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Nunberg: Trump Knew about Meeting with Russians; Ex-Russian Spy Critically Ill; Political Uncertainty in Italy after Populist Victory; Aid Arrives in Eastern Ghouta but Not Medical Supplies; Kim Jong-un Meets with South Korean Delegation; Republican Lawmakers Urge Trump to Drop Tariff Plan. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired March 6, 2018 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ahead this hour: a former Trump aide is refusing to talk to a grand jury in the Russia investigation but he sure had a lot to say earlier on CNN.
VAUSE (voice-over): Plus political upheaval in Italy as voters turn to populist parties and away from Europe.
SESAY (voice-over): And dozens of (INAUDIBLE) are finally allowed inside Eastern Ghouta but the besieged Syrian city is still not getting some of the relief it needs the most.
VAUSE (voice-over): Hello, everybody. Great to have you with us for another hour. I'm John Vause.
SESAY (voice-over): And I'm Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.
SESAY: We begin with bizarre new developments in the Russia investigation. Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg says he thinks special counsel Robert Mueller has something on the president.
VAUSE: Nunberg spent hours appearing on cable news on Monday after "The Washington Post" reported he would not comply with the grand jury subpoena. His statements were often rambling and contradictory; at times he appeared unstable.
But Nunberg says he believes Donald Trump knew in advance about Donald Jr.'s meeting with a Kremlin- linked lawyer in June 2016. That lawyer was offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: I don't know why he couldn't just admit that he knew about this meeting, if indeed -- I believe he did.
If he did, I don't think that -- now, remember, you're talking to somebody who doesn't think there's anything wrong with that meeting. So you're sitting here, talking to somebody --
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So you're saying, you know, you don't personally think that's collusion because you've said you don't think he colluded. But you believe that he knew about that meeting.
NUNBERG: I think he knew it. Look, I think he probably knew in advance and --
BURNETT: In advance?
NUNBERG: Yes, I think -- I think if I had to guess Don informed him about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: OK, for more on this, Jessica Levinson is a professor of law and governance at Loyola Law School. Wendy Greuel is a former Los Angeles city councilwoman, a Democrat and John Phillips is a talk radio host and political columnist and also we should mention a Trump supporter.
So John, we'll start with you. Donald Trump hires only the best people and, yes, a number of his fired early in the campaign but he still had contact to Donald Trump and the campaign. That's through Roger Stone and Nunberg claims he's being trying to protect -- listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, crooks. They were crooks. They didn't pay their -- they didn't pay taxes.
NUNBERG: I believe they were -- I believe that they were crooks. And I've heard that they've been very loose about money. What I'm not going to have is to help Mueller's team target Roger Stone.
Roger is my mentor. Roger is like a -- Roger is like a surrogate father to me and I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Yes, so, how close is this guy really to Roger Stone?
And how much does he actually know about the inner workings of the Trump campaign and the Trump administration?
JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Roger's a big boy and Roger can take care of Roger. It should be noted that he was fired on two different occasions by this campaign and certainly had a lot of bad blood with then campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who was the one that gave him his walking papers.
And there's a lot of personal animosity that we're seeing play out with this. But it was really just a slow-motion train wreck, all of these interviews. It reminded me of the O.J. Simpson slow-speed chase in the white Ford Bronco, where you can't believe what you're seeing but you can't stop watching it.
He contradicted himself right and left. He said that he hated Trump. Then he said he was a Trump supporter. He said that it's preposterous to assume that there's any collusion between the Russians and Trump.
Then he said, well, I got the impression that they may have something on him. He said that he wouldn't reveal those emails they're asking for to Roger Stone and others and then he said at another point, well, maybe I'll just go ahead and give you my password so that way I don't have to spend the 80 hours.
It was a bonkers day of television and I don't really know if you can take much based on what he said to heart.
VAUSE: OK, yes, it was a very weird day, to say the least. There are a lot of bombshells out there from Nunberg, including this one relating to the direction the Mueller investigation is taking. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Have you talked to them about the general direction, without naming names then, about the general direction that you think Mueller is going in?
NUNBERG: Yes, Mueller thinks that Trump is (INAUDIBLE).
BORGER: He thinks he's -- I'm sorry. He thinks he's what?
NUNBERG: He thinks Trump is the Manchurian candidate. And I will tell you I disagree with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: OK, in case anyone doesn't know out there, Wendy, "The Manchurian Candidate" comes from a book about the son of a prominent U.S. political family. His son is brainwashed, becomes an assassin. It's --
VAUSE: -- part of a Communist conspiracy, 1959; made into a movie, great stuff.
But there are a lot of Democrats out there who believe that theory.
How seriously are you taking what Nunberg said today? WENDY GREUEL, FORMER LOS ANGELES COUNCILWOMAN: Well, I think there's got to be a kernel of truth to some of the things that he is saying. He was in that somewhat inner circle. Yes, he was fired twice but he was hired, fired, hired again and then fired.
So he was in the midst of that Trump campaign. I think the other is that Congressman Adam Schiff said today that they were going to call him to their committee and to be able to be in front of that committee and testify.
Mueller is looking at him because he believes he has something and some information that is necessary. And for him to think that Sam, that he can sit there and say, I'm not going to go, is as -- ludicrous, as -- look at the justice system and giving it the finger.
He is acting like a spurned lover in many ways and I think we're going to see and hear more about this in the days and the weeks to come.
VAUSE: Would not be the first former Trump official to essentially do that when it comes to issues of subpoenas and testifying, either before a committee or before a grand jury. This may be the first time on a grand jury.
But what the special counsel is looking for, they're demanding all documents, records, phone logs (INAUDIBLE) to 10 people associated with Donald Trump, including Donald Trump himself.
They want these documents from November 2015. That's four months after Trump announced he was running for the White House.
So, Jessica, when you look at that list of names, firstly, this is a very wide net that Mueller has cast here. But what does the presence of Donald Trump, that name on the list, what does that actually mean?
JESSICA LEVINSON, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Well, it means, once again, we're not on a witch hunt. And it means that Robert Mueller is looking into communications with President Trump. I mean I hate to state the obvious here but the fact that President Trump's name appears on a list of subpoenaed documents and asking for communications with President Trump means that Robert Mueller thinks that there's reason to believe there might be something useful to his investigation.
And it does, you know -- let's kind of talk broadly. It doesn't mean that the president has engaged in any sort of conspiracy with the Russian government. It doesn't mean that the president has obstructed justice.
But it means that we are narrowing the scope of the investigation in a way -- well, it looks like a wide net and really looking to direct communications between Mr. Nunberg and the president.
VAUSE: One thing that Nunberg was insistent about, he kept saying there was no collusion and then he went on to say, well, his definition of collusion is a little different than what the others have as a definition of collusion. And then he went on to make this claim when he was talking to CNN.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: You know what? Trump may have very well done something during the election with the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Wendy, does that actually shed any light on what may or may not have happened within the Trump campaign?
GREUEL: No, it's somewhat vague and I think that that's why Mueller wants to see some of those emails that exist between all those individuals that he has put forward. Again, he was in that campaign during some critical times and has information that people should know about and why we're going to see him hopefully go both before the Mueller -- in the Mueller investigation but also in front of Congressman Schiff and the rest of those members.
VAUSE: Now he also made it very clear he has a very low opinion of the White House staff, including press secretary Sarah Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: If Sarah Huckabee wants to start debasing me, she's a joke. OK. Fine, yes, she's unattractive. She's a fat slob. OK, fine. But that's not relevant. Her -- the person she works for has a 30 percent approval rating, OK?
So if she wants to start attacking me, she can do that. That's fine. But we know it's a joke. Everybody knows it's a joke that she's working there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: John, to your point, it does seem that Nunberg has an ax to grind.
PHILLIPS: You think?
VAUSE: To say the least.
PHILLIPS: He called her "a fat slob" how many times today?
PHILLIPS: -- the first one or two. But after that it's just gratuitous. Look, it's obvious what this guy's doing here. He's having a meltdown. He is coming apart at the seams on television. When the music stopped, he sent an email to MSNBC, where he said that he would, in fact, cooperate with Mueller.
He just didn't want to give it to him right away. He wanted to make it harder for them. What that means, I don't know; maybe tomorrow morning we will get something new. But this really is like a Charlie Sheen-style destruction that we're seeing happen on television.
VAUSE: Yes, I hadn't thought about the Charlie Sheen analogy but that's not a bad one.
Nunberg also had some harsh words for the president, a man he said very publicly over and over again he hates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: Donald Trump caused this because he's an idiot, because he decided to give an interview to Lester Holt the day after he fired James Comey and then he decided to have the Russians in the Oval Office.
You have to explain that one to me because I'll never understand it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Jessica, does all of this anger, all this bitterness, does it make him of less value to Mueller as a witness?
Or does that still all get taken into account?
LEVINSON: Well, two things. It all gets taken into account but what Mueller is asking for, with respect to the documents, happened before he had an ax to grind, I think before he was hired and fired for the second time, in fact.
And so what we're looking at are documents, email exchanges, communications between Sam Nunberg and 10 other people and the fact that Sam Nunberg now hates the president, hates everything he stands for but is kind of a Trump supporter and hates Sarah Huckabee Sanders and doesn't think she's an attractive person has no bearing on what was said in those communications.
And I'm having, in a weird way, kind of a flash to the Christopher Steel dossier, where people said, well, I don't and Christopher Steel likes President Trump. And he was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
OK. But let's look at the evidence that was actually gathered. And so, yes, I mean, Sam Nunberg is coming apart at the seams but let's look at the communications and exchanges and see if that gives rise to any sort of legal theories.
VAUSE: He said he would not comply with the subpoena then he said that he will. Then he says that he won't. It's all sort of all over the place. It's interesting because Stephen Colbert had this interesting take a few hours ago. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You're actually willing to go to jail for this? Sam?
NUNBERG: I'm not cooperating. Arrest me.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: You know Mueller can arrest you, right?
COLBERT: That's like saying "Eat me" to Hannibal Lecter. It doesn't work out well. Doesn't have a happy ending for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: How right is Colbert when it comes to Mueller and what he can actually do right now to Nunberg?
LEVINSON: He's right. So when you issue a subpoena, if you have a so-called recalcitrant witness, usually the first thing that will happen is you'll say, we're going to find you -- fine you. There will be civil penalties. We're going to hit you in your pocketbook.
And if the person still won't appear -- and there is no reason that they don't have to appear -- then you can say incarcerations are our next step. So you know his kind of like come and get me, come arrest me, OK, that's a possibility.
VAUSE: What happens when push comes to shove.
It's not often that Donald Trump gets overshadowed.
But before all the Nunberg interview at the air, Donald Trump tweeted this out, "Why did the Obama administration start an investigation into the Trump campaign with zero proof of wrongdoing long before the election in November?
"Wanted to discredit so Crooked H would win. Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate! Plus, Obama did NOTHING about Russian meddling."
OK, Wendy, a couple of things here; first, the investigations are usually open precisely to find proof of wrongdoing and it wasn't the Obama administration, one thing, it was actually the FBI. It says a lot about Donald Trump's state of mind.
GREUEL: I think he is fixated on Hillary Clinton. He can't get over the fact that there are all these questions about the election, particularly.
So I think he's continuing to try to deflect. He is continuing to try to suggest that there was no collusion. He repeats himself in these tweets numerous times. And I think that the public is kind of saying, you know, become President of the United States. Act like the President of the United States.
Tweeting like this is not something that any of us think is at the level of a president's activities. VAUSE: I just want to finish up with this reporting that there is from "The New York Times" about the unspent $120 million which was allocated to the State Department to try and stop foreign meddling, Russia in the U.S. elections. As a result -- this is "The New York Times" -- "Not one of the 23 analysts working in the department's Global Engagement Center, which has been tasked with countering Moscow's disinformation campaign, speaks Russian. And a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit (INAUDIBLE) computer experts needed to track the Russian efforts."
John, this does seem to be another example of what, at the very best, looks like to be a very passive response from the Trump administration when it comes to Russia.
PHILLIPS: I guess it's time to lower the unemployment level much lower and hire a bunch of people who speak Russian to work --
VAUSE: Well, it would be a good place to start, wouldn't it?
PHILLIPS: Yes. Look, I think at this point it's clear that the Russians were trying to interfere in our process. They have been for quite some time, going all the way back to the 1960s. The quicker we acknowledge it, the quicker we move on and try to make sure it doesn't happen in the midterms or doesn't happen ever again.
I think the better off we all are.
VAUSE: From your lips to the presidency is I guess we'll see what happens. John, Wendy and Jessica, thank you all so much. Appreciate it.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
SESAY: Quick break here. A former Russian spy found critically ill and --
SESAY: -- unconscious on a bench in the U.K. What British police are saying -- next on NEWSROOM L.A.
VAUSE: Also the results are in, then the shock waves are being felt across Europe as nationalists and far right-wing parties celebrate Italy's election.
SESAY: A former Russian spy is critically ill after being exposed to an unknown substance in Southwest England. VAUSE: Sources tell CNN his name is Sergei Skripal and was granted refuge in the U.K. after a spy swap between the U.S. and Russia back in 2010. More details now from Nick Paton Walsh.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: This innocuous shopping center, a mall here in the quiet town of Salisbury, is suddenly the focus of a lot of attention because local authorities say that in late Sunday afternoon, a man in his 60s and a woman in her 30s were found unconscious in the bench hidden behind me here, by that tent canopy.
Now we understand the man in question was Sergei Skripal. Now he is a former Russian spy from the Russian foreign intelligence service, with an extraordinary history. In 2006, he was sentenced to 13 years in Russian jail for spying for the British intelligence agency's MI-6, according to Russian state news agencies.
But in 2010, he was part of an extraordinary prisoner swap between the United States and Britain and Russia. Now the Russians gave up four people that they had held for spying in their detention facilities, including Sergei Skripal, and switched them for 10 Russians accused of spying in the United States, one of them, the more prominent Anna Chapman, who got quite a bit of notoriety at that particular time.
Mr. Skripal then came and lived here in this quiet town in the United Kingdom. Now we don't quite know what was that brought him to sit on that bench behind me here, late on a Sunday afternoon.
We do know how that a pizza restaurant about 50 meters around the corner is still being sealed off by local authorities. But (INAUDIBLE) concern for public health here and at this point to the police are not engaging their counterterrorism command here, which is important because they would normally have brought into play if you were talking about a particularly sophisticated kind of plot.
And talking to police here, they've been seeing people in protective clothing, looking through bins, rubbish, trash cans as recently as 3 o'clock this afternoon. But the response I'm seeing behind me doesn't indicate necessarily a massive nationwide concern, although police here have said they're looking at, quote, "a major incident."
The reason why there is such concern in Britain is because over a decade ago now, Alexander Litvinenko, another former Russian spy seeking asylum and getting it here in the United Kingdom, was killed very (INAUDIBLE) now in a Mayfair Hotel, given polonium, was subsequently weeks later claimed his life.
And there have been a number of instances --
WALSH: -- here in which Russian citizens who've fallen afoul of the Russian state have potentially had ill done to them and the finger is being pointed at those allies towards the Kremlin. That is the reason why the U.K. is on edge and why an incident like
this caused such immediate attention. But frankly, the authorities still trying to work out exactly what happened behind me, whether this was some terrible accident potentially or was it something more sinister maybe (INAUDIBLE) -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Salisbury, the United Kingdom.
VAUSE: The rights to populism across Europe has now reached Italy with a big voter turnout for anti-establishment parties in Sunday's election.
SESAY: But no party or coalition won enough votes to form a government so the country faces a hung parliament and potentially months of tough negotiations. Our own Ben Wedeman has more from Rome.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a moment of joy for the Five Star Movement's 31-year-old leader, Luigi De Maio, when the numbers came in.
A movement born just nine years moved by anger over corruption, bureaucracy and economic decline is now the country's most powerful political force, taking almost a third of the fractured electorate.
"Italians chose to break with the old systems," says pensioner Alfredo de Benedicto. The other big winner was the eurosceptic, rabidly anti- immigrant Lega or the League. Their share of the vote has more than quadrupled.
"It's clear yesterday the Italians gave us a precise mandate." The league's leader Matteo Salvini declares. "Cambia Tutto," "Everything Changes," this newspaper headline announces, while another paper throws up its hands with the bawdy banner, meaning roughly, "What a mess."
The country is ripe for radical change. Incomes have been stagnant for a quarter of a century. Unemployment remains stubbornly in double digits. The young are leaving the country in record numbers.
"They go to Spain, England, America anywhere as long as they can find a stable job. There's nothing stable here anymore" says Rome resident Emmanuel Gida (Ph).
The last traditional party is still standing in the center left Partito Democratico or Democratic Party saw its share of the vote fall from 25 percent in 2013 to 19 percent in Sunday's vote.
In Monday evening, its young once promising leader, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi vowed to resign as soon as a new government is formed.
Newspaper columnist Massimo Franco says the guardians of the status quo only have themselves to blame. MASSIMO FRANCO, COLUMNIST, CORRIERE DELLA SERA: So the faster movement is the symptom of the failure of the traditional party system it's not the cause the source of this failure. If you don't govern well other people may be more incompetent are coming and taking your place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Where the traditional parties fail it's not at all clear if the suddenly empowered populists can succeed -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.
SESAY: Let's discuss with CNN European affairs commentator, Dominic Thomas.
Dominic, thanks for staying with us. So can we entirely rule out the possibility of the Five Star Movement and the League joining forces?
DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: No. I mean, right now, if Mattarella, the president, goes to the center right coalition, there's a problem here right now because Berlusconi thought he would come out on top in that particular configuration.
And in fact it's Salvini, the leader of the Lega, that has come out on top. And so there's likely to be a break in that particular area.
Now if the Five Star Movement comes to speak to the Lega -- so the Five Star Movement did score a higher point as a single party, the big question for Salvini, of course, is why would he want to abandon the leadership position he potentially has by going into negotiations around the center right coalition, by going in with the Five Star Movement, who got the highest number of votes?
And Di Maio is going to want the bid for the presidency -- sorry; for the prime ministership. So this is complicated to predict which direction this will go in. But in terms of the math -- and this is the real issue here -- no one has --
THOMAS: -- single-handedly, either a coalition or a party, reached that magic level of 40 percent, which means that coalition talks are going to have to take place. And we've seen how complicated these have become in Europe over the past year.
SESAY: -- Germany recently --
THOMAS: -- Germany, the Dutch elections reached a record number as well. So a large number of political parties, many of them are even movements, some with no real political experience, somehow have to step up and we have to see whether or not they can behave in a way that is going to allow them to establish some kind of order.
SESAY: How does Europe, how does Brussels take this moment?
Because there's the argument that this is as much about indicting Europe because Italians feel that they were left on their own to deal with the migrant crisis. So this is a repudiation of Brussels.
THOMAS: Right, and of the establishment and we have seen how mainstream political parties and center left parties have not done well in European elections for the past year. Brussels cannot ignore the fact that 50 percent-plus of Italian voters supported parties that are not anti-European Union in the sense of a Brexit coming -- although some --
THOMAS: -- eurosceptics and so they can't ignore that. I think what we're seeing really even more and it's interesting that on the same day Angela Merkel finally establishes coalition, it's a rejection of the Macron France-Merkel Germany vision of greater European integration of the Eurozone, as far as the Italians are concerned and the Greeks are concerned have been left behind in this kind of economic space.
It is also for the European Union especially problematic. This is not new but yet again they find themselves on the defensive, having to talk about these particular parties in the case of the Lega, who were profoundly against the liberal democratic values of the system at a time when we're seeing some really disquieting activities in Poland and Hungary and all of these groups are Russian sympathizers, right.
So there's a sort of split along those kind of lines as well and we know that in the case of Salvini, he is close to the National Front in France. He is close to the far right in Austria and has been deeply influenced and shaped by Russia.
VAUSE: So what does it mean for policy?
What does it mean if you have Salvini or you have the Five Star Movement at the helm, what does that mean for Italy's position in Europe?
THOMAS: Well, we could argue in many ways that they're no different from what happened in Austria, where you had Sebastian Kurz move his party to the right and go into a coalition with a party that a decade or so before that the European Union had imposed sanctions on. This time around they accepted this party. So the European Union is in a very difficult position. It doesn't want to seem to be too overreaching and critical of these organizations and parties and movements because they can see the extent to which they are able to galvanize the electorate.
So we find ourselves in a kind of waiting period here. But if we go by what they said they were going to do, you're looking at some really harsh measures of deportation of migrants, pushing the European Union towards increasing border security, building Fortress Europe. And these are very divisive policies, especially since as we know it's
not that the migrant crisis has gone away; there's always an issue there. But the point is it's not at its height. And we can see how the electorate is being manipulated by these parties that are running on anti-establishment, anti-migrant policies rather than coming up with real solutions that will help the Italian people.
SESAY: Well, Dominic Thomas, we shall see what happens in the weeks ahead. It's going to be very turbulent in Italy, that's for sure. Appreciate it. Thank you.
THOMAS: Thank you.
VAUSE: Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., aid finally arrives in Eastern Ghouta but activists say the delivery was cut short because of artillery shelling.
SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles I'm Isha Sessay.
VAUSE: And thank you for staying with us, I'm John Vause. We'll take the headlines this hour.
The former Campaign Aide Sam Nunberg says he believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller has something on Donald Trump. Nunberg is refusing to testify before a grand jury in the Russia investigation, maybe he will, maybe he won't. He says Mr. Thank you. brought the probe onto himself when he fired FBI Director James Comey.
SESAY: Well the former Russian spy is critically ill after being exposed on unknown substance in Southwest England. Police say he and a woman were found unconscious on a shopping center bench. The man, Sergei Skirpal was granted refuge in the U.K. after a spy swap between the U.S. and Russia in 2010.
VAUSE: Italy is facing a hung parliament after a populist and far right party had a big turnout in Sunday's parliamentary elections. The Anti-establishment Five Star Movement and a right wing coalition among the most recent parliament but there was no outright majority to form a government.
SESAY: Well 46 U.N. humanitarian trucks ward into Syria's Eastern Ghouta Monday, it was a welcome sight to the thousands of civilians trapped in the rebel-held suburb of Damascus.
VAUSE: But not for those in need of medical help. The convoy was prevented from delivering many medical supplies including essential trauma kits. And this is an area where the Syrian government bombardment has taken hundreds of lives and left many more seriously wounded. The U.N. refugee agency in Syria tell CNN some trucks were not unloaded because the five-hour ceasefire was almost up. SESAY: Well, Dr. Ahmad Tarakji joins us now from California. He's
president of the Syrian-American Medical Society which that Syrians caught in the crossfire of civil war there. Dr. Tarakji, good to speak to you once again.
According to some recording by the Syrian Red Crescent, these 46 truckloads were containing food parcels delivered to some 27,500 along with health items for that 70,000 people in the town of Douma. Given what we roughly know about the contents of these trucks, give me some perspective on how much of a difference this aide will make.
DR. AHMAD TARAKJI, PRESIDENT SYRIAN-AMERICAN MEDICAL SOCIETY: So, I was just communicating with my colleagues and said Ghouta as they're finalizing the survey about the material that it was delivered and basically the food material is sufficient for less than 10 percent of the population of Ghouta or less than 10 days.
SESAY: Wow. Less than 10 percent of the population for less than 10 days. So clearly, insufficient in terms of -- and we know that (INAUDIBLE) is getting everything in, so not enough food. Talk to me about the fact that we're hearing that 70 percent of supplies were removed and that we hear that surgical items were taken out, masks and trauma kits, what does that say to you?
TARAKJI: So over the last three and a half years, there has not been any medical or any surgical kits allowed inside Ghouta through the U.N. convoys. And we know that and this has been an ongoing process that we are well aware of as well as WHO and the U.N., so this is not common as new finding.
Unfortunately, that there has not been any meaningful action taken by the U.N. agencies or WHOs to counter that. The one baby step if you want to call it that way that today, WHO itself announced this and this is the first time they're announcing that position. Having said that, that does not help people inside Ghouta. We're seeing mass casualties, we're seeing about 30,000 people inside Ghouta who were internally displaced because of the offensive attack that's been held by these Syrian Regime.
So we're seeing that mass casualties, we're seeing significant pressure on the hospitals. Many of them right now are not functional as we've seen because of the targeting that took place last week and yet medical -- essential medical supplies are not being delivered. So we're talking even about antibiotics and certain medications like anesthesia medications still not available on those convoys. The --
SESAY: So --
TARAKJI: Go ahead.
SESAY: No, no, go ahead Dr. Tarakji.
TARAKJI: So -- I mean, as you know, when the convoy got in, there had been a constant airstrikes around that area where eventually the convoy was contacted from Damascus saying that you have to leave right now.
So there were about like nine or ten trucks that were unloaded and they went back to Damascus out of Ghouta. So even the insufficient amount of convoys were not continued delivered and continuous airstrikes of that area unfortunately causing significant damage and scared the aide workers which eventually -- who eventually left the area and to their supplies with them.
SESAY: So you've been speaking to your people on the ground, I mean, talk to me about what they are saying now. They've got this little bit of aide in, it's not enough, but to them right now, what is the biggest concern?
TARAKJI: I think everybody right now is concerned about in the -- of the -- concerned about the inaction of the international community and that inaction will eventually lead for them or lead for major displacement. And that's what they're concerned about.
Today, there has been best footage circulated by one of the activists inside Ghouta keep talking to the U.N. team and WHO team inside Ghouta when we got in. And basically it was saying, "We just want to stay in our hometown. We just want to stay here at home and nobody's helping us staying here. They want us to be displaced." Unfortunately, we don't see any meaningful action by the United States, U.K., or France, or any member of this Security Council to counter or stop this casualties or stop this displacement. And that needs to be stopped and the (INAUDIBLE) is probably simple but yet we don't see any serious action.
SESAY: You know, President Bashar al-Assad appeared on state television this past Sunday and said that the offensive against terrorism and the Eastern Ghouta would continue. He also dismissed the humanitarian situation on the ground as ridiculous lies.
As someone who's just speaking to people there in the besieged enclave of Ghouta, tell me what goes through your mind when you hear that kind of sentiment expressed by the Syrian president knowing what you know about the situation there?
TARAKJI: So Bashar al-Assad is a doctor, right? He's (INAUDIBLE), so he knows exactly what casualties of the war are and target cause was what that means when you're a physician and you're not able to treat patients.
Now, everybody agrees that terrorists should be defeated and should be expelled. Now, the problem what we're seeing in Ghouta right now is war on civilians, we're not seeing war in terrorists. So as in -- as of hospitals and supplies in-store, those hospitals that we have inside Ghouta and many other places were visited by WHO and the U.N. teams.
They know about them, they know about the performance and how they serve civilians and actually I get very positive feedback from the WHO Damascus about the performance of these hospitals. And those are the hospitals that we were hoping that the U.N. convoy when they go in to look at them and to assist their needs and also to report to the ward that those hospitals were targeted by airstrikes. Unfortunately, the team did not stay in long enough and I don't think it was mandate to even visit those hospitals.
SESAY: It's truly distressing. Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, thank you. We always thank you for joining us --
TARAKJI: Thank you.
SESAY: -- to bring us a sense of what's happening there. Appreciate it.
TARAKJI: Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you.
VAUSE: Well first, Kim Jong-un on Monday with the North Korean leader meeting a delegation from South Korea. On their agenda, reunification and reportedly talks with the U.S. Details now from Brian Todd.
BRIAN TODD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A critical and historic face-to-face in Pyeongyang, for the first time in his six plus years in power, Kim Jong-un meets in person with top ranking South Korean leaders.
South Korean officials tells CNN they carried a letter to Kim from South Korean President Moon Jae-in, an important moment analysts say because the young dictator has had such little exposure to outsiders.
BRUC KLINGNER, FORMER CIA DEPUTY CHIEF OF KOREA: Up until now the person with the most -- the foreigner with the most face time would be Dennis Rodman.
TODD: And the two top official South Korea sent to meet with Kim are seen as crucial choices, South Korea's Spy Chief, Suh Hoon helped organized two previous summits between North and South Korean leaders and could be laying the groundwork for another one and South Korea's National Security Chief Chung Eui-yong has closed ties with U.S. officials.
Analysts say he's got Trump National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster on speed dial. Expert say the two South Korean will be able to give Washington and Seoul much needed intelligence on the reclusive Kim.
KLINGNER: They'll want to see how adept he is at give and take whether he's using notes, whether he's got a very strong command of a wide range of issues.
TODD: And they'll be able to assess Kim's physical health. He once disappeared from public view for more than a month and was later seen limping. Just hours before the groundbreaking meeting in Pyeongyang, President Trump told a dinner audience in Washington that the North Koreans want to talk to the U.S. and said, "So would we but you have to de-nuke." The North Koreans say it's, "Preposterous for the Trump team to insist
that they move toward giving up their nuclear weapons before any talks can begin."
ALEXANDER VERSHBOW, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: And then maybe a little bit of grantsmanship going on both sides. The question is whether we can at least talk about the agenda for talks, not begin any negotiations but to talk about whether there is some package of subjects including a peace agreement that would formerly end the Korean War which is still just based on a temporary armistice, regional stabilization measures and denuclearization.
TODD: Analysts are really hoping that all this diplomatic back and forth yield some real result soon because the diplomatic window could be closing soon. The U.S. and South Korea are scheduled to resume their joint military exercises right after the Paralympics and later in March. Exercises which North Korea always views as very hostile. Brian Todd, CNN Washington.
SESAY: Well, quick break here. President Trump isn't backing down, even the leaders of his own party are pressuring him to change his mind on tariffs.
VAUSE: Well, senior republican lawmakers in Congress are hoping to change the president's decision on tariffs. The U.S. House Speaker says he's extremely worried about a trade war, he's urging the president to abandon those plans for both tariffs on important steel and aluminum.
A top Senate republican calls tariff (INAUDIBLE) well another party leader says republicans are trying to find out if there's a legislative recourse if they can -- if they can't convince the president to actually change his mind. But, Donald Trump says, "Nah, there's nothing to worry about."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No trade war?
TRUMP: I don't think so. I don't think you're going to have a trade war, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Well that was reassuring. Ryan Patel is a Global Business Executive, he joins us now for more. OK. The president is now (INAUDIBLE) this issue of tariffs on steel and aluminum for talks over NAFTA, the North American free trade agreement. And just be clear, he tweeted this out saying, "The tariffs will be removed if the U.S. can negotiate a bit of trade deal with Mexico and Canada." OK, with that in mind, listen to one of the president's economic advisors, one of the advisors who push for the tariffs, Peter Navarro, he explains why they need it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL TRADE COUNCIL: This is an action basically to protect our national security and economic security. The president was quite clear, we can't have a country that can defend itself and prosper without an aluminum and steel industry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: OK. So let's put scene one and scene two together, OK? So we've got scene two which is Navarro saying it's all about national security but yet the president says there could be an exemption of the tariffs for Canada, number one, exporter to the United States and Mexico which is I think number four exporter of steel to United States. This doesn't make any sense.
RYAN PATEL, GLOBAL BUSINESS EXECUTIVE: It makes zero sense.
PATEL: I mean, you got the defense industry coming out and the head of association saying that's not true and then you got the second piece as that treat Trump as a business person. This is what he's done and this is what -- it's a smoking mirror. Let's just call it what it is. He is just using this defense -- national security as to get what he wants.
VAUSE: Right. And no other president has ever done this before ever. Many countries are now warning of retaliation. Listen to what Trump Campaign Economic Advisor and now CNN Contributor Stephen Moore, this is his warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN MOORE, SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: We're in a very dangerous moment right now. I do think it would be a big mistake if Europeans and the Canada, and China retaliate because knowing Donald Trump as we do, this is a guy who doesn't back down and he's a counter puncher and I do believe if they start imposing higher tariffs, then you're going to get an escalation and that's how trade wars do start and one thing President Trump was wrong about is nobody wins a trade war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Yes, exactly. It's just so (INAUDIBLE)
PATEL: I mean, I disagree with what he just said. I mean -- so if you're on their shoes, you're just going to say, "Don't add tariffs" I mean, if the U.S. was on the other side, we'd be already tariffing them.
VAUSE: There was (INAUDIBLE) what he's saying is essentially, "Oh, don't you do it Canada or Mexico or everybody else" because that would be bad.
PATEL: Well, it's bad for everybody at the end of the day and for specifically Trump. This is what he wants, he wants this rhetoric (INAUDIBLE), "Oh, don't come and attack us, we'll figure it out together." To me when I hear that, you're also undermining Canada, you're undermining these countries who have worked so hard to set these things up as evenly trade as they can.
VAUSE: It makes a point of this is what I do (INAUDIBLE) this is a dangerous moment.
PATEL: This is a dangerous moment because the way this is set up now with tariffs across all borders, what happens next affects everybody and to me, everyone holds responsibility to this, not just -- what goes on from after this.
VAUSE: Yes. It's up to these lawmakers and those close to the president to maybe try lead him to rightful thinking perhaps.
Over the weekend the president tweeted this, "When a country is losing many billions of dollars on trade with literally every country it does business with, trade wars are good and easy to win. Example when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don't trade anymore. We win big, it's easy."
OK. This is what the former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE SUMMER, FORMER U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Any answer of that kind would get a failing grade, a failing grade in any introductory economics course in virtually any college in the United States. Why? Trade deficits are about how much you spent if I run a trade deficit with my grocery store.
I buy much more from my grocery store than I sell to my grocery store. That doesn't mean my grocery store is exploiting me. Something similar is true when the United States runs a trade deficit against another country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: I thought it was a really good explanation but also what he's saying, there's a president in the White House who doesn't understand economic fundamentals.
PATEL: Listen, if you have to read the office tweet about what he's trying to say, I'm confused. I mean, when he's using these kind of rhetoric on not understanding, I was just ignoring what he's saying and I'm really looking to his advisors and to what else rhetoric that we're doing in negotiations and I -- especially -- and we're going to get into from Mexico and Canada's own representatives what they've actually seen versus what Trump has said.
VAUSE: OK. The DOW finished up 300 points on Monday, because there was this pushback against this tariff plan, so what does that actually say to you?
PATEL: I can't believe I'm saying this and you're shocked, there's two words, Paul Ryan.
PATEL: He was -- today he came out and really kind of attacked the administration in essence of their GOP and the market reacted to that because now what's happening, there's hope. There's some hope that this won't happen and that's what we saw. We saw Thursday and Friday lost a lot, a lot of points, a lot of the gain, so I think that's what people are hoping for.
VAUSE: Paul Ryan had a spine on tariffs but he didn't find one on guns or on Russia.
PATEL: As I said, you wouldn't think I was going to say that.
PATEL: I wouldn't either but I think you know the case is, is that they want to protect the election and they want to protect this tax reform cut that they got credit for, this don't want to see a raise -- to raise it (INAUDIBLE) how does that sound?
VAUSE: It does (INAUDIBLE) I also think it's because republicans should give a lot of money -- or their supporters will give a lot of money to the Republican Party are really low about this tariff plan, that's why we saw Ryan come out and do something when he has done nothing before on other issues.
PATEL: I agree.
VAUSE: Ryan, good to see you. Thank you. Well, a woman who calls herself a sex coach says she has insider knowledge of Russia's meddling in the U.S. election. Here's the catch, she's currently in jail in Thailand and wants U.S. asylum in return for revealing all. CNN's Ivan Watson has the story.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She describes herself as the "Seductress" a relentlessly self-promoting 21-year-old named Anastasia Vashukevich with a social media stage name Nastya Rybka, this Belarus-born woman claims to have evidence of Russian meddling in the U.S. election. The question, is this a desperate ploy to get out of jail or as her friend claims, is this young woman truly in danger because she knows too much?
MARIA SKULBEDA, FRIEND OF NASTYA RYBKA: First, they are in danger. Second, they have the information. And third, we are afraid of their lives, really afraid of their lives. We don't know what's going to happen.
WATSON: For days, Vashukevich and several Russian friends have been held at this jail in the capital of Thailand where visitors are not allowed to bring cameras.
I just came out of this detention center where I spoke with Anastasia Vashukevich, it was loud and hot and chaotic and talking through the bars she says that she witnessed meetings between the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska and at least three Americans who she refused to name. She claims they discuss plans to affect the U.S. elections but she wouldn't give any further information because she fears she could be deported back to Russia.
Her claims might not hold much water if it wasn't for this, photos published on her Instagram account of Vashukevich alongside Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska, a one-time business partner of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. He's pleaded not guilty to charges related to money laundering and other alleged crimes discovered during the investigation into Russian meddling.
Vashukevich's posts showed Deripaska onboard his private yacht meeting Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko, two powerful Russian men overheard in one video discussing U.S.-Russian relations. Vashukevich wrote about the meeting using altered names in this book, Deripaska denies meddling in the U.S. election and says Vashukevich was never his mistress. A spokesman writing, "This is clearly an attempt to buy Anastasia Vashukevich to politicized the accusations of the Thai police."
And here's where the story gets really weird, last month Vashukevich was in Thailand with a Russian sex coach named Alexander Kirillov running a weeklong sex training course that teaches among other things, tips for dating. On the last day, Thai police burst into the hotel arresting Vashukevich, Kirillov, and eight others for working without a permit. Ukrainian-American Pavlo Yunko traveled from New York to attend the course.
PAVLO YUNKO, UKRAINIAN-AMERICAN: I was there to have just a good time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then the police showed up.
YUNKO: And the police showed up.
WATSON: In the days that followed, Yunko says he hand delivered this letter from the sex teacher to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok requesting asylum in exchange for recordings Vashukevich says she made of alleged Russian government crimes. An embassy spokesperson says since Vashukevich is not a U.S. citizen,
this is a matter for the Thai authorities. Supporters now deliver food to their friends in jail where Vashukevich's offers to help U.S. investigators of apparently gone unheard. The jail seductress and the sex teacher recognized soon may be deported back to Mother Russia. Ivan Watson, CNN Bangkok.
SESAY: Next on NEWSROOM LA, Hollywood's biggest night turns out to be a big letdown in the ratings.
VAUSE: A big letdown.
VAUSE: Well Hollywood's biggest night was the smallest in the night for TV ratings. About 26 million people watched the Academy Awards on Sunday but 20 percent down on last year and the lowest ratings ever for the Oscars.
SESAY: Wow, that's got to hurt.
SESAY: Well some analysts say there's a big disconnect between the film's Academy versus favor and those people actually paid to watch. None of the top 10 box office movies were nominated -- well actually were not nominated for best picture.
VAUSE: I believe we tackled that issue last night here (INAUDIBLE)
SESAY: Extensively I would say.
VAUSE: Also the show is boring.
SESAY: It was.
SESAY: It was bland.
VAUSE: It was bland. And the Academy is facing more criticism than usual for the In Memoriam segment, the montage honoring stars and others who died in the past year or so, it's often, of course, a controversy and complaint because who's included and who is not.
SESAY: And here are some notable snub from left to right, Robert Guillaume who won two Emmy Awards for playing Benson DuBois on TV. Emmy Winner, Powers Booth, best known for his portrayal of new villains. Grammy Winning Singer Glen Campbell, how would you forget that?
VAUSE: That was -- that shock me the (INAUDIBLE) SESAY: Yes. His song, "I'm Not Going to Miss You" was nominated for an Oscar three years ago. And Batman Star, Adam West.
VAUSE: Adam West, the TV show, great stuff going through.
VAUSE: And there was a lot of people in there who would not know they were.
VAUSE: We should also mention Frances McDormand, best actress.
VAUSE: Someone stole her Oscar (INAUDIBLE)
SESAY: Who does that?
VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) he might be doing it for a while allegedly. You're watching NEWSROOM LA, I'm John Vause.
And I'm Isha Sesay, we'll be back with much more news after this.