Return to Transcripts main page


Catalan Separatists Protest Visit Of Spanish King To Barcelona; Filmmaker Hopes To Bring Attention To War In Syria; More Airstrike On E. Ghouta Despite U.N. Truce Vote; Some Of Last Men In Allepo Team Can't Enter U.S; Debate on Gun Control Continues After Florida Shooting; Possibility of Talks Between U.S. and North Korea; Unstoppable Shelling in Eastern Ghouta Killed More Civilians; Boko Haram Raided School and Took 100 Girls; Power Play in China. Aired 2- 3a ET

Aired February 26, 2018 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The North Korean team has packed up and gone home. We will go live to South Korea for more on whether the end of the Winter Olympics means the finale for diplomacy.

Plus, a relentless focus on how to prevent another school shooting in the United States. Gun politics and school safety topped the agenda as Congress returns to Washington.

And we speak with the Oscar-nominated director of "Last Man in Aleppo" about the legacy of his film and the all-too familiar scenes coming from Syria.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and, of course, from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church at CNN Headquarters in Atlanta. This is CNN NEWSROOM.




CHURCH: Well, after threats, provocations and mixed signals, there is cautious optimism the U.S. and North Korea could be getting closer to sitting at the negotiating table. South Korea announced on Sunday the North is willing to hold talks with the United States.

The White House responded, saying Pyongyang must agree to give up its nuclear weapons. But that has been considered a non-starter.

Meanwhile, President Trump's daughter, Ivanka, has left South Korea. She represented the U.S. at the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics. Officials say Ivanka did not interact with the North Korean delegation, even though they were sitting close to each other. Our Paula Hancocks joins us now live from PyeongChang.

So Paula, South Korea says the north is now willing to hold direct talks with the U.S. but the U.S. is insisting North Korea give up its nuclear weapons. That's something Pyongyang has said it won't do.

So where do they go from here?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a key question, Rosemary.

How do you keep the momentum going from this quite remarkable sporting diplomacy we've seen here?

But once the athletes go home, once the Paralympics is over, then, of course, you have the U.S.-South Korean military drills which anger Pyongyang every year.

I spoke to the South Korean unification minister on Sunday and asked him, how do you make sure that those drills don't derail this momentum that is building?

And he said he was hoping, over the next couple of days, to be able to talk to the North Korean delegation, still in South Korea, to make sure that that wasn't going to be the case.

Now as you say, Ivanka Trump has left South Korea now. She was asked many times by reporters about North Korea. Many times she declined to be drawn on it. But she did say one thing about North Korea and here it is.


IVANKA TRUMP, TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: We are 50 miles away from North Korea. So affirming the U.S. position and our joint position of maximum pressure with our South Korean partners is very important.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After Kim Jong-un's sister attended the Olympics opening ceremony, local media called her North Korea's Ivanka.

Is that a fair comparison?

IVANKA TRUMP: I don't think so. I would far prefer to be compared to my sisters here in South Korea who are thriving in this incredible democracy.


HANCOCKS: Now there is also White House response to that -- the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, saying on Sunday that North Korea is willing to talk to the United States.

And the quote was, "We will see if Pyongyang's message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization. In the meantime, the U.S. and the world must continue to make clear North Korea's nuclear and missile programs are a dead end."

So we are hearing a consistent message now from the United States and the Trump administration, when it comes to North Korea, even though North Korea says it's willing to talk, the United States saying that the main goal must be denuclearization.

And that has to be one of the main topics when it comes to talking about this. Now not everyone was happy about this North Korean engagement in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. There were a number of protests around the country. There have been protests today, as well as the North Korean delegation is still here.

One person, Kim Yong-Chol (ph), who is leading the delegation, is widely believed to have masterminded a couple of deadly attacks on South Korea in past years. So certainly there are some that are not happy that he has been allowed to break sanctions and to come here to South Korea -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: And, Paula, just back to the possibility of those talks, we have been here before, haven't we?

Talks with North Korea haven't achieved much in the past.

So why would this be any different?

HANCOCKS: Well, it's true. We've had these unified teams at the Olympics many times before. We've had talks between the U.S. and North Korea many times before.


HANCOCKS: They have even signed agreements many times before, which have then been ignored and canceled out by actions, really, on both sides.

So it's difficult to see what would be different this time, whether or not the North Koreans feel more secure because North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said that his state is a nuclear state, that he has finished or completed what he wanted to complete. So maybe he comes to the table with a bit more confidence.

But of course, the fact is the U.S. wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. And there are very few people who believe that the North Korean leader would willingly give up his weapons -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Certainly. Our Paula Hancocks, many thanks to you, joining us there from PyeongChang where it's just after 4:00 in the afternoon.

Well, there is outrage on multiple fronts after the latest school shooting in the United States. It has renewed the gun control debate with some rare bipartisan agreement. It has also resulted in demands that someone be held responsible for missing so many warning signs about a gunman who killed 17 people. An armed deputy stayed outside the school even as the gunman fired on

students inside. And the Broward County Sheriff's Office is acknowledging it had received 23 calls about the shooter or his family in the last decade.

Well, now dozens of Florida lawmakers want the Broward County sheriff suspended. The sheriff spoke with CNN's Jake Tapper.


SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF, BROWARD COUNTY: I will only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercised my due diligence. I have given amazing leadership to this agency.


ISRAEL: You don't measure a person's leadership by a deputy not going in to a -- these deputies received the training they needed.


CHURCH: Martin Savidge has more now from Parkland, Florida.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even as the chorus of voices demanding that Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel either step down or the governor the state of Florida fire him, there seems to be only defiance coming from the sheriff himself. He has said that he definitely has no intention of resigning and he also says that all of this is now being driven by politics.

He points out the fact that of course the governor is republican and most of the lawmakers so far that have come forward demanding that the governor remove Israel are also republican lawmakers. The sheriff himself is a democrat.

But here in the community where this tragedy played out, it is not about partisan politics. It's about something much more simpler and even easier to understand. It's about personal pain. It's about the loss that they have suffered.

And it's about almost the day to day revelations that seem to imply that the Broward County sheriff's office either failed to see serious warning signs coming from the alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz, that one of their deputies failed to intervene when the shooting was taking place and that there were other deputies that failed to rush in the in the immediate aftermath.

As parent who has lost a child, as a community that has lost so much in all of this, the anger has jut reached a breaking point and they believe the sheriff is directly responsible. He is the head of the department.

Meanwhile, the governor of Florida is still pushing forward with his plans to bring about change and to improve security at the schools within the state. There is one point, though, in which he disagrees with the President of the United States. President Trump has come out and said he thinks it's a good idea that

some teachers and high schools should be trained and armed with side arms. Governor Scott does not agree with that.


RICK SCOTT, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: I disagree with him. I believe you've got to focus on people that are well-trained, law enforcement that are trained to do this. I want to make sure that we have significant law enforcement presence on top of hardening the schools, metal detectors and bulletproof glass, better perimeter fencing, all these things.

And the other thing is I want to give our sheriff's department in each county the authority to do, create the program on a per school basis that the parents can feel comfortable that their child is going to is a safe school.


SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, the investigation into the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School is continuing. It is currently being handled by the Broward County sheriff's department. But now the Florida department of law enforcement has been called in by the governor to investigate the sheriff's department as to how they responded on that terrible day -- Martin Savidge, CNN, Parkland, Florida.


CHURCH: U.S. President Donald Trump told governors at the White House this weekend that school safety is a top priority. And he said stopping school shootings would lead the agenda in their meetings later Monday.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have a lot of meetings tomorrow. We're going to have some very important meetings. We'll be talking about Parkland and the horrible --


TRUMP: -- event that took place last week.


CHURCH: And one former governor told CNN's Fredricka Whitfield that he thinks the NRA lobby won't be able to stop gun law reform this time around.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't need to accept the NRA stranglehold on our Congress or our state legislatures, as if it's some inevitable, immovable force. The truth is that I think you're going to see a lot of governors moving. I think you're going to see a lot of state legislatures moving.

And this year across America, there are 36 governors' races up, there are 36 state legislatures that are going to the voters. And I think you're going to see people demanding action.


CHURCH: And President Trump's proposal to arm teachers is very controversial. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, was asked about that on NBC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a mom of three young children.

Do you believe that arming teachers would make children safer?

IVANKA TRUMP: To be honest, I don't know. Obviously, there would have to be an incredibly high standard for who would be able to bear arms in our school. But I think there is no one solution to creating safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you advising your dad on this?

You advise him on other topics.

IVANKA TRUMP: I think having a teacher who is armed, who cares deeply about her students or his students and who is capable and qualified to bear arms, is not a bad idea. But it's an idea that needs to be discussed.


CHURCH: And a new CNN poll suggests the Florida massacre is shifting U.S. public opinion on gun laws and President Trump. Support for stricter gun control has spiked to 70 percent, the highest level in 25 years. Just 27 percent of Americans oppose tighter gun laws.

While support for gun control is on the rise, the same cannot be said for President Trump's approval ratings. They have slipped from 40 percent in January to 35 percent now, matching the lowest point of his presidency.

For more on the gun control debate, Steven Erlanger is "The New York Times" chief diplomatic correspondent. He joins me now live from Brussels.

Good to see you. Thanks so much for being with us.

So U.S. President Trump will meet with state governors Monday officially to discuss various proposals to help improve school safety and to toughen gun controls. The president is pushing this idea of arming teachers.

We heard there from his daughter, Ivanka. She supports it, an idea also supported by the NRA, it has to be said. It's a notion that certainly has its critics.

How likely is it that governors would seriously consider such an idea?

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think it's a very odd idea. The whole idea of solving the problem of kids shooting up schools with guns by providing more guns in a tense environment, I think, is something that needs to be debated.

What seems to make much more sense is making sure the people charged with protecting the schools do their job, which didn't happen, clearly, in Florida. I mean, I must say, from abroad, it is always extraordinary, even as an American, to watch the bloodshed that goes on day after day after day without serious gun control.

Now what we'll see, because we have, for the first time, this enormous movement of students, which I think is having a big impact, as is Trump's popularity rating dropping having a big impact, that you might finally be able to restore the ban on semiautomatic weapons in Congress.

That by itself would be a very important step. That ban lasted for 10 years and then was abandoned. I think many people would like to see it restored.

I mean, when people talk about changing the gun laws, the question is, what do you want to change?

And here is one example of something that worked reasonably well. It was abandoned but should perhaps be restored again.

CHURCH: Yes. Those students appear to many people have offered to some turning point in this gun control debate. The president has also indicated that he's open to comprehensive background checks. But we don't know what exactly he is proposing. He hasn't indicated that.

As we just reported, the latest CNN poll on tighter gun laws shows seven out of 10 Americans support tougher background checks. But no one seems to be able to agree on what stricter gun laws actually means. But at least there appears to be this bipartisan support for this idea.

What type of background checks would gain support from both parties --


CHURCH: -- do you think?

ERLANGER: Well, it's, you know, it's very hard to know because we have a federal system. Every state has its own controls. Federal controls would be a very good idea.

But, you know, there are ways to get around checks. That's the problem. This young man, Mr. Cruz, passed every check. And, you know, he had no crime against him. He was interrogated. People looked into him. This is the hard part. I mean, how do you prevent kids who go nuts, let's be honest, from

doing harm without damaging the rights and obligations of the rest of all those millions of Americans?

Now obviously, background checks make a great deal of sense. There should be, I think, you know, personally, delays of a month or so between asking for a gun license and actually getting it. There should be training involved. There should be some signs, some proof that you actually know what you're doing with a gun.

I mean, it's always struck me that people who have been in the military, who have had military training, are the ones who are most in favor of a tight control of the licensing of guns and who don't believe that things like the AR-15, the M-16 should be allowed in civilian circumstances.

And I must say, having been -- watched wars, been involved in covering wars, I can't agree more. The damage done by military weapons is so much more than that done by handguns there is no room for that kind of weapon in a civilian setting, in my humble view.

CHURCH: All right. Yes, it is a debate that will continue on. Of course the age of some people being able to purchase those types of weapons is also under debate. Steven Erlanger, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

ERLANGER: Thank you.


CHURCH (voice-over): Next here on CNN NEWSROOM, the latest on what's supposed to be a ceasefire in Syria. Why one doctor in Eastern Ghouta says nothing has changed.

Plus, a power play in China. The ruling Communist Party proposes a big change to the constitution. We'll have the details for you with a live report. That's still to come.





CHURCH: A cease-fire resolution at the U.N. Saturday may have already failed in Syria. Activists say shelling and airstrikes in Eastern Ghouta have not stopped. There are also reports pro-government forces are mounting a ground offensive.

This video from Saturday purportedly shows the aftermath of one of those strikes. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 100 children have been killed in the area over the last week. And these children survived but still have to live with the horrors of war. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is tracking events in the region from her

vantage point in Jordan. For the latest she joins me now live from Amman.

So, Jomana, the United Nations voted for that ceasefire over the weekend but Syria ignored that and continued its bombardment in Eastern Ghouta.

What impact is that having right now on civilians in the area?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, by all accounts, Rosemary, the situation for civilians trapped in Eastern Ghouta, there are estimated to be about 400,000 people in that rebel enclave.

And this situation is catastrophic. They're running out of just about everything -- food, water, fuel, medication. And people are trapped in their basements. They've got no safe place to turn to. So people have ended up in underground shelters and tunnels, hoping that they would find safety there.

And yet again, you know, after hearing that this ceasefire, this vote at went through, there was hope that maybe the situation could change on the ground.

But absolutely no signs of a ceasefire so far. More than a week of this intense campaign, this bloody campaign of airstrikes, artillery shelling, that have continued, as we're hearing from activists today, that there has been no stop in the bombardment of the different parts of Eastern Ghouta.

And at the same time, Rosemary, we're hearing from activists on the ground on Sunday, saying that it's not just this aerial campaign; that also there was a push by the regime on several fronts, to try and push into Ghouta with what they were describing as a ground offensive.

We've also gotten reports from activists and medical groups saying that there are casualties in this -- in these latest airstrikes even after the U.N. vote. In one instance, activists are telling us that a family of 10, for example, were killed just after midnight local and that included children.

And at the same time, Rosemary, we're hearing from the Syrian regime.

According to their state media, they're saying that mortar and rocket fire, from what they say is being fired by the armed groups in Eastern Ghouta, has not stopped, saying more than 20 rounds hit -- indiscriminate shelling hit different parts of the capital, Damascus, on Sunday.

So no sign of a ceasefire so far. And it is civilians on both sides of this conflict that continue to suffer -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: The images are horrifying. Jomana Karadsheh bringing us up to day on the situation on the ground. She joins us there from Amman in Jordan. We thank you. Many are comparing events in Eastern Ghouta to what happened in

Aleppo. Later in this hour, we'll hear from a filmmaker, who documented rescue efforts in that city. And we will also look at his Academy Award-nominated film "Last Man in Aleppo."

We turn to Nigeria now, where it is intensifying its search for --


CHURCH: -- 110 girls. They have been missing ever since Boko Haram militants raided their school a week ago. Now the air force has fighter jets, helicopters and surveillance planes conducting around- the-clock searches over Northeast Nigeria.

After a week of confusing contradictory statements from government agencies, agonized parents have joined forces and put together a comprehensive list of their missing daughters. The country's president calls the situation a national disaster and is promising the families the girls will be found.

Well, imagine signing up for a journey in which you are warned up front that you may be sexually assaulted. That's what our Nima Elbagir faced in a follow-up to her undercover report on slave auctions in Libya. She went undercover to Nigeria to learn how people are smuggled through Libya trying to get to Europe.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To prove just how brazen these criminals are, we're trying to see if someone will agree to traffic us to Europe.

He calls himself Aveke (ph), one of an army of pushermen. The brokers who work alongside smugglers on the Nigeria end of the Africa to Europe migrant trip.

Taking me aside, Aveke (ph) repeats again, "Condoms. Don't struggle if you're raped and, ultimately, trust in God."

From here begins the journey to Europe, the journey into the unknown. Many who undertake this journey are still unaccounted for.


CHURCH: And you can tune in Tuesday for Nima Elbagir's exclusive report on the business of smuggling people through Africa.

Well, China's ruling Communist Party wants to drastically change the country's constitution. They have proposed removing presidential term limits. That would pave the way for the president, Xi Jinping, to stay in office indefinitely.

Our Matt Rivers is following the story from Beijing. He joins us now live.

So, Matt, what's behind this push to drop presidential term limits in China and give Xi Jinping an indefinite term in office?

And how is this going to work?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, let's start with how it's going to work. Basically, it is a proposal in name only, really, from the central committee of the Communist Party that will be, quote- unquote "voted on" by China's rubber stamp parliament when it meet nets regular session called the National People's Congress in a couple of weeks from now.

And they will pass this proposal; unless something absolutely out of this world happens, they are going to pass this proposal because that's how communism here in China works. The top leadership makes a quote-unquote "proposal" and then the rubber stamp parliament effectively puts it into law.

And then after, that it paves the way for President Xi to stay on as head of state. It eliminates the two-term limit. And we could very well see President Xi hold that title for years or even a decade or two to come.

Now in terms of the motivation of why do this, there is a lot of different arguments going back and forth. But what it effectively means is that Xi Jinping does something more tangible to make sure he can stay on.

This is something a lot of people were expecting to happen in the sense they did expect Xi Jinping, even if he wasn't officially the president, to hold on to the reins of power because he is the general secretary of the Communist Party.

And through a series of events late last year, including having his name and his thoughts inscribed into the party constitution, he has become the most powerful leader of the communist party since the days of Mao Zedong.

There is no term limit on the general secretary of the Communist Party, although most have stepped down around the same time as the presidency, the two five-year terms. But many people are expecting him to stay on. And now this is just a more tangible step. We're looking at Xi Jinping controlling China for many years to come.

CHURCH: It is an extraordinary move and it has some critics very alarmed. Matt Rivers, bringing us that live report from Beijing, where it is nearly 3:30 in the afternoon. Many thanks.

Well, students are set to return to classes at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School on Wednesday for the first time after the shooting there that took 17 lives. Hear how students and teachers are hoping to reclaim their school.


[02:32:53] CHURCH: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and of course, all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. Let's update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour. The borders of Catalan independence are criticizing the Spanish King's visit to Barcelona. Protesters clash with Catalan police Sunday asking Felipe attended a welcome dinner for the 2018 Mobile World Congress. The King is a vocal critic of the independence movement.

U.S. is again warning any dialogue with North Korea must leave the regime to give up its nuclear weapons as the Winter Olympics came to an end. South Korea renounced that the North is willing to hold talks with the U.S. but there's no indication Pyongyang would agree to negotiate its nuclear program.

Florida's governor is ordering an investigation into the response to the deadly high school shooting in Parkland on February 14th. An armed deputy working as the school resource officer never went inside the building where the gunman was firing at students. There are also reports three other sheriff deputies did not go into the school.

And then the wake of the school shooting. A number of Florida lawmakers are urging the governor to suspend the Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. State Representative Bill Hager spoke with CNN's Fredricka Whitfield.


REP. BILL HAGER (R), FLORIDA: Clearly a series of failures at multiple levels. I've identified the sheriff's office probably the most grievous of fault at least based on the reported facts as we can understand so far lies there.


CHURCH: The Speaker of the Florida House also tweeted that 73 of his Republican colleagues support the sheriff's suspension.

Well, classes at the South Florida High School where the 17 students and teachers died will resume on Wednesday. On Sunday, students returned to the school for an open house and for many, it's the first time they've been back there since the terrifying attack. CNN's Kaylee Hartung was there to see how they're coping.

[02:35:03] KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN REPORTER: In the lead-up to Sunday's open house, many students and teachers told me they were feeling anxious. They didn't know how they would feel or react to being back on Stoneman Douglas' campus, but after an afternoon in which many students were reunited with their classmates and teachers for the first time since February 14th and have the opportunity to reclaim their belongings like backpacks, laptops, phones and wallets. Of course it was difficult for some but many telling me there was more happiness then sadness among them. Listen to 10th grader Tanzil Philip described the evolution of his emotion.

TANZIL PHILIP, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: It was -- it was really scary, I didn't know how I was going to feel when I -- when I went and I saw the fence around the freshman building. I just -- and all the windows recovered, I was just like -- I just -- I just can't believe something like this happened. And then we all decided to meet in our -- in our theater room where I was and we just gave each other hugs and I'm just happy a lot of my friends decided to show up because without them I wouldn't have been able to do it.

HARTUNG: When classes resume on Wednesday, teachers telling me it will not be class as usual, it will take a while before academics are the focus in the classroom. Superintendent of this school district telling us that he wants to be as accommodating and as flexible as possible to meet the individual needs of these student and teacher. This could mean counselors in classroom if requested or service dogs perhaps even stress reductions exercises like yoga. The healing process here at Stoneman Douglas is underway but we know there is a long road ahead. Kaylee Hartun, CNN, Parkland, Florida.

CHURCH: This certainly is. All right. We do want to turn to the weather now and parts of the central U.S. dealing with heavy flooding and tornadoes and thunderstorms have caused severe damage in the south. Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joins us now to cover all of that. A lot of really severe incidents there weather wise.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No question about it, Rosemary. Good to see you. And in fact, over the weekend, our first major severe weather outbreak again that we tornadic storms as a result just the beginning of course and what typically is a season goes in this direction here. The time we get into May and June, that's when we peak as far as a tornado averages by month but in February, they only average about 30 you don't need quantity to get them to be deadly. That's exactly what happened over the weekend. This was the line that spanned all those deadly tornadoes. We had 12 tornado reports, National Weather Service has been out there of course surveying the damage and we have the Fujita scale which is the damage scale, and they look at the damage and basically by that determine what kind of winds rolled to the region and some of these again were deadly.

I want to focus in on Clarksville, Tennessee as we're going to need (INAUDIBLE) 125 miles an hour. 2009 kilometers per hour. Take a look at what that can do to a structure as it rolls through the region here for pre-devastation. By the way, I just want to tell you, this one did not cause a fatality but we did have some injuries across the area. Look at that one home to the left, just fine, a bit of damage. And then the one on the right just completely destroyed. You can see the path of the storm kind of took there, ring narrow tornado but nevertheless certainly a destructive and we continue to see that through Sunday as well. By the way, the flooding as a result of the very heavy rainfall associated with that storm system that rolled through.

At this point, it is not the rainfall that is falling because that's over, it is the rivers that are still calling the chance here, 20 still at major flood stage as a result. Of all the heavy rain not just on the weekend by the way but this had also been on top of what had already fallen. This is what's left of the live showers and thunderstorms. If you're rumbling storms down towards Louisiana, nothing severe at this hour. I'm not expecting anything as far as this severe weather outbreak. This rain will continue pushing to east, it will be done in fact by the time it get into Monday afternoon, this thing will be out of here and we can continue to clean things up and as you can see there, Rosemary, it's going to take quite some time for a lot of folks crossing southern U.S.

CHURCH: Yes, most definitely. Ivan, thanks so much and we'll chat again next hour. I appreciate that. Let's take a commercial break. We'll have more for you when we return.


[02:42:03] CHURCH: Before heartbreaking Eastern Ghouta, it was heartbreak in Aleppo before eastern Ghouta needed to ceasefire, it was a ceasefire for Aleppo rewinded 2015, a meet in increasing bombardment from the Russian regime and Russian allies. It was in Aleppo that the world became familiar with the iconic White Helmets and the volunteers wearing them. As the airstrikes multiplied, the White Helmets armed with scarce resources would charge into the dust and rubble hoping to save lives, but more often they're not retrieving dead bodies. World International News documented the often same White Helmets emerging from pulverized buildings.

A filmmaker born in the countryside of Aleppo, Firas Fayyad has now immortalized their story. He calls them The Last Men In The Aleppo. The documentary following a group of the White Helmets volunteers during the buildup to the siege of Aleppo, documents the desire for hope, necessity to find moments of reprieve and daily struggle with fear and a calling they find in staying behind to help their city.



CHURCH: Last Men in Aleppo has been nominated for best documentary feature of this year's Oscars. It's the first film from a Syrian directing and producing team to achieve that honor and its filmmaker Firas Fayyad is the first Syrian director even nominated for an Oscar. He joins us now from Los Angeles. Congratulations to you and thank you so much for being with us.

FIRAS FAYYAD, SYRIAN FILMMAKER: Thank you for having me.

CHURCH: Now, I don't want to start by asking you why you felt a need to make this documentary and to tell the story of Aleppo from the point of the view of the White Helmets, highlighting their work on the frontlines of Syria Civil War?

[02:45:04] FAYYAD: You know, because the people not close to the -- be care of what's happening in the city with the civilians, also. They need -- this is the film to be close as it can from the hero of the wars and the effect of -- the effect of the war over the civilians, where there is no any solution from the international community and there is no any decision about stopping business war.

Otherwise, like, this is film I want to can -- this is attention to see and to show the worlds how much this is for destroy the society and destroy the value for the people for continue standing in their lives and their cities.

CHURCH: Yes, and of course, it's worth urging that Allepo has been liberated for more than a year now. So, what are you hoping people will learn from watching your documentary?

FAYYAD: I hope that this is documentary that make the people of -- at least, the politician to stop this war in Syria. That can go in the war in Syria but now, like you know, in east of Ghouta, existing scenario of Allepo. And just 100 -- 1,121 they killed the last 100 days, and there is no solution. Even the U.N. approved the ceasefire, and the bomb is still going, and there is a chemical attack just today happened.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed, and of course, Allepo may be liberated but issue point out Eastern Ghouta is not in the images, a heartbreaking. You've shared your thoughts with us when you look at what's happening there in Eastern Ghouta. Of course, in the documentary that you made, you captured part of the February 2016, ceasefire in Allepo.

We've got some pictures of that and we could bring the map, and here you show children and adults on a special trick toe playground. Enjoying a day free of bombardment, but then of course, suddenly, is try -- his again. And children stop crying and everyone disperses. Given this hell much hope, did any say spy give people there? And how much hope remains for an end to this war, given we've seen that scenario play out in Eastern Ghouta as well. They ceasefires have voted on, but they don't actually take place.

FAYYAD: Now, through as through like shooting the last minute I report there is many of this (INAUDIBLE) and of ceasefire happens but wasn't real ceasefire. The flight -- the aircraft was flying over the civilians and still bombing, and threat the civilian's life.

And the same things with an eastern of Ghouta -- and that when I talked into friend and my colleagues there, they -- we all of us know that the ceasefire is not real and not actual. It's just like -- as we say it like, been alike awards and papers. And unfortunately, I'm going to say here because I have -- this is opportunities and the space here to say like (INAUDIBLE). I hope this is be real, at least, like, to look to that is moral things. And is responsibility from the media and form the politician to stop this is war.

Every day, this is war in going and the bomb over Ghouta -- going. There is children killed, there is a woman and men killed who was have nothing to do with this-- for this is war. And I think this is war responsibility and discard from here from here from the media, including the politician's work was care about the human rights.

CHURCH: Yes, and you mentioned then. Of course, over the weekend, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, had a message for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Let's just take a listen for a moment.


NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The Assad regime needs to stop its military activities around Eastern Ghouta, and for ones, allows humanitarian outpost to all of those who need it. We are deeply skeptical that a regime will comply, but we supported this resolution because we must demand nothing less. We owe this to the innocent people of Syria, begging for help.


CHURCH: When you hear that message, what are your thoughts? And is the U.S. doing enough, do you think?

FAYYAD: I don't think it's just about the U.S., it's about like, the Russians -- the Russians should take the responsibility and to stop this war. Because the all -- the impact over Syria -- over the Syrian regime is from the Russian because the actual player over East Ghouta was in Allepo. Also the Russian, because the Russian was bombing every day and they are the real partner from the crime that's happened in Syria.

I hope the Russian hear that because the pears on that should be send the message for them, the Russians, not just al-Assad regime because they have the real impact over that.

[02:50:16] CHURCH: Now, as we mentioned that the interaction, your documentary is the first Syrian nominated film for the Oscars. You're based in Copenhagen and in California, so you will able to attend the awards. But two keen members of your team producer Kareem Abeed and White Helmets founding member Mahmoud Al-Hattar, who is featured in the film, have been denied visas to attend due to the U.S. travel restrictions on citizens from Syria.

How does that make you feel? And what message would you like to send off the Trump administration? And what message might you send when you go to the Oscars?

FAYYAD: Yes, I mean, it's very sad deflect for the fellow (INAUDIBLE). They called it -- we have this is the stage that very powerful platform, the Oscar, to send our messages to stop the war in Syria. And we are artist, we just make the films as an artist. And to send our -- to speak out about our pain and about the ongoing tragedy in Syria, what are you -- what I wish from the Mr. Trump, the President of United State will listen to that. And open that the space for the people who is really just want to send their messages to stop this war and including my producer and my cinematographer.

And my real messages for President Putin, the president of Russia that he should stop bombing Syria and that's what I want. And our film is about the seeking for the peace and justice, nothing more.

CHURCH: It is a clear message for us, Fayyad, thank you so much and we wish you the best at the Oscars on March 4th. Good luck.

FAYYAD: Thank you, thank you so much.

CHURCH: And we'll take a very short break here. Do stay with us, we'll be back in just a moment.


CABRERA: With your "WEATHER WATCH", I'm CNN Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera. We are ramping up a deadly weekend across United States, a first major severe weather outbreak we'll get this outrage during the early spring months as the winter and spring seasons collide. As far as their masses and (INAUDIBLE) resulted in multiple tornados across the southeast, and also some very heavy rainfall with flooding that -- in some cases the water still yet to recede.

However, the severe weather (INAUDIBLE) has circling a guard this point with just left over with some rainfall across the southeast from U.S. Of a back side of -- we actually have dry enough conditions where there will be a fire risk across the Southern place in the U.S. And then, on the back now across Pacific Northwest, now there's just from rolling through there.

Here is what's left of the rainfall as it continues to push towards the east across the merit line of region of the United States. If you're traveling as through that part of the U.S., not really expecting anything in the bar as far as significant delays.

But here is what are there life were going to be as the snow will continue to fall. Higher elevation but certainly, places like Seattle, Portland, and across Northern California will be seeing wet weather over the next 24-48 hours as this rain continues to fall from north to south. And of course, higher elevations snowfall will continue there. And nothing unusual about that, we'll see several centimeters of accumulation. Look at the cascades or with the significant snow upwards of 50 centimeters in the next couple of days.


[02:55:56] CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. The Samsung unveil its newest Galaxy smartphone in Barcelona on Sunday. CNN's Samuel Burke takes us there.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Stands on this hoping to take back its spot as the top smartphone maker in the world. When Apple launched the iPhone 10, they took the number one spot, Samsung move to number two. But now, they're hoping with the enhance cameras on the S9 and the S9 Plus. That they'll be able to beat Apple.

Plus, they really separating themselves from Apple when it comes to the headphone jack. They're actually keeping a spot for that Apple abandoned it. And with price, the new S9 will cost $720 much less than in iPhone. Any attention on a Samsung device rather than the family behind that company has welcome news for Samsung.

The defector leader of the company just out, out of jail after spending less than a year there for corruption charges. This looks that many anti-corruption campaigns or in South Korea, who taught that he might spend much closer to his full five years sentence there. I'm Samuel Burke, back to you.

CHURCH: And thanks for your company this hour, I'm Rosemary Church. Another hour of CNN NEWSROOM, still to come. Do stay with us.