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E.U. Expected to Endorse Brexit at Historic Summit; Copa Libertadores Match Moved to Sunday after Fan Violence; Security Tight in Paris after Violent Demonstrations; Former Nissan Chairman Denies Allegations; Trump Slams "Catch and Release" Policy; Afghan Drought Forces Families to Sell Children. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired November 25, 2018 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Fighting on two fronts: the British prime minister is poised to get Europe's green light for her Brexit deal but she may not be able to sell it back home.

One of South America's biggest football rivalries on hold; a crucial match delayed after fans attacked the other team. We'll be hearing from a witness.

Plus Donald Trump's latest immigration policy: the U.S. president wants asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while the United States examines their claims.

Live from the CNN NEWSROOM here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. We have all that and more ahead. It is great to have you with us.


VANIER: So the European Union could be just moments away from agreeing to the terms of Brexit, the U.K.'s divorce from Europe after a 45-year marriage. E.U. leaders have begun arriving at E.U. headquarters in Brussels for a special summit. It is expected to be a somber event.

Spain had threatened to derail it over the future of Gibraltar but says it gained a last-minute agreement with the U.K. Ahead of the summit, British prime minister Theresa May had been meeting with the heads of both the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and European Council Donald Tusk.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin is live in Brussels.

European leaders are starting to arrive where you are, Erin.

What are you hearing from that?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As they arrive for this historic summit, they're striking a rather somber tone. We just heard from the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte. When asked about Brexit, saying that, quote, "We're all losing here."

But he did say the product of the negotiations is a, quote, "balanced outcome." But he said that no one's winning here politically.

We also heard from the Lithuanian president when she arrived, saying that no good can come of Brexit. Take a listen.


DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE, PRESIDENT OF LITHUANIA: I will not say that we are very happy. I think that the feeling of this step of withdrawal of Britain in this reality is in our minds. Yes, we will agree today, we will endorse the Brexit agreement. But there is nothing good for any side because it is a withdrawal from the European Union.


MCLAUGHLIN: E.U. 27 had long regarded the Brexit process as an exercise in damage control. And that was certainly evident from the letter of Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, inviting leaders to this summit, in which he recommended they approve both the 585-page withdrawal deal, the so-called divorce agreement, as well as the political declaration, which is set to outline the future trade talks between the E.U. and the U.K. post-Brexit.

He said the negotiations achieved the goals of the European Union in terms of mitigating the Brexit damage, that it secures the rights of citizens, makes sure there's no border on the island of Ireland, as well as securing that financial settlement.

But it's clear from the arrivals of these leaders so far that no one here is happy at all about this process -- Cyril.

VANIER: Erin McLaughlin, reporting live from Brussels. We'll be hearing a lot more from you in the coming hours. Thank you so much.

Here's what lies ahead for Brexit from this moment on. Leaders of the 27 E.U. countries will officially approve or reject the deal today; the deal that's been negotiated for a year and a half. It looks like they're poised to approve it. That's what they're saying as they're walking into the building.

Now if they do, it goes to the British Parliament, where Theresa May does not command a majority. Nobody knows ultimately whether lawmakers will greenlight this deal or send everyone back to the drawing board.

If British lawmakers agree to it, the European Parliament would then decide whether to give it its blessing. That at this stage is considered a likelihood. Whatever happens, Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29th next year.

Earlier, Ms. May tweeted an open letter explaining Brexit, explaining her version, her Brexit deal to her people, to the British. This is what she said. "As prime minister of the United Kingdom, I have from day one been

determined to deliver a Brexit deal that works for every part of our country. For England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, for our overseas territories like Gibraltar and also for the crown dependencies.

"This deal will do that, it is a deal for a brighter future which enables us to seize the opportunities that lie ahead."

Joining us now from Brussels is Ryan Heath. He's --


VANIER: -- senior E.U. correspondent for "Politico."

Brian, I'm going to do something unusual. I know you're in Brussels. I know what's happening right now is in Brussels. But what's really at stake may be actually in London and in the U.K.

Do you think at this stage Theresa May can sell this Brexit deal to her people?

RYAN HEATH, "POLITICO": Yes. Yes, she's got the ingredients to sell the deal now. It was a good week for Theresa May. Some of those hard Brexiteers are going to say she gave up too much on Gibraltar but she didn't really give up anything on substance. She's just back to where she was a few weeks ago on Gibraltar.

If you think about it, all of the people against this deal, they're not very popular, either. Theresa May has really been ramming home her message that I'm the hard-working, stable, reliable one. And people do believe that about Theresa May. So she'll have to engage in a kind of project here of her own --


VANIER: Ryan, let me interrupt you for a quick second because we are hearing the E.U. negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier. Let's listen in.

Hold on. There may be another set of mikes; no. All right, just missed him. We'll get his words in just a moment.

Ryan, sorry; carry on.

HEATH: I was saying Theresa May might have to engage in her own version of Project Fear, which was what the pro-E.U. Remain camp were criticized for in 2016. But it's going to be a very brave group of people who would vote down this deal and not have a plan of their own.

People don't think that anyone else would be able to get a better deal out of the E.U. now that Gibraltar's solved. The E.U. are going to stick very solidly to this position. So Theresa May has options but it's going to be a long road ahead for her.

VANIER: Minutes ago, just before the show started, the Lithuanian leader was walking in. She was saying, we don't know if Theresa May will be able to sell it to the British Parliament; we don't know if lawmakers will vote for it. If they don't, there are multiple scenarios. So she was considering different outcomes here.

What would they be?

HEATH: Other outcomes -- first of all, let's remember Theresa May has three chances here. If she loses the first vote in the House of Commons in London, she can go back for a second or third vote. So only really after those first couple of failures that she's in very serious problems.

The other options include a different British prime minister. They include a different British government. They include some kind of extension, if it was time that was the problem that Theresa May was facing.

You could imagine an extension, a very time limited one, of several weeks or possibly up to three months if that was what it would take for the British Parliament to agree to this deal or something similar to it.

Don't forget E.U. leaders say, we're not reopening this; it's not open to negotiation. But if it was a little tweak that prevented a chaotic Brexit, you can bet they'd be willing to consider it at some point in the next few months.

VANIER: Ryan, we can now listen to Michel Barnier.

I just want to remind our viewers, he is the man who has negotiated Brexit with Theresa May on behalf of the 27 other European Union members. He's just been speaking. Let's listen to what he said.


MICHEL BARNIER, E.U. BREXIT NEGOTIATOR: On this extraordinary negotiation, very complex, very difficult, we have worked, I have worked with my team, Sabine (ph), Stephanie (ph), an exceptional team, to reach a deal.

That means to organize in an orderly fashion the withdrawal decided by the U.K. We have worked, thanks to the full unity of the 27 heads of state, member states, their national trust (ph) and also as well with the European Parliament.

We have worked, I have worked with my team and negotiate with the U.K., never against the U.K. And I want to offer thanks to the British team. Now it's time for everybody to take their responsibility, everybody.

I want just to add that this deal is a necessary step for build the trust between the U.K. and the E.U. We need to build in the next phase this unprecedented and ambitious partnership. We will remain allies, partners and friends. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VANIER: All right, Michel Barnier speaking just moments ago there in Brussels as he arrivals at this extraordinary European summit.

And, Ryan, one of the two, three key points that he hit on was that he negotiated in a way that would maintain the unity of Europe. This is really interesting because, for anybody who watches European politics, you're among those, it is obvious that European countries disagree on so much, whether it's immigration, whether it's the single currency. All the important topics, they have deep divides.


VANIER: But on this one, on Brexit, they have managed to be extraordinarily united.

Why is that?

HEATH: Well, I think that it's going to be a lot harder in the road ahead because when you have national interests thrown into a free trade negotiation, that's when you're going to start to see divisions.

But I think that many E.U. countries have seen a real existential threat to the union through this process. They wonder what would happen to them if they went through the same process as Britain.

And, of course, the E.U. is based on the premise that these countries don't trust each other. That's why they have so many complicated rules and so many processes they need to follow. There isn't a lot of trust here in the first place.

So if you set up a complicated process, that's actually the best way to bind people together inside this union because it's what they're comfortable with and what they know.

But you can be sure that, in the coming months, it's going to get more difficult. We already saw it just in the way the Spanish behaved in the last week over this Gibraltar issue. There's going to be dozens, if not hundreds, of similar spats in the coming years as they try to negotiate the next future relationship.

VANIER: Dozens, if not hundreds of similar spats. That's something to look forward to. Ryan Heath of "Politico," thanks a lot.

Now something totally different. Argentina's greatest football rivals will face off on Sunday for the final match of South America's most important championship; that is, after a day of violence from one team's fans forced this game to be postponed.

On Saturday River Plate fans threw projectiles at the rival team's bus. That is the bus of Boca Juniors. The bus was on its way to the stadium. Inside the bus, this is what it looked like.

Team members trying to shield themselves from rocks, from shattered glass. Boca's captain and a midfielder, required hospital care for their injuries but despite the chaos, a Boca team member says the match organizers were actually pressuring them to play just after the incident anyway.


CARLOS TEVEZ, BOCA JUNIORS (through translator): The truth is, this is a situation where they're obligating us to want to play the game. Pablo, our captain, just came back with a patch on his eye. They're obligating us to want to play this game.


VANIER: After the bus attack, fans in Argentina were frustrated and confused about whether the final Copa Libertadores match would go on Saturday as planned. Martino Simcik was near the Buenos Aires stadium. He spoke to "WORLD SPORT" anchor, Patrick Snell, about the atmosphere there.


MARTINO SIMCIK, COPA90: Everyone around both La Boca and El Nunez, which is where River Plate Stadium is located, is absolutely disappointed in how today went. There was an instance of the bus coming through an extremely crowded place, where River Plate supporters were all were. And it felt as though things were very poorly organized.

At that point there was back and forth, a complete madness. No one understood what was happening. But again, it will be delayed until 6:00, then it was 7:15, then it was 30 minutes more and eventually the game was called off.

And I think the biggest thing to mention here is that because Boca and River Plate are supported by 70 percent of people in the country, you really had people coming from hundreds of kilometers away just to witness this match.

And apparently, if you're hanging out in both of those neighborhoods, you've got people scrambling for hotel rooms, trying to figure out where to stay, sleeping in the park around the stadium. There was just sort of general chaos and confusion over how such a celebration turned so sour.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's a lot of fallout from this match. We heard Carlos Tevez reference the injuries to players.

What more can you tell us about that?

SIMCIK: Well, there was a back and forth with the players as well because one of the confusions that was going on throughout the day was whether the doctors of Conmebol had seen the players and whether -- because Boca Juniors' doctors affirmed the players were injured but Conmebol doctors weren't able to see them.

No one was really quite sure what the injuries were. Obviously the injuries are quite severe, with the captain having sort of his eyeball cut. But the biggest question now remains, because there's the G20 coming up the next week, the match has to be played. I would also remind everyone that, on the previous match, because of

the rain, it had to be stopped. And they had to delay it again until Sunday. So this will be the second delay on the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final, which is the final one, in which two teams are going to play two legs.

Above all, it's the biggest rivalry in Argentine, let alone South American, history. So it's quite mad, really. The stars align rarely in football. But this one is as dramatic as it could possibly be.


VANIER: Boca Juniors and River Plate will finally match up at 3:00 pm local time in Buenos Aires.

There was also violence in Paris. Thousands of police were deployed there after violent protests brought the French capital to a standstill. Fires set by protesters lit up the night sky hours after thousands of people took to the streets Saturday. Police used tear gas and water --


VANIER: -- cannons to scatter the demonstrators. The protesters are angry over rising fuel prices and that anger has broadened into fury against Emmanuel Macron's government.

The country's interior minister blames right-wing extremists for the unrest. Far-right political leaders dispute that. CNN's Jim Bittermann is in Paris and he spoke with us earlier about what has sparked all of this.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: It began a week ago. These were the protests brought on, called the Yellow Jackets. These are the -- Yellow Vests. These are the vests that all motorists are required to have in their cars for safety reasons.

And it's very simple for people to join this movement, just by going to their car and getting out their yellow vest. So numbers of people have, according to the interior minister, there were about 106,000 protesters today. That compares to about 250,000 or 280,000 last week.

So in some ways, the government had a success in that there weren't so many protesters out there. But in other ways, the violence of this protest today was unmatched anywhere along the line.

In fact, one of the most violent demonstrations the Champs-Elysees has ever seen I think, as these protesters went up and down the avenue, set alight barricades and all sorts of vehicles along the avenue, including a police car.

There were, in fact, about 130 people arrested across France and about 42 people arrested here in Paris. So a violent day here in Paris. It seems to be over for now. But, in fact, we'll have to see how well it plays with the demonstrators going forward -- Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


VANIER: French president Emmanuel Macron, who is fighting a slump in popularity, lashed out at the protests on Twitter saying, "Thank you to all our law enforcement for their courage and professionalism. Shame on all the people who assaulted them. Shame to those who voluntarily assaulted citizens and reporters. Shame on those who tried to intimidate our elected officials."

The former chairman of the Nissan Motor Company says he's innocent. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, says Carlos Ghosn has been questioned by Tokyo prosecutors. He denies he underreported earnings in financial statements and says he had no intention of filing false securities reports.

Ghosn was detained in Japan on Monday after an investigation by Nissan.

Stuck between two countries: the migrant caravan from Central America has reached the U.S.-Mexico border. But a report of an asylum overhaul puts their future in doubt. We'll have more on that ahead.

Plus with a record drought in Afghanistan, some families are forced into an unthinkable decision: sell their child so the rest of the family can eat.




VANIER: You're looking at live pictures from inside the European --


VANIER: -- Union headquarters in Brussels. E.U. leaders are arriving for an historic summit on Brexit.

Before they go home, they will either accept or reject the terms of Brexit that were negotiated over the past year and a half. We'll continue to monitor these arrivals and listen to what these individuals have to say about what is a somber occasion today.

Mexico's incoming government is denying a report that it has reached a deal with the United States over the status of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. "The Washington Post" reports the purported deal would require asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their cases are processed.

It would end what Donald Trump calls the United States' catch and release policy. CNN's Sarah Westwood has reaction from the U.S. president. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: After weeks of ratcheting up the pressure on Mexican leaders to do more to help the U.S. with its illegal immigration problem at the southern border, the president is hinting that he may have struck a deal with Mexico that could force asylum seekers to wait on the Mexico side of the U.S.- Mexico border until their claims are processed by U.S. courts.

The president tweeting on Saturday, "Migrants at the southern border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court. We will only allow those who come into our country legally. Other than that, our very strong policy is catch and detain. No releasing into the U.S."

Then he goes on to say, "All will stay in Mexico. If for any reason it becomes necessary, we will close our southern border. There is no way that the United States will, after decades of abuse, put up with this costly and dangerous situation."

The president has threatened to close the southern border before, although it's unclear how exactly he would do that. And the president has already attempted to make changes to asylum policy through executive action.

Just a few weeks ago the president attempted a proposed rule change that would have required migrants to present themselves at legal points of entry in order to request asylum. They would no longer be allowed to request asylum if they were caught trying to cross the border illegally.

But, of course, a court blocked that executive action from moving forward. That's something that the president has fixated on as he's spent the week here in Florida for the holiday. This deal would represent a major overhaul to the asylum system as currently, anytime a migrant sets foot on U.S. soil, they are eligible to request asylum.

And often they are released from detention while awaiting a court decision on their case. That can take months. The president has referred to that practice as catch and release. It's what he's described as a loophole that he wants to change and he wants to pursue a policy that either forces those asylum seekers to cross into Mexico or continue to be held by immigration authorities until their cases are processed -- Sarah Westwood, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.


VANIER: Earlier I spoke with CNN political commentator Andre Bauer about this, about the United States' asylum policy. Bauer is former Republican lieutenant governor of South Carolina. He commended President Trump for his tough stance on immigration.


ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is a big part of what the president ran on. He saw a huge immigration problem. He talked about it. And it really broke him apart from the other 16 or 15 people that ran for president in the Republican primary because there were so many folks like myself that said, we are a nation of laws.

My great grandfather came over here. But he did it the right way. He went through the process and became a citizen. We see people just coming over the border illegally. We don't know the types of people that are coming over. We have offices set up and a process set up.

And through that process, people come in the right way. We get great people that become U.S. citizens and people that want to assimilate. But just to open the borders up and not to address what has become a systemic problem, the president is sticking by what he said he would do and I'm glad to see him do it.

We know he is different in how he approaches problems. But, quite frankly, telling Mexico that he's going to pump the brakes, those folks realize, especially the incoming administration, that they would be crippled if they don't work with the U.S. government.

So I think you will see, on December 1st, a week from now, you're going to see an administration that is willing to work with the president even though he ran against the president. I think he realizes now more than ever he's going to have to work with this administration. So I appreciate the positive response he's actually had to our president.


VANIER: CNN political commentator Andre Bauer speaking to me earlier.

Right now the migrant caravan is in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, where they've been sleeping on the streets, waiting to be considered for asylum. The city's mayor's is now asking for humanitarian aid as migrants continue to arrive.

We move now to an exclusive report out of --


VANIER: -- Afghanistan, where a record drought is forcing some families to do the unthinkable: sell their children in order to feed their families. Here's CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Record (ph) violence with the Taliban control of territory (INAUDIBLE) ISIS unparalleled airstrikes by the coalition has finally forced them from their homes.

They're instead running from drought, a record dry spell forcing more families in Afghanistan from their homes this year than the war has.

And as if Afghanistan hasn't already broken all superlatives for its misery, this is what it's driving them to. Meet Memerine (ph) and her 6-year-old daughter, Akila (ph). You'd

think a tiny family, united under plastic sheeting but desperation means it hasn't turned out that way. Memerine (ph) has sold Akila (ph) for $3,000 to this man, Najamuddin (ph), who will give her to his 10-year-old son, Sheraga (ph). Listen to how they got here. Memerine (ph) first.

"I fled my village," she says, "with my three children because of severe drought. I came here thinking I would receive some assistance but are nothing. To avoid starvation among my children, I gave my daughter to a man for about $3,000 but have only got $70 so far.

"I have their money; no food and no breadwinner. My husband was also killed. She doesn't know that I sold her.

"How could she know?

"She is a child. But I had no other choice."

"And what if Akila (ph) tries to run?" we ask.

"Well, in tears or laughter," she says, "Akila (ph) will have to go.

"Who would sell a piece of her heart unless they really have to?"

Akila's (ph) buyer, Najamuddin (ph), thinks buying a 6-year-old girl is an act of charity.

"Her family don't have anything to eat," he says. "They are hungry. I know. I'm also poor but I'm sure I can pay it off slowly in two or three years."

The cameraman asks, "But aren't they children?"

"Doesn't matter," he says, "these things happen here. Even an old man marries a young girl. It happens."

Najamuddin (ph) also fled the drought. The U.N. says it has put 275,000 people on the move this year, about half from around the area of Badghis (ph).

"The weak crop has failed us," he says. "We couldn't grow melons. All the other crops failed because of the drought. We lost our livestock, the sheep, cows and goats all died of hunger because there wasn't any fodder for them."

Around the camp, we hear this kind of horrific story repeated. Here, this man sold his 4-year-old daughter to a 20-year-old man to settle a debt. It is a world of survival and unimaginable choices, where families must betray each other just to live. And winter is ahead, promising to be colder and arid and hungrier, too -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN.


VANIER: That does it for me this hour. Absolutely fantastic reporting from Nick Paton Walsh.

We're also looking at live pictures, keeping an eye on Brussels, the European Commission president there, Jean-Claude Juncker, speaking to reporters as European heads of state and government continue to arrive in Brussels on this very special of days, where they're set to accept or reject -- more than likely accept -- the European Brexit deal.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I've got the headlines for you again in just a moment.