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France's Runoff Campaign Begins; Experts Sixth Nuclear Test Possible For Military Holiday; Clash Over Border Wall Could Force Government Shutdown; Obama Speaks To College Students In Chicago; Duterte To Terrorists: "I Can Eat You"; Merkel Efforts to Thaw Frost U.S./Germany Relationship; Arkansas Moves Quickly to Execute Death Row Inmates. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Vause, reporting from Atlanta. Ahead this hour: as the world waits for North Korea's latest nuclear test, Donald Trump decides now, "it's a good time to taunt leader Kim Jong-un."

SESAY: The new U.S. President has been in office nearly 100 days and still no major legislative victories on his resume.

VAUSE: And France's runoff campaign begins with the political establishment joining forces against Marine Le Pen. U.S. President Donald Trump seems to be taunting North Korea's leader as nuclear tensions between the countries escalate. The White House has 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." North Korea's celebrating the founding of its armed forces on Tuesday, often uses these holidays to show off its military. There's also growing expectation, Pyongyang could put up a sixth nuclear test at any time. Also, raising tensions here, an American professor detained by the North Koreans. We have the very latest now from CNN's Will Ripley, the only western journalist in North Korea, right now.


WIL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right now, we don't know the status of Tony Kim, this U.S. citizen who has been detained in North Korea, but we do know that the State Department has urged Americans to think twice before traveling here citing the tense political situation and the real possibility of detainment and prosecution. He was just steps away from boarding a flight out of North Korea, but something happened at the Pyongyang airport, and now, an American citizen is in custody.

This airport is one the only ways in and out of North Korea, just a handful of flights pass through on any given week. And it was here, that North Korean authorities detained a man over the weekend, as he was trying to board a flight out of the country. Kim Sung-Duk, who goes by Tony Kim, had just finished several weeks of teaching at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. A private institution where foreign professors, including Americans, teach North Korean students.

In a statement to CNN, the university says, we understand this detention is related to an investigation into matters not connected in any way with the work of the university. Details of that investigation or any charges against Kim remain a mystery. So far, North Korea has stayed silent. Complicating matters, Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. All communications go through this embassy which confirms to CNN Kim detention - used further comment.

The U.S. State Department also says it's working on a case. Kim joins at least two other U.S. citizens also in North Korean custody. University of Virginia student Adam Warmvere was on a site seeing tour last year when he was accused of removing a political sign from a hotel wall. His sentence, 15 years hard labor. Kim Dong-chol is a naturalized U.S. citizen serving ten years hard labor, on spying charges. The status of both men, unknown.

This apparent third detention of an American citizen comes on the heels of a new warning from the Pentagon after North Korea threatens to take out a U.S. aircraft carrier. North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, unveiled never before seen missiles at the Day of the Sun military parade including two new ICBMs, that could someday be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the mainland U.S.

Despite rising tensions, travel to North Korea continues as normal. More than 100 people boarded Mondays' only flight from Beijing to Pyongyang, including dozens of tourists. Tour companies organizing these trips say everyone will leave safely as long as they follow North Korean law the detainment of yet another American. A sovereign reminder: going home is not always guaranteed.

Over the last decade, at least 15 U.S. citizens have been detained here in North Korea that is including this recent case over the weekend. In the past, United States has sent special envoys including in 2009, former President Bill Clinton to secure the release of an American prison. But whether that will work out in this case given the heightened tensions really, anyone's guess which is why the State Department urges Americans to think twice before traveling here. Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


[01:05:09] VAUSE: Will Ripley at his 12th visit to North Korea. Joining us now Paul Carroll, the Program Director of the Ploughshares Funder Group working to eliminate nuclear weapons. He's with us live, once again, from San Francisco. Paul, so, let's stick with the situation with the American professor. More than ten U.S. citizens have been detained by the North Korea since 2009, almost every time they're released after there's a high-profile visit from an American - right now, that would seem to be pretty unlikely at the moment.

PAUL CARROLL, PLOUGHSHARES PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Well, at the moment, I would say yes. However, you mentioned earlier that our Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, is the face - you know, perhaps, this is a bargaining chip or the way for the North to want to bargain with the U.S. I think it's way too soon to say - hopefully it is a bargaining chip because that would bode well for Mr. Kim, for his release and if he did an envoy of some kind or some meeting with the North Koreans under the guise of, of discussing his release, then other matters could be discussed. But this may just be adding fuel to the already - flames being fanned in the region.

VAUSE: You know, we're hearing also that the U.S. President has called for the entire Senate at the White House on Wednesday for a briefing on North Korea. That's incredibly unusual it seems, is that likely to be just kind of a photo up here of is there more to this?

CARROLL: It's quite puzzling, I have to confess. Typically, the administration, the administrative branch sends the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Defense to relevant committees in Congress to discuss these National Security matters. This President, as we know, is very unusual and he has literally summoned the entire Senate. Just Senators, mind you, not high-level or expert staffers, always the Senators. So, there's quite a bit of eyebrow raising and head scratching over this. Will 100 Senators show up on the White House lawn? I think that's highly unlikely, and so it's a little bit of a - I don't know, just something domestically, if you will.

VAUSE: All (INAUDIBLE 07:07) is a head scratcher. Also, along with the military traits, U.S. President also calling for tougher sanctions on North Korea. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The status quo on North Korea is also unacceptable. And the council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile problems.


VAUSE: So, how would tough new sanctions make any difference now when they've had sort of little and back for the last 20-something-years.

CARROLL: Well, they wouldn't. It's politically untenable not to suggest new sanctions each time the North tests a missile or test a weapon. However, those are the sticks, and as we all know, a combination of carrots and sticks are what you need to make any kind of progress in diplomacy. And I'm hearing little - very little to nothing of carrots.

VAUSE: Yes. So, just with the sort of carrots-stick approach here (INAUDIBLE 08:00), but do you see any real change on how China is actually dealing with the North Koreans compared to how they, you know, used to or have dealt with the North Koreans in past. And by any road change in terms of actually forcing North Korea to actually, modifies behavior in any way.

CARROLL: I do see some change. And I wouldn't say this is completely unprecedented because, in the past, there had been episodes where the United States and China and our allies in the region, South Korea, and Japan, have more or less been on the same page and have implemented sanctions, and actually enforced them. Recently, China has taken steps that are unusual, but hopefully, helpful. That is, they've come up all-called enforce with North Korea, this is extremely damaging to the North Korean economy. They have threatened to cut off oil exports to North Korea. And so, here you have some signals that China is not so happy with North Korea.

Now, how long were those sanctions lasts? And as you said, will it change their behavior? I don't think it will change their behavior, but it may coerce them to the negotiating table, which is really what the sanctions are about.

VAUSE: OK. Well, I guess, when you look at the military options, the diplomatic options, the negotiations are looking a lot better. Paul, good to see you. Thanks so much.

CARROLL: Thanks. Thank you.

SESAY: Well, a compromise may be in the works of why the U.S. government shutdown at the end of this week. White House sources, President Trump might delay asking for funding those Mexican border wall until this fall. In the meantime, he would settle for more monitoring and border patrol agents. CNN's Jim Acosta reports.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It just might be the biggest barrier standing in the way of a deal to prevent a looming government shutdown. President Trump's quest for funding to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. President is ramping up the pressure tweeting: "The wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth and many others. If the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will never be fixed the way it should be." White House officials are also pushing Congress to make sure wall money is included in any build to keep the government running.

[01:10:13] JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: We need that wall, it'll help us complete the promise that the President has made to the American people. That's what they want. The American people have a right to expect it. And I believe Congress will eventually deliver.

ACOSTA: But that lies in the face of what's perhaps the President's biggest campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall.

TRUMP: We're going to build that wall. Don't even think about it. And who's going to pay for the wall? Who?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We feel very confident. The government's not going to shut down.

ACOSTA: White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, insists the President isn't going back on his word.

Why is there even discussion about shutting down the government over paying for the wall, isn't Mexico supposed to pay for the wall?

SPICER: Well, I think, Jim, that President has made very clear that initially, we needed to get the funding going. And there's going to be several mechanisms to make sure that that happens. That funding piece will happen in due time.

ACOSTA: In his campaign's contract with American voters the President vowed to introduce a bill in his first 100 days in office that would force Mexico to ultimately pay for the wall, one of the several promises he hasn't kept. Now, the White House is releasing its own 100 days' highlight: requesting the military strike in Syria, the administration's still frozen travel ban, his Supreme Court pick in efforts to help women and minorities nearly all stemming from executive actions. The White House is also looking to make a big splash on Wednesday when the President is expected to outline his tax reform plan including a massive cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent. But the administration is not insisting that any of it be paid for.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, UNITED STATES TREASURY SECRETARY: The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth.

ACOSTA: And as for the President's proposal to lower the corporate tax rate, that trial balloon is going over like a lead balloon up on Capitol Hill, where Top Republican Congressional source tells CNN that they're going to insist that that proposal be revenue neutral - something the White House is not promising at this point. Jim Acosta, CNN, The White House.


SESAY: Well, let's take a look at some polling number, shall we. And the days of President Trump's approval rating at historic lows in his first 100 days. He's hovering just above the 40 percent mark, that is far worse than any president's first 100 days seeing all the way back to John F. Kennedy in 1961. Let's dig a little deeper into all of this.

Joining me here once again, joining me here in L.A.; Talk Radio Host, Ethan Bearman; and California Republican National Committee - Committeeman, in fact, Shawn Steele. Round two, gentlemen, welcome. All right. So, let's play a little game of before and after, shall we? Let's take a listen to how Mr. Trump used to discuss the 100-day mark as we arrive at this benchmark in a couple days. Take a listen to what he used to say.


TRUMP: Just think about what we can accomplish in the first 100 days of the 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: I know what you're thinking ahead, Shawn. I mean, that was, that was then; this is now. Now, the President puts up tweets like this, this is what he said on Friday: "No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, and it has been a lot, including S.C. (Supreme Court), media will kill." Ethan, let me start with you. That does seem like a rather disingenuous statement aimed squarely at his base when you take a look at the very short list of accomplishments in this 100 days.

ETHAN BEARMAN, TALK RADIO HOST: Yes, and his accomplishments include executive order such as a travel ban, a Muslim travel ban that's been held up at Federal Court not once but twice on both attempts. No major legislative accomplishments. He really hasn't got much - he filled the Supreme Court seat which by the way was open and all the Republicans had to do is vote on it.

SESAY: Shawn?

SHAWN STEELE, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEEMAN: That's wasn't so easy. I hope you're not against the travel ban, of having some people not vetted probably four torn areas-

SESAY: You know that's frozen-

STEELE: In court.

SESAY: That travel ban.


SESAY: You can't count it.

STEELE: It's actually moving in court but very slow, and soon to be at Supreme Court.

SESAY: Not in effect, so you can't put that in the win column.

STEELE: The economy has really have taken off in a very nice way, look at the stock market. Now, you've got the Keystone Pipeline with tens of thousands of people getting employed. The forgotten workers that the Democrat Party have ignored for a year now feel that there's some hope, they're actually going to start finding jobs. The Transpacific National - International Trade Pact has been walked away.

SESAY: That was all is going.


STEELE: It was killed by Trump; this is an amazing time that we're living at. And here's the best news, there are another 1300 days of Trump in the first term alone. If you have had enough change already in the last 100 days, wait till you get the next 100 days.


SESAY: So are we winning? Is this - because you know, I remember

(CROSSTALK) [01:15:08] STEELE: You know what, we are winning so much, but I have to tell you the truth I'm not tired of winning. I want to win the whole lot more.

BEARMAN: But let's talk about your math, first of all, is off because you forgot about a leap year, so we can't even count on you for mathematics. We'll start there.

STEEL: Well not only that, how about the second term? Let's take a leap year.

SESAY: OK. OK so to your point, timeout, are we effectively saying, we should just shell the notion of the 100-day major commitment. Is that what you're saying?

STEEL: Mainstream media controversy.

BEARMAN: You had it on campaign Web site. The 100 days was splashed on this campaign website, this is what we are getting down last time. Exactly, this is what he was focused on, he talked about repeal and replace Obamacare, hasn't happened, build the wall Mexico's going to pay for it, hasn't happened, cut middle-class tax cut, hasn't happened. None of his legislative priority.

STEEL: Hold on. Hold on to your hat. The good news is we have a whole new set, the best cabinet since Ronald Reagan. Huge new leaders.

BEARMAN: Are you kidding me? You're absolutely kidding me.

SESAY: So you're saying to look forward? Ignore the 100 days report? OK. Let me ask you this Ethan though as you talk about the lack of accomplishment and you know it is there for all to make their own judgment.

STEEL: And I want you to believe that - accomplishment.

SESAY: Time out, time out. Is this the bedrock was especially for the Democrats? I mean, is this what are you going to focus on going forward, is this enough going forward as you're moving to the midterms, just focusing on the lack of accomplishment as described by most going into this 100 days and beyond.

BEARMAN: No, I think the midterm is going to focus on two things for Democrats as we just saw with Ossoff in the Georgia sixth district. They're going to have to focus on their local issue, that's the number one way to win a congressional seat. Number two, they can fight against President Trump. Those are the two ways to the midterms; Presidential election in 2020 is a whole different story. The Democrats have to get it together before that.

SESAY: All right.

STEEL: And the good news, they are at a civil war there, at each other's throat, they're attacking pro-life Democrats. The Democrats are in great disarray and who said that in 24 hours ago? Bernie Sanders, he say their models are not working.

SESAY: Before you weigh in on the Democrats, let's stay with the Republicans, you are in power. STEEL: Oh, we are in power. We got everything.

SESAY: So we are going to focus on you. Let's talk about this issue on the wall, in fact, that the President has made this reversal now saying that he wants Congress to pay for it, putting out that Tweet saying, "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." That is a major reversal. Do any of the President's reversals on issues ranging from now not calling China a currency manipulator, going down this road now of saying Mexico paying for the wall, do any of these reversals trouble you?

STEEL: No. It shows me a mature person that takes a look at a practical problem and has no information and he's making an adjustment to take in. The point is he is a pragmatist, he's not an ideologue. There's some part of it that might disturb me, I haven't seen it yet. But on the other hand, he's listening to all kinds of different advice, he's getting different points of view and unlike Obama, he's making really tough decisions, he's decisive and so Obama was wooded to be a hard iconic plastic ideologue. Donald Trump -

SESAY: Is there anything in that, that there is something to be said for flexibility and changing position as you learn more?

BEARMAN: That would be a wonderful argument if that was actually the case here. The case here is, use the wall to demonize the other because ground people from south of the border

STEEL: Stop it.

BEARMAN: Coming across without proper documentation and he used that.

STEEL: Shame on you. Shame on you.

BEARMAN: No. He absolutely -

STEEL: 40 percent of the Latinos in Texas voted for Trump. Shame on you. You're using a raised part and it will not work anymore.


BEARMAN: Absolutely, the absolutely

STEEL: Hoping like a loser Democrat.

BEARMAN: Dog whistle that was used on with and now he realized it can't be done because the rest of the Republican Party recognized that a physical wall emplaces like the real grand and big bang Texas doesn't actually work. You need technological solutions and things like E-verify.

STEEL: And by the way, he agrees with you. SESAY: I'm going to move on. You called his name so let's put him on the screen. Former President Barack Obama, appearing on Monday giving his first public remarks since leaving office. He didn't mention President Trump by name or reference anything that's going on specifically, you know he was there, he was moderating a conversation with young people. Take a listen of somewhat he has to say.


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES FORMER PRESIDENT: I'm spending a lot of time thinking about what is the most important thing I can do for my next job. The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can to prepare the next generation of leadership, to take up the baton and to take their own proactive change in the world.


SESAY: Shawn, what happens if the President, the former President changes his mind and decides to weigh in on the political conversation?

STEEL: I hope he does because his legacy is being un-whelmed in the first 100 days, but he's also a potential part of the Obama legacy being turned to Sander and set aside. It's sad and pathetic. The first African-American President in world history, one of the greatest opportunities in the history of our planet and seeing what's going on in Chicago, he's speaking to young black men in Chicago right now and what was he doing for the last eight years? We've seen the crime increase between the schools.


[01:20:35] BEARMAN: He passed the first large entitlement since the great society of President Johnson.

STEEL: That's horrible.

BEARMAN: The Affordable Care Act and it's actually so horrible that the Republicans refuse to repeal it because they realized that their solution don't exist.

STEEL: It doesn't help young black men.

BEARMAN: And Paul Ryan had six years to repair and replace nothing in place.

STEEL: Obama has ignored the young black men.


SESAY: OK. We can take on the issue on Former President Obama did with the black community in urban areas at a later day. We must call time tonight. Gentlemen, thank you.

BEARMAN: Thank you.

STEEL: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you, thank you. All right, John.

VAUSE: OK. We'll take a short break. We need a breather after that. Coming up the death tolls is rising in Venezuela as more political protest erupts across the country.

SESAY: And the remaining two French Presidential candidates are back out to campaign, you just can't keep these two quiet, looking to expand their support, ahead. Look at the runoff election.


SESAY: Well, mass demonstrations fill the streets of Venezuela as the rest of South American country enters its fourth week.

VAUSE: At least two people were killed in separate cities during Monday's protest. The Governor of Merida said the victim there was a government worker who was shot in the neck. Anti-government protestors want President Nicolas Maduro to step down. They're demanding earlier elections. 22 others have been killed in these protests in Venezuela this past month alone.

SESAY: Well, the two remaining candidates in the French Presidential election wasted no time returning to the campaign trail after clearing the first round of voting. Centrist Emmanuel Macron later briefed in a ceremony marking the anniversary of the slaying of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. Macron faces far right candidate Marine Le Pen in the May runoff. At her campaign soft in Northern France, Le Pen accused Macron of being weak in the battle against terrorist. She said victory is within reach.


MARINE LE PEN, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): We can win and I'll go even further. We're going to win. We're starting this campaign according to polls 40 to 60, 10 little points believe me it's totally doable particularly because it has to be said that Mr. Macron has benefited from a sort of skill sly maintained haze in the first round. And now that haze is going to fade because now, we're face to face.


SESAY: Well, Dominic Thomas is a chair at the UCLA Department of French and Francophone Studies, he joins us now from Paris a little windy and that's a little rainy. Dominic, let me ask you this. Marine Le Pen giving up the Presidency of her National Front Political Party, is this anything more than symbolism? Does it have any real implication for this race? Don't blow away Dominic.

[01:25:37} DOMINIC THOMAS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LOS ANGELES, DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES CHAIRMAN: Well I'm not. I might fly off the building Mary Poppins style. Yes, it has huge implication she - it's trying to essentially move beyond the kind of campaign where she represents as a particular party where she was one of the 11 candidates to moving into a completely new strategic domain now which is to present herself as a candidate for the Presidency of France and to represent the people of the underdog here against the establishment candidates. What she's saying is now this is no longer about the Front National, the National Front, it is about my project and she's being very clear about that and raising the issue that she's going to make important over the next 10 days in these discussions, which are the European Union and immigration.

SESAY: So, she has given up the Presidency of the National Front but is she changing the issue she's focusing on because on the lead up to that first round, one-third is the same issues she had, you know, had championed.

THOMAS: Yes. That's the same issue she's championing but she's also now starting in on the direct target which she has in front of her which is Emmanuel Macron. What's she's going to do is paint or she's doing is painting Emmanuel Macron as an establishment figure. She's going to underscore and underline and remind people that he was in the Hollande government, that he has served as a government Minister, that he is not some kind of maverick who emerge from nowhere, that he had strong connections to the elite, that he has re-establishment candidate and the fact that so many of the other parties have already rallied behind him and supported him, serves to support that particular argument and she's going to present herself as anti- establishment candidate who is going to stand against this sort of corrupt to lead corrupt to media relate and represent the French people in this election.

SESAY: Yes. We're already hearing her refer to Macron as Hollande baby. Trying to tie him closely with the current French President, but let me ask you this. When we talk about Emmanuel Macron he's big challenge is going to be trying to convince working clocks French voters that he is really their champion, that he understand their pain and that he will fight for their interest. Can he do that?

THOMAS: Yes. Well he's going to have a difficult time making that argument, you know, it's really interesting when you do the sort of breakdown of the, you know, about 20 percent of people did not vote, abstained or destroyed their ballots but 20 percent voted for her and about 20 percent for Melenchon so that's a lot of people out there that is disgruntled, disaffected and disinterested in this particularly election. And we see a giant fault line along here with these candidates for their being portrayed as the representatives of sort of globalization, Europe economic liberalism and what she's trying to do is be the champion for those who have been left behind. So her objective and her key goal is to try and appeal to broader constituency than her Front National base and Macrons greatest challenge exactly as you said is to try and ensure that his policies are going to jump start the economy, address the problems of unemployment and move France in a different direction that it's been going in over the past few years with the legacy of the Hollande Presidency and unemployment at over 10 percent.

SESAY: All right. Dominic Thomas is joining us there from a windy Paris. Get inside, my friend. Thank you so much for the great analysis. THOMAS: Thank you.

VAUSE: Observing Dominic could give us the weather forecast, well I guess it's raining. OK, we'll take a quick break and then the German Chancellor extending a personal invitation to Ivanka Trump to visit Berlin. Could the first daughter improve strain relation between the U.S. and Germany?

SESAY: Plus, terrorist beware the Philippine's President says he won't just beat you, he may eat you. Stay with us for the details.


[01:32:52] SESAY: Hello, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause, reporting from Atlanta.

We'll check the headlines now this hour.


SESAY: Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel has personally invited Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, to this week's W20 summit in Berlin. It's a move that could help ease the tense relationship between the U.S. and Germany.

Atika Shubert reports.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Merkel finally met face-to-face at the White House last month, the awkward body language between them spoke volumes. And the frosty press conference afterwards, well, there was still a long list of issues the two leaders did not see eye to eye on, the U.S. trade deficit with Germany to Trump's complaint that Germany, quote, "owed vast sums for NATO.

Social media took to Internet memes to mock the awkwardness, including Ivanka Trump before she was made an official White House advisor seated prominently next to Angela Merkel, arguably the most powerful woman in the world.

But the video from the meeting shows the Chancellor and the first daughter swapping out and sharing a laugh. In fact, it was Chancellor Merkel's office that reached out to the White House asking Ivanka Trump could personally arrange for a meeting on business skills training with the president, just one way analysts say that Merkel is methodically trying to break the ice with President Trump.

[01:35:11] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's sort of an attempt at understanding Trump here. And understanding him is understanding the people around him, and that includes the family. Her sense seems to be that that avenue into the White House is through Ivanka Trump. SHUBERT: Since that White House visit, President Trump has called Chancellor Merkel nearly every week on issues big and small, from European elections to how to handle Russia and Syria. For Merkel, it is at least a start to building a relationship with President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She tests -- tests the water. She is analyzing the man. She is trying to find out what she can do with them, how he ticks, how he works, how he understands issues. She is deliberate and slow. She even, in small circles makes, no value judgments about Donald Trump. She just says this is how he ticks. You see a political plumber at work.

SHUBERT: Testing the pipes seems to be working. Now Ivanka Trump has been personally invited by Angela Merkel to attend the W20, women's leadership summit in Berlin. Burnishing the first daughter's role as presidential advisor and perhaps one more step in improving Berlin's relationship with the White House.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Berlin.


VAUSE: The former king of cable news, Bill O'Reilly, has broken his silence over the sexual harassment scandal, which cost him his job at Fox News. On his "No Spin News" podcast, O'Reilly sounded defiant, promising the truth will eventually come out.


BILL O'REILLY, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST (voice-over): I am sad that I am not on television anymore. I was very surprised how it all turned out. I can't say a lot because there is much stuff going on right now. But I can tell you that I am very confident the truth will come out. And when it does, I don't know if you are going to be surprised, but I think you are going to be shaken, as I am. There's a lot of stuff involved here.


VAUSE: The podcast is normally subscription only, but you can save $4.95 each month because it will be free until Sunday.

O'Reilly continues to deny multiple accusations of sexual harassment during his 20-year-long career at Fox.

SESAY: A free-speech battle is headed to court in California. Two conservative groups are suing the University of California, Berkeley, for postponing a speech by conservative author, Ann Coulter, that was scheduled for this week. The suit claims Berkeley, which was the heart of the free-speech movement back in the '60s, discriminates against conservative guest speakers. The school says Coulter's speech would pose safety concerns. There were violent protests in February when right-wing journalist, Milo Yiannopoulos, was scheduled to speak at Berkeley.

VAUSE: A short break. When we come back, Arkansas executes two death-row inmates in one night and they are not done yet. Why the governor is rushing to execute five more prisoners before the end of the month.


[01:41:49] SESAY: Well, if you think you've heard it all from Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines president, he's done it again, given us another statement for the history books. His plan to stop terrorists? Eat them.


RODRIGO DUTERTE, PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT (through translation): They are animals. If you want to me to be an animal, I can be one. I can be the same. I can dish it more than what you can. Fifty times more than you can. I can eat you. Just give me salt and vinegar. True. Make me mad. Get me a terrorist. Give me salt and vinegar. I will eat his liver.


SESAY: He sure has a way with words. The president has had clashes with terrorists for months now and, perhaps, outside militants since they made their way onto a popular tourist island.

VAUSE: Two down and five to go in the U.S. state of Arkansas after another two inmates were executed on Monday, Jack Howell Jones (ph) and Marcel Wayne Williams (ph), both convicted of murder. When their last-minute legal appeals failed, they were killed by lethal injection on Monday, brining relief for the family of the woman who was killed by Jones.


ROBBY JONES, FAMILY MEMBER OF VICTIM: This has been an ongoing process that lasted over 20 years. It came close a few times. And we're glad that it's finally over with. It's been an emotional rollercoaster. No one in our family wants death for anybody, but some people deserve what they deserve.


VAUSE: Last Thursday, Arkansas executed Riddell Lee (ph) by lethal injection as well. He was the first to die after the state governor laid out an unprecedented timetable of eight executions in 11 days. The reason for the rush? Because the drugs used in those lethal injections are set to expire by the end of the month, past the use-by date. So now the clock is ticking down. Another execution scheduled for Thursday with the rest on hold while those death-row inmates exhaust their last legal appeals.

For more, Jen Moreno, an attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, joins us now from Austin, Texas.

Jen, thank you for being with us. We have this rush now to carry out so many executions, it seems to be a matter of expediency. So how does that sit legally because, unless I'm wrong, any stay which the court has issued has not looked at the timetable for so many executions in a short period that's been though a whole host of other reasons.

JEN MORENO, ATTORNEY, DEATH PENALTY CLINIC, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: Yes, certainly, the schedule -- the original scheduling of eight in 10 or 11 days is unprecedented and we have not seen anything other state with a schedule like that. What we've seen, the stays that have been granted, they have been further revisited, some having to do with competency, a DNA testing claim, and a couple of others. I think that shows us that in the speed of rushing executions we're really ignoring a lot of significant problems with the cases. And there hasn't been time to litigate these important issues.

[01:45:04] VAUSE: Arkansas isn't the only state here which is having a problem getting the drugs for lethal injections. The E.U. banned sales of these drugs to death-penalty states. But why aren't U.S. pharmacies stepping in to provide these drugs?

MORENO: I think what we're seeing is -- well, first of all, the drugs that Arkansas is planning to use, it is available in manufactured form. Pharmacies have stepped in and provided drugs to states for use in other executions, Texas, Missouri, and a different drug. The pharmacy in Virginia did provided a compounded drug. But because of the circumstances surrounding the process of acquiring drugs in Arkansas and other states, we don't really know the details of who they've asked, the reasons are why they haven't been able to get other drugs. What we're seeing is we have to rely on their word that they can't get additional drugs and, therefore, have to rush through with these executions.

VAUSE: We heard from the governor of Arkansas. He says he is a reluctant executioner, he has a responsibility to the families of the victims of these men. Maybe we can sort of understand that. But it is very difficult understand that essentially all of the executions have been planned simply because the drugs are said to expire, essentially, they will pass their sell-by-date, if you like.

MORENO: Yeah. Certainly, that seems to be almost as arbitrary of a reason to do so many executions in such a short timeframe.

VAUSE: The critics have also called the assembly line of death. What impact do you think this would have, or is having, rather, on the debate about the death penalty in the U.S.?

MORENO: I think what we've seen in the commentary on this is that people seem to be pretty shocked and even appalled at this schedule and how many there are in such a short period of time. As we move further away from this and we look back and we see these prisoners were granted stays for a number of different reasons, it just highlights how many different problems there are with the death penalty. And those don't go away because you rush to execute people.

VAUSE: Yeah. This will be an ongoing story and a lot of legal issues to be resolved. A lot of ethical issues as well.

Jen, great to speak with you. Thank you.

MORENO: Thank you, much.

SESAY: Time for a quick break now. Coming up in our next our, part two of our CNN Freedom Project investigation into labor trafficking on cattle ranches in Brazil's rain forest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I left there, my heart opened up. It was a pleasure to get back to my hour with my family. So many things have changed.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: A house that Louis (ph), nearly 70, rents in town for his youngest children, paid for with his government pension.


SESAY: We'll have that story and more on the pursuit of traffickers in the Amazon coming up next hour on the CNN Freedom Project. We will be right back.



[01:52:04] VAUSE: So your favorite TV shows could be in jeopardy, at least temporarily. Hollywood writers are inching closer to a strike for the third time since 2008.

VAUSE: Members of the Writers Guild of America have vote to authorize a strike if they don't win key concessions. They say the studios are making huge profits and they're doing it off their work. They want a bigger piece of the action. Both sides, back to the negotiations on Tuesday.

SESAY: John, what are you going to do?

VAUSE: No. Last time they had a big writers strike, it was with the rise reality TV shows.


SESAY: Any way, watch more news.

VAUSE: Oh, that would be good.


SESAY: Passengers on a flight bound to Los Angeles were serenaded.

John, this is for you.


SESAY: By Grammy-award winning saxophonist Kenny G. over the weekend.




VAUSE: Mr. G. -- I guess you can call him that -- agreed to play if passengers contributed to a Delta fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Clearly, the passengers enjoyed the smooth tones. They donated a total $2000.



SESAY: I'm sure that was a treat, right?

VAUSE: Yeah.

SESAY: yes, OK.

VAUSE: Like elevator music played live. Whoo, yeah.

SESAY: Woo, yeh. OK, whatever.

Moving on, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson set a U.S. record for the most cumulative days in space.

VAUSE: There was a presidential phone call. Also a chance for Whitson to get a little personal with Donald Trump.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She holds the record for female astronaut space walks. He was about to have his space talk. They counted down the president






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zero and liftoff.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Station, this is your president. Do you hear me? MOOS: This was really long distance.

TRUMP: Do you hear me?

PEGGY WHITSON, NASA ASTRONAUT: Yes, sir. We hear you loud and clear.

TRUMP: That's what we like, great American equipment that works.

MOOS: President Trump called international space station commander, Peggy Whitson, to congratulate her for breaking the record for the longest an American astronaut has stayed in space.

TRUMP: 534 days and counting.

MOOS: It was an occasion for somersault.

UNIDENTIFIED ASTRONAUT: Resident space ninja.

MOOS: And for showing off her hands-free microphone technique.

WHITSON: To mine it back with the CO2 that we take out of the air.

MOOS: Commander Whitson noted some the space station's scientific achievements.

[01:55:10] WHITSON: We also are cleaning out our urine and making it drinkable. And it is really not as bad as it sounds.

TRUMP: Well, that's good. I'm glad to hear that.


Better you than me.

MOOS: Some wondered, what is Ivanka Trump doing there.

And a five-second delay didn't make asking questions easy.


MOOS (on camera): For once, the view from the Oval Office was eclipsed.

(voice-over): Instead of mere mortals weighed down my gravity on the White House lawn, the space station showcased another astronaut.

WHITSON: We, right now --

MOOS: -- floating in and out of the background.

WHITSON: In order to make it successful.

MOOS: And when the president asked for volunteers --

TRUMP: Who is ready to go to Mars up there?

MOOS: -- there was a show of hands.

A critic suggested send the president. "Don't worry, Mexico will pay for that, too."

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

TRUMP: Better you than me.

MOOS: -- New York.


SESAY: John, how about it? Atlanta today, Mars tomorrow.

VAUSE: Absolutely.



VAUSE: I'll be there.

SESAY: We'll send you.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. For people that go to Mars, we'll have another hour of news right after this.

SESAY: I'm not going.