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Paris Braces as Fourth Weekend of Yellow Vest Demonstrations Begin; Prosecutors Say Cohen Committed Crimes at Direction of Trump; Trump Picks Heather Nauert as U.S. Ambassador to U.N., William Barr as Attorney General; Right Wing Supporters Gather in Rome. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired December 8, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We are following the breaking news. Protests playing out on the streets of Paris, France. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

These are live images. Much of the city center on virtual lockdown as crowds of Yellow Vest protesters are filling the streets. Police have fired tear gas into the crowds within the last hour.

Demonstrators are out in full force. They're demanding the president, Emmanuel Macron, and his government do something about economic inequality. The movement started in response to a proposed tax increase on fuel. But even though the government backed down from that bill, the protesters say there's much more to be done.

Officials are concerned these protests will turn violent throughout the day as we saw just a week ago the riots that over took Paris. They deployed some 8,000 security forces to protect Paris alone, some 89,000 to protect sites around the country.

Many of the famous landmarks, tourists go to see there in Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the catacombs, they're all closed. Police say more than 120 people have been taken into custody and some 342 have been taken in for questioning.

Let's go live to Paris. Our Melissa Bell is joining us by phone on the streets of the French capital.

Melissa, we're looking at these images right now. Plenty of police officials out right now alongside these Yellow Vest protesters.

What can you tell us?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm standing at the roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe. All of these avenues that belong to it have lines of security policeman deployed to in Paris to try keep them safe, these avenues particularly the Champs-Elysees. Many hundreds of Yellow Vests about half an hour ago, the estimate by authorities was 1,500 protesters on the Champs-Elysees. I reckon that has grown still further. Tear gas is being used to try and push the crowds back.

And there is a new strategy in place this morning compared last Saturday and the Saturday before that. This is the fourth protest in a row. The police have secured the roundabout. And essentially they're trying to keep the protesters inside that perimeter, at least for what is this part of Paris, to keep them under better control than last week.

HOWELL: Melissa Bell on the streets of Paris by phone with us, telling us again that police learning from what we saw just a week ago, making sure to secure the roundabout there around the Arc de Triomphe -- and now we're seeing police officials and what appears to be tear gas in the air, as these Yellow Vest protesters are out in the streets.

Melissa, give us a sense of the mood. We've seen things heat up a bit.

Is there a concern this is very volatile and delicate because we have seen certainly people have been detained. We've seen people taken in for questioning.

What is the feeling on the streets?

BELL: There is quite a bit of tension in the air but it's on the side of the security forces who saw those tremendous levels of violence last week. They are expecting the worst. This has been the message on part of the authorities, to try to convince people to stay at home today, when the situation in Paris specifically was looking fairly risky and looking potentially as violent as it was last.

On the part of the protesters, a great deal of hostility already this morning. We've witnessed ourselves, protesters hurling abuse at security forces, trying to charge them, throwing things in their direction and a good deal of tear gas has been used already.

Fairly tense but for the time being I would say for what is around here, things look as though they're under control. The question is how many people the Yellow Vests manage to get out in the streets of Paris today. In the country nationwide, 136,000 were on the streets last Saturday. The numbers have been going down.

If the number is as high as it was, the Yellow Vests will be able to claim victories. This despite the claim on the part of the government with regard to what sparked this protest. You'll remember that hike in the fuel tax duty, since cancelled by the government earlier this week and yet still all this palpable anger out on the Champs-Elysees this morning.

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BELL: People that we've spoken to, the Yellow Vests are telling us this is not about the fuel tax duty. This is about the cost of living and Emmanuel Macron specifically, with lots of chants this morning calling for his resignation.

HOWELL: When you're out on the streets covering these protests, you know one thing, there will be the protesters that are there for legitimate reasons, to make their voices heard, to make sure their messages are understood.

But then come the people who show up sometimes in the middle and certainly toward the end to cause damage, to spark violence. And that's something police officials are concerned about.

As these crowds continue to grow, is that a big concern about what we're seeing right now and throughout this weekend?

And, Melissa, have you seen any instances off damage that's been caused by the groups we're seeing so far?

BELL: So far not a great deal of damage and partly because so much of Paris has been locked down. The shops along the Champs-Elysees are all boarded up this week. And businesses have been closed. Any of the potential flashpoints have been shut down. So many businesses have boarded up their windows in the hopes of being spared some of the damage.

When it comes to those protesters, the anarchists that the authorities have been warning for several weeks, this has been their narrative so far, was that there were just Yellow Vest peaceful protesters and then anarchists who were intent on causing trouble.

Last Saturday, many of the Yellow Vests found themselves caught in anger and violence that may have surprised many of them. Political figures speaking to that, George, 600 people arrested. They were the troublemakers the authorities had expected. But there were so many also ordinary Yellow Vest protesters who had come out, with ordinary jobs. And they've simply got caught up on the fervor on that day.

I think that's what the authorities, almost an insurrectionary fervor, might be repeated this Saturday.

HOWELL: CNN's Paris correspondent, Melissa Bell, by phone, joining us to tell us what happened on the streets of Paris. Live what you're seeing now, to give a little background in our viewers around the world. These are Yellow Vest protesters, the yellow vests because throughout France, it is required you keep a yellow vest in your vehicle in case of an emergency.

These yellow vests are now being used to display a movement. Just a week ago we saw violence on the streets of Paris from Yellow Vest protesters and again this week police are concerned there could be violence again.

They are out in force, some 8,000 police officials, troops are out on the streets of Paris. Major monuments, if you go visit that Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, all of those things at this point are shut down. In fact the city center in Paris is shut down at 11:08 in the morning in Paris.

What we're seeing is tear gas being used in the crowds. Let's bring in our other guest, journalist Christine Ockrent joining us via Skype.

Thank you for giving us your perspective on what's happening.

What's your first impression?

CHRISTINE OCKRENT, JOURNALIST: Well, George, as Melissa was saying, it's yet another Saturday of great trouble all over the country and particularly on the Champs-Elysees.

This being said, I think you have to remember France has a tradition of strikes and massive demonstrations.

What is new about this movement is really the Internet, the fact that these people, especially the Yellow Vests that are genuinely concerned about the standards of living, concerned about globalization, about their ways of living slipping away from them.

These people now can express themselves and get together on the Internet and that's new. It explains why all the traditional intermediaries, the go-betweens, the trade unions, the political parties, they are out. They're not in the game at all.

Aside from that, you have what Melissa alluded to, the anarchists, the extreme, the far right and also the far left. And people coming just because they want to hit at the cops and they want to steal.

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OCKRENT: And that is why the movement today is less important in terms of numbers when it comes to the Yellow Vests, more important in terms of the police forces because obviously the government underestimated for the past two or three weeks the violence which might stir up.

And so I think today you would focus on the Champs-Elysees of course, but there are quieter demonstrations in many parts of the country. And what has to be hoped for is that the violence doesn't get out of hand because that would destroy not only those Yellow Vests, who are really crying for the government to listen to their claims, but it would destroy obviously the --

HOWELL: I believe we still have Christine with us.

Christine, are you still with us?

We lost Christine Ockrent, journalist there in Paris.

Let's remind our viewers what we're seeing, 11:11 in the morning down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France. It is 5:11 in the morning on the U.S. East Coast.

You're seeing Yellow Vest protesters out in full force. Some 211 people have been taken into custody. About an hour ago, the latest figure that we had of protesters on the streets was about 1,500. Surely that number has risen.

These Yellow Vest protesters, they started by protesting a fuel tax that was proposed by the French president Emmanuel Macron, the president, the government backed away from that bill.

But these protests continued and protesters basically frustrated with economic issues, with social issues, coming together to make sure their voices are heard in Paris. We'll continue to monitor these live events and bring you any updates as we have them here on CNN. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: Live images in the French capital. Yellow Vest protesters are out in force, outnumbered by police officials. Some 8,000 police officials --

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HOWELL: -- troops to guard France. We'll continue to monitor these images out of Paris and give you any updates as we learn them.

After a series of damning revelations, the U.S. president has tweeted that he's totally cleared.

But really?

The details from court filings on two high-level former associates of President Donald Trump tell a different story. For the first time, federal prosecutors stated the president's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, committed two election-related crimes at the direction of Mr. Trump.

And there were new revelations about contacts between Cohen and a Russian national claiming to be well connected, who offered, quote, "political synergy" with the Trump campaign.

The other filing is on Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign chairman, in the highly redacted document, the special counsel Robert Mueller said Manafort lied about five major issues, including recent contacts with the Trump administration and Manafort's interactions with a former business associate who has ties to Russian intelligence.

It's a lot. Let's get to the facts first. Our Justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, has more.

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JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A flurry of filings related to two men who were once quite close to the president, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.

Now when it comes to Michael Cohen, prosecutors out of New York are telling the judge Cohen should face substantial prison time, four to five years, because they say his crimes were motivated by greed and deception, as they put it.

They're also telling a judge that Michael Cohen deceived voters during the 2016 election when he tried to silence two women who allegedly had an affair with Donald Trump in the years before the campaign. So that's from the prosecutors in New York.

Then on the flip side, the special counsel is also weighing in. Mueller's team described a more cooperative Michael Cohen, even though they say Cohen did initially give some false answers during their first meeting when he was asked about the Moscow Trump Tower project.

Cohen has later admitted that he was pursuing the Trump Tower deal longer than he first disclosed and filling in the president along the way. But the special counsel overall has said that Cohen provided substantial information, including about his own contacts with Russian interests during the 2016 campaign, also telling Mueller's team about attempts by Russian nationals to reach the campaign dating all the way back to 2015.

Plus Cohen also gave Mueller's office "useful information," as they put it, concerning discrete Russia related matters core to the investigation. No real elaboration from the special counsel on that point.

But it is clear that Michael Cohen has given Mueller a lot of information that we have yet to see when it comes to the Russia probe.

And finally there's Paul Manafort, a late filing on him, mostly under seal, but we're learning that prosecutors are accusing him of lying on five different occasions or about five different subjects related in part to his communication with administration officials, Trump administration officials. So we'll see what comes of that.

So just a flurry of filings in all of these cases. And we'll see what else has to come on the Russia probe.

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HOWELL: We're learning a great deal from these court filings, giving some insight into the investigation. To parse through it, let's bring in CNN legal analyst, Ross Garber, joining us via Skype this hour from New Orleans. Thank you for your time.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Happy to be here.

HOWELL: From these filings, there is a great deal of focus on Individual-1 and as we know Individual-1 is the president. What we heard from the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in the Cohen filing, he said this about the hush money payments to two women, who claim they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

It reads in part, "In particular and as Cohen has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1."

Also for the first time we're seeing a direct connection to the president and felony campaign finance violations.

GARBER: Yes, that is true. And they really are extraordinary allegations for the Department of Justice to be making, very, very unusual to allege that the president himself was involved in criminal activities.

It is important to note that this filing itself doesn't accuse the president of a crime but it certainly indicates that he was involved in this activity with Michael Cohen and it really implies that the president was somehow involved in a criminal activity.

HOWELL: With regard to the Trump Tower Moscow project, we've learned this, the statement from the Mueller filing on Cohen stands out, where it reads in part, "The fact that Cohen continued to work --

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HOWELL: -- on the project and discuss it with Individual-1 well into the campaign was material to the ongoing congressional and SCO investigations particularly because it occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election."

So this is Mueller laying out how the Trump Tower Moscow project is relevant to Russia's election meddling during the 2016 campaign.

How damning is that for the president?

GARBER: Yes, what we're seeing now is that some of the threads are being connected. And here, we knew about this potential Trump Tower Moscow project, that the president and some of his folks were working on before Donald Trump became president.

Now it seems like there is an implication that that is somehow tied into potential Russian meddling in the election. Now those threads haven't been connected yet.

But certainly the fact that the government says that it is relevant to the Russian meddling investigation is suggestive. And it raises a lot of questions which, I expect, we'll get answers to over the coming days, weeks and months.

But the fact that it has been mentioned and focused on, if I were the president or his lawyers, I'd be very concerned.

HOWELL: We'll talk about the president's response in a moment for sure. But I want to ask you with regard to Paul Manafort, we've learned that he stayed in touch with the Trump administration officials even into this year and after he was indicted. How significant is that?

GARBER: It is frankly astounding; there is an allegation in the current filing that Paul Manafort, the president's former campaign manager, after he was indicted, was in touch with senior administration officials.

Now prosecutors don't tell us who those administration officials are or why they were talking or what they were talking about. But certainly it is problematic for an indicted person to be talking to senior officials in the president's administration. And it raises very, very serious questions.

HOWELL: We know Mr. Trump was focused on this in the morning with a tweet storm and then later responded on Twitter with this, "Totally clears the president. Thank you," says Donald Trump.

Of course not uncharacteristic of this president to try to cast doubt, throw water on what's come out.

But your thoughts here: where is he most vulnerable after all this came out today?

GARBER: As you know, the U.S. Department of Justice says that you can't indict a sitting president. So as long as Donald Trump is in office, it is very, very unlikely and almost certain that he won't be indicted for crimes.

There can be issues once he leaves office and certainly his business, other folks in his administration and, potentially, his family, you know, could be in trouble here.

But I think the most immediate concerns are about, you know, what this means for the president politically. We have a new House of Representatives coming in, in just a few short weeks. It is controlled by Democrats. They are likely to start investigations that could potentially lead to an impeachment inquiry.

HOWELL: That is the question, what will they do with regard to the report that is put together by the Mueller team and where will things go from there?

Ross Garber, we appreciate your time today. Thank you so much.

GARBER: Happy to be with you.

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HOWELL: Now a major winter storm taking aim at parts of the southern U.S. this weekend could impact traveling.

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HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, President Trump names his choice as the U.S. attorney general. Coming up, the president also makes a controversial pick to represent the U.S. at the U.N. as he shakes up his core group of advisers.

CNN also monitoring events in Paris, France, these Yellow Vest protesters out in force. And so are police officials. Stand by; we'll have more after the break.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live in Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines.

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HOWELL: CNN following live images in Paris, France, 11:32 in the morning, 5:32 on the U.S. East Coast. Yellow Vest protesters on the streets, face-to-face with riot police there. The city center of Paris is essentially shut down. Thousands of security forces are there to keep the demonstrations from turning violent as we saw just a week ago.

So far there have been some skirmishes. We continue to monitor events with live images. And let's go live now to our Melissa Bell. Melissa has been there following what's happening for the last several hours.

Melissa, what is the feeling, the mood of these Yellow Vest protesters?

BELL: Pretty tense this morning and from quite early on. This is the Champs-Elysees; you can see it is not as packed as it had been the week before last. Last Saturday, this had been entirely cordoned off. Police have adopted a different strategy this time to try and prevent that violence we saw last time.

They have cordoned off one end of the Champs-Elysees and the other. This is true on several avenues that all lead onto the Arc de Triomphe, the idea being that by trying to contain perhaps the protesters and avoid some of the violence we saw last week.

One of the big questions is even as some of skirmishes being, you're quite right to point out we've been tear gassed ourselves this morning. Already that has happened. It's not yet midday here in Paris.

The point for the Yellow Vests is really to hope that there are as many people out on the streets this Saturday as there were last Saturday. That was 136,000 people nationwide.

Since then the French authorities have backed Dow from the controversial fuel tax hike that was at the origin of this. But that was just a spark. What happened since is that the movement has broadened, deepened, grown more angry and more violent.

The question is, despite that climb-down by the government, this week, they managed, these Yellow Vest protesters, to get anything like the same numbers out on the street again.

HOWELL: Melissa, you pointed this out about an hour ago. Police officials learning from what they experienced just a week ago. The violence that broke out along the Champs-Elysees, around the Arc de Triomphe, and now police out in force; I believe you reported some 8,000 officials there in Paris alone.

Is there a sense of a delicate balance, not being too heavy-handed but at the same time ensuring that security is in force?

BELL: After the last few weeks and perhaps especially after last George, when we saw those extraordinary levels of violence. This whole area had been cordoned off all around the --

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BELL: -- French presidential palace and the eighth district of the French capital. It was beyond that perimeter that we saw that explosion of violence in several different parts of Paris. This time they've seen to have taken that on board.

Not only are there greater numbers out on the street but the approach is different, many more mobile units with an attempt to contain the violence within this area.

What you see on the side streets they have rows of riot police. That is where the confrontation, those skirmishes have been happening. When the crowd has gone toward them, things have been thrown. Tear gas thrown at protesters to push them back.

We've heard of some 400 people, nearly 500, who have already this morning been taken in for questioning. That gives you an idea of the numbers on the streets but also the determination of the authorities this week to prevent a repeat specifically of that terrible violence that we saw last week.

HOWELL: We mentioned this before, for people that would want to visit important sites there, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, essentially the Eighth Arondissement has been shut due to these protests.

How has that affected just everyday life?

We see the Yellow Vest protesters in view.

But what about just everyday people that are carrying on with their day, their lives, not able to go to the city center?

BELL: And beyond that, of course, when the rest of the world watches, it tends to be on these Saturday gatherings. This is the fourth in a row. But what happened is since November 17th, every day the blockades around the country, fuel depots have been blockaded, petrol stations have begun running low on petrol.

So there has been an effect in terms of the continuity of this protest, its extent, its geographical spread and its targets. And that has ended up being felt countrywide by ordinary French people going around on their business.

Here on the Champs-Elysees, many of these buildings have been seen damage to them, not last Saturday, but the Saturday before. You can see that they've all now boarded up their windows in the hope of being spared this week in case things kick off, once again there is violence.

This time they've prepared themselves to be spared some of that damage. We heard earlier this week from the French economy minister about the extent of the damage. This is, of course, in its fourth week, having a huge impact on the French economy. Here in Paris, the restaurant sector is down; hotel occupancy is down. The automobile industry has been affected.

This is something that the government is keeping an extremely keen eye on. And you'll imagine, this is not, when he was elected 18 months ago, the vision, the image of France that Emmanuel Macron wanted to give.

And one of the interesting things is how specifically targeted against the French president, this is no longer just about a fuel tax hike; This is about the liberalizing policies of the French government itself.

HOWELL: Important to point out, as the government has done as well, the difference between legitimate protesters who are raising their voices to make their concerns known versus people who show up later at these events to spark violence, to cause damage. That's what police officials are watching out for.

We wish you and your team safety out there. Thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

Now to the Trump White House. Despite the turmoil of the Russia investigation, President Trump pushing ahead to reshape his team of key advisors. But even as new faces are coming in, one former cabinet official has some disparaging words for his old boss, as our Jim Acosta reports for you.

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JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In what appeared to be breathless anticipation of what's to come, President Trump started his day taking aim at a familiar target, the Russia investigation, tweeting, "We'll be doing a major counter report to the Mueller report. This should never again be allowed to happen to a future President of the United States."

Mr. Trump boasted his legal team's planned response to Mueller is already 87 pages, adding, "Obviously cannot complete until we see the final witch hunt report." In a move that could have a big impact on the Russia investigation,

the president reached out to an old Washington hand, prominent D.C. attorney William Barr, to become the next attorney general, a job Barr has held before.

TRUMP: Barr's an outstanding man. Bill previously led the Justice Department with distinction as attorney general under George H. W. Bush.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Widely viewed as a breeze for confirmation, Barr joins the Trump cabinet just as special counsel Robert Mueller is adding critical pieces to the Russia probe puzzle.

Barr at times has sounded sympathetic to the president's call for investigations into Hillary Clinton's past, telling "The New York Times," "Although an investigation shouldn't be launched just because a president wants it, the ultimate question is whether the matter warrants investigation."

The president announced one other addition to his team, choosing State Department spokesperson --

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ACOSTA (voice-over): -- Heather Nauert as U.N. ambassador.

TRUMP: She's very talented, very smart, very quick. And I think he's going to be respected by all.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Unlike her predecessor, Nikki Haley, Nauert will not have cabinet level status. The former FOX News personality has come under criticism for lacking the diplomatic experience for the U.N. post.

Critics noted she once touted the U.S. relationship with Germany by citing World War II.

HEATHER NAUERT, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Speaking of the State Department, the nation's former top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, spun old tales of his time in the administration, like when he explained to the president how he shouldn't break the law.

REX TILLERSON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The president will say here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it.

And I'd have to say to him, well, Mr. President, I understand what you want to do. But you can't do it that way. It violates the law.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Tillerson also described Mr. Trump as less than thorough.

TILLERSON: ... for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn't like to read, doesn't read briefing reports, doesn't like to get into the details of a lot of things but rather just kind of says, look, this is what I believe ...

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president fired back in a tweet, saying, "Tillerson was dumb as a rock and I couldn't get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State."

That's despite the president's comments from the campaign that he only hires the best people.

TRUMP: But the cabinet, we're going to have all the best people. We're going to find out who they are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Jim Acosta on that report, thank you.

One other important White House post could soon be vacant. The chief of staff, John Kelly, has been rumored to be on his way out for months now and it appears he may resign within the coming days.

Two sources telling CNN the relationship between Kelly and Trump has soured to the point where they no longer speak. We have learned Kelly met with investigators working for the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

Let's talk about all of this now with Leslie Vinjamuri. Leslie is the head of U.S. and Americas Programme at Chatham House in London.

A pleasure to have your on the show.

LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you, George.

HOWELL: So the other major line out of the White House is that the chief of staff, John Kelly, is expected to resign in the coming days and that there are two -- that they're not talking anymore, which is highly significant, that the president and Mr. Kelly are not talking.

What do you make of his possible replacement and this move if Kelly leaves?

VINJAMURI: It is another sign that this relationship, which I think we've known for a little while, had broken down. But remember, Kelly was originally brought in to the White House to streamline the chaos of last summer and to bring things into focus and manage the interactions with the president on the investigations and on any number of things.

That has clearly broken down and what we've seen time and again is that when the president doesn't feel that he has the loyalty that he needs, that's exactly when these changes happen.

So it's certainly not surprising.

HOWELL: The president made some major announcements on his way to Missouri, Heather Nauert as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and also William Barr as the new attorney general of the U.S.

What do you make of Nauert taking that role, given her lack of experience when it comes to diplomacy?

She was a news reporter.

VINJAMURI: I think it sends a very real signal to the United Nations, to America's partners, to the rest of the world that this is not a president that takes multilateralism seriously. It's not a president that's going to take the United Nations seriously. And that foreign policy is going to be driven by John Bolton, the national security adviser, by the secretary of state, Pompeo, and by President Trump.

And so he's put somebody forward who will essentially be communicating those messages but not doing the hard work of negotiating. It's a big loss frankly for America's foreign policy to not have somebody who will be there every day, working hard behind the scenes to negotiate with the Russians, with the Chinese, with the British, with the French.

I think it's a very significant signal and not a tremendously good one.

HOWELL: What is the signal, quickly, about William Barr taking this position?

He has served under previous administrations.

What impact could he have on the Russia investigation?

VINJAMURI: I think there will undoubtedly be a concern about Barr's previous statements, that suggest that he's not neutral. It's difficult I think for anybody to come into that role right now unless they knew they were coming into office, having not commented on it.

I'm certain that a number of Democrats will take issue with this appointment. But he's a professional. He's held this role before. He's a serious person. So one hopes that when he's in office, that that integrity will be restored.

He's also, like his predecessor, tough on crime, tough on immigration. So it's a signal that the president is choosing somebody who, like the --

[05:45:00]

VINJAMURI: -- others around him now, who are really going to help him drill down on those pledges and promises that he's been making since before he was elected.

HOWELL: Leslie Vinjamuri with perspective, thank you again, live in London.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

HOWELL: Paris is not the only city in Europe that is dealing with demonstrations this weekend. Still ahead, why thousands are turning out in Rome to hear Italy's deputy prime minister say thank you. These live images there. We'll be right back after the break.

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HOWELL: Live images in Rome, Italy. Thousands of supporters of Italy's right-wing League Party are all together there. The man behind the podium, the deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini. His rhetoric has boosted the party's popularity and helped to push a more nationalist agenda. Salvini is the reason many people have come together.

Let's bring in CNN's Atika Shubert, on the streets of Rome.

Atika, what is the mood, the expectation, what do people want to hear from Salvini?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a show of force for Salvini and his party, La League. He's going to be speaking at the stage behind me in less than half an hour. And you can see thousands already here; 250 buses were used to bring his supporters from across the country here.

And this is really a way, he says, to thank his supporters. In his words, a thank you to those people who thank me, very Trumpian language. And in many ways this is a playbook -- play right out of Trump's playbook. The language we're hearing here appeals to national pride. Hearing the words "made in Italy," the slogan here, "Italians first." This is really about --

[05:50:00]

SHUBERT: -- Matteo Salvini. He's interior minister but the League Party actually won the election with about 17 percent of the vote but since then they're now polling at 34 percent. So this rally today is really about positioning the League and Matteo Salvini as the national leader, as the national power and so that's why you're seeing this show of force here today.

HOWELL: Atika Shubert, live for us. Atika, thank you.

We now know what the surface of Mars looks like and we're getting sound from there, too. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: Happening right now in the city of Paris, France, Yellow Vest protesters are standing face to face with riot police. The city center, the Eighth Arondissement, essentially shut down. Thousands of security forces are there to keep demonstrations from turning violent as we saw a week ago.

So far there have been some clashes, with police firing tear gas. Protesters are calling for economic reforms and are in revolt against the president's policies there.

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HOWELL (voice-over): What you hear there, the sound of Mars. NASA's Insight lander is sending back the first-ever sound of the Martian wind. Since it landed 10 days ago, it's been sending back pictures and now we're hearing audio.

Insight's mission is to look deep into the interior of Mars but it was not expected to pick up any sound from the surface. So big surprise that it did.

We're getting our first look at one of the most highly anticipated superhero films for next year. This is the fourth installment of The Avengers series and it's called "Avengers Endgame."

It picks up where the last film left off, featuring many of the stars from the previous films, including Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlet Johansson.

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CHRIS EVANS, ACTOR, "STEVE ROGERS/CAPTAIN AMERICA": This is the fight of our lives.

SCARLET JOHANSSON, ACTOR, "NATASHA ROMANOFF/BLACK WIDOW": This is going to work, Steve.

"ROGERS": I know it is. Because I don't know what I'm going to do if it doesn't.

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HOWELL: All right. A lot of people will be there to watch that. That film scheduled for release in the U.S. for the end of April.

Thanks for being with us this hour for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is ahead. For our viewers around the world, "AFRICAN VOICES" is next. Thank you for watching the cable news network, CNN, the world's news leader.