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Trump and Kim Jong-un Talks to be Held by May; Trump Administration Unveils New Gun and School Safety Proposals; U.K. National Security Council to Discuss Nerve Agent Attack; Russia Claims to Test-fire Hypersonic Missile; Florida Teacher Removed from Class over Racist Podcast; College Students Fight Human Trafficking. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 12, 2018 - 00:00   ET


[00:00:11] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: South Korea's diplomatic mission envoys head to Beijing and Tokyo seeking support for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader. We'll have that story ahead here.

Also the White House unveils its new proposals on gun control and school safety.

And in Britain, a warning for those who may have crossed paths with a poisoned former Russian double agent.

These stories -- all ahead here. Thank you for joining us. We're live in Atlanta.

I'm Natalie.

And CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

Our top story: diplomacy moves fast when U.S. President Donald Trump is involved. Just days after Mr. Trump announced he would hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, preparations are under way.

South Korea has dispatched envoys to China and Japan to get their support for the meeting. South Korea's national security advisor has left for Beijing while the South's spy chief, Suh Hoon is heading to Tokyo. This is the national intelligence head leaving Seoul on Monday right here.

The Trump-Kim meeting is being orchestrated by Seoul because the U.S. has no diplomatic ties with the North. The meeting is expected to take place by May after North and South Korea hold their previously scheduled April summit.

Much to talk about here. Let's bring in Paula Hancocks, she's in Seoul for us live. Matt Rivers in Beijing to talk about these developments.

Paula -- first to you, President Trump said let's talk with North Korea and now South Korea leaders have a summit to plan. There's much to do. PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely -- Natalie. This has

really moved incredibly quickly. I think the South Korean delegation was probably fairly surprised when they went with that invitation from Kim Jong-un to Washington and the U.S. President said yes straightaway.

Now, we do have some information giving us a little insight from the Blue House. They say that in those meetings, the U.S. President Donald Trump actually said let's meet straightaway. Why not meet in April? So he really showed that he was in a hurry to meet with the North Korean leader. The national security advisors from both the U.S. and South Korea then had to suggest to the U.S. President that they wait until after the North/South Korean summit. So that's why we hear that U.S./North Korean summit or meeting will be by May.

So what we're hearing now from the South Korean side, obviously their meeting expected to be in April. It will be at the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. We're hearing from the unification ministry today that they haven't had much indication on more details from the North Koreans, believing at this point that the North Koreans have an awful lot to decide on before they can give exact logistical details or agendas for this meeting between the North and South -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Let's go to Matt. Matt -- what is expected to be the reaction from China as Paula just said, South Korea headed there to discuss this?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know exactly all the details that the South Koreans will pass on to their Chinese counterparts a little bit later today here in Beijing. Presumably there's information that comes out of that meeting that the South Korean had with the North Koreans that hasn't been made public yet.

But I think what the Chinese government is looking to do is make sure that they have a stake in these negotiations as they go forward. I think similar to fears that the Japanese government might have, that other stakeholders in the region might have. The Chinese government wants to make sure that they have some role in this process moving forward.

And so they're going to likely be, you know, talking to the South Koreans making sure that they can glean as much information as possible and get their views across to make sure that, you know, if there are negotiations, that the Chinese government viewpoints are inserted in there.

One thing that we've been seeing though since this news came out late last week is the Chinese government trying to take credit in some roundabout way for this happening. So in a state-run newspaper editorial they wrote, the recent turnaround of the Korean Peninsula issue is closely related to China's dual suspension proposal. What China had been suggesting for years and years that neither side would agree to is that the United States would stop all military drills in exchange for the North Koreans suspending all missile tests. That is sort of what we saw during the Olympics although the South Korean/U.S. drills that were expected to take place during the Olympics, they just got postponed. They are still going to happen.

So it's not really a suspension for suspension as the Chinese government will lead you to believe. But what they're wanting to Show is that they have had an intricate role in this process coming about and they want to make sure that that continues to happen.

[00:04:55] ALLEN: Let's go back to Paula for a moment. Paula -- what's the reaction perhaps from Japan? Japan has certainly been felt threatened from all these missile tests, the missiles that have come rather close to its shores.

HANCOCKS: Well, that's right. The assumption is it will be a harder sell when the NIS chief goes to Tokyo. Obviously China and Russia consistently have been saying that they want to see Pyongyang and Washington sitting down together and talking about denuclearization.

It's not the case with Japan. We have heard a more hard line policy which in many ways was more in line with the U.S. policy up until very recently which was sanctions and pressure.

So yes, Japan certainly will be very interested to hear what is going to be said. As you say many of those missile tests did come remarkably close to the coastline of Japan. Japan itself had to carry out some evacuation drills and practices because there have been concerns in that country. There have been drills and alarms that have woken residents up in the northern islands as missiles have flown overhead.

So certainly Japan has a vested interest in this, is concerned by what has been happening and clearly they would have been relieved to hear the North Koreans saying that they wouldn't be carrying out missile or nuclear tests while the negotiations are ongoing.

But of course the question we're hearing from many experts is while the negotiations are ongoing it's all very well. What happens if they don't work out? What happens if this historic meeting between the leader of the U.S. and North Korea does not go as planned -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Exactly. They have two months to figure that out.

Finally, to you Matt -- you mentioned China feeling like they helped to bring this on. They did get praise from President Trump this weekend at a rally. You said that he pushed hard on China and they came around. That must please Xi Jinping who just this weekend made a big change in his future to continue leading the country.

RIVER: Yes, absolutely. I mean President Xi is certainly going to take credit for that. I think what you have seen the Chinese do is enforced sanctions -- not only sign on to sanctions but enforce them in an unprecedented way.

It has had an effect on North Korea and that is something the Chinese government is going to point to as a successful maneuver. You asked, we delivered -- let us have a stake in this negotiation process moving forward.

ALLEN: Matt Rivers from Beijing; Paula Hancocks in Seoul -- just incredible developments. A story we'll be following very closely. Thank you both.

You can follow these fast-moving developments on our Website, of course, the upcoming talk between these two leaders. Log on our Web site While there you can read Fareed Zakaria's take on the pending talks. Again,

Speaking of the Trump administration, it has unveiled new proposals for gun and school safety. This happened Sunday and it comes nearly one month after a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Since that shooting students across the United States have rallied for tougher gun control measures. And Florida has passed a number of new laws including raising the age requirement for all gun purchases in the state.

CNN's Boris Sanchez has details now on the new White House proposals.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House promoting a multipronged effort to try to prevent school shootings in light of last month's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The White House announcing the creation of a new federal task force -- that's going to be headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the purpose of which is to study school violence and explore policies and funding strategies that would best address the issue.

Secondly, the White House is going to push Congress to enact certain legislation. The so-called Fix NICS bill that would incentivize local municipalities to report certain information to the National Background Checks System and the Stop School Violence Act which would provide funding for schools to better defend themselves.

Perhaps the most controversial part is the third aspect. The White House is going to advocating for states to enact certain policies. One of them very controversial -- something that the President has long talked about dating back to the 2016 campaign is the hardening of schools. The White House wants local municipalities to push for certain school personnel to receive training in order to be able to carry concealed weapons in schools.

Secondly is the idea of risk protection orders which hat would allow law enforcement to take weapons away from individuals that are deemed at risk, also preventing them from being able to buy firearms for a certain amount of time.

I was able to ask a senior White House official if they believe that the NRA would back that kind of move fearing potential lawsuits like the one we saw in Florida last week. They said that no; that they believe that the NRA would get behind these proposals.

[00:10:06] There are two things, we have to point out, are not included in these guidelines from the White House. First, raising the age, the minimum age to be able to buy an assault-style weapon from 18 to 21 -- something that President Trump was very vocal about shortly after the Parkland shooting.

And secondly the issue of comprehensive universal background checks -- not mentioned in these guidelines at all though the President said he was warm to the idea during a meeting with lawmakers at the White House two weeks ago. It appears that the White House is now moving back from even where the President was shortly after the shooing in Parkland.

Boris Sanchez, CNN -- at the White House.


ALLEN: We'll talk more about that in a moment with our guests but also President Trump is denying a "New York Times report that he's unhappy with his legal team on the Russia investigation. The newspaper reported the President met with Emmet Flood, a lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings.

While not specifically denying, he met with Flood, Mr. Trump insisted in a tweet that he's very happy with his lawyers. He added there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia and again, accused former election rival Hillary Clinton of collusion.

The President's tweets come one day after a raucous rally in Pennsylvania. Mr. Trump ostensibly was there to support a Republican congressional candidate in a tight race that takes place this week. But the bulk of his 75-minute speech was a list of his own achievements on issues like tariffs, North Korea which we've been talking about, and the economy.

He praised foreign countries for imposing the death penalty on drug dealers. And he attacked the media and Democratic opponents.

From gun control to the tweets, to the Pennsylvania special election -- there's a broad range of issues. Let's talk about it now with Daniel Lippman. He's a reporter for Politico and co-author of the site Daily Newsletter Playbook.

Daniel -- thanks for joining us.


ALLEN: Let's start with this new proposal handed down Sunday from the Trump administration on guns. You know, back when the Parkland shooting happened, he first kind of sided with Democrats on some steps. Then the next day he met with the NRA. And now we have this step. What's the significance?

LIPPMAN: You know, I think a lot of the victims from the Parkland massacre, those brave students who had been rallying for gun control measures -- they're going to be pretty disappointed by this.

The White House and President Trump seemed to have backed away from, you know, raising the age limits to or age restrictions to buy certain assault weapons. And I think they think that Trump has been cowed by the NRA; that the NRA had been calling the White House every day. They've been pressuring Republican lawmakers to really prevent from helping enact severe gun control restrictions.

And I think it's a big disappointment for a lot of those victims and also just people who had supported gun control measures as you know, to try to stop 35,000 people in America every year who die from gun violence.

ALLEN: Right, yes. And as you say it will be interesting to see how these high school activists who are leading the walkout this week of schools nationwide will react to this. They certainly want more than that.

Do you think this move by the White House will translate into steps by Congress?

LIPPMAN: I think, you know, Trump supports some of these modest reform efforts like the Fix NICS bill, you know, to try to prevent people who have no business owning a weapon from buying a gun. I think his support will help those bills get through.

But it's not going to prevent these thousands of shootings that you see every single year in America from taking place. And will only limit a few of them. And so we'll see what the impact of this rally that's happening in a few weeks in Washington, organized by these students which, you know, which interestingly Jared Kushner's brother Josh Kushner has donated $50,000 to support the rally for this kids whether that rally has an impact on what Congress does.

ALLEN: We'll certainly see because we all know that these kids are to be reckoned with. They really mean business on this.

Let's look at the President's tweets today. He talked about the Russia investigation as we mentioned and he criticized the "New York Times" reports and said that -- saying that he was unhappy with his legal team on the Russia and going to another lawyer to help out.

What am I -- "I am very happy with my lawyers" and then said they're doing a great job. And he criticized the reporter who wrote the story, Maggie Haberman, also an analyst here on CNN. He said that she didn't have access. She certainly had access to the President before.

[00:15:05] But as usual the media is the target and the question is, is he shaking up his legal team? We don't know that.

LIPPMAN: Yes. I think, you know, clearly Maggie Haberman has gotten a lot of Trump scoops right and she has talked to Trump on the record many times and so, you know, Trump's criticism of her just does not lend to reality.

And if Trump does hire this guy that Maggie talked about in a few weeks then it will just show that these tweets were kind of a deflection. And I think what's interesting -- what people thought was noteworthy from the rally on Saturday is that he praised, you know, some of the un-democratic things and he also told the crowd not to boo Kim Jong-un who he's going to meet with by May.

But he told the crowd to boo the media. And so that was just kind of an ironic thing that a lot of people took not of.

ALLEN: Yes. In his 75-minute speech but he knows how to play to his base. Politico wrote someone yelled from the crowd, "you're just like us". So he certainly is working to try to save that Republican seat in Pennsylvania. But there's strong pursuit by a Democratic opponent there. We'll wait and see what happens.

Daniel Lippman -- thank you so much for talking with us.

LIPPMAN: Thank you.

ALLEN: We turn now to Salisbury, England. Authorities sent out a warning saying some places have been contaminated by the nerve agent that poisoned a former Russian spy and his daughter. We'll have more about that next.

Plus, the U.S. Defense chief takes Russia to task over Syria's chemical weapons.


ALLEN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will lead a National Security Council meeting Monday on the nerve agent attack in Salisbury. A former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned there last week and remain in the hospital in critical but stable condition.

Police say traces of the dangerous nerve agent were found in a restaurant and a pub the pair may have visited the day they became ill. Though authorities say there's only a low risk to the public they are issuing a precautionary warning.


SALLY DAVIES, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER FOR ENGLAND: Some people are concerned that prolonged long-term exposure to these substances may, over weeks and particularly months, give rise to health problems. I am therefore advising have a belt and braces approach that the people who were either in Zizzi's restaurant or the Mill Pub from 1:30 p.m. last Sunday until evening closing on Monday should clean the clothes they wore and the possessions they handled while there.


ALLEN: CNN's Nick Paton Walsh takes a look now at the timeline of the mysterious nerve gas attack and what we know so far about it. We warn you, his report contains graphic images.


[00:20:00] NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We still know troublingly little a week on about what happened to Sergei and Yulia Skripal near this walkway. The police confirmed one vital fact that transforms what we know of that afternoon around these sleepy pubs.

The pair was found on a bench at 4:15. But their journey began around 1:30 when they either first entered Zizzi's pizza restaurant or the Mill Pub.

Police revealed at the weekend that both places were contaminated with the mystery nerve agent which means that they were contaminated throughout their journey that began with pizza or a drink on a Sunday and ended slumped on this bench. This means the nerve agent that has left father and daughter fighting for lives took possibly hours to really act.

Sarin is usually delivered as a gas and acts almost instantly as the world witnessed in the agony of Syria. The VX as a gas is fast too, killing Kim Jong-un half brother within 20 minutes of exposure in this Malaysian airport.

Again the slower acting as a liquid, say experts yet these two agents are well known and Britain's top security officials said last week, the agent was quote, "very rare".

A former British Army and NATO chemical weapons expert has suggested the agent is very obviously Novichok. Translated as "newcomer", Novichok was made by the Soviets in the 70s to get around various weapons treaties and be safer to use but harder to detect. The chemist who revealed the secret program in the 90s was jailed and released.

But it also acts fast. And many will ask why such as a specific and identifiable poison was used? To frame Russia or let Moscow brag of its omnipotence.

The name of the agent still doesn't explain why Detective Sergeant Bailey also fell gravely ill while others who got near the Skripals did not. Did he try to resuscitate either of the Skripals at the scene? Or did he as some have speculated rushed back to their home perhaps looking for medication or answers. Yet the time it took the Skripals to succumb to the deadly poison and the trail they consequently left appears to be narrowing the focus of who could be to blame.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN -- London.


ALLEN: The country says it has dozens and dozens of leads and we will keep you posted.

Russia is showing off what it claims is an invincible new type of weapon. It says this is video of a hypersonic missile being successfully test-fired. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a new line of weapons earlier this month. He said they cannot be stopped to buy missile defenses and he showed video animation at that time that appeared to depict a nuclear strike on the U.S.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is not impressed by Russia's new weapon. He spoke with reporters Sunday.


[00:24:54] JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I get paid to make strategic assessments. And I would just tell you that I saw no change with the Russian military capability. And each of these systems he's talking about that are still years away I do not see them changing the military balance. They do not impact any need on our side for a change in our deterrent posture.


ALLEN: Mattis is also sending a stern message to Syria as he begins a trip to the Middle East. He warned Damascus would be unwise, his word, to again use chemical weapons on civilians. He signaled it could lead to a military response from the U.S. and blamed Russia for letting Syria stockpile chemical weapons.

The northeastern United States is still digging out from snow dropped in last week's winter storm, if you can keep up with all of them. And now -- another one threatens the area.

We'll have the latest forecast for you coming up here.


ALLEN: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

Here are our top stories.



ALLEN: At this hour, South Korea envoys are heading to China and Japan. Their goal is to sell the Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un meeting. South Korea's national security adviser is in China to meet with President Xi Jinping. Mr. Trump says the Chinese leader has been helpful in setting the stage for the talks.

Meantime South Korea's spy chief heads to Japan to talk with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. South Korea is brokering the talks since the U.S. has no diplomatic ties with the North.

The pro-Beijing establishment in Hong Kong has solidified even more its grip on the city's legislature. Pro-democracy activists won only two of four seats up for grabs in Sunday's election. That means that they did not regain the veto power they lost in 2016 when the central Chinese government removed six pro-democracy lawmakers for protesting during their swearing-in ceremonies. Parts of Western Europe are starting the week with heavy rain and gusty winds and the U.S. Northeast bracing for yet another powerful winter storm.


ALLEN: A teacher's online alter ego discovered as the voice of a white supremacist podcast. She explains herself -- ahead here.





ALLEN: In the U.S. a school district in Florida is investigating a teacher's behavior after discovering she secretly hosted a white supremacist themed podcast. The middle school teacher is still employed by the school but she's been removed from the classroom.

For more now here is CNN's Sara Sidner.


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Twenty-five-year-old Dayanna Volitich had one job: teaching social studies to middle school students at this Florida public school. On her off time she had another passion: sharing white supremacist ideals and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on a public social media website, including her own podcast under the Russian pseudonym, Tiana Dalichov.

DAYANNA VOLITICH, TEACHER: "So many other researchers have already looked into this and that's just the way it is. There are races that have higher IQs than others.

SIDNER (voice-over): She also shared her views on Twitter under the same pseudonym, saying things like, "It isn't supremacist or hateful to prefer your own people over others."

And, "You know America's education system is designed to enable victimization when teachers are forced to learn about institutional racism and prove it's real when it isn't."

After the myriad of tweets and comments were first reported by the "Huffington Post," the publication shared what they found with the Citrus County School District. The district has removed Volitich from the classroom pending an investigation.

In a statement through an attorney, Volitich denies being racist or anti-Semitic, saying her comments online were all political satire and an attempt to get more followers.

"None of the statements released about my being a white nationalist or a white supremacist have any truth to them nor are my political beliefs injected into my teaching of social studies curriculum."

But she did admit at least one parent complained about her political bias in class.

VOLITICH: I've had a couple instances where parents were concerned. I had one at the beginning of this year who emailed the principal over my head and basically told her I'm worried that your teacher is in -- you know she's injecting political bias into her teaching.

And the principal came to me and she was like, I'm not worried.

Should I be worried?

And I'm like no. And she believed me and she backed off.

SIDNER (voice-over): Another parent, Meredith Bleakley (ph), says her daughter attended Ms. Volitich's class.

MEREDITH BLEAKLEY (PH), PARENT: On a personal level, I'm outraged that now people in 2018 still think this way.

SIDNER (voice-over): Bleakley's (ph) daughter told her she remembered a comment by Volitich that made a mixed-race child in class uncomfortable.

BLEAKLEY (PH): She believes she heard a comment from the teacher, where she was saying that during segregation they had separate water fountains and the teacher somewhat alluded to that in the teacher's opinion it would be OK the way if that was the way that it was today.

SIDNER: But Bleakley (ph) says she strongly believes in due process and the First Amendment and that she will wait to see what happens with the investigation into the teacher before she passes judgment on whether or not that teacher should be fired.

She did say, though, that this is a wake-up call to parents, that they should teach their strong values in the home as well and she says she's teaching her daughter about inclusion and acceptance.



ALLEN: We'll let you know what the school decides on that one.

This Wednesday, March 14th is My Freedom Day. CNN is asking students to take action in their communities on March 14th to raise awareness of modern-day slavery. Students at one California campus show us young people are passionate and committed to leading the charge.



DIANA SHEEDY, FOUNDER, CLIFF (voice-over): I would always (INAUDIBLE) if you know another person, you have a role to play in this fight. My name is Diana Sheedy and I am the founder of CLIFF, the Collegiate Leadership in the Fight for Freedom. CLIFF is an organization run by students and practitioners who really want to equip and connect experts in the field with students.

Our focus is really on the students themselves.

We are hosting a regional convention here in San Diego at UCSD.

ASHLEY HALABI, REGIONAL LEADER, CLIFF (voice-over): People who follow the attempt to trafficking are pushing to circumstances against (INAUDIBLE) and they cannot escape from.

SHEEDY (voice-over): I have been working a lot with the regional leader, Ashley Halabi, and a fantastic team for the girls who have been helping her to plan the event. Ashley and her team have really spearheaded the entire process of creating the program and recruiting people.

HALABI (voice-over): It's very empowering to see that we can have a conference and we can raise awareness ourselves.

SHEEDY (voice-over): Listening to the students give their own pitches with just the (INAUDIBLE) why we do what we do.

Students are in a really unique period of their lives where they aren't connected to an organization necessarily. They're not married to a certain approach or idea and they also are constantly learning.

And I think seeing the way that sparks are going off in conversations and ideas, I think is really important for everyone to feel like we're making a difference. This is worthwhile.

HALABI: There are so many stories of students at many schools that get trafficked because they don't have enough money. So they sign up to do a photo shoot and the photo shoot turns into extreme pictures. Extreme pictures turn into trafficking.

And that's how the cycle goes. That person will still be going to school. So if you can learn to identify the signs or learn to like know who to contact when you see something weird, there is a huge impact that you can make.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) and issues (INAUDIBLE) they can be daunting to work on and sometimes (INAUDIBLE). And I'm making a difference.

Does this matter?

And the answer is yes, it does.



ALLEN: We welcome you to join the conversation. Tell the world what freedom means to you. Share your story using the #MyFreedomDay. Again, it's Wednesday.

Up next here on CNN, it's "WORLD SPORT." And I'll be back at the top of the hour with another hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Hope to see you then.