Return to Transcripts main page


Trump: "I'm Not Sure King Jong-Un Is as Strong as He Says; Clash Over Border Wall Could Force Government Shutdown; Trump Struggles to Meet His Own Benchmark; Macron, Le pen Begin Runoff Campaigns; Openly Gay Defector Opens Up about Life in North Korea; Reporter in Hiding After Revealing Chechnyan Crackdown on Gays; Trump Admits Being President Tougher than Expected. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 02:00   ET



[02:00:17] ISHA SESAY, CNNA NCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --


JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause at CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta.

SESAY: I'm Isha Sesay, in Los Angeles.

NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

VAUSE: With nuclear tensions rising, U.S. President Donald Trump taking a jab at North Korea's leader, saying he's not so tough. The White House confirmed to CNN Mr. Trump told conservative journalists, "I'm not sure leader, Kim Jong-Un, is so strong like he says he is. I'm not so sure at all."

The U.S. show of force is growing as well. A U.S. guided missile submarine has docked in South Korea.

SESAY: Pyongyang is flexing its muscle as well. Tuesday is the anniversary of the founding of its military and the world is watching for a possible sixth nuclear test from the North. While, in addition to that, North Korea has detained another American citizen and is threatening to sink a U.S. warship.

Mr. Trump wants the U.N. Security Council to impose new sanctions and says the status quo is, quote, "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 will have to finally solve. People put blindfolds on for decades and now it's time to solve the problem. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: CNN's Paula Hancock joins us live once more from Seoul, South Korea.

Paula, we have China calling on Washington and Pyongyang to show restraint. Right now, it seems both sides are interested in flexing a little bit of military muscle, it seems.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. What we're seeing from the U.S. and South Korean side at this point is, obviously, those annual military drills still going on until the end of this month. We know that the submarine has, as you say, docked in Kusan (ph). We're hearing different things about that guided missile submarine. The U.S. Navy, Korea, has said that it is routine that it is docked there. But we're also hearing from a U.S. defense official it is actually another show of force. Bear in mind, you have the "USS Carl Vinson," this 97,000-ton aircraft carrier coming with its strike group by the end of this month, according to military officials in the trump administration. That will be coming close to the peninsula as well. And it was only here a matter of weeks ago for the military drills. So there is definitely a bigger show of force, a bigger buildup of U.S. military assets in the region, which certainly Japan and South Korea support, but infuriate North Korea -- John?

VAUSE: Caught up in the middle of all this, there is another U.S. citizen being held by Pyongyang. Listen to what U.S. ambassador to the U.N. had to say about all of this.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I think it's absolutely a bargaining chip. I think that is what their intentions are. Whether that's the case or not is something totally different. What we are dealing with is a leader who is flailing right now. I think what he is trying to do is show his citizens that he has muscle, whether it's through his rhetoric or whether it is through his actions.


VAUSE: As far as we know, he's a bargaining chip at this point? Do we know any more on officially why Tony Kim is being held?

HANCOCKS: We don't. We don't know what he's accused of. We don't know what the allegations against him are. All that we know is that he was picked up at Pyongyang Airport, we know from the Swedish Embassy, which works on behalf of the U.S., as they have no diplomatic ties with North Korea. From that embassy in Pyongyang, they say he was trying to leave the country. We understand from the University where he was working, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, that all they could say was it was not related to his teaching at the university, this investigation into him. But we don't know what he is accused of doing. So until we do know that, it's very difficult to know whether or not he would be used or was picked up to be a bargaining chip.

VAUSE: OK, Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks there on the very latest on the situation with North Korea. Thank you.

[02:04:53]SESAY: 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 for Democrats and even some Republicans as they work towards a spending bill to keep the government running.

CNN's Jason Carroll reports.


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

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has made it very clear from the beginning.

CARROLL: The president tweeting today, "The wall is a very important tool in 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 are the ones shutting the whole government down just to keep the wall from being built.

CARROLL: Democrats say funding for the wall is a nonstarter.

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 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 will come to an agreement by the end of Friday.

CARROLL: On day 95 of his presidency, the president finds himself with the lowest 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. (APPLAUE)

CARROLL: The White House is aiming to show progress on a number of fronts this week with the president teasing an announcement on 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, through many are the result of executive actions taken by the president.

SPICER: I don't think there's 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 (on camera): 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 are a president trying to get so much of your agenda through before that 100-day mark, you all the support you can get.

Jason Carroll, CNN, the White House.


SESAY: Joining me here in L.A., talk radio host, Ethan Bearman; and California Republican national committeeman, Shawn Steel.

Gentlemen, welcome.

We're going to get to the issue of the wall in just a moment. 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: Think about it.

Now, the president is taking quite 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 the Supreme Court, media will kill.

Wow. Shawn, not it's a ridiculous standard? What happened?

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


SESAY: What about the president?

STEEL: -- 3,340 days to come ahead. No, the 100 days have been pretty -- first of all, it still hurts the left terribly to understand the Donald Trump is president. Even I'm kind of getting used to it now. But secondly, it has been a whirlwind of activity.

Now, on one certain level, mainstream media has created a certain objective criteria that they do not like, but, my god, 25 acts of Congress have been approved that's undermined a lot of the Obama agenda. America has reasserted itself in the world. It is actually an international power for good. How about the stock market just going up 10 percent?


STEEL: Everybody is richer in America.


SESAY: Let me push you, as you talk about 25 acts in Congress, what significant major piece of legislation has been passed.


STEEL: You know what? It is 100 days, and if you are going to have a significant, important piece of legislation, you are not get another --


[02:10:00] BEARMAN: During the campaign -- during the campaign, President Trump promised during the first hundred days that he would do things like repeal and replace Obamacare. He would do things like drop the taxes and make middle-class tax cuts a priority. He said in the first 100 days that he would do things like, OK, how about build a wall and Mexico will pay for it. We've had not of the things he promised. He was full of hot air. He said things because he didn't know what --


BEARMAN: You have no idea --


STEEL: How about a firm, secure Supreme Court? How about --


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


SESAY: OK, so let me --


SESAY: Time out. Time out.


SESAY: So the numbers, of course, have dropped. That is why we notice that the wall has not been built. That was a major --

STEEL: You can't build a wall in 100 days.

SESAY: But he said --


BEARMAN: He said he would get it done.


STEEL: They're building parts of the wall now --


SESAY: Hold up. Hold up, you two.

By your measure, are you calling this 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 --


BEARMAN: -- 38 percent now.

SESAY: Ethan, is there --

STEEL: Actually, according to Rasmussen --


SESAY: Hang on for a second.

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


BEARMAN: Oh course not. I gave him praise and I know other Democrats that did last week on his cracked down on H1B visa abuse. So there -- when he does something that is worth praising, then that's something that people can talk about. I think that there is something you talk about with health care and 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: Let's talk about this more because --


SESAY: Let's talk about the wall, Shawn, because 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? By the way --


SESAY: The president is now talking about getting a spending bill to pay for this war. 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's pragmatic. He is not an ideological conservative. And he's beginning to have different points of views about major issues in the first 100 days. That is 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 admirers. It means the Democrats are no longer a serious force in America. The only serious problem that Trump has is mainstream media. So Democrats are irrelevant.

SESAY: So let me read you the tweet that the president put out where this is basically going to be Mexico's pay check here. He said, "Eventually, 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 guess the question is -- and, Ethan, I put it to you -- at some point, the reversals are going to start to add up. Then the question becomes what, what does this president stand for.

BEARMAN: He's never stood for anything other than to get himself elected. That is what he stood for. He's not fulfilling basically any of the promises. By the way, this whole idea that we're going to pay for the wall and somehow Mexico is going to pay us back, no, that is also untrue, because what he has put forth, the American taxpayer is going to pay for it anyway, either way that you look at it.

And what is so funny is there is one thing that Sean and I completely agree on.


BEARMAN: President Trump is not a conservative at all. And he has no principles. So he's 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 Betsy DeVos in Education to --


STEEL: -- a wonderful attorney general. More welfare. Keep talking about it. That's --


SESAY: Rather than you two argue about this point, let's put up some poll numbers. Take a look at some numbers and see what ABC and "The Washington Post" are seeing. The took a snapshot of all the president's approval ratings right now. It is worth pointing out that the president has already blasted these numbers saying they are fake news polls. But ABC/"Washington Post" poll, approval numbers say 42 percent, sure. 42 percent of Americans approve, or respondents of this poll approve. 53 disapprove. He's not even in the 100 days yet.

[02:15:03] STEEL: Two other things came out of that very same poll. And I'm using the same fake news --


SESAY: -- sitting here giving us the fake news.

STEEL: I'm going to tell you more information about their fake news.


STEEL: They also tell you that 44 percent of the Democrats believe that the Democratic Party does not stand for anything anymore.

SESAY: We're not talking about the Democrats.

STEEL: But that's in the same poll.


STEEL: But it's 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 -- all medias is attacking Trump and 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 --


STEEL: -- he'll get reelected.

SESAY: If. We're talking about right now.

STEEL: Right now, yes.

SESAY: The first 100 days, and 42 percent on respondents to this poll approve of the president. You don't see anything to worry about?

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

SESAY: Ethan?


BEARMAN: In 100 days, he's 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. 96 percent of his base still stand with him.

BEARMAN: That's great. That means he'll lose


BEARMAN: -- the popular vote again, and all the Democrats have to do is pick up about 100,000 vote in key counties and they win in 2020.

SESAY: What about the point brought up by Shawn? If is a valid one. 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, Democrats have 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 did not reach out. They did not connect.

STEEL: Now you know why Trump got elected. That is excellent. I hate to agree with him, but he got --


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

Thank you very much.

VAUSE: And thanks to Ethan and Shawn.

We'll take a short break right now. When we come back, the final push is on. France's two remaining presidential hopefuls campaign to expand their support for that crucial runoff vote. All of this as the political establishment puts its support behind just one candidate.

Also, the president of the Philippines say give him a little salt and vinegar and he will eat a terrorist's liver.


[02:20:15] SESAY: Well, the two-top vote-getters in the French presidential election are already back out campaigning less than 24 hours after advancing to the second round. The final numbers show centrist Emmanuel Macron edging past far-right Marine le Pen in Sunday's vote. They face off again in the May 7 runoff. In Paris, Macron laid a wreath marking the 102nd anniversary of the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces. Le Pen visited a small town in northern France where she attacked Macron on a key issue.


MARINE LE PEN, NATIONAL FRONT FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I draw your attention to important subjects, including Islamist terrorism, to which the least we can say Mr. Macron is weak on because he, the day after a terror attack, even indicated that he was not even going to implement a program against terrorism.


SESAY: Dominic Thomas is the chair of UCLA's Department of French and Francophone Studies. He joins us from Paris.

Dominic, let's pick up with the attacks launched by Marine le Pen on Macron right out of the gate. In addition to those kinds of statement we played, she also said things like he is for total open borders. He says there is no such thing as French culture. There's not one area where he shows one ounce of patriotism. OK, so I get how that appeals to her base that vote for her and got her to the second round, but how does she expand or grow her support using this line of attack?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR, DEPARMTENT OF FRENCH & FRANCOPHONE STUDIES, UCLA: This is the number-one thing she has to do now is to move from election mode where she was competing against 10 other candidates to putting her focus on the second round and on the single figure that's left, which is Emmanuel Macron. She needs to distinguish herself from him. The way she'll do that is to paint him as an establishment figure, as someone who was in the Hollande administration as a minister, who has the backing of the mainstream political parties. And as a juxtaposition to that, she'll attack him on the issues that have been absolutely essential to her and are proving very divisive in French society today, the question of globalization, of border control and terror and immigration, and how these questions have collapsed into one discussion. These are the areas she'll focus on over the next 10 days. And Emmanuel Macron will be on the defensive when it comes to that because the imperative for him, instead of focusing his energy on that, is to map out a roadmap that will provide greater employment and address those people that are leaning towards le Pen and moving less behind globalization and feel like they haven't been represented by the past administrations. SESAY: Let's be clear, Dominic, can Macron hold on that ground or will he have to bear a little left or maybe a little right. How do you see it?

THOMAS: His base has the mainstream political parties. Obviously, they have had their own candidates. But in the case of the Socialists, most of the voters are going to come over to Macron. For the Melenchon campaign, it's more divided. Some have expressed they may go over towards the le Pen campaign, all one vote, but 30 percent maybe a little more, will go to the Macron campaign. He's been endorsed by the right-wing party. There's dissent in there because they're concerned about the legislative parliamentary elections coming up in five weeks. They don't want to be overly keen and eager to support Macron and then have to go to the polls again in five weeks and try and separate from that as they try to pick up seats in the French parliament.

SESAY: You bring up the upcoming elections, so let's talk about them. That is really almost a bigger challenge for Macron. He may win the provincial election but cobbling together a majority out that legislative election is key to him getting anything done.

THOMAS: Absolutely. Right now, he doesn't have a political party. He left the Socialist Party. He's running as an Independent. He's been running a movement. That movement has now has to become a political party, a political institution. They way he'll do that is run candidates in this area but also most likely he'll have difficulty achieving a single majority with just that party. He'll try to establish a centrist coalition to create a kind of Democratic Party in France that will bridge the gap between the left and right. That's the hope for being able to government and to implement these policies. That's a great, great challenge as we go into that. This race is only five weeks away. Traditionally, less people vote in these legislative elections. That's not a lot of time to create his government and then go to the polls again. There's a lot of electoral fatigue at the moment, too, obviously.

[02:25:11] SESAY: Dominic Thomas joining us there from Paris, with great perspective as always. Dominic, thank you.

VAUSE: Mass demonstrations continue to fill the streets of Venezuela as unrested enters its fourth week. At least two people were killed in separate cities during protests on Monday. The governor says the victim there was a government worker who was shot in the neck. Anti- government protesters want the president, Nicolas Maduro, to step down. They're demanding early elections. At least 22 others have been killed in protests in the last month.

A warming to terrorists: If you cross the Philippine president, he says he will eat you. Rodrigo Duterte boasted about outrageous violence told crowd on Monday terrorists are animals. "Give me salt and vinegar, I will eat a terrorist's liver," he said. He forces have been battling Islamist terrorists for months. Most alarming of all, militants recently made their way onto a popular tourist island.

Iraqi forces are said 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 no liberated 70 percent of western Mosul. He says 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 east part of the city.

SESAY: Time for a quick break. "State of America" with Kate Bolduan is coming up next for our viewers in Asia.

For everyone else, a North Korean defector tells us about life as an openly gay man inside that country. Next, why he says few people there even know what homosexuality is.

Plus, Donald Trump takes stock of his first three months in office. Here's a hint, it's complicated.


[02:30:14] VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM L.A. I'm John Vause, at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Isha Sesay, in Los Angeles.

The headlines this hour --


VAUSE: It's not often we get a glimpse inside North Korea. It's incredibly rare to hear what life is like for anyone who is openly gay. But Paula Hancocks recently met a North Korean defective who talked about the difficulties of being gay in a repressive and brutal society.

Paula joins us once more, live, from Seoul - Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's easy to focus on the nuclear and missile when talking about North Korea, but there are 50, 25 million people who live in that isolated country. As you say, some do you manage to escape, 30,000 in South Korea at this point. But for some defectors, it's more than just the isolation and the difficulties of living in North Korea that force them to flee.



HANCOCKS (voice-over): Jang Yeong-jin didn't know he was gay. For over 30 years, he never once heard the word homosexual. In his native North Korea, it didn't exist. He was trapped in a marriage his parents arranged.

"From the first day of my marriage," he said, "there was trouble. I kept wondering what love was and felt sorry for my wife. I felt so guilty, like I had ruined her life."

Jang wrote a book about his experiences, handwritten because he doesn't know how to type or use a computer.

He said he saw several doctors in North Korea to find out what was wrong with him, adding he had to run out of one clinic when the doctor shouted at him for revealing his feelings. He says he knows he wasn't delighted.

"When I was in the military," he said, "there was a senior who had the same problem as me. After he got married, he used to come and see me. There was a man in my hometown who never got married and lived alone all his life. North Korea's society treated these people as abnormal."

He says that he knows now he was in love with a childhood friend. He said they often held hands and shared a bed, even as adults, not unusual in a country, he says, where few know what homosexuality is.

"One day," he tells me, "this friend comes to see me. That night, I left my wife's bed and got into his. My heart was beating so fast as he slept. I couldn't figure out why I felt so hurt by him. I got up, went outside and saw a wild goose flying in my head. I knew then I had to leave."

After failing to reach South Korea via China, Jang says he made the unusual and dangerous decision to cross the DMZ, the mine-ridden demilitarized zone, a route only a handful of defectors have ever managed.

He first read about homosexuality in a magazine in South Korea in 1998. At the age of 37, he finally knew what he felt different. He felt he had an identify and was free.

But it's still not easy. Jang has no family here. They're all in the North. He has few friends and says he feels like a devil alien, being a factor and gay.

But he's an optimist, telling me life begins at 60. And with his freedom and his writing, he knows he will survive.


HANCOCKS: Many North Korea defectors find it difficult to assimilate into South Korean life. Obviously, it is far more competitive, a much richer life, very different to the world they came from in North Korea. But for this man, in particular, those difficulties have been duplicated -- John?

VAUSE: Yeah. Great, moving story, Paula. Thank you.


[02:34:46] SESAY: Thanks, John.

Coming up, a reporter in Russia in fear for her life. She exposed an anti-gay crackdown and now she's facing death threats. Details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SESAY: A Russian journalist who exposed the waves of attacks against gay men in Chechnya is now in hiding, telling CNN she fears for her life after receiving death threats. Chechnyan officials have threatened retribution against her newspaper, calling its journalists enemies or our faith and our motherland.

From Moscow, here's Matthew Chance.



MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what's happening on the streets of Chechnya, the oldest Russian Republic where gay men are allegedly being abducted and tortured. CNN obtained this cell phone video from one victim who told us of horrifying abuse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): They tied wires to my hands and put metal clips in my ears to electrocute me. When they shock you, you jump high above the ground.

CHANCE: Chechnyan authorities deny gay men like those we met even exist there.

For now, the Russian reporter who first exposed the gay crackdown is also living in fear, forced into hiding amidst terrifying death threats.

ELANA MISHNA (ph), JOURNALIST (through translation): This is the first time when we had that kind of threat, when thousands of people got together in a mosque and announced actually jihad on all staff at the newspaper. And it will until last forever, until the last of them dies.


CHANCE: The threats made by Muslim clerics in Chechnya were rebroadcast on local television. Religious leaders are shown addressing thousands of faithful, condemning the reports of a gay crackdown --


[02:49:52]CHANCE: -- demanding retribution against those spreading what they call gossip and lies.

It's a threat journalists in Russia, particularly, like Nova Kazeta (ph), takes seriously.

In 2006, their star Chechnya reporter, Anna Polokoska (ph), was shot dead in Moscow. The desk is still kept as a shrine.

But since 2000, at least five other journalists at the same newspaper have also been killed in mafia-style hits. A sign of how dangerous reporting in Russia can be and how brave are reporters like Elana Mishna (ph) to continue despite the risks.

MISHNA (ph): The only way that people who might think of killing me or my colleagues is to show them that we will not be one.

CHANCE (on camera): And you're prepared to put your life on the line for that ideal>

MISHNA (ph): Yeah. Absolutely. If that makes me much stronger than my enemies in Chechnya.


CHANCE: Strength to defense the persecuted there in the face of the gravest threats.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


SESAY: CNN's Freedom Project heads to Brazil to look at the tragedy of modern-day slavery. The Brazilian government is cracking down on ranchers who abuse workers by forcing them to live in horrific conditions and withholding pay.

CNN's Shasta Darlington met one family celebrating their new-found freedom.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this small town, the streets turn into mud and laundry flaps in the breeze.

But for this family, it's a little patch of paradise.


DARLINGTON: Saturday, lunch time, when we visit, Louis Cardosa de Silva (ph) and several of his eight children sip chilled Coca-Cola and feast on rice, beans and fried liver, the kind of normal life, they tell us, that they haven't seen for a long, long time.

LOUIS CARDOA DE SILVA (ph), FORMER LABOR SLAVE (through translation): We spend more time here at home. We line up something close to my family. There would be nothing better.

DARLINGTON: We met Louis and some of his family three days earlier in entirely different circumstances. One of Brazil's mobile units tasked with cracking down on labor exploitation around the country found them living and working on a nearby ranch. The tell inspectors they haven't received money for two years.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE (through translation): They sleep here. The corral is right here next to them. This is the shut where the cattle are moved and put on trucks. Basically, sleeping like animals.

DARLINGTON: The mattress Louis and his wife share below the cattle shut, surrounded by pools of fetid mud.

Louis, a fence maker, said they had to buy their own tools. And instead of paying salaries, he says the ranch owner paid them in food and accused them of owing him money.

DE SILVA (ph) (through translation): We get up early. By 7:00, we're already working. We come back for lunch, then we go out again until 5:00 or 5:30. Every day, that's our work. In the end, we don't have any money. We don't have anything.

DARLINGTON: He says he couldn't leave because he feared for his family.

Markaos Carrudo (ph) is just 16. He mends fences.

MARKAOS CARRUDO (ph), FORMER LABOR SLAVE (through translation): You pull out the wires, dig holes, put in the posts. Work covers the food.

DARLINGTON: The task force comprised of labor inspectors, federal police and prosecutors say it's one of the worst cases they've seen in years. They're even filing criminal charges.

UNIDENTIFIED TASK FORCE MEMBER (through translation): We found a group of people living in animal pens, without mattresses. (INAUDIBLE) near the locations where they were. I am confident I have enough evidence to take them to justice.

DARLINGTON: A judge is reviewing the charges.

The first priority, however, removing the family from the ranch.

They load up a truck with their few valuables.

DE SILVA (ph) (through translation): When I left there, my heart opened up. It was a pleasure to get back to my house with my family. So many things had changed.

DARLINGTON: Louis, nearly 70, rents in town for his youngest children, paid for with his government pension.

[02:45:03]UNIDENTIFIED GIRL (through translation): I took a bath. I went to pick up my son. He was sleeping when I arrived and I picked him up.

CARRUDO (ph) (through translation): I wanted a drink of water. They said you can't. There isn't any. We've just been watching movies because we didn't have a TV there.

DARLINGTON: The best news comes a few days later when the ranch owner's family agrees to pay roughly $38,000 in back wages and penalties for pain and suffering, money they'll use to finally buy a house of their own, a safe haven for their future.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Brazil.


SESAY: Staggering story.

Tomorrow, at this time, meet a Dominican friar on the front lines in the battle against labor exploitation in the Amazon.


UNIDENTIFIED DOMINICAN FRIAR: There is a system and it has several roots, impunity, greed, vulnerability, misery. If you don't address at the same time, all of it, you will have probably the same persons coming back to the same cycle of enslavement.


SESAY: Fighting to rescue the workers exploited to produce Brazil's famous grass-fed beef tomorrow on the CNN Freedom Project.


VAUSE: With that, a short break. When we come back, Donald Trump coming up on that first 100-day mark in office. We'll tell you what he says is the most surprising thing about being president when we come back.




[02:50:36] 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: President Trump marks his 100th day in office this weekend and he's admitting the job is tougher than he expected. CNN's Tom Foreman reports.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was all supposed to be breezy and easy, changing policies, the law of Washington itself.

TRUMP: Somebody said, but you can't change the law. The law. This is so easy. It's very easy to figure that one out. Believe me.

Politicians will never be able to do it. For me, it's easy.

FOREMAN: But in near 100 days, time and again, the billionaire businessman has admitted grappling with D.C. is more than he imagined.


TRUMP: I think the size, the magnitude of everything.

FOREMAN: In his latest interview with the Associated Press, he is saying it again, describing the job as more massive, the tasks as more complicated, the media as more nasty than he expected.


FOREMAN: It harkens back to the startling moment when he said this about his soon-to-be-doomed plans for repealing and replacing Obamacare.

TRUMP: I have to tell you, it is an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.

FOREMAN: Even on topics he professed to know well, such as containing North Korea's nuclear ambitions, he now admits having been mistaken. He thought China could help a great deal but now, "After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it is not so easy."

From dealing with the budget to appointing a White House staff, through a variety of reports and sources, the president has expressed surprise at all the job entails.


FOREMAN: Even on his specialty, commerce, after meeting with business leaders to discuss his ideas about growing jobs and shrinking taxes, listen to what he said.

TRUMP: A bigger thing that surprised me is the fact that we're going to be cutting regulation massively.

FOREMAN (on camera): Pundits have long noted that the modern presidency is so complicated, no one is ever really ready for the job. But the experience of the past few months have pointed out that when someone has no government experience whatsoever, the job truly can be full of surprises.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


SESAY: So let's take a look at President Trump's first 100 days in office by the numbers. Trump has signed 28 bills into law, more than the previous five presidents. But none of those were a major victory and four are considered purely ceremonial. Trump has also signed 25 executive orders on everything from border security to abortion. That is more than any president in the last 72 years, dating all the way back to Harry Truman. Trump's big win, the Senate-confirmed Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. That hasn't happened in the president's first 100 days since James Garfield did it 136 years ago.

VAUSE: History has been made 250 miles above the earth on the international space station. The oldest female astronaut set a new record, more time off planet than any other American. Peggy Whitson has spent 535 days in space. For that, she received a long-distance phone call from President Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka. During that conversation, Mr. Trump said he would like to speed up the mission to send humans to Mar.


TRUMP: Tell me, Mars, what do see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars? Is there a schedule? And when would you see that happening?

[02:55:12] PEGGY WHITSON, NASA ASTRONAUT: I think, as your bill directed, it will be approximately in the 2030s.

TRUMP: Well, we want to try and 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?


VAUSE: OK, doing the math here, if Mr. Trump won a second term, he would stay in office until 2024, which he pointed out is a few years short based just on the bill, which he signed last month. It says, "NASA shall develop a human exploration roadmap that includes the long-term goal of human missions near or on the surface of Mars in the 2030s."

So, Isha, you know that means, that if they do get to Mars before the end of Donald Thomas's second term, it will make Mars great again.


SESAY: I'm writing it down in my diary right now.

VAUSE: He could be president of Mars.


No terms limits.

SESAY: I'm waiting. I'm waiting.

All right. John it's been a pleasure. Come back soon.

VAUSE: Yeah. I'll be here tomorrow. See you then.

SESAY: All right.

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

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. In case you noticed, I'm in Atlanta, which is where Rosemary Church will be after a very short break.


[03:00:10] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Putting pressure on North Korea, U.S. President Donald Trump takes a swipe --