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U.S. Forces Repel 500 Repel Pro-Regime Forces in Syria; North Korea Holds Massive Military Parade; Parade a Chance for Intel Analysts to Study Weaponry; Sports Illustrated Reveals Swimsuit Issue #MeToo Inspired Cover; North Korea Holds Massive Military Parade; Merkel Reaches Coalition Deal with Social Democrats; U.S. Senate Leaders Announce Two-Year Budget Deal; White House Aide Denies Domestic Abuse, Resigns. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired February 8, 2018 - 01:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ahead this hour, with the Winter Games starting in South Korea, the North has just held its own event. What we're learning about a military parade through the streets of Pyongyang.
VAUSE (voice-over): Plus a member of Donald Trump's inner circle resigns amid allegations of domestic abuse and the White House is now in damage control.
SESAY: And the breakthrough in German coalition talks, what the deal could mean for the future of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
VAUSE (voice-over): Hello, everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.
SESAY (voice-over): And I'm Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.
SESAY: The opening ceremony of South Korea's Winter Olympic Games is just a day away and North Korea wants some attention. That's explains what's happening here. North Korea held its annual military parade a couple of hours ago.
VAUSE: The message from Pyongyang to the rest of the world seems to be defiance. They will not halt their nuclear program.
The parade wasn't broadcast live. An edited version will be shown later on state television.
Let's bring in Paula Newton in Seoul. Paula, this is a massive display of manpower and hardware; 13,000
troops, we're told according to Yonhap. When those images are put on state-run television, there will be lot of interest in the North's latest missile technology.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. They're the ones who put this on the table, saying, look, we are going to put hundreds of missiles on display. Clearly what they really want people to see are what they claim will be dozens of ICBMs, those intercontinental ballistic missiles that they claim can hit the United States.
It's an interesting question to see what they put on display, if they are mockups. But getting back to your point that this was not broadcast live, that, in fact, they're going to -- I'm still monitoring North Korean TV right now. Nothing yet but hopefully in the next hour. The point is they'll be able to put an edited version on TV.
No closeups, nothing like that, so they will be able to make it look, to present it the way they would like. We have been monitoring it on social media as best we can. Seems to be a lot of enthusiasm on the streets, even outside the square, where the military parade was held.
And these are festive occasions in North Korea. I mean it's a day off and they expect everyone to get out there and rally the troops. As you said, this is clearly aimed at the outside world. The day before the Olympic ceremonies, they want to be heard loud and clear through this military parade.
VAUSE: On the one hand, we've got this military parade, which is rescheduled from April. It's been held in April for the past 40 years. Now it's happening on the day before the opening ceremony at the Winter Games, some say in an attempt to overshadow the Olympics there.
Then we also have this delegation of more than 200 or so North Koreans crossing the border to take part in the Olympics. This seems to be an extreme case of mixed messages.
NEWTON: Oh, it's not mixed at all, John. This is, as Western diplomatic and military officials tell me, who've been monitoring this here in South Korea, this is quite clearly what they wanted all along.
That's why even skeptics here in South Korea are concerned that North Korea has been allowed to just hijack the Olympics and that's been a problem. I think it's very coincidental that they have this anniversary that they can point to for February 8th that is the anniversary for their army.
And yet April is when they normally would have it. So a convenient date for them, which is why they stridently denied in the last few days through their state media, saying, we're not trying to do anything. Nothing to see here. This is a legitimate day of celebration for us.
No, this is a charm offensive and what officials, both military and diplomatic, tell me here is, look, no one should expect anything from this and that they expect business usual from North Korea after the Olympics and that right now, whatever foot they're putting forward in terms of a charm offensive in the Olympics is only a win-win for North Korea. They really have nothing to lose by doing this.
VAUSE: Yes. It's often held in April, when the temperatures are warmer. I think it was -11 degrees in Pyongyang at around 10:00 in the morning. Not fun for a parade. Paula, good to see you. Thank you.
So defiance from North Korea and an equally strong stance coming from the United States. Before heading to South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence addressed U.S. troops stationed in Japan. He reiterated the U.S.' plans to impose the strongest sanctions yet on the North and said America will be prepared for any eventuality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As the old book says --
PENCE: -- a soldier does not bear the sword in vain. Let the world know we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with a response that is rapid, overwhelming and effective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Paula Hancocks in is PyeongChang. That's where the vice president is heading as well.
Paula, when Mike Pence finally arrives, there was some talk that maybe, with these high-ranking North Korean officials, like Kim Jong- un's sister, there at the Winter Olympics, that there could be this chance for some diplomatic talks on the sidelines.
But clearly the North Koreans have made it very obvious that they don't want to be talking to Mike Pence.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have, exactly. We had it through KCNA just this morning, saying that they had no intention to meet with Vice President Pence, that they didn't beg for talks. They didn't ask for talks and they have no intention of using a sporting event for political purposes.
Now of course, this is the state-run media and quite often there's something different to what they want to say publicly to what they say behind the scenes. We do know from the U.S. point of view that they're potentially leaving the door open, saying, let's see. But at the same time slamming North Korea, saying that they're really try to hijack and use the Olympics for their own propaganda purposes.
But when it comes to the South Koreans, they seem to not be listening to either side. They just seem to be giddy with excitement, that this is what they wanted. They have the Peace Olympics. They have North Korea here. They're going to have the United States represented here as well with vice president Mike Pence.
So really the South Koreans, as far as they're concerned, there's nothing wrong with North Korea being here. It's all good. But from the U.S. point of view, it's a very different story -- John.
VAUSE: I guess that response from the North Koreans towards any talks of, you know, negotiations with the U.S., it was almost as frosty as the weather there in Pyongyang. And when Canadian athletes start complaining about the weather, you know it's cold.
HANCOCKS: It's cold although, I have to admit, it has got a little warmer today. I mean this morning this was -14 when I came out instead of -16. So it's incremental at Celsius but it is getting better. We understand over the next coming days as well it's expected to be a little warmer.
Obviously the concerns at this point are for Friday, for the opening ceremony. It's a stadium that doesn't have a roof. It doesn't have heating. There will be a lot of people in there that will be given heat pads for their hands, a heated cushion, a blanket, everything they could possibly need to try and stay warm.
But there have been a number of warnings; in all seriousness, from the officials here at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. This is the coldest winter we have had for a long time. I've been here for seven years and I have not had a winter like this. It is brutal.
So certainly the officials are trying to publicize this much as possible and make sure that people take it seriously. Just last December, there were a few test events here in PyeongChang and some of the spectators got hypothermia because they didn't appreciate just how cold it would be. So there are a lot of warnings out there -- John.
VAUSE: You know, if I had tickets for that opening ceremony, you know what they could give me?
A refund. Paula, thank you. Good to see you.
SESAY: Four months after an embarrassing election setback, German chancellor Angela Merkel has worked out a deal to govern with center left rival, the Social Democratic Party.
The agreement could set the stage for the return of the so-called grand coalition that existed before last September's election. The deal, however, is far from finalized. Social Democrats need formal approval from their 460,000 members. That's a process that could take several weeks.
Still the chancellor sounded upbeat as she announced the breakthrough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): You had two justified demands. First, finally form a government and make it a stable government. And, secondly, during your talks, please think about the actual needs and interests of the people.
I am convinced that the coalition deal that we have reached can be all of this, the basis for a good and stable government that our country needs and that many in the world are expecting of us; and a working plan that will improve life in Germany and will help push our economy into the future to keep it competitive and to support social cohesion in the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas is here to explain what this development means, both for Europe and for Germany.
Dominic, my friend, good to see you. She said all the right things, which could be construed as upbeat. But she also looked really weary. And the fact of the matter is, this was bruising. It was four months to get to this point with former partners who had said they wouldn't be doing this.
So what --
SESAY: -- exactly happened?
DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, I think at the moment, Chancellor Merkel announced that she would run again but that this would be the last time. We entered the post-Merkel era before we'd actually physically got to that time. And we saw it in the election in September.
The two parties that are now going to go back into it looks like a grand condition, were the only two of the six that got seats in the German parliament that actually lost votes in the election, so that's interesting.
The SPD got its worst score since the Second World War. And the two of them combined, the worst score since German reunification. And so the whole question of sort of mainstream political parties has been thrown up into the air.
Having said that, the SPD had no interest in working with her initially and she herself said she would not work with the far right AFD, the alternative for Germany, nor would she work with the delinker on the left. So that initial coalition talks, which was interesting because it was the largest coalition talks that had ever taken place. Four political parties tried to find and come to an agreement.
There's, of course, it's in the German DNA to have these coalition talks. But when they fell apart, the only real option we have is the SPD. And one could argue the SPD has done extraordinarily well out of these negotiations.
SESAY: Let's talk about that, as they handed out the portfolios, right?
SPD ended up with control of finance, foreign affairs, if you will, and labor policy.
SESAY: I mean they did really, really well. So let's break it in two. First of all, I mean this is a huge coup.
What does this mean for Germany, what does this mean for Europe to have a center left party in charge of such big parts of the pie?
THOMAS: Right. So in some ways they've won. The question is whether it was a victory worth winning. Now of course Angela Merkel is still the chancellor; she controls the purses. She will make important decisions as to what these different ministries end up with. But the fact is, in four years' time, the SPD are going to be held accountable.
SESAY: And we saw their numbers drop when they were in coalition --
THOMAS: They already dropped. And the big risk is that right now, first of all, the German economy is doing very well. But there is some global uncertainty around the economy.
Europe is, as we know, rather divided at the moment between the sort of frightening rise of far right political rhetoric and nationalism in places like Poland and Hungary. Brexit uncertainty and the global uncertainty around what's happening across the Atlantic in the United States and the Trump presidency.
So that future and to be holding onto so many important portfolios is going to be important. Of course Schulz, the former head of the SPD, who has been named or will be named the minister of foreign affairs, is, like Angela Merkel, very pro-Europe.
And certainly Emmanuel Macron has been sitting there in his corner for a while, waiting for this to come to an end so he can get back into talks with Germany and move some of this important European project forward.
SESAY: From Angela Merkel herself, to have given away so much, how weakened is she?
What has she got left?
THOMAS: Right. Well she has the chancellorship --
THOMAS: -- as we just mentioned. Beyond what she's already given away, there are other concessions that have been made, and I think this is interesting that, even within her own party coalitions, it's not just a coalition with the SBD. It's also a coalition with the sister party in Bavaria, the CSU, the head of which is now going to taking over the interior ministry but has added to her portfolio this interesting word, heimat (ph), country, homeland, nation and so on. And there is a clear attempt to reckon with the aftermath of the
refugee and migrant crisis and the way in which that both fueled far right extremism and popularity at the polls.
We also saw what happened in Austria, and this is a way to try and sort of appropriate some of that far right vote. But in so doing, also move away from some of those key liberal democratic principle of the European Union of tolerance and diversity in moving that era (ph).
So we see some divisions. These divisions are going to be interesting when the SBD actually finally weighs in on this because many people in Schulz's party believe that it's a mistake to go back into this coalition and they would have been better off trying to wait. It's hard, though, to think of what the alternative would be
SESAY: Is it going to be stable?
Will it stand the test of time?
THOMAS: Well, the expectation is that it will because, for the time being, to go back to the tables with the Free Democrats and the Greens does not seem an option. So for the time, moving forward, some kind of stability will probably return to the table.
SESAY: Fascinating moment for Germany. Dominic Thomas, appreciate it. Thank you.
THOMAS: Thank you.
SESAY: All right. Quick break here. A top White House aide is stepping down after allegations of domestic violence. What the White House knew about his past and why they failed to take action.
VAUSE: Plus an exclusive visit to the front lines in Northern Syria where U.S.-backed Kurds are coming under fire from Syrian rebels backed by Turkey.
VAUSE: Here we go again. The U.S. government once again facing a shutdown unless Congress can reach a budget deal by midnight Thursday.
SESAY: Tick tock. Senate leaders have a long-term deal in place but getting their spending bill through the House, that may be a tough sell. CNN's Jim Acosta reports.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the government on the brink of another shutdown, something almost unthinkable has happened in Washington: a bipartisan agreement in the Senate to keep the lights on.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The compromise we've reached will ensure that, for the first time in years, our armed forces will have more of the resources they need to keep America safe.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: After months of fiscal brinksmanship, this budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship.
ACOSTA: But there's bipartisan trouble in the House, where Democrats want a commitment for a vote to protect the undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, known as the DREAMers, from deportation.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Our DREAMers hang in limbo with a cruel cloud of fear and uncertainty above them. The Republican moral cowardice must end.
ACOSTA: And GOP fiscal hawks are outraged that the Senate deal will balloon the deficit.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: We didn't campaign on this. This is not consistent with what we told the voters and I would argue not even close to being consistent with what they said in the 2016 elections.
ACOSTA: At the White House, aides to the president are accusing Democrats of risking a shutdown over the immigration issue.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think we made clear that the budget deal should be a budget deal and that members of Congress, like Nancy Pelosi, should not hold our military hostage over a separate issue.
ACOSTA: The problem is the president did just that: threaten a shutdown over border security just one day ago.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would shut it down over this issue.
ACOSTA: Visiting the White House, Defense Secretary James Mattis said a shutdown would harm security.
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: It paralyzes everything we do if we go into that.
ACOSTA: The White House is also grappling with yet more turmoil inside the West Wing as a key aide close to the president, staff secretary, Rob Porter, suddenly resigned over allegations of domestic violence, first reported by "The Daily Mail." CNN has learned two of Porter's ex-wives accused him of abuse in their marriage. CNN has also learned some of those allegations were flagged during
Porter's security clearance process. Asked about Porter's status, press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed his departure.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He is going to be leaving the White House. It won't be immediate.
ACOSTA: And the White House released a statement from Porter that reads, "These outrageous allegations are simply false. I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being transcribed. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign."
Porter resigned even though chief of staff John Kelly was urging him to stay on.
Kelly said in a statement, "Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can't say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him."
But one of Porter's former bosses, GOP Senator Orrin Hatch, walked back a statement of support, first saying --
ACOSTA (voice-over): "It's incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man.
"Shame on any publication that would print this and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man's good name;" then saying in a second statement, "I am heartbroken by today's allegations. In every interaction I've had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional and respectful.
"My staff loved him and he was a trusted advisor. I do not know the details of Rob's personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent and unacceptable."
While sources told CNN that White House officials were aware of issues in Porter's security clearance, Sanders dodged the question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the president have any concern about these domestic violence allegations raised against Rob Porter?
SANDERS: I haven't spoken to him about specific concerns.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You haven't talked to the president about this --
SANDERS: About whether or not he has specific concerns. I haven't asked him that question. ACOSTA: A former White House officials tells CNN questions about Porter's security clearance did not arise during the first few months of the administration. The suggestion from this former official is that all of this became more of an issue when current chief of staff John Kelly took command of the staff inside the West Wing in the fall of last year -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
SESAY: Well, a lot to get through. Our panel is back. Mo' Kelly is a political commentator and host of "The Mo' Kelly Show" here in L.A. and Chris Faulkner is a Republican strategist with Majority Strategies.
Don't be fooled by the smiles, people.
Chris, we'll start with you. This issue of the security clearance, the fact that Rob Porter didn't have it and someone at his level would have been expected to have it a while back, are you troubled that he was in such proximity to the president, handling all this paper and hadn't basically passed all the tests to get that clearance?
CHRIS FAULKNER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He did pass some of the preliminary screenings. He didn't have the full actually security clearance he should have at that level. And yes that is troubling. Obviously it's a lot of very sensitive information.
But with a lot of other things that the administration has encountered in terms of resistance from Congress and everything from confirmations to everything else, I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised that there's a number of people that are missing some of these basic clearances because there's been such a lack of cooperation.
SESAY: But Mo' Kelly, is it as simple as a lack of cooperation or does this say something about this White House, that he was operating without that clearance in such an arena?
MO' KELLY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He was operating without that clearance. I just don't believe you could not know, in the way that I did not believe they did not know in regard to Michael Flynn. Somebody obviously knew.
This is not information which is deep down in the person's past. This was relatively known. There were public documents which alleged this abusive behavior.
So the question is, did they not know or did they not care?
Or was there some sort of combination of both?
SESAY: I want to read General Kelly's second statement because, you know, when this first broke on Tuesday, there were statements that came out from the White House, you know, John Kelly talking about Rob Porter being a man of true integrity.
Then Wednesday evening there was a different tone to the statement. This is what General Kelly said.
"I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation.
"I accepted his resignation earlier today and will ensure a swift and orderly transition."
Chris Faulkner, as statements go, is that a good one?
I mean that line catches my eye. "I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming chief of staff."
I mean it's as if you can't have both in existence.
FAULKNER: I think it's a totally reasonable statement. What he's saying is that, from a work-life perspective, this guy that he works with is extremely competent, capable and loyal.
SESAY: Does that matter if he's facing -- I mean, in the workplace, if he's completely competent and loyal, if he's facing such awful allegations?
FAULKNER: If he's guilty of these allegations, then, of course, yes, he should absolutely resign. He should be removed from his position. But, again, whether it's in Hollywood or whether it's in Washington, we have to give people the ability for due process.
Serious allegations, as serious as they might be, are still allegations until people are found guilty.
KELLY: I would just say discretion is the better part of valor in the sense that you can acknowledge that they're allegations which are unproven but you can also make it clear that you're not running and rushing to defend the person before you've even investigated.
And it seemed like General Kelly came behind and cleaned up his own message because someone got in his ear and said, hey, let's not look like we are standing behind him in the face of these allegations. It really doesn't matter how good of a job he did from where I'm sitting. It only matters whether the allegations are true.
SESAY: Chris, does this point to a pattern from this White House?
I mean this White House, you know, when they wrap their arms around you to support you, you know, I'm thinking Roy Moore of Alabama, who was also accused of horrible things, I mean they do --
SESAY: -- seem to show a willingness to stand by men who have done or who have been accused of doing awful things. FAULKNER: I think there is a fine line obviously between loyalty and between refusing to see things that are absolutely true and proven to be true. The White House, like many political organizations, is extremely tightly run on loyalty, whether it's a Republican or Democratic administration. Loyalty is paramount to so many administrations.
So the reflexive action, to be loyal to the people that are working for you, I think, is totally normal. Again, the allegations are in fact true and this in fact actually did happen, then, yes, of course I'm sure the -- everyone from the president on down is going to want this guy to resign and be removed from the -- he's already resigned -- but to be removed from the administration entirely.
SESAY: Mo' Kelly, it's the pattern that some people are pointing to.
KELLY: Well, the past and the passion is problematic for me, because this is the same White House who calls all the accusers in regard to President Trump liars. So people remember that.
This is the same John Kelly who was of questionable behavior when he went after Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. So people are going to look at this with a jaundiced eye in terms of whether they're automatically going to side with a male or whether they're actually going to do their due diligence in terms of whether these allegations might be true.
We have to turn our attention very quickly to the budget, which I know Chris would rather talk about anyway.
SESAY: So there's a deal. It doesn't include DACA but it does include an increase in spending domestically and for the military. People saying, at least in the House, those fiscal hawks, this is a bad, bad deal to be supported by the GOP. It's a bad deal for the GOP to put their names to.
Do you agree?
FAULKNER: I think there's certainly a minority within the Republican caucus that is concerned, from a fiscal perspective, about what this bill presents. But overall, most of the Republicans in the House and the Senate are looking at this as a great way to continue a great run that the economy is already on.
To invest in America, America first, the president's talked about this a great deal. To invest in the United States military really is to invest in America domestically as well, from jobs and all the other residual benefits that come with that.
So whether or not it's fiscally responsible, we don't know. There are different projections. Some are higher than others. We'll know five, 10 years whether or not this truly was a responsible bill. But at face value, it looks to be like a really good idea in terms of both strengthen our military and strengthen our domestic economy. SESAY: Mo' Kelly, they're framing this and the president himself tweeted about this and basically said this was -- effectively he said the budget agreement today is so important for our great military. It ends the dangerous sequester and gives Secretary Mattis what he needs to keep America great. Republicans and Democrats must support our troops and support this bill.
The GOP have done a very good job of framing this as being about the military. So from the Democrats' point of view, to vote against this would appear, from the way the GOP have framed it, as to vote against the military.
Are they in a tight spot here?
KELLY: Absolutely. The Republicans have been superior in their messaging. That's why in terms of the -- I mean, it's true, in terms of the shutdown, the Democrats came out looking very badly afterward because they started a fight that they couldn't finish, they couldn't win and they didn't get anything out of it.
So now they could not come back to the table and fight for the same thing. So DACA and immigration were effectively off the table before they even sat down for the next negotiation. I mean it's poor strategy. They did not have a strategy to win and they did not have the weapons -- no pun intended -- to win.
So yes, they had to go along to get along or they would have even more egg on their face.
SESAY: Is there going to be a price to pay for this, for the Democrats -- ?
KELLY: Absolutely. They've been promising immigration reform and DACA for a while.
FAULKNER: And for all the criticism of the president, we've never been closer to comprehensive immigration reform than we are today.
SESAY: And on that note of Chris Faulkner's face beaming with joy, we're going to wrap this conversation up. Mo' Kelly, Chris Faulkner, thank you.
FAULKNER: Thank you.
SESAY: Appreciate it.
VAUSE: He's so happy lately.
SESAY: I know. Not accustomed to it.
VAUSE: Coming up, we'll have the latest on North Korea's show of military might. A live report from Seoul in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[01:31:20] SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles I'm Isha Sesay.
VAUSE: I'm John Vause, we'll take the headlines this hour.
South Korea's Yonhap News Agency is reporting a massive military parade rolled with the streets of Pyeongyang just a few hours ago. Leader Kim Jong-un moved on as thousands of troops, tanks, artillery, and missiles took part in a celebrate to mark the founding of North Korea's army. The display of military might was rescheduled from April and coincided with the start of the Winter Olympics in South Korea from the scene as a message of defiance especially aimed at the Trump Administration.
SESAY: U.S. leaders have announced a two-year budget deal that could prevent another government shutdown later this week but the plan may be a tough sell in the House of Representatives. Some Republicans are concerned about raising the debt ceiling, Democrats want action on immigration.
VAUSE: USA coalition forces in Syria say they came under attack Wednesday from 500 troops loyalty Bashar al-Assad. (INAUDIBLE) tell CNN they have not been yet identified the pro-regime group and say they were armed with Russian tanks. Officials says U.S. airstrikes killed about 100 of the attackers before they retreat.
Well, Kurdish fighters have been crucial in defeating ISIS (INAUDIBLE) Northern Syria but the Kurds who have U.S. military support are increasingly being threatened by Syrian rebels backed by Turkey.
SESAY: And that's a potentially volatile situation because Turkey and the U.S. are allies. CNN Nick Paton Walsh has this exclusive report from the frontline.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They've been trying to stay out of the dusk and the chaos here for years, but it hasn't worked. And now American special forces give us the first access to their daily, risky patrols in Syria. They're here despite an unprecedented threat from a supposed friend, Turkey whose forces are just over the hill. A NATO ally whose president has demanded only hours earlier that the U.S. withdraw immediately.
These Syrian Kurdish fighters are the reason why. America fought with them to defeat ISIS across Northern Syria. But Turkey thinks they are terrorists linked to Turkish Kurd fighters and so here they are barrel-to-barrel.
This is a strange new world in Syria, in the end, game of the fight against ISIS. NATO ally facing NATO ally here. American troops very much on the frontline after year you might say of trying to stay out of this messy civil war. A new chapter of which is now beginning. This is the scramble for the land ISIS built and lost, in fact, in the last hour, the rebels from over there have fired on a nearby checkpoint as if they heard the Turkish demand U.S. leave. But still, the Americans send their highest ranking officer, yet, the message, we're not going anywhere.
But you take fire from this direction three-four times a week perhaps. And that's from forces supported by your NATO ally Turkey.
LT.GEN. PAUL FUNK, U.S. COMMANDER ANTI-ISIS COALITION: Right.
WALSH: Which is by definition bizarre, right?
FUNK: Yes, it -- absolutely. You said that, that's exactly right. It is bizarre. I would say that the people that fought to take Raqqa back from ISIS, no matter what nationality they were, no matter what their beliefs we're heroes.
WALSH: But Turkey says some of them are terrorists.
FUNK: Well, OK.
WALSH: And that's the complexity of where we are right now.
FUNK: It is, that's exactly right.
WALSH: What's your biggest worry about what's going on here?
WALSH: Anything else?
FUNK: It could be anybody's.
WALSH: And if these two sides end up in open conflict, what do you do about that?
FUNK: We de-escalate.
WALSH: But don't pretend this buffer row from America goes anywhere good fast.
Turkish and Kurd hate each other perhaps more than they did ISIS. And they won't fight ISIS if they're fighting each other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The coalition's goal this commander says was to finish ISIS in the area but Turkey with their actions and statements is giving life to ISIS again.
And this is just the beginning. We drive past a huge convoy in support of Kurdish fighters in nearby Kurdish enclave to the west called Afrin. The Turkey has invaded despite American please they don't. In the nearby town of Near Manbij, America's special forces commanders strolls around the market liberated from ISIS 18 months ago where life is just about becoming life again where hotels are trying to open but where businesses ham strong by the fear Turkey will make good on its threat to send its NATO-equipped army to invade here too.
They thought they were getting over the war here but it looms again. Another possible ugly chapter and ally against earth while ally is nothing new to brutalize Syria. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN near Manbij, Syria.
VAUSE: Well still to come here, we'll have more on North Korea's military parade. Live reports from Seoul, just a moment.
VAUSE: We're now back to North Korea's big military parade marked the founding of North Korea's army. It lasted about an hour, these images were taken shortly after it had finished. South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reports the parade rolled with the streets of Pyeongyang just a few hours ago.
Let's bring in Paula Newton live in Seoul, South Korea. OK. So Paula, looking at the timing here, with all the parade started about five hours ago, lasted an hour. So the question I guess that had four hours now, when can we expect to see it broadcast on state-run television?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Your guess is good as mine. The editing needs to be perfect. I'm still watching our screen TV there, still watching black and white, we're going back to 1948 and the founding of their army, remembering that this is the commemoration of that.
And so, yes, they're still rolling that footage. We continue to wait. What we can tell you though just from observing pictures and video on social media is that it seems to have been a little bit smaller, reduce size than what they're normally used to. What we're waiting for them, we've seen the usual tanks come out of the square and file out and the soldiers. What we have not seen though crucially are the missiles that they would have put on display at Kim Il-sung Square.
So that is what experts want to see, they had promised there would be hundreds and crucially dozens of ICBMs and that is the kind of footage really that the North Koreans were saying that they wanted the world to see. So we continue to wait but apparently, yes, the parade has happened.
VAUSE: And also, I guess if you hear is when you look at the missiles, it's a number of missiles because that may demonstrate inability by the North to be able to mass produce their latest technology.
NEWTON: Absolutely. Again though and as many people have pointed out, I'm no expert on this but from what I read, it's crucial to be able to understand whether or not those are mockups or not markups. It would be impossible. Again, foreign media was told they couldn't attend this, so there
won't be any independent videos. So depending on the way it's edited will we really know exactly the kinds of missiles they've put on display. Tough to know at this point which is why we're anxiously awaiting the video. Video that where is likely will be edited in some way or at least shot the way the North Koreans want us to see it.
VAUSE: Yes. Which is why foreign -- or reporters from outside news agencies like CNN, we're not invited in to witness the event firsthand. Paula, thank you.
Well the U.S. vice president is expected to arrive in South Korea within the next hour. Earlier, Mike Pence to the Yokota Air Base in Japan telling U.S. troops North Korea will soon face the toughest sanctions ever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Working with Japan and our allies and partners, the United States has already brought unprecedented economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea. And as I announced yesterday, we will continue to intensify this maximum pressure campaign on North Korea until it abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all.
But until that day arrives, le the world know from here at Yokota Air Base and beyond, we are ready for any eventuality. The United States of America will always seek peace, we will ever strive for better future but you, the instruments of American power know and let our adversaries know all options are on the table. And the American armed forces and self-defense forces of Japan will be ready to defend our people and our way of life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Daniel Pinkston is a professor of International Relations at Troy University, he joins us again live in Seoul. Daniel, thanks for staying with us. We're told even with 13,000 soldiers taking part that this parade was smaller compared with last year and it lasted about an hour, does that indicate to you that this may be a low key event at least by North Korean standards?
DANIEL PINKSTON, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, TROY UNIVERSITY: Well it depends on the criteria how you want to measure it. I think most of the external audience and the outside media are focusing on the weapon systems and trying to gauge the capabilities. But as I've been watching the North Korean television feed, it's mixed in with a lot of programming on nationalistic stories and development in the founding of the state.
So the military plays a role as this very nationalistic and patriotic organization. And so they're trying to build that -- those patriotic feelings in this narrative. So it's one piece of that, we will see other holidays in the future, February 16th is Kim Jong-il's birthday, they'll have a holiday for that. And, of course, Kim Il-sung's birthday on April 15th and April 25th is the commemoration of the foundation of the Korean people's revolutionary army. So they will roll through these ceremonial events through the spring.
VAUSE: Because initially (INAUDIBLE) source told Will Ripley that the goal of this parade or one of the goals was to scare the Americans, I guess with the display of the firepower in particular, the missile technology. It seems to me this is a scale back. I mean, we got to see it I guess to get some kind of assessment. But maybe do they get to that point? And I mean clearly, the Americans are not going to be intimidated by this.
PINKSTON: Certainly, I would discount that. I mean, North Korean officials might say that to a reporter but as far as American decision-makers and political leaders of allied nations, they have much greater access and assessment of North Korean capabilities.
I think they're pretty clear-headed about it, we have to gauge North Korean intentions and be prepared for anything they might do and how they might try to coerce or use force to achieve their political objectives. So a simple statement like that or a parade I don't think is frightening, it's just kind of a ceremonial event.
VAUSE: As we wait for these images to be broadcast on state television in North Korea, it's always a fairly similar format to these parades. Have the troops at the front followed by the artillery, then the tanks and the big finish with the missiles, the rockets, the ICBMs, is that what you're expecting here?
PINKSTON: Well from what I've just been reading in open sources, supposedly in the grounds, the preparation area, in the staging area, they have not seen any missiles transporter, and erector launchers, or any large vehicles have not been seen recent satellite imagery over the past few days.
So there's no sign of that, we'll have to see what they rule out but those images and what we're able to glean from North Korean activities in terms of flight tests in other areas gives us a better picture, of course, because what they roll through the parade grounds are mockups and it's for propaganda effect.
VAUSE: Do you -- I mean, I was reading on 38 North which I think is a fairly credible website there, there's some satellite imagery which showed the scaring on the ground at that military training ground where they have been prepping for this big parade and they said that scarring was an indication that maybe they've been in these heavy vehicles and they will bring in about at night so it's enough to show their hand.
PINKSTON: Yes, it could be. I mean, they have incentives to conceal some of their capabilities. So they might cover the vehicles, that's maybe one reason why they're editing the footage and why they haven't allowed foreign media in.
So we're still waiting to see what is broadcast from Pyeongyang, of course, intelligence agencies with national capabilities such as the U.S., probably the Chinese, the Russians I imagine and also probably the South Koreans have collection platforms, do satellites and aircraft and things. They can probably get a much better reading but, of course, you won't see that in the open sources.
VAUSE: It takes months to prepare for these military parades even though they are scaled back a little. How difficult would it be just logistically to move the date from April where it's normally held, has been held for 40 years to February so it's held on the eve of the Winter Olympics.
PINKSTON: Well, of course, that involves some planning. Again, the open source reporting says that they begin preparing for this in November and many people aren't comfortable with it because it comes on the eve of the Olympics games, some people are very uncomfortable with that.
Personally, I dislike the symbolism of it but another aspect is a positive piece of this because this is the time when the KPA does their large-scale winter training exercises. And since the -- many of the military units are busy preparing for this ceremonial event, that means they're not out in the field exercising and doing field exercises. So in that case, if you are going to attack, you would want to do peak readiness which would be during their military exercises but certainly, those are scaled back this year.
VAUSE: Good point. A lot of people said this is all done to overshadow the Winter Olympics, it was a poke in the eye by Kim Jong- un. The last time Seoul hosted the Olympics back in 1988, the North Koreans boycotted, they also blew off a Korean airline and killing all on board.
CIA report later concluded that "North Korea's frustration, its inability to co-host the 1988 Summer Olympics probably provided the motive for the bombing of the KAL flight." Compared to 30 years ago, Pyeongyang seems, to be honest, best behavior right now.
PINKSTON: That's right. They did try to obstruct the 1988 Olympics and engaged in those terrorist attacks. The 1986 Asian Games were also held in Seoul and there was a bombing attack at the Gimpo Airport near Seoul that later was attributed to the North Koreans.
So, yes, they tried these tactics in the 1980s, it backfired on them and so now I think the North and particularly Kim Jong-un is looking at Olympic Games, international championships, sporting events as a venue for displaying what they view is North Korean soft power and the honor and glory and prestige of their system.
VAUSE: OK. Daniel, we really appreciate you being with us and very much appreciate your insight and expertise on all of this, thank you.
And we'll take a short break. We'll be back right after this.
SESAY: Hello everyone. Well, the annual swimsuit edition of "Sports Illustrated" is out next week.
VAUSE: Is that right?
SESAY: You knew that. While the magazine will still be an extravaganza of barely their bikinis and fashion models --
VAUSE: There will also be for the first time a nude spread featuring models of different ages and body types with words like truth, human, mother, and artist written on their bodies. In the words of the editor, it's an attempt to give voice to the models in a silent medium. Erica Renee Davis joins us now, she's a reporter with (INAUDIBLE) digital.
ERICA RENEE DAVIS, SPORTS REPORTER, CATALYST DIGITAL: Hi.
VAUSE: Thank you. Good to see you.
DAVIS: Good to see you.
VAUSE: OK. Let's talk about what MJ Day is going on here with this sort of new improved post #MeToo edition, of the swimsuit edition "Sports Illustrated." She says that she was actually moving this -- in this direction anyway regardless of how Harvey Weinstein. I just want to read to you what she said to "Vanity Fair" and maybe you could explain it to me.
VAUSE: "It's about allowing women exist in the world without being harassed or judged regardless of how they like to present themselves. That's an underlying thread that exists throughout the swimsuit issue. You have Harvard graduates, you have billion dollar moguls, you have philanthropists, you have teachers, you have mothers, you have a full range of women represented in the alumnus of the magazine, and not one of them failed because they wore a bikini."
VAUSE: OK. So is this a genuine effort by Day or is this kind of like cashing in with a very clever marketing technique?
DAVIS: So I'm of the school of thought that it can be both things, it can be a very clever marketing technique but it can also be, let's jump into the #MeToo movement conversation and celebrate women's bodies because what happens oftentimes is that we'll see a woman's naked body and we look at it as being just a naked body, we don't appreciate the beauty that lies beneath.
But with all these women who are smart, who are educated, who are writers, who are not only models but just very well rounded women, we get to really appreciate their nakedness but also appreciate all of the things that lie beneath. So it might be a little bit of a marketing thing but I think it's also about celebrating women as a whole, not just as aesthetically pleasing to look at.
VAUSE: Because it used to be, and correct me if I'm right, the other guys, like the what -- I always saw that within the 1970s and 1980s, the women's movement was anything you can do, I can do just as good if not better, right?
VAUSE: But now it's sort of gone to, I can do whatever I want. You don't just me, you don't tell me what to do and if I want to wear a bikini on the front page of "Sports Illustrated" that's my right.
DAVIS: And I think that's really important because feminism sometimes women want to, and men too, want to take control of the word feminism. But I can't tell any other woman how to live in her own femininity. You can't tell me how to be a feminist. I think a feminist is someone who owns herself, owns her sexuality and she's on her own journey. So the 1970s and 1960s, oh, that was one thing but now it's about I'm an individual and I can own my nakedness, I can own my being covered up, I am who I am and that is me being a feminist and no one can change it. I think MJ Day's really brightened that point home in this magazine.
VAUSE: I just want to clarify, I don't want to wear a bikini on the front cover of the "Sports Illustrated" I just thought it --
DAVIS: You could though. You could. I'm sure you look great.
VAUSE: I can't. If you look at past editions of the swimsuit edition, models like Kate Upton, Elle Macpherson, Heidi Klum, it would seem, women, they're sexualized and treated as objects. Not so says MJ Day, she answered this question on (INAUDIBLE)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who draws that line between sexy and sexualized?
MJ DAY, SWIMSUIT EDITOR, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: I don't have a problem if someone looks the swimsuit edition says it's over sexualized. I really don't because that's normal. So I think human nature doesn't lend itself to one way or another but what it should lend itself to is acceptance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: It sounds to me like she's saying, it's basically it's in the eye of the beholder and if you sexualize this, that's your issue.
DAVIS: I think what MJ Day does in this feature is shows women as artistic beings by letting them write their truth on their body. I think depending on the medium that you're looking at whether it's Instagram or Twitter or any kind of social media platform, if you're just seeing women just putting themselves out there without context, then sometimes that might seem over sexualized.
But this issue really gets to the core of, yes, I'm naked. Yes, I'm nude. Yes, I'm perfect but I'm imperfect. And, yes, I'm a mother, I'm a writer, I'm an author." So as far as people over sexualizing models, sex sells, glamour sells, beauty sells but it is I think sometimes in the eye of the beholder.
VAUSE: OK. Well, the magazine talk about these plus size -- the plus size model will be one of the featured in this edition. We'll also have a model who is 52-years-old.
VAUSE: And there's also Paige Spiranac who reveals she's this pro- golfer, she's also a model. But she also talks about how she was bullied on -- is bullied almost on a daily basis for this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAIGE SPIRANAC, PRO-GOLFER: I've been bullied my entire life. I get slut-shamed, I get harassed, I get death threats for wearing the stuff that I do and it's a tank top that if I bend over it might show up some cleavage or a skirt that's a little bit more formfitting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: She goes on to say she has no regrets what she's done and in the magazine, she says, "You guys want to see sexy?" The big question mark. She says you -- (INAUDIBLE) about facing bullying.
DAVIS: But -- OK, I'm sorry, make -- I want to make sure I answer your question.
VAUSE: There was part of the magazine where she says, "You guys want sexy?" With a big question mark on it.
VAUSE: So -- I mean, some look at that and say, "Well, where is this line between you inviting being bullied and having it put on you," I guess?
DAVIS: Well as far as bullying is concerned, bullying is never acceptable.
VAUSE: Oh, yes.
DAVIS: I mean, to say, "Oh, someone's dressing a certain way" so that's inviting people to bully you, that's -- a person who's bullied, she's not responsible for people having bullied her. So that's the first issue.
The second thing, I mean, there's always going to be somebody who thinks that a bikini is too sexy. There's always going to be someone who thinks that a low cut shirt is too sexy. I mean there are various degrees on the spectrum about what's too sexy, what's not. MJ Day, once you read the article, once you read the context that she gives you, she basically says these women have the right to do it. And as far as the golfer who was bullied, again, if you're being bullied out there, it's never your fault that you're being bullied. And I appreciate her owning her sexy and I appreciate MJ Day putting
this feature out there and I'm excited about seeing the nakedness and the truth on these women's bodies.
VAUSE: It will be interesting. Erica, thank you so much. Good to see you.
DAVIS: Thank you for having me. Good to see you.
VAUSE: Appreciate it. OK. You've been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. We'll be back with much more news after this.