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Russia to Close U.S. Consulate and Expel Diplomats; Trump Compares Mexico Border to DMZ; Chinese Envoy to Meet with South Korean President; Malala Returns; Stephon Clark: Hundreds Attend Funeral of Unarmed Black Man Killed By Police; Ball-Tampering Drama Overshadows South Africa Test; Japanese Sensation Ohtani Makes American Debut; Commonwealth Games To Begin Next Month Down Under. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 30, 2018 - 02:00   ET




ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour: Russia hits back, expelling 60 U.S. diplomats and closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg.

High stakes diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula: a Chinese envoy is in Seoul with a message from President Xi Jinping.

And families demand answers days after a massive fire killed dozens at a detention center in Venezuela.

Hello and welcome to viewers around the world. I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.


SESAY: Well, Russia is retaliating. The Kremlin has ordered the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg to close and has told 60 U.S. diplomats to leave. Once this move comes after the U.S. expelled 60 Russian diplomats. More than 20 U.S. allies have also told Russian envoys to leave.

The international action follows the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain. The U.K. said Russia was behind it. Now the United States calls this latest move by Moscow regrettable and is reviewing the decision.


HEATHER NAUERT, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: You break the chemical weapons convention.

And that is in place for a reason. That is in place so that countries can be responsible parties and so that they can work together, we can all work together in some sort of peaceful understanding of the kinds of weapons that won't be used against civilians. Russia broke with that. Russia broke with that and so a lot of countries made the decision

that they needed to be held responsible and that their spies need to be held responsible and kicked out.


SESAY: Well, Jill Dougherty is a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center. She joins us from Seattle, Washington, and from Jerusalem, CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson.

Welcome to you both.

Nic, I'll start with you. Russia's decision to expel the 60 U.S. diplomats was surely expected from the U.S. But the decision to close or call for the closure of the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia's second largest city, would that have surprised the U.S.?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Given that the Russian foreign ministry issued the similar instructions to the British, to the British ambassador in Moscow, I don't think it could have been a huge surprise.

Also, as the United States did shutter the Russian consulate in Seattle as well for some very specific reasons, I don't think it would have come as too much of a surprise.

Indeed, from what we understand, from the Russian foreign ministry, that the U.S. ambassador, Jon Huntsman, was called into the foreign ministry and asked to explain and given the -- given the understanding in no uncertain terms that if the U.S. responds by the closure of other Russian consulates or affects other Russian diplomatic staff in the United States, then the United States can expect more actions from Russia of a similar ilk.

So I don't think that there will have been a huge amount of surprise. But what we've heard from the United States is a very clear message to Russia, that they believe that that the closure or the -- or at least telling the United States it can't open the consulate in St. Petersburg, will actually have an effect on the Russian staff who would work there.

So the message is very clear: you are hurting us but you're also hurting yourselves.

SESAY: Jill, Nic makes the important point that, with the closure of the U.S. -- of the Russian consulate in Seattle, that was done for specific reasons.

What would the reasoning have been for targeting the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg?

Is there a specific strategic reason for choosing that location?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can't say that there really is. But certainly it's one -- it's the major consulate in Russia, significant. And it hurts, of course, to close that down and to get rid of the diplomats who were working there. It's a blow.

But I think, you know, Isha, right now what you have, you can have tit-for-tat and back-and-forth. But eventually in a sense you run out of people. And what they're really worried about, I think the Russians are, steps that could go beyond kicking out personnel, expelling diplomats, et cetera.

I think you're getting into possible fear, you know, possible steps economically, financially against Russians, very rich Russians, who have their money in London. Other attempts by the British government to have more --


DOUGHERTY: -- transparency in investments and property and everything else.

That sends some worrying signals to the people who are close to Putin, who are under the influence of the Kremlin. And it could be a real problem. I was noting in particular that diplomatic note that was handed by the Russian deputy foreign minister to the American ambassador in Moscow.

And the phrasing of that is very, very serious. They're saying if property is taken, which it could be, dire consequences for global security. I mean, that goes way beyond personnel. That's very serious. And that's where we are -- that's the dangerous area that we're getting into right now.

SESAY: And to pick up on that with Nic, I mean that's the whole point here right now. We're talking about the principle of reciprocity, your 60 for my 60.

But the danger here is that we could move into a space where it's an asymmetric response and we're moving into a different ball game, right?

ROBERTSON: Well, one of the things that President Putin promised the Russian electorate in the recent presidential elections for his next six-year term was a massive investment in infrastructure, in health care, in education. And that requires a sound financial system to do that.

And what Jill is saying is absolutely what we're picking up. I mean, if you listen to the questions asked to the British prime minister, Theresa May, she is being asked to make sure there is scrutiny on these so-called tier one investment visas in the U.K.

Since 2008 to 2015 about 2,500 of those were issued; 700 of them, about a quarter were issued to rich Russians. Essentially, for several million dollars, you were able to, you know, get in expedited type of type of visa, an ability to travel and live in London.

So the question is being framed to Theresa May is, have you looked at the money behind these very rich, these oligarchs, these Russians who you're allowing into London, is their money clean, is it generated through proper business, if you will?

Although those specific Russians are not being investigated, the tier one visa system is being investigated. Also people have pointed out that, in the last few weeks, in the last month perhaps, British financial institutions in the city of London help sell about $4 billion worth of Russian debt.

So the questions are now being raised, should Britain put itself in that position?

Should it allow Russia essentially to help finance itself going forward?

Should it allow rich oligarchs perhaps to launder money or perhaps have political influence or allow them to reside and have any kind of influence in the U.K.?

These kinds of questions are being asked. But it gets to the heart of that financial issue, that the finances for President Putin are hugely important going forward and therefore curtailing his ability to raise money for his business men to operate easily overseas, these would all be areas that could hurt him.

So asymmetric in the terms of what Jill said, the message that was given to Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador, the less specific but very broad and concerning threats, yes, it's entering -- it's entering the potential for beyond tit-for-tat.

SESAY: Yes, certainly is.

Jill Dougherty there in Seattle and Nic Robertson joining us there from the Middle East. We appreciate it. Thank you to you both.

All right, well, President Trump is spending the Easter weekend at his Mar-a-lago resort in Florida. But he didn't go quietly. He spent part of the day in Ohio, talking about his plans for a border wall for Mexico, his decision to fire the Veterans Affairs Secretary and a host of other topics. CNN's Jim Acosta reports.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump was finally spotted saying good- bye to his outgoing communications director, Hope Hicks, after days of staying away from the cameras and avoiding the questions dogging his presidency --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever discuss pardons?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the payment to Stormy Daniels?

ACOSTA: The president broke his silence in Ohio, using what was billed as an official speech on infrastructure as something of a campaign rally to do some repair work of his own.

TRUMP: Now I've proven you've got a friend in the White House. ACOSTA: The president defended his record in office, touting the unemployment rate for African-Americans.

TRUMP: Remember, I said, "What do you have to lose? What do you have to lose?"

ACOSTA: Vowing to build the wall on the border with Mexico.

TRUMP: And we're getting that sucker built and you think that's easy?

ACOSTA: And holding up his looming talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as a foreign policy success.

TRUMP: Maybe it'll be good and maybe it won't. And if it's no good, we're walking.

ACOSTA: Though at one point, the president seemed to acknowledge that he may be better suited for the real-estate business.

TRUMP: I think better than being president, I was maybe good at building.


TRUMP: Like you people, you're good at building. I think maybe we'll be better at president.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump also talked up his efforts to clean up the nation's systems for caring for U.S. veterans.

TRUMP: That's why I made some changes, because I wasn't happy with

the speed with which our veterans were taken care of.

ACOSTA: One day after he fired David Shulkin as the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin who believes he was ousted because he opposed privatizing the V.A., responded in a scathing op- ed, writing, "The environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve."

The president's replacement, White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson, is perhaps best well-known for his glowing assessment of Mr. Trump's health this year. Jackson's performance, one White House official said, played a part in the president's decision to tap the doctor.

ADMIRAL RONNY L. JACKSON, NOMINEE FOR V.A. SECRETARY: I told the president if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old. I don't know. I mean, he has incredible -- he has incredible genes. I just assume.

ACOSTA: The president did not mention Russia in his speech, despite the administration's move to expel 60 Russian diplomats this week. Russia responded in kind today, kicking out the same number of U.S. officials, as well as ordering the closing of a consulate in St. Petersburg. ROSEANNE BARR, COMEDIAN: The important thing is that you voted.

ACOSTA: But President did find time to talk about his phone call with Roseanne Barr, whose sit-com is geared toward Trump voters.

TRUMP: Look at Roseanne. I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings. Look at the ratings. They were unbelievable: over 18 million people and it was about us.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Jim Acosta, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.


SESAY: Well, Peter Matthews joins me now here in L.A. He's a professor of political science at Cypress College.

Peter, thank you for being with us. Hard to keep a straight face.


SESAY: That was a speech, the speech the president gave in Ohio on Thursday, supposedly about infrastructure.

And it turned into a free-wheeling, wide-ranging campaign stump rant.

MATTHEWS: And don't forget Roseanne Barr and the wall.

SESAY: What did you make of it?

MATTHEWS: I think that, first of all, his infrastructure plan that he had is so woefully inadequate, $200 billion of federal money to supposedly leverage another trillion dollars' worth of money from the states and private sector.

Furthermore, something he's really focusing on that plan, he doesn't expect to get it this year before the midterm elections, he was rambling all over the place. He's campaigning still, already for 2020.

And he brings in Roseanne Barr because her audience and the way she was, her character seemed to focus on how good Mr. Trump was, why she voted for him.

So I think he is using this as a political ploy. And also that's his normal standard of operation. He wanders all over the place, right.

SESAY: Yes, I mean to stick with the infrastructure topic for a second.


SESAY: To your point, there is not much appetite for this on Capitol Hill. I mean, as far as lawmakers are concerned, they have got other things to deal with this year, going into the midterms.

MATTHEWS: And you have got a majority Republican Congress. SESAY: Indeed. But if you have a president who's supposed to be out there selling it and he can't be bothered to sell it, he's busy talking about the Roseanne Barr and the DMZ and a war --

MATTHEWS: It's unfathomable, he's just -- unbelievable that he would not even focus on that and at least try to sell the plan that he has. President Roosevelt, FDR in the '30s, he spent $580 billion on infrastructure and hiring people directly and building roads and bridges and electricity plants. And that was something that we should be doing now.

The American Society of Civil Engineers, they say we need $5 trillion of infrastructure spending to rebuild our infrastructure. Here is President Trump, can't even sell an inadequate plan. He can't even sell, didn't want to sell it.

SESAY: Well, he is committed, determined to sell the wall. That hasn't changed. Take a listen to some of what he had to say about that.


TRUMP: We have made history by massively reducing job killing taxes. And we didn't have one Democrat who voted for that. They want to raise your taxes. And they want people to come in from the border. And they want, I guess, want I can't imagine they want but certainly drugs are flowing across borders. We need walls.


SESAY: It's once again, this kind of the untruth, you know, the merging, the blending of his -- what he considers to be his facts with what we know to be true, what's happening at the border.


SESAY: Once again, painting the picture that Democrats are soft on crime, soft on immigration and don't want to keep this country safe.

MATTHEWS: And then we're invaded by these immigrants. He says -- it's like fearmongering. He is a protecting style leader, who stirs up fear in the hearts of his followers and then he offers them protection by building this wall, by keeping the foreigners out.

I think that's a fear tactic to maintain his power, shore up his base, which --


MATTHEWS: -- by the way, is only about 35 percent of the voters. And he thinks he is going to win again with that. But he is not.

So it is unfathomable why he wouldn't focus more on plans that could bring in some compromise, like the infrastructure bill, where both parties want some rebuilding of roads and bridges that are falling down. This president is just all over the place. He is not focused. It's

very dangerous for our country right now and for even both parties. And I'm wondering when the Republicans will wake up and see this.

SESAY: Well, the other big story on Thursday was the news that broke about Rick Gates, who as you know was part of the Trump campaign.


SESAY: And it emerged from CNN reporting and from court documents that he is helping Bob Mueller, the special counsel, with his central mission of investigating, seeing what level of connection, if there was one, contacts between the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman and Russia.

This is pretty major news, when you consider Rick Gates, while he himself wasn't close to Trump, he is very close to a number of people in that inner circle.

MATTHEWS: That's right. And he has been with Trump a long time, much longer than Manafort, in fact. And he knew exactly what was going on when Manafort was around and other people in that circle, Trump's inner circle. He could just tell all to Mueller. He probably already has told quite a bit in exchange for a lenient sentence.

And whether the president should be concerned considerably. And yet Mueller is going full force forward to see what is Gates' connection with the possible Russians' intelligence agent, which has been found to be the case now.

And if there was a connection, that agent could have been working for the Russian government at the time. So it establishes a greater connection, potential connection between the Trump administration and the Russian government possibly.

SESAY: Which you would think, looking at the facts, takes this whole line from the Trump support -- Trump -- the president's supporters that there is no connection here, that there's been no establishment of a connection here.

Does that line die on the vine now?

MATTHEWS: It's certainly been weakened considerably and it could be falling by the wayside pretty soon, as Mueller goes forward. And I think they have to rethink their strategy at this point. That's all we're hearing is denial, denial, denial. It didn't work.

SESAY: Peter Matthews, always a pleasure.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Same here. Thank you.

SESAY: Quick break here. High stakes and high level diplomacy next on CNN NEWSROOM. Why a Chinese envoy is in North Korea.

Plus Malala Yousafzai says it's a dream come true. Why the Nobel laureate's latest trip is like no other. All of that just ahead. (MUSIC PLAYING)



SESAY: Well, Moscow says the fight to push rebel groups out of Eastern Ghouta is almost over. It says Douma is the last town in the region still held by rebel fighters. Thousands of them have left on government buses.

There's reports they are being taken to other areas held by insurgents. The U.N. Humanitarian Affairs Office says, in almost two months, nearly 1,600 people have been killed, tens of thousands are displaced. Russia's defense minister is quoted as saying people can begin to return to Eastern Ghouta --


SESAY: -- in few days.

A top Chinese envoy expected to sit down this hour with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. That envoy met earlier with a number of other officials, including the foreign minister and top security adviser.

Among the topics to be discussed, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's recent trip to Beijing and the upcoming summit between Moon and Kim.

All of this comes as U.S. President Trump threatens to slow down a trade deal with South Korea as leverage in his upcoming summit with North Korea.

Our Alexandra Field is watching all of this from Seoul.

So, Alex, this envoy there in Seoul, taking important meetings.

Talk to me about the expectations of these meetings but also, how welcome is this stepped-up involvement of China?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, China was going to certainly want to have stepped-up involvement. It was South Korea that really led the charge when we saw this cascade of diplomatic developments, an announcement that there would be a summit between North Korea and South Korea and then really just the jaw-dropping announcement that President Trump had agreed to sit down with North Korea.

South Korea has really pushed that. So it did come as a surprise certainly to officials to learn that Kim Jong-un had gone on a secretive visit to Beijing earlier this week. But it was an opportunity for these two leaders to shore up a strained relationship, to give Kim Jong-un some added muscle as he goes into these meetings, these summits with South Korea and the United States.

A Chinese envoy is now in South Korea, talking about what happened at the meeting in Beijing, saying it was yet again an opportunity for Kim Jong-un to express his interest in having continued talks about denuclearization -- with conditions.

All of that happening as South Korea continues to take strides to improve inter-Korean relations. There was a talk at the DMZ between high-level officials from both countries just yesterday and this weekend another major step forward, as a large delegation crosses the border from South Korea into North Korea. Here is why.


FIELD (voice-over): North Korea had never seen anything like it, history made in 1985, when South Korean performers headed north and North Koreans headed south, starting a sporadic tradition of cultural exchanges across one of the world's most heavily fortified borders.

It's been 16 years since Yoon Do-hyun and his legendary South Korean rock group performed in Pyongyang.

FIELD: How did the people in the audience react to you, to your music?

YOON DO-HYUN, MUSICIAN: It was awkward. Yes.

FIELD: Awkward?

YOON: Awkward because they weren't experience about, you know, Korean rap music before, I think.

FIELD (voice-over): When the band arrived in 2002, heads turned.

YOON: (Speaking foreign language).

FIELD (voice-over): He says, "Our guitarist's hair was yellow. The North Koreans talked about his hair and said we could not perform."

So it wasn't easy from the beginning. But he believes the performance won hearts.

Yoon's group, the YB Band, is getting ready to do it again, part of a carefully selected delegation of South Korean performers heading north. Among them, famous singers, a hit K-pop bond and YB guitarist Scott Hellowell, one of the few foreign nationals on the trip.

FIELD: This is not a normal tour stop.

How do you feel about going in?

SCOTT HELLOWELL, YB BAND: I talked to my mom the other day and told her. And she had a kind of reaction and then she was like, wow, that could be such a good experience. It could be pretty amazing. So...

FIELD (voice-over): Today the tone of the relationship between the Koreas is changing rapidly. Last year's barrage of nuclear missile tests and nuclear developments giving way to plans for historic talks between the leaders of North and South Korea and between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump himself. The falling tensions started last February, when North Korea sent a

delegation to the Olympics in South Korea, performers from both sides shared one stage, a moment that moved the audience. Yoon couldn't hold back the tears the last time he performed in Pyongyang.

On his mind, his grandmother, whose family is in the North, separated from her for decades by war, by that border.

YOON: Before I go, she asked me, can you find my family?

So I imagine my grandmother, you know. I can't -- I couldn't resist about, you know, yes. I cried.


FIELD: These South Korean artists will put upon a show for a North Korean audience on Sunday night. Then on Tuesday, they'll actually be joined on stage by North Korean artists. Certainly going to be a symbolic and a significant moment for those involved and everyone watching it -- Isha.

SESAY: Yes, it really will be very, very memorable. Alexandra Field, joining us there from Seoul, appreciate it. Thank you.


SESAY: Well, Malala Yousafzai left Pakistan on a gurney, the victim of Taliban gunfire. The extremists tried to kill the education activist back in 2012. But they thankfully failed.

Now Malala has returned to Pakistan and she is not backing down. The Nobel laureate arrived on Thursday in her first trip home since being shot. She met with the country's prime minister and gave a speech on national television. Here is how she described her homecoming.


MALALA YOUSAFZAI, EDUCATION ACTIVIST (through translator): I am so happy. I still can't believe that this is actually happening. For the past five years, I have always dreamed that I would come home.

When I would be in the plane, in the car and I would look at the cities of London or New York, I would tell myself, imagine it's home. Imagine it's a city back home that you're driving in Islamabad, imagine it's Karachi. But it never was true. And today it is.

And I am so happy.


SESAY: Well, the Taliban has said before it will target Malala again if she returns to Pakistan. She is under heavy security, of course, as you'd imagine, to make sure she stays safe on this trip home.

There is more fallout on the cheating scandal rocking Australian cricket. Australia's fourth test against South Africa is just under two hours away and it's set to be Darren Lehmann's last as coach. He has announced he is stepping down after three of his players were caught in a ball tampering scheme. He made this emotional announcement Thursday.


DARREN LEHMANN, AUSTRALIA CRICKET COACH: I hope the team rebuilds from this and the Australian public find it in their hearts to forgive these young men and get behind the 11 who are going to take the field tomorrow.


SESAY: Well, three of his players have been suspended over the scandal. They're back in Australia and have begged for forgiveness.

Quick break. In the coming up, emotions running high in Sacramento, California, after the funeral of an unarmed black man, killed by police.

Plus growing outrage in Venezuela, the tragic event that set off a new round of protests there, just ahead.


[02:30:00] SESAY: She and her father Sergei were poisoned with a nerve agent earlier this month in Southern England. He remains in critical but stable condition. Police believed they first came into contact with the poison at Sergei's home.

Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail with a wide ranging speech in Ohio. The U.S. President talked up his plan a border wall at Mexico, bragged about the booming U.S. economy and said U.S. troops will come out of Syria very soon after knocking out ISIS.

Well, crowd too large for the church turned out for Stephon Clark's funeral in Sacramento, California Thursday. It was an overwhelming response to the latest police shooting to grip the U.S. Stephon Clark was an unarmed black man shot dead by police right there in his grandmother's backyard. Police say they mistook his cellphone for a gun. Clark's brother led the mourners in an all emotional call and response.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am -- louder. Louder. Louder. Louder. Louder. Louder. OK. Now, listen, you love me?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Mama, I love you more. (INAUDIBLE) for Stephon. We're going to go libraries. We're going to do resources centers. We're (INAUDIBLE) Stephon is going to live for generations to generations to generations to generations. The Clark's family will never die.


SESAY: Over the past week, protesters have taken to the streets in their hundreds blocking highways and the entrance to NBA games. The Clark's family's attorney is calling on supporters to remain non- violent. Political and economic crisis have made protest common in Venezuela. But this week, clashes with police took on a different tone. A jailhouse fire west of Caracas killed dozens of inmates and now families are demanding answers. CNNs Rafael Romo has more on the tragedy.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Tear gas, desperation, confrontation; these are not the familiar scenes of opposition protesting in Venezuela, but crowds of anguished relatives demanding to know if their loved ones are alive, dead, or injured.

CARMEN CALDERA, MOTHER OF INMATE (through translator): They have not told me anything. I want to know about my child. I don't have any information on him. I don't know anything. We want information about our family members. We need information. Look at how desperate we are.

ROMO: Carmen Caldera's son is an inmate at the Valencia Detention Center, which was part of a police station where Venezuela's head prosecutor says at least 68 people are dead following a massive fire there, Wednesday. Police were initially quiet about the details. Anger boiled over Thursday as some faced off with officers in riot gear, who shot tear gas at the crowd. Some simply wept.

ISETT GONZALES, SISTER OF INMATE (through translator): I came here because I haven't heard anything regarding my brother since 7:00 in the morning. They say a lot of people are dead, people got burned, people who are injured. They've taken out the injured. Where are these people? No one knows whether they are here or in a hospital or really where they are?

ROMO: Venezuela's chief prosecutor tweeted that officials will clarify these painful events that has dozens of Venezuelan families in mourning. And the United Nations has urged a prompt investigation into one of the deadliest incidents inside Venezuela's violent and notoriously crowded prison system in recent years. One Venezuelan watchdog group says the detention center in Valencia has a 40-person capacity, but housed nearly 200 inmates. "This is what the chaos that all of Venezuela is experiencing has led to," the group's director said in a written statement. Venezuelan officials have not made any comments on the NGO's claims. It's still unclear exactly how and why 68 people lost their lives at this detention center in Valencia, but their loved ones will anxiously wait to find out. Rafael Romo, CNN.


SESAY: Coming up John Vause joins me as we get immersed in the blues. Grammy Award winning actors Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper discuss their new album and the power of music.


[02:36:38] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back everybody. It's been said the blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling bad. At its best, the blues of raw metallic emotion from unbridled joy to deep sadness and that is what you get that with legendary musicians Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite and their follow-up album to the Grammy Award winning getup.

SESAY: No Mercy In This Land is smoldering title track on their album where blues past and present and future come together.



SESAY: Well, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite join us now right here in Los Angeles. Welcome gentlemen, welcome.

BEN HARPER, AMERICAN SINGER: Thank you for having us.


SESAY: What a tremendous sound. I mean just that little clip we just played there. We love this album, Ben. We love it. It's raw. It's gritty. I mean you said that blues is sacred. You say it's the most sacred form of music out there. Just explain to me the sound you captured in this -- in this album.

HARPER: It's the sound -- the blues is the sound that brought me to make music. And Charlie is a huge part of that soundtrack and growing up hearing his music, growing up with his music, so to get to collaborate with him in the genre that to me is the most sacred of all is a lifetime accomplishment in and of itself.



SESAY: And Charlie, talk to us about the power of the blues, what you always try to get across and bring out in the listener.

MUSSELWHITE: Well, I think I'm answering your question. I want to say for me blues is more than just music. It's got a whole another thing going on. I call it your buddy in good times and your comforter in rough times. It's always there for you. It will get you through in the spirit of it as no matter how bad things are, we can do it.

SESAY: So Ben, last time you were here was almost two years ago and we were talking about your album back then call it what it is. And this is a protest album and it was protesting African-American men by police. The essentially police shooting of African-American men in this country which wasn't epidemic and still seems to be an epidemic because the last couple of weeks there was a shooting in Sacramento. African-American man shot dead in his grandmother's backyard. He was unarmed. In Houston, same thing again. African-American man shot dead by a police officer, unarmed. It just seems that, you know, since that album, what it ebbs and it flows. You feel like that album made a difference, you know, when you look at what's happened over the last two years getting much progress has been made there.

HARPER: Not fast enough. And the through line between call it what it is and what you bring up, and Florida --

[02:40:00] Well, I want to -- I want to incorporate gun laws into this process. But gun laws and police brutality are their own lanes and trigger happy police and is just -- it's -- I would -- if the goal is a change within the system.

SESAY: Um-hum.

VAUSE: Right. Yes.

HARPER: That should be paired with a shift in consciousness. And how those are implemented culturally and within a police force, that' beyond my job description and above my pay grade. But both -- but it's crucial that we keep the dialogue alive.



SESAY: Charlie, what do you make of the times we're living in right now?

MUSSELWHITE: I want to go and start over again.

VAUSE: Get a do over.


MUSSELWHITE: I mean I want to go back to that point and we did -- insuring back on the track. This ain't making sense. This is not civilized.



MUSSELWHITE: I just hope it's a bump in the road and that people wake up and we'll get back to a civilized society where everybody treats each other like they would like to be treated. The golden rule.


VAUSE: It's been -- yes. (INAUDIBLE) there's a -- sing about Charlie's experience, right? How much of a difference does it make to put those stories sort of on the record in music accessible to everybody?

HARPER: I just think it's very important if you're going to step to the blues, you step to the blues in a way that is as sincere as you can possibly pour onto the page and pour out of your instrument. And Charlie and I tell each other's stories through our instruments, through our playing, through our production of these records. It's a great privilege. And my highest life accomplishment working with this gentleman here to get to --


HARPER: But, you know, it's just -- it's what it is. And I -- and I think in a hundred years they'll be celebrating -- they'll be continuing to celebrate this man's sound and hopefully I will have played a small role in that.

VAUSE: Sounds like there could be a third album?

HARPER: You got that right.

HARPER: Then you're the first person who asked -- when is the third -- when is the third one coming out? And we don't even have the second one coming out. So thank you for giving us a little time.

VAUSE: Well, we look forward to it.

SESAY: We look forward to it. Been such a pleasure.

VAUSE: Thanks, guys.

HARPER: Thank you.


VAUSE: Thanks so much for coming here.


SESAY: And the news continues right after this.

VAUSE: You're watching CNN.




KATE RILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: Welcome along to World Sport. I'm Kate Riley at CNN Center. Following the weekend's cricket scandal involving the Australians. The three players involved with the ball tampering have spoken publicly on Wednesday once the disgraced trio flew home and face the music has it were. Earlier, a tearful Steve Smith said he was sorry and absolutely devastated for his part in the scandal.


[02:45:20] STEVE SMITH, CAPTAIN, AUSTRALIA NATIONAL CRICKET TEAM: To all of my teammates, to fans of cricket all over the world, and to all Australians who are disappointed and angry, I'm sorry. It was a failure of leadership, of my leadership. I'll do everything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it's caused. If any good can come to this, if it can be a lesson to others, then I hope I can be a force for change.

Any time you think about making a questionable decision, think about who you are affecting, you are affecting your parents, and to see the way my old man is been --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, thanks, everybody.

SMITH: And my mom is -- it hurts.


RILEY: Following the weekend's cricket scandal involving the Australians, their national coach is to quit. Darren Lehmann will step down after the fourth and final Test in Johannesburg, which starts on Friday. The 48 year old was cleared of any implication in the ball-tampering.


DARREN LEHMANN, COACH, AUSTRALIA NATIONAL CRICKET TEAM: As I stated before, I had no prior knowledge of the incident and do not condone what happened at all. But good people can make mistakes. My family and I copped a lot of abuse over the last week and it's taken its toll on them. As many who sit in this room will know life on the road means a long time away from our loved ones, and after speaking with my family at length over the last few days, it's the right time to step away.


RILEY: And just to remind you, former captain Steve Smith, along with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were handed temporary bans for their part in the cheating scandal.

Well, earlier this year, we got to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. These games were billed as the peace games as we saw both North and South Korea compete under the same unified account. And, now we can tell you that Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee has arrived in Pyongyang, that's North Korea's capital at the invitation of the county's own Olympic body.

The German scheduled to be there until Saturday with discussions on development of sports across the nation set to be included.

Right then, coming up on the show, we have plenty of fun with it this time last year. Remember, the Ronaldo bust that went very, very wrong. Well, a year on from all the mocking of friends at bleacher report has challenged the sculptor to do it all again. We have the results on the way.


[02:50:36] RILEY: Welcome back to the show. Not since the 1930s have we seen the likes of the Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani. That is a baseball player who's touted equally for both pitching and batting. He'll start at the L.A. Angels pitcher on Sunday. But on Thursday is opening day, we can tell you that the 23 year old made his debut for the Angels as a designated hitter against Oakland. He even got a hit in his first at bat. A fantastic start for him and many congratulations.

All right, then, the Commonwealth Games will get underway in Australia next month. However, we will not be seeing someone who Usain Bolt calls the future face of athletics. Back at the Summer Games in 2016, Wayde van Niekerk made headlines when he won the 400-meter gold medal in a world record time of 43.03 seconds, Michael Johnson's 1999 mark.

Well, the young South African followed that up by taking gold the following year in the 400 at the World Championships over in England. But late last year his world would be turned upside down after he suffered a serious knee injury in a charity touch rugby match. He underwent surgery and is in a rehabilitation program. The incident prompted Olympic legend, Edwin Moses to label the sprinter a knucklehead. Something, CNN's Patrick Snell, put to Wayde.


WAYDE VAN NIEKERK, AFRICAN TRACK AND FIELD SPRINTER: everyone has got something to save, but I mean, I'm only human and we ought human we love. I mean, as a guy as well, we love playing sports, we love doing sports. So, it's something that I guess was bound to happen if I continue doing external sports and so on. But, we need to live our lives. We need to enjoy our lives and do what we enjoy doing.

And at first, it was quite a bit of regret, wishing I could turn back time. But quickly got -- I quickly got used to the reality of where I am and what I have to go through to get myself back. I couldn't dwell too much on the negativity and too much on the regret by trying to build an environment that would keep moving me forward and continue building that consistency and sort of a positive mentality to come back even stronger than when I -- when I got injured.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: When you actually expect to be back in action? And give us a timeline which event might you be competing in?

NIEKERK: Well, I'll probably be back late this year. While I start working on a few small events, but I think main, -- like proper completions would probably start 2019. And my goals and my dreams are still the same. Still wanting to dominate, one, two, three, four, you name it. So, whatever opportunities like it, I'll decide once we get closer to competitions, and just listen to how my body feels and then decide from there.

SNELL: Sadly you won't be at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, just spell out how frustrating is that for you.

NIEKERK: I think at the moment, I've really come to terms with my situation. So my heart and our mind is really at peace. I still need to convince myself if I'm going to watch. But I think for -- SNELL: You are saying you might not watch.

NIEKERK: I might not -- I might not, but I'll see. I mean, our South African guys are always someone that -- of people that are like supporting, South African athletics is picking up quite well. And obviously, as a South African, and as a fan of the sports, I'd love to see the guys do great in an international arena and stage as well.

SNELL: Let me take you back in time to a certain place called Rio de Janeiro, 2016, the world record and amazing feast in the 400 meters in Brazil. When you reflect back on that when you look back on that now, what does that achievement mean to you?

NIEKERK: What I've done at Rio is definitely been a great stepping stone for me in my career. But I mean, I'm still very young. I still have a lot of room for improvement, a lot of room for achievement. So, I'm at the stage where -- I've been at the stage where you need to put that aside and try and create new memories, try and create new goals. I can't be stuck on that achievement that I already achieved. I have to start focusing on what I -- what I can do and what I want to do and hopefully in the future I can -- I can create more and more let's say moments like Rio.

[02:55:17] SNELL: You've trained, then, and you've been close to Usain Bolt, Jamaican sprint legend. of course. What's the single most important thing if you had to pick one, the single most important thing you've learned from him?

NIEKERK: I have the utmost respect and I really honor him for the greatness that he has displayed in track and field. And I think for an athlete as well, he is -- inspiration speaks volumes for all of us, and I've definitely cherished every moment I had with him in terms of just rubbing shoulders with a great like him and learning from him.

SNELL: And he has tipped you to be the face of athletics. How do you react to that?

NIEKERK: Not -- I mean, it's a -- it's a real honor. It's definitely puts some form of responsibility on your shoulders in terms of showing a great example and a positive light for the sports. And that's really -- I mean, I guess it's part of the game. It shows that you're growing in the sport and if a great like Usain Bolt, backs you and supports you, I think it's something you shouldn't take lightly. So, it's one thing saying it, but you need to know back it up as well.


RILEY: -- words from Wayde there. All right, this time last year we couldn't hold back the giggles. You know the phrase it's so bad, it's good, and that summed up on next item. 12 months ago, a bronze bust of the superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo was unveiled. And then, the internet broke.

Well, our friends at Bleacher Report, gave the sculpture, Emanuel Santos has shown to a redemption asking if he'd like to have another chance. One more try to capture his football hero in art form, and he said yes. So, what do you think? You can log onto and watch the entire mini-documentary for yourself of tragedy and triumph, it is a well worth a look, promise.

All right, that's it from us. Thanks so much for watching. Stay with CNN, the news is next.