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Yates Warned White House Flynn Could Be "Blackmailed"; Russia Celebrates Victory Day; South Korea Votes for a New President; Wife: Detained Husband Falsely Accused by N. Korea; Macron Faces New Challenge After Election Win; Emmanuel Macron's Rise from Political Novice to President; Iraqi Forces Battle for Mosul Entering Final Stage; "13 Reasons Why" Returns to Netflix. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 9, 2017 - 02:00   ET



[02:00:12] SESAY: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --


SESAY: Hello, and welcome to our viewers from all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.

U.S. President Donald Trump got a warning from his predecessor about the man who would become his national security advisor. Barack Obama's advice back in November: Don't hire Michael Flynn. President Trump did, only to get another warning from then-acting attorney general, Sally Yates. Testifying before a Senate panel Monday, Yates said she notified the White House that Flynn lied about his conversations with Russia's ambassador and she feared that Flynn could be blackmailed by Moscow. President Trump dismissed her testimony on Twitter calling it "old news."

More now from CNN's Pamela Brown.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, former acting attorney general revealing for the first time why and when she alerted the White House about her concerns regarding the now-dismissed national security advisor, Michael Flynn.

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House because -- in part, because the vice president was unknowingly making false statements to the public and because we believed General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Raise your hand please.

BROWN: Sally Yates testifying to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that she spoke to the White House on three different occasions about Flynn. The first two visits happened in the White House where she said Flynn lied to Vice President Pence about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador and that the vice president may be unintentionally disseminating that information to the American people.

YATES: We felt like the vice president was entitled to know that the information he had been given and that he was relaying to the American public wasn't true.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D), CALIFORNIA: So what you're saying is that General Flynn lied to the vice president?

YATES: That's certainly how it appeared, yes. Because the vice president went out and made statements about General Flynn's conduct that he said were based on what General Flynn had told him and we knew that flat wasn't true.

BROWN: And she said her biggest concern was that the Russians would use that as leverage over Flynn.

YATES: Not only did we believe that the Russians knew this but that they likely had proof of this information, and that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security advisor essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.

BROWN: Yates said she first alerted White House counsel, Don McGahn, of her concerns in late January, two days after the FBI interviewed Flynn and a full 18 days before Flynn was fired following a bomb shell "Washington Post" report that revealed the Justice Department's warning to the White House.

YATES: We told them that we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action, the action that they deemed appropriate.

BROWN: Yates' testimony contradicting the White House's assertion she merely gave a heads up.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The acting attorney general informed the White House counsel that they wanted to give, quote, "a heads up to us" on some comments that may have seemed in conflict with what the -- what he had said to the vice president in particular.

BROWN (on camera): And Sally Yates says the third time she talked to White House counsel, Don McGahn, was when she called him to tell him that he could come look at the classified materials that caused so much concern among her and other Department of Justice officials. It's unclear, she said, if that ever happened, because the same day she made the offer, she was fired by President Trump for refusing to back his travel ban.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


SESAY: CNN's Matthew Chance joins us now from Moscow.

Matthew, Sally Yates testifying there about the concern Russia could have blackmailed Michael Flynn. Give us some perspective on those fears. What kind of track record does Russia have when it comes to blackmailing foreign officials?

[02:04:55] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question. I'm not sure I have the details on that. But I think it's fair to assume that if the Russians or any other country had information pertaining to a national security advisor in the United States, they may choose, particularly if they were a rival nation, as Russia is, they may choose to use that in their interests and perhaps to pressurize the national security advisor. It's an unprecedented situation. That kind of compromising information on any other senior U.S. official in the past. Obviously, it was an area new to explore.

For their part. the Russians say their ambassador did nothing wrong. He was merely meeting people like Michael Flynn, like Jeff Sessions, who he also met to establish contacts with key influential players in the incoming Trump administration and to put across Russia's view to them, as he's paid to do, as it's his duty to do, and the Russians insist he had no nefarious intent.

And in the same way, they're using the same language, the Kremlin is using the same language as Donald Trump is using describing these hearings, saying it's fake news, false news, and there's nothing to it. So once again, the Kremlin and Donald Trump are in lockstep on this issue.

SESAY: Matthew, you're there among the crowd. I know Russia is celebrating Victory Day on this, and President Putin is scheduled to speak. What are the expectations for that speech, what kind of remarks will they be?

CHANCE: First of all, it's the coldest Victory Day I can remember.

SESAY: Miserable.

CHANCE: Normally, the Russians go to great lengths to seed the clouds to try to manipulate the weather to make sure it's bright, blue skies with the sun out. They failed or they haven't tried. It's cold, it's been raining. Yesterday, it was snowing in the middle of May.

And it is still a sacred day in Russia because it's a day that remarks the massive sacrifice that it made for the "great patriotic war," what the rest of us call the Second World War, where they fought Nazi Germany and lost about 20 million of their people. Soviet citizens died in that conflict. And it's still vividly remembered today and commemorated. This is about that, first and foremost. You'll see a military parade of 10,000 troops, some of Russia's latest military hardware as it files through Red Square in that traditional way. And that's an indication it's not just about the past, but it's about the current state of Russia as well. This is an opportunity for Russia to show the world that it is a military superpower and it is a force still to be reckoned with -- Isha?

SESAY: CNN international correspondent, Matthew Chance, braving the elements there. Matthew, we appreciate it. Thank you. Now South Korean voters are choosing a replacement for ousted

President Park Geun-hye, who is on trial for corruption. She took a hardline approach on the North Korean nuclear crisis but front runner Moon Jae-in says engagement and dialogue with Pyongyang.

Here's how he compares with his closest rival. Moon Jae-in is from the left-leaning Democratic Party. Ahn Cheol-soo is part of the Centrist Peoples' Party. Moon is a former student activist and human rights lawyer. Ahn is a former doctor and software mogul. Moon served as chief of staff to a former president and ran for president as an independent candidate in 2012. They share similar views on a number of economic issues and both want to review South Korea's arrangement with Japan on Comfort Women. And for the anti-missile system, Moon was originally opposed to, but says its deployment should be a decision for the new administration. Ahn says he supports the decision to let the U.S. deploy THAAD.

Let's bring in Paula Hancocks, joining us live from Seoul, South Korea.

Paula, voting has been going on for some hours. How are things going? What's the turnout been?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRSPONDENT: Well, Isha, it's been a pretty decent turnout so far according to the Election Commission. It's over 63 percent of the electorate has voted so far. We've still got about five hours to go. They did early voting here for the first time ever last week and a quarter of the electorate voted then, showing just how excited people are by this election. Maybe excited is the wrong word. How determined they are to vote and draw a line under what has been happening over the past several months.

You had a power vacuum here. There's been no president. The former president is impeached, imprisoned and facing charges of corruption at this point. There's an awful lot going on. Heightened tensions with North Korea, there's a new U.S. ally in the U.S. President Donald Trump, and no South Korean president has been here to be able to be here to meet him.

So for many South Koreans, they really want this to be changing factor. They want the country to move beyond this corruption scandal and to get back to business, from tomorrow -- Isha?

[02:10:20] SESAY: And, Paula, we've talked about Moon Jae-in, the frontrunner in this race, being on course to shake things up, to change course when it comes to engagement with Pyongyang. How is that to be received in the region? How is China likely to view Moon Jae- in's presidency?

HANCOCKS: Well, China may welcome a Moon presidency, for the one fact that Moon is not convinced by THAAD, the U.S. missile defense system, which has already been deployed and is technically operational at this point. He said it should be up to the next president to agree to it. He said it should have gone through parliament for approval. So he's not 100 percent behind it. And certainly, China does not want it in South Korea. In that respect, they may get on well. One interesting point, North Korea, the state-run newspaper has written an opinion piece saying the conservatives, Park Geun-hye's party, have been behind everything that's gone wrong in South Korea recently. So suggesting they should not be voted for. North Korea obviously has high stakes in this election. From the U.S. point of view, there is a question of how he will get on, if it is Moon, the next president, with President Trump, the fact they do have difference of opinion. Moon is for engagement, he's pro-dialogue with North Korea. It's not yet clear what the North Korean policy is in the United States -- Isha?

SESAY: Very much so.

Paula Hancocks, joining us from Seoul, South Korea. Paul, appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, the wife of American detainee in North Korea over the weekend says her husband has been falsely accused. North Korean state media says Kim Hak-song is being investigated for hostile acts against the regime. He had been teaching at a university in Pyongyang.

And his wife spoke exclusively to CNN's Ivan Watson.



IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine finding out your spouse was just detained in North Korea. That's what happened to Kim Mi-ok last weekend after she waited at a train station in China for her husband to return from a business trip to North Korea.


WATSON: On Sunday, North Korea announced Kim's husband, Kim Hak-song, was detained, suspected of hostile acts against the government. His wife says he's been falsely accused.

Here's her message to the North Korean government.


WATSON: Kim's husband is an agricultural expert and Christian evangelical pastor, as well as a naturalized U.S. citizen.

(on camera): Pyongyang?


WATSON (voice-over): He was in North Korea teaching techniques for growing rice at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. They North Korans detained Kim nearly two weeks after detaining Tony Kim, another U.S. citizens who was teaching at the same university.

There are at least two other U.S. citizens in North Korean custody, businessman Kim Don Chul, and university student, Otto Warmbier, each serving sentences of at least a decade of hard labor.

Their plight is complicated by the ongoing confrontation between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

This worried wife has a message for her husband.


WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN, Seoul.


[02:15:22] SESAY: Pyongyang University of Science and Technology operates in an unusual place in the landscape. It's the first and only private university in North Korea. It's run by evangelical Christians, which is rare. It has the largest community of foreigners with more than 60 international faculty. About 500 undergraduates and 60 graduate students are enrolled, most are children of the country's elite.

Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, Emmanuel Macron has a big to-do list as the new French president. Just ahead, the challenge he'll have to tackle on day one.




SESAY: Well, France's new president won't have much time to get settled in before the country's next big vote, the parliamentary elections in June. Emmanuel Macron stepped down from his party Monday to focus on his new job. He still needs his own party to build a strong presence in parliament is he wants to push his agenda forward. Winning the majority is possible but Macron may need to widen his space to make that happen.

And Macron will become France's youngest president.

Melissa Bell looks at his rise from unknown government advisor to leader of one of the world's largest economies.



MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His march to power was as fast as it was determined. Only six months after announcing his intention to stand for the presidency without an establishment party, Emmanuel Macron beat the odds and the skeptics to win.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PERSIDENT-ELECT (through translation): I will serve you will love. Long live the republic, long live France.


BELL: What drives Emmanuel Macron? He was born 39 years ago in northern France to two doctors but raised by his grandmother, a woman brought up by an illiterate mother and who passed on to her grandson her love of books. Macron excelled in school, where he met a teacher who would become his wife. And then in Paris.

A school mate said he was surprised to see him in politics.

[02:20:24] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was ambitious but I thought it was a literary ambition. He wanted to become a writer. He was attracted to fame for sure. But I'm not sure he was from the beginning attracted to politics.

BELL: But Macron did go into politics. The former banker was appointed economy minister in 2014 by Francois Hollande. And that's when he took interest in his marriage to a former teacher, a woman 24 years his senior. In just a year, the couple's been seen on the cover of the magazine four times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The incredible energy they have together. You can't separate him from her. She has been a teacher and they always do teach another, and maybe I like romance, and it's a good one.

BELL: Since launching his bid for the presidency, Macron's independent candidacy has raised eyebrows and so, too, has his attitude to his opponents.

MACRON (through translation): People said politics would continue with the rules because we're so used to them.


MACRON: No, do not boo. We cannot unite around booing.



BELL: Now buoyed by the victory cheers of his supporters, Emmanuel Macron still faces a tougher challenge ahead, healing a divided country and taking his message of love to the wider world.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


SESAY: Let's bring in Dominic Thomas, the chair of the Department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA.

So, Dominic, as we look ahead to the parliamentary elections that Macron needs to do well in, where does his toughest opposition lie?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR, DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH & FRANCOPHONE STUDIES, UCLA: The toughest opposition for him at this stage lies on the right. Not the far right but on the right. The socialist party did appallingly in the first round of the elections, scoring just over 6 percent. He needs to bring people from the righting into his party. Let's not forget he ran a campaign neither right nor left. He's got to appoint a prime minister. The prime minister will have to appoint about 30 ministers in the next week or so and he needs to find 577 people in the next five weeks. That's what he's working on right now and his primary goals are.

SESAY: Do we have a sense of how he's going to lead France? We understand his agenda but do we understand -- this is a man without a whole lot of political experience. So what signs do we have as to how he'll form decisions, what kind of leader he will be for France?

THOMAS: Well, what's going to be so important for him is the political system changes to reduce the presidency from a seven-year term to a five-year term because that's the length of time deputy is elected and they did that to eliminate the term of cohabit forming and the question is whether he'll have a majority. If he does, he can rule, he can legislate. If he does not, that ends up being the party with the most votes. He'll be able to legislate on an issue by issue basis. The big challenge is if they do exceptionally well, it's going to be difficult to get policies through. And they've tried to jump start the economy and unable to do this. It's what fuels the far right and he needs to tackle this quickly and efficiently.

SESAY: As you talk about needing to settle it quickly and efficiently, we've already seen there was a protest organized in response to his desire to reform labor laws. Talk about what he's undertaken to do?

[02:54:59] THOMAS: Right. What he wants to do and same as previous governments back in the 2000s with his first jobs contract. It's going to involve negotiations with the trade unions. He's go having to deal with some of these questions that linked globalization and French companies being shipped abroad. Francois Hollande was able to build his majority by strengthening the left front. But Emmanuel Macron can talk to the right, work with the socialist on this and I think it will be much easier for him to push this forward but he will face opposition and he's going to have to clearly and carefully articulate and explain why in the long-term this will be helpful to the French economy.

SESAY: I think that's the key, being able to make that connection and explain why he's going in that direction.

Dominic Thomas, always a pleasure. Thank you so much for joining us.

Now Jakarta's governor has been sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of blasphemy. The trial is seen as a test of Indonesia's religious tolerance. He was also accused of insulting Islam by quoting from a verse of the Koran. He said it proved there were no restrictions on Muslims voting. When video of his remarks was released, hundreds and thousands of Muslim Indonesians protested on the streets of Jakarta. He lost his bid for re-election.

Months of fierce fighting are said to be entering the final phase. Coming up, the civilians trying to escape the battle for Mosul.


[02:29:58] SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

The headlines this hour --


SESAY: Seven months after it began, Iraq forces say the battle to retake Mosul is entering its final stage. The fight against ISIS is taking place in tight quarters and hundreds of thousands of civilians are caught in the middle.

Ben Wedeman talked to some who managed to escape.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barely able to see through the blinding dust, west Mosul residents trudged to safety. Thousands have fled in the past days.

"We've escaped from death," says this man.

This three-month-old was carried out by her uncle. Miserable is how he describes life many the city under siege now for months.

"God save us from that rotten gang," he tells me, referring to ISIS.

With little food or medicine left, hundreds of thousands remain trapped in the city.


WEDEMAN: Iraqi forces have established what they call safe passages for fleeing civilians.


WEDEMAN: Safe, however, may not be the best way to describe them.


WEDEMAN: On the hill above, soldiers fire rockets over the civilians' heads into the city.


WEDEMAN: And this is what has become of Mosul.

An ISIS car bomb goes up in flames at the edge of the neighborhood.


WEDEMAN: Iraqi forces launched this latest operation last Thursday morning from the north and the northwest.


WEDEMAN: "Be careful," this major warns his troops. "Watch out for booby traps."

The lone black banner of the extremists' flutters in the hot wind.


WEDEMAN: The bombardment is unrelenting.

(on camera): This is a final push in the battle for Mosul, a battle that began in the middle of October last year. At the time, Iraqi officials said it would be over by the end of 2016. Now it's well into its seventh month.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): In a nearby operations room, Iraqi officers and American advisors directed drone over the city. Unlike in the past, the Americans on the ground, like Lieutenant Colonel Jim Browning, can now direct air strikes without waiting for approval from senior officers in the rear.

LT. COL. JIM BROWNING, U.S. ARMY: All it requires is me to be able to see it, with my partner. And once we are able to kind of communicate and say, yes, that is emphatically enemy, we are under threat, let's deliver a strike and let's deliver it quick.

WEDEMAN: Iraqi leaders are hoping to regain full control of Mosul by the start of the month of Ramadan in late May. But the lieutenant general of the Iraqi's army's Ninth Armored Division, which is leading the fight, is more cautious.

"Timetables and conventional warfare are possible," he says, "but this is guerrilla warfare with a well-trained enemy using snipers, booby traps and car bombs."


WEDEMAN: And as always, civilians are caught in the middle struggling to survive, struggling to escape.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Mosul.


[02:35:48] SESAY: Well, U.S. President Donald Trump is considering sending more troops to Afghanistan. Military leaders are expected to propose 3,000 to 5,000 additional troops to accelerate training missions for Afghan forces. Sources say the Pentagon is also discussing plans to scale up attacks against the Taliban.

Quick break. And a hit show on Netflix is generating a lot of buzz but it's also triggering warnings that teenagers shouldn't watch it. Coming up, a closer look at "13 Reasons Why."


SESAY: Well, a controversial Netflix show will return for a second season. "13 Reasons Why" is about a teenage girl who leaves behind audiotapes that explain her suicide. Here's a quick look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By the way, I'm about to tell you the story of my life, more specifically why my life ended. And if you're listening to this tape, you're one of the reasons why.



SESAY: Critics say it glamorizes suicide but others say it can help start an important dialogue.

Joining us to talk more about the controversy is Samantha Schacher, an entertainment journalist and the host of "Pop Show" on

Samantha, thank you for being with us.

This is a really important issue. And I want you off the bat to tell me does this glamorize suicide?

SAMANTHA SCHACHER, ENTERTAINMENT JOURANLIST & HOST, POP TRIGGER: I beg to differ. I washed the show and I wish my teen version of myself had seen this show. I do understand why some would say -- the controversy is it glamorizes or romanticizes suicide. For those that have been victims of sexual assault, I can imagine this would perhaps glamorize it in their mind but they should seek help and for those that applaud the series, I'm there with them. They're pushing serious conversations to the forefront. Not only suicide but what constitutes consent and they define it clearly and seriously and online bullying. All really important conversations that schools and parents don't want to have.

SESAY: Why are we seeing educators and school psychologies against this?

SCHACHER: It's raw. I'm going to be a mom soon. Part of me would not want my teen to see this. And I could imagine -- if you're a victim of sexual assault, I would imagine it would trigger those thoughts but they have trigger warnings. This is based off a book. They follow the book very closely. They have follow up episodes of mental health. But again, these are real issues that teens deal with every day so why not talk about it? Why not have the conversation with your teacher or counselor or school? Because it's happening every day. It's very important.

[02:40:06] SESAY: It is happening. And let's give statistics to our viewers. More than 34,000 people die by suicide every year. More die by suicide than homicide. And it's the 11th leading cause of death across all ages. Netflix gave this a TV Mature rating. Was that enough?

SCHACHER: Teens are going to watch this regardless. Yes, it should have an M.A. rating but they have trigger warnings. Teens are still going to watch it and that's what parents and mental health experts need to understand. It's going to make them watch it even more or they've already read the book so you need have a conversation with those who feel alone or like they can't talk to their parents. It can help you get help and know suicide is never the answer.

SESAY: One of the writers of the show defends it saying this, "Many people accuse the show of glamorizing suicide and I feel strongly we did the exact opposite. We portrayed suicide and we portrayed it as very ugly and damaging."

Others, critics have said this does not provide wisdom or insight.


SCHACHER: I disagree. Again, I wish they delved more into the mental health aspect. Because you almost see the vengeance of this girl who she believes contributed to her suicide. She outs them. I get it. You're not just dealing with suicide. And let's look at other novels. Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. They glamorize suicide. So you still have to have the conservation. I don't think it was glamorized. It left me raw. I wish there was more talk and discourse about it. It also talks about online bullying, drinking and driving, date rape. These are things kids are dealing with every single day. And why not use this with guidance? I agree, there needs to be guidance with a show like this. But use it as a tool for education. Because the inner me wishes that I had this vehicle to use to maybe talk to my mom about it.

SESAY: Samantha Schacher, such a pleasure. Thanks very much.

SCHACHER: Thanks for having me.

SESAY: Season two of "13 Reasons Why" has already been commissioned. Let's see where they take it next.

SCHACHER: Yeah. That's right.

SESAY: Samantha, thank you so much.

SCHACHER: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you.

Nicki Minaj is giving back to her fans. The rap superstar has offered to pay a college tuition for a lucky few. This weekend, a fan on Twitter asked her to help with his school expenses. Her response, "If you show me straight "A"s, I'll pay it. More of her Twitter followers jumped on board, sending screen shots of their GPAs and student loan statements. Minaj asked for her bank information and she's already started sending the money.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

"World Sport" is up next.

You're watching CNN.




[03:00:08] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Decision day in South Korea. Voters look to move past a divisive corruption --