So Paula -- we have China calling on Washington and Pyongyang to show restraint. But right now it seems both sides would rather show off their military might.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right -- John.

It is this time of year that we do see military drills. But this year is something very different. We're seeing an awful lot more of this U.S. military hardware coming in to the region.

Now we know that the USS Michigan, that missile-guided submarine is now in Pusan, just on the southeastern coast of South Korea. It has docked. We heard from U.S. Naval Forces Korea that it is routine. But we're also hearing at the same time from a U.S. Defense official that it is a show of force. So certainly they know what this looks like to North Korea.

We also know that there are drills ongoing between the U.S. and South Korea on land, on sea. There have been air drills as well. So certainly there is a show of force from the U.S.-South Korean side. Now it does infuriate North Korea every year.

But certainly we're seeing far more this year. The USS Carl Vinson as well -- that 97,000 ton the aircraft carrier on its way back to the region. We're hearing U.S. officials saying that should it be in the area by the end of the month, albeit a little later than previously advertised -- John.

VAUSE: What more do you know about this possible sixth nuclear test by the North Koreans? Is there any indication that this pressure which is coming from China on the one hand, and the threats which we're getting from the United States, that's having any impact?

HANCOCKS: Well, it's really impossible to know. The fact is they haven't done a sixth nuclear test so far. So you could assume that maybe pressure is having some impact. But we simply don't know.

The North Korean leadership has said consistently they will continue to test their nuclear weapons. We know from 38 North, the monitoring group in the U.S. looking at satellite images very closely that they're primed and ready. This is what they said -- they can do the nuclear test at any point. It is just waiting for the political will of Kim Jong-Un.

[00:05:00] In recent days we've seen from that satellite imagery that there was a volleyball game it appeared from those images. What sort of message does that send?

The latest we hear from 38 North is there is still activity at the area. There were vehicles moving mining trucks in different positions. There is a netting over the entrance of the tunnel itself presumably, they say, to hide equipment.

But of course they don't know whether it's a tactical pause or whether it's a stand down, or whether they are ready to go as soon as the order comes. We simply don't know -- John.

VAUSE: Ok. Paula -- thank you. Paula Hancocks live for us this hour in Seoul with the very latest.

We'll have more on this now. Paul Carroll is the program director of the Ploughshares Fund group working to eliminate nuclear weapons. He joins us now from San Francisco. Paul -- thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: The U.S. president told lawmakers on Monday, you know, he wasn't so sure that Kim Jong-Un was such a strong leader. How will that be received by the North Koreans? And, you know, in the midst of this current crisis, how do you see that impacting what is already an escalating threat from the North Koreans?

CARROLL: Well, thanks for having me -- John, my pleasure.

It's not helpful. I hadn't heard that report until I just listened to this introduction. What I was going to say is that President Trump's rhetoric has already begun to paint himself, and frankly our country, into a corner. It's been all about pressure and brinksmanship and military tools and tactics and chest thumping. And now to literally directly taunt the leader of North Korea is like poking the hornets nest yet again.

If you do this kind of ratcheting up of rhetorical tensions but also sending, as you said, military hardware into the region, if you do that absent any kind of an off-ramp, any kind of door or window for the North Koreans to consider walking through and reengaging in some kind of discussions, bad things are going to happen.

VAUSE: You know, we also have some reporting from the "New York Times" about intelligence, which shows North Korea capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks. It goes on the say, "Unless something changes, North Korea's arsenal may well hit 50 weapons by the end of Mr. Trump's term, about half the size of Pakistan's. American officials say the North already knows how to shrink those weapons so they can fit atop one of its short to medium range missiles putting South Korea and Japan and thousands of American troops deployed in those two nations within range."

So clearly, this is -- if it's to be believed, the urgency behind the United States in trying to deal with Pyongyang, from your point of view, how reliable is that intelligence?

CARROLL: Well, I would be the last one to diminish the risk for North Korea. It is a clear risk, and it is growing. We can debate about the timelines and some of the nuance in those estimates. When you say the North Koreans or intelligence experts have said they can produce a bomb every six weeks or so, what they really are referring to is how much fissile material, how much of the stuff that you need to make a bomb they are producing based on our best estimates.

Now, does that mean they are actually putting together a device every six weeks? We just don't know. But those capabilities are still incredibly significant and incredibly threatening.

And so the story really that the headline really is their tempo has increased. They show no signs whatsoever of pausing or taking a break. Their tempo of missile test and of fissile material projection is on the upswing. So yes, that's a real threat. Their capabilities are poised to increase.

VAUSE: Very quickly, almost out of time here -- another U.S. citizen now being held by the North Koreans. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said that Tony Kim right now is a bargaining chip for the regime. Essentially she said it's a sign that Kim Jong-Un's leadership is failing. Again, do you agree with that assessment from Nikki Haley?

CARROLL: Well, it's very interesting she used the phrase "bargaining chip". I would actually like to have that be the case. We don't know for sure. Did the North do this to actually open a door to have discussions and bring Americans to their country to discuss his release?

As illegal as that is, if that's the opening, that's worthwhile taking. I wonder if it's a bargaining chip or if it's just them testing us even more. There is a lot of things going on from exercises to rhetoric, now the detention of yet another American citizen. You know -- what's next?

VAUSE: Ok, Paul.

CARROLL: That's the big question.

VAUSE: Absolutely, there are so many questions on this.

Thanks so much for being with us -- Paul. We appreciate it.

CARROLL: My pleasure.

SESAY: Well, a White House official says President Trump may be willing to delay funding for his border wall to avoid a government shutdown. The wall has become a major sticking point to Democrats and even some Republicans as they work towards a spending bill to keep the government rung.

CNN's Jason Carroll reports.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As President Trump closes in on 100 days in office his administration is setting up a showdown over funding for a border wall.

[00:10:03] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President's priorities have been very clear from the beginning.

CARROLL: The President tweeting today, "The wall is a very important tool at stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth and many others."

Congress has until Friday to approve a spending bill and avoid a government shutdown. The administration is pushing to include $1.4 billion for the wall as part of that measure.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It will be up to Congress to pass it. And if the Democrats filibuster that and block it, they're the ones shutting the whole government down just to keep the wall from being built.

CARROLL: Democrats say funding for the wall is a non-starter.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: To think that he would consider shutting down the government of the United States of America over this outlandish proposal of a border wall, which we can't even pay for at this point and is opposed by Democrats and Republicans all along the border that would be the height of irresponsibility.

CARROLL: Even some Republicans on the Hill are suggesting the party cannot risk a shutdown over the wall.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The last thing we can afford is to send a message to the world that the United States government, by the way, is only partially functioning.

CARROLL: White House press secretary Sean Spicer today sounded an optimistic note about the prospects for a deal.

SPICER: We feel very confident that they understand the President's priorities and that will come to an agreement by the end of Friday.

CARROLL: On day 95 of his presidency, the President finds himself with the lowest approval ratings at this stage for any president since 1945. Yet a Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that 96 percent of Trump supporters stand by their vote.

The White House is aiming to show progress on a number of fronts this week with the President teasing an announcement Wednesday on tax reform. An administration official telling CNN that lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent as Trump promised during the campaign is under consideration. The White House also rolling out a list of 100-day accomplishments though many are the result of executive actions taken by the President.

SPICER: I don't think there is any question that the President has done a significant amount for the American people on the issues that he has put forward during the campaign.


CARROLL: And just last night the President meeting with Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain -- two people who have been very critical of the President in the past. But when you're a president trying to get so much of your agenda through before that 100-day mark, you need all the support you can get.

Jason Carroll, CNN -- the White House.


SESAY: Well, joining me here in L.A. talk radio host Ethan Bearman and California Republican National Committee man Shawn Steel. Gentlemen -- welcome.

We're going to get to the issue of the wall in just a moment so keep your powder dry.

I want to talk about milestones -- specifically, President Trump's 100-day milestone. Back in the day, Mr. Trump said things like this. Take a listen.


TRUMP: Just think about what we can accomplish in the first 100 days of a Trump administration.

Just think about what we can accomplish in the first 100 days.

Think about what we can accomplish in the first 100 days.


SESAY: Ah, think about it. Now the President is taking quite a different view. Take a listen. Let me read what he said. On Friday, he tweeted this out. "No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, and it has been a lot including Supreme Court, media will kill."

Wow, Sean, now it's a ridiculous standard? What happened?

SHAWN STEEL, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I'm having such a great 100 days I can't wait for the other --

SESAY: What about the President?

STEEL: -- 1,340 days to come ahead. No, the 100 days has been pretty. First of all, it still hurts the left terribly to understand that Donald Trump is president. Even I'm kind of getting used to it now.

But secondly, it's been a whirlwind of activity. Now, on one certain level, mainstream media has created certain objective criteria that they don't like. But my God, 25 acts of Congress have been approved that's unwound a lot of the Obama agenda.

America's reasserted itself in the world. It's actually an international power for good. How about the stock market just going up 10 percent? Everybody is richer in America. SESAY: All right. Let me push you. Let me push as you talk about 25

acts of Congress. What significant major piece of legislation has been passed?


STEEL: You know what? It's 100 days. And if you can have significant, important piece of legislation, you're not getting it in 100 days.

SESAY: Ethan -- you pick --

BEARMAN: So during the campaign, during the campaign, President Trump promised during the first 100 days that he would do things like repeal and replace Obamacare. He would do things like drop the taxes and make middle class tax cut a priority. He said in the first 100 days that he would do things like ok, how about build the wall and Mexico is going to pay for it.

[00:15:04] We have had none of the things that he promised. He was full of hot air. He said things because he didn't know what he was getting himself into.

STEEL: You should be delighted because they didn't happen.

BEARMAN: He had no idea what he was getting into -- none.

STEEL: How about a firm, secure Supreme Court?

BEARMAN: Because they blocked.

STEEL: How about illegal aliens have stopped hitting the border.

BEARMAN: They're never going to stop.

SESAY: Ok. So let me -- let me. Time out, time out.

STEEL: These are good times.

SESAY: Time out. Time out. So the numbers that are crossing have -- they have dropped. That is widely noted but the wall has not been built. That was a major --

STEEL: You can't build a wall in 100 days. How long did it take the Chinese?

BEARMAN: He said he would get it done. And he would start on his first day.

STEEL: Actually -- they're building parts of the wall now in San Diego.

SESAY: By your --

BEARMAN: They were doing that under President Bush.

SESAY: Hold up, hold up you two. By your measure, are you calling these 100 days a success?

STEEL: Oh, yes. First of all, the idea of having Trump as president is such a mind-altering reality that the 45 percent of Americans that didn't like Trump are now beginning to get used to that.

BEARMAN: Down to 38 percent now.

SESAY: Ethan -- is there any truth --

STEEL: Actually, according to Rasmussen, he is actually ahead in the polls.


SESAY: Is there any truth to the point that the President does make that no matter what he does, the media will kill? And I don't know that I agree and the media would say we're objective but that the Democrats would give him any praise for anything he --

BEARMAN: Of course not. I gave him praise and I know other Democrats that did last week on his crackdown on H1-B visa abuse. So there is -- when he does something that's worth praising, then that's something that people can talk about.

I think that there is something to talk about with health care if he reaches out to Democrats and finds some middle ground.

But other than that, first off, the media's job is not to give him a pass. It is in our First Amendment that we are supposed to hold people accountable. Remember, George Washington two years into his first term as the first president of the United States of America was already being criticized by the media. That is the job is to hold the politicians accountable.

SESAY: All right. Let's talk about this wall because --

STEEL: Now you know how Donald Trump feels.

SESAY: Let's talk about the wall -- Shawn because you know, we can't let go of the fact that the President was saying before he got into the White House that he was going to get Mexico to pay for this wall.

What happened? The fact that we're staring down a government shutdown that the President is now talking about getting a spending bill to pay for this wall. What happened here?

STEEL: Donald Trump is changing. Here is the secret. I hate to expose this. So let's keep it among ourselves.

He is a New York Republican, and he is pragmatic. He is not an ideological conservative. And he is beginning to have different points of views about major issues in the first 100 days.

That's actually a good thing, because A, he keeps his base. And conservatives are generally happy, not entirely. And he gets a whole lot of pragmatic moderates. It means that Democrats are no longer a serious force in America. The only serious problem that Trump has is mainstream media. The Democrats are irrelevant.

SESAY: Let me read you the tweet that the President put out where he declared that this wasn't really going to be Mexico's paycheck here. He says "Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early. Mexico will be paying in some form for the badly needed border wall. Eventually, but at a later date?

STEEL: Sounds pragmatic to me.

SESAY: I mean I guess the question, you know -- and Ethan, I put to it you -- at some point the reversals are going to start to add up. And then the question then becomes what does this president stand for?

BEARMAN: Well, he has never stood for anything other than to get himself elected. That's what he stood for. He is not fulfilling basically any of the promises. By the way, this whole idea that we're going pay for the wall and Mexico is going to pay us back, that's also untrue because what he has put forth is the American taxpayer is going to pay for it any way, either way that you look at it.

And what's so funny is there is one thing that Shawn and I completely agree on. President Trump is not a conservative at all. And he has no principles. So he is just throwing whatever he can at the wall right now and none of it is sticking.

STEEL: He has adopted mostly conservative principles. Look at his appointments from Betty Devos in Education to having --

BEARMAN: Because her (inaudible)


STEEL: -- at EPA, and a wonderful Attorney General.

More welfare, keep talking about it --

BEARMAN: No, that's what --


SESAY: I don't know what -- rather than you two argue about this point, let's put up some poll numbers. Let's take a look at some numbers and see what ABC and the Washington Post are saying. They take a snapshot of the President's approval ratings right now.

It is worth pointing out that the President has already blasted these numbers, saying that they are fake news polls. But here you go. ABC Washington poll approval numbers say 42 percent -- Shawn, 42 percent of Americans approve -- or respondents to this poll approve; 53 disapprove. He is not even in 100 days yet.

STEEL: And two other things came out of that very same poll. And I'm using the same fake news of -- SESAY: Are you really sitting here giving us the fake news moniker?

STEEL: I'm going to tell you more information about their fake news. They also tell you that 44 percent of the Democrats believe that the Democratic Party doesn't stand for anything anymore.

[00:20:03] SESAY: We're not talking about the Democrats.

STEEL: But that's in the same poll.

SESAY: We'll get to that.

STEEL: But also in the same poll that Donald Trump would still beat Hillary Clinton despite these terrible numbers. In other words, Trump is getting 89 percent of all media is attacking Trump. It has for 100 days. And he still has 40 percent of the country behind him. And if the economy goes well, and if he gets his plans across, he'll get reelected.

SESAY: If, if. We're talk about right now. The first 100 days and 42 percent of respondents to this poll approve of the President's numbers. You don't see anything to worry about?

STEEL: No. Because I tell you, there is two other polls, the Economist and Rasmussen that has Donald Trump ahead. So these are polls that go all over the map. Depends on who is actually issuing the polls. The trouble is this particular poll is completely discredited.

SESAY: Ethan?


BEARMAN: In other words, he is in 100 days he has done nothing but shrink his base because he got more than 40 percent in the general election. He has shrunk his base. He has upset certain people.

SESAY: But his base is still strong with him. He had 96 percent of his base still stand with him.

BEARMAN: That's great -- which means he'll lose the popular vote again and all the Democrats have to do is pick up about 100,000 votes in key counties, and they win in 2020.

SESAY: What about the point brought up by Shawn? It is a valid one so I'm going to put that to you -- the same poll. Let's put up the numbers. 67 percent of respondents said the Democratic Party was out of touch. So before you go piling on the Democrats, they've got some problems of their own.

BEARMAN: There is no question that the Democrats absolutely failed in their message reaching out to Middle America and the idea that they still matter and that jobs for Americans matter. The Democrats absolutely failed in that message. They didn't reach out. They didn't connect.

STEEL: Now you know why Trump got elected. And that's excellent. I hate to agree with Ethan but he got this one right.

SESAY: Oh, it's always nice when you two can end on a note of agreement. Thank you very much.

We're going to hit pause, we'll pick it up again next hour. Thank you -- gentlemen.

All right. John -- you should be grateful you're not here trying to wrangle these two.

VAUSE: Sunshine and happiness and ponies all around -- sounds great.

SESAY: All around.

STEEL: She held her own --

VAUSE: Shawn -- enough, ok. With that coming up.

STEEL: No, John, I can help you.

VAUSE: Ok, we're going to have short break.

When we come back, stunning rare images from a city under siege. We'll take you to Raqqa where people can be shot on sight just for trying to leave.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.

We're seeing a CNN exclusive now. The self-declared ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria is essentially cut off from the rest of the world.

[00:25:03] SESAY: But CNN has obtained exclusive satellite images that give us a rare look inside Raqqa -- the next big target in the fight against the terror group.

Here is CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The final target in the war on ISIS -- their capital, Raqqa; so wretchedly isolated, held hostage in terror. The closest we get to it is some space and these exclusive satellite pictures taken for CNN.

Here, two checkpoints in the street and nearby an ISIS flag. Precision strikes cutting its people further off from the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Life is not life. Life is death. We are besieged. We can't leave or walk around. Anyone who breathes is slaughtered.

WALSH: She escaped a day earlier and describes no safety (ph) for the north -- the claustrophobic, paranoid world of living with ISIS in streets covered with massive tarpaulins put up across this central market to hide ISIS fighters from coalition drone cameras overhead.

Another escapee described how ISIS fighters differ.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The foreigners treat residents very well. But the Syrian ISIS members, they are very aggressive with people.

WALSH: ISIS use their own drone to film the damage from coalition strikes prior to the slow net slipping over the city. Images of life inside Raqqa are rare by one occasion of filming the panic as residents try to flee.

Only seconds before I filmed here as ISIS have just told them the dam at (inaudible) to the west might break open, flooding Raqqa. It never happened. Like so much of their propaganda, the dam was fine.

But to the west, fierce fighting backed by U.S. Special Forces has drawn the noose yet tighter. These coalition-backed fighters to the west, north, and east are about to move in from the south. Then the noose will be complete and the countdown begins to when these distant streets are open for the world to see again.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN -- Erbil, northern Iraq.


SESAY: Well, Iraqi forces are set to be making key gains in their efforts to take back the entire city of Mosul from ISIS. A top Iraqi general says troops have now liberated 70 percent of western Mosul and he says the ISIS militants in the rest of the area are completely surrounded.

The battle to push ISIS out of western Mosul has been going on since February. The militants have been driven out of the eastern part of the city.

Well, the final push is on. France's remaining pair of presidential candidates look to expand their support for the runoff. A look at who is getting endorsements just ahead.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles where Isha is. I'm John Vause at CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta.

SESAY: Yes, indeed. I'm Isha Sesay. These are your headlines. US President Donald Trump wants new sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear threat. He hosted UN Security Council ambassadors on Monday and told them the status quo with Pyongyang is "unacceptable." The US Navy has dispatched warships to the region to send a message to Pyongyang.

VAUSE: US President Donald Trump may be willing to compromise on funding for his Mexico border wall to avoid a government shutdown. A White House official says Mr. Trump may leave talks about the wall until later this year in return for increased funding for monitoring and border patrol agents.

SESAY: Two more people were reportedly killed in separate cities during protests in Venezuela Monday. The governor of Merida says the victim there was a government worker who was shot in the neck. Seven people were injured. At least 22 others have been killed in Venezuelan protests this month.

VAUSE: US Defense Secretary is in Afghanistan just days after the deadliest Taliban attack against Afghan forces since the war began. James Mattis warned of a tough year ahead in the Afghan war, but added the Taliban can join the political process if they renounce violence and reject terrorism.

SESAY: Well, less than 24 hours after advancing into the final vote in the French presidential election, the top two candidates are already kicking off a new round of campaigning. The final numbers show that Emmanuel Macron edged Marine Le Pen in Sunday's vote, as you see there. They will face up again in the runoff in less than two weeks.

In Paris, Macron laid a wreath marking the 102nd anniversary of the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces. His opponent meanwhile visited a small town in Northern France, accusing Macron of being weak on terror. Later, she said victory is within reach.


MARINE LE PEN, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via translator): We can win. And I'll go even further, we're going to win. We are starting this campaign according to the polls, 40 to 60. Ten little points. Believe me, it's totally doable, particularly because it has to be said that Mr. Macron has benefited from a sort of skillfully maintained haze in the first round. And now, that haze is going to fade because now we are face to face.


SESAY: Well, Dominic Thomas is the chair of UCLA's Department of French and Francophone Studies. He joins us now from Paris. Dominic, good to see you, my friend.

So, when it was all said and done, Emmanuel Macron bested Marine Le Pen, as we saw there with that traffic, 24 percent to 21.3 percent. It begs the question of whether the issue of Europe superseded fears of terrorism when voters went to the polls in the first round and will that carryover in the second round, in the runoff?

DOMINIC THOMAS, DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR OF UCLA'S DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES: Yes. Absolutely, Isha. These kinds of issues are going to be discussed intensely over the next ten days or so. Marine Le Pen has already come out guns blazing and made these priority issues. She knows that these are issues that helped her get through to the second round and she's not about to let them go.

She's already engaged in a number of strategic moves. She yesterday announced that she was no longer running as just a representative of her party, of the Front National, National Front, but she's going to be running - and this is a very important point, running for the French people and she's going to be selling them a project.

And the project she's going to be selling them is this anti-EU and this fear-mongering among immigration. And these are the issues she is going to attack Emmanuel Macron as she represents him as an establishment candidate with whom she is going to go into full-on contact over the next ten days.

[00:35:14] SESAY: She is, as you say, going full on contact, aiming for Macron. But, virtually, all of Marine Le Pen's major opponents in the 11-person race have already coalesced around Macron, calling for her defeat in the runoff on May 7.

First of all, let me ask you - first off, has such a thing ever happened in French politics, such an immediate coalescing around one candidate to defeat the other? And the other issue is, can that front hold?

THOMAS: Right. So, yes, 2002, her father made it through to the second round in the sort of very unexpected turnaround where there were so many candidates in the race, 16 at the time, that Lionel Jospin, the socialists, did not make it through. And at that time, everybody came and backed Jacques Chirac.

Things has changed since then. Yes, in the aftermath of the election, just a couple of days ago, the Republicains have come out and Francois Fillon said that he would support him. But they had their meetings at the headquarters yesterday. They released a statement saying that they would support Macron, but several people within the party were reluctant to do that.

First of all, because they don't automatically embrace his positions, but because in five weeks' time, the French are going to go to the polls again for the parliamentary elections. And the Les Republicains are concerned that, by overly backing Macron, they would weaken their position in that race.

Of course, the President Francois Hollande has supported him; and more, his candidate has. But interestingly enough, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who did extremely well, three times higher in the polls than the Socialist Party on the far left, has refused to endorse him. He will not endorse Marine Le Pen, but he's waiting to see what his base are prepared to do before they offer an official endorsement.

And, of course, his position has changed dramatically because he literally is the only party left on the left because the socialist parties did so badly in this particular - in the first round here.

SESAY: As you talk about the establishment parties, center left, center right, all held back, kept out of the runoff. Should this be an alarm for other established center right, center left parties across Europe?

THOMAS: Yes. And I think the alarms have been going off in different elections. We saw, for example, just a month ago in the Netherlands, the way that the Labour Party there went from being the second most important party to the seventh party, dropping from 25 percent to just 5 percent.

We saw the snap election that Theresa May has called, which most likely will see the dismantling of the Labour Party because it's so divided right now that she's trying to capitalize on this.

So, things are changing, that new parties and new configurations are emerging. The GroenLinks, for example, did well.

And, clearly, with Macron, we're moving towards a different kind of politics, with a centrist party. And in many ways, we could see - one must remember that Macron doesn't really have a party right now. He's got a movement called En Marche! And it's likely that, as he goes forward, what will emerge from that is a new political configuration that would look very much like the Democratic Party in the United States.

SESAY: Fascinating times in France. Dominic Thomas joining us there from Paris. Dominic, appreciate it. Thank you.

VAUSE: We will take a short break. Isha, when we come back, another ambitious goal coming from President Trump. He wants to send people to Mars, not just Democrats apparently, and he asked a record-breaking astronaut just how quickly that could be done.

And it's not every day that music (ph) perform live. Why was Kenny G actually playing his Back to Home on this flight?


[00:40:58] SESAY: Hello, everyone. It's a great day for NASA as more history is made at the International Space Station. The oldest female astronaut set a new record by clocking more time in space than any other American. Today, Peggy Whitson's career total hit 535 days.

That earned her a long-distance phone call from President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka. As part of that conversation, Mr. Trump said he wants to speed up the mission to send humans to Mars.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tell me, Mars, what do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars? Is there a schedule and when would you see that happening?

PEGGY WHITSON, NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, I think as your bill directed, it will be approximately in the 2030s.

TRUMP: Well, we want to try and do it do it during my first term or at worst during my second term. So, we'll have to speed that up a little bit, OK?


SESAY: Well, to be clear, if Trump were to win the second term, it would last until 2024. But the bill he signed last month, as Whitson reminded him, the official goal is the 2030s.

The bill states that NASA should develop a human exploration roadmap that includes the long-term goal of human missions near or on the surface of Mars in the 2030s. Take note.

VAUSE: So, here's the question. Would you rather be dragged of a United flight, kicking and screaming, or be forced to listen to Kenny G perform live? Seems to be smooth jazz from the legendary sax player. It was a winner for passengers on a flight to LA. Take a look.




SESAY: (INAUDIBLE), John, some people thought they were in hell. (INAUDIBLE) liked it.

VAUSE: That sounded cool, really. Good for him.

SESAY: I used to like Kenny G, though. Full disclosure. I should just kind of just - I'm just sharing my shame. You've been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: The Kenny G lover. I'm John Vause. "World Sport" is up next. And we'll be back, me and the Kenny G lover. All the news from around the world. You're watching CNN.