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Hollywood's Biggest Night; South Korea Sends Delegation to North Korea; China Expected to Abolish Presidential Term Limits; No Outright Winner Expected in Italian Election; Cardinal Pell Charged with "Historical Sexual Assault;" Trump Support Falling among White Evangelicals; The Shape of Water wins Best Picture Oscar; U.S. Aircraft Carrier in Vietnam For Visit Aimed at Beijing; Proposed U.S. Steel Tariffs could come this Week; U.S. Adviser: No Country to be Excluded from U.S. Tariffs; State Media Gov't Forces Seize Villages In E. Ghouta. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 5, 2018 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): North Korea says it's more than ridiculous for the U.S. to demand denuclearization for direct talks. Now a South Korean delegation is headed to Pyongyang, hoping to make those talks a reality.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In Italy, populist parties may not have won the election but early projections show they upset the chances for any other party to take a majority. We'll explain.

CHURCH (voice-over): But first we dive into Hollywood's biggest night. All the major winners and the biggest political moments from this year's Academy Awards.

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.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: It was a big, exciting night, fair to say, in Hollywood. the 90th Academy Awards show. But along with the glitz and glamor, we saw an industry reckoning with scandal and controversy and forging a new path ahead. The host of the show, Jimmy Kimmel, set the tone early on, calling out gender and racial inequality in Hollywood. And he still managed to keep the mood fun, though, celebratory and optimistic.

CHURCH: Presenters shone a light on the #MeToo campaign and other movements, fighting for rights for women and minorities. And, of course, they gave out some awards or two.

The biggest winner, Guillermo Del Toro's "The Shape of Water," with four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.

HOWELL: Oscar favorite Frances McDormand won Best Actress for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."

And Gary Oldman took home the Best Actor for his role in "Darkest Hour."

CHURCH: So let's chat more about the big show with Chris Beachum. He is the managing editor for and joins me from Los Angeles via Skype.

Great to have you with us.

CHRIS BEACHUM, GOLDDERBY.COM: Oh, great to be here. It was a fun night on the Oscars tonight.

CHURCH: It was. So let's start with Frances McDormand winning Best Actress for her road in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." She shared the limelight with all the other nominated women in the room.

What do you think?

Was it the best speech of the night?

BEACHUM: I do think it was. And that's tough when you've been making speeches at so many awards shows that she has won so often over the last few weeks. She is very outspoken. I was really interested to see what she would do.

And she was, I thought, more emotional than I've seen her in all these other ceremonies. And that was such a nice touch, having every female nominee in the room, no matter what the category was, having them stand up and be recognized like that, really was a great moment on the show.

CHURCH: Yes, she very powerfully made her comment just in that, didn't she?

And Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, they were given an opportunity to correct last year's big mess at the Oscars by announcing this year's Best Picture and they got it right.

How was that moment?

And what about the winner, "The Shape of Water?"

Were you surprised?

BEACHUM: Not totally surprised. We on our predictions website, it was about a 50-50 race, we felt, between "The Shape of Water" and "Three Billboards." Everybody was on one side or the other of that fence.

And Guillermo Del Toro winning for Director, I think that was a good match, with giving Picture to him as well because it was such a nice fantasy, sci-fi fantasy kind of a movie, that really felt like "Beauty & The Beast." It was a really good choice by the Academy.

CHURCH: Right.

And what about the overall tone of this year's Oscars?

We saw Jimmy Kimmel making reference to the #MeToo movement and the leaders of the #TimesUp movement had their moment on stage.

Was that well balanced with the overall sense of fun that the Oscars try to bring to everyone's living room?

BEACHUM: Yes, when they announced the presenters over the past few days, I wondered how they would -- what the tone would be. But I thought they blended it in well. They didn't knock you over the head with issues and then statements. But it was spread out through the show, some of the actual winners mentioned it as well.

And Jimmy's monologue was even better than last year's. He felt much more relaxed to me and really took control of the room right away and was very, very funny.

CHURCH: All right. Chris Beachum, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

BEACHUM: Thank you.

HOWELL: Now to what could be a diplomatic breakthrough in North Korea.


HOWELL: A high level delegation from South Korea has left for Pyongyang. Now it's led by South Korea's national security chief and might put direct dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea on the agenda.

CHURCH: U.S. President Donald Trump said Saturday North Korea wanted to talk but added it would have to abandon its nuclear weapons first. Here is how North Korea responded.

"The U.S. that was terrified at the rapid development of our nuclear force and has continued to knock the door of dialogue now feigns an indifference, making North Korea abandoned nuclear weapons and persists in maximum pressure until complete denuclearization is realized. That is really more than ridiculous."

So CNN's Andrew Stevens is tracking events from Seoul. He joins us now live with the very latest.

Andrew, South Korea's high-level delegation heading for North Korea.

Now what are the expectations?

What all can possibly be achieved at this meeting?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: Well, Rosemary, they should have actually landed by now. It's just a 200-kilometer flight from Seoul to Pyongyang and the delegation left about two and a half hours ago.

What we don't know at this stage is who they are going to meet.

Are they going to meet Kim Jong-un himself?

There are suggestions they indeed may. And what's going to be the broader itinerary and how many meetings they're going to be having and who with. So we're still waiting for that.

There was a brief press conference here in Seoul today. And I say brief; it was very brief. It was just a few short paragraphs read out by the head of the delegation, who said that they were going to Seoul so they could express the president's willingness to push forward on a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

And that is obviously -- the main goal of this is to set the wheels in motion, to get denuclearization.

Now the head of the delegation also said that they would be talking about North Korea meeting with other international powers, including the United States. And this, of course, is the key.

Can they push forward these talks about talks?

Can they push forward and make anything realistic happen as far as meeting between North Korea and the U.S."

It's going to be very difficult. As you just showed, we have Donald Trump in one corner, saying that we can't talk unless nukes are on the table, and the North Koreans in the other corner saying, this is preposterous, to have a condition which includes the nuclear program of North Korea. So there is a huge amount of daylight between the two.

What can we expect?

Well, we could see some movement on the inter-Korean dialogue, perhaps moving steps towards a meeting between the two leaders of North and South Korea, President Kim Jong-un and President Moon of South Korea. But that is fraught as well.

President Moon walks a very fine line, Rosemary, because he's not prepared to offset the U.S. push on this denuclearization. But he does want to see further inter-Korean talks.

And it's no coincidence that the leader of this delegation is actually impeccably connected to Washington and will in fact be going to Washington very soon after the two days of meetings in Pyongyang.

CHURCH: Yes. The problem here of course, you have President Trump saying Saturday that North Korea wanted to talk but would have to denuclearize. And Pyongyang responded, saying that calls for it to abandon its nuclear program are beyond ridiculous.

So how will the talks begin?

I mean there is still this great deal of skepticism, isn't there, in the U.S. about Kim Jong-un's motives?

STEVENS: Absolutely. It's not just the U.S., either. In fact we had a line coming out from Japan today, the cabinet secretary there, Yoshihide Suga, said that we must judge these talks on North Korea's history of raising tensions and then pushing out sort of peace signals but ultimately nothing happens. That's the Japanese view on how this goes.

That's (INAUDIBLE) very much here in Seoul. You talk to analysts, they say this is a well-trodden path by Kim Jong-un. And the Americans point out that this could be a chance for Kim of North Korea to actually get some breathing space in his nuclear program.

Remember, he started this detente at the beginning of the year, calling for close relations with South Korea. That was in his New Year's speech. And since then, we've had the teams marching together, North and South Korean teams marching together in the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

We've had a women's joint ice hockey team so there is definitely a detente going on. But whether it's just to buy time for the North Korean regime, as they continue their nuclearization program, certainly a lot of people on both sides of the Pacific think that -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. And we will watch to see what comes of this South Korean --


CHURCH: -- delegation. We'll tune back in with you, Andrew Stevens, next hour, in fact, joining us there from Seoul where it's just after 4:00 in the afternoon. Many thanks.

Well, 3,000 delegates, two weeks and one central figure. China's de facto parliament, the National People's Congress, is all about one man this year, President Xi Jinping.

HOWELL: That's right. The 13th Congress opened Monday morning in Beijing and you see the hall there. This annual session is a key moment for President Xi. The presidential terms are expected to be lifted and that means he could potentially rule indefinitely. CNN's Will Ripley is following this story live for us in Beijing.

Will, it was 1982 when the Communist Party established term limits in that nation's constitution, limiting the president, the vice president, to serve no more than two consecutive terms. Without term limits, President Xi could essentially lead for the rest of his life if he so chooses.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He could. Those term limits set up by Deng Xiaoping to try to prevent China from a return to what many people around the world regard as a brutal and at times a bloody dictatorship.

Of course that's Mao Zedong, who led the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1979. He lifted many people in China out of poverty but repeatedly millions of people died of starvation. And the reason why China set up term limits after the Cultural Revolution ended was to try to prevent one man from having so much power that decisions could be made unchecked that could lead this country down the wrong path.

But clearly Xi Jinping feels that he is leading this country down the right path. Even though he was not elected by the people of China -- this is not a democracy -- he is the president of an authoritarian country, a one-party state.

The Communist Party runs the show here, although China's government says that, by abolishing term limits for their president, now they can have consistency in leadership because there are three pillars of power here, the military, the party and the state.

So, theoretically, the people who are now in control, with of course Xi Jinping at the very top, can continue as long as they want, rule for life, essentially, here in China. They say that these are tense times with the North Korea situation that we've been talking about, with the potential trade war looming with the United States.

China certainly is on the rise. They just announced that their economy grew by around 7 percent last year. And they're expecting it to grow 6.5 percent next year. And their sales pitch to the members of this country, the citizens of this country, is that they're leading this country on the right path and they should keep it consistent.

That's what they're arguing. But of course, if anybody has a dissenting view, they are being silenced. Any criticism on social media is immediately erased. Our signal right now is being blacked out, as it has been since we reported about this yesterday -- George.

HOWELL: Will Ripley there. And certainly it is a departure from the former leader, Deng Xiaoping's vision for China, that focused more on party as opposed to one person. But we'll watch to see how this plays out. Thanks for the reporting, Will.

Still ahead here, the ballots are still being counted in Italy's election.

Could an anti-establishment party be the linchpin of its next government?

We take you live to Rome for an update on that story.

CHURCH: Plus, the latest on the legal case rocking the highest levels of the Vatican. Accusers of cardinal George Pell get now ready to testify. We're back with that in just a moment.






CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

Well, votes are being counted in Italy's general election and, as of now, exit polls show no clear winner. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement is projected to get the most votes by a single party.

HOWELL: But a center right coalition put together by the former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, looks like it will gain the most seats in the senate. Final results are expected in a few hours' time.

Let's get more on this, what it means for Italy, what it means for Europe, with CNN's Barbie Nadeau.

You're live for us. Tell us, because there are certainly winners and losers but the outcome seems a bit uncertain.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. And even this center right coalition that was touted to be the winner -- and the trend certainly showed that they would take the most seats as you suggest -- it's not clear that they're actually going to stick together because those deals are made under the idea that Silvio Berlusconi's party would be the one within that coalition to get the most votes. And they didn't.

It looks like Matteo Salvini of the former Northern League, now just called The League, it looks like their party is actually going to be the kingmaker in that coalition. So even that is not certain yet.

The Five Star maverick party, anti-immigration, very eurosceptic party, has taken about a third of the votes. And that is crucial here. They say they won't join a coalition. They campaigned on that promise. But that doesn't mean that they won't, in the end, make a deal with someone.

And I think is all going to fall on the shoulders of Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, who is going to have to do some serious dealmaking. He's got to listen to the voters if a party like the Five Star Movement took so many votes, it's going to be hard to ignore them anymore -- George.

HOWELL: All right, so that's what it means in Italy.

But Barbie, as far as Europe at large, what are the implication there?

Because Europe has dealt with a great deal of euroscepticism. We've seen this play out in other elections.

But now, as this comes together in Italy, what does it mean for Europe?

NADEAU: Well, I think it's crucial that Italy has taken this sort of stance in their vote. I think it bodes very bad for migration, you know. This is a country that is really suffering a migration crisis; 600,000 mostly African migrants have come by sea into this country in the last five years.

Right now, I think people who support migrants and those organizations that are trying to integrate migrants and foster a better immigration system are very concerned this morning. The leading parties all won on an --


NADEAU: -- anti-immigration stance. And I think that's going to be very clear that some of those issues are going to have to be dealt with in a way that haven't been dealt with by the center left.

You know, the clear loser in this is the democratic center left party led by Matteo Renzi. It's going to be very interesting to see what he does now, if he steps out of the political spotlight altogether or if he keeps trying to make a stand here -- George.

HOWELL: Barbie Nadeau, live for us in Rome. Thanks for report, Barbie.

Accusers will testify against Australia's highest ranking Catholic, cardinal George Pell. It is the first time a Vatican official of his rank has faced criminal charges.

CHURCH: And earlier, we saw him leave court after the first day of his hearing. Cardinal Pell faces multiple charges of historical sex assault offenses from multiple complainants. He strongly denies all the allegations.

Sara James joins us now from Melbourne, just outside the court.

So Sara, what came out of the first day of hearings?

SARA JAMES, JOURNALIST: Well, Rosemary, one thing that came out of the hearing is just how much attention is going to focus on this committal hearing. This committal hearing is going to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

And another aspect that came out of this is that Cardinal Pell has said again and again that he is innocent. He denies all of the allegations and has done so strenuously. His legal team is going to be backing him up very much in that way.

And indeed they came out swinging. In an open session of the court that happened first thing this morning, they actually basically accused the prosecution, they said that the police in this case really had presumed that the cardinal was guilty. So that was really coming out swinging.

And that is the reputation of Robert Richter. He is a famous barrister here in Melbourne, Australia. He has that reputation. And this is going to be a robust defense of Cardinal Pell, who, again, he says he is not guilty of any of these allegations. So that's one thing that came out.

Now, of course, these accusers are going to be testifying by video link. That part began this afternoon. And that part was closed, Rosemary. But those accusers will be questioned. It will be robust questioning of the accusers by the legal team. So that's another aspect that came out today in the court.

CHURCH: And just how significant is all this?

And how it is being reported in Australia?

Because they do have to be very careful with this particular case, don't they?

JAMES: That's exactly right. I mean, you know, all countries have their legal systems and their laws. In all court cases here, there are restrictions. And that's just the way it is in every country. And that's certainly true here. I think, though, there has been real care on all sides to make sure that this proceeds fairly.

And one aspect of that is that this is going to be behind closed doors, where there is a lot that we're not going get to see, particularly for the first two weeks of this four-week committal hearing.

There was, though, a morning session, Rosemary. And we did get to hear a number of things that were interesting.

One aspect that might be interesting is the fact that, for both the defense and the prosecution, there was a request that it might be possible for there to be a support person for those who were going through this committal hearing. And the magistrate said yes.

So it turns out that is not just going to just be a person in the case of accusers. They will have the opportunity to have a support dog. There is a pilot program in the state of Victoria, where witnesses can have a dog, who sits with them as they're doing this video link testifying -- and that dog's name is Coop.

So that is another aspect that we learned today in the open session. But after that, it was closed doors. And that's one way in which they're going to make sure that this stays fair and under closed doors -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Journalist Sara James, joining us there from Melbourne, Australia, where it is nearly 6:25 in the evening. We thank you very much.

Well, he is facing a corruption scandal at home but Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is starting his week in Washington. In the coming hours, he is set to meet with President Trump at the White House.

HOWELL: On the agenda, Iran and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to be discussed. Mr. Netanyahu is in the United States for a conference of the pro-Israel lobby APEC. That event Sunday. We heard Guatemala's president say that his country --


HOWELL: -- will also move its embassy. Listen.


JIMMY MORALES, PRESIDENT OF GUATEMALA (through translator): As a sovereign decision, we recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In May of this year, we will celebrate Israel's 70th anniversary.

And under my instructions, two days after the United States moves its embassy, Guatemala will return and permanently move its embassy to Jerusalem.


HOWELL: All right, that move by the U.S. president to move the embassy to Jerusalem was popular among conservative evangelical Christians in this country.

CHURCH: Evangelicals formed a very strong base for President Trump during the election. But as CNN's Alexander Marquardt reports, it now seems Mr. Trump's relationship with evangelical voters could be at a crossroads.


GREG LOCKE, PASTOR: You, ladies and gentlemen, must get right with God.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sunday morning in a small country church outside Nashville...


MARQUEZ (voice-over): -- Pastor Greg Locke preaches to pews full of white conservative evangelical Christians. Most, he tells us, voted for Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm pretty proud of him. I voted for him. I'll vote for him again.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Trump's support among white evangelicals is falling but the vast majority have stuck by him as he repeatedly tests the limits of Christian values, amid allegations of misogyny, racism, adultery and his support for accused child molester, Roy Moore.

MARQUEZ: To what extent do you think evangelicals are looking at the president and saying, all right, he might not be born again but he is getting done exactly what we want to get done so that's all we need?

LOCKE: I think it's a lot of it because whether he is or whether he isn't, he is giving evangelicals a platform and he is giving them a voice that we've always wanted, that I think we lost future a lot of reasons. So I think with a lot of evangelicals, it's not just blind followship (ph) but it's the ends justifies the means.

RITA FREEMAN, CHURCHGOER: The way he stands for the Christian values, it's just --

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Rita Freeman won't say whether Trump's a Christian. But as one herself, she is quick to forgive.

FREEMAN: The first thing comes to my mind, if you're without sin, cast the first stone. There is none of us without sin.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): According to the Pew Research Center, Tennessee has the highest percentage of evangelicals in the country. Its senate race in November, likely between Republican representative Marsha Blackburn and the former Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen, will be one of the most closely watched.

And evangelicals are a critical voting bloc. Trump was elected with 80 percent of the white evangelical vote. Today, his approval with them stands at 63 percent, still solid but cracks are showing.

GracePointe Church is a haven for Christians who no longer feel at home in the evangelical movement.

At dinner, they tell us there is an existential crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether we call it a paradigm shift or an existential moment or whatever we call it, there was a phrase that's used earlier this evening, a death rattle. This thing is disappearing in front of us.

JASON TURNER, CHURCHGOER: We're seeing people say enough is enough. We're not going to stand for tearing people down. We're not going stand for bullying people.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Dan Scott is a pastor at Nashville's evangelical Christchurch, a conservative and a harsh critic of the president, who agrees President Trump is fueling the breakup of evangelicalism.

DAN SCOTT, PASTOR: What do evangelicals want?

Do we want to spread the gospel of Christ, the teachings of Jesus, or do we want power?

MARQUEZ: The reverend Graham just passed away. He famously stayed away from politics.


MARQUEZ: Do you think that the core of evangelicals these days have lost their way?

SCOTT: Well, yes, I do. That's a phenomenon mostly of white churches. And it's been a mistake. It's compromised and prostituted our faith, I would argue.

MARQUEZ: You sound frustrated, disappointed.

SCOTT: I am. I think the church in America is losing its way.

MARQUEZ: The fact is no one these days can say what an evangelical really is. For decades, it has become more and more of a political term rather than a religious one. And this Trump era has driven even deeper wedges among these very conservative Christians.

Many of them thrilled that their priorities are at the top of President Trump's list, while many others can't even stomach the idea of supporting him, which could mean the end of evangelicalism as we know it -- Alex Marquardt, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: Alex, thank you.

The proposed Trump tariffs, economists are warning against it. But the White House is suggesting the president will push ahead with that plan anyway. We'll have details ahead as CNN NEWSROOM pushes on.


[02:30:47] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, I have coast to coast across the United States and to our viewers around the world this hour, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm George Howell.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And I'm Rosemary Church. We want to update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour. A high level South Korean delegation has lift the North Korea. It includes South Korea's national security chief and they might discuss direct dialogue between the U.S. and Pyongyang.

President Trump said Saturday North Korea wanted to talk but it would have to abandon its nuclear weapons first.

HOWELL: The "Shape of Water" cleaned up at the Oscars. Guillermo del Toro's fantasy love story took home four awards, including best picture and director. The Academy Award show also highlighted diversity by spotlighting groups fighting for the rights of women and minorities.

CHURCH: A U.S. navy aircraft carrier is making a historic visit to Vietnam. It's also seen as a message to China. The "USS Vinson" is anchored off Danang, a key battleground during the war that ended in 1975. Analysts say the carrier is meant to send a not so subtle signal to Beijing about its aggressive island building in the South China Sea.

Well, it will be a crucial week for President Trump's proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. The White House says the president could sign the controversial measure in a matter of days.

HOWELL: On Sunday, President Trump wrote this on Twitter. "We are on the losing side of almost all trade deals. Our friends and enemies have taken advantage of the United States for many years. Our steel and aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it's time for a change. Make America great again."

Our Jake Tapper asked a White House trade adviser for clarification on these proposed tariffs. Let's listen.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So there's going to be no exemptions. That's what it's going to look like at the end of the week.

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL TRADE COUNCIL DIRECTOR: There's a difference between exemptions and country exclusions. There will be an exemption procedure for particular cases where we need to have exemptions so that business can move forward. But at this point in time, there will be no country exclusions.


[02:35:02] HOWELL: Let's bring in Scott Lucas. Scott, a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, also the founder of E.A. WorldView live with us in Birmingham this hour. Scott, thanks for your time today.

Let's talk about this White House. It blames China mainly for flooding the world market with aluminum and steel as reasons behind these tariffs. But let's put the facts first, as well. It's countries like Canada and South Korea that the United States imports most of its steel. So the question, why does China remain the boogeyman here and how much of this plays into the president's campaign promises to get tougher on China and what he perceives as trade imbalances?

SCOTT LUCAS, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Well, you know, it's because people may not know the details. So when Donald Trump presents it, you go for the boogeyman, you go for the country who he said during campaign was raping the United States by taking advantage of our economy. But of course, there's a paradox beyond the tariffs. The fact is that even as China might be held up wrongly as being the major problem about steel.

Donald Trump was praising the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping saying it's great he's president for life. Maybe I should do the same this past weekend. So we're muddled politically and then economically to get back to your core point. The countries that are most affected by this are American allies. That is, Canada, Japan, the countries of the European Union, Brazil. They're the ones that are already threatening retaliation.

And then on top of that, when you bring it back home, if you're listening to what Peter Navarro said yesterday, it's total confusion about what happens domestically. These companies that are going to be affected by the price of increased steels and those products -- do you before you implement go through industry by industry, company by country -- company by company one by one to agree exceptions? Do you just implement this and then have them apply for an exception? So right now, I think we're going to talk about the tough for it, which is it's easy to shout about steel and shout about China. Now, when it comes to implementing tariffs, then you've got to govern, and that's going to be tricky.

HOWELL: And as you point out, the devil in the details. We do expect to get some clarification as the president makes a clear -- move forward on this in the week ahead.

Let's also talk, Scott, about diplomacy that we're seeing play out between North Korea, South Korea and what the president says was a phone call that he received from North Korea. He said the U.S. is open to talks. He said this to them. That they have to de-nuke. North Korea has responded saying that any idea that it would be nuclearize is, "ridiculous."

So the question here is, is the door really open for any progress from what you see?

LUCAS: Look, if Donald Trump received that phone call, my name is Kim Jong-un, let's start from the reality of what's happening here. U.S. officials are probably involved behind the scenes, but the main players in terms of the talks have been the two Koreas with China trying to bring them together.

Now, that is a process that Donald Trump has unsettled in the past by threatening military action. It's now the diplomatic track. And that's probably a good thing. But here's the second cold dose of reality. You cannot start the talks as Trump is doing by demanding that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons. That day has gone. You can try to limit North Korea's nuclear weapons capability. You can try to bring it into a range of agreements but you're not going to go back to the 1990s when we had the framework agreement where at that point, they had not developed nuclear weapons. It's not going to happen.

So I think, let's set Trump's bluster aside, look very carefully at the talks, see if the two Koreas get together on the table without preconditions. And that will be the real sign that we got some progress if that happens.

HOWELL: All right. Scott Lucas giving your perspective there. Live for us in Birmingham. Thank you for your time today.

CHURCH: And we'll take a very short break here. But still to come, Syria says it's gaining ground in Eastern Ghouta. A live report for you from the region. That story we have it next.


[02:40:15] HOWELL: Welcome back. A big hailstorm to tell you about in parts of Eastern China, triggering the second highest alert in the area. Our meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is following the story in the international weather center. Ivan, tell us more.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, guys. Good to see you. Huge story over the weekend and the hail as well, I must say. This is a powerful storm system. We were looking at hailstones coming down with a five centimeter diameter. Huge hail. Take a look at the video coming out of (INAUDIBLE) province there. Look at the winds as well. Those are the kinds of winds you need to suspend hail right up in the atmosphere to make them stay up there long enough to get as big as five centimeters. That's two inches wide. About the size of an egg. Very large egg. Very hard one if it's coming down on you. There you see the wind is ferocious stuff.

So the storm system was a quick mover, by the way. This move through on late Saturday into Sunday. Especially, you see the storm system moving through here now, currently. It's out of the wind. So they are quite done. They got very heavy rainfall, as well as some flooding issues with that torrential rain you saw there. Wind has swept as well. Storm is now contusing to push to the east. It's impacting with Japan. Not as strong there. Just some rainfall.

And on the backside of a cold enough air, by the way, on the western side of Japan we're seeing some snowfall as it continues moving east. More to come. It's a progressive pattern, right? Pretty active stuff here. This next one doesn't look as intense as far as the wind that brought down that hail. But we are going to see some rainfall. Watch the clock. It is now by Wednesday. So we'll get a bit of a break on Tuesday and then heading into Wednesday, we'll get into that rainfall.

On the northern side of the premises here, we'll continue to see some snowfall which will be accumulating.

Quick update on our tropical cyclone south of the equator. We're down in Madagascar. Now, 165 kilometer per hour winds. That will make the equivalent of a category 2 hurricane. If it was in the Atlantic, it is not. It's spinning in the other direction. It comes from the south of the equator.

Look at Reunion and Mauritius. The center of the storm, the eye right is offshore of Madagascar, offshore the islands. The problem is this band of rain is going to continue to pummel islands over the next 24 to 48 hours. And so then I think we have quite a number of days still to come for some very heavy rainfall the likes of which could produce some flooding because of all the rain we've already gotten. So we'll keep you posted on that story as well. Guys.

CHURCH: Wow. Unbelievable.

CABRERA: Thank you.

CHURCH: Thank you.

CABRERA: You're welcome.

HOWELL: Now to Syria. The government there says that its troops are pushing deeper into Eastern Ghouta. State media say that the military has seized several villages in the rebel held enclave. It's been bombed and shelled now for weeks and the U.S. says that Syria and Russia are targeting civilians. [02:45:50] CHURCH: Residents are fleeing the government assault. A UN ceasefire vote has failed to stop the bloodshed and the world body says around 600 people have been killed, since the offensive began last month. The U.N. hopes to deliver aid to the region this week, but Syria's president is dismissing reports of a humanitarian disaster.


BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA (through translator): -- continue to fight terrorism. We did not start now at Ghouta. We started since day one fighting terrorism. We started in Aleppo, in Homs, and Deir- ez-Zor. The operation in Ghouta is a continuation of the fight against terrorism in all the different areas. A humanitarian situation which the west speak so from time to time, the very ridiculous lie. As ridiculous as the western officials who repeat it.


CHURCH: The CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is tracking events in Syria, from neighboring Jordan. She joins us now with the very latest from Amman. So, Jomana, what are you hearing about the Syrian government seizure of villages in Eastern Ghouta, and what is happening to civilians there?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN PRODUCER AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Rosemary, with no sign of that United Nations cease-fire and no real humanitarian pause that was ordered by a Russian President Vladimir Putin, it seems that the Syrian regime is making advances on the ground. Not after we've seen over the past few weeks in 10 clashes on several fronts of Eastern Ghouta as the regime was trying to push in with this ground offensive.

On Sunday, it seems they did take control of a number of villages on the eastern front of Eastern Ghouta. And according to some sources on the ground, that's medical sources and activist, they say that that prompted some civilians to flee.

The number is in the thousands, we can't get exact figures because it's very difficult to get that kind of information on the ground, but they fled westward. This is at the same time as you're hearing -- as we heard earlier from President Bashar al-Asaad. He was speaking on Sunday, saying that this offensive is going to continue, that it is not going to stop basically until they recapture Eastern Ghouta. And saying that this is a fight against terrorism and this has been the Syrian government's narrative for years now that they are fighting terrorism but he's also saying that there is no contradiction between the military operations and the safe passages and humanitarian truces and allowing civilians to leave.

But the reality on the ground is much more complex, we have not seen civilians living through this designated humanitarian quarters. And as this course, as he have seen, both sides in this conflict blaming each other for why the civilians are trapped. Rosemary.

CHURCH: And so, Jomana, has there been any progress of doing -- getting humanitarian aid into Eastern Ghouta?

KARADSHEH: Well, that's what we're waiting to see today. The United Nations yesterday had planned to get some aid into Eastern Ghuta that did not happen. They say they did not have the permission. Late last night, the United Nation's announcing that they do have permission now for the first convoy to enter into Douma. That town in Eastern Ghouta with a convoy of 46 trucks, those are carrying a different kinds of supplies including food that will be enough for more than 27,000 people. That convoy is going to be led by a senior U.N. official in Damascus.

Now, we have to wait and see if this proceeds -- we have seen this in the past where a convoys are stop, the security situation doesn't allow them to go forward. There's set a checkpoints because of bureaucracy. So, everyone is waiting to see if that happens, and it's said that the United Nations has more convoys are plan for later in the week.

CHURCH: All right, many thanks to Jomana Karadsheh, monitoring the situation there in eastern Ghouta from her vantage point in Amman, Jordan, where it is nearly 10:00 in the morning. We appreciate that.

HOWELL: We want to tell you about our project, CNN use engages and partnering with people around the world for a student-led day of action against modern-day slavery. It's set for March 14th and in advance of My Freedom Day, we're asking students what freedom means to them. Here's what Vicky, had to say. Vicky is an eighth grader from the American community school in Abu Dhabi.


VICKY, EIGHTH GRADER STUDENT, AMERICAN COMMUNITY SCHOOL, ABU DHABI: Freedom means to me as helping just based on your country, culture and (INAUDIBLE)


HOWELL: What does freedom mean to you? Well, millions of people have shared their stories on social media. You can do the same, just to use the #myfreedomday to do so.

CHURCH: And on the anniversary of a key moment in the U.S. civil right struggle, lawmaker and civil right activist John Lewis, remembers the moment he thought he was going to die. That is still to come, stay with us.


[02:51:49] CABRERA: I'm CNN Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera, with your "WEATHER WATCH". As we check in on North America from Canada, and the eastern provinces especially quieting down -- or course, after that major coastal storm that impacting not just New England in the U.S. but across the eastern provinces here.

The next storm system that winding up across the mid-section of the U.S. perhaps a fuse from thunderstorms now expecting anything as far as any significant severe weather outbreak. We do have this area of high fire danger that cause humidity and some high winds as well.

And on the next system, a busy several weeks across the Pacific Northwest once again with a new one moving in. But, winters not done with us here, there is a low across South Dakota of the impacting with Bismarck, as well. Even Minneapolis, if you're perhaps flying into New York and then into Minneapolis may find some delays as the result of low visibility because of the snowfall that will continue moving in particularly through the late day hours, and there's a forecast further south as you would expect.

Here, of course, it will be on the wet side as far as there's some rainfall. Upwards of 25 to 50 millimeters is in the next 24 to 48 hours. But we do have the cold air and will we do have a moisture, and both combining we have winter storm warnings, say for portions of the upper Midwest. As I mention, including Minneapolis, that will be our spot there as far as any travel related delays, after we going to find them. And then, a new system moving in, north and west with some showers across British Columbia.


CHURCH: In Selma, Alabama, Sunday, lawmaker John Lewis, marked the anniversary of a pivotal moment in U.S. history, Bloody Sunday.

HOWELL: On that day, 53 years ago, John Lewis, then a young civil rights activist went a peaceful protest to the man the right to vote for African-Americans. Lewis ended up with a fractured skull.

CHURCH: CNN's Dana Bash, spoke with him about what happened in Selma, Alabama in an exclusive interview.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: This is the place that gave us the voting rights. Made it possible for hundreds and thousands and million of people to be able to participate in the Democratic process. People in Selma, all across Alabama, and Mississippi, and other states in at the south. Struggled, fought and died for the right to vote. So, we have to come back to remind people of the changes that we've made and changes we still must make. to take it for granted.

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And not take it for granted?

LEWIS: Is taken for granted? And so many parts of our country. It's not only affect African-Americans, or white American, Native American, Hispanics and others.

BASH: You marched across this bridge in a peaceful protest, and you were met with a billy club on your skull. Do you have memory of that moment that you got beaten almost to death?

[02:55:07] LEWIS: I remember so well, the moment that I was beaten, and left at the foot of the bridge. I thought I was going to die, I thought I saw death. I thought it was the last march, 53 years later. I don't know, how I made it back across this bridge. But apparently, a group of individuals literally took me across the bridge back to the church where we left from.

But I do remember being back at the church and someone asked me to say something to the audience. And I stood up and says something like, I don't understand it, how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam, and cannot send troops to Selma, Alabama to protect people who only desires to register to vote. Two weeks later, I was prepared to march again. The doctor --

BASH: Two weeks later?

LEWIS: Two weeks later, the doctors and the nurses took care of us. And I walked again across this bridge. All the way from Selma to Montgomery, about 50 miles.


HOWELL: An important moment in American history. Thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. We'll be right back with another hour of CNN NEWSROOM.