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Donald Trump Believes He Can Succeed Where So Many Others Have Failed And Bring Peace To Denuclearize The Korean Peninsula; The Rising Role of Sean Hannity; Huge Crack Appears in Kenya's Rift Valley; A Hero Pilot - Her Story; Remembering CNN's Richard Blystone; One Canadian Official Is Taking A Stand In An Effort To Protect Myanmar's Rohingya Population From Those Reported Atrocities. Aired 1- 2a ET

Aired April 19, 2018 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR,: You're watching CNN Newsroom Live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, talking the talk and willing to walk the walk. The US President himself described him a great negotiator. He believes he can succeed where so many others have failed and bring peace to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

Journalist, commentator or activist? New questions about Sean Hannity of Fox News and his unofficial role he plays at the Trump White House.

And the splitting of Africa, the huge deep cracks which are splitting the continent in two. Very great to have you with us. I am John Vause. If you missed the first half hour, but now we've got the second hour of Newsroom LA and there's one more after that.

Donald Trump is predicting big things with his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un. His first priority, getting rid of North Korea's nuclear arsenal. Mr. Trump has been listening to concerns from the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe during their two-day summit in Florida and while he has high hopes for the summit, President Trump says, if the talks don't go well, he will walk out.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, I will be meeting with Kim Jong-un in the coming weeks to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Hopefully that meeting will be a great success and we're looking forward to it. It would be a tremendous thing for North Korea and a tremendous thing for the world. So, we will be doing everything possible to make it a worldwide success.


VAUSE: First, following the story, with reactions throughout the Asia Pacific region. We have Anna Stewart standing by live in Tokyo, Paula Hancocks in Seoul, Will Ripley in Hong Kong, Matt Rivers also live, he is now in Beijing, but first, to Will Ripley. Will, President Trump says he is prepared to walk. Would it be safe to say that North Korea is having exactly the same attitude, if this doesn't work out, they will walk as well?

you. There is this optimism. There is this eagerness that we're hearing from the President for this summit, but there's still the question of logistics.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And arguably, John, the North Koreans have less to lose here because they are already heavily sanctioned.

Kim Jong-un now has world leaders lining to meet up with him whereas before, many of them just brushed him off. So, just the agreement by President Trump to this summit is benefiting his image on the global stage and they can just always go back and let's say, to doing what they did before. Growing their nuclear program, continuing to build up their arsenal in defiance of international condemnation.

However President Trump needs to win here. A lot of political watchers say, especially given what's happening, all of the other things happening in Washington. And so, step number one for both sides is to figure out where they are going to have this thing.

Apparently, North Korea has ruled out meeting at an aircraft carrier off the Korean peninsula. They have ruled out a trip to Washington. So, President Trump and his people have ruled out going to Seoul or the demilitarized zone, which leaves a handful of locations.

President Trump said five sites are being considered, sources familiar with the discussion say they could either be in Europe like Sweden or Switzerland or perhaps somewhere in Asia. They have thrown out Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore -- a potential front runner. The capital of Mongolia was considered a front runner a few days ago. They are now saying that is looking less likely.

So, that is step one, they figure out a place. They set a date and then of course, the talks themselves about what denuclearization is actually going to mean. North Korea will need a substantial incentive to give up the nuclear weapons and the missile program that have arguably gotten them to this point.

What is the United States willing to give? Certainly, it would be a drastic shift in US policy to pull American troops off the Korean peninsula, to get rid of the nuclear umbrella that protects South Korea and Japan, those have been North Korea's primary demands in the past.

Of course, they also want a peace treaty with South Korea. These are big issues. These are complex issues. Kim Jong-un, most definitely studying up coming into this prepared. In his meeting with Mike Pompeo, he had notes in front of him. He was very well-versed with the subject material. Will President Trump be prepared? John, that is the open question.

VAUSE: A very big open question. Will, thank you. Let's go to Tokyo now. Anna, so Shinzo Abe, what Japan sees as a successful summit is not exactly the same as what the United States may see as a successful summit. And in some ways, it seems the Japanese Prime Minister has been sort of left in the works by this sudden 180-degree turn by the US President. Now, sort of pushing for this diplomatic solution if you like?

ANNA STEWART, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, certainly, I mean, internationally, he has been very sidelined in all the discussions around North Korea. He was really caught on the back foot when Trump suddenly announced months ago that was he was open to a summit on North Korea.

It was a huge deviation for what Japan thought as a united front on keeping up fresh on North Korea. However, as you said, it has gone down quite --


STEWART: -- well this summit in terms of the political points that Abe has called. Firstly, Trump assured him that issues important to Japan will be brought up at any discussion with North Korea. Things like Japanese abductees held in North Korea now for decades. That's one of the real priority issues here.

Plus, you know, assuring Japan that its security is as important to the US as the American security, so hopefully that means that it's not just going to be focusing on ICMB missiles, but short range missiles that threaten Japan.

On trade, it was a much more of a mixed bag. Japan still is not on the exemption list for steel and aluminum tariffs, however, it didn't get forced into a bilateral trade free agreement, which is what Trump wanted. Japan has managed to avoid that.

And then we had TPP, a lot of turnaround. Again, so Trump on Tuesday night said, once again, he wasn't interested in TPP. In the statement we had today, he potentially is -- perhaps Abe's put him back slightly to the fold on TPP, who knows? So, there were some good political score points there. Plus, just a bromance in general, question is, is it enough to issue it back home because when Abe gets back here, he is facing a lot of problems -- corruption allegations, low approval ratings, and last weekend, you know tens of thousands of people turning out to protest against him.

VAUSE: But how was the chocolate cake this time? I guess, that's what we have to wait and find out. Anna, thank you.

Let's go to Beijing now. Matt, last time, there were these serious negotiations over in North Korea. These (inaudible) talks that were being hosted by China. It was a reflection of the influence that China had over North Korea and over the issue in general. This time, they can't decide where to hold these talks, so they won't be in Beijing and it seems, you know, that China's leadership now is trying to -- essentially getting back in the game in a major way.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are doing everything they can to make sure that they have a stake in these future negotiations between the United States and North Korea because they want to see a certain outcome there.

And so what you have seen happen, John over the last couple of months, you have seen Kim Jong-un make that surprise visit here to Beijing. Shortly thereafter, you had a high level Chinese delegation go to North Korea where as compared to months past, that delegation was actually met by Kim Jong-un and given quite a warm welcome. That's a sign of warming ties between these two countries after having gone quite cold over the nuclear issue.

And then also, we have been reporting that President Xi Jinping is going ot make a visit to North Korea at some point. That was said after the Kim Jong-un meeting. Will Ripley has done some reporting recently that has said that that meeting will happen soon. Likely not before the summit, but we are expecting it to happen after that.

So these are all steps taken in totality that show that China is trying to have an influence with North Korea and when you think about why it makes sense, John, they are looking for any excuse to back off this maximum pressure campaign. They want the Kim Jong-un regime to survive and as a result, they want these negotiations between both sides to go well.

They want an excuse to back off some of these sanctions and help North Korea start to grow its economy after these sanctions really have taken quite a toll.

VAUSE: Matt, thank you. Appreciate that. Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing. And before these negotiations get underway between Trump and Kim Jong-Un, there will be negotiations between Kim Jong-un and South Korea's Moon Jae-in, Paula Hancocks in Seoul, those preparations have no problems at all. They seem to be moving quickly complete with renovations and agreement on TV time?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, yes, there are renovations at the DMZ where this is going to take place. They actually took us there on Wednesday to show us exactly what it looks like.


HANCOCKS: This is the Truce Village in Panmunjom and it is where the upcoming summit between North and South Korea leaders will be held. The first one in more than a decade. Now, we will be seeing a North Korean leader crossing the border into South Korea for the first time ever.

Now, potentially, that could happen just here. You see that lift of concrete just in the distance there. That is the actual border. That's the MDL, the military demarcation line.

Kim Jong-un potentially could step over that and if he does, he is in the history of books. Now, the South Korean Presidential office appreciates how significant this is. They say, they are going to try and broadcast that moment live because it is so historic.

Now, of course, Kim Jong-un might decide to drive. We simply don't know at this point, but this would be the most dramatic image.

So, this is one of the conference rooms where talks have been held in the past and it is truly neutral point. Half of this building is in South Korea and the other half is in North Korea. Now, recent discussions have been held on both sides of the border, not specifically in here. This is one of the tourist favorite places to come, though because once you pass this middle point, they can say, I am in North Korea.

This is the peace house. It is about 200 meters or so from the NDL, the actual border, and it is the building where Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in will be meeting on April 27th --


HANCOCKS: -- now, we are told we are not allowed inside because renovations are ongoing. They want it to look its best for the occasion, but quite frankly, every time I come to the DMZ, you are never even allowed to film this building. So, that is a new development.

Now, from the blue house's point of view, they say that they see this summit as a guide post to the next summit. The one between Kim Jong- un and US President, Donald Trump. Now, the official agenda for this summit that will be held here is denuclearization, but of course, both sides could see that denuclearization in very different ways.

They'll also be talking about how to secure peace on the peninsula, how to improve relations between and North and South Korea. But from the blue house's point of view, they say this will be the perfect chance to assess North Korea's willingness to denuclearize and of course, whether or not the US will guarantee the conditions in return.


HANCOCKS: That's going to be a very different summit to the two ones we've seen previously in Pyongyang, a lot less pomp, a lot less ceremony and no propaganda issues in that respect.

So, we are being told they want it to be more practical. Very few protocols and to make sure that this is one of many meetings between these two leaders, but the blue house is also very aware that even if this inter-Korean summit is successful, the most important one to be successful is the one that follows, which is why they say that they understand. This is a stepping stone for the meeting with Donald Trump. John?

VAUSE: Paula, thanks for that look at where all of these would take place. We appreciate it. Paula Hancocks there live for us in Seoul.

And joining me here now in Los Angeles, Democratic Strategist Caroline Heldman and Republican Strategist, Luis Alvarado. OKay, at Mar-o-Lago on Wednesday, the President seemed to lay out in very broad brush strokes what he hopes to achieve from this summit with the North Korean leader. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I have said before, there is a bright path available to North Korea when it achieves denuclearization in a complete and verifiable and irreversible way. It will be a great day for them. It will be a great day for the world.


VAUSE: OKay, so complete denuclearization in a verifiable, irreversible way. I mean, that's a high goal, Caroline, but the problem from the get-go here is that, denuclearization means different things depending on who you are, so to the North Koreans, it's very different than what the Americans as expecting and these are the issues which normally are sorted out before you get to the final summit of the leaders, right?

CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right, so this is progress without planning, right? So the word salad that you just heard from Donald Trump which -- in which he didn't really say anything, he continued to use the word denuclearization and he pronounced it really well --

VAUSE: He actually pronounced it really well. I am so (inaudible). I will give that one to President Trump.

HELDMAN: Kudos to him, but at the end of the day, for the North Koreans, it means the entire Korean peninsula, which means the removal of any weapons we have in South Korea. For us, it simply means the removal of all the arsenal in North Korea.

So, two very distinct things, but also perhaps contradictory. So, Donald Trump has not planned for this, right? So, the question is whether or not he comes out of North Korea with more than Dennis Rodman has come out.

VAUSE: Yes, Luis, past presidents, it's not like they didn't have the opportunity to sit down and meet with the North Korean leader. They just decided it was a bad idea because they didn't want to reward you know, a dictator, a brutal leader, a serial human rights abuser with a photo op with the leader of the free world, without getting a whole bunch back in return.

That could very well be thrown out of the window right now. Donald Trump could sit down Kim Jong-un, give him worldwide legitimacy and at the end of the day, get nothing for it.

LUIS ALVARADO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But American presidents in the past have sat with other dictators who have probably been more (inaudible) sophisticated in how they -- the world views --

VAUSE: I think they had oil.

ALVARADO: Correct, and that's a great point. So, the point is, with this specific issue, with this specific summit, you know, I think it's very clear that Donald Trump is not going to come back with a victory that Korea is going to get rid of their nuclear weapons. It's going to take a generation if that's going to happen. But if he opens the door and allows the diplomatic process to take a

new take on how they are going to tackle the issue and allow other -- the diplomats to actually do their work, then there is a possibility that they might have a pathway, and I think that in itself, if the pathway is widened, that in itself can be viewed as a successful --

VAUSE: Almost a normalization of North Korea, they get the process of talking to world leaders I guess, is the hope here.

ALVARADO: Or it might even escalate the sanctions if there is some negative feedback or actions from --

VAUSE: I used the theories that if the leader is badly -- you know, there is nowhere else to go diplomatically, at least with military confrontation possibly which no one wants. Let's move on to the question about Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation.

The President was asked a fairly straightforward question on Wednesday --


VAUSE: On the Mueller probe have you concluded that it's not worthy moving forward to remove either Special Counsel, Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein? Or Stein rather, okay, cue the word salad from the President. Here we go.


TRUMP: There was no collusion and that's been so found as you know by the House Intelligence Committee. There is no collusion. There was no collusion with Russia other than by the Democrat or as I call them the obstructionist because they truly are obstructionists. So, we are giving tremendous amounts of paper. This was a really a hoax created largely by the Democrats as a way of softening the blow of a loss, which is a loss that frankly, they shouldn't have had from the standpoint that it is very easy for them to have a tremendous advantage in the electoral college.


VAUSE: OKay, did you get what he was -- there was no collusion, right?

HELDMAN: They were given great amounts of paper.

VAUSE: Five words, five times, no collusion. Caroline, you know, we've heard that before, but what does it say about you know, the President's state of mind, I guess in some respected that he says that at that setting alongside a world leader, the Prime Minister of Japan.

And it doesn't even really answer the question. He wasn't asked if it was collusion?

HELDMAN: Right, and of course, he is wrong. There has not been proof that there is no collusion. They are still in active collusion investigation underway. Yes, I mean, so -- this has become normal now, right? Where we just expect him to either use dishonesty or not answer questions and he can even do it on the world stage when he is leading you know, meeting with one of the prime leaders of the globe.

So, this is not normal behavior and the fact that this isn't the controversy of the week because there are eight other controversies that matter more than this. It tells us that our democracy is really in crisis.

VAUSE: Also, Luis, what was interesting is that the President was asked about the fate of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. He actually did not at any point go on and say he would not fire him. He just made it (inaudible) that he is still there.

ALVARADO: Well, he has never said that he's going to fire anybody until he actually fires them.

VAUSE: Well, he usually says they are great and then he fires them.

ALVARADO: Right, so the Republicans are, I think have sent sufficient strong messages to the President that they would not stand for it and that it would be a grave mistake politically for the President if he were to fire Investigator Mueller.

HELDMAN: So, that would be it. So, you think that there is a point at which they would hold this man accountable for the various things that he has done to bend the Constitution? It would be the firing of Mueller? That's the red line that Republicans would do something about?

ALVARADO: Many Republicans have their own red lines that they defend and they promote. But that --

HELDMAN: But not holding this President accountable for a lot of actions that are a threat to our democracy and our Constitution.

ALVARADO: But your perception is what -- a threat to the democracy would be, the Republicans have a different view and obviously, the nation as a whole sent him to the White House because it didn't agree with the Democrats (inaudible) --


HELDMAN: No, 19.5% of Americans put him in the White House. That's not a majority. In fact, it's one in five Americans.

ALVARADO: But our system put him in the White House. And that's because they were not happy with what Democrats were doing in Washington, DC to begin with. And this is what they get and now, we all have to find a way to co-exist at the end, not just as a nation, but as a world, and I think regardless of what President Trump's policies are or personal challenges are, Republicans and Democrat still have an opportunity to talk --


VAUSE: We really need to hold hands right now.

ALVARADO: We do a Kumbaya. And then the bunny is going to jump out.


VAUSE: There is no holding hands right now at the White House with Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN and Larry Kudlow, the Economic Advisor to the White House because we know, on Sunday Nikki Haley was on television talking about these new sanctions which will be announced by the President on Monday. Apparently, Donald Trump was yelling at the television. He was very upset by Nikki Haley making this announcement.

Those sanctions never happened on Monday. By Tuesday, Larry Kudlow, the new White House Economic Advisor was saying that Nikki Haley was a little bit ahead of herself, just got a little bit confused. That wasn't the case exactly because then, Haley shot back you know, with a very cutting statement, "With all due respect, I don't get confused." And then on Wednesday, we get this question for her at the UN. Here we go.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ambassador Haley, how is your relationship with President Trump?



VAUSE: It's a perfect relationship, Caroline. What is perfect about it I guess is that Haley has let the President and the world know that she will not be humiliated.

HELDMAN: Absolutely not and no offense, John, but she is not going to take it from a cable news host who has now been appointed to the Council of Economic Advisors. Nikki Haley has been able to do what nobody else in Trump's White House has done, which is to say, "Look, you're not going to publicly humiliate me." He has publicly humiliated many members of his Cabinet -- Rex Tillerson, certainly Jeff Sessions a number of times. You name it, there is nobody really at the --


HELDMAN: -- highest levels that he hasn't publicly humiliated and Nikki Haley is saying that's not going to happen. This is a woman who didn't support him during the campaign. She actually -- he had to talk her into taking the job. She said she didn't want it and when she finally took it, she said, "Here are my terms."

Really, she has stood up to this President like no one else and I think she should be worried because if her headlines are bigger than his, that's the moment in which you need to be worried about Trump firing you. VAUSE: Luis, how is it that Nikki Haley has been able to do this, but

you know, Rex Tillerson who was, you know, the CEO of a billion dollar oil company, your generals, your four or five-star generals have not been able to stand up to this President at least in public, and you know, and they just basically sort of cowered in front of him.

ALVARADO: Well, she's like the Southwest pilot that brought that airplane down you know with the nerves of steel and anyone who has ever met Nikki Haley and had the pleasure of working with her, you know the reputation she built in Congress and with the other leaders is that she is just a fabulous leader period regardless if she is a woman or a man.

And Nikki Haley stands for what she believes in and she has been elected by her constituents many times because of her leadership skills and that has been recognized and now, Donald Trump is going to have to understand how if he wants to have the privilege of working with Nikki Haley then he's going to have to change his tempo a little bit or his White House is going to have to figure out and make sure that they help her so she can be successful and if she is successful, the White House will benefit from that.

VAUSE: Because she has been, you know, whatever have been the policies or the positions, whatever, she has been very effective at the UN, and so, the same could be made to the rest of the team.

And we will leave on that note, so Luis and Caroline, good to see you, both. Thank you.

ALVARADO: Thank you.

HELDMAN: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: OKay, he is not an elected official, but he may have more influence than almost anyone in the United States, when we come back, the rising role of Sean Hannity here, Fox News and the Trump White House.

Also, how one Canadian official is taking a stand in an effort to protect Myanmar's Rohingya population from those reported atrocities.

Britain and Canada are the latest countries to demand a thorough investigation of Myanmar's military crackdown on the Rohingya minority, which the UN has described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

The call comes just weeks after chilling images emerged of Rohingya villages burned to the ground, bodies left mutilated, alleged victims of government forces and those who survive are left to endure unhealthy, dire living conditions.

Myanmar's government says, its military was not responsible for those atrocities. Bob Rae is Canada's special envoy to Myanmar and author of the report, "Tell Them We're Human: What Canada and the World Can Do About the Rohingya Crisis." Mr. Rae, thanks for being with us. Let's start with your report

because essentially there is a lot which the world can do right now, unfortunately, everyone is just refusing to do anything. Why is that?

BOB RAE, CANADIAN SPEICAL ENVOY TO MYANMAR: That's right. Well, I mean, that's why we have to --


RAE: -- do more and I've certainly urged our Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau to do more and to work with other countries. We've got to deal with the immediate humanitarian crisis in the gaps with this -- we are going to get even more serious with the monsoon season, which is coming upon us.

We've got to deal with the continuing political challenges in Myanmar and we better deal with the question of impunity and the world has to figure out how to work better together. We are really working without adult supervision in the world right now and we have to deal with the extent of this humanitarian crisis.

VAUSE: Are you putting us through sort of a what? A lack of leadership from maybe from the United States, a country which maybe in the past sort of stepped up here I mean, because essentially this situation has gone for the most part, one like Bangladesh, which has taken thousands of refugees. This crisis has gone pretty much ignored by many, many countries which should normally be very active in doing something about it.

RAE: Well, we have close to a million people down in Bangladesh. We still have several hundred thousand in Myanmar who are living in very precarious conditions, under great threats for their lives, and frankly, the world is simply not responding to the extent which we think it should and that's why the Prime Minister has asked me to try to continue to work with other countries, to really do everything we can to get the UN, the Humanitarian Agencies and all of those who can actually exert some influence on Myanmar to try to deal with the extent of this problem.

VAUSE: So with that in mind, in the report you wrote, in particular when it comes to Canada, you write this, "Our first obligation is to protect lives. Meaning this obligation will require presence, perseverance and patience, but one thing is certain, if we fail to try, the results will be far worse than if we make the necessary effort." OKay, well this crisis has to be going on what? For almost a year now? And at only at this point there seems to be, at the very least, talk that is better to be something than nothing.

RAE: Well I mean, it is a very difficult situation and what I have been trying to work with our government to do is to say, "Let's sit down and talk with a number of other countries and see what more we can do to make change happen." We are heading into the rainy season. The conditions of the camps are only going to get worse.

And the situation of the refugees in Myanmar itself is very, very dire. So, we have work to do, a heightened attention. The Prime Minister has asked me to carry on and do what I can to raise the profile of this issue in Canada. I will be going ot the camps again in a couple of weeks' time with our foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland and we are going to be doing whatever we can to make sure that it won't be for a lack of effort on our part that we don't make more progress.

So, I am hoping that we can actually make more progress in the weeks ahead.

VAUSE: Just with regards to those refugee camps. You've mentioned this -- you know, the rainy season is on its way and with that, there is this fear that there will be you know, there will be death, there will be mudslides, so we are going to see some of the infections. Isn't there just from a very practical point of view in which something which can be done, in the sense that those refugees who are there can be evacuated to countries where it is safe? They can be evacuated out to Canada? To the United States? To Britain? To Australia?

That is something in which the world can do right here and right now.

RAE: It is. It is something we can do. I have urged our country to agree to play its part in terms of resettlement, but we've got to do everything possible to make sure that we don't face an actual humanitarian crisis in the next few weeks or months and that's I think the risk that I've tried to bring to the attention of our government and to other governments to say, "Look, this is not about a political theory here. This is about some very practical issues which we are facing." And the first thing we have to do is save lives. Stop more people from losing their lives as a result of the underlying crisis in Myanmar and the impact that it is having on Bangladesh and a number of other countries.

VAUSE: But we are out of time, but yes, we have to stress the point that you know, the Rohingya faced a crisis and brutality inside Myanmar. They faced unspeakable atrocities on their way to Bangladesh, and now, they are facing what could be yet another humanitarian crisis inside these camps and there's a couple of weeks, a couple of months to make sure that doesn't happen. So, we will continue dealing with this.

RAE: That's everything I am trying to do and thank you very much, I appreciate it.

VAUSE: No, thank you very much Bob. Thank you.

RAE: Thank you. Cheers.

VAUSE: Well, next on Newsroom LA, the airline captain with the nerves of steel, she safely landed a passenger jet after an engine explosion midflight, the woman many are calling a hero.


Plus, one of these men leads the world's most powerful government, another is a TV star. We'll tell you how one of them relies on the other.


VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angels. I'm John Vause.

We check the headlines this hour.

Donald Trump says he's looking forward to that meeting with Kim Jong- un but that he is not afraid to walk out if things are not going well. Mr. Trump says his main focus is for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. He's predicting the summit will be a worldwide success.

And the President downplaying rumors he might fire Justice Department officials heading up the Russia investigation. During a news conference with Japan's Prime Minister, he repeated five times there was no collusion, no collusion with Russia and he said he would hit Moscow with new sanctions because they deserve them.

It's unclear when an international fact-finding mission will be able to travel to Douma in Syria. They're trying to determine whether deadly chemicals were used there in an attack earlier this month. And advance U.N. security detail was shot at on Tuesday.

The U.S. and its allies accuse the Syrian regime of using chemical weapons in that attack. It is the last rebel-held town in Eastern Ghouta. But Syria and Russia deny the claim. Seventy-five people though were killed.

And now to the White House chief of staff, no not the actual official one but the man who, according to the "Washington Post" is dubbed the unofficial chief of staff by White House insiders. That would be Fox News host Sean Hannity.

The fact that President Trump and Hannity share the same lawyer, Michael Cohen, is just another connection between these two men. Hannity is one of the President's most vocal supporters and spends night after night on his program deriding Trump's critics. Hannity and Trump are said to speak frequently day and night.

And according to a presidential adviser, the frequency of Hannity's contact with Trump means that he basically has a desk in the place.

Michael Hiltzik is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with the "Los Angeles Times". He joins us now.

Michael -- as always, it's good to see you. Thanks for being with us.


VAUSE: You know, this report on "The Washington Post" is based on interviews with more than a dozen friends, advisers and associates of Hannity and Trump. Here's part of their reporting.

"The phone calls between President Trump and Sean Hannity come early in the morning or late at night after the Fox News host goes off the air. They discuss ideas for Hannity's show, Trump's frustration with the ongoing special counsel probe and even, at times, what the President should tweet, according to people familiar with the conversations. When he's off the phone Trump is known to cite Hannity when he talks with White House advisers."

OK. Let's just play contrarian here. In the past, the big three network news anchors in the U.S. once wielded enormous influence and power, I guess as well. In principle, how is this Hannity-Trump relationship different?

[01:35:01] HILTZIK: Well, I think to a certain extent, it's different because it has been secret. You haven't had -- I don't think a network figure like Hannity, first of all who's been such a (INAUDIBLE) supporter of the President and is so close to the President providing counsel and really not making any disclosure of it at all.

Now we've had, certainly we've had important news figures who were close to presidents. Ben Bradley who was the former editor of the "Washington Post", the late editor was very close to the Kennedy family and to JFK himself.

We've had other relationships very much like this. We've had pundits like Walter Lippman who was giving advice to political figures but -- and they tended to be somewhat more obvious about it and in fact proud about it and they would write about.

You just don't have that with Hannity. He's been basically maintaining this campaign of defense of Donald Trump and Michael Cohen and not letting on at all how close he really is to these people.

VAUSE: OK. Well, here's a typical Hannity rant from February. What you're about to hear is him referring to that memo the House Republicans released in which they claim it was proof that the FBI and the Department of Justice were biased against the President. And these, you know, the FBI agents had abused their authority trying to gather the evidence. Listen to Hannity. Here we go.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: And welcome to "Hannity". And breaking right now, the highly-classified FISA abuse memo has now been released and it is absolutely shocking. It is stunning. Now this now is the biggest abuse of power, corruption case in American history.

Now tonight we have irrefutable proof of a coordinated conspiracy to abuse power by weaponizing and politicizing the powerful tools of intelligence by top ranking Obama officials against the Trump campaign, against the constitution and against your fourth amendment rights --


VAUSE: So Michael -- what was interesting though on Wednesday, over at the liberal MSNBC there was Nicole Wallace who's a Trump-hating Republican who worked in the, you know, George W. Bush administration. And she had this theory. Listen to this.


NICOLE WALLACE, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION STAFF: This is why I think we get this wrong. Fox isn't a state-run media. The state is run by Fox. Sean Hannity needed that story and I think he ran the President like an asset the way people are wondering if the Russians are running the President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think that that story -- Hannity forced that story. My feeling is that story was --


WALLACE: Well, Hannity certainly fueled it and Hannity certainly gave the President encouragement to overrule his brand new FBI director, Christopher Wray --


VAUSE: You know, I don't know. What do you think about this? Because if what she says is true, this takes us toward a whole new level. Is it beyond the realm of possibility?

HILTZIK: Well, I think Nicole Wallace was being rather colorful -- excessively colorful in describing this. I think -- what I thought was remarkable about Hannity's brand is that it was all nonsense. That the FISA documents, this whole process didn't resemble what he describe in any way, shape or form.

In fact it was much more formalistic. It was much more legalistic and had nothing to do obviously with the Obama people wanting to go after Trump or anything like that. He was basically spouting fantasy and he was presenting it as factual truth.

And I think that's what really is disturbing. I mean the fact that he was doing it on Fox, Fox is clearly carrying water for the Trump administration at this point more than they had been carrying water for the Bush administration in the past.

But I think, the fact that there was no disclosure, Hannity's relationship with Trump and certainly no disclosure of his business and attorney-client relationship with Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's lawyer while he as out there vociferously defending Cohen and calling the raid on Cohen's offices a witch hunt. I think that's really irresponsible. And that really undermines Hannity's credibility to anybody except his core followers.

VAUSE: Yes. That brings in the question what responsibility Fox News has in all of this given they're the ones who provide the platform for Hannity.

I just want to finish up here. Even though Hannity appears on what's called the Fox News Channel, he's always sort of, at least in the past made -- had this defense, he's not a journalist like this tweet he put out in 2016. "I'm not a journalist, jackass. I'm a talk host." [01:40:05] Last month though after his colleague Shepard Smith described Fox News' primetime lineup of opinion shows as entertainment, Hannity tweeted back that his show actually breaks news daily. He declared it "real news" -- in all caps there.

Is it possible that Hannity genuinely believes that what he is doing every night is actual, real news? Or is it the case where fake news, as the President calls it, really is real news and real news is actually fake news?

HILTZIK: Well, I think that over at Fox News, it is sort of a distinction that doesn't really matter. And one way or another whether Hannity is a journalist and a newsman or whether he's a commentator and a pundit or a talk show host, the reason that we want to see disclosure of these sorts of close business and personal relationships is not for him, it's for his viewers.

It's a responsibility to the viewers to allow them to appraise what he's saying fairly. And I think -- so I think he basically has failed to, that he counsel with his own audience. And I think that's what should bother Fox which up to this point has offered him full-throated support. But that's sort of commercial, is commercial support because Hannity is very commercially important at this point to that network.

But it's really the viewers and the audience who are being abused by this lack of disclosure.

VAUSE: Yes. It's not a question of jealousy (ph) I think. It's a question of honesty at the end of the day. I mean, we talk about the same thing but it's important to be honest with the audience.

Michael -- as always, it's good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

HILTZIK: Happy to be here.

VAUSE: Well, the jokes keep coming at Hannity's expense. Comedian Samantha Bee is the latest to weigh in on this. She talked about the links between President Trump, Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity.

First she wondered why that relationship was focused on real estate pointing out that real estate is a strange name for a porn star and that even a porn star would not want to have sex with Hannity although she didn't really say it that delicately. And then there was this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Effectively probably knows where all the bodies are buried.

SAMANTHA BEE, COMEDIAN: Whoa. Is Sean Hannity a serial killer? No, I know what you're thinking. You can't just throw together a bunch of scary buzz words and out of context clips to support an outrageous conclusion. And normally I would agree with you.

But you know who does that all the time? Sean Hannity.


VAUSE: OK. Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., Kenya's Rift Valley lives up to its name with a giant crack suddenly opening up. Scientists say one day it could split Africa in two.

Also ahead a 22-minute ordeal in mid-flight which could have ended in disaster if not for the woman flying the plane. We will have her story in just a few moments.


[01:45:06] VAUSE: Well, the African continent could be headed for splitsville. The strongest evidence to date is an enormous crack that recently opened in Kenya's Rift Valley. Right now it's mostly a nuisance and a hazard. But you just wait -- 50 million years from now, boy, geologists believe this chasm will eventually get so big it will split the continent in two.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now for more on this. So I guess, just wait and see what happens?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's happening, you know. And it's happening, geologically speaking on a much quicker scale than we would imagine --

VAUSE: Yes. That's the point, isn't it? Yes.

JAVAHERI: Absolutely. Bring in the earth here -- kind of want to break this apart here. As you break the earth apart we know of its four layers -- the outer core, the liquid substance and of course, essentially a fluid in motion, right.

We've all heard about the Pangean super continent some 250 million years. We had Africa, we had South America, North America and Europe -- all conjoined together. They've all broken apart ever since and we'll break that down in further detail.

Take a look at this. When you take a look at the portions of, of course, Kenya and the images that are coming in -- remarkable to say the least and it really seems like a very quick process that has taken place. We know what's happened here as John said. In recent days some heavy rainfall essentially flushing out the surface material although it's something that's frankly been in progress for millions of years that lead it to look as such.

But when you take a look at the most recent event, the last time we had such a break up occur was some 138 million years ago. We had South America break away from Africa and end up in its current position. And of course, incredible evidence suggesting this has happened many times before from the way of the fit of the continents come together essentially a jigsaw puzzle of plate tectonics that are breaking apart.

And even fossil evidence showing that fresh water organisms found in parts of the world have ended up in different parts of the world, separated now by seas so, essentially we know this has occurred in the past. It is occurring right now and of course, the break down pretty remarkable when you take a look at how it's all playing out.

Again, flood waters in recent days kind of flushing out the surface, allowing it to see what's been happening beneath the surface. But the rifting that is taking place here and essentially seeing the continents break apart are happening on the order of say 2.5 or so centimeters per year.

We often use tectonic plates to talk about the rate of your fingernail growth. That's precisely what's happening here. As the separation occurs, the plates move apart -- John. And of course, when you look at the animation of how this plays out over 50 million years, you get a new part of Africa, an island essentially that sets up shop. And this already happened with Madagascar that was once right there south of Mozambique.

So it is happening and folks are getting to see a pretty unique perspective of it getting under way.

VAUSE: Beach front property, get it now while it's cheap.


VAUSE: Pedram -- thank you.

JAVAHERI: Thanks -- John.

VAUSE: Well, in the U.S. the transportation safety board has released these photos showing wreckage found along the flight path of Southwest Flight 1380. The debris fell from the plane after an engine exploded prompting a part of the fuselage ripping out a window.

A woman was killed and seven others were injured. But the passengers and crew are praising the pilot who they say is a hero. They're also remembering the woman who lost her life.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has details.


CAPT. TAMMIE JO SCHULTZ, PILOT, SOUTHWEST FLIGHT 1380: Yes, we have a part of the aircraft missing so we're going to need to slow down a bit.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Captain Tammie Jo Schults piloting Southwest Flight 1380.

SCHULTS: Could you have the medical meet us there on the runway as well. We've got injured passengers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Injured passengers -- ok. And are you -- is your airplane physically on fire?

SCHULTS: Not fire but part of it is missing. They said there's a hole and someone went out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. You said there is a hole and somebody went out.

Southwest 1380, it doesn't matter. We'll work it out there.

SANDOVAL: It was chaos on board but you wouldn't have known it listening to Captain Schults, an experienced Navy fighter pilot among the first women to transition to tactical aircraft.

Passengers saying she remained calm through the landing.

KATHY FARMAN, PASSENGER: We got down and then it was -- and then it was pretty steady. So -- and then they said we were going in to Philadelphia. We did have a very good landing.

And the pilot was a veteran of the Navy. She had 32 years in, a woman, and she was terrific --

SANDOVAL: Schults dreamed of flying since she was a teenager but she wasn't sure that it was possible. With no professional female pilots at the time, she faced an uphill battle.

Telling her story in the book, "Military Fly Moms". "I had never touched an airplane but I knew flying was my future. My junior year in college, I met a girl who had just received her Air Force wings. My heart jumped. Girls did fly.

I set to work trying to break into the club. However the Air Force wasn't interested in talking to me but they wanted to know if my brother wanted to fly. She found opportunity with the Navy taking a test and filling out paper work for officer candidate school. A year later, she finally found a recruiter willing to accept her application.

[01:50:05] She set off to accomplish what she described as intense, joyful and a horrible experience. But she got through it. All of it prepared her to fly the plane on Tuesday more damaged than even she knew.

Shrapnel from the engine casing damaged the aircraft, puncturing a hole and nearly sucking out passenger Jennifer Riordan.

TIM MCGINTY, PASSENGER: Somebody screamed and we realized what had happened when the window went out. And so I tried and tried but couldn't -- I just couldn't. And then Andrew came over. Just trying to get her -- just trying to get her back in.

SANDOVAL: Seated in Row 14, the 43-year-old mother of two fatally injured. Nearby passengers tried desperately to keep her inside the aircraft.

PEGGY PHILLIPS, PASSENGER: We started CPR on the lady which we continued for about 20 minutes. We were still doing CPR when the plane landed. We made every effort that we could possibly make to save this woman's life.

SANDOVAL: Fellow passengers doing everything they could for the stranger who neighbors described as full of life. NEIGHBOR OF JENNIFER RIORDAN: She was a remarkable mother, remarkable wife.

SANDOVAL: Riordan's family devastated.

"Jennifer's vibrancy, passion and love infused her community and reached across her country. Her impact on everything and everyone she touched can never be fully measured."

And late Wednesday night we got word that the Federal Aviation Administration will be requiring the inspection of a certain model plane engine which happens to be the same model that was on Southwest Flight 1380. They will certainly have to use ultra-sonic equipment in order to try to pick up on any signs of potential metal fatigue which is the prevailing theory with respect to what could have gone wrong with Southwest Flight 1380.

Polo Sandoval, CNN -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


VAUSE: Next on NEWSROOM L.A., we say goodbye to a colleague and a friend and a journalist without fear (ph).


VAUSE: Richard Blystone was simply one of the best. He's an incredible writer. He's a great journalist. He was a really decent human being. He was funny, he was witty and he had an ability to make you feel special, too.

He, in fact, praised anybody who he came across. And to those who got the chance to work with him, they're all lucky because Richard was the kind of journalist who was old school and who was always willing to share his experience, always willing to have a laugh and always willing to take people under their wing like a young journalist like me in Kuwait on the eve of the Iraq war.

And unfortunately Richard died earlier this week. He was 81.

We have more now from Christiane Amanpour on what was an incredible life.


RICHARD BLYSTONE, FORMER CNN CORRESPONDENT: If hell had a national park it would look like this.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: From the burning oilfields of Kuwait to the killing fields of Cambodia, if the narrative of news had a poet laureate it was this man -- Richard Blystone. Words seem small for a person who loomed so large --

BLYSTONE: So we flew over oceans of civil war, came down and we walked through islands of misery.

AMANPOUR: -- who always had the right turn of phrase to explain the unfathomable --

BLYSTONE: The sharp angles of the starving reflect the implacable geometry of their predicament. They titter on a knife's edge of survival. It does not take much to tip the balance.

AMANPOUR: -- to make the seemingly mundane meaningful --

BLYSTONE: The conformity, the blind obedience, the numbing routine, the regulation, the herd mentality, the barrier shackles of feathers and curves. The obliteration of individuality -- want a neat symbol of life and work under communism? Just find yourself a bottling plant.

AMANPOUR: -- and to make the apparently insignificant consequential.

BLYSTONE: A long way from Berlin, no John F. Kennedy would come to this wall to boost spirits by declaring "ist bin ein Modlareuth".

[01:54:52] AMANPOUR: Elmira, New York was where Blystone started his life. The Associated Press is where he started his journalism career reporting the civil rights movement and later the war in Vietnam.

And it's there he started his family risking his own life to save someone else's when he rescued AP's Cambodian newsman, Chaay-Born Lay along with his wife and children.

BLYSTONE: When this cask was filled, Jimmy Carter was President of the United States.

AMANPOUR: Blystone joined CNN in 1980 just before this pioneering network went on the air becoming one of the so-called "originals".

BLYSTONE: As for the gas --

AMANPOUR: A true original who witnessed seismic events at the end of the millennium and showed us what most couldn't see and stood up to men others feared.

BLYSTONE: Can I go a little farther on this, Mr. President. You have seen the magazine covers, no doubt, which say "Beast of Baghdad" or "Butcher of Baghdad".

AMANPOUR: The best of colleagues, Richard was wedded to the truth and he knew how to find it in every one.

BLYSTONE: And Marion (INAUDIBLE) knows not only the thrill of catching something, but the pleasure of setting something free.

Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of worship -- does the freedom to go down to the river and fish rank with those? Well, maybe it does.

AMANPOUR: Following the collapse of communism, he traveled thousands of miles along the old Iron Curtain.

BLYSTONE: The Iron Curtain -- Churchill had it right. Not only was it meant to keep the Germans from one another, but to blind them from what was going on with one another.

AMANPOUR: Not afraid to play the fool or show the foolish side of the world.

BLYSTONE: I got the shop right here, the bet is all (INAUDIBLE) and they would all bet better could they have a beer. Can't do. Can't do. The law says the shop can't do.

AMANPOUR: And remembering those who should never be forgotten.

BLYSTONE: All imperfections passed, they march now in faultless order, keeping the hard one heights (ph) over Omaha Beach; the field of patterns weaving their many origins into their common destiny, a field that was then so far from tranquil.

Nine thousand Americans have earned the place they rest, but their marble requiem would be sterile as stone if it didn't belong as well to all who come or are led here or an inkling of what it was like, a grasp of what it was for. For the dead are all one nation.

A sinister place of prying eyes now --

AMANPOUR: CNN's own poet laureate leaves a world of mourning friends, followers and colleagues but we will always have his words.

BLYSTONE: My side of Modlareuth is in Thuringia State, your side is in Bavaria. Walls crumble and fall, bureaucracy is forever.

Richard Blystone, CNN -- Modlareuth, Germany -- Beirut -- Paris -- Lockerby -- Amsterdam -- Stratford upon Avon -- Leone -- Bonne -- Iraq -- Northern Iraq -- Kuwait -- West Germany -- East Germany -- Alton, England -- Loch Ness -- Wales -- Belfast -- Dublin -- Sarajevo -- Tusla (ph) Air Base -- (INAUDIBLE) -- Martha's Lock Bay in Malta -- Mogadishu -- Makong Delta -- Vietnam.

Richard Blystone, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. More news after a short break.