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North Korean Olympic Delegation Arrives in South Korea; Democratic Memo: FBI Interest in Carter Page Prior to Dossier; Florida School Shooting; U.S. Slams Russia for Delays in Cease-Fire Vote. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired February 25, 2018 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Say goodbye to the Winter Games. The closing ceremony is just hours away, we'll see who was in the North Korean delegation and why Russian athletes still cannot wave their flag.

And the U.N. calls for a cease-fire in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria.

But is anyone listening?

Plus in the U.S., chapter two of the memo war. Democrats release their rebuttal to a controversial Republican memo alleging FBI abuse of power.

I'm Cyril Vanier at CNN Headquarters here in Atlanta. Thank you for joining us.


VANIER: So the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea are almost over. The closing ceremony just hours away now. We've been monitoring these Olympics very closely from the beginning, since they were no ordinary games. Held in South Korea within range of North Korea's missiles at a time of heightened tension and the North chose to use them as an avenue for diplomacy, something that we've been tracking step by step.

The latest news today, you will not see a Russian athlete waving their national flag at the closing ceremony. Instead, they will be marching under the Olympic flag as they've been doing throughout the games after the International Olympic Committee decided to uphold Russia's suspension for state sponsored doping. The IOC president explains why.


THOMAS BACH, PRESIDENT, IOC: The IOC would have considered lifting the suspension because the Olympic athletes from Russia delegation as such respected the decision of the IOC it did take on the 5th December, 2017. However two Olympic athletes from Russia failed doping tests here in

PyeongChang. This was hugely disappointing and, in addition to other considerations, prevented the IOC from even considering lifting the suspension for the closing ceremonies.


VANIER: We'll get back to the Russian athletes in a moment. Meanwhile, the North Korean delegation has arrived in South Korea for the closing ceremony. Remember, they had left a few days after the beginning of the Olympics.

And the U.S. delegation, led by President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, is also in PyeongChang for the ceremony. No meeting, however, is planned between the two countries. Let's get the latest from Paula Hancocks. She's live for us in PyeongChang.

Paula, start by telling us who's in the North Korean delegation.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, the man who is leading it is Kim Yong-chol. He is a former spy chief of North Korea. He's, according to many, widely believed to have been behind a number of deadly attacks on South Korea, including the sinking of the Cheonan warship that killed 46 sailors.

So there is some resistance in this country to him heading up this delegation. He is also a sanctioned in both the United States and South Korea, there are sanctions against him. But he is here. He is meeting with the South Korean officials as well.

And there's also a member of the delegation who's in charge of U.S. affairs in North Korea, which is obviously interesting, given that Ivanka Trump and the U.S. delegation is here.

I just spoke to the unification minister of South Korea. He said there were no concrete plans for the two sides to meet but he does believe that both sides understand they need to talk, the preconditions, he says, that both sides have before they can sit down next to each other is what is different in that respect -- Cyril.

VANIER: So to be clear, as far as you know, no diplomatic talks. No Olympic diplomacy continuing behind the scenes as these Olympics draw to a close.

HANCOCKS: That's what he is saying officially. Obviously things could change whenever there's a reception before the closing ceremony. It will be interesting to see who is sitting in the VIP box with President Moon during the ceremony. Those seating arrangements haven't been shared at this point.

One interesting thing that the unification minister did say to me when I was talking about the nuclear issue, has the word "nuclear" even been mentioned, he said they have been discussing, the North and South Koreans, the nuclear issue in recent meetings, including reception that President Moon held for Kim Jong-un's sister and other North Korean members of that delegation. And he said in the past, the North Koreans wouldn't talk to the South

Koreans about nuclear issues. They said they had to talk to the U.S. They wouldn't listen, they even walked out, he said.

But this time around, they did sit and listen and he believes there's a real change in attitude when it comes to North Korea -- Cyril.

VANIER: Paula Hancocks, live from PyeongChang in South Korea, great to have you on. Thank you very much.

Now let's talk about the sports. Despite the ruling that will prevent Russian athletes from carrying their flag, the Russian Olympic athletes skated away with the gold in one of the last competitions at the Winter Games.

They beat Germany in overtime in the men's ice hockey final; 4-3 was the final score. The Olympic athletes of Russia now have two gold medals and 17 total medals.


With all the events wrapped up, this is how the tally ended up. Germany and Norway are tied for the lead with 14 golds. Norway has broken the record for the most medals in a single Winter Olympics, 38 overall.

CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan joins me now from PyeongChang, South Korea.

Christine, it's great to have you on. I want to ask you a question about Russia and the way their fans have taken to those athletes during those games. I know they can't walk behind their flag; I know they can't wear their uniform but it's pretty much when you standing there in the stands, it's pretty much as if there had been a Russian team, wasn't it?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Oh, that's right, Cyril, absolutely. I was at figure skating and of course there's no uniforms there. So the athletes just look the same as they always would look.

And you had a lot of Russian flags in the stands and people cheering for Russia, "Russian in my Heart," little placard signs they had up there. And I think throughout the games there was a sense that the Russians -- it was, of course, Olympic athletes from Russia but they're Russians.

And often in the media and journalists, we would kind of slip and just call them Russians. So yes. And basically they behaved well. The fans were great. I think there was great pride from the Russians in terms of the performances they saw, especially with the figure skating, the women's gold medal and silver.

And obviously great disappointment in the fact that there were two doping violations and obviously very warranted that there would be no flag in the closing ceremony. VANIER: Yes, they didn't do themselves any favors with those doping

incidents. Tells us about the U.S. Team. They tumbled overall. But they were really good at snowboarding.

BRENNAN: Yes, the X Games that the U.S. love so much, absolutely. Since they've added those medals, the U.S. has cleaned up on a lot of those medals as well. There were -- certainly Mikaela Shiffrin had her gold and silver. And of course the women's U.S. hockey team, I think, was the story of the games for the United States, Cyril.

I was at that game, U.S. finally beating Canada, their nemesis, the great Canadian team had won every gold since 1998. The U.S. won that one in Nagano; 20 years later, the U.S. comes back and wins that gold. So that is a meaningful big victory for the United States, for Title IX, for girls' and women's sports and for having these wonderful role models who fought for equal pay just 11 months ago, kind of starting the whole conversation that now is in Hollywood and everywhere else about paying women equally.

And this women's hockey team started that. So culturally and athletically, this is a big victory for the United States and probably will end up being the highlight of the games.

VANIER: What's going on with men's curling, not that it's normally on my radar but I've been told that the final curling event was very exciting and down to the wire.

BRENNAN: And I was watching it and I actually met the curlers last night at USA House. These were five happy guys, I'll tell you. The U.S. has never won a gold medal in curling, men's or women's. And so it was the men's team that did win the gold.

To me, curling is kind of like bowling on ice with shuffleboard put in there. And I'm not saying this in a disrespect way at all. I think they get it, too. It's certainly fun to watch and it's kind of fun to watch people who look like most of us out there competing. Because so many of these other athletes we would never be able to do the things they're doing.

I have tried to curl twice, Cyril, both in Canada. And both times you watch that stone and it just goes sliding right through. So I would say this, curling is harder than it looks but it sure is fund watch and for the United States a surprising, unprecedented gold medal.

VANIER: And look, it's one of the things when are you not into it and you don't really know the rules, it just looks strange. You can't help it. It just looks strange. But I respect the discipline.

How are these Olympics going to be remembered?

We've paid more attention to these Winter Olympics by far than we normally would for other Winter Olympics. There was a lot going on here.

How is this 2018 PyeongChang edition going to be remembered? BRENNAN: We'll see what happens politically with North and South Korea. But if in fact someday there's peace or there's harmony here, an area obviously as a sports journalist that I don't cover too much.

But if there is, we may mark time from that women's hockey team being unified and the first game I went and watched them play.

Wouldn't it be interesting if women's ice hockey ended up being part of the picture and the part of the story of the Koreas moving forward into the next few decades?

So I think that's important. An efficient games, run beautifully. Everything on time. Every bus on time. Kind volunteers, wonderful atmosphere throughout. And a little bit of -- there was no there there in the sense you had no centralized location they way you did like in Vancouver or Torino or Salt Lake City.

But nonetheless, because you had the mountain and the coast --


BRENNAN: -- I think a lot of fun for everyone and again, a very successful games put on by the South Koreans.

VANIER: All right. And obviously it will be interesting to see what the legacy is of the diplomacy that occurred during those games, Christine. And you were there to walk us through the games the whole two weeks. It's been a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you very much.

BRENNAN: Thank you.

VANIER: Now back here in the U.S. it is chapter two of the memo wars. House Democrats are defending the FBI's handling of the Russia investigation, releasing their own memo that directly refutes a central premise of a Republican memo released earlier this month.

In the middle of the story is this man, Carter Page, he was a foreign policy adviser to then candidate Donald Trump until September 2016. The following month, the FBI obtained a warrant to conduct surveillance on him.

The Republican memo alleges the warrant was based on an anti-Trump dossier funded by Democrats. The Democrats dispute that. In their memo they say the FBI had been interested in Page long before they got their hands on the dossier. We get more from CNN's Evan Perez.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The memo from House Intelligence Committee Democrats makes the case that the FBI had plenty of reason to get a secret court order to do surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

This contradicts the memo that was released a few weeks ago by Republicans, which claim that the FBI would not have been able to get permission for that surveillance without an opposition research dossier paid for by Democrats and put together by former British spy Christopher Steel.

Democrats say that the Steel dossier played only a small part in the surveillance application and they say that the FBI had years of concerns about Carter Page's Russian contacts and the possibility that they were trying to recruit him.

They also say that the FBI told the court that the dossier was funded by people politically motivated to discredit the Trump campaign. The memo says that Carter Page surveillance began in October of 2016 and ended in September of 2017.

Page was no longer part of the Trump campaign when the surveillance was actually done. And the Democrats say that the FBI and the Justice Department provided information from, quote, "multiple independent sources" that corroborated Steel's reports.

There's lots of redactions in the report that was put out. And we know that the FBI was opposed to releasing both this memo and the earlier one from Republicans because of concerns of damage to national security -- Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: As the Russia investigation unfolds, keep in mind that some key differences between the Democratic and Republican memos central to these differences is the alleged role the so-called Steel dossier played in the FBI getting a warrant to spy on Carter Page.

The Republican memo, put forward by Congressman Devin Nunes, claims the dossier was an essential part of an application for a warrant. The Democratic memo, put forward by Congressman Adam Schiff, says the dossier was of narrow use in the multiple pieces of evidence presented to the court.

The second major difference is whether the court was informed of the political motivation behind the Steel dossier. Nunes claims that that motivation was not mentioned to the FISA court.

Schiff counters that the court was informed of all the necessary political context.


VANIER: Daniel Lippman joins us now from Los Angeles. He's the coauthor of Politico's "Playbook" newsletter.

Daniel, good to have you back on the show.

Ever since the Republican memo came out alleging that the FBI had abused its powers, the Democrats promised a counter memo to, in their words, set the facts straight.

What do you make of their rebuttal? DANIEL LIPPMAN, POLITICO: I think the rebuttal stands as a strong reminder that the FBI was interested in Trump campaign associates long before the dossier itself. And you saw on Friday with Paul Manafort getting charged with more charges by special counsel Robert Mueller and Rick Gates, the former top deputy campaign chairman for the Trump campaign admitting to his guilt and pledging to cooperate.

And so clearly that's not just fake news, these are real top Trump people, saying that they did things that were guilty, maybe not directly tied to the campaign but Trump definitely had people who were dirty in their business dealings.

VANIER: At the end of the day, what is the impact?

What's the fallout of this memo war?

We had the Republican one, now we have the Democrats' rebuttal.

Has it really undermined the credibility of the Mueller investigation in the end or not?

LIPPMAN: I think with the Democratic getting released on a Saturday, when a lot of Americans are not paying attention and a lot of people had moved on after the Nunes memo was released, I don't think the impact will be very much.


People who believe in the Mueller investigation and are opponents of President Trump, they will stick with their positions. And people who are supporters of the president, they are not going to look at this memo and change their mind.

So we have in America people who are stuck in their partisan corners. This memo is not going to make that much of a big splash.

VANIER: Yes. I seem to be hearing that a lot these days. Bear with me; there's another developing story I want to ask you about. We're learning that the Mexican president -- this is something totally different -- the Mexican president had a confrontational phone call with President Trump earlier this week.

And he's now canceled plans to visit the White House as a result. "The Washington Post" reported on this first. And they say President Enrique Pena Nieto wanted Mr. Trump to acknowledge publicly Mexico's position that it would not pay for a border wall.

President Trump refused; reportedly he was frustrated that the Mexican president expected him to back off from one of his main campaign promises.

One Mexican official said Trump lost his temper, but U.S. officials say that he was just frustrated because he thought it was unreasonable that the Mexican president would expect him to do that.

So right now it's really hard to see, Daniel, how these two men will ever be able to meet, given these circumstances.

LIPPMAN: And I remind you that when the Mexican president was going to meet with Trump last year, early on in his administration in a visit that was going to be coordinated by Jared Kushner, he had to scrub that visit as well.

I think Mexico is also very worried that President Trump will eventually pull out of NAFTA, which would be devastating for their economy. And so a visit to Washington would want to prevent that.

And so clearly relations between the U.S. and Mexico are at an all- time low. There's a lot of mistrust in Mexico of President Trump's motives and some of his rhetoric.

He's continued to be pretty anti-immigrant in his rhetoric. Also a lot of Mexicans think it's unreasonable that they have to pay for a border wall when, clearly, a lot of the reason that Trump has argued for a wall is the drugs that are pouring into America.

But that's clearly a result of demand from Americans. It's not just Mexico sending drugs there without anyone buying them.

VANIER: Daniel, real quick and just to be clear, is there any indication Mexico will pay for this wall?

I know the U.S. president promised it during his campaign. But there's been no movement toward that.

In fact, the U.S. president is asking Democrats for funding in the budget for border security.

Isn't that an indication he doesn't expect Mexico to pay?

LIPPMAN: Yes, I don't think most Americans expect a foreign country to pay for billions of dollars for something to protect their own country. And so it's an unrealistic ask on President Trump's part and I don't expect, you know, he even expects that Mexico will actually write a big check.

VANIER: All right. Daniel Lippmann, thanks very much for joining us on the show.

LIPPMAN: Thanks for having me.


VANIER: Some law enforcement officials are being criticized for how they responded to the school shooting in Southern Florida almost two weeks ago. A top Florida congressman now says that this man, the Broward County sheriff, should be removed from his post.

Sources tell CNN it appears four deputies under his command were outside the school soon after the shooting began but did not go in and instead took cover. But Sheriff Scott Israel says only one of them was on campus at the time of the attack and that that deputy has resigned after being suspended. Meanwhile, President Trump is again calling for some trained teachers

to be armed, saying that could keep students safe. Many law enforcement officials and educators say that is a bad idea, including teachers from the school that was attacked.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I had a gun in my room, it would have been locked in my closet. And by the time I got my keys to get the gun, I would have been shot. There's no reason for me to be armed. There's no reason to give me a bonus for giving me a gun. Put that money in teachers' paychecks and in our pockets.

Put that money into more school security and additional law enforcement on campus. Don't give me bonus and don't give me a gun.


VANIER: Coming up on the show, the U.N. votes for a cease-fire in Syria amid reports that fighting has not let up. We'll have more on that.

Plus a live report from Nigeria, where confusion reigns nearly a week after an attack on a school. There's still no official information about dozens of missing schoolgirls. Stay with us.





VANIER: After days of discussion the U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution calling for a 30-day cease-fire in Syria but it may do little to end that country's vicious civil war and there are already reports of more airstrikes in Eastern Ghouta. The U.S. slammed Russia for delays in the truce vote.

It also said the Kremlin needs to hold Syria accountable for the use of banned weapons.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Every minute, the council waited on Russia. The human suffering grew. Getting to a vote became a moral responsibility for everyone. But not for Russia. Not for Syria. Not for Iran.

I have to ask why?

This resolution marks a moment of Council unity that we must seize and maintain beyond the 30-day timeframe. We hope this resolution will be a turning point, where Russia will join us in pushing for the political settlement to this conflict and take action to reestablish real accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.


VANIER: That was the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley. Here's what Russia's ambassador said about the cease-fire vote.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): By decrees of the Security Council, it came up to -- you cannot install a cease-fire. Cease-fire is reached by laborious and painstaking process on the ground and we want to make sure that it is reflected there.


VANIER: Our regional correspondent, Jomana Karadsheh, is in Amman in neighboring Jordan. She's coverage this.

Jomana, is Syria observing a cease-fire for the moment?

Any signs that it plans to do so?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, the short answer is, no, we're not seeing sign of a cease-fire right now, at least that's according to activists on the ground in Eastern Ghouta.

According to these activists, late last night after the announcement, after that vote from the Security Council, there were reports of some airstrikes on that rebel enclave this morning. It sounds like an intensification. The reports we're getting from various activists is that there have been some airstrikes but also artillery shelling, pounding different parts of Eastern Ghouta, as our producer was speaking to these activists, you could hear blast after blast in the background.

We're also getting reports of clashes between regime and opposition forces on several fronts on the outskirts of Eastern Ghouta. And we are getting reports of possible casualties, no exact figures right now but, Cyril, this as we're getting that staggering death toll, that casualty toll, according to Doctors without Borders, MSF saying between last Sunday and Friday at least 520 people were killed, more than 2,500 others were wounded.

And they expect the figures are much higher than that. But keeping in mind, in the past, when it comes to these cease-fires the regime would pre-announce more details. They would specify a time when there would be a pause in fighting. And we have not seen that yet from the regime.

VANIER: It's been one of the bloodiest weeks in the Syrian civil war and that's saying something.

There's no enforcement mechanism in this United Nations resolution.

So is there anything that forces Syria to comply or even incentivizes Syria to comply with the resolution? KARADSHEH: Well, this has always been the problem in the past. You don't have an enforcement mechanism for these cease-fires, you don't have what activists would say is a neutral monitoring mechanism when it comes to a pause in the fighting.

And both sides in this case do say that they maintain the right to self-defense. So it really opens it up for interpretation and a blame game as we have seen in the past. Keeping in mind also that Eastern Ghouta was one of the so-called deescalation zones that were agreed on between Russia, Turkey and Iran.

And we can see how that's ended up really. So the problem with these cease-fires if they do go into --


KARADSHEH: -- effect, Cyril, is they're always extremely fragile. And one major issue is we've heard the Russians and Syrians saying they still maintain the right to go after terrorist groups like ISIS and the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, (INAUDIBLE), would be excluded from any cease-fire, which no one would disagree with.

But the problem is what is the definition of a terrorist group?

We've heard the regime in the past describing all opposition and rebel forces as terrorist groups. So the problem is always with the details of these cease-fires and they always remain extremely fragile and it is civilians on both sides of this conflict who continue to suffer -- Cyril.

VANIER: Certainly Syria has used that caveat in those cease-fire resolutions and there have been others like this one before, very much to its advantage and it interprets it pretty much the way it wants.

Jomana Karadsheh, reporting live from Amman, Jordan, thank you very much.

A group of parents in Nigeria say more than 100 daughters are missing after Boko Haram militants invaded a girls' school Monday night. Government agencies aren't sure how many schoolgirls are gone and they've been getting contradictory information.

But family members say their numbers come from fathers who haven't seen their daughters since the attack. Nigeria's president is promising that all the girls will be found regardless of the number and their attackers brought to justice.


VANIER: Thank you for watching CNN. I'm Cyril Vanier. And we'll be back with headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.