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U.S.-China trade wars; Russia Investigation; Sierra Leone Elections; War Torn Eastern Ghouta; Russian Deportation of U.S. Diplomats; Trump Pushes Back On Fears of a Trade War with China; Liverpool Crush Man City 3-0 In First Leg; Ronaldo Scores Wonder Goal In Real Madrid Win; Jack Nicklaus Grandson Hits Hole-In-One. 2-3a ET

Aired April 5, 2018 - 02:00   ET


[02:00:52] ISHA SESAY, CNN, ANCHOR: This is Newsroom L.A. Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I am Isha Sesay. We begin with some major moves in both the military and diplomatic fronts for U.S. President Donald Trump. First, Syria, sources tell CNN that the President is irritated with top military brass, advising him against withdrawing U.S. troops immediately. Instead, the White House is now talking about a more gradual pullout.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE, SPOKESPERSON: The purpose would be to transition, that, and train local enforcement as well as have our allies and partners in the region who have a lot more at risk, to put more skin in to the game. And certainly, that's something that the President wants to see happen. It's for them to step up and for them to do more.


SESAY: Meanwhile, the President has authorized the deployment of the National Guard troops to the border with Mexico, but the administration won't say how many troops, where they'll go, or for how long. And China is responding to U.S. plans to new tariffs on Chinese goods. Beijing says it will impose a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of U.S. goods, including planes, cars, chemicals, and soybeans.

Fears of a trade war sent the DOW plunging down more than 500 points in the early trading, but the blue chips rallied to close 230 points higher. Jessica Levinson is a Professor of Law and Governance at Loyola Law School. CNN's Ivan Watson is standing by for us in Beijing. And CNN Military Analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona joins us by Skype. And Robert English is the Deputy Director of the USC School of Internationals Relations.

We have a full house. Welcome to you all. Ivan, to you first in Beijing, Trump's new economic adviser saying that there is no trade war. Part of the Trump Administration's plan right now it seems is to tamp down talk of an escalating situation. But is Beijing viewing these tariffs in the same way.

IVAN WATSON, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what we have clearly seen is, you know, one side threatening tariffs, the other side responding threatening tariffs, posturing, and now both sides calling for some kind of negotiation. That's certainly what we're hearing from Chinese officials. By the way, Isha, it's a holiday here so we're not going to hear probably much comment now.

But the Chinese Ambassador to Washington spoke to journalists. He said it takes two to tango, and he also called for negotiation. And we heard kind of an echo of that coming from the White House. They are repeating their accusation that China has unfair trade practices. And they're saying that it's up to China to do the right thing. But also saying we are trying to -- we don't want a trade war right now.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Spokesperson saying it could be months before the tariffs that have been proposed by both sides would actually go into effect. So there seems to be some wiggle room here. The Chinese strategy seems to very much be -- try to threaten to hurt the U.S. economy, where there are supporters for President Trump. So it has singled out pork in the last week, with a 25 percent tariff already imposed, threatening a 25 percent tariff on soybeans, for example.

Beef as well. And today's China daily has an editorial, saying "soon, farmers ranchers, and other U.S. workers will now be adding their voices to the chorus of blame directed Trump's way. And the White House must be watching that closely as well. The White House line has been, hey, President Trump is a master negotiator. He will be able to get some concessions out of Beijing.

That said, you know, Larry Kudlow, the Presidential Adviser was asked how can you have growth if there is a trade war? And his answer was that's kind of an existential question. And he went back to that Trump is an amazing negotiator line. So we'll just have to watch where both governments go, the two world's largest economies in this game of chicken, Isha.

[02:05:13] SESAY: Existential until it becomes reality. We appreciate it, Ivan Watson. Thank you. Stand by for us. Jessica, to you here with me in the studio, let me read to you what the President has tweeted about this situation, because it gives us some insight into his thinking. It says we are not in a trade war with China. That war was lost many years ago by the foolish or incompetent people who represented the U.S.

Now we have a trade deficit of 500 billion a year with intellectual property theft of another 300 billion. We can't let this continue. Jessica, the President is saying that the war was lost many years ago, but that doesn't mean there still isn't more to lose if this becomes a fully fledged war. I mean the fact of the matter is if these tariffs go into effect, American consumers will lose out, manufacturers will lose out, and the world economy could be dragged into this.

JESSICA LEVINSON, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL, PROFESSOR OF LAW AND GOVERNANCE: Well, that's exactly right. And let's remember there is no kind of definition of trade war. It's not like, oh now we -- start now and end now. And it's not like we signed a peace treaty and said no more trade war, it's over. And so, one, this is, I think, kind of classic President Trump where he says other people before me totally screwed up and they did something really bad.

Don't look over here. Look over there. And what he's forgetting is that, I mean, you use the word existential. This will become very real to people with very real money in their pocket who are trying to purchase goods. And I frankly think that the Chinese strategy is absolutely brilliant in terms of targeting goods that will hurt Trump voters the most. And not brilliant in terms of I want this to happen, but brilliant in terms of good strategy.

SESAY: Yeah, the President and the White House have been busy. So not only have there been the moves on the tariffs front. There is also the situation where, you know, the other side of the White House is busy playing catch-up with the President's comments in recent days whether the U.S. Military issue should or shouldn't be. President wants forces out of Syria but he wants them at the border.

Rick Francona, to bring you in here and start with this whole border plan, let me read you a little bit of the President's memo, authorizing this development, this maneuver, if you will. He said this. The situation at the border has now reached a point of crisis. The lawlessness that continues at our southern border is fundamentally incompatible with the safety, security, and sovereignty of the American people.

My administration has no choice but to act. Rick Francona, as far as you can tell, is there an actual crisis at the border or is the President playing politics and using the military as a tool?

LIEUTENANT COLONEL RICK FRANCONA, CNN, MILITARY ANALYST: Well, he is a politician now whether he claims to be or not. Sure, there is a certain element of politics with this. But he is very frustrated. And I think he is acting out in another way. He has not been very successful in getting what he wants with the wall. So he is trying to solve a problem another way. Calling out the National Guard is I guess is his answer.

That would be the first step. To use active U.S. troops on the border would be very, very difficult because then you run into legal ramifications, because we consider illegal immigration to be a civil infraction or a criminal matter, not a national security matter. I think he is trying to change that calculus. But in the interim, he does have the authority to mobilize the National Guard, and we have seen other Presidents do that.

Both President Obama and President Bush have done it before. So he may follow in their foot steps.

SESAY: And I get the point what you are saying. And I get the point that you made about him being frustrated. But again, from where you sit, to the basic questions, the fundamental question that has fueled all of this action is there a crisis at the border?

FRANCONA: You know I am probably not the right one to answer that. I am very concerned with the, you know, illegal immigration and our inability to seem to stop it. And I think that's what's driving all of this. But if you ask me is it a crisis, no, Syria is a crisis. This is not.

SESAY: OK. Jessica, to you, Rick Francona touched on the legality or the ring fencing of using active military troops. This is something that many have pointed out in recent days, as the President said, I want the military to go to the border, then the White House was like, it's the National Guard. Let us be clear on the legal situation. I want to read something from New York Times.

And you are going to have to correct me on this because I know -- I'll read it. New York Times says this. One impediment to using troops on the border could be American law. The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act bars the use of the armed forces for civilian law enforcement tasks, unless authorized by the constitution or Congress.

Since the 1980s however, the Defense Department, including the National Guard has provided indirect support to border-related, anti- drug, and counterterrorism efforts. So bearing in mind the President's intent and the limitations of the law, how effective can he be?

[02:10:14] LEVINSON: Well, I guess there is a couple of questions. How effective can he be politically? So he needs to give the base something. He needs to deliver on campaign promises. So the fact that he is saying there is a crisis, I'm going to solve that crisis. I'm going to send in the National Guard. I thin in it of itself can look like action. Now there is a different question, which is, you know, can there be actual progress here?

And I think the answer is he is severely limited in what he can do. And yes, there is absolutely precedent for using the National Guard, sending the National Guard to the border, but not in this specific circumstance. And so I think he is treading, on as we've seen previously, kind of infirm ground in some ways. And you know, to your broader point, of is there some sort of exigent circumstance that just happened? No, I mean I think the emergency is that he wants to direct our attention to this.

SESAY: And just to be clear, Rick Francona as you know, when -- in the past National Guard troops have gone under Bush and under Obama. With Bush, it was maintenance and building, and under Obama, it was more surveillance. So to Jessica's point, the way the President wants to use them now seems slightly different.

But I do want to shift attention to Syria, because obviously there is movement on that front. The President wants to see U.S. troops brought home from Syria. Rick, the President has said in meetings with his top military brass that there is nothing to show for the years in Syria, that it has not done anything for the U.S. Is he right?

FRANCONA: No, no that is absolutely not true. The United States has had a series of military successes, both in Iraq and in Syria. And we are using what many of us call the Afghan Model, where we're using American air power and logistics support and fire power, supporting an indigenous ground force. And it's worked well. It worked very well in Iraq, when you add not only the Kurds fighting but you had the Iraqi army, the Iraqi security forces.

In Syria, it's been primarily the Syrian Democratic forces. They've been very successful. This is a model that works. We're on the verge -- we're on the cusp of virtually eliminating ISIS as a fighting force. Now is not the time to pull back from that. And when the President and his spokesman Mrs. Sanders says we are going to turn it over to local enforcement, there is no local enforcement.

We are the local enforcement. The Kurds are the local enforcement. The model we have works. Don't mess with a good thing. I think that's what his generals are telling him and he needs listen.

SESAY: Yeah, but Rick Francona, I am sure you saw the report that he grew irritated with the military brass when they told him that. Your thoughts when you heard that.

FRANCONA: Well, you know, he was pretty uncomplimentary, to us, military officers during the campaign, telling us that he knew more than the generals and colonels. I think he is finding out that that's patently not true. And he needs to listen to these military professional because they understand the situation on the ground. And if he wants the success, he needs to follow their advice.

SESAY: Jessica, to that point about the President following the advice of the experts, he wasn't happy. He wasn't happy. This is CNN reporting now. He was irritated, and the concern I think some people have is that as he surrounds himself with that inner circle with more and more people that basically jus reinforces core beliefs, it's going to be harder to get the facts through to him.

LEVINSON: Well, and these are people that he has picked to be his advisers, and he is frustrated with them because I think that they're trying to shine some reality into the Oval Office and show him that this really is not a prudent course. And I think that we have seen in this kind of microcosm of classic Donald Trump moves, he wants to pull troops out because this is part of his campaign promise.

He, then, kind of makes announcements that go against what his inner circle has suggested, and in fact surprises them. And then there is kind of a pullback and a kind of massaging of what's really going on. And I think that it's very scary for people looking from the outside to think that these generals now may be turned out because they're not providing the type of advice that President Trump wants to hear.

SESAY: Busy, busy day, and Rick Francona, we thank you. Stand by for Robert English to bring you into the conversation. We're hearing that Robert Mueller, Special Counsel has Russian oligarchs in his sights and is now effectively interviewing some of them. Let me read you some of the CNN reporting. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has taken the unusual step of questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled into the U.S., stopping at least one and searching his electronic devices when his private jet landed at a New York area airport, according to multiple sources familiar with the inquiry. In your view, how will this go over with Vladimir Putin?

[02:15:06] ROBERT ENGLISH, USC SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONALS RELATIONS, DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Well, the first thing I would say is no more oligarchs are going to fly into American airports with anything more than movies on the personal devices. I know that's facetious. But in fact, some of the reporting in your story noted a former federal prosecutor emphasizing the element of surprise.

That element is gone, right? We used that once apparently. But more than seriously, I don't know how to read this because it may be a sign of, you know, the special prosecutor looking for confirmation where he has already got a lot of evidence and sort of the net is tightening around the guilty. And he is just buttressing his case.

Or it could be kind of a shot in t dark, hoping with this sort of surprise move in a couple of cases that he will stumble upon or get lucky with something. My bet would be the former, knowing the care and caution with which Mueller seems to operate. But we're still trying to judge from the outside without knowing what's inside.

SESAY: Indeed, Jessica, to draw on your legal expertise here, would such a move be exploratory, a shot in the dark? Or would it be based on something substantive?

LEVINSON: I agree with what Robert said. So I don't think that this -- where he said I think it's the former. I don't think that this is a slot in the dark. I don't think that this is -- and he didn't use this word, but I don't think it's a fishing expedition for a couple of reasons. One, is that's generally not the way that federal prosecutors and Special Counsels who aren't anywhere near the level that Robert Mueller operate.

Second, that's not how we've seen Robert Mueller operate at all. And so my guess is that there is absolutely something behind that. And it's fascinating to me that it really is largely coming down to something that is basically follow the money.

SESAY: Yeah.

LEVINSON: And what they're looking at is this -- as an election law professor, absolutely fascinating issue of whether or not there is being foreign money being poured into our American elections, and through a variety of different avenues. And it would be kind of ironic. But if we take a step back, maybe predictable that it be these types of monetary prohibitions, which is what Robert Mueller ends of up indicting some people.

SESAY: So much to dig through. Jessica, I am glad you're here with me, my thanks to you.

LEVINSON: Thank you.

SESAY: And to all our great guests for that spirited conversation. Thank you.

Well, Brazil Supreme Court has ruled that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva must start serving a 12-year prisons sentence for corruption. Lula da Silva was found guilty last year but denies any wrongdoing. He wanted to delay his sentence while he appeals his conviction. The case now returns to a lower court where a warrant for his arrest could be issued within days.

The ruling could impair any plans he may have had to run in Brazil's next Presidential election. Well, still to come on CNN Newsroom, new details about the nerve agent attack in England, what one U.K. newspaper is reporting about the source of the substance.

Plus, we'll introduce you to an ambitious college student taking online courses from inside a bomb shelter in war-torn Syria.


[02:20:00] SESAY: This just in to us here at CNN Newsroom, Russian state media report buses carrying American diplomats have left the embassy in Moscow. State run television also showed video of a convoy leaving. They were ordered to leave following the U.S. decision to expel 60 Russian diplomats over the nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in England.

This, as The Times of London reports British officials have pinpointed the Russian lab that made the Novichok poison. Russia denied any involvement in the attack and since wants to address it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not expecting anything but common sense to prevail. International relations will not tolerate the recent damage done. This concerns not only the Skripal case, by the way, but a whole range of other issues too. We need to restore healthy political process based on a framework of fundamental international norms and principles, and only then will we achieve stability and predictability.


SESAY: Well, Russia is calling for a U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the matter. Three major players in Syria, Russia, Iran, and Turkey ended a summit Wednesday with a commitment to achieve a lasting ceasefire in the war ravaged country, the U.S. and Syria itself absent from the talks. The meeting brought together two of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's strongest supporters, Russian President Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, along with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. During the conference, the leaders reiterated their desire to drive terrorists out of Syria and to end the war.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is of utmost importance to ensure that all terrorist groups, which are a threat, not just to Syria but first and foremost to Turkey, surrounding countries, and in fact the entire region, are marginalized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No country has the right to decide the future of Syria. The future of Syria belongs to the Syrian people.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SESAY: Well, the future of U.S. forces in Syria remains unclear. On Wednesday, the White House issued a statement saying it won't rest until the regime is held accountable. But earlier this week, President Trump said he wanted to pull troops out of the country soon. Well, tens of thousands of Syrians have been displaced from their homes because of the seven-year war. Many are traumatized by what they've endured and face an uncertain future.

But one college student is trying to offer hope to some of these civilians. The University of the People is an accredited online college that offers degrees to students around the world, including those who live in a war-torn country like Syria. Joining me now, the student from that school, Mahmoud Bwedany, he lives in Eastern Ghouta and studies Computer Science from inside an underground bomb shelter.

Mahmoud, thank you so much for joining us, let me start by asking you this. Given the conditions in Eastern Ghouta, where I know day to day concerns are really about surviving, what made you want to take on school in the middle of such a difficult time?

MAHMOUD BWEDANY, UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE, STUDENT: Well my studies are very important to me. I didn't -- I just didn't want the fact that I am living under siege and I'm being bombed constantly to keep me from planning for my future and getting something -- achieving something in the field of study.

SESAY: I know that this is an online course, as we just shared with our viewers. It depends on computers, electricity, internet connections. How are you dealing with those logistical issues there in Syria? I mean, you are in a bomb shelter. Talk to me about the day to day challenges of being able to study.

BWEDANY: Yeah, it's very difficult. We have a lot of hard circumstances. Because of the siege that was forced upon the city in 2013, the electricity was cut off by the regime, and basically every public service that used to be offered by the government. So we have been depending on local generators ever since, and the shelling campaign worsens everything, because these local generators won't work properly.

[02:25:02] And this has gotten a lot worse when we had to move down to the basement. Imagine electricity, imagine how hard it was to get electricity during the siege and how hard -- how harder it got when we had to move a bunker underground. And there is also internet connection. There are also the prices of materials in the area.

There is the -- how hard it is to focus while there is bombing, for example, and how difficult it is to concentrate on planning for the future and how to balance between planning for the future, studying, and the normal life, thinking and how to think about survival.

SESAY: Sure. Mahmoud, I mean what does this opportunity mean to you? I know you talked about, you know, not wanting life to be disrupted and still, you know, having an eye on the future. But talk to me, you know, about how it makes you feel at least to still be able to study and just what this represents to you being able to be part of this university?

BWEDANY: Yeah, the University of the People actually gave me hope. When I -- when I graduated high school last year here in Eastern Ghouta, I was afraid that I am that I'm not going to be able to follow what I planned to do. I was afraid that I am not going to get into computer science the way I planned. But when I found University of the People, I was able to meet their conditions.

They were offering very reasonable conditions. And I was able to fulfill these conditions. And this made me optimistic about my future. It sort of gave me the feeling that I somehow broke the siege and got out to the outer world.

SESAY: Well, Mahmoud Bwedany, I am pleased you have something that gives you hope, that keeps you looking forward. We're wishing you the very best of luck. Stay safe out there. Thank you for making time to speak to CNN. We very much appreciate it. Thank you.

BWEDANY: Thanks.

SESAY: Now, switching gears, the West African nation of Sierra Leon has a new President. Julius Maada Bio was sworn in on Wednesday, just a few hours after winning a tight run off against the former foreign minister. Sierra Leon faces a new challenge to build its economy after the Ebola epidemic and dealing with high unemployment. Maada Bio briefly ruled the country in 1996 as part of the leader of the Military Junta. But this round of national elections, it went to a run off, but things thankfully were mostly peaceful.

Quick break here, next on CNN Newsroom L.A., the trial of two reporters jailed in Myanmar has joined international condemnation. Now they are hoping the judge will set them free.


[02:30:27] ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour. China says it plans to impose new tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. goods including, cars, and soy beans. That follows a similar announcement from the U.S. earlier this week. The White House is urging caution saying threats of tariffs are a negotiating tactics. Russia calls for a meeting on the U.N. Security Council Thursday over the nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter. Meanwhile, the times of London report security services have identified the Russian lab that made the nerve agent poison. Moscow denies any involvement.

Well, Brazil Supreme Court has ruled against former President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva's attempt to delay his 12-year prison sentence. Lula da Silva was found guilty last year of corruption and money laundering but denies any wrongdoing. The high court's decision now goes back to a lower court where it's expected a warrant for his arrest will be issued within the coming day.

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is here in Los Angeles this week for the West Coast Leg of a U.S. trip. He is met with city officials as well as tech and media executives as he tries to sell a more modern vision of his country. Prince bin Salman's visit also comes as global theater chain AMC announces plans to open its first movie theater in the Saudi capital Riyadh on April 18th. The company received the first cinema license after Saudi Arabia lifted a 35-year ban on movie theaters. Maan Bin Abdulrahman joins me now. He's the CEO and Founder of Prince of Arabia Entertainment. Maan, thank you for being with us.


SESAY: There is so much excitement in Los Angeles, and within Hollywood, and the entertainment circle at this idea of Saudi Arabia opening up and movie theaters opening up, and the Crown Prince being willing to invest in productions.


SESAY: How do you view this moment and the opportunities that that exist for content providers, if you will, producer like yourself?

ABDULRAHMAN: Well, as myself as a producer, I am very happy and excited that I can -- I carry the knowledge. I came here in 2010 in hopes, I studied filmmaking in hopes that cinemas and movie industry will open up in Saudi Arabia. And I graduated two years ago and I've been freelancing here in Los Angeles. I have enough experience I think and now, boom, I have an opportunity to carry that knowledge and go back home, and do amazing films hopefully.

SESAY: And I think that's the question though. The opportunity how open is it? I think that's the question people will have considering the conservativism of the kingdom as they open up for a producer, what will be the restrictions in what you can, and cannot make, or what you can and cannot show in say a public theater?

ABDULRAHMAN: Well, personally, I believe that I came here to America. I respect the culture even though it's a free country, I understand that. But me I respect the culture. So I have limitation to myself. So when I go back home and whatever restrictions they have, I'm going to respect it. And I'm sure I can tell a story without upsetting anybody, without, you know, so my government would be happy and the people because I want to please the people. I want to make movies that -- because Saudi Arabia is kind of new into this, right? So I want to make them for them to like it and enjoy it, and they want to see more, so I can produce more, so, yes.

ABDULRAHMAN: That's an interesting idea because you say you want to make films for the people. Then let me ask you about as you look at the kingdom. Do you make aspirational films? Would the goal be to make aspirational films? And by that, I mean films where women can drive and they see women as empowered and equal or would you as a producer be looking to make films that just mirror the current culture?

ABDULRAHMAN: Well, you said it. I will do this and that. I mean -- and also we have a lot of stories. We have a lot of stories in Saudi Arabia that need to be told. It's all written in books. We've read them since I was a kid. And now, I think as soon as, you know, as soon as I go back home there is these stories that is I have that I can show. And especially historical, you know, stories from the past. And personally, there was a lot of various of things that we can work, you know. SESAY: I mean obviously from the American perspective, from

Hollywood, and all these producers out here, they're looking to make films to sell and to show in Saudi Arabia.

[02:35:07] How much appetite is there for films made outside of the region? So you talk about telling stories that are out of books and out of legend and law and tradition something made out here would be maybe more American and more western. How much interest appetite is amongst Saudis for that kind of content?

ABDULRAHMAN: Because we already have those. We already see them, you know, on TV, on -- yes, like I grew up watching American movies. We have video stores that I rent from like blockbuster here and back in the day. So we know the kind of product that America produce. And I'm sure now America is hungry and they want to see what we will produce. And I'm excited for that because whatever we're going to produce I'm sure it's going to be unique. It's going to be different.

SESAY: So usually, it's a two-way, you know, as much as America is selling to Saudi Arabia, production out of Saudi Arabia and coming --

ABDULRAHMAN: And hopes. I'm talking in hopes, yes, because, you know, I wanted something and it happened. So -- yes, right? Dreams.

SESAY: Yes, indeed. Thank you.

ABDULRAHMAN: Dreams come true.

SESAY: Thank you for coming.

ABDULRAHMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

SESAY: Next here on CNN NEWSROOM L.A., the trial of two reporters jailed in Myanmar has drawn international condemnation. Now, they're hope the judge will set them free.


SESAY: Well, two journalists jailed in Myanmar could be freed within days if the judge decides to throw out the government's case against them. The two men were arrested in December, but documents the government claims contain state secrets. But their lawyers dispute that saying the information in the papers was already public. The judge's decision on whether to dismiss this case expected on April 11th. The case has attracted international attention. With us from London is Laura Haigh, a Myanmar researcher for Amnesty International. Laura, thank you for being with us. It seems that the thrust as a defense case rests on the inconsistencies that have emerged in these preliminary hearings. Tell us about those.

LAURA HAIGH, MYANMAR RESEARCHER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Well, I mean this case has been pretty much a farce from start to finish since they were arrested in December. They've been accused of having confidential documents which the two journalists they were actually given handed by police officers during a meeting -- a dinner meeting they have with these police officers in December. Now, as this trial has continued, it's quite evident that the case against them is fabricated. We had one police officer explain that he didn't have his notes. He burned them. We have another defense witness having to write the location of the arrest on his hand because apparently he's forgetful. All evidence points to this being a farce. This is a case that was never really about the law. This was really very much about what the two journalists had been reporting on the situation of the Rohingya in Rakhine State and the government has been doing everything they can to silence these journalists.

[02:40:01] SESAY: And with that, you know, obviously, you know, the senses that these journalists are being made an example of and is meant to send a message to other journalists there in Myanmar and basically clamped down on reporting of what's happening to the Rohingya and what's happening in Northern Rakhine State, is it working?

HAIGH: To an extent it is. I think though -- I mean we've seen a worrying erosion in press freedom in the last year even before the current crisis in Rakhine State. Journalists not only risk arrest and imprisonment. They have breath but online. They can be followed to their homes. Foreign journalist find it really difficult to get into the country sometimes and Rakhine State is pretty much off limits and has been since August apart from a few organized tours. This is very clearly authorities making an example of (INAUDIBLE) and warning other journalists off reporting.

SESAY: The government spokesman, you know, and being pressed about, you know, the decision regarding throwing this case out and what comes next has been touting the independence of the courts. Is that in line with Amnesty's assessment of Myanmar judiciary?

HAIGH: Well, I think it has to be clear. Courts in Myanmar are not independent. And the government likes to tout the (INAUDIBLE) the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary. But ultimately, this is as I say not a case about the law. This is about making an example of two journalists and sending a message to anyone else that were trying to report on Rakhine State that is off-limits. If they're going to go against the government's scenario of what happened there.

SESAY: These two young men, they've been in custody for several months. They were taken into custody back in December. Laura, what can you tell us about how they're holding up? They've been incarcerated for many months now separated from their families and then one of them has a young child. How are they doing?

HAIGH: I mean when you see pictures of them at the trials when I speak to their colleagues, they're in good spirits. I think they, you know, they very much -- they've done nothing wrong and they're very confident that the court will acquit them because they have done nothing wrong. But the reality is that they are just a number -- just a few of a number of people here detained in Myanmar for reporting on the news, for reporting about human rights violations. Just last week we had a former child soldier detained and sentenced to prison for actually speaking about his experiences. So I think the conditions that we have for those are in detention in Myanmar are always very concerning. First of all, and not the best conditions I'm told. But I think when we look at these two journalists, ultimately, they shouldn't be in there. They should be allowed to see their families. They should be released.

SESAY: And final question before I let you go. As we talked about these journalists and we talked about, you know, them being made an example of, from Amnesty's point of view as you've researched Myanmar, are we actually seeing an erosion, a back peddling of freedoms, of civil liberties there in the country? I mean there's such hope when Aung San Suu Kyi won that election?

HAIGH: There was and I think we absolutely are seeing that back peddling and that regression. There has been a wearing erosion in press freedom in the last two years under the NLD lead government. But actually, there's been an overall deterioration in human rights situation whether you look at the crisis in Rakhine State, whether you look on their war crimes in the north. And I think when it comes to press freedom, one of the things I think we'd all expect that the NLD do, and bear in mind, this is a party whose members spent many years if not in some cases decades in jail would be actually to repeal that repressive framework that allowed them to arrest individuals in the first place. Two years later they really haven't done that. In fact they added new laws to the books. They've strengthened their legal framework allowing them to arrest and detain journalists like Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. That's has to change. We need to see a reset.

SESAY: Yes. We'll be watching you closely and see what happens on April 11th. Laura Haigh, we appreciate it. Thank you so much for the analysis. And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. World Sport is up next. You're watching CNN.


[02:45:54] KATE RILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome along to WORLD SPORT. I'm Kate Riley at CNN Center. We are less than 24 hours away from the start of the Masters in Augusta. But before all of that, it was another big day in the Champion's League, as four of Europe's biggest teams took to the field in the first leg of the quarterfinals.

First up, the 2015 champions, Barcelona, facing the Italian side Roma. On the outside it appeared to be a heavily one-sided affair with five- time Champions League winner, Barcelona, facing a side who haven't made it to the final. And this competition since 1984, to the new count we go.

And Roma's Daniele De Rossi opened the scoring with quite the remarkable on goal from the edge of the box. Barcelona then, double their lead with would you believe it? Another, in goal, this one from Konstantinos Manolas that was quickly three. This time, they finally got one of their own, Gerard Pique, from close range to make it 3-0. And Barca still has the hunger when Louis Suarez with his first in Europe this season would get in on the act, 4-1 is how it ends on the night.

Well, the other quarterfinal first leg on Wednesday, saw two English Premier League sides in Liverpool and Manchester City face the each other. The citizens are runaway leaders with the domestic league, and can actually wrap things up with the win this weekend.

However, one of the few teams to beat City in 2018 is, of course, Liverpool, who took 3 points back in January in a 4-3 thriller ahead of the game. There was some scary scenes as Man City's bus was attacked by fans who shattered some windows, but fortunately, no one was hurt, and the game did kick off on time.

Well, to Anfield we go, where Liverpool get-off to a flier, the EPL top scorer, Mohamed Salah put the Reds ahead after 12 minutes. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, then found himself over in front of goal to double the lead after 21 minutes. And then, Sadio Mane, made it 3-0 in just over half an hour. That is some close tough isn't it, for fans and pundits alike that's how it ends. City not having a single shot on target would you believe?

So, that wraps up the quarterfinal first legs, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, both edge at one step closer to the semifinals with the way wins. And it's not just a results that we're talking about. Oh no, we are still a no of that incredible overhead kick from Cristiano Ronaldo in the 3-0 win away to Juventus.

Well, joining me in the studio now is CNN's, Patrick Snell. What is both of the EPL manager have to say post-match there?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: What a win for Liverpool, Kate. I tell you who won the battle of the tactics. So, it was a certain Jurgen Klopp who got everything spot on his team were absolutely magnificent. The German master tactician really proving his worth, and Guardiola has a lot of thinking to do.

Liverpool 3-0 off, Kate, after 31 minutes of play. But perhaps we soon to be in too sharp. Remember they were 4-1 up during the league game that they eventually went on to win 4-3.

But Klopp basically saying after was look, this is not over. We still have to overcome one of the best teams in world football. He's urging caution, and he wants his team to just carry on working furiously hard to ensure that they get through. He's reminding his team that they were only 3-0 up. This is only effectively halftime 3-0 up, there is still work to be done.

As for Pep Guardiola, I was studying his body language, Kate, during the post-game press conference, he looked absolutely in shock. His tone was demure, it was quiet, he really was feeling -- I think, he just did -- he was just so disappointed with the fact that his team did not show up at the races today. He use disappointment, they looked a shell the sight, didn't they? That actually have been taking the Premier League by storm. And also, on the person of Guardiola, remember? I've always fell out the leaf that said he was hire by Man City to win the Champions League, he fail to win it during his time at Bayern Munich. He will be judged ultimately, on whether he can bring the European Cup to Manchester City. But, you know, he was asked point blankly, "Do you think your team still in with a chance?" And he said, "Yes, we have to believe."

[02:50:14] RILEY: Yes, I mean, they always start losing although, and so, she shocked on the night, really. And Mohamed Salah, he's scoring goals for fun.

SNELL: Yes. He picked up 38th now, Kate, in all competitions, it really is quite incredible at eight alone in the Champions League this season. He has been absolutely a revelation. Bear in mind he is not officially speaking, at least, an out and out striker. This game was built as the Mohamed Salah versus Kevin De Bruyne. Well, I can tell you that Belgian, well, in truly overshadowed by the 25 year old Egyptian. He was only one winner in that personal due.

I want to update our viewers now. This is potentially significant because Mohamed Salah, went off injured during the second half of that game with a growing injury he himself was playing it down afterwards supporting telling his head coach, Jurgen Klopp, he's going to be fine, nothing to worry about because you know, with bruins, you got to be careful. So there a little bit of a footnote, there a little bit of dampener on an otherwise excellent evening for the Liverpool.

RILEY: Something that will take the opposite of a dampener and that was this one to go from Cristiano Ronaldo that we saw here on Tuesday night. Now, you are no stranger to won the goals. You were there in 2002 at the Champions League finals. Everything sits down with the wonder goal of his own. Plenty of debate in the office today as to which was the better goal? So --

SNELL: Yes, and Kate, we've been talking about -- this as well about a couple of people come up, I mean, in which one do I -- do I think is the best? They're both wildest, as they say. And Mane go would be down simply because his goal 16 years ago was the one that actually won the tournament for Real Madrid on that night in Scotland against (INAUDIBLE) of Germany.

But Ronaldo, we just don't tired of seeing the athleticism, the acrobatic technique of CR7, the Portuguese superstar. He now has made more Champions League history by becoming the first player to score in 10 consecutive games in this tournament. 120 Champion League goals and counting take for Cristiano.

RILEY: And we'll spare you the reenactment request.

SNELL: Please do.


SNELL: Please do, thank you. RILEY: Patrick, thank you. Come up on the show, it seems like the Winter Olympics was just around the corner, right? However, it is now time for yet another major international sporting event to get underway


RILEY: We are just a few hours away from the start of the Masters. The first major of the golf calendar on Wednesday. The traditional par-three contest took place. This is an event where golfers get to play with their families on parts of the famed Augusta course. And talked about being a chip of fill blocked Gary Nicklaus, the grandson of the legendary Jack Nicklaus, in fact,

Well, Gary was given the chance to take a swing on the ninth and watch as the ball finds the bottom of the hole. Yes, slowly, there we go, very good. The American Tony Finau also hit an ace, but unfortunately, for him, his celebration turned sour. Poor thing, he has only gone on twisted his ankle as he ran to get his ball from the hole, Finau, looked to be in some discomfort. No word yet on how severe his injury is, or whether he will be able to tee off tomorrow. Yes, we wish him a speedy recovery. That can incredibly painful.

Well, it seems like only yesterday, we will watching images from Pyeongchang from the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. But now it's time for the start of the Commonwealth Games from Australia's Gold Coast, where more than 4,500 athletes from 71 nations and territories will competing for 275 gold medals over the next 11 days.

On Wednesday, thousands of fans packed into the Carrara Stadium despite heavy downpours of rain to watch the opening ceremony. Of course, we will be keeping across the competition over the next two weeks. Updates here on WORLD SPORT.

All right, that's it for this edition. Before we go let's have one last look ahead to the start of the Masters from Augusta, with today's "ROLEX MINUTE".

[02:56:27] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First starts with driving down the (INAUDIBLE). There's so much history, the layout of the land and how much on relation and where getting this kind of position, it's a special place.


JASON DAY, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I watched Tiger back in '97 win and that's really what kicked me into playing competitive golf. I really enjoy this place, and hopefully, one day, I'll be able to slip on the green jacket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Masters, the most evocative and so (INAUDIBLE) price in golf commences at the Augusta National, Thursday, April the 5th. The 82nd edition of the tournament has all the potential of being one of the finest in recent memory. A thrill in matchup between veteran champions and an outstanding new generation of talent. DAY: As something the competition is getting a lot stiffer. We have a lot of young guys coming up through the ranks now and then playing tremendous golf, but we also got (INAUDIBLE) and Phil, come back and resurging back to where they -- you know, we're beforehand. So, it's exciting to be on golfing right now.



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The world's two economic giants look in an economic standoff. We will look at the --