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Winter Olympics Open with Pomp and Politics; U.S. President Blocks Release of Democratic Memo, Defends Aide Accused of Domestic Abuse; Dow Caps Turbulent Week. Aired 12mn-12:30a ET

Aired February 10, 2018 - 00:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The Kim Jong-un family welcomed inside the South Korean presidency as the North Korean leader's sister meets the South's president.

What is the substance behind the symbols?

We're live from South Korea.

And the memo war heats up as U.S. president Donald Trump prevents Democrats from releasing their side of the story following Republican accusations of abuse of power at the FBI.

Two big stories we're following right now. Great to have you with us. We are at CNN HQ right here in Atlanta. I'm Cyril Vanier.


VANIER: North and South Korea have not put on a show of unity quite this strong for decades. For the first time since the Korean War, that's in the 1950s, a member of the ruling Kim dynasty in the North is visiting the South.

Take a look: earlier on Saturday, Kim Yo-jong, screen left, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, met with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in -- there he is, screen right. This all happening in Seoul's presidential palace, the Blue House.

Next to where we see him there, he is next to Kim Yo-jong, the elderly man, is North Korea's ceremonial head of state, also in attendance. And as this is happening, the U.S. watches on from a short distance on Friday. Kim Yo-jong sat within eyeshot of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Olympic Games. But there was no contact between the two.

In fact, Mr. Pence says his mission is to make sure no one forgets the North's tyranny. Diplomacy, history, we've got multiple CNN teams on the ground. Paula Hancocks is at the games in PyeongChang; Paula Newton is in Seoul.

Let's go to Seoul first. Paula, do you have any idea what they are actually talking about? PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don't we all wish we would know that? I can tell you we just returned from the Blue House. In terms of the schedule this has gone on a little bit Longer. She has been in there about three hours now.

We can tell you they dined on fish soup, flounder and kimchi. Beyond that, we do not know much. We do expect these meetings to be a lot more than just cordial, that they will in fact be substantive in a certain way. At least that is what South Korean officials hope.

At this point in time, it has been rumored that perhaps there might be an invitation from the sister of Kim Jong-un, to Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, to visit for talks later on.

Whether or not we're going to get that kind of detail out of the Blue House remains to be seen. We were expecting a briefing from them in about a half an hour. But given that this has been going on for longer than we expected, we still do not know if they will come up with that briefing.

Again a lot on the line here for Moon Jae-in, who's really staked his reputation and in certain ways his political legacy on this going well with North Korea.

What is going well means, meaning that it can be progress beyond this being some type of propaganda coup for North Korea in terms of coming to the games, being feted at these games and being treated really with such respect and reverence. We will see.

Again, we only found out a few days ago that the sister of Kim Jong-un would even be here. So extraordinary that, finally, a member from the Kim dynasty has crossed the border into the South here, first time in 60 years, and the fact that technically these two countries are still at war.

VANIER: Tell me about protests. There have been several protests against North Korea in the presence of North Korea at these games for a week now. I understand that there are protests again in Seoul today. I do not know if they have begun yet but tell me about the people who lead these protests.

What are they against?

NEWTON: It was quite interesting; in places where we might expect to see some protests, there weren't any. Likely that was because they weren't given permits. They wanted to keep that area around the Blue House very safe and cordoned off.

Having said that, South Korea has a robust protest culture and, sure enough, through these games, and later on today we will start to see protests.

What it underscores, though, is that a larger feeling, especially with the younger generation here, that any kind of diplomacy with North Korea that perhaps in that equation South Korea would be giving up too much. Now this took officials around Moon Jae-in a little bit by surprise when there was a bit of a backlash. Having said that, they are hoping that the pageantry of last night's opening ceremonies and that good feeling that many people seem to have when they saw that united Korea team come into that stadium, that that will propel them forward in terms of goodwill.

Having said that, the skeptics are out there. They are loudly protesting and saying, we are letting North Korea hijack these Olympics and that might be an opinion they share with Vice President Mike Pence, who I say is still on the ground here and is expected, is watching all this very closely, as you can imagine, will be briefed and then head back up to PyeongChang to watch some Olympic events.

VANIER: Yes, he was sitting --


VANIER: -- not far from Kim Yo-jong at that opening ceremony. He seemed a little stiff. There was no eye contact, certainly no handshaking. All right, Paula Newton, thank you very much.

Let me turn to Paula Hancocks, our other Paula today.

Paula, more often than not, when I speak to you, it's because the North has launched another ballistic missile.

How did we get to this point, when they're shaking hands and inviting one another?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is quite staggering how much has happening in such a short amount of time. Just one update though, I have from Seoul. The luncheon has finished between South Korean president Moon Jae-in and that North Korean delegation. So we are hoping to get some information very soon.

But we have been talking about meetings, about handshakes, about the New Year's Day speech, for example from Kim Jong-un, when he really turned things around and said he was willing to come to the Olympics.

But you have to step back every so often and just realize how far these two Koreas have come in such a short amount of time. A couple of months ago we were talking about the possibility of war. President Moon Jae-in was talking about why there should not be a second Korean War.

He was giving the rationale for that publicly, saying he could not let it happen. And now you have at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics him turning around to Kim Jong-un's sister and shaking her hand.

Now I was at the opening ceremony last night and when that united Korean team walked out, there was a massive roar of approval. Everybody took to their feet. It was a very electrifying moment. Obviously within the opening ceremony is far more willing to see this Korean united team than the protesters outside. But it was a very unique moment to see how much goodwill there was toward these two sides. And then when you saw the reaction from the North Korean delegation, you saw the ceremonial head of state of North Korea, on his feet, his arms in the air, Kim Jong-un's sister was clapping.

So it is really quite incredible how far we have come in such a short amount of time. Of course there are still cynics. Of course, it could all go wrong but it is worth noting just how significant this development is.

VANIER: Tell me a little bit about the famous now unified North Korea -- North Korea-South Korea women's hockey team because everybody's looking at them. This little mini-story is an embodiment obviously of a larger story between the two countries.

Tell me about North Korea, the Olympics.

Can North Korea win any medals?

HANCOCKS: Talking to sports experts, it is unlikely. The only two who actually qualified was the figure skating duo and they were 15th in the world last time when they actually qualified for the Olympics.

This joint women's ice hockey team, they're actually playing tonight. So this Saturday night local time they'll be playing against Switzerland and they are expected to win but certainly when we saw that exhibition match last week, when they were playing against Sweden, they only lost 3-1.

And everybody who knows anything about women's ice hockey said that was a very respectable score.

But, of course, it's the fact that they are playing together. There was resistance to this. There was more resistance to this than there was necessarily to maybe the joint team walking out together at the opening ceremony.

But certainly it is going to be one that will be watched very closely -- Cyril.

VANIER: All right and the list of people that knows anything about women's hockey does not include me but it includes you. Paula Hancocks, thank you so much.

Joining me now from Seoul is journalist Jean Lee. Before I bring her in, though, I want to show the pictures that were getting.

Hey, Jean. Before I get to you, just a second. I want to show the pictures that we're getting of the protest in the South Korean capital. So here you go, protest against North Korea's presence at these Olympics, against also by extension the invitation that was extended to Kim Jong-un's sister at the Blue House.

We expected those to happen; they're taking place now. Jean, you're an expert on North Korea. You're a global fellow with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, you have explained over the past year, longer than that. You've explained to me and all our viewers here on CNN the political machinations in North Korea, South Korea, the political calculus.

So my question to you today is, they're shaking hands, they're meeting, they're at the Blue House.

Do you buy it?

JEAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what a significant moment for North Korea. They've already put this in their state media. So we've seen pictures in state media of that handshake. So we know that they're getting the propaganda that they wanted out of this. They did want to have a show of unity between the two Koreas. And that's what they got.

Now I think it's important to remember that this is precisely what Vice President Pence didn't want and perhaps will explain why he was so careful to avoid any kind of handshake, was careful to create that frosty atmosphere because the United States --


LEE: -- president, vice president knows that that would be handing the propaganda to North Korea. So that was certainly a moment that the South Korean -- sorry; the North Korean media has taken advantage of with the handshake between the South Korean president and the ceremonial head of state as well as Kim Jong-un's younger sister.

VANIER: So North Korea, is this a classic case -- because we've seen this before with other countries -- is this a classic case of projecting power through sporting strength, sporting achievements?

LEE: North Korea recognizes that it has so few arenas right now globally, it is under so much pressure with sanctions. There is this U.S.-led campaign to isolate them. The international sporting arena is one of the few places where I think can serve as neutral ground.

It's certainly been on the mind of the North Korean leader for years, to try to figure out how he could insert his country into these Winter Olympic at a time when the world attention is focused on South Korea.

Let us remember that North Korea tried to do this 30 years ago, when Seoul hosted its first Summer Olympics in 1988. That attempt did not go so well. They did it with the leader then tried to was bomb an airliner that killed 115 people, it ended up excluding North Korea from these Olympics and landing North Korea on the U.S. list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

So the leader of North Korea has taking a very different route to make sure that North Korea can capitalize on the attention that's paid to these Olympics and also use that platform for sports diplomacy to advance his own agenda.

VANIER: What you think about the shifting triangle between North Korea and South Korea and the United States?

Often it has looked like a duel between North Korea and the United States and right now it is looking like a sort of bilateral -- friendship is too strong a term -- but certainly warming relations between North and South and the U.S. seems to have no involvement in it.

Is the United States being sidelined?

LEE: This is a tricky situation for President Moon Jae-in. On the one hand, let's remember that he's the son of North Korean refugees. He is a longtime advocate of engagement with North Korea. He was part of the administration under Roh Moo-hyun, the late South Korean president, that engineered that summit in 2007 with the North Korean leader and then South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun, though he is a strong advocate of that.

And yet he has to show that the alliance with the United States remains intact because allowing any daylight between them would provide an opportunity for North Korea to drive a wedge between them.

So he really is in a difficult position. He is going to balance the warning tides with North Korea with the impression of friction with Washington. So I think it'll be a very tricky dance in the months and weeks ahead.

VANIER: Jean Lee in Seoul, South Korea great to speak to you again. Thanks.



VANIER: Coming up, Democrats in the U.S. respond to the Republican memo with their own memo.

So why is the White House saying that one cannot be made public?

Stay with us.




VANIER: U.S. President Donald Trump is blocking the release of an intelligence memo written by House Democrats. The White House says it contains classified and especially sensitive information and has been sent back to the House Intelligence Committee for changes.

The document was meant as a rebuttal to Republican memo released last week with President Trump's approval. Now that memo, you might recall, alleged surveillance abuses at the FBI. But the FBI says it admitted key information and was misleading. That is by no means the only major news coming out of the White House

on Friday and this Saturday morning. President Trump is praising a former aide who resigned earlier this week over accusations of domestic violence.

That is right, he is praising him without mentioning the alleged victims. Mr. Trump said former staff secretary Rob Porter did a good job and said he wished Porter a, quote, "wonderful career."

On Friday, a White House speechwriter also stepped down over similar accusations which he has also denied. Sources familiar with the situation say the president blames chief of staff John Kelly for letting the scandal get out of hand.

But the White House denies that Kelly offered to resign.

Larry Sabato joins us now from Charlottesville, Virginia, to talk about all of this. He is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Also the author of "Kennedy Half Century."

Larry, I thought we had one big topic this evening; turns out we have two. Let's go to the memo first. Mr. Trump is not ready to declassify the Democratic memo. So either this is a technical issue, there is just too much classified intelligence in there that needs to be redacted, or Mr. Trump does not want to give Democrats their right of rebuttal.

Where do you fall on this?

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: I fall at the latter, Cyril. It is very difficult to believe that it's just redactions. And if were just redactions it could be done almost immediately. But it is not going to be. Essentially the --


SABATO: -- Republican memo released, that four-page memo, fell flat, completely flat. It did not prove what President Trump said it did, which is that it exonerated him on the whole Russiagate matter.

So I don't think the Republicans and certainly not President Trump want to give Democrats an opportunity to score with their more detailed memo, about 10 pages.

VANIER: But look, Larry, and I'm just reading the latest statements, the White House is telling Democrats, well, work with the Department of Justice; work with the Intelligence Committee; get your memo in order so that there are not any obvious intelligence -- so there isn't classified intelligence that's made public.

And the subtext is, then we could perhaps release it. Now, Mr. Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, is saying, sure. We will work with them and it will be releasable.

So where does that get the White House? SABATO: Well, again, we'll see exactly what is -- what we won't see

which what's redacted and that really is the question most people have. You know, you can release a document but redacted enough so that it is meaningless. And it really does not communicate what you believe it should.

So I will believe that we are going to see the essence of the Democratic memo when I read it in my hands.

VANIER: Can Mr. Trump avoid the perception of naked partisanship if he does not declassify the memo or if he declassifies it only in a very narrow way?

SABATO: He cannot avoid that label. It obviously does not matter to him. He has long since adjusted to the fact that he is going to have the strong support of maybe 40 percent of the public and 55 percent or so will be strongly opposed and nothing he does or doesn't do will change that.

VANIER: Let's turn now to the other major news that is consuming and has consumed the White House for the last couple of days. Rob Porter, who resigned this week over allegations by two of his -- by his two ex-wives of physical abuse and now another person from within the White House is resigning, pretty much over the same thing. A speechwriter is resigning. This does not feel like coincidence that it is happening the same week. It feels like the dam is breaking.

What are we looking at here?

SABATO: Well, it's the #MeToo movement all over again, I suppose, except this relates more to spousal abuse or abuse of a girlfriend -- and, by the way, a third person has come out now for Mr. Porter, a more recent girlfriend has reported incidents similar to the two wives.

So I think we can pretty much conclude that there is a lot of truth to that. The most significant part of this was President Trump's reaction. Everyone is just appalled that when he was asked about it, all he did was defend this Mr. Porter.

VANIER: Yes, let me interrupt you, Larry. We're going to play that. We're going to play the sound bite by the president when he was asked about Rob Porter.


TRUMP: He says he's innocent. And I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he is innocent. So you'll have to talk to him about but we absolutely wish him well. Did a very good job while he was at the White House.


VANIER: So Larry, there appears to be a pattern here.

SABATO: Well, there certainly is. He never mentioned the women who were abused. Seems to me that a president ought to be concerned about the victims. But this is par for the course for Donald Trump. As you remember, more than 2 dozen women accused him of sexual harassment during the campaign in 2016.

He insisted over and over that every single one was lying. Then when he was supporting that Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, who had all kinds of sexual allegations lodged against him. Trump simply cited the fact that Roy Moore had said it is not true. The denial was enough. Denials are never enough. Proof matters.

VANIER: Larry Sabato, thank you.

For those of you who obsessively check U.S. stock prices, we see you. You can exhale. Markets are closed for the weekend after a turbulent week of trading. Up next our wrap-up of the numbers. Stay with us.





VANIER: Welcome back.

World financial markets are getting a breather this weekend after violent ups and downs in trading over the last week. The Dow eked out a 330-point gain on Friday; this coming, of course, after wild price swings.

The week provided quite a workout for investors' nerves but experts say the fluctuations are not necessarily a bad thing. Alison Kosik breaks it down.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there. It was a crazy week on Wall Street as volatility gripped the stock market. Despite a late session rally on Friday, stocks suffered their worst weekly losses in two years.

The Dow sinking 5 percent for the week, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 also dropping 5 percent on the week. Wild swings only fueled the anxiety. It began Monday with the biggest point drop in the Dow's history.

A plunge of 1,175 points; Tuesday stocks rebounded, jumping more than 500 points. Wednesday saw a small decline but then stocks rose Thursday only to crater at the close with the Dow losing more than 1,000 points yet again.

And on Friday, another rebound, surging 330 points in the final hour of trading.

So what's driving all of these wild swings? The severe selling was triggered a week ago when the government's monthly jobs report showed wages rising 2.9 percent over the past year. That got investors worrying about inflation.

Plus the bond market began reacting to the new budget deal. That led to fears that the Federal Reserve will have to hike interest rates faster than expected. It's a fear that fueled much of the selling this week.

And while no one knows what next week will bring for the stock market, once certainty right now is that uncertainty is here to say. Back to you.


VANIER: And that's it from us. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I am Cyril Vanier. I will be back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.