Return to Transcripts main page


Was North Korea Briefing "Political Theater"?; More Arrests in Turkey; U.S. Displays Show of Force and Commitment with Deployment of Stealth Fighter; A Mysterious Death in Moscow; Coping with Three Decades of Slavery; Gesture of God's Love. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 27, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Busloads of senators get a classified briefing on North Korea at the White House. Some complain it was all political theater.

More arrests in Turkey. It's the biggest round-up since the referendum that gave sweeping powers to the president.

And a CNN exclusive, soaring with the American stealth combat jet on a training mission at Russia's doorstep.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

The Trump administration says it's ready to try a new approach to the nuclear threat from North Korea. Tighter sanctions and diplomacy.

On Wednesday, they bussed almost the entire U.S. Senate to the White House to hear their plans for dealing with Pyongyang.

President Trump made just a brief appearance. Many democrats and even some republicans said the whole thing seemed to be just for show.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It was -- it was an OK briefing.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do you mean it was an OK briefing? You didn't really learn much?

CORKER: I -- it was -- it was OK.

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: I seriously felt like I could have gotten all that information by reading a newspaper. I did not see any new information coming out of that briefing at all. It felt more like a dog and pony show to me than anything else.


CHURCH: So let's bring in CNN's Paula Hancocks, she is joining us live from Seoul. Paula, what has been the reaction across the Korean Peninsula to this briefing given to U.S. Senators by the Trump administration, with this shift apparently away from threats of military action to the use of diplomacy and tighter sanctions instead.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, I think there will certainly be a sigh of relief in some areas that this diplomatic route seems to be the one that the Trump administration is focusing on now.

The one thing that Korean, South Korean officials are focusing more on at this point, though, is of course the U.S. missile defense system THAAD, which is being set up right now. Just a couple days ago, that was brought into the area where it was actually going to be deployed to counter the North Korean missile threat.

And we heard overnight from Admiral Harry Harris overnight Asia time that he said it would be operational within days. Now this is what South Korea is focusing on right now, the fact that the South Korean defense ministry had thought it would be the end of the year before it would be fully operational.

We're getting clarification that they have some of the key components of THAAD, they have launches, the combat control stations and the radar in country already. That is being connected and could be ready to go within days.

So, that is a big development that officials here are focusing on. They're more focusing on the way that they can defend themselves rather than what was said behind closed doors. Of course, many would not even know what the updates would have entailed. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes. And Paula, what impact will these tighter sanctions and diplomacy likely have on North Korea, given they haven't worked in the past?

HANCOCKS: Well, that's the thing, we know that the national security adviser of the U.S. and South Korea spoke this morning. This Thursday morning, they talked about trying to put pressure on the international community such as China. China was specifically mentioned in the statement that was given out afterwards.

But this pretty much looks like the policy that we have seen from the previous administration.

We heard from Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, when he was in the region a matter of weeks ago, that strategic patience is over, it hasn't worked, there is going to be a different policy.

But by saying that there will be sanctions and there would be potentially negotiations or at least diplomatic channels, that sounds very similar to what we have seen in the past. The difference is, there's a much more significant build-up of U.S. military assets here right now.

You have the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier which is the head of the pack had said is in strike distance if necessary, of North Korea. You have a missile guided submarine that is here as well. And of course you have the elements of THAAD being set up to be operational within days. So I think that's the difference. The negotiations, or the sanctions sounds pretty much the same. CHURCH: All right, our Paula Hancocks, joining us live from Seoul in

South Korea with all those developments and reaction from there where it is just after 4 in the afternoon. Many thanks.

[03:04:56] Well, the Trump administration believes China can help bring North Korea under control. That's a sentiment echoed by one U.S. senator who attended the White House briefing. He talked to our Wolf Blitzer.


SEN. ANGUS KING, (I) MAINE: The real key to this, Wolf, has to be China. And they have to assess that the risk of a nuclear armed, a fully nuclear armed North Korea is worth -- is really worth some effort on their part to stop it. Ninety percent of North Korea's trade is with China. They're the ones that have the power to influence the behavior in North Korea.


CHURCH: So let's cross over to Beijing now, and CNN's David McKenzie joining us live. David, the U.S. is relying heavily on China to help pressure North Korea to end its nuclear program.

But news of the THAAD anti-missile defense system being operational earlier than expected, that's not going to make Beijing very happy, is it? What impact will this likely have on that relationship between the U.S. and China?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, do you know that China has vehemently said that this is not a missile system that it wants in its path. It said just recently that they want the whole system of THAAD deployment canceled and that, in fact, they are deeply suspicious that the powerful radars that are used to operate this missile will in fact be used to snoop on China.

So it won't help by any means the situation between China and the U.S., and the missile deployment will be something that could be a thorny issue when it comes to pushing that pressure that U.S. lawmakers and the president of the -- President Trump keep talking about, as if China is sort of the silver bullet to the North Korea problem.

While it is true that China has a very large trading relationship with North Korea, but most experts agree, that their decision-making process is very different towards North Korea than the U.S. is on this problem. Because they have said and experts have told me in recent days, that really it's only U.N. sanctions that China will look to push through, not any unilateral action.

And at this stage, it might not be a given that China signs up to any harsher U.N. sanctions unless Pyongyang makes the next move on its missile program. So it is a sense that the U.S. wants China to do its bit, but China isn't necessarily going to do everything that the Trump administration wants. We'll have to wait and see. Rosemary? CHURCH: Yes. And of course that keeps being said but the Trump

administration still insists that it's relying heavily on China here. We'll see what happens. David McKenzie joining us there live from Beijing. Many thanks to you.

I want to turn to Turkey now, what the government says it has detained more than 1,000 people after dozens of raids across the country. And it suspended more than 9,000 security forces Wednesday, all over their alleged ties to Fethullah Gulen, he is the U.S.-based cleric Turkey accuses of orchestrating the failed coup attempt last year.

Wednesday's move represents the largest round-up of President Erdogan's opponents since he gained new powers in the referendum win earlier this month.

CNN's Ian Lee has more on the crackdown and how people in Turkey are reacting to it.


IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The beginning, or last gasp of a political movement. Protesters take to the street daily, rejecting this month's referendum, which increases the power of Turkey's presidency.

But defying authorities comes at a cost.

We've met Abdul Rahman Neptali (Ph) last week, he vowed to fight the results. We later found out the police detained him. He's since been released, but his lawyer says he was arrested for inciting protests.

CAN ATALAY, LAWYER: Walking people against the results for them, it's not a crime in textual. This is about freedom of speech.

LEE: Turkish authorities continue a crackdown on opposition, rounding up tens of thousands of people since last July's coup attempt.

ATALAY: Government use that's coup d'etat reason to eliminate all opposition.

LEE: The government insists it's to protect Turkey's democracy. But rights groups call it silencing political dissent. Protesters feel the referendum which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won by a razor-thin margin, was stolen.

European monitors say it was neither free nor fair.

There's a cloud of controversy surrounding the referendum with allegations, including 2.5 million suspicious votes. Nearly a thousand ballot boxes, only had yes votes. And more than 2,000 ballot boxes had more votes than registered voters.

[03:10:01] Independent election monitors say these could be indicators of election fraud.

BASAK YAVCAN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, TOBB UNIVERSITY OF ECONOMICS AND TECHNOLOGY: All of these issues create doubt within people's minds. We made a survey with our volunteers, they were very doubtful about how the process worked out in accordance with the legal framework.

LEE: Erdogan dismisses the accusation, saying the election is the will of the people. So much at stake in a referendum that's poised to reshape Turkey.

Ian Lee, CNN, Istanbul.


CHURCH: Anti-government demonstrators again filled the streets of the Venezuelan capital Wednesday, and again they were met with tear gas and water cannon. At least one person died in Caracas when the organization of American states called for a meeting Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

Venezuela abruptly announced it would quit the group. Venezuela's foreign minister accused the OAS of siding with anti-government demonstrators and of trying to meddle in Venezuela's internal affairs.

We'll take a break, but still to come, an exclusive look at the front line fighter jet of the U.S. military now patrolling the skies of eastern Europe.

And grading the U.S. president as he approaches his 100-day mark. We'll be right back.



CHURCH: Welcome, everyone, to CNN NEWSROOM.

The F-35 lightning 2 is the most advanced stealth fighter in the U.S. arsenal and possibly the world. Well, now the jet has been deployed to eastern Europe, both as a show of U.S. military might and to reinforce U.S. commitment to NATO.

CNN's Frederick Pleitgen was given exclusive access as the F-35 began patrolling near Russia's western border.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: America's newest weapon, the F-35 in the skies over Eastern Europe, right where confrontations with Russia frequently happen. CNN was given exclusive access to the U.S. stealth combat jet's first ever forward deployment. Training with allied air forces is central experience for the crews, a pilot tells me.

BRYAN BLACKBURN, U.S. AIR FORCE: We're continuing to forward deploy and bolster our native allies. And so, it's just our cooperation and to bolster the NATO alliance.

PLEITGEN: We rode along on a tanker plane refueling the F-35 as they transited to Estonia. A country on the border with Russia and worried about Moscow's aggressive posture in recent years.

With the deployment of the F-35, the U.S. is sending a very clear message both to Russia but also to its partner nations, that it's willing to put its newest and most advanced asset into this area to make sure it's allies are safe.

Russia's air force is increasingly flying planes like the nuclear capable Tu-95 bomber around this area. NATO jets often scrambling to intercept them.

President Trump has only recently stopped calling the NATO alliance obsolete. Now the F-35 deployment, another welcome sign of American commitment, Estonia's defense minister tells me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is very important to send this message, that this is the border of NATO, this is the eastern border of (Inaudible) and we are ready to protect them.

PLEITGEN: As part of this deployment, the F-35 crews gets to know this contested airspace and practice cooperation with other NATO air forces. As tensions with Moscow show no sign of easing this plane could become a staple of NATO's eastern fringe.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, at the Amari Air Base in Estonia.


CHURCH: With the 100-day milestone fast-approaching, the Trump administration is shifting positions on some key issues. The president backed off his promise to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement. The White House is urging Mexico and Canada to move quickly to allow renegotiation of NAFTA's terms so it will benefit all three countries.

A government shutdown appears to have been averted. The White House sidelined its push for funding for a wall along the Mexican border and the administration outlined its still unfinished tax reform plan.

Key provisions includes slashing corporate taxes, repealing a tax aimed at the very wealthy, and doubling standard deductions. The treasury secretary explained how the lost revenue will be made up.


STEVE MNUCHIN, UNITED STATES TREASURY SECRETARY: We're working on lots of details as to this. We have over a hundred people in the treasury that have been working on tax and scoring lots of different scenarios. This will pay for itself with growth and with reduce -- reduction of different deductions and closing loopholes.


CHURCH: Joining me now to talk more about this is, Ryan Lizza, he is the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker magazine and a CNN political commentator. Great to have you with us again.


CHURCH: So let's start with the CNN/ORC poll that came out Wednesday night. It shows Mr. Trump's approval rating at 44 percent right now, the lowest of any U.S. leader at this stage in the presidency. Nearly 6 in 10 disapprove of his handling of signature issues of health care and immigration. And 61 percent say world leaders don't have much respect for him.

What do these numbers tell us at this early stage in his presidency, and what does he need to do to fix it?

LIZZA: Well, it tells you that things are not going so well for him. He's holding on to his core supporters. Nine out of 10, almost 9 out of 10 republicans still back him. But he has alienated the rest of the electorate.

And I, you know, a couple of numbers that jumped out at me. One was the honesty number, two-thirds of the country do not think he's honest. And that means a lot of republicans think that, if you get that, if you get two-thirds of the country thinking that, that means a lot of your base is also thinking that, which is surprising.

[03:20:00] And then on the issues, I thought, Rosemary, that the health care number has to be very worrying for the White House. It was along the same lines of two-thirds, one-third. So, only one-third of the country supporting him and his health care proposals.

That means a lot of republicans are opposing that, and in this final stretch where he's trying to get a lot done this week, he's going to try to get this health care bill passed, but it is not popular, even with a good chunk of his own base. So that has to be worrying.

But overall, as you pointed out, you know, bad numbers for a president this early in his administration, usually at this point, we still have a honeymoon period, we still have the other party saying nice things about the president and that hasn't happened with Trump.

CHURCH: No. And as you mentioned, we are seeing this flurry of activity as the Trump administration approaches that 100-day mark, Saturday.


CHURCH: Including Wednesday's tax proposal, you mentioned that, with lots of broad strokes, but not too many details. What is clear, though, is that this would cost the country trillions of dollars and add to the deficit. Will it ever see the light of day, or is this about trying to look like progress has been made before that 100-day mark?

LIZZA: Look, the tax reform debate is going to make health care look like something that was easy. His plan has some big hurdles. We have this -- the parliamentary procedure in the United States Senate, there are all sorts of obscure rules that allow something like -- that allow legislation to get through with a simple majority versus 60 votes. The biggest obstacle to most to Trump's presidency is the Senate and

the 60-vote threshold. So a lot of the game is trying to come up with legislation that fits Senate rules to get through with only 51 votes.

And right now, this tax cut proposal doesn't have the proper elements that would allow that. So, that means he's got to work with democrats. He's going to need eight democrats to pass tax reform.

And as it currently stands, that bill doesn't have a whole lot in it to draw democrats. And so I think in the next stage of watching Trump legislate, it's going to be how much can he figure out a way to come up with bipartisan coalitions to move stuff through Congress, because that's the only way it works.

CHURCH: Right, and also republicans are reviving hopes of repealing Obamacare. How much success are they likely to have this time around, particularly through the Senate.


CHURCH: And how different might it be? What changes have been made?

LIZZA: That's the right point there, it's the Senate. So in the House, it's been such a struggle to get this bill through the republican House of Representatives. Usually with the president controlling the House of Representatives, you can, you know, it's a rubber-stamp for the president.

So the fact that they've had so much trouble getting it through the traditionally rubber-stamp House is like a giant red warning sign for what would happen when it goes over to the Senate.

They've got this compromise that came out today. It's unclear if it actually can get the 216 votes, but it does seem like they're a little bit closer. They drew in a lot of the most conservative members by essentially allowing the states to further deregulate insurance markets, that's going to make a lot of other more moderate republicans queasy, because it does seem to violate a core promise that republicans made, and that is that insurance companies must not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.

So they've weakened that regulation that was in Obamacare. And so that's going to be the big question going forward. How many other republicans does that turn off?

CHURCH: All right, so before we go, I want to put you on the spot and get a score out of 10. What do you think?

LIZZA: You know, he has not had a very successful first hundred days. Either no great foreign policy breakthroughs, although, you know, that's kind of an early period to judge, and certainly no great legislative breakthroughs.

A lot of activity with executive orders that only a few of which actually are meaningful and the ones that were meaningful have been held up in the courts so far. So I'd give him a fairly low mark in the sort of 3 to 4 range if you're comparing him to other modern presidents at this point.

CHURCH: That's a fail.

LIZZA: I think so far it is. That doesn't mean he can't recover and have a good year. But so far he ranks very low compared to other modern presidents, both in his popularity and how much he's actually, how much he's actually accomplished. But my view is the hundred-day marker is a bit of a silly marker.

CHURCH: We've always used it, haven't we?

LIZZA: We have always used it since FDR.


LIZZA: Since FDR had an amazing -- presidents who get a lot done in the first hundred days have two things. They have a crisis usually, and there are big margins in the House and Senate. Trump doesn't have a crisis and he's got thin margins. So you know, he's been pretty, you know, middling to failing.

CHURCH: All right Ryan Lizza, great to talk with you.

[03:25:01] LIZZA: Great to talk to you.

CHURCH: Well, United Airlines is trying to repair its public image after a string of P.R. disasters. Earlier this month, a passenger was dragged off a fully booked flight by security, so a crew member could have the seat. And United has faced outrage ever since.

So now the airline has announced changes to its customer service policy. Here are some of them. Law enforcement will only be used for safety and security issues. Seated passengers won't have to give up their seats unless there's a safety or security risk.

The airline will cut down on overbooking in general and customers who do volunteer their seats could get hefty compensation. Even as much as $10,000.

Now, in the announcement, the CEO wrote this. "Our policies got in the way of our values and procedures interfered in doing what's right. Our customers should be at the center of everything we do. And these changes are just the beginning of how we will earn back their trust."

Well, United's changes won't be enough for Simon the bunny. In the latest P.R. headache, a large rabbit died in the cargo hold of a United flight from London to Chicago. But he wasn't just any old bunny. He was a continental giant rabbit, 90 centimeters long, and his father was a Guinness world record holder.

Simon's breeder says the rabbit was healthy when he boarded the flight. United said it's saddened by the news.

Well, Pope Francis is trying out a new kind of popular address that's popular with the younger crowd. Here's part of his soon to go viral TED talk. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE FRANCIS, (through translator): Please allow me to say it loud and clear. The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people. The more responsibility you have to act with humility. If you don't, your power will ruin you. And you will ruin the other.


CHURCH: Strong message there, and the pope does have 10 million Twitter followers, if you were wondering. So he's not a total tech novice, but his speech from the Vatican was a surprise for those attending TED's global conference.

It took some convincing to get Pope Francis to sign on, but he stuck to a familiar theme, help out your fellow man and change the world one person at a time. Great message there.

Well, CNN gets a rare interview with a North Korean government official.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So are you saying that North Korea will conduct another nuclear test?


CHURCH: His dire prediction for relations with the U.S. That's coming up.

Plus, the story of a Moscow murder and what U.S. officials say it's a cover-up that could reach the highest levels of the Russian government. That's next here on CNN NEWSROOM.


CHURCH: And a warm welcome back to our viewers all across the globe. I'm Rosemary Church.

It is time to update you now on the stories we've been watching very closely this hour.

A massive explosion has rocked an area near the international airport in Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the blast happened around dawn, sparked a large fire, and rattled neighborhoods around the city. No word yet on what caused it.

U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed not to terminate NAFTA for now. He criticized the free trade deal during his campaign. Now the White House says he'll work to renegotiate the pact with Canada and Mexico.

U.S. senators traveled to the White House by bus to hear the Trump administration's plans on North Korea. One democrat called it a dog and pony show. They didn't provide -- that didn't provide any new information. After the meeting, Mr. Trump's national security team said it would pursue tighter sanctions and diplomacy.

Well, CNN is getting rare insight into the North Korean government's thinking. Our correspondent, Will Ripley, is in Pyongyang and sat down with one of the country's top human rights officials.


RIPLEY: The North Korean army, staging what it describes as its largest ever military drill. North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-un is seen ordering a barrage of artillery fire, 300, long-range self- propelled guns, submarines, bombers, masses of soldiers, all of it, a direct warning to the U.S. and President Trump, says a North Korean government official given rare authorization to speak to CNN.

"This exercise is a direct response to acts of aggression by the United States" says Sok Chul-wan. (Ph)

A dramatic show of force shown triumphantly on state TV. Far less provocative than what many had been bracing for, North Korea's sixth nuclear test. A test the Trump administration warns would have grave consequences.

U.S. intelligence believes a nuclear test is no longer imminent, something North Korea won't confirm. Sok says the timing has nothing to do with mounting international pressure.

"The nuclear test is an important part of our continued efforts to strengthen our nuclear forces," he says.

So are you saying North Korea will conduct another nuclear test? "As long as America continues its hostile acts of aggression, we will never stop nuclear and missile tests."

I asked about the three Americans currently being held in North Korea, Tony Kim, Otto Warmbier, and Kim Dong Chul, Sok cannot provide specifics on their cases, but says they're living under the same conditions as other North Korean prisoners, even though they're kept in separate facilities.

A recent U.N. human rights report accuses North Korea of arbitrary detention, torture, even executions, claiming people are thrown in prison camps without due process.

A lot of defectors have claimed inhumane treatment of North Korean prisoners. "I strongly deny any statements made by defectors," he says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Those people are criminals who ran away. They're paid to lie and encouraged by the U.S. and their followers.

RIPLEY: These are accounts from hundreds of defectors and North Korea refused to cooperate with the U.N. investigation. If your country has nothing to hide, why not let inspectors then to see for themselves?

[03:35:03] "The U.N. wants to politicize the human rights issue, use it to interfere with our internal affairs," he says, "their reports are nothing but fiction." Here, he says, "human rights means defending this socialist society and its supreme leader at any cost, even if it could trigger a nuclear war."

Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


CHURCH: And Will Ripley's reporting from North Korea includes this, a unique 360-degree view of the country's largest annual celebration. It's on CNN's virtual reality site. And you can find that and other videos at, or of course on the CNN app. take a look at that.

It is a story that sounds like a best-selling crime novel. A mysterious death and a near fatal accident in Moscow are raising suspicion among U.S. officials, they're linked to an investigation that could go to the top levels of the Russian government.

CNN's Drew Griffin has the story.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: The official Russian story goes attorney Nikolai Gorokhov accidentally fell four stories out of this Moscow apartment window, while attempting to move a bathtub. Perhaps.

But CNN has learned U.S. Prosecutors once feared for Gorokhov's safety and argued that he and his family could be in danger by individuals in Russia.

All because of a corruption and tax fraud investigation that could eventually reach the upper hierarchy of Russian government.


GRIFFIN: Bill Browder's once powerful investment firm Hermitage Capital, was the target of a massive scheme in Moscow, allegedly involving almost every layer of the Russian government, courts, police, ministry of interior officials, even tax officials.

Two hundred thirty million dollars taken from the Russian treasury and distributed to Russian organized crime figures and government officials in the form of tax refunds, according to U.S. court documents.

Browder fled Russia, fearing his life, but one of his associates was not so lucky. His name was Sergei Magnitsky, and he initially expose the fraud. Magnitsky was arrested, thrown in prison, beaten and tortured with rubber hoses. He died in prison in 2009.

Nikolai Gorokhov was Magnitsky's lawyer, and he fell out of that window the day before he was scheduled to present new proof of Russian involvement in the fraud scheme and Magnitsky's death. BROWDER: He was going to show up in Moscow court with a bunch of new

evidence which consisted of e-mails and WhatsApp messages showing that Russian organized criminals were communicating directly with the Russian police to try to cover up the murder of Sergei Magnitsky and cover up the corruption crime that Sergei had exposed.

GRIFFIN: Gorokhov was also a witness in a U.S. Justice Department money laundering case. Federal prosecutors allege the stolen Russian money ended up here, invested in various New York properties. Federal officials are now trying to seize expensive New York condominiums and millions of dollars in bank accounts.

Now CNN has obtained newly unsealed documents showing at the time of Gorokhov's involvement in the case, former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara wrote, "Individuals in Russia could attempt to threaten or harm Mr. Gorokhov and his family, in an effort to prevent Mr. Gorokov from testifying a trial."

Now he's recovering from severe injuries supposedly from an accident. Russian expert William Pomeranz says Gorokhov's case may prove the danger of speaking out against anyone in Russia.

WILLIAM POMERANZ, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, KENNAN INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED RUSSIAN STUDIES OF THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: If you challenge them, the Russian state will find ways to potentially retaliate and there will be consequences.

GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: And still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, the story of a Mexican woman who spent 30 years living as a slave. See how she's trying to make up for lost time.

Plus, restoring dignity and changing lives. A fresh set of clothes is just one way Pope Francis is making a difference in Rome. We're back in a moment.


CHURCH: Lawyers for one Mexican woman say her case is one of the most disturbing they've ever seen. They say when Lupita Perez Castillo was just 10 years old, a woman offered her mother money in exchange for her. Lupita then spent the next 30 years of her life working as a slave.

Rafael Romo has our CNN Freedom Project story.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Life's simple freedoms, a walk in the park, ice cream on a sunny day, still seem foreign to Lupita Perez Castillo.

LUPITA PEREZ CASTILLO, MEXICAN SLAVE FOR 30 YEARS (through translator): They took away my innocence and the hope of being a self-assured person.

ROMO: Lupita says she was kept as a slave for more than 30 years. Her story begins as a 10-year-old girl living in an impoverished community in Vera Cruz, Mexico. That's when she says a woman accompanied by a translator approached her mother, offering the recent widow money in exchange for Lupita.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): And they told her mother that they were going to take her daughter with them and send her to school and that they were going to send Lupita's family her monthly salary. They also gave her mother some money at that moment.

ROMO: Once taken to the new family, Lupita said she was forced to do housework and care for the other children, she was not paid and she remembers the lady of the house gave her only leftover scraps to eat, and not giving her a bed.

CASTILLO (through translator): She would say that we indigenous people were used to sleeping on the floor like animals. She had a sofa but wouldn't let me use it because she said I was going to ruin it.

ROMO: Lupita said she tried to escape several times, but nobody in the new city understood her indigenous dialect and she was punished for trying.

CASTILLO (through translator): They would pull my hair. Sometimes when I had to take frozen meat out of the freezer, they would hit me with it in the head.

ROMO: It wasn't until she was almost 40 that she got the opportunity to finally break free.

CASTILLO (through translator): That night, the lady's son, the youngest, the one I used to babysit, had an accident. She went to the hospital and that's when I escaped.

[03:45:00] ROMO: Her captor was convicted of slavery and forced domestic work charges. Still after three years, transitioning into a life of freedom is proving difficult for Lupita.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): She couldn't stop. If we went to a restaurant, she wanted to do the dishes. If we traveled and stayed at a hotel, she wanted to do the beds, wanted to do chores. They really stole 30 years of her life from her.

ROMO: Lupita has been in therapy for some time. Because she was held captive for nearly three decades starting when she was a child, she never learned to make her own decisions, manage her own money and have a sense of self-worth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you ask what your favorite ice cream flavor, chocolate or strawberry, she says, what do you want it to be?

ROMO: Now 43, Lupita has a paying job, working as a seamstress, and she's hoping to make up for lost time. CASTILLO (through translator): My dream is to study nursing. It was

my dream since I was a little girl. I'm trying hard. I'm reading because that's the only thing I want to do, even if I never make it.

ROMO: A dream deferred by a nightmare no one should ever have to face.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Mexico City.


CHURCH: Incredible story there.

And coming up tomorrow on the Freedom Project, Rafael meets a woman who was rescued from a life where she was forced to work as a prostitute.


ROMO: Forced to work in an alley in La Merced, a notorious red-light district in Mexico City.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Those of us girls who were new would stand at the entrance. They would show us off as if we were merchandise.

ROMO: Nelly says she was forced to have sex with 30 to 40 men every night for a month until a police raid finally set her free.


CHURCH: And find out how Nelly went from surviving to thriving as a successful entrepreneur tomorrow on the CNN Freedom Project.

Well, now we have some unbelievable video of a toddler who somehow suffered only minor injuries after being run over by two cars. She slipped away from her grandmother and raced across the road before she was run over by that white car you see there, then another car. Then another car drives over her almost immediately.

A woman reportedly, her grandmother, rushes over to help. The 2-year- old was rushed to hospital but doctors say she had just a little bruising on her head and no other injuries. That's an incredible story.

Well, a NASA spacecraft is on a bold mission inside Saturn's rings. Cassini's grand tour, that's next.



CHURCH: The pictures say it all. Some photos of Saturn there, taken by the Cassini spacecraft over its two-decade-long journey. And NASA engineers say they did it. They say Cassini is starting to phone home and is now sending back data. After starting an ambitious series of dives near the giant planet.

CNN's Paul Vercammen has details now on Cassini's final act.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And lift-off of the Cassini spacecraft on a million mile trek to Saturn.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cassini left Earth for Saturn almost two decades ago and will soon plunge between Saturn and its rings, something that's never been done before, 22 times. Scientists call the mission, the ball of yarn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to dive into the gap between the rings of Saturn and Saturn's atmosphere. We're going to be going 70,000 miles per hour into a 1200-mile-wide gap. Even a piece of sand at that velocity will take out one of our instruments or if it's in the wrong place, could cripple the spacecraft.

VERCAMMEN: Many Cassini members still enjoy at stunning images especially those taken from Saturn looking towards Earth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That picture from Saturn is covering up the sun, you see a ring of light around the planet as the sunlight refracts through the atmosphere. And if you look carefully you'll find the Earth, Mars, and Venus.

VERCAMMEN: The spacecraft also dropped a probe on Saturn's moon- tighten with methane, lakes and seas. It's the most remote spacecraft landing from Earth ever. Cassini surprised scientist with findings of Enceladus which NASA now calls the brightest world in our solar system.

The tiny Saturn moon has a white reflective sources and IC crossed. Scientists believe it covers a global ocean and may be the best place in our solar system to search for life. Cassini is running out of fuel and NASA is determined to protect anything that might live on Saturn's moons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enceladus has got a warm, saltwater, undersea ocean. And it's got plumes coming out. We cannot risk an inverted contact with that -- with that pristine body. Cassini has got to be put safely away.

VERCAMMEN: Cassini will dip between Saturn and its rings until mid- September, then the probe will head toward the planet and break apart and burn up in the atmosphere.

EARL MAIZE, CASSINI PROGRAMME MANAGER: You can't help but feeling a certain sense of loss and nostalgia for something you've been driving. It's like anything else you've had a partnership with for 20 years.

VERCAMMEN: A man in machine marriage that gave birth to astonishing images and discovery.

Paul Vercammen, CNN, Pasadena, California. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Incredible pictures there. And for people living on the streets or struggling with poverty, clean clothes are a luxury. Now Pope Francis is helping people in Rome get that luxury and restoring dignity in the process.

Delia Gallagher reports.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Inside this former hospital in the heart of Rome, Pope Francis has set up a place which offers a different kind of care. A free Laundromat for the poor.

[03:54:59] Ciro and Rosanna, two of the estimated 7,000 homeless in Rome, have brought their clothes here where volunteers do the washing for them. Ciro says he sleeps wherever he is, often in a hospital or on a bench.

CIRO GUARDACCIONE, LAUNDROMAT PERSON (through translator): In the summer, it's OK. In the winter, we are like popsicles, penguins.

GALLAGHER: Before the pope's Laundromat, he says he would wear his dirty clothes until they were falling apart and then throw them away.

GUARDACCIONE (through translator): For us, it's a very important thing. I want to thank Pope Francis. It's really an amazing gift.

GALLAGHER: So there are six washing machines and six dryers here, as well as ironing facilities next door. And the volunteers tell me that they can do about 16 loads of laundry in a day.

And what's important for them is that the name of the person gets onto their load of laundry. So they can be sure once it's washed, dried, and ironed, it gets back to the right person.

The Laundromat is the latest in Pope Francis's projects for the poor in Rome. He's already opened a dormitory for men and women, and showers, a barber shop and medical facilities at the Vatican.

MASSIMILIANO SIGNIFREDI, VOLUNTEER, COMMUNITY SANT'EGIDIO (through translator): The bodies of the poor are taken care of by someone and it's beautiful, because Pope Francis really understood that this is what they need.

GALLAGHER: Massimiliano remembers one of the homeless smelling his freshly laundered clothes.

SIGNIFREDI (through translator): He said, it reminds me of home. That's what we do here, this is a little like a family, which helps people to feel at home.

GALLAGHER: A home where doing the laundry is not a chore, but a gift for which they are grateful.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


CHURCH: Great story. Thanks for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. The news continues with Max Foster in London. You're watching CNN. I'll catch up with you again next week.