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North Korean Official: U.S. Risking Nuclear Showdown; Trump Allies Push Campaign "Spy" Theory As Fact; U.S. Officials Source Asked Aides About Russia Ties; Activist Bringing Science Education To Refugees. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 24, 2018 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, if talks with the U.S. fail, North Korea has warned it is ready for a nuclear show down.

Donald Trump pushes a counter narrative going total conspiracy theorist with an all-out attack on the FBI, but so far, the U.S. president has not produced a shred of evidence.

And our campaign to educate, one man's mission to bring the classroom to Rohingya refugees.

Hello. Welcome to our viewers all around the world. It is great to have you with us. I am John Vause. The first of three hours of NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

We begin this hour with a hush new warning from North Korea less than three weeks before a planned summit with the United States. North Korean officials says they're ready for a nuclear showdown if dialogue fails, but that is entirely they say dependent on the U.S.

The vice minister of foreign affairs also called the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a political dummy for saying North Korea could end up like Libya if it doesn't make a deal at that summit.

CNN's Alexandra Field is following all of this from Hongkong. She joins us now. So, Alexandra, is this more brinkmanship before the summit or should this be seen as another nail in its coffin?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, both sides are certainly casting doubt on the possibility that this summit will come to fruition. What we are seeing now is essentially a ratcheting up of rhetoric that we have been seeing happening in North Korea for more than really the past weeks, John.

These are remarks that are worth taking seriously, however, they are from a vice minister in the foreign ministry, who is considered something of rising star. She addresses specifically the comments that Vice President Mike Pence made on Fox News where again he makes an equation between North Korea and Libya. He's actually working to clarify comments that were made by the National Security Adviser John Bolton, who talked about looking at negotiations with Libya in the early 2000s when working with North Korea.

Of course, that touches of a very sore point for North Korea when they hear the U.S. talking about Libya, that is, of course, the nightmare scenario that any kind of negotiation or discussion with the U.S. would imperil the stability of the regime.

So, you've got North Korea blasting back now with this angry rhetoric from this minister-level official, who is saying not only that this could cause the summit not to happen that she could recommend for the summit not to happen but is also advancing more threats against the United States.

Certainly, we have heard doubts about the summit coming from Washington as well. The president has said himself that it's possible that this won't come to fruition. That this won't work out, that we'll have to wait and see.

That said an advanced team is moving from Washington to Singapore to try to lay the ground work for the summit that should happen on June 12th. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reiterated the fact that it's important that both sides are able to agree to what the intentions of this sit down are.

What they will be, what the contents are that will be discussed before this can go forward, and he is saying that that's something that really could come down to the wire and we seemed to be seeing that play out in real time every day now -- John.

VAUSE: Yes, absolutely. You know, what we're hearing from the North Koreans right now does sound like we are returning to the old days except perhaps for one significant fact President Trump earlier said pretty much the same thing as Pence, but the North Koreans let that slide.

FENCE: Yes, in fact, he really said the exact same thing as Pence which is that things would only end up for North Korea the way they end it up for Libya if Kim Jong-un didn't make a deal. In fact, Vice President Pence says that President Trump has said that when he made those comments to Fox News.

However, North Korea is seizing on the comments now with these comments that were played out in state media across North Korea. Why is it happening now? Well, it certainly does add to the tension that we have seen in the last week.

The tone has changed from North Korea in the run up to this summit, early on or the weeks or months that have been part of the build up to this. You heard this sort of full-throated commitments to denuclearization, that were being portended by officials from South Korea.

That were apparently the will of North Korea, we are hearing the same things that were being relayed from China. But certainly recently, as you have seen these U.S. and South Korean military drills playing out on the peninsula, North Korea has changed its tone.

They have sharply criticized the drills that are happening. They see those drills as a provocative act that is in violation to them, of the agreements that were made at the North Korean/South Korean summit.

They have also called on the U.S. to stop calling for total nuclear abandonment so they're certainly responding to the rhetoric they are hearing from D.C. and taking on a much tougher tone.

It does leave the question, you know, why now? Does this actually imperil the summit? Is this a tactic for negotiating with President Trump in advance of the summit? Is this a way to bolster support within North Korea for the moves that Kim Jong-un is making by sitting down? We'll have to wait and see really how this plays out -- John.

[00:05:03] VAUSE: To quote the president, time will tell. Alexandra, thank you. Alexandra Field there for us in Hongkong.

What began as presidential speculation last week has now turned into what Donald Trump is portraying as statement of fact. The president, his allies, and right-wing media are all pushing the claim the FBI planted a spy in the Trump campaign, part of what they call a deep state conspiracy against him. No one has offered any shred of evidence to support the claim.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: All you have to do is look at the basics and you'll see. It looks like a very serious event, but we'll find out. When they look at the documents, I think people are going to see a lot of bad things happened. I hope it's not so because if it is there's never been anything like it in the history of our country. I hope it's not true, but it looks like it is.


VAUSE: Well, for more on this, I'm joined here by talk radio host, Ethan Bearman, California Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel, and CNN law enforcement contributor, Steve Moore.

Shawn, let's get right to it. What's the evidence all these people are talking about? Who are these people? What are their names? Because so far, the president and everybody else who is supporting this, they got nada.

SHAWN STEEL, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEEMAN: Stefan Halper (ph), let's start with him. Now that's a name that was supposed to be the most dangerous thing in the world, if you release the name of the person who is spying for the FBI, who is an old CIA guy going back to 1980. We all know his name because "The Washington Post" and "New York Times" told us. This whole story was created by the "New York Times." We have hard evidence and now we have a special prosecutor -- VAUSE: No. Specifics. He was a professor who interviewed George

Papadopoulos and Carter Page who were on the FBI's radar long before he spoke with them. He was not imbedded in the campaign. He spoke with these guys who were on the radar of the FBI.

STEEL: We don't know if he was imbedded in the campaign or not -- we do know at the direction of the FBI, he was asked to meet those people and now there's evidence that he was trying to meet other people and insinuate himself.

VAUSE: There's one guy who used to work for the campaign and made allegation that's got nothing to back it up.

STEEL: Well, except, of course, he has personal experience. The fact is the "New York Times" has opened the door on this, and they're the ones that used the word spy. Now --

VAUSE: No, they didn't use the word spy. They did not use the word spy.

STEEL: Well, you know, informant, spy.

VAUSE: There's a big difference between an informant, Steve, an FBI agent, and a spy.

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: So, they're two totally different things. So, it could be just a difference in terminology, but a spy and an informant have nothing to do with -- that's like saying fireman and policeman.

But I will say, I'm not alleging that anything happened here, but the FBI is always extremely careful about putting sources and investigative tools into parts of our democracy, which we depend on for freedom, the press, the judiciary, the Congress.

But we've done it successfully. But before you put somebody into a presidential campaign, it's going to -- if that's the case, it's going to have to be vetted all the way to the top of the Department of Justice. Again, I'm not alleging it, but the person would not be a spy. They would be a confidential informant.

VAUSE: A source, exactly. Here's an example of the president trying to give his allegations some credibility. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I mean, if you look at clapper he sorts of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday inadvertently. But I hope it's not true, but it looks like it is.


VAUSE: OK, so now this is what the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, actually said a day earlier.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump's campaign.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: No, they were not. They were spying on -- a term I don't particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing, trying to understand where the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, leverage, and influence, which is what they do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, why doesn't he like that? He should be happy.

CLAPPER: He should be.


VAUSE: This is one example. It received a lot of play, but there are so many other examples that just go unchecked from this White House, you know, from Fox News, allies of the president because there are just simply not enough hours in the day to fact check everything that comes out of this administration.

ETHAN BEARMAN, CALIFORNIA TALK RADIO HOST: Well, that's part of the point, right, is to flood us so we can't fact check every single thing that he says. It's odd to me that the Republican Party has been taken over by Alex Jones style conspiracy.

It's really, really weird and it's uncomfortable. We have the Russians who clearly for a long time have tried to infiltrate and influence our democracy. They did it in a whole new way in 2016.

Anybody who has worked in information security knows that it's been going on against our banks, corporations and government since the 1990s on the internet. This is not new.

[00:10:03] The fact that the Republicans are no longer the party that can tout national security is a weird change of events.

STEEL: Except the Russians have always tried to infiltrate the United States, and they had great success in the 1930s in the Democrat Party. Everybody understands that --

VAUSE: OK, if this was an Obama-driven conspiracy, to think Donald Trump's chances of winning the presidency, it was a pretty lousy one because long before election day the FBI had a lot of information, not a lot of conclusions, but information they could have leaked.

As the "New York Times" last week reported the facts had they surfaced could have devastated the Trump campaign. Mr. Trump's future national security advisor was under investigation as was his campaign chairman.

One adviser appeared to have Russian intelligence contacts. Another was suspected of being a Russian agent himself. Instead of leaking that information -- if you want to talk the "New York Times" reports as the basis of this allegation, the "New York Times" reports the FBI went to extraordinary lengths to keep that under wraps, to make sure it didn't leak.

STEEL: It didn't work that way. The FBI, under Obama, new about the Russian incursions going back to 2014 took virtually no steps to alert the public, the political campaigns. What the Russians were trying -- it was under Obama's watch this massive amount of disinformation came about.

VAUSE: Why didn't they leak the information before the election?

STEEL: I don't buy that because you have Samantha Powers on a daily basis --

VAUSE: Why didn't they leak the information --


INVJ: There wasn't a lot of information that came out because if this was a conspiracy --

STEEL: Let's talk about truth and consequences. Clapper is an international liar. You can't believe anything he says.

VAUSE: Because again -- October 28th, less than a week before, the FBI director, James Comey announced the Clinton e-mail investigation was being reopened because of the -- they discovered all these e-mails of Anthony Weiner, who was married to her close aid.

And then a "New York Times" report, October 31st, law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct lead between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.

And even the hacking into Democratic e-mails, FBI and intelligence officials now believe was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.

STEEL: So, you're saying that there's collusion between Trump and Russia because that's what everybody --

VAUSE: This was before we reached this point in the investigation.

STEEL: So, you believe that story --

VAUSE: I believe in truth. That was the case in 2016. In 2016, there's been an investigation, which has since uncovered other evidence, right?

MOORE: Correct. By the way, if the FBI improperly didn't want Donald Trump to be president, the proof would be that Donald Trump wouldn't be president. I don't mean to speak out of turn that the FBI could get that done.

STEEL: Thank you for admitting that. That's absolutely true.

(CROSSTALK) MOORE: They've always had it. As you heard me say, improperly didn't want him to be president, and so, he is president. So, I -- the fact that they didn't come forward with the fact that Russians were trying to infiltrate campaigns is a sign of how the FBI works. You don't tell them because then top dealing with the Russians and you don't get your evidence.

BEARMAN: And what's so damning for the Trump administration right now based on what Steve was just saying, they got rid of the head cyber guy, Ambassador Bolton now NSA Bolton said we can't have a cyber chief directly reporting to the president. All of this, the Trump administration has decided we don't need somebody coordinating cyber.

STEEL: That's not the point.


STEEL: The FBI -- everything was a huge organization, the rank and file are good, and there was tremendous (inaudible) with any FBI under Comey, with forces talking to one -- it was the top echelon. Remember the top FBI guy was fired, the number two was fired in disgrace, the number three counter intelligence officer stark, he was the one that was --

VAUSE: We do have FBI --

STEEL: You have terrible corruption under Obama.

VAUSE: Steve, again, this is what Trump is saying, Fox is saying is that, you know, it's rotten at the top that when -- and Trump said this that he owned the firing of Comey saying it was the greatest thing he could have done for the country, everyone was complaining about Comey and there was great joy within the FBI ranks when he was fired. Is that what you heard?

MOORE: No. Obviously, you're going to have some politically active people --

VAUSE: People who don't like the guy.

MOORE: Right. There is no massive division. There are opinions. But what the FBI does is they survive administration after administration after administration.

[00:15:05] And while the country can survive any presidency, the country cannot survive a politically corrupt FBI, and so, the FBI --

BEARMAN: Well put.

MOORE: -- all long have been dedicated to this. If the agents have any issues with Comey, generally it's the fact that he politicized the FBI with not --

VAUSE: Right.

MOORE: -- with criticizing Hillary Clinton. VAUSE: Right. Quickly those Republicans who have stayed silent about this encouraged the president. Here's the House Speaker Paul Ryan throwing his support behind the inspector general's investigation into the FBI and the release of classified documents on the FBI informant. Here's what he said.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: I do think it's appropriate in the context of a legitimate intelligence committee investigation that this information be provided to Congress.


VAUSE: Remember the scandal around Hillary Clinton and her e-mails and it was all about protecting sources and methods. And now none of that seems to matter.

BEARMAN: The double standards are utterly astounding. The hypocrisy from the right on this topic is beyond anything. So, Hillary should be in jail. We spent four years investigating Benghazi, six different times. We are frustrated that the Mueller investigation has gone on for a year.

But remember how much time we spent on all the other investigations. This is a simple sad political play by the Republicans. It's not for the benefit of the American people. By the way, if there's corruption, I think it's really important that all of us agree on this.

If there is some kind of a corruption that's happening within the FBI or the CIA -- we need to get to the bottom of that --

STEEL: You just heard from our FBI specialist here that Comey had a definite political agenda.

VAUSE: He didn't say that at all.

STEEL: That's a criticism.

MOORE: That's not what I said.

VAUSE: Comey was critical about Clinton, he blew it. That was the original sin that set the ball rolling for everything else and then they were gun shy when it came to dealing with the Trump campaign. So, they bent over backwards to keep it under wrap.

STEEL: And we don't know to the extent how many spies that they had.

VAUSE: Spies?

STEEL: We need a special counsel. We have people that are a disgrace on the top levels of the FBI.

BEARMAN: Who are the spies?

STEEL: McNabb, he was fired in disgrace because he lied to his own FBI -- the biggest story of them all.

VAUSE: He released information to the press about Hillary Clinton, but the Hillary Clinton investigation was still ongoing.

STEEL: And he may go to jail for that.

VAUSE: He's not going to go to jail. Exactly.

STEEL: This is a corrupt organization that requires a special prosecutor.

BEARMAN: It's a corrupt organization? OK.

STEEL: We have two conversations.

VAUSE: I will remind you, Shawn, you have an FBI agent to your left and he's armed. We're going to leave it there.

MOORE: We'll talk later.

VAUSE: Ethan, Shawn, Steve, thank you all so much.

Short break here. When we come back, there is a startling report from Amnesty International detailing alleged atrocities by militants that may have spark, the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar in the first place.

And you'll also hear from an activist who is brining education to Rohingya children, many of whom have never been inside a school.



VAUSE: A disturbing new report has found a Rohingya armed group massacred dozens of Hindus in Rakhin (ph) state last year. Amnesty International claimed as many as 99 Hindu men, women and children were killed. The finding is based on dozens of interviews, photos and forensic analysis.

Eight women and eight children from the village survived including this woman shown in a photo from Amnesty. Witnesses say the villagers were robbed, bound and blindfolded before being killed execution style. Amnesty says the killings happened the same day Rohingya militants attacked about 30 police outposts in the region.

And it was those attacks which sparked Myanmar's military crackdown depriving hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh. Myanmar's government welcomes the Amnesty report and says it has credible evidence of more terrorist attacks by the Rohingya militants.

The slow motion human tragedy now playing out in Bangladesh will soon see more misery and death with the arrival of monsoon season. After fleeing a military crackdown in Myanmar, 700,000 Rohingya crossed the border to safety.

But the flimsy shelters they call now home is no match to the heavy rains, floods and landslides in the coming months. And it will be the young who are most at risk and they make up almost half the population of the camp.

On top of all of that, one study found that a staggering 80 percent of them simply can't read. Most have never seen the inside of a classroom and a child without an education is especially vulnerable.

According to the United Nations, children who don't attend school are at a much higher risk of violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect. Educator and human rights activist, Rajiv Uttamchandani traveled to the camps in (inaudible) last month and while there he did what he does best, he taught.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, this is where you are, OK, in the world. This is where you are right now.


VAUSE: And now he's building a network of teachers to try and help those children in those refugee camps. Rajiv joins me here in Los Angeles. Thank you for coming in.


VAUSE: I just want to ask you about the subjects that you taught these kids, first off, astronomy and basic science. Basic science I understand. How did the astronomy go?

UTTAMCHANDANI: So, that's my academic background in astrophysics. And the way I teach astronomy is I teach astronomy to survivors of trauma. I think the way you approach that when you talk about galaxies and planets outside of our solar system and the possibility of extraterrestrial life existing in this universe becomes so profound that when you teach that to students or young minds that have not been exposed to such material before it becomes a sense of healing for them.

VAUSE: It's becomes an escape.

UTTAMCHANDANI: Yes, exactly. Some escape from their terrible and harsh realities and what I do is I teach them and show them videos and pictures and photos of the sun, earth, moon, from outer space in a perspective that they have never seen --

VAUSE: So, they loved it?

UTTAMCHANDANI: They loved it. I think unanimously even if they did not understand everything that I was saying, their expressions, the way they absorbed the material was just profound.

VAUSE: Even before these kids were living in these awful camps, when they were in Myanmar, they weren't getting exactly the best education. And you know, compared to Burmese or Myanmar kids, they were not certainly as well looked after. How do you find their ability and their eagerness, I guess, to be in school and to learn, and essentially wanting an education?

UTTAMCHANDANI: So, their ability is very low for sure from the outset. I opened each class. I taught several classes in different areas of the camps and I opened each class by showing them Google Earth.

So, I said where are you in the world now? They weren't able to identify that. I pointed to specific countries, the United States, India, China, and only one or two from an audience of maybe 90 or 100 were able to identify specific countries.

[00:25:09] So, their abilities are certainly very low, probably at the elementary school level. Even for teenagers or youth that are 15 or 16 or 17 years old but contrasted from that is their eagerness to learn. That was unmatched and unbound. I frequently said after my trip that I've never seen more eager audience than what I saw in the camps.

VAUSE: For teacher, no matter where you are, that's kind of awesome.

UTTAMCHANDANI: It is. I felt like a rock star.

VAUSE: It doesn't happen every day.

UTTAMCHANDANI: Yes, it doesn't happen every day. They loved everything that we taught them. There were some struggles, of course, with language barriers. We had translators to translate from English to Rohingya. That was the struggle, but we managed to come across with some challenging material.

VAUSE: Here's part of the report from UNICEF, learning and recreational spaces for children have been expanding rapidly, but still far well short of the need. There were 260,000 children currently deprived of an education.

You know, there is this warning from (inaudible) groups of loss of a generation because of the Rohingya and the circumstances they've been facing. That's exactly what you are trying to avoid.


VAUSE: Making sure that these kids actually do get an education and your approach seems to be quite novel.

UTTAMCHANDANI: Yes, and the struggle is you have these learning centers or makeshift learning centers. They're mostly catering to the elementary school level of education, so what happens now when we by all means, all sources, estimate the Rohingya will be there for probably 10 or 15 years in these camps.

So, what if secondary school education, are teenagers going to learn? And that's the population that I really want to cater to because providing them with education is securing their future.

VAUSE: So, you're trying to recruit teachers from everywhere?

UTTAMCHANDANI: Yes, exactly.

VAUSE: Will actually go there or do it over Skype? I mean, what's the plan?

UTTAMCHANDANI: So, realistically, even our trip to the camps itself, we knew how difficult it was. It's very hot. There is no electricity. The journey to the camps itself is rather arduous. So, we know that it's not for everyone to do and on a regular basis at that.

When you're talking a population of nearly a million, there becomes daunting challenges. But if you take that and do it remotely where you can do it via Skype, Facetime, all these interfaces we have now, that's exactly what we're trying to do.

So, to build an entire secondary school education program formulated from a core of astronomy, which is our unique and we take that virtual and that's our goal.

VAUSE: Rajiv, we wish you well. I mean, these kids are going to thank you so much and clearly, this is very much needed. We appreciate everything you do.

UTTAMCHANDANI: Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

VAUSE: We'll take a short break. A lot more to come. You're watching CNN.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN Newsroom live from Las Angeles. I'm John Vause, we'll check the headlines this hour. North Korea says it's ready for a nuclear showdown with the U.S. if talks fail. The Vice Minister says he would suggest cancelling next month's summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un if the U.S. continues on its current path.

She calls the U.S. comparisons of North Korea with Libya ignorant and stupid. President Trump is ramping up his undoubted claim, the FBI spied on his presidential campaign. In a series of Tweets, Wednesday, Mr. Trump alleged the spying was part of a broader (ph), deep state conspiracy. U.S. officials say the FBI source was not embedded in the campaign and is always limited to speaking to campaign aids about ties with Russia.

New NFL guidelines will require players to stand for National Anthem or stay in the locker room. The new rules come and are meant to try and end their players taking knees or locking arms during the anthem. They were protesting the treatment of people of color in the U.S.

The daughter of a former Russian spy has appeared on camera for the first time since she and her father were poisoned in a nerve agent attack in England. Speaking from an undisclosed location in the U.K, Yulia Skripal said, the recovery was slow and extremely painful. And she says she still trying to come to terms with what happened. CNN's Phil Black has the latest, from London. PHIL BLACK, CNN ANALYST: Yulia Skripal looked well, surprisingly well. The video tape shows her walking, even smiling, slightly and speaking strongly. There's no obvious sign that she's recently experienced a life threatening trauma, apart from what appears to me a tracheotomy scar on her throat.

It's likely that incision is what allowed her to keep breathing during the 20 days she says she was in a coma. She says, she only learned that she was poisoned after she woke up, that she was shocked to learn that is was because of a nerve agent. And she believes, both, she and her father Sergei Skripal are very lucky to have survived what she describes as an attempted assassination.

She's very grateful for the medical treatments and the help that has kept her alive. But she says that treatment was invasive, painful and depressing.


YULIA SKRIPAL, DAUGHTER OF PRIOR RUSSION SPY (through translator): As I tried to come to terms with the devastating changes thrust upon me, both, physically and emotionally, I take one day at a time and want to help care for my father until his full recovery. In the longer term, I hope to return home to my country. I wish to address a couple of issues directly and have chosen to interrupt my rehabilitation to make this short statement.

I ask that everyone respects the privacy of me and my father. We need time to recover and come to terms with everything that has happened. I'm grateful for the offers of assistance from the Russian Embassy, but at the moment, I do not wish to avail myself of their services.

Also, I want to reiterate what I said in my earlier statement, that no one speaks for me or for my father, but ourselves. I would like to thank, again, everyone involved in my continued care in this difficult period of my life. My priority remains on my recovery and my father's health. Thank you for your attention.

BLACK: Yulia Skripal was speaking from an undisclosed location somewhere in the United Kingdom. She was released from the hospital in early April. Her father, Sergei, left the hospital only last week. His location is also a secret. Yulia didn't comment or speculate on why she thought someone may have wanted them both dead.

The British government position is that it's still highly likely, it believes, that this was a Russian state operation, using a weapons grade nerve agent. The Russia position rejects that. President Putin has said that, if this was a weapons grade nerve agent there's, simply, no way these two would still be alive.

Shortly after the video statement was released, the Russian Embassy in the U.K. tweeted that it's glad to see Yulia Skripal alive and well. But the video only strengthens its concerns that she's being held and made to speak against her will. Phil Black, CNN, London.

VAUSE: Donald Trump is once again calling out the notorious MS-13 gang to bolster his case for trying to curve illegal immigration. At a round table outside New York City on Wednesday, the President said his administration is working on a plan to withhold aid from the home countries of immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally. They offered a few specifics about the plan and, once again, the President sought to politicize the MS-13 issue.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrats, Nancy Pelosi as an example, are trying to defend MS-13 gang members. I called them animals the other day and I was met with rebukes. They said, they're people - they're people. These are animals and we have to be very, very tough.


VAUSE: MS-13 is a violent and dangerous gang, but its members only account for a small fraction of, both, the number of undocumented immigrants and gang members in the U.S. Some say that President Trump is, simply, emboldening (ph) the group the more he talks about them. Here's Michael Holmes.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. President Donald Trump, once again, stepping up the harsh redirect on the notorious Latin American street gang MS-13.

TRUMP: MS-13. These are animals. They're coming into our country, we're getting them out. I refer to them as animals and guess what, I always will.

HOLMES: MS-13 has long been a rallying point for Trump when speaking to the dangers of illegal immigration.

TRUMP: Sanctuary cities are the best friend of gangs and cartels, like MS-13. MS-13, horrible killer gang members. Violent criminals like MS-13. MS-13 gang members, these are not good people, folks. We have to stop MS-13. MS-13 killers, Savage MS-13 gang.

HOLMES: But many of Trump's talking points about the street gang and their numbers are off base. MS-13 has been functioning in the U.S. since the mid 80s and is composed, primarily, of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador. There are 10,000 MS-13 members or affiliates believed to be residing in the U.S. according to the Department of Justice.

With the MS-13 being only one of 33,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs and prison gangs, all of which have 1.4 million members total and are all criminally active in the U.S and Puerto Rico, today. Trump is right that the MS-13 is present in almost every U.S. state and membership is growing.

FBI investigations reveal MS-13 is targeting more young recruits now than before, but is the President's continued mention of the gang helpful or harmful as a source of advertising? In a CNN report from last year, MS-13 members were interviewed on condition of anonymity and said, themselves, that Mr. Trump's crackdown is the reason for higher MS-13 recruitment.

UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: They feel like they can do whatever they want because Trump himself has made everybody fear. All the immigrants, they feel like if they go to the police or something they're getting deported. So, whatever happens to them, they'd rather stay quiet and let it happen.

HOLMES: But allies (ph) see his constant mention of the street gang as evidence of his support.

UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: What has changed over the last 18 months since this President started making MS-13 part of our vernacular?

UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: It's, it's the enforcement has been up. We're getting the support that we've always needed when it goes after going after gang members.

HOLMES: Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.


VAUSE: And critics say by focusing on MS-13, the President is trying to discredit all immigrants. His attorney general, Jeff Sessions, earlier this month said, children and babies caught crossing the border illegally with their parents could all be forcibly separated. A policy was destroying a strong pushback from Democrats.


KAMALA HARRIS, UNITED STATES SENATOR: You look at the fact that it has been widely reported that the Department of Homeland Security has separated 700 children from their parents at border since October of 2017. It's been reported that over 100 of those children were under four years old, four years old. Not even at an age where they can attend kindergarten, separated from their families.


VAUSE: The policy, though, would not apply to asylum seekers who arrive at an official port or entry without paperwork. When we come back here, three weeks of hot lava and it seems it's still impossible to know when Kilauea's eruptions will finally end, a lot more on that story when we come back.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN HOST: Coming up to 6:41 on a Wednesday evening in the Aloha State and this is the scene there right now and there is no sign how long Kilauea volcano will continue to erupt. So, now officials are taking it day by day, saying situation is very unstable. Residents being warned to follow evacuation orders to try and avoid exposure to ash in the air and state and federal agency's are bringing in more equipment to monitor the dangerous gases. Brewers(ph) of lava have displayed dozen of buildings since Kilauea

first erupted three weeks ago. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now, three weeks of this, no one thought it would go on for this long and it looks like it could go on for awhile longer.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, there's really no telling when this will all end but if this wasn't a reminder for the residents of the big island that this dangerous situation continues to escalate, now their roads in and around the Kilauea way of volcano are almost glowing this blue shade or this blue flame, something you don't see that often.

Well these are methane flames that are formed when the flammable gas that burns in this area is all thanks to the methane that is released from the vegetation that these lava actually incases, eventually seeping into the cracks of the road ways and igniting and showing that interesting and almost mythical look to the ground there.

That is taking place, we do have a bit of good news though, yesterday we reported on the lava advancing towards a geothermal power plant. Well, the good news is that it is creating a lava wall, preventing this hot molten magma from actually moving closer to the power plan, so it's actually being diverted around that particular area. So, that is the latest information we have from the U.S.G.S. but there are other concerns.

Not to mention the sulfur dioxide that has tripled since this volcano started erupting three weeks ago as John mentioned. That is all dictated by the winds, where will that sulfur dioxide and all the other various toxic gases travel? So, that's something meteorologists have looked closely at and John we've also got active fissures and just today alone, 24 hours, we have had over 85 earthquakes on the big island in Hawaii, so those are all the concerns that are ongoing, John.

VAUSE: There is so much going on there it seems almost impossible to keep track, Derek thank you, appreciate it.

VAN DAM: Absolutely.

VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN Newsroom live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause, please stay turned World Sport is up next, you're watching CNN.