Return to Transcripts main page


Did North Korea's Kim Jung-un Secretly Visit China?; No State Charges Against Officers Who Shot Alton Sterling; Trump Administration Adds Citizenship Question to 2020 Census. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 27, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Senior North Korean leader. Matt, good to see you in north. How do we know it could be him?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's been a lot of speculation about who was on the train. There's been a lot of circumstantial evidence that Kim Jung-un room can be on the train. Highly likely is the word were getting from U.S. officials. But in terms of solid confirmation, the Chinese government typically keeps things very close to the vest. North Korea, an incredibly sensitive topic for them. What we have seen in the past though, when Kim Jung- un's dad, Kim Jong-il made a trip to Beijing about seven years ago now, we didn't know, or we didn't get confirmation from the Chinese government until after he crossed back into North Korea safe and sound. If we're going by that protocol, then we might not find out until after Kim is back in North Korea if he was there in the first place.

BALDWIN: Sue Mi, what's your best guess? If this is Kim, why would he make this visit to China?

SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CIA NORTH KOREA ANALYST: Well, it makes sense. He needs to meet with the South Korean -- while he scheduled to meet with the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in and potentially President Donald Trump in May. China is still, even though relationship is not as good as before, China is still North Korea's number one patron ally. Would it probably make sense to talk to Xi Jinping? Kim Jong- un is looking for sanctions relief. China's important part of that if he ever wants to get that. Kim Jung-un is looking to reduce the threat of any kind of kinetic strike against North Korea. China is going to be an important part of.

So, it makes sense from Kim Jung-un's perspective to finally meet with Xi Jinping. And from Xi Jinping's perspective, it makes sense to invite him because he doesn't want to be left out. No North Korean leader is going to meet with the South Korean counterpart and Trump. China wants to play. Chinas doesn't want to be left on the side line. It wants to make sure its interests are protected or at least discussed in these meetings.

BALDWIN: OK. So, it makes sense with the timing of Moon and Trump. And then back to you, Matt. Just the fun details on the train. There's a lot you don't know. But this thing -- I read this thing is so slow because it's bullet proof. RIVERS: Yes, I mean, this train from what we know about it is

extremely lavish. It has all kinds of satellite connections. It goes right across this one bridge that we've been to. We've reported near this one bridge. It is very old, right on the North Korea/Chinese border. Trains roll across there a couple times every day, but this is a very specific train, a couple dozen cars. We know from Russian diplomats that have ridden on it in the past that there's lavish feasts that's are given. There's all kinds of waitstaff and it is armored. So that train trip, we've taken it. It takes several hours to get down from the border area down to Beijing.

Why he chooses to do that? I'm not sure. He could get on a plane maybe. But maybe North Koreans say this is going to be the safest way to travel. And it's worth pointing out, this is Kim Jong-un -- if it is in fact him -- this is the first time he's left North Korea since he assumed power in 2012. So, it's fascinating that he chooses China and Sue Mi talked about it a little bit there. Shoring up that relationship with China is crucial, I think. Because the relationship between China and North Korea has not been good over the past several years.

They are economic life line for the North Korean regime. And yet China hasn't been happy. They've signed on to the sanctions that the Trump administration has pushed. And so, the North Korean leader may be making a rational decision here and saying we've got to make sure that our relationship with our ally is good before we go into negotiations our mortal enemy, as they put it, the United States.

BALDWIN: On that, Sue Mi, what kinds of conversations might he be having with his counterparts in Beijing? Especially ahead of this to be determined time and location meeting with the U.S. president.

TERRY: What kind of discussion that Kim Jung-un is having with Xi Jinping?


TERRY: Yes, absolutely. I think it's about, you know, I think Xi Jinping is looking for -- what is your objective here? Are you going to denuclearize? Is denuclearization on the table? And from Kim Jung-un's perspective he's trying get Xi Jinping's support. If we do a freeze from testing, for the missiles and nuclear testing and so on, will you support that? China did support freeze for freeze option before. So, there was this back and forth. Trying to really understand where each other is coming from and what their goals are. What is China's ultimate interests and North Korea's ultimately -- what is North Korea ultimately willing to put on the table. Is it really denuclearization? Is the nukes really on the table? I'm very skeptical. But I'm sure they are trying to sort of, gauge each other's intentions and goals.

BALDWIN: We will wait to see when the train returns to North Korea, if in fact this is Kim Jong-un. A little fun factoid from the "New York Times" piece. We don't know what they're reading on board but apparently Kim Jong-un reportedly prefers swiss cheese, Cristal champagne and Hennessey. So, there you go. Sue Mi and Matt, thank you both so much.

Next here on CNN, the family of Alton Sterling vows to keep fighting in his name after Louisiana's attorney general decides not to press charges against those police officers who shot and killed him. We will talk live to his aunt about today's major decision.


BALDWIN: There will be no state charges filed against the Baton Rouge police officers who shot and killed Louisiana native, Alton Sterling. Today the state declined to file criminal charges in his death in July of 2016. The decision comes nearly two years after Sterling was shot and killed while two officers held him on the grounds. And you are about to see video of that and we should warn you, it is graphic.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLICE OFFICER: Get on the ground. Do it. [beep] You keep on screwing up.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey man, do you see where the shots fired.


BALDWIN: Sterling's aunt, Veda Washington, says it is hard to understand how prosecutors, after seeing that video, could not hold the police officers accountable. We should also note attorneys for the Sterling family say more unseen footage will be released soon. Veda Washington is with me now. Miss Washington, thank you so much for taking a moment today.

[15:40:00] I cannot begin to imagine what you're thinking, what you're feeling. Will you tell me? I saw you outside the courthouse today saying, until they stop, we're going to stand. Tell me what you mean.

VEDA WASHINGTON, AUNT OF ALTON STERLING: What I meant was, we don't have anybody to go to. The police department, they swore to serve and protect us. They're coming out murdering us. Until we have somebody that we can come to, there's not going be anything stopped. There's not going to be any stopping and the killing in the streets. They're not going to stop. They don't have anybody they can go to. They don't have anybody that they can confide in about things that's going on. So, you know, they handle it on their own. They are going on their own doing things. Which I'm not in total agreement with it. We have to stop this black on black killing. I don't think, I don't think that murder is good on any hand. Whether it is black on black, white on white. I don't think murder is of God. I think it is of the devil. Especially what Salamoni he did. And they said that they don't find any fault in it. I think there's a problem there.

BALDWIN: No charges brought. That was the decision from the attorney general in Louisiana, Jeff Landry. Can you just tell me, what did prosecutors tell your family before that news conference today, Veda? Will you just walk me through that?

WASHINGTON: Well, I walked in they had already started the meeting. But when I got in, Jeff Landry looked like he was sitting in his living room. He was comfortable. I mean, just like he was reading a script that was already rehearsed. We knew that they weren't going to charge these police officers. That's why you didn't see anyone falling out screaming in disbelief. We knew that he was not going to find Salamoni and Blane guilty of anything.

BALDWIN: How did you know?

WASHINGTON: We knew this already because Baton Rouge, we don't have anybody sitting in a seat, from the mayor, the government, we don't have anybody sitting in the seat that's for the people. For the real people. We don't have that. This is a political thing that happened today. It wasn't about the people. It was just showing who had the bigger hand. Which they think they have the bigger hand. But they really don't.

BALDWIN: If the attorney general were on, you know, I'm sure he would say it is about the law. On the law, Veda, what specific points do you dispute? What do you disagree with?

WASHINGTON: All of it. All of it. They're a bunch of liars. When Alton's body was lying on the ground, the city police department was out there doing all kinds of stuff. Tearing the man's store down, trying get the other video which they couldn't get. But they tore a store up. You know, they were taking stuff away, putting stuff out. You know, we were watching them do all this before the other police officers came out. The city was doing all this. They had no business touching anything. But they did. That's what that led me to believe that they were covering up something. I tell you, it's going to come to a point where everybody is going to be held accountable for their actions. And it is not by my hand. And not by my might. But you're going to pay for what you did. It's just that simple.

BALDWIN: Let me -- let me play, this is Jeff Landry, the attorney general in Louisiana speaking.


JEFF LANDRY, LOUISIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL: After a thorough and exhaustive review of the evidence, the facts that can be established beyond a reasonable doubt, the law and jurisprudence in the state of Louisiana and the obligations of prosecutors under the code of professional conduct, the Louisiana Department of Justice cannot proceed with a prosecution of either officer Lake or officer Salamoni.


BALDWIN: Veda, let me ask you about the Department of Justice. Because is a whole other level of investigation. It was July of 16 when you lost your nephew. So, that would've been President Obama at the time. It was his Justice Department. They started this investigation. But then flash forward to May 2017, Trump's DOJ. They closed their investigation citing insufficient evidence for federal criminal charges against the police. So, it's a no for your family from state, from federal. What's next for your family?

WASHINGTON: We're going to continue to fight for justice. Because it's going to come one way or the other. It will come. My family is not the type of people that's going to stand down just because you said no. God will still say yes. That's what they don't understand. They're not ready.

[15:45:00] They are not ready for what God is going to bring down. They're just not ready. And I keep trying to explain that to them and they are preparing police officers all over Baton Rouge. Armor trucks all over Baton Rouge. They still don't get it. They're looking at a physical thing. This is a spiritual thing that they don't get. God is going to come down with a strong hand. You've hurt my child. Well, guess what? Four generations down, it's going to come back on you.

BALDWIN: Veda Washington, I wish you and your family peace. Thank you so much.

WASHINGTON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Moments ago, the White House defended a controversial change to the U.S. census, reinstating a question about citizenship. It hasn't been asked since the 1950s. We'll explain why that matters from everything from school funding to voting maps. Plus, we are watching the Dow, another big drop after another big gain, wild swings. Today drop because of tech stocks including Facebook. We will see if this sell-off accelerates in these last couple minutes of the trading day.


BALDWIN: The Trump administration is under fire today for something it just added to the census questionnaires. The question is this. Are you a U.S. citizen? And now attorneys general across the country are trying to shut it down claiming that the move means immigrants just won't participate in the U.S. census. New York is planning to lead a multistate lawsuit and California's attorney general has already filed a separate suit.


XAVIER BECERRA, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are here to convey a very simple message. If you're not counted, then you don't count. And in California, everyone should count.


BALDWIN: Now, the White House is saying that there's nothing to see here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a question that has been included in every census since 1965 with the exception of 2010 when it was removed. We've contained this question that's provided data that's necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters. And specifically, to help us better comply with the voting rights act which is something that is important and a part of this process.


BALDWIN: So, let's go to Rene Marsh. Because I want to you clear it up for me. You know, we heard Sarah Sanders say it's been on every census -- this question -- since '65 with the exception of the last say eight years. But the reporting I'm seeing is that this went away in the 1950s. Clear this up for us.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, so, Brooke, as far as census goes, you're right. It is the 1950s was the last time that this was asked. And the larger issue here is the justification that came right after that. They are essentially saying, look, we have to do this in order for us to better enforce the voting rights act. And opposition says just quite simply, flat out, that is baloney. There is heavy, heavy push back on this controversial move. Even the former U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, sounding off the alarm. Saying that, you know, asking this sort of citizenship question would negatively impact voting rights for decades. And ultimately, the fear is it would cause a population undercount because immigrants just wouldn't want to fill out the census.

And simply, why do we care? Well, the census is used to determine congressional district boundaries. And also, inaccurate population count could mean that communities would not get the adequate amount of federal funding for thing like health care, education, infrastructure. And that's why it was such a head scratcher today when the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, was asked point blank whether the move would affect the resource allocation for immigrant communities. And she flatly said no. There's no way that can be true if the population count is not accurate. We should point out, Brooke, this all comes at the request of the Department of Justice. The Trump administration again saying that this is what they need to do in order to enforce the voting rights act. But the argument is that essentially this data, they need it in order to do that. But opponents are saying, look, they can get this information somewhere else. There are other surveys, there are other beds of information and data that they can pull from. One Obama, DOJ attorney told me that they were able to aggressively handle voting rights violation cases, and this was not on the census at that time under the Obama administration.

BALDWIN: Rene Marsh with the fact check, thank you so much.

Also, today, the White House trying to explain the president's silence when it comes to Stormy Daniels and her accusations against him. Hear their explanation for that today. And breaking news involving his former campaign chairman and the charges against him. Hear the move Paul Manafort just made involving Robert Mueller's team.


BALDWIN: Just in two CNN, Paul Manafort has asked to have federal charges against him dismissed in the state of Virginia. President Trump's former campaign manager has pleaded not guilty to tax and federal fraud charges. His attorneys argued that special counsel Mueller's indictment of him exceeded the special counsel's authority.

Also, new today, horrific details of criminal charges against the former boss of disgrace USA gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar. Ex- Michigan State University Dean William Strampel just appeared in court. He is accused of allegedly groping, demeaning and sexually assaulting the female students. According to a criminal complaint, he also threatened students to solicited nude pictures and kept porn on his computer. His bond was set at $25,000.

I'm Brooke Baldwin, thanks for being with me today.

Let's go to Washington, Jim Sciutto sitting in for Jake Tapper. "THE LEAD" starts right now.