Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea Freezes Nuclear and Missile Tests; Concerns Trump Personal Attorney Could Flip; Final Farewell to Former First Lady Barbara Bush; Trump Inflated Wealth to Get on Rich List; Puerto Rican Storm Survivors Face Uncertain Future; Outrage after Scuffle with Morality Police; Meghan and Harry's Royal Wedding; Swedish Dance Music Star Dead. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired April 21, 2018 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Shocking the world: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announces a freeze on testing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles.

Plus: he's known as Donald Trump's fixer but now concerns are growing about his continued loyalty to the president.

And later, surviving in a Florida motel. CNN speaks with Puerto Ricans still haunted by Hurricane Maria.

We're live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


ALLEN: And we begin with a stunning surprise announcement by North Korea. It has captured the world's attention. Its leader, Kim Jong- un, says he will close one of the country's nuclear testing sites and suspend further testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Here's how state TV in North Korea reported his statement.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Under the proven condition of complete nuclear weapons, we no longer need any nuclear tests, midrange and intercontinental ballistic rocket tests and that the nuclear test sites in the northern area has also completed its mission.


ALLEN: The move comes just days ahead of an historic summit with the president of South Korea. The statement does not mention short-range missile tests or any plans to scrap missiles and warheads the country already has. But U.S. President Donald Trump praised the announcement in this


"North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World - big progress! Look forward to our Summit."

The dramatic development also follows Mike Pompeo's secret visit to North Korea earlier this month. The CIA director had preliminary talks with Kim Jong-un.

For the latest, let's go to CNN's Ivan Watson, who joins us from Seoul.

Ivan, this is amazing and we have talks coming up this week between the South and the North and it truly is incredible that all of this has happened since North Korea joined the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and the timeline is really remarkable, if you consider that it was last September, September of 2017; that's seven months ago that North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear weapons test, its largest, which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb.

And in November of last year, it was conducting an intercontinental ballistic missile test. And it is with those, as the North Korean leader described them, achievements which have also included the miniaturization and the lightening of nuclear weapons, basically suggesting he could create nuclear warheads that could be put on the tip of a missile.

It is with those accomplishments now that Kim Jong-un is saying, hey, now we can suspend our nuclear weapons tests and we're not going to be launching any more intercontinental ballistic missiles.

This is certainly an olive branch of sorts now that we're less than a week before the first-ever expected face-to-face meeting between the North Korean leader and his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in. They will be meeting on the demilitarized zone.

And it is certainly another step forward in this remarkable diplomatic overture that Pyongyang has launched ever since the New Year of this year, which led into Winter Olympic diplomacy and now this kind of summit diplomacy that we're about to head into here on the Korean Peninsula -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, and that meeting comes up this week. We'll all be watching that carefully.

What may come of it as far as learning about the goals or the underlying interests of Kim Jong-un?

WATSON: Yes, and that is, you know, what everybody is talking about, going into these meetings. The request that is coming from all of the stakeholders here in the region -- of course, South Korea, the U.S., Japan, also China -- is denuclearization.

So the announcement that was made by Pyongyang does not call for the dismantling of the existing nuclear weapons. It says more weapons will not be tested right now. We will not launch further ballistic missiles.

The question now will be, as the South Korean president sits down --


WATSON: -- with Kim Jong-un and later, when and if, President Trump sits down -- and we still don't have a location or a date for that -- will North Korea be willing to dismantle the weaponry and the arsenal that it has spent more than a decade and millions, if not billions, of dollars, trying to build?

And that's a key question here.

If it was to be brought to that point, what kind of incentives would North Korea have to be given to give up the weapons that it has spent so much money and effort on building, that has resulted in international isolation and, as the U.N. argues, some 40 percent of North Koreans being undernourished? -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Much on the plate and much to be watching in this meeting that takes place this week. Ivan Watson, thanks.

Global reaction has been generally positive, if somewhat guarded. China praised the North Korean move as conducive to denuclearization. And South Korea's presidential office released this statement.

"We welcome North Korea's decision to discard its nuclear test site and to suspend the launch tests of midrange missiles. North Korea's decision is a meaningful progress for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

But Japan's prime minister was a bit more cautious.


SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): North Korea's announcement is forward motion that I'd like to welcome. But what is important is that this motion leads to complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear and missile program. I want to take a close look at it.


ALLEN: Robert Kelly joins us from Pusan, South Korea. He teaches political science at Pusan University.

We want to get your thoughts, Robert. Thanks for joining us.

First, though --

ROBERT KELLY, PUSAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Thank you for having me. ALLEN: -- sure. Your response to these concessions by Pyongyang a freeze on midrange missiles and nuclear tests.

What does Kim want here?

What are his motives?

KELLY: Yes, I think generally the response today has broadly been accurate. Everyone is guardedly optimistic, which is probably the right thing to do. Certainly the signals from Pyongyang in the last couple of weeks are great. They don't seem to be objecting to the exercises anymore between the U.S. and South Korea militaries.

Now we hear there's going to be a test halt. They're going to lock up the test site and all these things are really good.

And now the question is, is -- are they going to ask for some major concession when the two leaders of the Koreas meet in a week?

My guess is they will. It's highly uncharacteristic of North Korea to make unilateral concessions so they'll probably ask for something. My guess is sanctions relief or economic relationship or something like that. We know that North Korea is dependent on external inputs. That's probably my guess of what they'll look for from this.

ALLEN: As far as what got him here, what was instrumental?

We know that he met with the Chinese leader, when he took his train trip to China and he also had a secret meeting with Mike Pompeo of the U.S. CIA.

KELLY: Yes, that's right. It seems to me the North Koreans are shopping around now. They've got the nuclear weapons, right?

It's almost certain at this point they can strike the continental United States and so now they're interested in summit diplomacy, which if you think about it, is kind of wise. They have got the ability to hang on and deter an American strike.

So why not shop around and see what the various countries involved in the North Korean issue would give for the North Korean program, right?

So the North Koreans are meeting with Shinzo Abe, with Donald Trump, with the president of South Korea, they're thinking about meeting with Putin, they've met the Chinese leader and they've even met the head of the IOC.

That's how I read this thing. For seven years, Kim Jong-un didn't want to talk to anybody, only Dennis Rodman, I think, who met him as far as Westerners.


KELLY: Now all of a sudden he's talking to everybody.

And why? Because he's got the weapons and so now it looks like he's trying see how he can cash them out.

What can he get for the program?

How can he swap it for something he needs or wants?

ALLEN: I heard one analyst say something about what he might want here and that is money for many things, one being to provide gifts to his lieutenants, his top military leaders, for their loyalty.

What do you think about that?

KELLY: Yes, that's right. The North Korean system is kind of like the mafia; well, not kind of. It is actually a lot like the mafia. And the Kim family has traditionally been very wary that the military might overthrow them, particularly as the Kim dynasty has aged. These old, tight relationships forged when the regime was built are no longer really there.

It is more of a contractual or a transactional relationship at the top. We, on the outside, we assume a lot of this is for buying off elites, with access to alcohol and automobiles and jetskis and things like that.

So if the Chinese -- and all of that of course is illegal. There's a luxury import ban on North Korea.

And if the Chinese are actually enforcing that, which they haven't always been great about in the past, but if they are, that means that the goods are drying up at the top. And so that means that ultimately Kim has got to find some way to buy off regime elites, who may be upset with him and maybe -- and that's what we're all sort of thinking.

Maybe the sanctions have actually worked and the North Koreans are feeling the heat and now they're looking for a way to relieve those because that threatens --


-- regime security.

ALLEN: If and when it comes to a U.S. summit with President Trump, what might the U.S. offer, a treaty to end the Korean War?

Never had that yet.

Freezing war games on the border?

Then again China and Russia want U.S. troops off the border.

What would South Korean officials, who meet this week with the North, think of any of those ideas?

KELLY: Yes, I think the -- first of all, it's hard to know because Donald Trump is kind of erratic. It's hard to know what exactly he's going to offer. And it would be nice if the U.S. government would float actually some proposals out there.

We had some vague sense of what the Americans think about swapping what for what. I think if we go in there with no intention of swapping anything and demanding denuclearization, we'll get nowhere.

My guess is sanctions relief, some sort of economic relationship, possibly a peace treaty. That's a really big step. I think denuclearization has to be nailed down first, some track, some program to get if not total denuclearization, some kind of caps or limits or getting North Korea back into the IAEA or something like that.

That's my guess what the Americans are going to offer, some kind of more normal relationship for North Korea with the rest of the world, some kind of sanctions relief, in exchange for, if not total denuclearization, some pretty strict caps.

ALLEN: Robert Kelly, we always appreciate your expertise. Thanks again.

KELLY: Thank you for having me.

ALLEN: The U.S. attorney general threatens to resign. Just ahead, we'll tell you what sparked his signal. That would be Mr. Sessions there.

Plus, he's been a loyal servant to President Donald Trump but under intense legal pressure. There's concern now that Michael Cohen could turn against the president.




ALLEN: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

Several developments in the legal firestorm surrounding President Trump. "The Washington Post" reports attorney general Jeff Sessions told the White House that if President Trump fired assistant attorney general Rod Rosenstein, Sessions would consider leaving as well.

That came in a phone call last week between Sessions and White House counsel, Don McGahn, after Rosenstein had met with the president. Rosenstein oversees the Russia investigation. And there are reports Trump also lashed out after Rosenstein approved the raids on his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Meantime, the former attorney for both porn actress Stormy Daniels and former "Playboy" Playmate, Karen McDougal --


ALLEN: -- is now cooperating with federal authorities in their probe of Cohen. Keith Davidson was at the center of agreements that kept both women quiet over their alleged affairs with Donald Trump before he became president.

Davidson has turned over what his spokesman calls "certain limited electronic information." A source familiar with the matter tells CNN that, earlier this month, the FBI seized recordings Cohen made of his conversations with Davidson.

And in Los Angeles Friday, Michael Cohen's attorney asked the judge to delay Stormy Daniels' civil suit against Cohen and the president. He said that Cohen could soon be indicted in that federal criminal case in New York. But the judge says he needs to hear directly from Cohen himself before he can make a decision about that.

We get more now from Miguel Marquez.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bicoastal legal drama pitting the porn star against the president has its first hearing in a California federal court.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: The court recognized, to quote the court, that there are gaping holes in the application by Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump to delay this matter.

MARQUEZ: Stormy Daniels' aggressive button-pushing lawyer, Michael Avenatti, wants his case to move forward as quickly as possible.

AVENATTI: It has always been our intention to make sure that this case proceeded expeditiously.

MARQUEZ: The stakes enormous. If the case moves forward, the president himself could be deposed about a $130,000 payment to the adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, AKA, Stormy Daniels, which he denies knowing about.

QUESTION: did you know about the $130,000 payment to storm?


MARQUEZ: The question, but did he buy her silence about an alleged affair through his trusted and loyal fixer, Michael Cohen?

QUESTION: Will you file to protect the Fifth Amendment?

MARQUEZ: Much of the day's hearing centered on whether Michael Cohen would assert his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions in this California civil case while Cohen is also a target of a federal criminal investigation in New York.

AVENATTI: I believe the indictment will be issued within the next 90 days.

MARQUEZ: In court, Michael Cohen's lawyer Brent Blakely used Avenatti's public claims against him, arguing a delay in this case is imperative until he can sort through what the federal government has on his client in New York. And if his client is charged, as Avenatti says, then the civil case would have to wait. Avenatti says not true. There may be a middle ground.

AVENATTI: They can very easily coexist. And I through the court indicated that the court may ultimately find that when his honor discussed less intrusive means relating to allowing this case to proceed on a parallel track.

MARQUEZ: Citing security concerns, Stormy Daniels did not appear in court today after a chaotic appearance earlier in the week in New York for a hearing regarding the FBI raid of Michael Cohen's New York office, home and hotel room.

Lawyers on both sides admitting in court they don't know exactly what was seized and what the focus was in New York last week as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into Cohen's business dealings.

According to a source, investigators were seeking information about a range of issues, including Cohen's 2016 hush agreement with Daniels. Investigators are reportedly also seeking records related to a deal between former Playmate Karen McDougal and America Media Inc., which prevented her from publicly discussing her alleged 10-month affair with Trump. He denies the affair -- Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.


ALLEN: President Trump is lashing out again after memos from former FBI director James Comey were released. Late Friday night the president tweeted this.

"James Comey illegally leaked classified documents to the press in order to generate a Special Council (sic)? Therefore, the Special Council (sic) was established based on an illegal act? Really, does everybody know what that means?"

CNN has learned the Justice Department's internal watchdog is looking into Comey's handling of those memos. The inspector general's office wants to know if any classified information was improperly shared. A number of people have already been interviewed.

Let's talk more about many of these developments with Leslie Vinjamuri, associate professor of international relations at SOAS at the University of London who is frequently on our program.

Thanks for being with us and good morning. Many tracks to cover here regarding the Mueller investigation. It has tentacles wide ranging and the sideshows associated with it. James Comey first up. The fired FBI director is hitting the talk show circuit. He's giving interviews. His book is out. His memos are out.

Is there significant fallout from what Comey is saying about Mr. Trump?

LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Well, I think in terms of a lot of the details, it's more about the stories being illuminated --


VINJAMURI: -- and, of course, them being put back on the front page and on the TV screens for so many people, not only in the United States but around the world.

I think a lot of the basics have already been known. But I think one thing that's significant here is that people within the U.S. will continue, I think, to read this through a partisan lens.

Remember, America is very polarized right now. And so people's views are unlikely to change. The rest of the world is reminded of the chaos and the dysfunctionality and the intensity of this ongoing investigation. So I think it raises real questions for many people about America's role in the world and America's leadership.

But it certainly paints a real picture about the president's deep concern for loyalty and a real question about whether or not there will be an obstruction of justice clause brought forward.

ALLEN: Speaking of loyalty, a man that's been very loyal to this president, it hasn't been a good week for his fixer, his lawyer, Michael Cohen. He faces a civil investigation in California, a federal investigation in New York.

The question is, will he turn on Mr. Trump?

The person he once said he'd take a bullet for and what trouble, if he did that, could that spell for the president?

VINJAMURI: I think for many people, certainly people that I've been speaking to over the past week, they see this as potentially a very significant turning point.

What will come of the -- of Michael Cohen's participation now?

And will he turn, is a significant question.

But not withstanding that, what information is going to come out of this and what will the broader implications be?

It can't be underestimated but we don't know yet which way it will go. There's certainly reason to believe he might turn if he's faced with the possibility of very significant time in prison. He has a family. But again, it's very difficult to know.

ALLEN: And what is your thoughts on the attorney general Sessions, saying if Rosenstein is let go, he's going to?

Let's look at a sound bite, listen to a sound bite that Mr. Trump has said before about Mr. Sessions.


TRUMP: Sessions should have never recused himself and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.

Very disappointed with the attorney general but we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.


ALLEN: He has not been kind to Mr. Sessions. The question now is about whether Trump will go as far to fire Rosenstein. That would cause just more of the situation run amok there, surrounding this investigation.

VINJAMURI: Again, this is -- this question about Rosenstein but also Sessions has recurred throughout the presidency. Sessions was one of Trump's earliest supporters, has really been very committed to his broader agenda, being tough on crime, tough on immigration, trying to claw back on the sanctuary cities.

And yet the relationship between Sessions and Trump has been deeply troubled, largely because of his decision to recuse himself, which I think he had no choice but to do.

But we have to -- again, there's a question of whether Trump will go so far as to remove individuals that are key, the deputy, to this investigation and the oversight which -- the optics of that would be very bad for any sense of independence of the intelligence agencies and of law enforcement in the United States and raise much more profound questions about this president's -- this presidency and this period of American politics for American democracy.

ALLEN: Leslie Vinjamuri, we thank you as always.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

ALLEN: A private funeral service will be held in Texas in a few hours for former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush. Some of the most prominent people in American politics will attend but not U.S. President Trump. The wife of former president George H.W. Bush died Tuesday at the age of 92. Our Karen Kafa has more.



KAREN KAFA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After days of commemorations and celebrations of the life of Barbara Bush, a final farewell today, an invitation-only service and a simple one at her request.

In addition to her husband, former president George H.W. Bush, and son, former president George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton will also attend with their wives, a powerful reminder of the unique bond formed between those who have lived and worked in the White House and how that can supersede politics.

First lady Melania Trump will also attend, the president not wanting to add to already tight security will not, but offered this tribute on Wednesday.


TRUMP: A wonderful, wonderful person. For decades, Barbara was a titan in American life. Her presence and character were engraved into America's --


TRUMP: -- identity.


KAFA (voice-over): Yesterday from noon and late into the evening, the public filed through St. Martin's Episcopal Church to pay their respects to Ms. Bush. It was just one opportunity for the public to say goodbye; even those who never met her, touched by her commitment to her family, to her faith and to literacy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm going to miss her just like I miss my mother, although I didn't know her personally. But it was just the good, good spirit that she projected that I think everyone is going to miss.

KAFA (through translator): In Houston, I'm Karen Kafa.


ALLEN: Join us to commemorate the former first lady. CNN will be live in Houston, Texas. Our funeral coverage begins at 11:30 am in New York. That's 4:30 pm in London.

A reporter says years ago Donald Trump used an alter ego to inflate his wealth, all so he could rank higher on the list of richest Americans. We'll have details on that in just a bit.


FATHER JOSE RODRIGUEZ, CHRIST THE KING EPISCOPAL CHURCH: People impacted by natural disaster. They didn't come here for spring break. They didn't come here for a vacation. They're not out here at the beachside tanning. They're not at the hotel pool.


ALLEN: He's talking about hundreds of Puerto Rican storm survivors, who are now stuck in Florida motels. They can't stay there much longer but they can't go home. We'll have more about that.




ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.



ALLEN: A former "Forbes" magazine reporter claims Donald Trump took on a fake persona to inflate reports about his wealth. That allowed him to land a spot on the famous list of richest Americans. CNN's senior U.S. correspondent Alex Marquardt has the story.


JONATHAN GREENBERG, "FORBES" MAGAZINE: OK, what's your first name by the way?



"BARRON": John Barron.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's back, John Barron, the name first heard in the 1980s who spoke for Donald Trump, sounded like Donald Trump, but was never seen or met and yet the President denies that he, in fact, is Barron.

"BARRON": Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump, you know, because you have down Fred Trump.

MARQUARDT: In this audio recording just released from 1984, the so- called Barron is claiming to a reporter that the assets of Trump's wealthy father, Fred, are in fact, Donald's.

GREENBERG: OK and when you say, you know, in excess of 90 percent of the ownership?

"BARRON": I would say in excess of 90. In fact, well, it's actually really closer to even the ultimate, but in excess of 90 percent, yes.

MARQUARDT: So, he says, Trump deserves a higher spot on the new Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans.

"BARRON": And it's been pretty well consolidated, OK? So that's one point that you can...

GREENBERG: Now, is that including the residential units?

"BARRON": Yes, everything's been consolidated, basically now and over the last couple of years, they've been working on it.

MARQUARDT: As Forbes was launching its now-famous list of super wealthy millionaires and billionaires, Trump, speaking as himself, was in regular contact with Forbes reporter, Jonathan Greenberg, who is researching the candidates. Trump said his family was worth some $900 million and repeatedly argued that he was wealthier than others.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then you mentioned other names and there's no contest. I mean, there's no contest.

MARQUARDT: Forbes didn't take Trump at his words, instead, first listing him at $100 million. Nothing to sniff at, but far lower than what he was claiming. Later, Greenberg says he discovered that Trump was worth less than $5 million at the time. Well below the list's threshold.

GREENBERG: He is a consummate conman. And he figured out what he had to do in order to deceive me and get on to that list. And he did it very well. And he maintained that persona of just sort of talking about his assets without any sense of debt and lying about it.

MARQUARDT: Greenberg says he's only reporting all of this now because he just recently came across these tapes from the mid-'80s.

GREENBERG: I guess I am something of a pack rat and I thought, I would like to see those tapes of that -- you know, the Forbes 400 and the rich list and looked in and I was like, wait a minute, this is John Barron and when I heard them, I thought, these things were much better-crafted lies than I thought.

MARQUARDT: Greenberg accuses Trump of repeatedly inflating his wealthy by dramatically exaggerating the value and scale of his assets.

GREENBERG: He lied about, there were 25,000 apartments in Brooklyn and Queens. There were 8,000 apartments in Brooklyn and Queens. He lied about his father -- that owned all of his father's assets and he borrowed against his father's assets.

MARQUARDT: Barron isn't the only alias that Trump is alleged to have used.



MARQUARDT: "John Miller" was another suspected pseudonym in calls to gossip reporters.

"MILLER": By the way, I'm sort of new here. And I'm...

CARSWELL: What is your position there?

"MILLER": Well, I'm sort of handling PR because he gets so much of it.

MARQUARDT: Confronted with the allegation during the 2016 campaign, Trump denied it.

TRUMP: No, I don't think -- I don't know anything about it. You're telling me about it for the first time and it doesn't sound like my voice at all. I have many, many people that are trying to imitate my voice and you can imagine that and this sounds like one of those scams. MARQUARDT: But that same year, Trump did let it slip that he used aliases while doing business, including a familiar name.

TRUMP: I would never want to use my name, because I would have to pay more money for the land. If you are trying to buy land, you use different names, I have alias.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: What names did you use?

TRUMP: Well, I would use -- I actually used a name, Barron.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): The new audio clips and Greenberg's detailed and scathing allegations tonight resurrecting the continuous questions over the president's --


MARQUARDT (voice-over): -- casual relationship with the truth -- Alex Marquardt, CNN, New York.


ALLEN: For the second time in two months, thousands of students in the U.S. walked out of their schools to demand action on gun reform.

The National School Walkout occurred at 10:00 am in each time zone Friday and coincided with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school massacre in Colorado. Lending the students' calls more urgency, another school shooting in Florida, this one near Orlando.

Police said a student was shot in the ankle at Forrest High School. The 19-year-old suspect once attended the school and is in custody.

There have been at least 20 school shootings in the U.S. so far this year. The worst, of course, in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and some teachers were killed on Valentine's Day.

Hundreds of Puerto Ricans who fled Hurricane Maria ended up in motels in Florida. Now, seven months later, they are still stuck there and time is running out on the program that lets them live there. Their prospects look bleak in both Florida and Puerto Rico, as we learn from CNN's Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a pep talk for the soul, following a week of highs and lows that symbolizes the shaky road to recovery facing thousands of Puerto Rican storm survivors.

LAVANDERA: After Hurricane Maria, thousands of families left the island and signed up for the FEMA transitional sheltering assistance program. It pays for hotel rooms until families can move back into permanent housing.

Seven months after the storm, there are nearly 2,700 families still use the motel voucher program. Like Millie Santiago and her family.

(Speaking Spanish).

Why did you come to Florida?


LAVANDERA: She says it was never her intention to stay here this long.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Instead, Santiago is known as the mayor of the Super 8 Motel. She helps evacuees who ended up in a string of hotels along Highway 192 navigate the red tape of disaster relief.

These families say they were told the motel voucher program would last until May, but about 60 percent of the families were stunned to learn this week they were no longer eligible and about to get kicked out of their rooms a month early.

That set off an intense week of rallies. Tears and calls to political leaders and activists demanding help. Then relief as word spread that the FEMA program would likely survive until mid-May.

LAVANDERA: Father Jose Rodriguez says there are no transition plans to help these families get back on their feet.

RODRIGUEZ: These are people who have been impacted by a natural disaster. They didn't come here for spring break. They didn't come here for a vacation. They're not out here at the beachside tanning, they're not out at the hotel pool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a nice day.

(SHOUTING) LAVANDERA: The Florida project film captured the gritty reality of motel life along Highway 192 in Kissimmee. Since the Great Recession 10 years ago, the marginalized and homeless have found refuge in the cheap rooms on this stretch of highway surrounding the utopia of Disney World.


UNIDENTFIED ACTRESS: Don't you think we're going too far?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: No. Just come on. Don't be a loser.


LAVANDERA: After Hurricane Maria, community activists say about 180 Puerto Rican families moved into these same motels along Highway 192. They say they feel trapped in this motel life because they're working minimum wage jobs, affordable housing is scarce and the federal disaster benefits just aren't enough.

FEMA says, though, at some point, this is no longer a disaster problem, but a social problem and that the agency is doing everything it can to help these families.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): FEMA says there is a rental assistance program only available to storm victims on the island, not for those who left.

Millie Santiago's family left Puerto Rico because the storm wiped out their daycare business and they came to Florida so her two children could enroll in school.

LAVANDERA: Now they've been trying to figure out what to do here.

(Speaking Spanish).

You want to stay here now in Orlando?

SANTIAGO: (Speaking Spanish).

LAVANDERA (voice-over): "I don't have a choice now," she says.


LAVANDERA: Deanna Ramos is working part-time and taking culinary classes in hopes she can land a better job in one of the Orlando-area theme parks. Without the motel room, she worries she'd be sleeping in her car.

RAMOS: (Speaking Spanish).

LAVANDERA: She said, "I'm incredibly scared. I have no idea where I'm going to go."

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ramos and the other evacuees living on this motel row know time is running out -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, Kissimmee, Florida.



ALLEN: And we'll continue to report on their plight. We wish them all the best.

A shocking video goes viral in Iran. Coming up, why activists hope it will grab the public's attention in their fight for women's rights.




ALLEN: For years, Iranian activists have been fighting a law that requires women to cover their hair in public. Women who don't can face the "morality police." Now a dramatic new video shows the kind of violence that activists are determined to stop. CNN's producer Salma Abdelaziz reports from London. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): A dramatic moment of defiance. It's now a viral video shows Iran so-called "morality policy" in a physical confrontation with a woman. Her crime, allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely.

First, the police woman seen here wearing all black tries to pull the woman in the red headscarf aside.

"Sit, I'm telling you. Sit, you animal," she says.

The woman refuses and yells an insult, "You are without honor."

The confrontation turns physical, the agent's pushing and shouting screams of "Leave her alone and help Iraq," as the woman's friends tried to protect her. When falls to the ground, it's too chaotic --


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): -- to see why.

Before the clip ends, a final exchange "I'm going to file a complaint and sue the hell out of you," one of the women says.

The police officer responds, "You can't do a damn thing."

CNN cannot independently verify the video.

But Masih Alinejad, an Iranian woman right back to this, said she was given this material by an eyewitness who told her these university students were celebrating a birthday in a Tehran Park when the altercation ensued.

MASIH ALINEJAD, IRANIAN WOMAN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: They were not even unveiled. But the police thought that, you know, they don't have inappropriate hijab. So, the police went to them and asked them that cover yourself. One of the girl got, you know, resisted the police.

ABDELAZIZ: Iran's interior ministry has called for an investigation into the incident.

And Iran's vice president for woman's affairs condemned the attack tweeting, "What justifies this behavior?

Where is the limit of an officer's action?

Even if they were insulted, I strongly condemn this treatment. No human deserves this kind of harsh anti-religion behavior."

More than 35 women since December 2017 have been arrested in Tehran in an ongoing movement against the compulsory veil, according to CNN International. The guidance patrol, commonly known as the "morality police," has been accused of using force to impose required dress codes. ALINEJAD: Every individual woman in Iran who never believe in compulsory hijab, they have the same experience. So, this time this is the power of social media getting all the people under one umbrella.

ABDELAZIZ: The gathering chorus of voices online and on the street may finally have the government's attention -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


ALLEN: We certainly hope they do.

It has been two years since Prince died. And to commemorate the singer and songwriter, his estate has released an original recording from 1984. We'll play it for you coming up.





ALLEN: Ivan Cabrera has stepped in for these next few stories because it ends with the weather.

But first of all, the British royal family has a lot to celebrate. Prince Charles will succeed his mother, Queen Elizabeth, as the head of the commonwealth. Leaders of the 53 member nations made the decision on Friday while meeting at Windsor Castle near London.

The symbolic role is not hereditary but the queen said it was her sincere wish the Prince of Wales would follow in her footsteps.

Meantime, the queen is celebrating her 92nd birthday on Saturday. The world's oldest and longest reigning living monarch will attend a special concert at Royal Albert Hall with Sting, Shaggy and Kylie Minogue set to perform.

Plus Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting their third child any day now.

And this: Queen Elizabeth is also expected to start the London Marathon on Sunday. But this year's race could be the hottest on record.


ALLEN: Tributes from around the world are pouring in for one of the world's biggest dance --


ALLEN: -- music stars. Grammy-nominated Avicii, whose real name was Tim Bergling, was found dead in Muscat, Oman. He was 28.

Avicii gained international fame with the song, "Levels," and his hit record, "Wake Me Up."



ALLEN (voice-over): No cause of death was given. He retired from performing in 2016 after a string of health issues, which he acknowledged.


ALLEN: Now we want to talk about Prince. It's been exactly two years since the singer died. In his memory, Prince's estate released something special from his vault, the original 1984 recording of his song, "Nothing Compares to You."




ALLEN: Irish singer Sinead O'Connor had a smash hit with the song. Six years later and Prince finally released a live version on his 1993 hits album. The song was also featured in his last-ever show.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. "NEW DAY" is next for viewers here in the U.S. For everyone else around the world, stay with us for "AMANPOUR."