Return to Transcripts main page


FBI Director Feeling Mildly Nauseous; Heated Debates in France as Election Approaches; Buckingham Palace's Urgent Meeting; Trump Offering to be a Mediator; Chaos Continues in Venezuela; Touring Like a Candidate. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 4, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: FBI director James Comey says he feels mildly nauseous, thinking he may have impacted the U.S. presidential election.

Face to face, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron trade barbs and insults in the last debate before French voters decide who the next president will be.

And in Venezuela, anger and violence erupt again in the streets over the president's plan to change the constitution. We'll explain what exactly is at stake.

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

And we'll have those stories in just a moment for you.

But first, the British royal staff has been summoned to a meeting in London. It's not yet clear why the meeting was called. But our Max Foster is standing by outside Buckingham Palace. He joins us now. So Max, what are you learning about this meeting and just how serious might it be?

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't think it's a major announcement. I'm being told that, you know, it's not something that's speculated about on social media right now. But we are expecting some sort of announcement today.

So this meeting by the Lord Chamberlain, the most senior member of the Queen's staff, they do happen, they happen a couple times a year. They are pretty ad hoc as well, it happen a set time of year. The news of one was leaked yesterday and it was confirmed that it was happening today.

So, staff are being called here to Buckingham Palace, but we have no idea what it's about. I am led to believe there will be some sort of announcement today. Perhaps in the next few hours.

So, we're literally just brace to see what it is, but we don't think it's a major announcement so there is no greater concern, there is not great logistics going into play or anything around this. It's just going to be some sort of announcement we expect and we're just waiting to hear, Rosemary. It could be anything.

CHURCH: Much frenzy on social media. But our Max Foster there in London where it's just after 8 in the morning and he will of course keep us informed on any news on that front. Many thanks to you, Max.

Well, FBI director James Comey says he made the right choice announcing he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails just days before the 2016 election. Clinton believes that was the big reason she lost to Donald Trump. Comey was on Capitol Hill Wednesday defending his handling of the probe.

CNN's Jim Sciutto has the details.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: At times defiant and others reflective, FBI Director James Comey said the idea of his decision to go public with details of the renewed Clinton e- mail probe impacted the election result made him feel nauseous, but he has no regrets.

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have impact on the election but honestly, it wouldn't change the decision.

SCIUTTO: Comey argue that he was battling for the very credibility of the FBI saying he doubted that top officials in the Department of Justice could carry out the investigation without the perception of bias.

This even before a highly publicized meeting between then Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton on a Phoenix tarmac during the height of the campaign.

COMEY: Her meeting with President Clinton on that airplane was the capper for me and I then said, you know what, the department cannot by itself credibly end this. It was a hard call for me to make to call the attorney general that morning and say I'm about to do a press conference and I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to say.

SCIUTTO: Pressed by democrats on why he confirmed the investigation of Clinton but not a concurrent probe of trump campaign ties to Russia, Director Comey argued it was a matter of timing. Too early for the Trump investigation, not so for Clinton's.

SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE: Had there been public notice that there was renewed investigation into both campaigns, I think the impact would have been different. Would you agree?

COMEY: Remember, the Hillary Clinton investigation, we didn't confirm it existed until three months after it started and it started publicly. So, I thought the consistent principle would be, we don't confirm the existence of certainly any investigation that involves a U.S. person, but a classified investigation in its early stages.

SCIUTTO: Comey also defended his decision to notify Congress on October 28th, just days before the vote, that the FBI was reopening the investigation into Clinton's e-mail practices. After the discovery of new e-mails from long-time Clinton aide Huma Abedin on the computer of her then husband former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

COMEY: Somehow her e-mails are being forwarded to Anthony Weiner including classified information.

His then spouse Huma Abedin appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding e-mails to him, for him I think to printout for her so she could then deliver them to the secretary of state.

SCIUTTO: It was that discovery that led Comey to write his now infamous 11th-hour letter to Congress.

[03:04:59] COMEY: I had to tell Congress that we were taking these additional steps. I prayed to find a third door. I couldn't find it. Two actions, speak or conceal. I don't think many reasonable people would do it differently than I did.

SCIUTTO: Also a topic of questioning leaks, Director Comey when pressed said he has not leaked any classified information about the Russian investigation to reporters. He says he has not authorized his staff to leak any information. When asked, however, if he's investigating leaks from inside the intelligence community, Director Comey would not comment.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: And Director Comey says Russia's interference in U.S. politics did not end with last year's election.

Let's head to Moscow and CNN's Diana Magnay. She joins us now live. So Diana, Russia has denied accusations of interfering in the 2016 presidential election. And now this from Director Comey that it is still active in U.S. politics. How is the Kremlin likely to respond to this?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Probably in the same way as it has responded to suggestions of Russian interference in the elections to date, which is denial, and the statement that it does not interfere in the affairs of other countries.

And that is exactly what President Putin said two days ago in that press conference he held with the German chancellor. We do not interfere in other country's affairs. We don't appreciate any interference in our country's affairs. And he also said that these allegations from the U.S. are rumors based on a internal political struggle.

And also what you hear continually from the Kremlin is if you have these charges against us, then where is the evidence? And so far, whether he is unable or unwilling because of the open testimony, James Comey has not been able to provide investigators with that or the committees or the hearings with that intelligence, Rosemary. CHURCH: All right, Diana Magnay joining us live from Moscow, where it

is just after 10 in the morning. Many thanks to you.

Well, the Palestinian authority president said he's hopeful about the prospects of peace with Israel under Donald Trump's leadership. Mahmoud Abbas met with the U.S. President in Washington Wednesday.

Mr. Trump says he'll work as a mediator to help broker a Middle East peace deal, something other U.S. presidents have tried, but failed to do.

Our Elise Labott has more now from Washington.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a great honor to have the president with us.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: President Trump warmly welcomed the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House vowing to do, quote, "whatever is necessary to help broker a Mideast peace deal."

TRUMP: I've always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let's see if we can prove them wrong. OK?

LABOTT: Trump promising economic development for the Palestinians and hailing cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces, but called on Abbas and his government to renounce terrorism.

TRUMP: But there can be no lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice against incitement to violate and violence and hate. There is such hatred, but hopefully there won't be such hatred for very long.

LABOTT: Abbas pitched himself to Trump as a partner, and praised the president as a master dealmaker whose leadership offered a historic opportunity for peace.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PRESIDENT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Mr. President, with you we have full...

LABOOT: Trump campaigned as a pro-Israel candidate who promised to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

TRUMP: We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.


LABOTT: And standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, broke with decades of U.S. policy, backing away from the two-state solution that would give the Palestinians a state.

TRUMP: I am looking at two state and one state, and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.

LABOTT: Trump has since shied away from those controversial pledges and over lunch with Abbas predicted the deal which has eluded presidents for decades was within his grasp.

TRUMP: It's something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people thought over the years, but we need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing. We believe you're willing. And if you both are willing we're going to make a deal.

LABOTT: U.S. officials say the president is planning a trip to Israel later this month where he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and expected to meet again with President Abbas.

[03:09:57] And although the Palestinians are hopeful about such a visit, his new envoy to Washington told CNN, if trump were to make an announcement on moving the embassy during that trip, it could jeopardize the momentum he has already made with his new peace overtures.

Elise Labott, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrives in New York in just a few hours, but his first face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, it will be a chance for the two leaders to reset their relationship, a contentious phone call in January threaten to destabilize the long time alliance between the two countries.

CNN's Lynda Kinkade has our report.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The first encounter, a brief and blunt phone call. Now the two will meet face to face for the first time in New York. It comes as Australia has been warned by North Korea to stop blindly towing the U.S. line or risk a nuclear strike.

This will be a suicidal act if coming within the range of the nuclear strike.

MALCOLM TURNBULL, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: The enormous risks that are being brought to bear by the reckless and dangerous conduct of the North Korean government, there is a lot at stake.

KINKADE: Trump has taken a hard line against Kim Jong-un's recent spate of missile launches.

TRUMP: We'll soon find out, won't we?


TRUMP: We'll soon find out.

KINKADE: Far from backing down, North Korea is continuing to launch missile tests and blaming the U.S. for rising tension.

KIM IN RYONG, NORTH KOREAN DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It has been created dangerous situation in which the nuclear war may erupt at any moment on the Peninsula.

KINKADE: Pyongyang is warning they'll strike the Australian city of Darwin if it continues to support the U.S.

Currently there are more than 1,200 U.S. troops stationed there for joint exercises. Australia also has a joint spy base in the northern territory.

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating says Australia should accept China as the region's dominant power and become less dependent on the U.S.

PAUL KEATING, FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: One thing not to do with the Americans is keep bearing down. This is just bad behavior.

KINKADE: Worries about Donald Trump's ability to navigate world affairs seems to be widespread in Australia, beginning even before he took office.

KIM BEAZLEY, FORMER AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMAT: Donald Trump, I think, prides himself on being unpredictable. It's not generally how international politics operates most effectively.

KINKADE: According to a 2016 poll by the Lowy Institute, almost half said Australia should distance itself from the U.S. if Trump won. While only 42 percent said the U.S. alliance was very important. The lowest number in eight years.

The Australian government, though, is remaining firm in its commitment to the nation it's fought alongside in every major battle since World War II.

TURNBULL: The U.S. alliance is the absolute bed rock of Australia's security and we have a lot of big issues to discuss.

KINKADE: But some Australians seem to be open to reexamining that relationship with their long-standing ally.

Lynda Kinkade, CNN.


CHURCH: And it's worth noting that Mr. Trump and Mr. Turnbull will meet in New York instead of Washington.

With us now from Sydney is Brendon O'Connor, he is an associate professor in American politics at the University of Sydney. Thanks so much for being with us.

So, what do you think Australia wants to see come out of this face to face meeting between Prime Minister Turnbull and President Donald Trump particularly after that heated telephone conversation they had back in late January?

BRENDON O'CONNOR, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY: Well, the first priority for the Australian prime minister is no drama. Nothing unpredictable, just the usual exchange of friendly greetings, which we saw from Mike Pence recently. He was in Australia on a visit, and it was business as usual. It was the usual talk of a special relationship between the United States and Australia.

The Australian prime minister would also like to know the latest thinking of Donald Trump on North Korea, how serious is Trump about maybe attacking North Korea. That's got to make Australia nervous. Australia would want to see I think a diplomatic approach to that issue, to see China heavily engaged in that issue.

So, I think to get a read on just what is on Donald Trump's mind regarding Asian foreign policy would be something Turnbull would be hoping to get some insight on this trip.

CHURCH: And it has to be said, of course, Australia was shocked by President Trump's win and there is a lot of concern there about the Trump presidency. Is there any evidence of a reassessment, perhaps, of the U.S./Australia alliance? We heard there from Mr. Keating.

But even though the two countries have fought together in every major conflict in the 20th century, but Trump seems to be testing that relationship, doesn't he?

[03:15:01] O'CONNOR: Well, rightly so. I mean, people are questioning Trump's temperament. They are questioning his experience. Then they're questioning his decision making on foreign affairs. He's been very erratic. What he said on the campaign trail hasn't always played out.

With regard to Japan, Korea or China, he's done things like surprisingly bomb Syria where he talked of that being not the kind of politics he'd get engaged in.

So, I think the Australian public is very fascinated by American politics, fascinated particularly by Trump, and knows that this is a man who seemingly is pretty erratic. So, I think it's risky for our prime minister to get too close to Trump. This would be a sense that Trump isn't someone you can make easy alliance deals with, that he seems to be someone who is pretty transactional and prides himself, in fact, as Kim Beazley was saying, our former ambassador, on being unpredictable.

So, that makes it hard for a weaker ally, a smaller ally in Australia's position. So I think there needs to be caution and the Australian public I think instinctively get that, that there needs to be a more cautious approach to the United States. Particularly in these early days of the Trump administration where really no one I think has got much of a grip on what Trump's guiding principles are regarding his foreign policy approach.

CHURCH: All right. Brendon O'Connor, thank you so much for joining us there from Sydney. We appreciate it.

O'CONNOR: My pleasure.

Well, France's presidential candidates came out swinging in their final debate. The heated accusations and issues they clash over. Still to come. We'll talk about that.

Plus, British Prime Minister Theresa May has a sizable lead ahead of the June snap election. But she says foreign officials are trying to hurt her campaign. We're back.



CHURCH: It got pretty heated between far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron in France's final presidential debate. The candidates traded barbs over radically different solution to key issues like immigration, a stagnant economy and terrorism.

Macron expressed a willingness to work with the U.S. and Russia, but Le Pen was more hesitant.


MARINE LE PEN, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): I think we need to keep our distance from both Russia and U.S. No reason to reach Cold War against Russia. We have every interest to engage diplomatic, commercial and strategic relations because it is a major power, and Russia hasn't shown any hostility towards France.


CHURCH: During one contentious exchange, Emmanuel Macron slammed Marine Le Pen's National Front Party.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): I am talking about the party of the far-right, the one that you lead, the party that spreads lies on social media which encourages hatred, molests journalists, who generously dispense brutality everywhere.

LE PEN (through translator): We have never molested anyone.

MACRON (through translator): You did on several occasions. At my meetings you have threatened and beaten people and I have experienced that. That is the truth, Ms. Le Pen. So, it is your party, the party of the far-right, which has no resemblance to our country.


CHURCH: So, let's bring in CNN's Jim Bittermann. He joins us from Paris. Jim, what was the overall feeling about the final presidential debate? Was there an obvious winner? And what impact might it have on the 18 percent or so of undecided voters there?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, snap poll right afterwards indicated that Emmanuel Macron won by being more convincing 63 percent to 37 percent for Marine Le Pen.

Having said that, however, a lot of critics this morning were saying that this was not up to the level of any presidential debate before just because of the aggressiveness and the way the candidates were allowed to wander all over the map in terms of the issues.

It was very much a case of gloves off, of boxing match is the way one person described it. Another said this has been the worst presidential debate ever because of the tone. Rosemary?

CHURCH: And, Jim, the polls appear to show a Macron win is more likely, but we are talking about this 18 percent or so voters undecided, some 30 percent are vowing to abstain from voting. That could very well benefit Le Pen. How close might this fight be in the end?

BITTERMANN: Well, I think it could be very close, but just to see how voters are feeling we did a little car pool confab over the last couple of days.

So, time to hit the road again in our finally tuned electric machine here. Rene Renault we're going to be out on a hunt this time around for voters for the centrist candidate in the presidential elections. Emmanuel Macron.

And they are not hard to find since he is leading in the polls. We found four willing to go for a car pool confab. A retired school teacher, an international business consultant, a philosophy professor, and a municipal police officer.

But Macron was the first choice of only one of the four. D says he has been with Macron from the start.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I like the way he sees things. His optimism, his main concern is not where we come from, but where we are going, what we can do together.


BITTERMANN: Michelle had hopes for an extreme left candidate. But when he was eliminated in the first round of voting she decided to, quote, "avoid the worst," meaning extreme right wing candidate Marine Le Pen. So, she will reluctantly vote Macron.


MICHELLE DESLANDES, RETIRED TEACHER (through translator): I hope he won't forget that many people voted for him by default.

BITTERMANN: And she worries ha his economic reforms will go too far. Olivier is concerned about that, too, but will also vote for Macron.

OLIVIER DHILLY, PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR: Marine Le Pen was on the second round. I decided to vote for Macron. [03:25:03] BITTERMANN: That's who Jean Francois will vote for, too,

even though he's skeptical about how Macron will handle security and a terrorism problem.

JEAN-FRANCOIS COURT, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CONSULTANT: I think he's been soft on some of the issues and some mechanism and things like that. That's what bothers me.

BITTERMANN: But the police officer disagrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What Macron has said so far goes in the direction of a strengthened security, stronger police, so he can ensure the safety of the French.


BITTERMANN: Unlike some critics, they believe Macron's view is a positive thing as does Jean Francois and the others.


COURT: We have a lot of officers in the French, you know that. It's about time.

BITTERMANN: Time for them to retire?



BITTERMANN: And I'll also agree it would be a disaster if Le Pen were to be elected.

DHILLY: I will be panic stricken for sure. If Le Pen is elected, I'll leave the country.


BITTERMANN: So, while less than a quarter of French voters favor Emmanuel Macron in the first round of the French elections, he could very well win more than half of French votes on Sunday simply because people will vote against his opponent.


COURT: It is said on the first round you choose and on the second round you eliminate.


BITTERMANN: So, Rosemary, it appears there will be as many voters casting negative votes here as positive ones. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Great story there, and love the car. Jim Bittermann, joining us from Paris, where it is nearly 9.30 in the morning. Many thanks. We'll talk next hour. Well, more chaotic protests in the Venezuelan capital as the president

makes a huge first move towards reforms. Why opponents say he just wants to protect himself. That's next.

And families divided the relatives of North Korean defectors have their say. That exclusive is still to come.


CHURCH: And a warm welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you now on the main stories we're following this hour.

FBI Director James Comey says he made the right choice announcing the renewed investigation of the Hillary Clinton's e-mails just days before the 2016 election. Hillary told senators the idea he influenced the vote made him mildly nauseous, but he wouldn't change what he did.

The U.S. House plans to vote on a health care bill in just a matter of hours, and the republican leader says he has the votes to pass it. Two previous attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare collapsed. A key factor in pushing this bill forward, $8 billion to help cover pre- existing conditions.

France's presidential election is just three days away and the final debate between far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron was a heated one. The candidates traded jabs over France's sluggish economy, terrorism and other key issues.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is accusing the E.U. of meddling in her country's election. She didn't give any names, but she claimed that E.U. officials leaked misleading accounts of how the Brexit talks were going. In a public statement she made it clear that she wouldn't stand for it.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Britain's negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press. The European commission's negotiating stance has hardened.

Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials. All of these acts are being deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on the eighth of June.


CHURCH: With me now, Anna Rose Barker who chairs the British Youth Council. Thanks so much for joining us. So, what exactly is Prime Minister May referring to here? What type of meddling, and who does she think is involved in this?

ANNA ROSE BARKER, BRITISH YOUTH COUNCIL CHAIR: I think it's really interesting. I think the speech that she did yesterday is really just game playing. Young people don't want to see this. Young people don't want to see their futures being toyed around with in small closed rooms in Westminster in U.K., but also in the E.U. in Brussels.

What they want to see is politicians talking to them about things they care about, being ambitious, being bold and making sure that they are talking about things that are relevant to them, things that they care about that will affect their futures.

CHURCH: What's been the interpretation of what Prime Minister May is talking about here in referring to, when she says misleading accounts of Brexit talks were leaks?

BARKER: I think it's referring to the close, behind closed doors in terms of the U.K. and the perception of the U.K. that they don't really know what they're doing and the E.U. being really in control here and being in power.

I think that things like the general election being pulled straight out is a political game play. And, again Theresa May sort of think this loads of substance in terms of what she's saying, she's just making a different move, making a move forward and trying to show the U.K. that she is strong and stable as they keep on repeating so that the young vote and the other voters come out and support her.

CHURCH: So, what is the real story behind Brexit talks? How are they progressing, and how is this going to work? Because like it or hate it, Brexit is going to happen.

BARKER: Exactly. It's going to happen and we know that. Article 50 was triggered. Even though overwhelmingly young people voted to remain, and young people have talked about what they expect from Brexit.

The talks are going to be ongoing for the next couple of years and it's really essential from my point of view and for other young people in the U.K. that we are involved in those conversations.

Talking to young people about what they care about, whether that's Erasmus Programme, whether that's migration in the E.U., ability to work, and volunteer and study abroad. Really politicians speaking to young people about what they care about in Brexit is my priority and a priority of other young people.

CHURCH: Now, when we look at the numbers and of course the reason why Theresa May called this snap election is she's fairly confident she's going to win this. It sounds from what you're saying that the young people of Britain don't really want to see her in power. But that is the likely outcome here.

BARKER: I mean, I can't speak on behalf of all the young people. To be honest, I think that young people are disenfranchised with politics now. It's a complete myth that young people aren't engage. It's possible to engage young people and you've fantastic examples of when that happens.

[03:35:01] For example, when Barack Obama in 2012, it was really crucial to his success in some of the states, the young vote, equally in our referendum in Scotland. We saw the turnout was phenomenal, up to 75 percent of young people turned out to vote.

But right now it's not necessarily young people don't support Theresa May or called in other leaders. But it is that they are not -- they are not engaged with politics right now because politics aren't speaking to those young people.

CHURCH: Anna Rose Barker, thank you for joining us and sharing your perspective on this from London. We appreciate it.

BARKER: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, rumors were going around in Venezuela. The jailed opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, was gravely ill and had been hospitalized. But the government released this proof of life video to show that isn't true.


LEOPOLDO LOPEZ, JAILED VENEZUELAN OPPOSSITION LEADER (through translator): This is a proof of life message for my family. Today is May 3rd, it's 9 p.m. It's a message for Lillian. I don't understand the reason why I'm to give a proof of life at this moment. I send this message to my family, to my children, and I am telling them that I am well.


CHURCH: Protesters have filled the streets in recent weeks and demonstrations like these in Caracas are turning violent and sometimes deadly. Demonstrators are furious over President Nicolas Maduro's first big step toward reform. They believe he will abuse the power it affords him.

Our Shasta Darlington explains.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro announced the formation of a new constituent national assembly. But what exactly does that mean for the country? So far the details are scarce.

We know that 500 people will make-up the new assembly, up to half will be elected, and the others will be appointed to represent various social groups. And we know that the assembly will have the power to make significant government changes.

LEONEL ALFONSO FERRER, VENEZUELAN CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY (through translator): That assembly as a original constituent powers will have powers above the Constitution and will be able to eventually rewrite the constitution and transform the state, as well as remove the president, the national assembly and the Supreme Court.

DARLINGTON: The government claims the move is a solution to the country's paralyzing economic and social crises. ELIAS JAUA, FORMER VENEZUELAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator):

The constituent assembly is the ideal mechanism to resolve the great contradictions in the heart of society.

DARLINGTON: And though it may seem brazen, the creation of the constituent assembly is legal under Venezuela's current Constitution. Articles 347 and 348 state that "The people of Venezuela, including its president, have a right to call a national constituent assembly. For the purpose of transforming the state, creating a new legal system, and writing a new Constitution."

In fact, the current Constitution was written after the late President Hugo Chavez called for a similar national constituent assembly in 1999.

But despite the fact that it's not unprecedented, it is highly contested. Critics claim that it's a ploy by the President Maduro to extend his reach, and to avoid or delay next year's presidential election.

JULIO BORGES, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT (through translator): What has happened today, and I say without exaggerating or trying to be dramatic, is the greatest coup in the history of Venezuela. It's Nicolas Maduro dissolving democracy and dissolving our republic.

DARLINGTON: Under the Constitution the constituent assembly would have the power to negate the current National Assembly, fill seats and Supreme Court appointments with pro-government supporters. As well as rewrite the Constitution entirely if it wanted to.

It's possible that the new constituent assembly will make changes that benefit all Venezuelans and not just Maduro's government. But that remains to be seen.

Shasta Darlington, CNN.


CHURCH: Facebook plans to hire 3,000 more people to help keep violent videos off the social media site. There have been several recent incidents where people posted videos of murders and suicides on Facebook that stayed out for hours before getting removed.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg says it's heartbreaking. Facebook will now make it easier for its team to flag inappropriate videos and contact authorities if needed.

Well, apparently, Mark Zuckerberg has been out of the office recently touring the U.S. on a meet and greet of Middle America.

As Clare Sebastian reports, this could be the start of a move into politics for Zuckerberg.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Any politician would be proud of these optics. In the last 10 days, Mark Zuckerberg visited a Ford plant in Michigan, dropped in for dinner with this Ohio family of Trump voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did give him crystal wine glasses.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: I'm here with my friend Pete Buttigieg.

[03:40:01] SEBASTIAN: And hosted a live car chat with the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

ZUCKERBERG: This is a city when I was growing up was really struggling.

SEBASTIAN: Zuckerberg says this is part of a personal challenge to visit all 50 states. Others have speculated he's test driving a new career.

STEVEN LEVY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BACKCHANNEL: It is strikingly similar to what a politician might do on a listening tour.

SEBASTIAN: Steven Levy is writing a book about Facebook and has met Mark Zuckerberg multiple times. He said this probably isn't what it looks like.

LEVY: If you're a billionaire running arguably the most powerful company in the world, you think you're on a mission that's good for the world, really what would you have to gain by being in a position that even Donald Trump finds difficult?

SEBASTIAN: And as Donald Trump marked his 100th day in office, Mark Zuckerberg was in Dayton, Ohio meeting those affected by the areas opioid crisis. Lori Erion was sitting next to him.

LORI ERION, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, FOA: I think he got emotional and was touched by what he was hearing and really just got up and walked around for a little bit and then came back and sat down. And then he was fine.

SEBASTIAN: A day earlier, Fiona Arbab (Ph) a Muslim student had also sat next to Mark Zuckerberg in Dearborn, Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My friend, she had to run to a final exam and once Zuckerberg found out, she was like, no, no, stop everything. I'll call you later. And literally called her, asked her how her final went and they finished up their conversation.

ZUCKERBERG: Last month I wrote a letter on building community. I have it here.

SEBASTIAN: If Zuckerberg were to serve in government, an ambition he has denied, it would trigger a conflict of interest.

In a regulatory filing last year Facebook said if he left the company, he would lose his majority control, except if he was leaving to serve in government. Still, for the 32-year-old, that decision may be some way down the road.

Clare Sebastian, CNN Money, New York.


CHURCH: Some food for thought there. Well, Apple CEO says he wants to be a ripple in the pond for U.S. manufacturing.

Tim Cook announced Apple is putting $1 billion into a fund designed to bring advance manufacturing jobs to America. He says the company has already created two million jobs stateside, and the company plans to hire thousands more people. Cook says he'll announce more details about the fund later this month.

Well, it's a rare message from the relatives North Korean defectors left behind. Coming up, an exclusive report from Pyongyang.

And late night comedian Stephen Colbert is facing major controversy as some Twitter users call for him to be fired, the joke that set this all off and his response. That's coming to you next.


CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, when the North Korean deputy ambassador to the U.K. defected last August, it was an embarrassment to Pyongyang. He was the most senior diplomat to defect in nearly 20 years. His family claims the south is using him for propaganda.

The North Korean government took our Will Ripley to speak with the diplomat's family and other relatives of defectors and here is the exclusive report from that.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Everything in Pyongyang from the almost hourly music to the stories and state media to the omnipresent portraits of the late leaders, all of it to remind North Koreans just how lucky they are to live in what the government calls a socialist oasis, which is why it's considered the ultimate act of betrayal when someone tries to leave.

Thae Yong-ho wasn't just someone. He was the most senior North Korean diplomat to defect in almost 20 years. The number two in the North Korean embassy in London before defecting to South Korea with his wife and two sons last August. He has humiliated his homeland, giving a series of interviews, blasting the socialist system and its supreme leader.

"I spent 50 years of my life on the wrong side, and now I have to deny my past," he told CNN in January. The North Korean government takes us to meet the brother and sister he left behind.

This is their first ever interview which they say is being done voluntarily. In South Korea Thae said that he did this to break the slavery chain.

"One percent evil propaganda," his sister says.

Thae also says he feared his family may be forced to speak against him, or face prison camps, banishment from Pyongyang or worse.

"Not one person has been punished in my family, she says. His brother says, "if I don't wash this sin away by myself, my sons and generations will have to work harder to pay for this."

We made Thae aware of the interview but didn't get a response. Another embarrassing case for North Korea what South Korea calls the mass defection of a group of restaurant workers. North Korea calls it a mass abduction, saying more than a dozen restaurant workers were all tricked, were also taken to meet some of their families.

Some people may watch this and think your government is forcing you to talk to us.

"Look at this stark reality," she says. "We parents have lost our child all of a sudden, our precious daughter. If something that bad happens to you personally, would you sit idle?"

In past defector stories we've had to interview these people in hotels. Now we're being taken to their homes. At both homes we visited, the young waitress's dresses and portraits were prominently displayed. None have spoken to the media in South Korea.

Their families in the North have been told by their government that their loved ones are being held hostage, some near death, and they must do everything they can to fight for their return. But the vast majority of defectors will never return.

Going to South Korea means cutting ties forever with family, friends, and North Korean society. A society that says it can't imagine why anyone would want to leave.

Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


CHURCH: And we'll be right back after this short break.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, late night comedian Stephen Colbert drew the wrath of Twitter this week for a particularly vivid joke about President Donald Trump.


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: You attract more skin heads than free Rogaine. You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's (muted) pollster.


CHURCH: Well, after that the hash tag fire Colbert picked up steam called the jokes crude, and homophonic and called for him to be suspended, canceled or at least boycotted. Colbert responded on his show just a few hours ago.


COLBERT: If you saw my monologue on Monday, you know that I was a little upset with Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine. So, at the end of that monologue, I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don't regret that.


I believe he can take care of himself. I have jokes, he has the launch codes. So, it's a fair fight.


CHURCH: OK. So, Colbert tendency to attack President Trump has given his ratings a pretty big boost and it doesn't sound like he'll be letting up any time soon.

Well, the President of the United States has a habit of referring to himself in the third person. Why does he do it?

Jeanne Moos isn't the first person to wonder.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's first when it comes to the third person.

TRUMP: Nobody would be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump.

[03:55:03] MOOS: And this week he did it in a tweet. That's Trump himself tweeting. "Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign," which prompted author J.K. Rowling to poke the president. "I wonder whether Trump talks to Trump's self in the third Trump person when Trump's alone.

TRUMP: If Putin likes Donald Trump -- we wouldn't hear about the word immigration if it wasn't for Donald Trump. Trump was able to get him to give something, I don't know what the hell it was but it doesn't matter.

MOOS: This is a man who tweeted congratulations Donald on his own apprentice ratings." He said, "Thanks, Donald when consumer confidence went up." But Donald doesn't have a monopoly on thanking himself. Remember this guy?

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks, Obama. MOOS: Thanking himself for lower gas prices. You know, there is actually a technical term for this.


MOOS: Psychologist Kevin Volkan has two theories for President Trump's use of the third person.

VOLKAN: I think he's either he's branding himself, which, you know, of course he's very good at and I think he does that almost unconsciously, and I think also this could be, you know, indicative of narcissism where, you know, you're constantly referring to yourself.

TRUMP: No side tracks, Donald, nice and easy.

VOLKAN: You want the world to revolve around you.

MOOS: Psychologists say toddlers are also illeis before they fully grasp the concept of I and me like Elmo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now Elmo has a question for you.

MOOS: Tweeted one Trump critic, "He gives third person talker like Cookie Monster a third name."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, Cookie Monster alive.

MOOS: Forget cookies. The president likes his own name in his mouth.

TRUMP: And then Donald Trump.

Donald Trump.


Donald Trump.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.

TRUMP: Stay on point, Donald, stay on point.

MOOS: New York.


CHURCH: And thanks so much for your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me any time on Twitter. I want to hear from you. And I will be back with more world news in just a moment. Do stick around.