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Who Will Walk Meghan Markle Down the Aisle?; Outcry Builds over Sudanese Woman's Death Sentence; Palestinians Feel Betrayed by Trump and Arab Leaders; "Solo: A Star Wars Story";Trump Jr. Was Interested To Hear Dirt on Clinton; Transcripts Detail Trump Jr.'s Quest For Dirt on Clinton; Rosenstein Won't Say Whether the President Can Be Indicted; U.S. Officials Say North Korea Summit Will Happen. Aired 1- 2a ET

Aired May 17, 2018 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:15] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN Newsroom live from Los Angeles.


Ahead this hour, they were promised dirt on Hillary Clinton and were left angry and frustrated when they didn't get it. New documents take us inside the now infamous meeting between the Trump campaign and a Kremlin linked Russian lawyer.

Also ahead, despite the threats of North Korea the White House believes it can save Trump's summit with Kim Jong-un along with its demand Pyongyang get rid of all its nukes.

And, a royal wedding without the father of the bride. So now, who will walk Meghan Markle down the aisle? That's anybody's guess.

Hello everybody, thanks for staying with us.


I'm John Vause, we're into the second hour - - one more to go, of Newsroom L.A.

Well, the Senate investigation into Russian election meddling is offering new insight into that now infamous 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between several Russians and members of the Trump campaign. With the release of testimony from Donald Trump, Jr., we're getting a clearer picture of exactly what happened before, during and after that meeting.

We begin with CNN's Sarah Murray.


SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Senate Judiciary Committee releasing approximately 2,000 pages of interviews shedding light on the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer. In his testimony, Donald Trump, Jr., says he was interested in listening to information, but claimed it didn't know if it came from the Russian government. Saying, "I had no way of assessing where it came from, but I was willing to listen."

He testified that he told campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Trump son-in-law, Jared Kushner, about the meeting, but says he didn't tell his father about it or the offer of incriminating information on Clinton. "I wouldn't bring him anything that's unsubstantiated, especially from a guy like Rob, before I knew what it was actually about myself", Trump, Jr., testified.

Rob Goldstone, the British music publicist who arranged the meeting, testified that he expected something big perhaps a smoking gun.

"I'm setting up a meeting for someone who is going to bring you damaging information about somebody who is running to become the President of the United States. I thought that was worthy of the word 'smoking gun'".

Instead, the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, began talking about Russian adoptions. After the meeting, Goldstone says he immediately Emin Agaralov, the Russian pop star who had asked Goldstone to set up the meeting.

Goldstone's message, "This was the most embarrassing thing you've ever asked me to do. I've just sat in a meeting about adoption."

Trump, Jr., testified that Goldstone apologized to him for wasting our time. Trump, Jr., says he never told his father about the meeting. But, on June 6th shortly after the meeting was arranged, Trump, Jr., made an 11 minute phone call to a blocked number.

Former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, testified to House members that the president's primary residence has a blocked number.

When the meeting first came to light more than a year later at a July 2017 New York Times story, the Trump team was left flailing for a response. Ultimately, they crafted a misleading one aboard Air Force One as the president returned from the G-20 Summit in Germany, saying the meeting focused primarily on adoption.

There was no mention of dirt on Clinton, the reason Trump, Jr., accepted the meeting. As the special counsel probes the meeting, and the stamen that followed, it's still unclear how involved the president was in crafting it.

Trump, Jr., testified his father may have commented through Hope Hicks, the former White House Communications Director, passing it as a collaborative effort with attorneys. He said he did not request his father's assistance, saying, "Hicks asked if I wanted to actually speak to him and I chose not to, because I didn't want to bring him into something that he had nothing to do with."

(END VIDEOTAPE) Now, in a statement on Wednesday, Donald Trump, Jr., described his testimony as candid and forthright, but not everyone necessarily believes that. There are a number of Senate Democrats who say they have a lot more questions for Donald Trump, Jr.

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

VAUSE: Well, for more on this, joining me now, CNN political commentators Democratic strategist, Dave Jacobson, and Republican consultant, John Thomas, also with us, CNN's legal analyst, Areva Martin.

So, Areva, first to you the legal voice. Clearly the transcripts revealed Trump, Jr., was expecting some kind of Russian bombshell dirt, which he knew was coming - - or hoped was coming from the Russian government. There was disappointment when that didn't happen.

Okay, so let me put this to you. So, someone offers to sell me a bag of cocaine and I arrange to meet that person selling that bag of cocaine. If that bag of cocaine turns out to be a bag of sugar and I don't buy it because it's not cocaine, have I still committed a crime in the sense that I've conspired to buy cocaine?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, you probably need to make the buy. Arguably you shouldn't be meeting with someone to purchase something that's illegal, but I would think most prosecutors . . .

VAUSE: What if I buy the sugar?

MARTIN: Well, if you buy the sugar expecting it to be cocaine, some prosecutor may decide that you've committed a crime and they may want to charge you.

[01:05] And, I think that's what's so troubling about this meeting was clearly they went there with the intent of getting this dirt on Hillary Clinton from these Russian officials - - who they thought were Russian officials. They got nothing, they get angry and then we see this cover up.

So, they didn't get the information, but we see this false statement being put out by the Trump, and Trump, Jr., team. And then, as the story's about to go public even more coordination between these lawyers to try to get the story straight.

So, the whole thing smells, it just smells bad. It looks bad and it smells bad.

VAUSE: So, Dave, what we have here is that Don, Jr., colluded or schemed, or plotted, choose whatever word you want because people don't like colluded.


VAUSE: Or conspired, with Russian's linked to the Kremlin, you know to get some kind of quid pro quo. The only question now seems to be if there was some kind of law which was broken here and that's why we have the Mueller investigation.

JACOBSON: That's precisely why you have the Mueller investigation. Yes, it's largely a function of like does Bob Mueller think that he's got enough evidence, right, to prosecute a case against Donald Trump, Jr., right?


He also probably has information that the Senate panel who released information on the transcript today with Trump, Jr. - - he probably has information that they don't have because he's spoken with others who the Senate panel hasn't, right?

Like, the Senate has not subpoenaed Jared Kushner or Paul Manafort, for example, who we know has spoken with Bob Mueller. So, he probably has a whole bunch more information than what we've seen so far today from the Senate transcript.

But, this puts a bright spot when in the fact that it was clear that Donald Trump, Jr., clearly wanted this information, right? He clearly sat down expecting to get some sort of information from a foreign adversary of the United States against Hillary Clinton.


And so, that's already (ph) a function of at this point, is the prosecutorial case strong enough? Who knows?

VAUSE: John, tell us why it doesn't look good?

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it doesn't look good because the candidate's kid shouldn't be involved in that level of information gathering, whether from a foreign government or just anybody. I mean, the amount of calls campaigns get about dirt on a daily basis, especially at that level, is off the charts from everybody.

Just mistake - - for one, that the son would even think about having these kind of meetings with anyone, never mind somebody potentially linked to a foreign government, but he may be lucking out here because it seems like it was a big nothing.


VAUSE: Areva, keep in mind the Trump Tower meeting, which at first Trump, Jr., lied about - - said it never happened. Then he lied again saying it did happen, but it was nothing. Here he was last year lying on Fox.


DONALD TRUMP, JR.: It was such a nothing. There was nothing to tell. I wouldn't have even remembered it until you start scouring through the stuff. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.


VAUSE: The most memorable part of that interview was when Hannity asked, 'So, there's nothing else to come out?' he says, 'No, nothing else', and the next day it all emerged.


VAUSE: But, you know then we had the story that it was all about Russian adoptions and you know allowing Russian adoptions for U.S. citizens. The Russian adoption story was the basis of that misleading statement put out by the White House.

Law makers then focused on that with Don, Jr., asking, "To the best of your knowledge, did the president provide any edits to the statement or other input?"

Answer from Don, Jr., "He may have commented through Hope Hicks."

Question, "And do you know if his comments provide through Hope Hicks were incorporated into the final statement?"

Don, Jr., "I believe some may have been, but this was an effort through lots of people, mostly counsel."

Okay. So, did Don, Jr., just implicate his father in the cover up by trying to pin all of this onto Hope Hicks.

MARTIN: Absolutely he did. He acknowledged that his father probably had something to do with that statement. And we know from others that were a part of that meeting on Air Force One, that Donald Trump was very involved.

I think we heard Sarah Sanders say he would do what any father would do, except in this case it's a father and a son who's now acting as an advisor to the campaign. So, I'm not sure what any father would do in this situation.

But, it's very clear that Donald Trump, the President, had something to do with this statement and Don, Jr. - - these shifting stories from it didn't happen to happened, to it wasn't important, it's just making this story worse and I just wish we could get the real truth.

And, even though we've gotten these transcripts, it still seems like there's so much more about the meeting, the setting up of the meeting, who knew about the meeting, that we still don't know. Because we have this phone call that Don, Jr., made . . .

VAUSE: The mystery phone call, yes.

MARTIN: . . . to this mystery number and he can't remember if his dad had a blocked number or not. He can't remember who he actually called, and we could have just issued a subpoena and we would know who you made that phone call to.

[01:10] VAUSE: John, to you. It seems almost impossible that Donald Trump, Sr., could not have had some input into that cover up statement at the very least, without knowing about the meeting at Trump Tower to begin with, right?

THOMAS: Well, you're saying from when it happened originally?


When he was briefed, perhaps, on the flight?

VAUSE: On the flight back, yes.

THOMAS: I mean it seems to reason that he would know.

VAUSE: Okay. So, that's part of the obstruction of justice case.

THOMAS: Right.

JACOBSON: I have to say that Donald Trump has like a lot of circumstances where like he just doesn't seem to tell the truth on Air Force One. Just a couple weeks ago, it was like a Michael Cohen case, right?

VAUSE: Yes, $130,000, didn't know anything about the payment. Yes.

JACOBSON: Like the gift that keeps giving.

THOMAS: But the issue at hand is it's the cover up, right? it's the cant get your act straight - - together and in the moment it really was Don, Jr. - - if he even remembered what happened in that meeting, knew there was nothing significant at the meeting, but he didn't want the PR to continue on about these alleged connections to Russians, even if . . .

VAUSE: Not alleged, real.

MARTIN: And, remember at that time they had denied any meetings, any interactions with Russians. So, now to have this meeting come out would have been . . .

THOMAS: Well, they were trying to avert a PR crisis. They, I don't think, were worrying about legal ramifications in the moment, and now it's legal ramifications, not just the PR crisis.

MARTIN: Well, they weren't worrying about it, because they just don't seem to know what they're doing at any . . .


VAUSE: Okay, earlier this month the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, was asked about the possibility of indicting President Trump. He gave this answer.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I'm not going to answer this in the context of any current matter. So, you shouldn't draw any inference about it, but the department of justice has - - in the past when the issue arose, has opined that a sitting president cannot be indicted.


VAUSE: And, we're now hearing, Dave, from Rudy Giuliani - - the world's greatest lawyer, also Trump's attorney for the Russian probe - - that he's been told by the Mueller folks that that's what Mueller will do, he'll follow the DOJ guidelines and regardless of the evidence, if there is evidence, Trump will not be indicted.

As some Trump allies have said that's indication that Mueller doesn't have anything, but that's not necessarily the case.

JACOBSON: I think Rudy Giuliani is nothing more than a mouthpiece of Donald Trump and his presidency, and his White House, and he is just trying to get his moment in the sun, because he never became secretary of state or attorney general.

Look, a bottom line, I think anything's possible at this point. I think largely it's a function of like what evidence Bob Mueller has, if it's strong and compelling enough, and he feels like he can proceed and bring it to court. I mean, I think - - I'm not an attorney, but I think it's plausible that he can, number one.

Number two, let's not forget we have a massive mid-term election coming up in November and it is possible - - Democrats are on a trajectory to potentially take back the House, we only need to pick up 24 seats. And so, the political question of impeachment is not out of the question.

VAUSE: But, John, if Trump is not going to be indicted, doesn't it then mean that he's not facing legal jeopardy, therefore, he should be free to testify to Bob Mueller?

THOMAS: I feel like you could always say something you regret. So, I still wouldn't do the meeting.


MARTIN: John, if you go in and tell the truth, there shouldn't be anything to regret. That's the problem with Giuliani's argument is that it's a perjury trap. Well, it's only a perjury trap if your client goes in and tells a lie.


THOMAS: The prosecutors can trip him up.

MARTIN: There's no tripping up when you haven't done anything wrong and when you tell the truth.

VAUSE: Dave, you mentioned this - - Air Force One, last month, and Donald Trump was asked about the payments to Michael Cohen - - the hush money for the porn star, Stormy Daniels. Here's a walk down memory lane.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000

payment to Stormy Daniels?




VAUSE: Oh, contraire. Now, according to the president's financial disclosure, which was released on Wednesday - - a tiny little teeny weeny footnote, there's an admission Trump paid Cohen between $100,000 and $250,000 last year.

Areva, to you. The Trump appointed head of the office of government ethics has written to the department of justice to alert them to the payment because it may be relevant to any inquiry. What's the legal liability here for the president?

MARTIN: Well, that's pretty much like the criminal referral to the department of justice and Trump had an obligation not this year, but last year, when this liability existed to report it and he didn't, and again shifting stories. I didn't know about the payment, Giuliani goes on Sean Hannity and says he absolutely did authorize the payment, knew about the payment.

So, we know that Donald Trump knew about that payment. The lawyer doesn't have the authority, would not have had the authority to make a settlement on behalf of his client without his authorization. Trump should have reported it last year, he didn't. He's now making it in a footnote and we'll see what the department of justice does with it.

JACOBSON: Giuliani went on television - - went on Fox News and was talking about how this was not an illegal in-kind contribution to the campaign. It wasn't a function of the campaign, when we know full well the payment happening a couple days before the election.

[01:15] It directly benefitted Donald Trump's campaign. So, this was an admission . . .

THOMAS: Cohen's done this numerous times over a period of years and this was a course of regular business.

VAUSE: (inaudible) We should note that from what we've been able to find out, no president has ever been referred by the office of government ethics to the department of justice for failing to report something on their financial disclosure.

Okay. North Korea, they made it pretty clear that it's the National Security Advisor, John Bolton, he's the one who's put Donald Trump's Nobel Peace Prize in jeopardy. Because of comments over the weekend, saying North Korea should give up their nukes like Libya did before the talks even begin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) Here's a Tweet from Kingston Reif, from the Arms Control Now, "Bolton is no doubt already telling Trump, 'See, I told you so.' Bolton knew exactly what he was doing and repeatedly studying the wildly unrealistic expectation for the summit and immediate Libya style denuclearization in return for nothing until that is achieved."


So, John, is it possible Bolton has been trying to sabotage these talks?

THOMAS: I would be highly surprised. Bolton's a man of integrity, he wants the president to succeed. He serves at the pleasure of the president, he's there to advise, I don't believe that he has any ulterior motive, other than to see the United States succeed.

VAUSE: And, Dave, Bolton has been blamed for you know scrapping previous deals with the North Koreans. Should he essentially butt out - - be recused from this summit in any way?

JACOBSON: I think it's clear that he should, he's a hot head.


I mean, look, the fact that North Korea backtracked and did a full like 180 and threatened to pull out of this thing.


But, I think what it truly underscores, John, is the fact that like there were no preconditions necessarily like set in stone on this, right?


And, like normal presidential administrations, when they make big deals with other countries, they have a set of criteria, they have an understanding and the president goes in and closes the deal. And, the challenge is there is no deal yet, there's broad parameters, right? But, we don't know exactly what's going to happen and that's the problem.

And, if North Korea backtracks and just totally walks out on this, Donald Trump is going to be extraordinarily embarrassed and he's going to look weak all around the globe.

THOMAS: And, it could also could just be a negotiation ploy from the North Koreans.


To have Trump say, "please, please, please". So, we'll see who blinks first.

VAUSE: Yes. Okay. We are out of time, but thank you all for being with us. Areva, John and Dave. MARTIN: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Well, we'll take a short break, but when we come back we'll have more on the U.S.-North Korea summit.


Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un can't seem to agree on what it means to denuclearize.

And, later this hour, Palestinians turning their anger towards President Trump days after the deadliest clashes Gaza has seen in years.



[01:20:23] VAUSE: Well, U.S. officials are still hopeful the summit with North Korea will go ahead as planned.


And, their not backing away from a demand for a complete and total denuclearization by Pyongyang. President Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim Jong-un in Singapore next month, but the North suddenly threatening to pull out of the summit, saying it would not be backed into a corner by the U.S.

President Trump was asked on Wednesday for his take.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We haven't seen anything, we haven't heard anything, we will see what happens. We'll see what happens. We'll see. Time will tell.



VAUSE: CNN's Paula Hancocks, live for us in Seoul, South Korea.

So, Paula, it seems the North Koreans are hanging most of this on a comment made by the National Security Advisor, John Bolton. All that being blamed for throwing these talks into doubt.

This is what Bolton said on Sunday.


MARGARET BRENNAN, FACE THE NATION: But, is it a requirement that Kim Jong-un agree to give away those weapons before you give any kind of concession?

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I think that's right, I think we're looking at the Libya model of 2003-2004.


VAUSE: So, Bolton is out trying to walk that back, trying to keep these talks on track. He's reached out to the South Koreans. So, what are the details?

HANCOCKS: Well, that's right. Clearly, this is not something that North Korea wanted to hear, considering North Korea has used this as one of the reasons that they need to have nuclear weapons. They have consistently said over the years, "We do not want to become another Libya, another Iraq".

A country which has agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program in the case of Libya. And then, just a matter of years later, the leader Moammar Gaddafi was killed by rebels backed by Washington.

So, Pyongyang has consistently used this as one of the reasons - - one of the justifications for not being able to give up its nuclear weapons program. But, of course, now the argument is were they even intending to give up the nuclear weapons program by saying that they have no intention for a unilateral nuclear disarmament or abandonment.

So, certainly there's a lot of questions in the air, but Bolton's comments really didn't help the situation when it comes to Pyongyang.

VAUSE: Okay. Paula, thank you.

Paula Hancocks there, live for us with the very latest.

Let's go to Paul Carroll now, the senior advisor at the nuclear nonproliferation group, N Square. He's with us from Minneapolis, in Minnesota.

Paul, thanks for being with us once more.

You know, it wasn't just the National Security Advisor, John Bolton, who seemed to be upping the ante. The Secretary of State, John (sic) Pompeo, was doing the rounds also on the Sunday talk shows, and to him, it was all about complete and total denuclearization as well. This is what he said.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're hoping this will be bigger, different, faster, our ask is complete and total denuclearization of North Korea, and it is the president's intention to achieve that. As he has said, we'll see if that works.

All the things that that North Korean people need, the capacity for American agriculture to support North Korea, so they can eat meat and have healthy lives. Those are the kind of things that if we get what it is that the president has demanded - - the complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization of North Korea, that the American people will offer in spades.


VAUSE: And again, which is very different to what he'd said after just returning from Pyongyang, which was all about this you know phased process where, you know, the North Koreans would give up a little and the Americans would give up a little.

PAUL CARROLL, SENIOR ADVISOR, N SQUARED: Well, that's right. I think Secretary of State Pompeo's statements are troubling, I wouldn't put them in the same category as National Security Advisor Bolton's. Particularly given Bolton's track record of being a regime changer and extremely hawkish.

Btu, what Pompeo said is also - - you don't want to be airing these kinds of trial balloons in public on the airwaves before a very delicate and nuanced negotiation is about to take place. It's fine to lay out some broad guidelines about what the United States and South Koreas ultimate goals are and that ought to be the denuclearization of North Korea, and as North Korea says it the whole peninsula.

But, starting with the endgame is not the way to go and adding things into the endgame like missiles or biologic weapons, like Advisor Bolton did, is also you know whether you intend to, or not, you're asking for 12 when really all you ought to be looking for is 10.

So, these talk shows and this public airing of what the U.S. ask is going to be, I think is actually unhelpful, it should be quieter.

VAUSE: Yes. The Koreans actually do have television. I mean, they do get to hear and watch these things.

[01:25] The White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, she said the U.S. is still committed to the talks, but it's up to the North Koreans to decide if they'll be there.

This is what she said.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We've been prepared that these could be tough negotiations. The president is ready if eh meeting takes place and if it doesn't we'll continue the maximum pressure campaign that's been ongoing.


But, here are what the folks at the website 38 North, which specializes in all things North Korea, have to say about the maximum pressure campaign. They argue it's dead and here's why.


"There will no longer be any stomach in either Seoul or Beijing to tighten sanctions (much less go to war) if the Trump administration determines at the Trump-Kim summit that the DPRK is not serious about denuclearization in the way the White House defines that term". "Any attempt to get tougher with North Korea will produce a violently

negative reaction from the South Korean public and political class as long as Kim continues his skillful reengineering of his image with South Korea and does not turn on Moon", the South Korean President.

"China, too, is probably quite satisfied with the turn of events since January 1. It has reinserted itself into the diplomatic process and has had two successful high-level meetings with Kim".


You know, they make a pretty good argument, I think.

CARROLL: I absolutely agree. I think what we have here - - and we need to be skeptical, we need to be cautious, but there seems to be a huge potential here. There's a potential for a rapprochement between the North and South. There's a potential to finally get beyond this weird historical stalemate of an armistice agreement and talk about an actual peace agreement, but it's not just abbot the U.S.

China, South Korea, Japan and North Korea are all part of this. The other thing I would say is that the U.S. players and the administration is poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They're adding fuel to a fire that doesn't need to be, you know, enhanced.

In fact, they're torpedoing it and they're also dismissing any responsibility by statements like, "We'll see what happens", or "if there'll be a summit", as though they're not part of the process.

And so, this is troubling in a number of ways. I'm somewhat optimistic, though, that we still have a lot of runway. We still have nearly a month before the summit. My understanding is Secretary Pompeo talked with his Singaporean counterparts today, which seems to indicate they're still planning as though a summit will take place.

So, there is time to sort of unwind some of these wrinkles and I hope that Pyongyang understands that.

VAUSE: Yes. But, time is short, though, and Donald Trump is well- known for not being particularly detail oriented, he prefers to wing it. According to a report in Time, the president is not spending a lot of time preparing for the summit.


Quote, "He doesn't think he needs to", said a senior administration official familiar with the presidents preparation. "Aides plan to squeeze in time for Trump to learn more about Kim's psychology and strategize on ways to respond to offers Kim may make in person, but so far, a detailed plan hasn't been laid out for getting Trump ready for the summit."


So, if an unprepared U.S. President heads into a high stakes negotiation with the leader of North Korea, and that U.S. President is desperate to get a deal - - the oldest question is just what could possibly go wrong?


CARROLL: I - - I - - I hear you, I tend to agree, this may seem maybe naive, but it's certainly hopeful. I think given Pompeo's track record to date, with the meeting that we all learned about after the fact, laying the ground work for a summit, a second visit to secure the release of the American detainees.

I would like to believe, and I would like to think, that the adult supervisors in the national security arena - - Bolton aside, are laying the groundwork. They're doing what is supposed to happen. They're the ones that are supposed to lay out the guidelines, you know, where the napkins are places, where the meeting's going to take place.

VAUSE: Right.

CARROLL: And, President Trump can be brought in and briefed in plenty of time. I won't say that he's going to become a PhD in North Korean relations or the nuclear program, but they should allow him enough time to brief him when he's ready.

VAUSE: Yes, there does seem to be sort of two processes here. There's the normal, traditional one which we are sort of familiar with, and then there's Donald Trump. I get it, to quote Donald Trump, "time will tell."


CARROLL: Thank you.

VAUSE: Okay. A short break here. When we come back, the royal wedding just two days away now, but there's problems in paradise.


Where a major feature of the ceremony is still unresolved, details when we come back.



VAUSE: Thanks for staying with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

U.S. national security advisor John Bolton says he expects the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will happen. North Korea has threatened to cancel the meeting objecting to U.S. military drills with South Korea and U.S. demands for a complete denuclearization. New details are out about Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin. The Senate Judiciary Committee has released transcripts of the interviews they held with Don, Jr. They show the President's son and senior members of the Trump campaign were eater for dirt on Hillary Clinton and frustrated and angry when they didn't get the bombshell they were hoping for.

President Trump's latest financial disclosure form shows he repaid more than $100,000 last year to his personal attorney Michael Cohen. The reason for the payment was not specified by Cohen has acknowledged paying $130,000 (AUDIO GAP) Stormy Daniels from going public about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.

Well, there have been days of back and forth about Meghan Markle's father and will he attend his daughter's wedding. Now that he won't there's the question of who will walk her down the aisle.

Here's Max Foster.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: First he was coming. Then he wasn't. Then he was. Now apparently he's not.

Meghan Markle's father has told the U.S. Web site TMZ that heart surgery will prevent him traveling to prison for the royal wedding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone wants their father at their wedding. So yes, I think she should be pretty devastated. But the last I heard he was too ill to come. So that's a kind of a different story. So things are (INAUDIBLE) for her.

FOSTER: Thomas Markle was supposed to be at Windsor Castle to greet his daughter and walk her down the aisle. If he doesn't show up the question then becomes who will step in for him? Or will she go solo?

The most likely candidate seems to be her mother, Doria Ragland who'll be driving with Meghan to the chapel.

VICTORIA ARBITER, CNN ROYAL CONTRIBUTOR: UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The two are incredibly close. Harry has actually spent a lot of time with Doria as well so there's a personal connection there. But I think Meghan is the person she is today as a result of her mother.

FOSTER: There's also royal precedent for the bride's mother taking on the role. Queen Victoria did it for some of her daughters.

Another option could be Prince William, Harry's brother who's already lined up though to be best man on the day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the wedding?

FOSTER: Some betting companies are even offering odds on Meghan being accompanied by one of her former "Suits" co-stars Patrick Adams or Gabriel Macht. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok.

FOSTER: Another left field option could be Meghan's friend Jessica Mulroney whose sons will be page boys and daughter will be a flower girl. It's a question everyone seems to have an opinion on.

[01:35:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoever is important in Meghan's life as a male figure she should be able to choose whoever she wants but she chooses not to have him, then she should be able to choose somebody else that is a father figure to her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If her father can't make it then she's said that he's not going to be able to make or isn't well enough to make it. Very well, she can walk on her own and her father can be there in spirit if not in person.

FOSTER: Whether she walks down the aisle on her own or with Prince Harry or with someone else at this stage, we don't really know. And there's no official word from the palace either.

Max Foster, CNN -- Windsor.


VAUSE: Kate Williams is CNN's royal commentator and she pulled early live shot duty as she joins us now live from Windsor. Kate -- thanks for getting up. Tell me, why all the mystery over who walked the bride down the aisle? Is it possible she might actually go solo, break with tradition all together?

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: You are so right -- John. It's been all kinds of sad tale, all kinds of conversation ever since we heard the news that Thomas Markle wasn't coming. He was too embarrassed. Then he was too ill.

And now although we understand he's coherent. He's well after the heart surgery, having a stent put in is just too complicated, too much of a big operation for him to make the movement to here over to Britain.

So it isn't going to be him. But we do say who is it going to be? Is it going to be Doria just as Max is saying in the film? And there has been so much coverage but there is the question as you say -- John, should she do it by herself? Can she do it by herself?

Many modern brides do do it by themselves because they say well I'm not a woman to be given away by anyone. I'm a modern woman. So why not? And certainly she has a lot of friends, a lot of relatives.

Princess Margaret was given away by Prince Philip and (AUDIO GAP) give away her daughter.

There's plenty of royal precedent. You don't have to stick by it and perhaps she might have a whole host of people -- five or six giving her (AUDIO GAP). We certainly haven't -- certainly some later news on it Friday or

Saturday. We expect to know who it will be. But my bet is on Doria myself.

VAUSE: Yes. That will be interesting.

Ok. Here's part of an opinion piece from "The Daily Beast". "This week will live long in the memories and nightmares of royal courtiers at a time when they completely lost control of the narrative of Meghan and Harry's wedding in a painstakingly choreographed display of pomp and circumstance. Their best opportunity to sell the royal family to a whole new generation of subscribers turned into a gigantic reality TV show with just one theme. Will he or won't he?" A reference to Thomas Markle and his, you know, (INAUDIBLE) for the wedding.

Is that overstating what the events in the past few days have been or will -- will this all be forgotten once Meghan walks down the aisle and, you know there's all the oohs and ahhs about how good she looks, about the gown? Or has Thomas Markle left a permanent stain here?

WILLIAMS: I think you're right -- John. I think that "The Beast" has a point. It's that it is overshadowing the actual run-up to the wedding. All this conversation about will he, won't he. And I think what is really overshadowing the run-up to the wedding is this concern that the palace hasn't really helped the parents. That they rather left them to fend for themselves against what can be the really cutthroat world of the British tabloid press who perhaps have tempted and encouraged Mr. Markle into something he really didn't understand and didn't realize how big it was going to get.

Because certainly we've seen before that many girls who have been thinking about Prince Harry as a potential husband, they've drawn back partly because they've been afraid of scrutiny themselves but also because they feel very concerned about what it does to their family, about their family being dragged over the coals. We saw Mr. and Mrs. Middleton and the Middleton brothers and sisters of Kate's constant conversation (AUDIO GAP) never said anything. They stayed very quiet.

But Mr. Markle tried direct operations and then was condemned very roundly. And I think there's a lot of sympathy for him in Britain. People are saying, well why weren't the palace helping him? And I think -- I'm sure the palace meant to help but in the run-up to the wedding, they didn't.

So there has been a lot of criticism here. But I do think that as you say on the day of the wedding Meghan's going to look fabulous. It's all going to be marvelous. There is going to be -- it's all going to be forgotten.

But I think the big question here is how do we help the parents and family of those who marry into the royal family because it's a world in which suddenly they are thrust from an obscure, normal life into being some of the world's most famous people overnight.

VAUSE: It must be awful. Ok. Let's finish up with Meghan Markle's mother who's now arrived in

London and "People Magazine" is reporting Meghan's mom didn't come empty-handed. "Doria Ragland who will play a special role in her daughter's big day was spotted with a Burberry garment bag that could possibly contain her wedding day look. The British brand is also the new frontrunner list of possible designers of Meghan's royal wedding dress."

Ok. I know nothing about this but I thought Burberry isn't exactly known for making bridal gowns. So here's a crazy theory, maybe Doria Ragland was carrying a dress she plans to wear?

[01:40:05] WILLIAMS: Yes. Maybe Doria was carrying her dress because the dress that Meghan is going to wear that there was hysterical circulation about here in Britain. That is actually at Windsor Castle behind me. The dress is stored there in a box. And it is stored there because the Queen needs to approve the wedding dress before the actual wedding.

And Kate had a meeting with the Queen about it. Meghan is having a meeting with the Queen about the dress, we believe today. It's a bit late if the Queen doesn't like so we're going to assume that she's going to.

But still the dress is there under tight security. No one can see it. It is top secret security. And when Diana -- Prince Diana, she had a second dress just in case her dress, the design was exposed to the media. So this is just a huge James Bond level of secrecy here about the wedding dress so that no one knows until the moment we see it what it is. But yes, it is a huge subterfuge.

VAUSE: I had no idea the Queen had to approve the dress. I learn something everyday. Kate -- thank you. Have fun.


VAUSE: Talk to you soon. Bye.

Ok. CNN cordially invites to be part of our special coverage of Harry and Meghan's big day from the "I dos", to the dress, yes the dress -- we'll have it all covered. That's Saturday right here on CNN. Grab some popcorn, put your feet up. Settle in for some special viewing.

Still to come here though, an anti-Trump mural goes up in Gaza City. The Palestinians say they feel abandoned and betrayed by the U.S.


VAUSE: The horrific case of a young woman in Sudan sentenced to death for killing her abusive husband has sparked an outcry in her country and around the world. Nineteen-year-old Noura Hussein faces death by hanging because she killed the husband she was forced to marry at age 15. She says his relatives held her down as he raped her.

Sudan's government in Khartoum is now facing escalating appeals of clemency from world leaders as well as women's and human rights advocates.

As our Nima Elbagir reports, Noura's supporters in Sudan are raising their voices to holding out hope that her sentence will be overturned.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As the international interest in Noura Hussein's case has ratcheted up so we are told has the campaign of intimidation by Sudan's state security forces. Sources tell us that today in spite of the fact that Noura's legal team has scheduled a press conference, state security forces raided her lawyer's office cancelling the press conference.

[01:45:08] Many of those activists that we had been speaking to in Sudan have also increasingly gone to ask that we don't name them. The sense is that Sudan is trying to clamp down on all this international outcry.

YASSMIN ABDEL-MAGIED, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: It's difficult for people on the ground in Sudan at the moment. There's a lot of intimidation from security forces, from the government and so it's actually more incumbent on the international community to try to put pressure.

And that includes raising awareness which I think there's been a really -- there's been really good grassroots that have (INAUDIBLE) around that. But it also includes looking at what can our governments do diplomatically.

ELBAGIR: Because what's been extraordinary is how much this has been taken up within Sudan itself. This isn't one of those instances where people feel that this was kind of imposed externally upon Sudanese. This was Sudanese themselves rallying around this woman, rallying around her cause.

ABDEL-MAGIED: There are all sorts of movements but often their position has been like let's save these women. Or let's save this particular person. Whereas the Justice for Noura campaign really did come from people in Sudan talking about it on their social platforms. That's actually how I heard about it.

And then people in the diaspora amplifying it and beyond that it being picked up by all sorts of people -- CNN, Naomi Campbell, Amnesty International.

ELBAGIR: And it's governments perhaps like the U.S. who are key collaborators with Sudan in counter terror operations in the Horn of Africa sharing crucial information but are also looking to open the door in terms of a permanent lifting of financial sanctions; countries like the U.K. who have huge historic relationships and across the world.

Activists are hoping that they will bring those relationships and that leverage to bear to save Noura's life.

Nima Elbagir, CNN -- London. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Israel says it's fighter jets have struck several Hamas terrorist targets in northern Gaza on Wednesday. That includes a military compound and a weapons facility. That's in response to numerous attacks they say targeting Israeli soldiers throughout the day.

Meantime, Hamas says 50 of their fighters were killed by Israeli forces during Monday's violence on the Gaza border. The Israelis say that supports their allegation that Hamas orchestrated the violent demonstrations.

Meantime many Palestinians are turning their anger towards President Trump saying, "Along with other world leaders, he's turned his back on the people of Gaza."

Our Ben Wedeman has our report.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The finishing touches go up on Gaza's latest mural portraying the struggle against today's perceived villains.

"Since Trump declared he was moving the embassy to Jerusalem, everything turned upside down", says artist Wael Zier (ph).

Since March, Israeli troops have killed more than a hundred Palestinian protesters, journalists and medical staff among those killed and injured along the fence that separates Gaza from Israel.

Unlike in the past, the U.S. hasn't issued the usual cause for Israel to exercise restraint while Arab leaders have put out mild denunciations, going through the motions of indignation.

Shoppers in Gaza City's main market on the eve of Ramadan suspect the Arab regimes have turned their backs.

"They've agreed with Trump under the table," says Muktar Abu Mohammed (ph). "Their condemnations are just for show."

For years it's been difficult for Palestinians to leave Gaza and for outsiders to enter. Already isolated, it now feels abandoned by Arab leaders who once paid lip service to the Palestinian cause.

"It's as if they've never heard of a place called Gaza," says Selma (ph). "They condemn what's going on but nothing comes of it."

Says bookstore owner Selim Arayes (ph), "I feel the Palestinian people are alone; no one supporters us as they did in the past."

On a visit to Chile in the days leading up to Monday's bloodshed, even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas didn't let the storm gathering back home break his stride.

"The strong men in the (INAUDIBLE) aren't flexing their muscles for Gaza," laments Maher (ph) a worker at the electricity company.

"There's Sisi, there's Mohammed bin Salman -- they're all the same," he says, "watching as Gaza goes by."

Ben Wedeman, CNN -- Gaza City.


VAUSE: And we'll be back right after this.

You're watching CNN.


VAUSE: Of all the characters in the "Star Wars" universe, none is more admired and loved than Han Solo, a smuggler and a rogue who stole the show in the original films. It was Harrison Ford who made that role so famous and memorable.


HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: Prepare to make the jump to light speed.

CARRIE FISHER, ACTOR: They're getting closer.

FORD: Oh, yes. Watch this.


VAUSE: Han Solo is back but this time he's a little younger. He's the central character in the prequel, "Solo: A Star Wars Story".


ALDEN EHRENREICH, ACTOR: Since when do you know how to fly?

190 years old? You look great.


VAUSE: Well, Solo opens next Wednesday in some countries around the world. In North America May 25th. But the reviews are already in

And joining me now here in Los Angeles, Sandro Monetti, film and entertainment journalist.

Ok. And the reviews have been mixed.

SANDRO MONETTI, FILMA AND ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: Good to great -- 72 percent on Rotten Tomatoes; slightly behind "Rogue One".

VAUSE: Ok. But "Time" for example says "Solo" is an uneven "Star Wars" film but it's filled by terrific performances. The first two- thirds of the picture looked dim and murky as if it had been shot through a scrim of dust motes. Maybe the whole thing is just an elaborate public service announcement for glaucoma testing. I always go to the Arizona Republic for my review.

MONETTI: Of course you would.

VAUSE: They write, "It's got a couple of gasps, a lot of action and a built-in Star Wars audience -- pretty much everything a movie needs except one thing -- a compelling reason for being."

And of course, the renowned "Detroit News" writes, "Strip away the nostalgia, the familiar 'Star Wars' backdrop and take it for what it's worth, and 'Solo' is a bit of a clunker."

But I bet you at the end of the day not one fan is going to give a rat's (INAUDIBLE) what any film critic has to say.

MONETTI: It's impressive the film has even come out. There was so much turmoil behind the scenes. The original directors were fired from the project -- the company's duo Lord and Miller replaced by Ron Howard. And then so many rumors of trouble during the shoot; there was even reports that leading man Alden Ehrenreich needed an acting coach on the set. Those were swiftly denied or watered-down.

But now the movie is out. And I think the real challenge for it is the case of franchise fatigue because it's only six months since the last one --

VAUSE: Exactly.

MONETTI: -- came out.

VAUSE: We'll get to that in a moment. But very quickly this is Ron Howard's first "Star Wars". Was it a good fit having him as director?

MONETTI: If Ron Howard was an ice cream flavor, he would be vanilla.


MONETTI: He's very much the safe choice. But after all the turmoil they've had --

VAUSE: Right.

MONETTI: -- that's probably what they needed to sort of land the ship.

VAUSE: Yes. Fair enough.

Disney bought the "Star Wars" franchise from Lucasfilm six years ago --

MONETTI: For $4 billion.

VAUSE: -- oh my God -- they've made that $4 billion back now in all of these movies that they're pumping out. But the House of Mouse has done is they're just churning these films out. They're like IKEA films now. So they're shaking out water and badabing-badaboom (ph) there you go.

MONETTI: They're just churning out the movies; also churning out merchandise, theme park attractions. It's as if they want to get that $4 billion back right away.



MONETTI: It's a race every time the financial results are due. Let' put out another "Star Wars" movie and keep Disney so profitable.

VAUSE: Will there come a time -- because there's always fans who are going to see these movies -- but will there come a time when there's, as you say, franchise fatigue and the fans like -- unless there's something special.

[01:55:01] Because so far in all of these movies -- almost all of them, I have not seen anything really special that I saw in the first three that came out.

MONETTI: And the other challenge at the moment is favorite franchise seems to have transferred from "Star Wars" to "The Avengers".

VAUSE: Right.

MONETTI: "Avengers: Infinity War" demolishing box office records and it's kind of like people transferred their affection. You know, no we like this now. We've had so much of that. So "Solo" has a real challenge to not just recapture the hearts and minds of fans but to take back that number one spot.

VAUSE: And they've got a head start because everybody already knows the characters of the "Star Wars" films as opposed to "The Avengers" --

MONETTI: -- which is a problem because it takes out suspense because you know that if the characters are in jeopardy he's going to survive --

VAUSE: That's a good point.

MONETTI: -- ten years before he even meets Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, the ultimate pressure though is on Alden Ehrenreich. He plays the role of the young Han Solo. Let's take a look.


EHRENREICH: Can I ask you a question Captain Calrissian?

DONALD GLOVER, ACTOR: Anything -- Han.

EHRENREICH: I heard a story about you, I was wondering if it's true. GLOVER: Everything you heard about me is true.


VAUSE: Because he is following in the footsteps of Harrison Ford who was a legend in this role. Just take a look at this.

MONETTI: Shows the film (ph)

VAUSE: Absolutely.


FISHER: I love you.

FORD: I know.


VAUSE: Crazy.

MONETTI: One of the classic lines in the movies.

VAUSE: "Empire Strikes Back" was by far the best movie.

MONETTI: Absolutely. I don't disagree.

VAUSE: But how did Alden Ehrenreich do?

MONETTI: Well, he is one of the best things about the movie. I mean the critics have been kind to him. But he had a real challenge coming into his. He's about half a foot shorter than Harrison Ford.

VAUSE: He'll grow up.


MONETTI: Exactly. Still room to grow, he's still a young pup.

You know, he doesn't look that much like him or sound that much like him. But, you know, he's not trying to do a direct impersonation which is probably wise. And as always, the audience will decide.

VAUSE: Of course. And they'll be very forgiving no doubt. Good to see you.

MONETTI: May the force be with you -- John.

VAUSE: And with you.

I think that's right. Thank you.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

Stay with us. A lot more news after a very short break.


[02:00:04] VAUSE: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour.

U.S. President Donald Trump takes a wait-and-see approach to the upcoming summit with Kim Jong-un.