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CNN NEWSROOM

Israel, Iranian Forces Fire Rockets At Israeli Territory; Three Americans Detained In North Korea Back In The U.S.; Trump: Date And Location Set For Summit With Kim; Iran Says It Could Restart Nuclear Program Quickly; Saudi Arabia To Pursue Nukes If Iran Restarts Program; Former Malaysian Prime Minister, 92, Leads Opposition To Victory; CIA Nominee Faces Tough Senate Hearing; Special Counsel Questions Oligarch in Russian Probe; Countdown to Royal Wedding is On; Alex Ferguson Out of Intensive Care; Manchester City Break League Records with Win; Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson Paired Together. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 10, 2018 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[00:00:55]

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: For the first time ever, Israel's military is directly accusing Iran of firing missiles into Israeli-controlled territory. It is a sudden escalation of tensions in a tinderbox region.

Israel says Iran's Quds forces fired more than 20 rockets from Syria targeting army outposts on the Golan Heights. Our CNN team on the ground says several rockets were intercepted by Israel's defense system. Syria says Israel fired back with dozens of missiles, some of which destroyed a radar site.

And our Ian Lee is live for us from Jerusalem. So, Ian, what's the latest on this and just how concerned the people across Israel that this could very well escalate further?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, the incident last night sent residents on the Golan Heights scrambling to bomb shelters. The night sky was lit up with the crossfire of rockets, missiles. As you said, over 20 rockets were fired from Syria.

The Israeli army saying by the Quds Forces, who is a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Force that Israel intercepted some of those rockets with their iron dome anti-missile system, and then Israel retaliated targeting dozens of sites.

It's reported that the CNN team in the Golan could actually see Syrian anti-aircraft fire streaming up into the sky and hear the distant thud of impacts. Some of these dozens of sites include Iranian intelligence sites, logistical commands, military and logistical sites, Iranian military base north of Damascus, arms depots belonging to Quds Force at the Damascus International Airport, intelligence sites and systems belonging to the Quds Force.

Obviously, they went after the rocket launcher that sent those rockets over into the Golan. They also targeted Syrian anti-aircraft missiles as well. Now Israel says that all their aircraft made it back safely. There were no casualties on the Israeli side.

And as you said, Syrian official news agencies are saying that an arm's depot and radar station were hit. As far as for residents in the Golan Heights where all this took place, right now, Israel saying it's business as usual.

Schools are open, people can go back into their fields, but there is a tension there that this could escalate further -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: And so, Ian, what's Israel likely to do next then and how much of this tension is about Israel's role and influencing President Trump to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal?

LEE: Well, it's hard to right now to say if this retaliation or the strike by Iranian forces was because of the United States pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. You know, Israel has struck a number of Iranian sites in the past.

Iran said that they were going to get revenge. You know, right now, it seems to be over. There hasn't any been anymore reports of any cross fire. So, right now, we'll just be waiting to see who, if anyone, is going to take the next step to take this further.

And we do know that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has good relations with Iran as well as Israel has urged restraint on both sides. So, right now, this could have been a one off that this is now over or people at fear that it could escalate.

CHURCH: All right. Ian Lee keeping a very close on eye that just after 7:00 in the morning there in Jerusalem. Appreciate that live reporting.

Well, in about two hours from now, U.S. President Donald Trump is to greet three American detainees when they arrive at a military base in Maryland. North Korea freed the men on Wednesday, handing them over to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

At a stop in Alaska, the men released a statement saying this, "We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home.

[00:05:13] We thank God and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God bless America, the greatest nation in the world." Pompeo was in Pyongyang to finalize details for a planned meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Mr. Trump says the detainees' release sets a hopeful tone for the talks. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: To me it's very exciting because it represents something. It represents something very important to this country. People never thought a thing like could happen and can. People never thought we were going to have a situation where we are having serious and positive communication with North Korea, and we are. What happens, who knows? We have a chance at something really great for the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: OK. Let's have more on this now. Ivan Watson joins us live from Seoul in South Korea. So, Ivan, a public relations coup for President Trump as these three detainees head back home from North Korea and just a goodwill gesture that he was looking for ahead of his meeting with Kim Jong-un. So, how did this all come about and how might it changed the expectations of this upcoming summit?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, none of this was a fait accompli, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told journalists on the flight to Pyongyang that he wasn't even sure if he was going to meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

And he said it would be a good gesture if these three Americans were released, but that wasn't clear yet either, and the Trump administration had been asking for 17 months for their release.

Well, according to the pool report, he only got had about an hours' notice on the ground in Pyongyang before being granted a meeting with Kim Jong-un, a 90-minute meeting by the end of the day, a 13-hour visit. They had secured the release of these three men, Kim Dong- Chul, Kim Sang-Duk, Kim Hak-Song.

Mike Pompeo telling journalists that the men appeared to be in good health. They were being examined by doctors and they were able to walk on their own up the stairs. That being so important because last year when another American was released after detention in North Korea, Otto Warmbier, a university student.

It turned out when he was handed over to the Americans that he was effectively brain dead from some catastrophic injury incurred during custody in North Korea. The family of one of the detainees, Kim Sang- Duk, also known as Tony Kim, who is detained in April of 2017.

They put out a statement thanking the Trump administration for this and also, quote, "They continue to pray for the people of North Korea and for the release of all still being held."

The South Korean government has welcomed this development and they also stressed that President Moon in his face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong-un just days ago has urged the release of six South Koreans who have been held in custody in North Korea for years.

And just one final point here, it's only last January, Rosemary, that the U.S. State Department put out an advisory, a warning to U.S. citizens telling them not to travel to North Korea because they were being detained with such frequency by the North Korean government.

Here we are months later, celebrating the release of these men and the relief of their families and loved ones after years of anxiety -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: It is certainly an extraordinary move, isn't it? And now that they are heading home, what more are you learning about where and when this much anticipated meeting between the two leaders will take place? And is there any sense that the Trump administration's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal could influence the outcome of these talks in any way?

WATSON: Well, the new American secretary of state, he made it clear that a big part of this meeting actually wasn't so much the detainees, but actually trying to set a framework for the upcoming summit between Kim Jong-un and President Trump.

And now everybody has talked about like it's a done deal. He kind of raise some questions about we are going to try to sort it out. We are going to make sure we have an agenda that works for everybody.

And he was suggesting on his flight over that he wanted to try -- his hope was to create some, quote, "historic big change in the security relationship between North Korea and the U.S." These words are key that the Trump administration is talking about, a, quote, "complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization."

Essentially defanging in the Trump administration's point of view North Korea of the nuclear arsenal it has worked so hard and spent so much money to try to establish. We still don't know the location but through process of elimination we believed that Singapore is the most likely location.

[00:10:11] We still don't know the date. President Trump is going to meet with President Moon of South Korea on May 22nd in Washington presumably it would be after that. You raised the question of the Trump administration pulling out of the Iran deal.

Well, logic would say if the North Koreans have seen a president reverse a previous president's agreement, is that possible for the date when a new U.S. president would be occupying the White House. It raises some questions, doesn't it -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. It does seem to concern many that particular point. Some fast-moving developments from the Korean Peninsula. Our Ivan Watson joining us from Seoul live. Thank you very much.

Laura Ling spent 140 days in a North Korean prison back in 2009. The American journalist and a colleague were accused of illegally entering the north while reporting along the border with China, and she spoke with Erin Burnett about how itself to be released.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA LING, FORMER NORTH KOREA DETAINEE: Walking down the steps of that plane, seeing my family, being able to embrace them. You know, I definitely saw how my parents had aged because they have worried me about so much and that was really heart wrenching. It was hard to deal with some of media attention and so I hope that these Americans are able to have, you know, the peace and privacy that they deserve to really reconnect with their family and catch up.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: How long did it take for you to feel like you were finally free?

LING: There are little things that I came to appreciate so much the things that we take for granted. Even things like music, taking a walk on the streets, seeing the stars at night became little treasures for me. And there are things that we don't really think about. And I don't think I ever felt as strongly as I do or did about the value of freedom so that's something that I just hold dear, you know, now more than I ever have before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And Ling was allowed to communicate with her family while she was detained and was able to convey North Korea's request for diplomatic rescue led by former President Bill Clinton.

We'll go to another story we are following very closely, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said leaving the Iran nuclear deal is a serious mistake. Maybe the worst President Trump has made so far. Now he is not alone in his criticism. CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports from Tehran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There have been some fierce reactions coming out of Iran, but also some efforts of possible new diplomacy to maybe try and salvage the nuclear agreement. In the night of Wednesday, the French president, Macron spoke to Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, in an effort to maybe try and salvage the deal moving forward.

Now before that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, blasted U.S. President Donald Trump after the U.S. pulled out of the agreement saying Trump's corpse would be fodder for worms in the future, but the Iranian Islamic Republic would continue to stand.

He also accused President Trump of lying in some of the statements that President Trump made when he announced that the U.S. would be pulling out of the agreement and generally had some extremely harsh words for the leader of the United States.

Now, Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, who is more moderate also struck a more moderate tone. He said that perhaps it might be possible to change the agreement for the future, but yet have it carried on in a smaller version essentially comprising all of the nations that were in the nuclear agreement to begin with minus the United States.

Now, the big wild card in all of this is, of course, the European countries because a lot of European firms have come here to Iran, they wanted to do business and they now face increased pressure from the United States, which has threatened backlash against companies and countries that wants to do business with Iran.

The Iranians are saying they're going to take a look at this. They want to see if an agreement in a smaller version future with just the Europeans, the Chinese, the Russians and the Iranians whether that's feasible in the future.

But if not, the Iranians say that very quickly they can ramp up their nuclear program again. They do however always state that they are no wanting to create and to make a nuclear device. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: And while some countries contemplate their next move with Iran. Saudi Arabia's foreign minister says his country's stand is clear, it will build nuclear weapons if Iran restart its atomic weapons program. He spoke with Wolf Blitzer about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI ARABIA'S FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: I believe that if Iran restarts its enrichment program beyond what it has right now, that should trigger the snapback provisions and cause all the other P5 countries to abandon the deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran.

[00:15:08] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And what will Saudi Arabia do?

AL-JUBEIR: We will do whatever it takes to protect our people. We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires nuclear capability, we will do everything we can to do the same.

BLITZER: And I assume that means you will acquire a nuclear capability yourself?

AL-JUBEIR: That's what I mean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: All right. Let's take a very short break here, but still to come, a 92-year-old former prime minister has done the unthinkable, coming out of retirement to defeat the very party he led for more than two decades. We'll have a live report for you on this historic election victory in Malaysia.

And from running a black site to running the CIA, Gina Haspel answers questions about her murky past in a confirmation hearing. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Malaysia's longtime prime minister has conceded defeat in parliamentary elections in a stunning lost to his former mentor. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad came out of retirement to score a historic win leading a coalition of opposition parties against the same ruling party he once led.

At 92, Mahathir is now set to become the world's oldest leader. Now the outgoing prime minister, Najib Razak, has been embroiled in a financial scandal. And journalist, Mark Lourdes, joins us from Kuala Lumpur. He is a former Asia director for CNN Digital. Good to have you with us. So, at the age of 92, it is a truly shocking win. How was Mahathir Mohamad able to pull this off? Coming out retirement, switching parties and challenging his former protege?

MARC LOURDES, JOURNALIST: Rosemary, what I can say, Mahathir is one of a kind. I don't think there's any other politician in Malaysia who could have done what Mahathir did yesterday. And to do it at the age of 92 is truly it's a spectacular achievement.

And he did it in the only way he knows how, which is to his (inaudible) charisma and unrelenting drive and his ability to still engage with people and command their attention even though he's (inaudible) today.

CHURCH: Now, I'm old enough to remember Mahathir Mohamad's leadership from 1981 until 2003, and while the country's economy certainly expanded dramatically in the 90s, he was an authoritarian leader, who manipulated the law to throw his political opponents in prison, most notably Anwar Ibrahim.

[00:20:14] How might his leadership be different this time around and what does he bring to the table as a man in his 90s? Has he changed, mellowed?

LOURDES: Well, that's a very point to bring on because a lot of the people who today are sitting at a table with Mahathir were once thrown in jail by him without due trial. (Inaudible) some of allies today, people like (inaudible), both these men were thrown in jail in 1988 without any kind of due process.

And today, these people (inaudible), they're all his allies, and the reason for that is simple because these people need Mahathir to connect to the Malay voters in the country. The Malay voters will not vote for the great many people outside the Barisan National Coalition.

And Mahathir is one of the few people who will be able or who was able to get the rural voters to jump ship from Barisan National.

CHURCH: Yes. I mean, he's even preparing for Anwar Ibrahim, who he threw in prison. He's preparing the way for him in a couple of years to actually take over the reigns, which is just extraordinary turnaround. So, what are the hopes and dreams of Malaysia's people now they Mahathir Mohamad at the helm again. What are their expectations?

LOURDES: Well, Mahathir campaigned on one very, very simple idea and that idea is that Najib was a kleptocrat and Najib stole the people's money. And as a result, the people of Malaysia have begun to suffer and Mahathir's promise is that the kleptocrat scene will stop and we will bring back the good old days to Malaysia.

And essentially that's the promise that he now needs to deliver on. As you said, he promised to bring Anwar out of prison. The deal right now is that if he becomes prime minister, he will attempt to a get royal pardon for Anwar Ibrahim, who is going to be released next month.

And if that happens, then Mahathir has said that he will hand over the reigns to Anwar, and this in many ways brings things full circle on what happened in the 90s when Anwar was his deputy and he was a prime minister. So, in many ways, it's really a story that's come full circle today.

CHURCH: Most definitely. It is extraordinary. And Marc Lourdes, thank you so much for joining us and giving us some back story to this. Appreciate it.

LOURDES: Thanks, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Let's come back to the United States now. And the woman who might be the CIA's next director was in the hot seat Wednesday. She was grilled about her views on torture but declined to criticize the CIA for using interrogation techniques that critics say are torture.

CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a sometimes heated confirmation hearing today, President Trump's nominee for CIA director told senators that she would defy a direct order from the president if she thought was immoral.

GINA HASPEL, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: My moral compass is strong. I would allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral even if it was technically legal. I would absolutely not commit it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you would not follow the order?

HASPEL: No.

SCIUTTO: Gina Haspel's nomination has come under criticism due to her role in the CIA's post-9/11 detention and interrogation program of terrorists that included tactics such as waterboarding now considered torture.

Today, Haspel vowed never to restart the program even if directed by the president, who as a candidate enthusiastically endorsed waterboarding and more.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would bring back waterboarding and I'd bring a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.

HASPEL: I would not restart under any circumstances in an interrogation program at CIA under any circumstance.

SCIUTTO: Pressed repeatedly however Haspel would not say if she considered the torture program immoral.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe that the previous interrogation techniques were immoral? HASPEL: Senator, I believe that CIA officers to whom you referred --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a yes or no answer. Do you believe the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?

HASPEL: Senator, I believe that CIA -- it is extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country given the legal tools that we were authorized to use --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please answer yes or no. Do you believe in hindsight that those techniques were immoral?

HASPEL: Senator, what I believe sitting here today is that I support the higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You didn't answer the question.

SCIUTTO: Haspel faced tough questions as well on her role in destroying videotapes of the waterboarding of a terror suspect claiming that it was her boss, Jose Rodriguez, then the director of the National Clandestine Service who gave the order.

[00:25:12] Though, she said she also supported his decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you an advocate for destroying the tapes?

HASPEL: Senator, I absolutely was an advocate if we could within and confirming to U.S. law and if we could get policy concurrence to eliminate the security risk posted to our officers by those tapes and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you aware of what those tapes contained?

HASPEL: No, I never watched the tapes, but I understood that our officers' faces were on them and that that was very dangerous.

SCIUTTO: Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Congress took a beating out of the hearing from CNN's counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd used to work for the CIA, and says while some lawmakers criticize Haspel, it was lawmakers who would actually approved the so-called enhanced interrogation. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't appreciate the collective amnesia. Let's go dirty and ugly. I was among the CIA officers 15 years ago who spoke with the Congress in detail about the techniques we used.

I spoke about the techniques that were authorized by the Department of Justice. I spoke to Republicans and Democrats. They were either silent or supportive. We talked to the people who represent rule of law. I can't help that they are Republicans.

They were voted on by the American people when they voted for a Republican president. They are the highest lawyers in the land including the attorney general. They told us this was not torture that it complied with the Constitution and with U.S. law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: But Senator John McCain, who was tortured during his five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam says the issue should end her nomination. He says he believes Gina Haspel is a patriot, who loves the United States and has devoted her professional life towards service and defense. However, he says her role in overseeing the use of torture is disturbing and her refusal to acknowledge tortures, immoralities is disqualified.

President Trump is taking aim once again at a favorite target, the media. But his latest gripe threatens to hinder a right guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, freedom of the press. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump tweeted a claim that 91 percent of network news about him is negative and fake.

He called the media corrupt and questioned whether media credential should be taken away. Well, despite these accusations, the White House says it is committed to a free press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The fact that I'm standing here taking questions, the fact that the president took questions from your colleagues just two hours ago, demonstrates this White House's commitment to accessibility and to providing information to the American public. At the same time the press has a responsibility to put out accurate information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: The White House Correspondents Association warned the president, preventing reporters from doing their job would be an unconscionable assault on the First Amendment.

Well, just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, new details about the Russian oligarch whose name has surfaced in connection to the U.S. president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. We'll have more for you in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:30:51]

CHURCH: A very warm welcome back to Abby was joining us from all around the world. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Time to update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour. Israel's military is directly accusing Iran of firing missiles into its rarely controlled territory. Israel says Iran's Quds Forces fired more than 20 rockets from Syria targeting army outpost on the Golan Heights. Syria says Israel fired back with dozens of missiles some of which destroyed a radar site.

Three Americans held captive until just hours ago in North Korea are about an hour and a half away from arriving at a military base in Maryland. President Trump will greet them there. North Korean state media say Kim Jong-un released the man at President Trump's request.

European leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron are flinching to salvage the Iran nuclear deal. Mr. Macron (ph), Wednesday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urging him to discuss Tehran's ballistic missile program and its support for radical groups in the Middle East.

Donald Trump's long time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen is taking a shot at Stormy Daniels attorney. In a court filing, Cohen says Michael Avenatti is spreading false information about him and may have illegally obtained his bank records. Avenatti calls the claims baseless. On Tuesday, he posted information showing Cohen had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from several companies out to the 2016 election.

Now, one of those companies is the investment firm Columbus Nova. It's run by the chasm of a wealthy Russian oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin. The company scrubbed its website in the past few days to distance itself from the Russian businessman.

CNN's Brian Todd has more on that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): When his private jet landed near Manhattan earlier this year, he was stopped and questioned by the FBI as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Viktor Vekselberg questioned about hundreds of thousands of dollars that a company identified in public documents as a U.S. affiliate of his firm made to President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

MAX BOOT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: That's certainly a strange credulity to imagine that this company is entirely independent of the Vekselberg financial empire.

TODD (voice-over): But the U.S. company says is independent and neither Vekselberg nor Michael Cohen have been accused of any wrongdoing.

The 61-year-old Vekselberg is an ally of Vladimir Putin's and is worth an estimated $13 billion.

BEN JUDAH, AUTHOR, "FRAGILE EMPIRE ": The greatest fortunes in Russia, the great oligarchs, including Mr. Vekselberg, even though everything they do is not supervised by the Kremlin. The Kremlin views them, and Vladimir Putin views them, in the way a medieval king would view his feudal lords, people who, at the end of the day, belong to him.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Donald John Trump --

TODD (voice-over): After Vekselberg's cousin who runs the U.S. company linked to Vekselberg gave a quarter million dollars to the Trump inauguration fund, Viktor Vekselberg got a ticket to attend Donald Trump's inauguration last year.

But he was hit last month with U.S. sanctions targeting oligarchs who benefit from the Putin regime and who, the Treasury Department says, play roles in, quote, "Advancing Russia's malign activities."

VIKTOR VEKSELBERG, OWNER, RENOVA GROUP: I think Russia should be more open for the global market.

TODD (voice-over): Vekselberg made a fortune in oil and gas deals after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2010, the Kremlin appointed him to lead a tech district development meant to be Russia's Silicon Valley.

BOOT: And he's taken over a lot of large enterprises that used to be state-owned, and his fortune and his life really depends upon staying on the good side of Vladimir Putin.

TODD (voice-over): Reportedly to carry more favor with Putin, Vekselberg once spent over $100 million to buy nine Faberge eggs and return them to Russia.

JUDAH: Mr. Vekselberg, like many in Russia's ruling class, has developed a fascination for the czarist era, a fascination for a period when great fortunes went unchallenged in Russia and when an autocracy was welcome.

[00:35:07] TODD (voice-over): And in 2015, video shows Vekselberg was invited to a dinner with Vladimir Putin who sat next to Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser.

TODD (on camera): Despite our repeated attempts, neither representatives for Viktor Vekselberg nor Michael Cohen responded to requests for comment about CNN's reporting on them in this case. Neither the Kremlin nor the Russian embassy here in Washington had commented. But an attorney for Columbus Nova, the U.S. affiliate of Vekselberg's company, did issue a statement acknowledging that the firm hired Michael Cohen as a business consultant after Trump's inauguration.

But Columbus Nova says it is controlled only by Americans. That Vekselberg never used the company as a channel for any payments to Michael Cohen, never provided money for those payments, and was never involved in the decision to hire Michael Cohen. Brian Todd, CNN Washington.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CHURCH: Let's take a quick break. But still to come, how Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are spending their time in the days leading up to their Royal Wedding, back in a moment with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: World excitement is building. We turn now to the fast approaching British world wedding. Less than two weeks away, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are spending time ahead of their big day appearing to get the republic events across the United Kingdom and both surprisingly, they are attracting large and enthusiastic crowds as our Nick Glass reports.

(BEGIN VIDETAPE)

PRINCE HARRY: Felt like I fell in love with Meghan so incredibly quickly - - was sort of confirmation to me that all the stars were aligned, everything was just perfect.

NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Apart of the talk of romance, they've been showing us how they feel in person. Harry just dancing around, Meghan smiling away like a good tag-team happily working the line.

Unusually for a royal couple, both publically very tactile, as was a certain Princess Diana, Meghan likes to hug. This 10-year-old was singled out in Birmingham. She wants to be an actress one day, just like Meghan.

ARTHUR EDWARDS, PHOTOGRAPHER, "THE SUN NEWSPAPER": It reminded me of Diana, actually, in those early days with Diana. I remember that tour of Wales, the weather was like this. Pouring with rain, but she threw herself into it and I see the same with this young lady.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is my hand and Prince Harry with his tongue out at me.

(LAUGHTER)

I think it's a pretty cool photo.

GLASS (voice-over): The Harry and Meghan roadshow around Britain has clearly been a lot of fun, infectiously so. Harry, buoyant, lots of thumbs up and waves, Meghan had fans before, but nothing - - absolutely nothing quite prepares you for serious royal wedding fever.

[00:40:01] Peculiarly camera aware and camera friendly, she becomes the first choice cover girl for British celebrity magazines week after week. And if he didn't before, Harry is learning to love dogs. Meghan has brought over her beagle mix, as well as her photogenic smile.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I've got some lovely photos of them, as well, and their charming, absolutely charming.

MEGHAN MARKLE, PRINCE HARRY'S FIANCE: Hi, nice to meet you. Thank you so much.

PRINCE HARRY: Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm from London.

GLASS (voice-over): There was a rare intimacy here, the spontaneity, a royal couple happy to banter.

(CROSSTALK) As a successful TV actress, Meghan Markle was a U.N. advocate for women's rights.

MARKLE: Women need a seat at the table. They need an invitation to be seated there and in some cases, where this isn't available, well you know what? Then they need to create their own table.

GLASS (voice-over): Now, she's marrying into the British royal family, the carefully political institution, but that evidentially hasn't inhibited her. She has a new platform as one of the so-called Fab Four, William, Kate, Harry and Meghan.

MARKLE: I think right now in the climate that we're seeing with so many campaigns, I mean, Me Too and Times Up, there is no better time than to really continue to shine a light on women feeling empowered.

GLASS (voice-over): These have been a frenetic few months for Meghan Markle -- baptism, acceptance into the Church of England and a little wedding to plan at Windsor Castle. And along the way, she's been getting to know us and we've been getting to know her.

Nick Glass, CNN, on the road with Harry and Meghan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: And they are lovely. Just what the royals made, right? And this is for all you chocoholics out there. A tractor trailer flipped over in Poland, Wednesday, leaving authorities with a very sticky mess to clean up. Alfred spilled a load of liquid milk chocolate all over the road.

Lynda Kinkade has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LINDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Up close it looks delicious -- liquid milk chocolate, tons of it. But from a bird's eye view -- not so sweet. A tanker truck overturned in western Poland spilling its precious cargo across multiple lanes of highway blocking traffic in both directions for hours. As it turns out, it's not so easy to clean up.

BOGDAN KOWALSKI, FIRE BRIGADE (through translator): Even oil stains are easier and quicker to remove than smeared chocolate. It's a time consuming task. Layers of chocolate can only be removed from the tarmac with warm pressure water.

KINKADE (voice-over): Firefighters used streams of hot water. Emergency workers also tried using a bobcat. And on Twitter chocolate lovers offered to bring their spoons to help clean up.

The accident happened early morning; the driver of the truck reportedly suffering a broken arm. No one else was injured.

Linda Kinkade, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Chocoholic, dream come true right there. Thanks to your company this hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church. WORLD SPORT is up next. You're watching CNN.

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[00:45:14] VINCE CELLINI, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to WORLD SPORT at CNN's Center. I'm Vince Cellini.

We start with the NBA. And another team looking to book a spot in the Conference Finals, if you follow the league, you'd know the Philadelphia and Boston have a long post-season history. It's been reinvigorated this season. The Sixers survived winning two days ago to keep their seasonal live and trail three games to one of the series it was back to Boston with the team's battle just like the old days.

The entry riddle Celtics have been great this post-season. Terry Rozier basket at the end of the first half put them up by nine. Rozier, one of five Celtics' starters in double figures. But the Sixers never quit. Dario Saric, 27 and 10 rebounds. Watch him grab the ball and flip this one in to put Philly up by six. Jayson Tatum answered. His seventh straight playoff game of at least 20 points. Boston was up by two.

But the Sixers have a chance to tie. Joel Embiid working on Aron Baynes. Great look down low but he misses the shots and minutes out of bounds, off can be. But JJ Redick giving the Sixers yet another opportunity. His team down by four, Redick hits an amazing three- pointer to make it a one-point game and a last chance for the Sixers. Down to no time out Ben Simmons, the long pass stolen by Marcus Smart. Smart steals the ball. Boston with 114-112 to take the series, four games, 2-1.

So, the NBA's final four is now set. Great Western Conference final, the one we wanted. Defending champion Golden State and Houston starting Monday in game one and Boston will stay at home as the higher seed, posting LeBron James in the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals. The opener in that one is Sunday at TD Garden, Cavs and Celtics to the East Finals for the second straight year.

After several days of waiting a health update on Sir Alex Ferguson came Wednesday. And the news is promising for Manchester United's legendary manager. United issued this statement, "Sir Alex no longer needs intensive care and will continue rehabilitation as an inpatient. His family have been overwhelmed by the level of support and good wishes but continue to request privacy as this will be vital during this next stage of recovery."

The 76-year-old needed emergency surgery following a brain hemorrhage last weekend. Ferguson retired as United manager almost 5 years ago to the day, winning 38 trophies during his 26 years in charge during United manager Josie Marino said the club was quote, "very positive about Ferguson's health battle" and the past few days of seeing an outpouring of support for the Scott from the entire football community worldwide. Altogether in support of Ferguson, Premier League teams had a very different mindset on the pitch and in the case of Chelsea and Huddersfield, it was a dramatic battle Chelsea was seeking a top four finish while Huddersfield sought to avoid relegation, achieve a spot in England's lucrative top-flight next season.

An emotional night for Huddersfield and they held steady before taking the lead five minutes into the second half. Laurent Depoitre, stay with this to guide home the ball and then Chelsea even things up with a bit of luck. Mathias Jorgensen tries to clear but striking Marcos Alonso slides into the net. Huddersfield still had a half hour to hold out for a point and they did, watch from the keeper, Jonas Lossl and he made a magnificent save and then a tremendous show of celebration. It means so much for the team to stay up, a fantastic effort indeed.

However a huge setback for Chelsea in their quest for the champions league in 2018-19. Their hopes for a top four finish took a big hit. In essence, they now need Liverpool to lose on the last day of the season and win them self to make it happen. Also, Spurs beat Newcastle 1-0 on a Harry Kane goal on Wednesday. Meaning they have a Champion's League spot for next season.

A terrific achievement for the Terriers who will be in the Premier League next season stoking West Brom already relegated. Swansea had their work cut out for them and they look like the third team likely to be relegated. By the way, all three promoted clubs this season have secured their status in the top-flight and that is a really solid effort for teams like Huddersfield, Brighton and Newcastle.

Manchester City had the Premier League title zoned up some time ago but there was still 20 to play for like breaking a few records, kept Coriolis Club took a -- to racking up some numbers against Brighton. The citizens recording a 3-1 home win and what was Yaya Toure's final match is a city player, in this one the Danilo, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho all with goals. But let's get to those records which are so impressive in this modern era with one match still left the plate, City have 97 points that each Chelsea's 2004-2005 to tally of 95.

[00:50:03] And that is now a 31st victory on the season, again topping the West Londoners total from last season. They've also posted 105 goals once more surpassing Chelsea's Mark of a 103 from eight years ago.

To Italy where Juventus continues to pile up the hardware operating like a machine and taking apart fellow Italian giant Milan winning their fourth Coppa Italia in a row. This is a close in on a seventh straight Serie A title. You got some help though Gianluigi Donnarumma is considered one of the best-known goalkeepers in the world. But the 19-year-old Milan netminder had a night to forget in Rome. Douglas Costa surprises anyone that that one went in. They made it 2-0 and it got worse for the team, another mistake allowing Medhi Benatia to take advantage his second of the night. Juventus has the way with a 4-0 victory.

Tears of joy for boss Max Allegri after mass reminding Juventus' 13th Italian Cup overall, as he continues to be linked with the soon-to-be vacant job at Arsenal, that to be determined. Well if Juventus is able to gain the tie in one of its last two games, they will win an incredible fourth double in a row.

With this season's Spanish League title already in the bag, Barcelona now places their focus on remaining unbeaten. Something no Spanish club has done since 1930. Ahead of the meeting with Villarreal on Wednesday, Lionel Messi and his team mates had won 26 of their 35 matches with 9 draws. Compare that to the fact that both Madrid teams Real and Atletico had each lost five times. And speaking of Real in a controversial move that club did not give Barcelona the traditional newly crowned champion's guard of honor. So, their next opponent Villarreal offered to pay tribute to the champions at the Camp Nou.

As for the unbeaten march, veteran play maker Andres Iniesta will retire at the end of this season. His performance against Villarreal will prove that he has some big shoes to fill and he has assisted on both Paulinho and Messi goals. Ivan Rakitic made a case that he could fill in - look at the moves before he crosses, Ousmane Dembele who scored the first of his two goals on the night. 5-1 Barca is a winner in this.

And we are breaking, coming up on WORLD SPORT, here on the back nines of their careers. Tiger and Phil is on counting ground. And a friendship formed through competition and compassion. They jabbed the needle as they prepare to play alongside one another as the players.

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CELLINI: Welcome back the comeback continues for the former world number one in golf, Tiger Woods, revealing that he will be playing in this year's open championship at Carnoustie in Scotland.

[00:55:02] The 14-time major champion, a three time winner of the Claret Jug and returned to the sport he once dominated late last year following what is generally believed to be career saving spinal fusion surgery. The last major title for him came to the 2008 U.S. Open a decade ago is last victory of any kind came in 2013.

What is in the field that this week player's championship for the first time in three years the PGA Tour event is unofficially considered golf's fifth men's major. He'll play the first two rounds alongside fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson. Tiger and Phil's rivalry goes back years and at times it wasn't always very cordial between the pair. Woods present certainly denied fill more majors than his five careers. But recently, there has been an apparent relation is on practicing together at the Masters and the whole body language between them. Now it just seems a whole lot more relaxed and you're about to hear them speak to one another to the point of some good-natured needling for the media.

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TIGER WOODS 24-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: We always laughed at each other and say, where is the other boy? You know and it's what Arnold and Jack used to do all the time. And you know, they always try and find - where's Jack at? Where's Jack at? And same thing was - and it's good - spend a night for entire careers. And now that we have an opportunity to play against each other, again on the first day, gambles - it's going to be fun.

PHIL MICKELSON, 5-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: I love that we're paired together. I think it is really fun. We haven't been paired together in years and as I look at the cover of the newspaper, and we're - the pairing is on there and the excitement that's been going on around here. It gets me thinking why don't we just bypass all the ancillary stuff of a tournament and just go head to head and just have kind of a high stakes or winner take all match. Now, I don't know if he wants a piece of me but -

(LAUGHTER)

-- I just think it'd be something that we would really fun for us to do and I think there'll be a lot of interest in it if we just went straight to the final round.

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CELLINI: Tigers, Phil, together again, good, very good for the game. That is our time on WORLD SPORT. We thank you for being with us. And from all of us, I'm Vince Cellini. More news in a moment on CNN.

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