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N. Korea: New Ballistic Missile Test a Success; China's Influence on Pyongyang; Growing Resistance by Senate Democrats on Confirming Next FBI Director; Clapper Gives Bleak Assessment on U.S. Government Operations During Trump Admin.; White House Emergency Meeting Following "WannaCry" Cyberattack; Excessive Heat Expected in U.S., India, Pakistan; China's One Belt/One Road Investment in Kenya; Trump Forms Commission to Investigate Voter Fraud; Ridley Scott Returns with "Alien Covenant". Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 15, 2017 - 02:00   ET




[02:01:01] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm Rosemary Church.


From CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, NEWSROOM starts right now.

Good day to you.

North Korea claiming a major nuclear success. That country claims this latest missile test proves that it could put a large nuclear warhead on a missile. That goal has been a key nuclear ambition for Pyongyang. Now North Korea also claiming it is capable of striking the mainland U.S., but there's no independent evidence to support those claims.

Let's get the very latest now from Alexandra Field live in Seoul, South Korea, following the story.

Alexandra, there have been failures, there have been successes when it comes to missile launches. What more do we know about this particular missile and this rather bold claim by the DPRK?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is being regarded even internationally as a major step forward for North Korea. But big picture, let's put this into context. We know that the goal of North Korea is to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, a missile that would be capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, and that would be able to deliver a nuclear warhead. North Korea has made claims before about having been able to put or being able to put nuclear warheads on their missiles. Those claims haven't been able to be independently verified outside of North Korea. But what they've been working on are two tracks at once, developing their nuclear weapons and working on the missiles that deliver them. This latest test teaches us where the missile program is and it's taken a significant step forward according to analysts. U.S. officials, to be clear, say there is no indication, this does not follow the pattern of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but analysts say it went higher and farther than previous missile launches from North Korea. It actually landed closer to Russia this time than Japan. And these analysts in the U.S. are saying this represents a step forward in terms of working to develop that intercontinental ballistic missile that they so want to have ready -- George?

HOWELL: So it's not an ICBM. But, again, this missile, it's the first test in North Korea -- rather, in South Korea, of the new president there, who represents a shift in policy, tell us more about how the new president is reacting reacting to this.

FIELD: Yeah, he's been in office for less than a week, so this is a test that comes quickly. But it certainly wouldn't be unexpected. This is exactly what the South Korean president knew he would face when assuming office. He, as you point out, was the Democratic Party candidate in the race, President Moon Jae-in. This is a departure from the Conservative Party rule, which has been in office for the last ten years in South Korea. They have typically had a harder line against North Korea. The Democrats represent a policy of greater engagement towards North Korea. That's the platform that he campaigned on. In the wake of this missile launch, you've had President Moon Jae-in come out and condemn this latest launch. But at the same time, he is leaving the door open for talks with North Korea, saying that the possibility remains there if North Korea changes its attitude -- George?

HOWELL: Alexandra Field, live in Seoul, South Korea. Thank you for the reporting.

Now to Pyongyang's main ally. Some experts say North Korea's latest missile test is an embarrassment for China. Timing matters here. This test happened just as China hosts a summit for an ambitious trade and infrastructure summit.

CNN spoke with Jamie Metzl, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. My colleague, Ana Cabrera, asked him about China's influence on Pyongyang.


JAMIE METZL, SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: China has either little influence or a lot of influence. They have a little influence if they are going to try to use small means to influence North Korea's behavior, and they've tried that, and China has been on board with a number of U.N. sanctions. There are people who say they should do more to support those sanctions. But still China strategically believes it's better off with even a hostile nuclear-armed North Korea than with a reunified Korean peninsula, potentially allied with the United States. So China could have a huge amount of influence if China were to say to the North Koreans, we don't want you to have nuclear weapons, and we're going to use all of the means at our disposal, including cutting off aid, trade, food, energy, to the point where the North Koreans would come to believe that the regime is more capable of surviving without nuclear weapons than it is with nuclear weapons. But right now, the Kim family and the regime believe that they are better off with nuclear weapons than without. Until that changes, we're going to see more of the same.


[02:05:44] CHURCH: Robert Kelly is an associate professor of political science at Pusan National University. He joins us now from Pusan in South Korea.

Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So North Korea has declared its latest ballistic missile test a success. So how do we gauge the progress made and whether it is, indeed, another step forward in Pyongyang's goal to carry a large nuclear warhead on a missile and ultimately hit the U.S. mainland?

KELLY: Right. So they say this kind of stuff a lot. About a year and a half ago, the North Koreans told us they had developed a hydrogen bomb. They lied. So we need to be careful about believing what Korean Central News Agency, the North's Pravda, tells us. I think we should wait to see if they actually launch a missile that flies a very long distance. Most of these missile launches have been quite short-range. They fly east, and they crash after a couple hundred miles. So if they actually have an ICBM, that flies thousands of miles, we need to see that in action, which I don't think we should get too alarmist. Let's wait and see if they can actually deploy something that flies a much greater distance than what they've done in the last couple of years.

CHURCH: Understood. That leads me to my next question. Is there sufficient analysis being done to make an accurate assessment of whether Kim Jong-Un can fulfill his threat to hit the U.S. mainland, and how do you do an analysis like that with the information we have?

KELLY: Sure, and that's the big problem here, right? I mean, we have lots of experts on the outside that can make these sorts of evaluations, for example, when they do a nuclear test, we study the seismic waves. But we don't actually know. The North Koreans don't tell us anything, which is one of the real problems here. Like with the missiles, we don't know what's going on. So a lot of this is conjecture. I think the Chinese might be able to get greater information and give it to us. I am concerned that the Chinese might find eventually they get really scared about having a North Korea with nuclear weapons and missiles on their border, and they might be willing to share information with us. But the North Koreans don't tell us a great deal, so it's a lot of speculation. That's why I suggested in my previous answer, when they actually launch an ICBM and it flies a long distance, that strikes me as more proof than these short-range tests and the hyperbole that follows.

CHURCH: Right. So we shouldn't be alarmist, but how concerned should we be about the potential that these threats to hit the U.S., indeed, nations in Asia, as well, what needs to be done to stop North Korea from doing the unthinkable here?

KELLY: Sure. I agree that they are acting in this direction. They wouldn't be doing all these tests if they weren't building towards something. They've said repeatedly they want an ICBM that can strike the American homeland. They ran that great big missile through to basically scare everybody. That's what they want. The question is how long is it going to take them to get there? If you look at the development of Chinese missiles, it took several decades, but they eventually got the ability. But it's very far away. I imagine the North Koreans will get there. The question is when. Numbers have been thrown around for a while have been five to ten years. But all this testing is driving in that direction, right? At some point, we have to get North Korea to pull over, or I fear the Americans might, you know, strike North Korea because they're not going to tolerate a North Korean ability to strike the U.S. homeland, whenever that comes, in a decade perhaps.

CHURCH: I did want to ask you this. Kim Jong-Un appears to be sending a message to China, as well as South Korea and the United States, with this latest missile test. So what does this say about Pyongyang's relationship with its longtime ally, China? Has something changed, and does Beijing still have very much leverage over Pyongyang, do you think?

KELLY: Right. This is a big question, sort of how much leverage does China have over North Korea? My sense is always that they have what I call oblique economic leverage, rather than political leverage. That is to say that if China were to cut off the North Koreans, as the correspondent mentioned before, you'd have sort of a crisis in things like food, energy, external resources, all of which North Korea needs for the lifestyle that they enjoy. So China has a lot of leverage here. North Korea doesn't actually want to become a colony of China, though, right? They want Chinese assistance, but they don't want to be dominated by China politically. So there is tension in the relationship. They need Chinese aide, but they don't want so much that they become a Chinese satellite. That's where we have some room to create a wedge, some space between North Korea, we, in the West.

[02:10:05] CHURCH: Robert Kelly, a pleasure to talk with you. Thanks so much for your analysis. Appreciate it.

KELLY: Thank you for having me.

CHURCH: Well, the White House may be trying to move past a political firestorm with a pledge to quickly name a new FBI director.

HOWELL: That's right. But the controversy over President Trump's firing of James Comey is far from over. It's up to the U.S. Senate to confirm any FBI nominee.

Athena Jones has more now on the growing resistance from Democrats.


ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. The fallout over the president's surprise move to fire the FBI director continues, with Democrats ramping up the pressure to name a special prosecutor to conduct a separate Russia investigation. One of those Democrats is minority leader Chuck Schumer, who spoke about this on "State of the Union." watch.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The silence of my Republican colleagues is choosing party over country at a time when we can ill afford it. Foreign manipulation of our elections, no matter who did it, is a very, very serious issue. It damages people's faith in our government. So our Republicans should be stepping up to the plate and joining us in asking for a special prosecutor.


JONES: So there you heard Senator Schumer calling on Republicans to join Democrats in demanding a special prosecutor.

We've also heard from Senator Mark Warner, who is the Virginia Democrat, who is the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. That's one of the congressional committees that is carrying out its own Russia investigation. He has said that Democrats should try to block any vote on a future FBI director if Republicans don't get on board with this demand for a special prosecutor. The problem is that they would need some Republicans to do that because the GOP just needs 51 votes to get that FBI director confirmed.

I should mention that as of right now, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, has indicated that he doesn't believe a special prosecutor is necessary.

All of this coming as the president prepares to embark on his first foreign trip. He's leaving on Friday. Before that, though, he'll be meeting with Turkish President Erdogan, where he's likely to talk about Middle East peace and Syria, specifically, this announcement this past week where the president authorized the limited arming of Syrian Kurds to help in the battle against ISIS. So a lot on the agenda as this fallout over the move to fire Comey continues.

Back to you.


HOWELL: Athena Jones, thank you.

The former U.S. director of National Intelligence has a bleak assessment of how the U.S. government is operating in the Trump administration. James Clapper says other branches of government need to step up the check of the executive branch in the aftermath of Comey's dismissal.

He spoke with CNN's Jake Tapper.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: This week, with the president firing the FBI director while this investigation is going on, and then saying that he was thinking about the Russia probe when he was making the decision, have we crossed a line here?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I will just say that the developments of the past week are very bothersome, very disturbing to me. I think, in many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally, and that's the big news here is Russian interference in our election system and I think, as well, our institutions are under assault internally.

TAPPER: Internally from the president?

CLAPPER: Exactly.

TAPPER: Because he's firing the checks and balances?

CLAPPER: Well, I think, you know, the founding fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances. And I feel as though that's -- that's under assault and is eroding.

TAPPER: Are you surprised at how quiet Republicans on Capitol Hill have been?

CLAPPER: Well, I can't -- I can't say. I think each -- each Senator or congressman has got to -- I hope will think in terms of their own conscience. And I can't -- I can't characterize it as being surprised. I just -- I hope they'll speak up.


HOWELL: The former DNI, James Clapper, speaking to our colleague, Jake Tapper.

Still ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, it spread to more than 100 countries, and now officials are warning the global cyber threat could get worse.

[02:14:42] CHURCH: We will talk to a security expert about what you can do to protect your computer. We're back in a moment with that. Stay with us.




CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, the cyberattack that's hit at least 150 countries may not be over. It was temporarily contained over the weekend, but now even more companies may be at risk as people return to work on this Monday and turn on their computers.

HOWELL: We're learning the White House held an emergency cabinet meeting because of the threat, and it's still not clear who's responsible. Claire Sebastian picks up this story.


CLAIRE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "A live threat," that is how the European Union law enforcement agency, Europol, described the state of the global ransomware attack Sunday. The infection rate had slowed on Friday and Saturday after a researcher in the U.K. accidentally discovered a way to stop it spreading. But according to Europol, that was only a temporary fix.

ROB WAINWRIGHT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EUROPOL: The cyber criminals already responded to that and issued a variant of the threat that gets beyond that. So numbers are rising again.

[02:19:36] SEBASTIAN: It's clear we still don't know the full extent of this. Britain's cybersecurity authority has also warned that more damage could come to light Monday morning as people return to work and that new cases of ransomware may be reported in the coming days.

And meanwhile, Microsoft, whose windows operating system was breached, said governments of the world should treat this as a wake-up call. The company's president said the fact that this attack used a cyber tool believed to have been stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency shows the rules governing cyberspace need to change. He writes, "We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits. This is one reason we called in February for a new digital Geneva Conventions to govern these issues, including a new requirement for governments to report vulnerabilities to vendors rather than stockpile, sell, or exploit them."

Meanwhile, the message to consumers, update your systems and back up your data.

Claire Sebastian, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: Claire Sebastian, thank you for the reporting.

Let's get some context now with Steve Ranger, live in London. He is the U.K. editor-in-chief at "TechRepublic."

Look, this is a big deal. A lot of people are concerned about this. So help our viewers to understand. People head back to work Monday morning. Walk us through the greatest concern about how this malware could spread and cause even more problems today.

STEVE RANGER, U.K. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, TECHREPUBLIC: Sure. I think the biggest problem is because this ransomware attack started on Friday afternoon, that maybe people have gone away for the weekend and will come back to work and actually while they've been away over the weekend, this malware has spread from computer to computer. And when they get to the office, they'll find that they've been hit by it, too. CHURCH: So, Steve, what do hospitals, particularly, hospitals and of

course individuals need to do to protect themselves from being hit by this ransomware going forward? What advice would you give them in.

RANGER: Sure. There are some pretty basic kind of security things they should be doing. So if you're a company or even if you're an individual, make sure that all patches that you can have on your software are up to date. So software vendors often send out little bits of extra software to kind of patch holes they've found. Please make sure you're updated. Also, be careful about clicking on things that maybe aren't from your friends. Just be a little bit more cautious in terms of what you click on and what you open. Also, maybe think about backing things up. That might be important business information, or it might be your family photos. This ransomware doesn't care what it encrypts what it locks up. If it's valuable to you, store it somewhere else as well.

HOWELL: So let's say you've become a victim of this cyberattack, what do you do? I mean so there will be some people who say, well, maybe I should just pay the ransom?

CHURCH: Like a hospital.

HOWELL: Yeah, yeah. Should people pay the ransom? Should they not? What should people do?

RANGER: So, generally, you're dealing with cyber criminals. There's no honor there. Even if you pay up, there's no guarantee they'll give you your data back. Ransomware has been around for a long time. The advice is generally not to pay because you just don't know what you're paying for. Also, if you pay, you encourage it to happen some more.

CHURCH: It's difficult, though, if you're in a hospital and you can't move forward and you've got all these people needing care. So how difficult, though, is it to trace the origin of this malware and to ultimately apprehend those people behind this?

RANGER: Yeah, this is incredibly hard, right? I mean the speed with which this spreads to pretty much every country on the globe and, you know, hundreds of thousands of people, thousands and thousands of companies just shows you how fast this stuff can spread. It could have come from anywhere. It may be impossible to find out where it came from in the first place, or you may find they're beyond the jurisdiction of your country or whatever. It's really, really hard. It's just an example of these incredible threats that we're now facing because we're so reliant on technology.

HOWELL: It's that reminder, though, you always get that update on the computer. Take the update. Take the update. Don't delay. Take the update.

CHURCH: And change those passwords.

HOWELL: Oh, my goodness, change the passwords, too.

Steve Ranger, thank you so much. CHURCH: Thank you.

Near-record heat is building for millions in the United States, while parts of India and Pakistan are on alert for their own dangerous conditions.

Our Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is joining us now and covering the globe.

Pedram, what have you got?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Are you ready for summer in May? Here's what we're looking at the next couple days, guys. Temperatures really going to begin to build for a pretty expansive area of the United States. Southern portion of the United States, that's where high pressure is firmly in place. You begin to see this expand going over the next several days and see the temps rise from 15 to some areas almost 20 degrees above what is considered normal for this time of year. We know typically the middle of July, the second week of July, that's where we should be for the hottest time of the year. We're somewhere way back here off the map in the middle of May. That's exactly what's happening over the next couple of days. Look at the temps on Monday expanded over a pretty large area into the midwestern U.S. by Tuesday, we close in on 90 as you approach places like Chicago. On Wednesday, how about this? The northeastern corner in the U.S., places like Washington, D.C., a few degrees shy of 100 when it should be about 75 for this time of year. A pretty excessive setup for temperatures in place.

And that's something that is being felt across parts of India on into Pakistan where officials there are really urging people to take it easy because you take a look. Outside right now, a little past noon local time across this region. 49, which is equivalent to 120 degrees Fahrenheit right now what it feels like outside. Pretty expansive area.

Keep in mind the population of India about 300 million people do not have access to electricity. You put that in perspective. We know heat fatalities a major issue across that region of the world. You look at the top five deadliest heat waves on our planet, in India, 2,500 lives lost. Now, your body does a fantastic job cooling itself off because what it's trying to do is limit the core temperature, keep it right around 37 Celsius, which is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

But when you have extreme temperatures, extreme humidity, that cooling effect that your body has with sweating, of course, and evaporation is almost nonexistent. That's what's happening across parts of India, which make it a dangerous scenario. This is that pre-monsoon heat that builds up.

I want to show you something here because the Department of Agriculture in the United States, fascinating statistics when it comes to how you can cool your body off. A lot of people have found ingenious ways but, believe it or not, just standing underneath a tree has a net cooling effect of about 10 portable air-conditioning units operating for about 20 hours per day. So folks across India or anywhere in the world really, if you have a tree even on the western side of your house, that actually can reduce your air-conditioning bill over a 15-year period by over 12 percent. So things like this play a significant role. Perhaps dampening the sheets before you go to bed can reduce your core temperature as well. Something you learn here if you stay up late, at least, in the United States on CNN -- guys?

[02:26:51] CHURCH: Some great tips as always, Pedram. Many thanks.

PEDRAM: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: And still to come, North Korea sends a team to China's high- profile economic summit, even as it carries out another missile test. The details still to come.

HOWELL: And Kenya's getting a boost in its biggest investment since its independence. How China is helping, as CNN NEWSROOM continues.


[02:30:37] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell.


It's time to update you on the main stories we've been watching this hour.


CHURCH: North Korea is claiming it has achieved one of its nuclear goals. Pyongyang says Sunday's missile launch showed it can put a large nuclear warhead on a missile. The regime is also claiming it can now strike the U.S. mainland. There's no independent evidence to support those claims.

That launch came as North Korea's main ally, China, hosted a major trade forum.

Our David McKenzie has more now from Beijing.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think what's very important to note here is that this appears both to foreign experts and to the North Koreans to be a successful launch of this new, it appears, mid to long range, ground to ground missile. Now, that is important because in recent months, there have been a great deal of failures in the missile tests out of North Korea. Sometimes that has been attributed to possible cyber operations from the U.S. that has never been completely verified.

But this appears to be a successful test personally supervised, say the North Koreans, by their leader, Kim Jong-Un, and really, they're pushing the fact that this missile might be capable of carrying a large-scale nuclear warhead, as they called it, and that it would be for testing of the capability of that.

Their claim that the U.S. mainland is in striking distance appears to be exaggerated at this point, according to experts, but certainly this is a worrying development for those wanting them to stop their missile program.

A statement from the ministry of foreign affairs here in China, they sometimes don't even mention when there's a missile test, saying they oppose anything that breaks U.N. sanctions like this missile -- U.N. resolutions like this missile test. They haven't said much more than that because they don't want to sway any attention away from this plan that Xi Jinping has unveiled formally here in Beijing for all these world leaders.


HOWELL: David McKenzie, thank you.

North Korea's missile launch comes as a slap in the face to China, which kicked off its One Belt/One Road Forum Sunday. The same day as the test. The North Korean delegation kept a low profile at the economic summit after the U.S. warned Pyongyang's presence could affect the participation of other countries.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the 29 leaders to attend the forum and spoke at the opening ceremony.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): Russia sees the future of the Eurasian partnership as not just an establishing of new ties between countries and economies. It should change the political and economic landscapes of the continent, bringing Eurasia peace, stability, prosperity, fundamentally new quality of life. Our citizens need very obvious things.


[02:35:15] CHURCH: And as China expands its global reach with its One Belt/One Road initiative, it's also offering loans for infrastructure in Africa.

HOWELL: And many of the continent's cash-strapped governments are taking them up on it.

Farai Sevenzo tells us about China's game-changing railroad investment in Kenya.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a towering achievement, Kenya's standard gauge railway. Built and 90 percent financed by the Chinese, it will run almost 300 miles from the port city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi, with plans to connect it to six other East African countries. It's the country's largest investment since independence in 1963, and

it's been called a game-changer, replacing the more than 100-year-old colonial line. It's planned to take half the load coming through east Africa's largest port, which currently travels down a slow and congested two-lane highway.

(on camera): For now, all tracks lead to here, to Nairobi's brand-new terminal, which should become operational this June. They hope it will open up the East African markets but it has come with its own share of controversy. For one, there is a $3.8 billion price tag, which is 6 percent of Kenya's GDP. It's a massive risk, which they hope will pay off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what people are saying. Look, this is a very big bet that you've taken in comparison to your economy. I think that, you know, there will be a very strong return from this investment. But obviously, it has been expensive.

SEVENZO (voice-over): Kenyan officials involved in the project did not respond to CNN's request for comment. Chinese authorities referred us to Chinese headquarters, which has not responded either.

China's presence on the continent has seen allegations of corruption. An overreliance on Chinese labor at the expense of African labor and a lack of transparency.

But the company behind the project, China Road and Bridge Corporation, or CRBC, employs 25,000 locals on this railway.

And for environmentalists, protesting the effects on wildlife, CRBC have designed wildlife corridors.

Locals, though, appreciate the dependable construction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're the best. We have had a lot of problems with the African contractors. But now with the Chinese, they are doing good. They are doing extremely good work.

SEVENZO: There's been a dramatic change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Africans saw China as Santa Clause. I don't think the days of that enormous lar jess are there anymore. They have the capacity to do big things but they're going to make sure their interests are covered.

SEVENZO: While this infrastructure presents a massive economic potential for Kenyans, it's up to them what they do with it. Because in the end, it's not aid the Chinese are providing. It's business.

Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Nairobi.


HOWELL: Now to France. That nation's new president is vowing to restore confidence in his country. Centrist Emmanuel Macron was inaugurated on Sunday. He beat the far-right's Marine Le Pen in this month's election and took over from Francois Hollande in a ceremony at the palace.

He made this speech after taking office. Listen.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translation): On the 7th of May, the French made their choice, and let them be thanked. The responsibility which they conferred on me is an honor, and I am aware of the gravity of that honor. The world and europe need France more than ever. They need a strong France sure of its destiny, a France which holds high the voice of freedom and solidarity. They need a France which knows how to invent its future.


CHURCH: Hundreds of women filled the streets of the Venezuelan capital Sunday marking Mother's Day with anti-government protests. Demonstrations have occurred almost daily in Caracas against President Nicolas Maduro. The mothers wore black while holding a minute of silence for the dozens of young people killed during the country's political and economic chaos.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): All us mother who are here have nothing to celebrate today. We are in mourning because many people have died. They were our future here. Purely good people.


CHURCH: We're going to take a very short break here. Still ahead, Pope Francis speaks out on his upcoming meeting with the U.S. president. Why he says he won't judge Donald Trump just yet.

[02:39:55] HOWELL: And the White House is creating a panel to try to prove the U.S. president's bogus claims of massive voter fraud. We'll have that story.

For viewers in the U.S. and around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


CHURCH: And a warm welcome back to you all. Pope Francis says he refuses to judge anyone before he hears what they have to say, and that includes Donald Trump. The pontiff is scheduled to meet with the U.S. president at the Vatican later this month.

HOWELL: The two leaders have very sharp differences on topics like immigration and climate change.

Pope Francis says he will be sincere when he chats with Mr. Trump.


POPE FRANCIS (through translation): What can the world expect? Peace. Whatever the topic or whoever it is in front of me, whoever that person may be, it's peace.

I never make a judgment about a person without listening to them. I don't think I should do that. During our talks, things will come out. I will say what I think, and he will say what he thinks. But I have never, never wanted to judge a person before hearing what they have to say.


HOWELL: Now to the U.S. president Donald Trump, wanting to prove his unfounded, bogus claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.

CHURCH: Yeah, he has signed an executive order forming a commission on voter fraud and elections.

As Tom Foreman explains, election fraud is not that big a problem in the first place.



TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite her electoral walloping, the facts say Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about three million. But not the way Donald Trump tweeted it: "I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." So right after the inauguration, he said, "I will be asking for a major investigation into voter fraud, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal."

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to protect the integrity of the ballot box, and we're going to defend the votes of the American citizen.

[02:45:03] FOREMAN: Never mind that credible evidence of even small- scale fraud is extremely rare. Never mind that some in his own party oppose the effort.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: There's no evidence that it occurred in such a significant number that would have changed the presidential election, and I don't think we ought to spend any federal money investigating that.

FOREMAN: Those who believe in rampant fraud often cite this research paper suggesting non-citizens may vote heavily enough sometimes to change results. But that paper's analysis has been strongly criticized by other experts. There is a respected Pew report saying millions of voters are registered in more than one state, but the author says that's mainly a problem of sloppy record keeping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a big leap between an out of date record and administrative inefficiency on a list and the act of voter fraud.

TRUMP: Excuse me. Then why did he write the report? FOREMAN: Nonetheless, leading the president's new commission will be

Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an unabashed advocate for voter identification laws, and a man who says he's caught people voting in his state and another at the same time.

KRIS KOBACH, KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE: My office prosecutes it. I just got that prosecutorial authority a year and a half ago. We've already filed nine cases and we have six guilty pleas.


HOWELL: Again, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States. The claim is bogus.

Still ahead on CNN, Russia's president is proving he's not a Johnny one-note.




HOWELL: Coming up, Vladimir Putin's unexpected concert in Beijing. We'll listen.





[02:50:39] (MUSIC)


HOWELL: One might call it music to the Kremlin's ears. A different side of the Russian president that is not seen very often on display. Vladimir Putin playing a couple of Soviet-era songs on the piano before he met with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

CHURCH: Mr. Putin is in Beijing attending an economic forum. In the past, he has showcased other hobbies, including martial arts, horseback riding, and piloting planes.

Well, live from New York, it's Sean Spicer, kind of. Actress Melissa McCarthy reprised her role on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend as the White House press secretary.

HOWELL: McCarthy announced that Spicey's back, before poking fun at some of the other issues that have plagued Washington in the last week. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Now, I'm filling in for Sean today. As you know, Sean is fulfilling his duty as an officer in the Naval Reserve, and that is why he cannot be here.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I'm pretty sure I can see him hiding in those bushes.


UNIDENTIFEID ACTRESS: I believe that's a Naval exercise. He's trying to blend in with his surroundings. Are there any more questions?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Yeah, I have a question. Can you just do this full-time instead of him?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: If he's your friend, why is everyone saying he's about to fire you and replace you with Sarah?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Oh, bless your heart. This is the first I'm hearing of that.



I got to find Trump. I'm going to New York. The press interview is over!




CHURCH: So well done.


CHURCH: They are artists.

HOWELL: All right. When Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece, "Aliens," it cinemas in 1979, it became an instant classic, but it didn't explain the origins of the creature at the center of the horror films.

CHURCH: Now Scott is giving fans the back story they've been waiting for.

CNN's Neil Curry met the director and cast ahead of his latest movie's release, "Alien Covenant."



NEIL CURRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ridley Scott has done for space tourism what Titanic did for transatlantic sea travel. The British director's terrifying depiction of extraterrestrial encounters illustrates a fascination with the stars he shares with the stars of his movies.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It's obvious there's other life forms out there. It would seem weird to think that we were the only species in the galaxy, it being so vast. And in fact, the possibilities that there's already been contact and perhaps aliens came here already hundreds of years ago and helped us move forward and make technological advances.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: All of this is to start our new life.

RIDLEY SCOTT, MOVIE DIRECTOR: We're at the bottom of the food chain. Remember that. So if something is hovering in the sky at the morning, do not shoot at it. It means they're a century ahead of us.


CURRY: "Alien Covenant" continues a series of prequels providing the back story to Scott's original "Alien" movie in 1979.


CURRY: Audiences then were left shattered by a bloodcurdling master class in sci-fi horror, it seems some of us failed to ponder the key questions in space. Forget the Big Bang theory. Who created the alien?

SCOTT: No one had bothered addressing problems I laid, number one, or the evidence I laid, number one, which is that beautiful spacecraft with a guy inside it. I bet you hadn't thought about that, had you? Had you thought about that?

CURRY (on camera): That's right. I hadn't.


SCOTT: That's why I do what I do. You do what you do. I said if I can lift this lid off here and now covenant starts to answer though questions. Like who made it and for what reason? To what purpose?


CURRY: Would a remake of the original "Alien" be cinematic sacrilege?

SCOTT: It means the studio is desperately short of screen writers.


We shouldn't be doing remakes.

CURRY: I find it stands the test of time. I feel like it works just as well today. I was really surprised that, you know, how much it hasn't dated.

[02:55:04] SCOTT: Got a clear night in Los Angeles or France. Go out there and stand out at night, and I do definitely wonder. I stand there going wow. I still go wow.


SCOTT: At the sight of the stars, for sure, yeah.

CURRY (voice-over): The filmmakers are hoping to reintroduce the original wow factor to the franchise with Katherine Walker continuing the traditoin of strong female roles, begun by Sigourney Weaver in the first film.

In space, we're told, no one can hear you scream. In cinemas, however, it's another matter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four meters above you.


CURRY: Neil Curry, CNN.


CHURCH: Something to think about there, right?

HOWELL: For sure.

CHURCH: Thanks for watching. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell.

More news right after the break. Stay with us.