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Theresa May Facing No Confidence Vote; Currency Traders Backed Away from The Pound Because There's So Much Uncertainty; Trump's Former Lawyer Gets Three Years in Prison. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 12, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome, everyone, to a big night here in London. Specifically, in Westminster. The building behind me,

the U.K. Parliament, right now 317 Conservative MPs are deciding the fate of Theresa May. And quite possibly the future of their country. The United

Kingdom. It's been another crazy day here in Westminster and it started very early. This letter was released before 8:00 a.m. London time showing

that 48 MPs, lawmakers, called for the prime minister to go. Now, what that does in this country is triggers a confidence vote. Minutes later, Theresa

May stepped out of the doors of Downing Street and said this.


THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: Sir Graham Brady confirmed he's received 48 letters from Conservative MPs and will now be a vote of

confidence of my leadership in the Conservative party. I will contest that vote with everything I've got. I have been a me believe of the Conservative

party for over 40 years. I've served it as an activist, counselor, MP, Shadow Minister, Home Secretary and now as Prime Minister. I stood to be

leader because I believe in the Conservative vision for a better future, a thriving economy with nowhere and nobody left behind. A stronger society

where everyone can make the most of their talents. Always serving the national interest.


GORANI: Well, anyone who thought that Theresa May would resign, step aside, was wrong once again. So here we have it. A canceled Brexit vote. A dash

across Europe to shore up support and now a confidence vote in her leadership all in 72 hours. You'd think that would be enough for Mrs. May

but she then had to face off all of Parliament for prime minister's questions on this Wednesday and it was not a quiet affair.


MAY: Tell members on the other side when we have had a meaningful vote, we had it in the referendum on 2016. And it's -- and if he wants a meaningful

date, I'll give him one. When we leave the European Union.

JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Totally and absolutely unacceptable for this House and anyone -- this House, this House agreed a program motion.

This House agreed the five days of debate. This House agreed when the vote was going to take place. The government tried to unilaterally pull that and

deny this House -- deny this House the chance of a vote on this crucial matter.


GORANI: And here is the magic number. 159. That is how many Conservative MPs Theresa May needs to vote for her to survive politically. We are hoping

the find out whether that happens in the next couple of hours. Before the vote she addressed lawmakers to plead her case, a lawmaker in the meeting

telling CNN she will not fight the next general election in 2022. So, in exchange for that, she would like to be able to survive the confidence

vote. Let's get more. I'm joined here by Bianca Nobilo and Nic Robertson. Is she expected to survive? She is fighter for her life with the MPs who

want to oust her.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala. She made that dramatic appeal before voting on the future. It is a secret ballot and before that vote the

number of MPs who had publicly declared that they would support the prime minister was well over 170, well clear of that threshold that she needs to

meet. So as long as they stick to their word and deliver what they say they're going to deliver in the secret ballot she should get through.

Certainly, her allies, her closest supporters, are sounding very, very confident that she will survive tonight's vote but, of course, she still

faces the huge problem of how to get her withdrawal deal through.

GORANI: Importantly, Bianca, if she does survive, she cannot be challenged for an entire year.

[14:05:00] NOBILO: That's correct. But I think there are really three outcomes today. There's the unlikely outcome to lose, a resounding win so

100 counts upward of what she needs, 250, or the most likely option, which is she wins decently but enough to keep the plotting on and the pressure

from the back benches and that's the concern is that it won't be resounding enough for her to really command authority going forward in the next few

months and I would also caution that even though we have had over 170 public declarations of MPs of support I know that there are at least a few

MPs saying they declared the support of her and privately not going to and that's secret ballot and the lack of trust in the Conservative party at the

moment is really notable.

GORANI: And 10 Downing Street, what's the state of mind of the prime minister today? She's proven she's a fighter. She is not going to let go

without a fight. She said so herself this morning. What is her strategy now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, her strategy does seem to be, we heard it this morning and again in Parliament today, we have

been hearing it over recent months, many, many times is to stick to the firm belief that the deal she has is the best one. That she cannot -- that

she is delivering on what the people of Britain want. That she hopes to be able to get some reassurances over the backstop deal for the border with

North Ireland with members of the European Union. There seems to be a small tiny openness and acceptance that something might be forthcoming but

absolutely not opening up the deal. And I think the mood of hers this morning going in, the sense we were getting from here at least was that she

would win this. It might be tight and she would win and she would be able to continue and that's very -- that is very much in keeping with the

Theresa May we have seen. Brexit negotiating it since she became prime minister two and a half years ago has been her sole focus, principally. And

she does seem very, very intent on continuing. And if she continues to be prime minister at the end of tonight it is expected to go do Brussels to

continue that process tomorrow.

GORANI: Nic, stand by. We'll get back to you throughout the next hour and the next few hours continuing this breaking news coverage and although

internationally people are interested in U.K. politics, I think what they're most interested in is what it means for Brexit. What does it mean

for Brexit?

ROBERTSON: Well, I think if as we expect Theresa May hangs on to her job tonight, I think we are still back in this huge impasse. Theresa May has

been traveling around Europe. She's got this summit again tomorrow but there's absolutely no sign that the other eu27 are prepared to

fundamentally change the legal text of the withdrawal agreement. They may issue reassurances, perhaps even give some kind of written guidance to say

that, well, we don't want to go into this arrangement called a backstop to avoid a hard border in North Ireland and that is what many MPs including

many in her own party are still opposed to. She'll still come back at the end of this week perhaps having survived the confidence vote, having gone

to another EU summit and still be staring a potential defeat on her whole approach to Brexit in the face and it looks as though the only tactic she's

got is to play it long, put it off for as long as possible into January until the vote in the hope that MPs will go for her deal rather than risk

no deal.

GORANI: Absolutely. We'll be speaking again very soon. Thank you. I want to get to Matthew Chance. It's been a fraught day in Westminster. May's fate

perhaps as we were discussing the fate of Brexit will be decided. Matthew chance outside Parliament among demonstrators. When's happening where you

are, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, there's still demonstrations out here as there have been for past several

days and weeks with people on both sides of the political divide in this country, hardline Brexiteers, hardline remainers making the views known.

People behind me support a rejection of Brexit. They want a second referendum. They want Britain to stay within the European Union. There are

others short distance from here who want the opposite, Britain to make a clean break with the European Union. And I think that fact is -- underlines

the fundamental problem of Theresa May even getting through this crisis this evening and emerges as the victor of this leadership challenge, as it

were, she has that much bigger crisis in the days ahead, how will she get the plan through the? The Parliament is divided. The country is divided.

The demonstrators are divided.

[14:10:00] It seems that the prime minister of this country at the moment is going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. In terms of that

leadership contest, there's been lots of expressions of support from may's cabinet colleagues including many Brexiteers close to her. Michael Gove was

an architect of the Brexit campaign, a close associate of May. I spoke to him earlier, there's been lots of expressions of support from may's cabinet

colleagues including many Brexiteers close to her. Michael Gove was an architect of the Brexit campaign, a close associate of May. I spoke to him

earlier as he was walking outside Westminster and put some questions to him about what he thought the status at the moment of Theresa May was. Listen.


MICHAEL GOVE, SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS: The prime minister will win handsomely and the deal will go through.

CHANCE: Hasn't May lost the confidence of the party?


CHANCE: Don't you think that --

GOVE: I do think that, yes.

CHANCE: Which one would you like? Do you think he would be a better leader?


CHANCE: You have ambitions for the leadership anymore?


CHANCE: You're 10 to 1 favorite to be the next prime minister.

GOVE: I don't believe in betting.

CHANCE: Do you think there will be a Brexit?

GOVE: Rather good.


CHANCE: We'll find out what the result of that leadership ballot is. But whatever it is, again, the underlying divisions in this country remain

unchanged. Back to you.

GORANI: Uh-huh. Absolutely. Matthew Chance, thanks very much outside Westminster. The British pound has taken punches and for now it looks like

investors are betting that May will survive this confidence vote under way. Why is that? Because the pound is actually gaining ground after lost

considerably over the last few weeks. Samuel, bring us up to date. I'm seeing a gain for the pound against the dollar.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN MONEY BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It is a bit counterintuitive with uncertainty here and at first the

pound below $1.25 getting close to 20-month lows but as people looked out through the day, I was talking to currency traders saying we don't have

more insight than the common person does at this point and turning to the betting websites here in the U.K., relying on those to read the tea leaves

and get a sense that may will win that. That's their sense. Interestingly, a trader pointed out to me, look, if you look at the betting websites, a

person with the best odds of beating may is a Conservative MP but take a look at this tweet that that MP sent out. Even though he's -- had some of

the best odds he tweeted the last thing our country needs right now is a Conservative party leadership election. Will be seen as self-indulgent and

wrong. "Prime minister has my full support and is best person to ensure we leave the EU on the 29th of March." We have to be honest. Currency traders

backed away from the pound because there's so much uncertainty. They don't have the insight that anybody else doesn't have either and so they backed

away so they shorted the pound so any type of news that could be perceived positive sends the pound up the way we're seeing it above a $1.26 right


GORANI: All right. Samuel Burke, thank you very much. Let's bring in Tony Alistair Campbell, his Tony Blair's former communications director. Very

much opposed to Brexit. And for many months we have been speaking. You have had a consistent message, another people's vote. You want another

referendum. Do you think we're closer to that now?

TONY ALISTAIR CAMPBELL, TONY BLAIR'S FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: For sure. I mean, when we launched the campaign in March, we had no support of

front benches on either side. I think it's possible. This place, Parliament, cannot decide what Brexit actually means and I think where we

are going to as a country changing its mind. It was a very close result. One of the many, many mistakes Theresa May's made on the way is that she

lent so far to the Brexit side of the debate, left the Remain people over there and then of course now disappointed the Brexit people because what

she ended up with is --

GORANI: You have Leavers --

CAMPBELL: Half in and half out.

GORANI: You have Leavers as well as Remainers. It was a referendum. You got the result that you got. You can't just keep holding referendums until you

get the result that you want.

CAMPBELL: That's what we are saying that two and a half years on we now know so much more about what Brexit means and that people -- I think far

from anti-democratic. It is antidemocratic not to, it is 903 days since the referendum. They are still not able to get a plan together.

GORANI: What do you think will happen tonight for Theresa May?

CAMPBELL: I think she'll win this vote. I mean, it is very hard to know whether to take it seriously. The number of people to vote for her. It's

secret ballot. I know one who absolutely seen them on television saying to vote for her but I know they're not.

GORANI: OK. Because it's secret. They can say one thing and do another.

[14:15:00] CAMPBELL: They sometimes do this.

GORANI: I mean, does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? There is a deal struck with the EU that probably won't pass, won't be -- you

know, so then what? Where does that leave the country? Do you revoke article 50? What do you do -- what's left?

CAMPBELL: Well look. The problem for the country, the reason why we have this circus he here at the moment, the politics is in crisis and driven by

events. Was going to be in Dublin today. She's not. She was going to have the vote, she did not. The Parliament is split. The main parties are split

and the country's divided and won't come together until there is another vote where we vote specifically on a deal, a form of Brexit, against -- you

say to the public, do you want that or do you want to say?

GORANI: Not just the Conservatives. The opposition, as well.


GORANI: They would technically be speaking in a situation like this with such a divided party in power, the opposition should be able to swoop in.

It's not.

CAMPBELL: No. And I think they've got their own divisions, as well. But look. The country's in a mess. I mean, you just arrived but just go for a

walk down there tonight. You see people --

GORANI: I took the bus. I walked. I see it every day, Yes.

CAMPBELL: Go to the hospitals and they kind of are overflowing. Go to the schools and the standards are going down. Not enough police. The stuff that

matters is not addressed because they're utterly fixated on the nonsense and she, I'm afraid, I think she has her position with the national

interest and it is not. The national interest is trying to do the right thing without damaging the country. What the negotiations have shown is you

cannot do Brexit without damaging the country.

GORANI: Whatever you do it's going to be humiliating for the government. Either you back down or you carry on with this deal that's going to

ultimately according to those who think Brexit is a disaster, harm the economy. There's almost no good outcome from this. Right?

CAMPBELL: Correct.

GORANI: After two years.

CAMPBELL: Correct.

GORANI: Where do you take your country from here?

Take it back. You say to the people, is this what you want?


GORANI: Our politics are the moment, madness. You had last week the government admitted that her plan is going to hit the economy 3.9 percent.

Kind of. Roughly. Right? So, for the first time in our history if she did stand in the next election, whoever stands in the next election, is

basically on the plan saying, by the way, whatever we do, we make you poorer. How's that sensible politics?

CAMPBELL: You are, of course, familiar with 10 Downing Street. And how prime ministers think when they have very important decisions they need to

make and important strategies they need to consider. What do you think is going through the mind of the prime minister now?

GORANI: I have to say I don't know her mind as well as I know Tony Blair's mind.


GORANI: One thing you hear from MPs and her colleagues is that she's quite secretive. She doesn't really bring her colleagues in. She's kind of

controlling. And I just don't know what goes through her mind because there's been a succession of huge mistakes from the word go, not trying to

bring the country together. The stock election. She lost the majority. Reliant on the --

CAMPBELL: Hanging on in a way that people didn't expect her to hang on.

GORANI: No. She's hanging on.

CAMPBELL: But people have -- politicians resigned for a lot less.

GORANI: Sure. And yet, she is -- I mean, is there something to admire there?

CAMPBELL: There might be if you felt she was doing the right thing for the country.


CAMPBELL: The country's in a complete mess. And, you know --

GORANI: You don't think it's a good deal with the EU?

CAMPBELL: It's a terrible deal.

GORANI: That's one thing you and the Brexiteers agree on.

CAMPBELL: Complete agreement. It is a bad deal.

GORANI: Achieved that.

CAMPBELL: United us. Doesn't deserve to pass.

GORANI: Hopefully we'll be able to speak later this evening or tomorrow once we know exactly what happens.

CAMPBELL: We'll speak during the people's vote campaign.

If that happens, thanks so much for joining us. A lot more to come this evening and more of the breaking news coverage here at Westminster and one

of Donald Trump's closest confidants is headed to prison. Hard time. We'll tell you what Michael Cohen said about working for the President. And

later, as people shop, a gunman opened fire. The suspect is still on the run. We'll be right back.


GORANI: Donald Trump's former lawyer says working for Mr. Trump was like being trapped in a mental prison. And now, Michael Cohen will now what it

is like to be in an actual prison. The federal judge sentenced Cohen to three years in jail just a couple of hours ago and imposing a harsh penalty

on the man known as the President's fixer. Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell outside the courthouse with more. Tell us what happened in the

courtroom today as Michael Cohen heard the judge deliver the sentence.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Oh, it's a dramatic moment in the courtroom today. The judge had -- it was delivering the sentence saying to Cohen that

he wanted to encourage people to cooperate and told him he committed serious crimes, bank fraud and campaign finance violations and the judge

said that because of the importance of the crimes, especially as it relates to the big picture investigation taking place, you know, special counsel's

investigation into Russian interference in the election, he said that they need to send a message. He wanted to deter others from committing similar

acts and that is why he was sentencing Michael Cohen to 36 months in prison. Under the agreement with the prosecutors he was facing anywhere

between four to five years and did get a bit of a benefit for cooperating with the Special Counsel investigation and facing 36 months in prison and

reports to prison March 6th of next year. Hala?

GORANI: Why is he reporting to prison in March and not right away?

SCANNELL: The judge -- they usually give them time to sort out their affairs. You know? Some people are -- might be going away for 20-plus years

but he can arrange the affairs, get everything in order and very interesting in the courtroom because Michael Cohen's had numerous family

members there, his son, daughter, wife, parents, in-laws and another whole group of cousins and friends and they were all very emotional after the

sentence. Many of them walked up to Cohen afterwards to hug him, give him a pat on the back so it's sort of also to deal with a lot of the family

moment to work through, Hala.

GORANI: Kara, thank you very much. Also, perhaps you'll continue cooperating with investors. Thank you. Let's get back to the breaking news

coverage. It is a momentous evening in U.K. and across Europe. Why? Some members of Theresa May's own party are essentially trying to oust her with

a no-confidence vote. The votes are being cast now. It is going to be very interesting result, obviously, because it is possible that in a couple of

hours we'll hear that Theresa May did not survive the vote or as is expected that she has and that doesn't mean that the road ahead will not be

fraught with hurdles and problems for the prime minister as she continues to try to sell a wildly unpopular deal on Brexit that she struck with the


[14:25:00] Carole Walker is here once again with me for more on the political drama. Let's talk about what this means for the prime minister if

she survives. If this is not the end of the road.

CAROLE WALKER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, that is right, half an hour left for voting to continue. Then, of course, the votes will be counted. We'll

hear within the next couple of hours whether or not she has indeed won and we were saying earlier all the indications are that she has got enough

votes to stay on as leader. There's been speculation about, oh, she didn't win very much and maybe she would have to stand down. Knowing Theresa May

and everything she's said, getting on the threshold, I think she'll be determined to big in and means she can't be challenged for another year.

And it means for may's point of view that she will carry on and try to see through the Brexit deal. But she's been saying in her last-minute appeal to

MPs if they back her tonight, she won't stand as their leader for the next scheduled general election in 2022.

GORANI: More than -- almost four years away.

WALKER: Indeed. She's not given assurances of what will happen if as seems highly possible, the opposition parties put down a motion of no confidence

in her government if she loses the withdrawal deal vote and that could still yet trigger a general election within weeks although Conservative MPs

do all they can to avoid that.

GORANI: Quick question on why MPs who want to oust her would be convinced by her appeal, her proposal to not stand in the next general election.

Their whole reason for trying to depose her is because they hate her Brexit deal. So then, why would she propose something that's two, three years down

the line?

WALKER: They hate her Brexit deal and don't forget which is the withdrawn arrangement which sorts out the arrangements of Britain's departure.

There's still a huge negotiation over the future trade relationship with the EU which is got to be sorted out in the transition phase if there's


GORANI: Sure. But the backstop, the backstop, that wouldn't be renegotiated. The Europeans have said --

WALKER: That would be there in the withdrawn agreement but the other thing Conservative MPs are looking at what happened last time they were in a

general election in 2017 when she threw away the Conservative Party's majority and I think they do not want to go through that process again so I

think she hoped by giving that assurance to win over at least some wavering MPs and clearly many within her party opposed to her deal and for her

entire approach to Brexit.

GORANI: It is a secret ballot. You can have an Alistair Campbell saying publicly some MPs would support the prime minister and then said privately

he'll vote against her.

WALKER: No one will know how they voted in the polling booths, whatever they say before or afterwards. That's the big unknown here. Yes, there have

been more than the required number for prime minister -- that the prime minister needs, have declared to support her in the ballot but in the

privacy of that ballot box, who knows? Certainly, many cabinet ministers may feel it's in the best long-term interest to show loyalty at this stage

and who knows what they'll do?

GORANI: Quick last one before a break. Who could replace her? Internationally people know Boris Johnson. Household name abroad. Would it

be a hard Brexiteer?

WALKER: There's no shortage of contenders.

GORANI: Who wants this job? Who wants this job now?

WALKER: There are plenty of people who want the job but don't want to be the ones to move against the prime minister. Certainly, I think there will

be a bit battle, a battle of the Brexiteers to coalesce around a single candidate. There's been talk of a dream ticket to try to unite the parties

so that you might have, for example, somebody like Dominic Raab. You have good relations with an awful lot of Brexiteers. Team up with somebody like

Amber Rudd who could bring in those remain supporting MPs, those who want a much softer Brexit. I could run through about seven or eight other names of


[14:30:00] GORANI: There are options out there that people are certainly -- I mean, it is interesting to have a team, to have two -- you know, MPs or

cabinet ministers in this case get together to try to unite the party.

WALKER: That's an idea. If they would be prepared to do so. All I can say, Hala, the last three election campaigns, three leadership election contests

within the Conservative party, it's been the outsider, an unknown, unexpected candidate finally emerged as the winner so whoever might look

like the favorite at this stage is not necessarily going to emerge the victor.

GORANI: Oftentimes what the expectation is does not end up being what happens.

WALKER: Especially in British politics at the moment.

GORANI: Thank you very much. We'll get back to you. Still to come, plenty more intrigue here in U.K. politics to consider. We'll look at the

predictions about the future of Theresa May and a messy divorce from the continent and the latest on this story, of course, so don't go too far.

Still to come, plenty more intrigue here in U.K. politics to consider. We'll look at the predictions about the future of Theresa May and the messy

divorce from the continent.

Also, the latest on the story. Hundreds of anti-terror police have joined the manhunt for the terror suspect on the run after a deadly shooting in a

Christmas market in France. We will have a live report. We'll be right back.


GORANI: Welcome back, everyone, to Westminster where behind me in the Houses of Parliament the prime minister is facing a vote of no confidence

from her own party who now hold her political future in their hands. The vote is taking place as we speak and it's been a fraught day here in London

as the country holds its breath and waits to see if the prime minister will survive this process politically. And it's not just Theresa May's fate in

the balance but also potentially the fate and direction of Brexit.

Let's talk through this with someone who actually has a say in this decision, conservative MP, Nigel Huddleston. He joins me now. He says

he's backing Theresa May. You tweeted, I'll shall be backing the prime minister. She's an honorable public servant who served her country with

great dignity. A leadership contest now would be a complete distraction.

NIGEL HUDDLESTON, CONSERVATIVE MP: Absolutely. So I've, literally, few minutes ago, just voted for her, just over there in the House of Commons.

GORANI: What's your expectation of what will happen? You're speaking with your colleagues within the conservative party. Do you think she'll


HUDDLESTON: Yes. Because first of all, she only needs to win by one vote. It's a simple majority.

GORANI: One hundred fifty-nine.

HUDDLESTON: Exactly. And already, if you're reading or looking at Twitter and elsewhere, we've already had that number of colleagues commit to that.

Now, hopefully they're telling the truth.

GORANI: It's a secret ballot.

HUDDLESTON: It's a secret ballot but hopefully they've done the same thing in the ballot as they've said publicly. But I think she'll get over 200

votes and actually that secures her and then also she's in place then for the next year. Because we can only have this once a year.

GORANI: But this doesn't solve her biggest headache, which is how to sell that the deal, she's struck with the E.U. to the House of Commons, the MPs.

HUDDLESTON: It doesn't and which is also why I said this is a complete distraction particularly at this time. I mean, the prime minister's just

gone to Europe to try and get some more work on the backstop. This incredibly controversial elements of the deal. So this is a complete

distraction but we're not over yet. That is still controversial. We've still got to work on that.

GORANI: But Europeans are saying in clear terms, we will not renegotiate the terms of this deal.


GORANI: So, where does that leave the prime minister?

HUDDLESTON: Yeah. And that's one of the challenges because we've got a withdrawal agreement, which is a lead binding document. And then we've got

a future statement, a political statement of intent which actually does give a little bit more reassurance to colleagues in terms of being able to

develop our own trade, for example, overseas, our trade deals.

But that isn't legally binding at the moment. So really, it's a political judgment that colleagues are making on how much faith they have in the E.U.

to actually deliver on that second element.

[14:35:07] GORANI: But can she get this deal through parliament? It doesn't seem like it's realistic to expect it to happen so what is her


HUDDLESTON: Well, I think the strategy is to get some more work on the backstop, so that it gives reassurance to colleagues on the conservative

side --

GORANI: Will it work? This is what I'm unclear about.

HUDDLESTON: Well, I think if we get some wording, maybe an addendum to the withdrawal agreement, some additional wording that is probably not legally

binding but states very clear intent. But the work isn't just not on the conservative side.

GORANI: Intent not to let it go on indefinitely.

HUDDLESTON: Yes, exactly, so it's not going to go on forever and ever. Because that's the fear that we're locked in this deal forever without a

unilateral decision to get out.

But there's also onus now on the labor side because they also have a responsibility as well. And so the Labour Party have to decide, do they

want to risk no deal at all or indeed, potentially going back to another referendum or will they back this deal? So you've got some labor MPs as

well now thinking, you know what? Maybe if she comes back with a little bit more work on the backstop, it's acceptable.

GORANI: Your constituents and their majority voted to leave, 58 percent you were telling me. So you're backing a deal that a lot of Brexiteers

don't like because of this backstop and other things.


GORANI: What are you hearing from them, your constituents about your support for Theresa May on this?

HUDDLESTON: Well, the overwhelming inundation that I had today is to support the prime minister. And on the deal, you're absolutely right. Not

everybody is happy with it. There are a lot of concerns about it. But most people accept it as a compromise and they want us to get Brexit done

and then move on to the domestic agenda and other things.

GORANI: Well, that's one thing Alastair Campbell was saying to me, who's now politically on the same side as you, but he was saying this is a giant

distraction from domestic issues.


GORANI: This country needs to look at some big problems it has domestically and it's not able to, you know, pay any attention to that.

HUDDLESTON: Well, some attention is being paid, there was no doubt. I mean, if you look at the talk that's going on in the House of Commons and

all the debates, it's dominated by Brexit.

But other things are going on and we're focusing on health and education and other things. That's really what my constituents wants us to focus on.

GORANI: Nigel Huddleston, Conservative MP, thank you very much for joining us on CNN. We appreciate it.

Ahead of this confidence vote, Theresa May had to face parliament and the leader of the Labour Party at prime minister's questions. Here is some of

what Jeremy Corbyn had to say today.


JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY: The prime minister and her government have already been found to be in contempt of parliament. Her

behavior today is just contemptuous of this parliament and of this process.

Mr. Speaker, the prime minister's appalling behavior needs to be held to account.


GORANI: And that was Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party. We continue our breaking news coverage here. Behind me, Westminster. The

Palaces of Westminster and the House of Commons and there is a no confidence vote, a confidence vote taking place here within the

Conservative Party. There are some rebel MPs who are trying to oust Theresa May. The pace toward the march of -- the March Brexit deadline

will still be a whirlwind though no matter the outcome of this evening's no confidence vote.

If she gets a thumbs up, Prime Minister May is expected to meet her fellow E.U. leaders on Thursday and Friday in Brussels to talk about what might

come next.

Joining me now is James Blitz, long-time editor at the Financial Times and Whitehall correspondent. Thanks for being with us.


GORANI: So pretty much everyone I've spoken to this evening is predicting Theresa May will political survive tonight. Do you agree?



BLITZ: Well, I've seen this before.


BLITZ: If you look back in history, the Tory Party has had this kind of no confidence vote three times since 1975 against Edward Hayes, Iain Duncan

Smith and Robert Thatcher (ph). In each of those votes, the votes against the leader came in much higher than people had anticipated.

Remember, this is the secret ballot. Lots of people are going around today saying they support the prime minister. They want her to stay on. It's

crazy to get rid of her. But in the secrecy of the ballot box, they have their own agendas and their initiatives and I'm just a little cautious.

I think she'll come through but it might be bigger than -- a bigger rebellion than we think --

GORANI: If the last two years have taught us anything is that we should be cautious in our predictions.

BLITZ: Very wise.

GORANI: But what's in it for the Conservative Party to oust her now?

BLITZ: Well, there are people who want do get rid of her for several reasons. The hard Brexiteers, the so-called European research groups don't

like a deal and they've very clear about that. So that's 40 or 50 people who are going to vote against her for that.

There are a lot of MPs who are worried the course of events is going to take us towards a general election. And they don't think she's a winner.

So they think get her out now, get someone else in reasonably quickly and will be better placed for that.

GORANI: But she reportedly, as promised, not to lead the party into the general election.

[14:40:01] BLITZ: Well, she did say -- well, she did say that, but of course, she was talking in slightly longer term time scale. And if one

looks at the report, she wasn't completely convincing. She said it was her intention not to leave the bargain to a general election.

But you know as well as I do that over the last few years, Mrs. May has said lots of things which she then went on to reverse. So it's not an

absolutely cast iron commitment.

GORANI: Including things she wouldn't call a snap election and she did.

BLITZ: Correct. Exactly.

GORANI: If she does survive, though, I mean, what happens then? Because she still has to sell a deal very few people are embracing right now.

BLITZ: Yes. Well, obviously, if she survives, her hope, first of all, is to survive well. I mean, if she gets close to 150 votes against her

tonight, that's pretty wounding. And then the question will be whether the cabinet completely rallies behind her or says, for goodness sake, we've got

to have a new agenda.

But if she does survive, she's obviously going to go to Brussels tomorrow. As your previous guest said, she wants to try and get some kind of legal

addendum to the treaty which gives the impression that this northern Irish backstop is not a permanent arrangement.

It's going to be very difficult, I have to say, that she's going to try and do that. And of course, the other thing is that when she brings the vote

to the Commons in January, will be a lot closer to a potential no deal scenario.

GORANI: But just last one. I mean, the E.U. needs -- wants to help her, they've said they want to help her. Of course, they're saying, I'm sure

some of it is in negotiating tactic, we're not, at all, renegotiating the legal text that forms a basis of this agreement. But what can they do in

just the next few days?

BLITZ: Well, not much. I think in the end, they can do a certain amount of cosmetic stop. There is this attempt to give a kind of -- some kind of

document, a codicil, it's called that gives the impression to MPs that this backstop arrangement is not going to be permanent.

But I'm not holding up much hope. I mean, the leverage she will have if she comes -- when she comes with a vote in January will be that we are very

close to a no-deal, a managed no-deal situation and the --

GORANI: The leverage -- I was going to say, pardon me. The leverage is this or we crash.

BLITZ: Correct, it's this or we crash. That's the leverage she's going to have. But it's a horrible situation to be in and there are people in

cabinet, frankly, don't want that.


BLITZ: They don't like that, that binary choice she's giving.

GORANI: James Blitz, we'll speak again over the next few hours hopefully, of the Financial Times. It's always wonderful having your perspective and


We have another developing story. We're following anti-terror police have joined an international manhunt now for a gunman on the run after a deadly

attack near a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France.

Now, French police have released a photograph of the suspect. He is identified now as Cherif Chekatt. You see him there. Police say he killed

at least two people and wounded 14 others. Then he engaged in a shootout with security forces, suffered an arm injury and fled the scene in a taxi.

CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Paris. What more can you tell us about the suspect? I presume authorities are

releasing his picture so that if anyone sees him, they can alert police.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This notice has been put out by the national police with a number for anybody to call if

they have any information about this individual. However, they warn that he's very dangerous and for people not to intervene directly but, rather,

to call the police.

Now, if you look at this individual's background, Cherif Chekatt, 29, born in Strasbourg, he is definitely a troubled, troubled person. The police

knew about him when he was a mere 10 years old. He was convicted for the first time at the age of 13. A total of 27 convictions. Mostly for

violence and robbery. He spent time in prisons in France, Germany and Switzerland and he is on what is known as the -- or the s-file which it's

the people who are believed to be a threat to public security. 20,000 people on that list. Between 10,000 and 12,000 are supposedly under

surveillance by the French authorities.

Now, we know that his mother, father and two brothers have been in police custody today being questioned. We heard Edouard Philippe, the French

prime minister saying that in addition to the 700 security forces already involved in the manhunt that 500 soldiers from the Sentinelle (ph)

operation which is the anti-terror operation that's been in existence in France since the November 2015 attacks here in Paris. 500 of them have

been added to this manhunt. And in the coming days an additional 1,300 troops will join the effort.

[14:45:09] Now, we know that border security has been tightened up. That French and Swiss authorities are also on the lookout for this individual,

Cherif Chekatt.

But until now, there's no indication where he might be and what direction he might be going. Hala?

GORANI: Ben Wedeman, thanks very much with that live report.

I'm going to take a quick break. We'll have a lot more of our Brexit coverage after this. Stay with us.


GORANI: Now to some other stories. The Kremlin says a woman accused of being a Russian agent in the U.S. has been subjected to a medieval


Russia's foreign ministry made the claim to CNN also declaring that Maria Butina, a political prisoner, had been tortured according to them. A plea

deal is in the works for Butina who's accused of infiltrating conservative groups in America to advance Russian interests.

All of this comes out of an exclusive interview conducted by our Fred Pleitgen. He joins me now live from Moscow with more. What more can you

tell us, Fred?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly remarkable thing that Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the foreign

ministry told us. And we have to keep in mind, Hala, that, Maria Butina is only couple of hours away from formally entering into a plea agreement

where she would admit to some of that and providing those operations inside the United States on the part of a Russian official.

Now, it seems to us as though the Russians are gearing up for that and trying to make the case that they believe that Maria Butina was essentially

forced into making that plea agreement and saying they believe that she is a political prisoner. Here's some of what Maria Zakharova had to say.


MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN: We indicated her as a political prisoner from the very first days. Because it's not about --

it's not about justice. It's not justice. It's just inquisition. It's medieval inquisition because she's intimidated. She was tortured and she

was treated not like a human being, not like a woman. I think she was treated and still is treated probably as a terrorist or something like



PLEITGEN: So I asked Maria Zakharova, you know, those are some pretty staunch accusations that she's making. And what exactly she means,

specifically when she says that she believes that Maria Butina is being tortured while in the U.S. facility. She said that she is only allowed out

of her cell about two hours every day. And those two hours apparently are at night.

Of course, we have to mention she is in solitary confinement. She said that guards apparently search her cell quite frequently and alleged that

she doesn't have access to medical attention.

Now, CNN, however, has learned that she actually does get very regular visits, for instance, from her lawyers. Also, gets regular visits from her

boyfriend as well. It is true that the hours that she can get out of her cell are quite restricted, but that's simply because she's in solitary

confinement. And the folks there at the prison don't want her mingling with the rest of the prison population there.

[14:50:14] So certainly some of those accusations very little really to back those up. But there were further things that the Russians also said,

Maria Zakharova, also saying that she believes that the timing of the arrest of Maria Butina which happened or at least was announced, right on

the day of the Putin-Trump summit in Helsinki. She believes that that was also a political ploy on the part of the United States.

Now, Hala, just shows how really the tensions are ratcheting up between the U.S. and Russia. Of course, with the Mueller investigation gaining steam

and then also with this case of Maria Butina further poisoning the relations between these two countries.

GORANI: All right. Fred Pleitgen, live in Moscow with that exclusive interview, appreciate it.

We are going to take a quick break. We'll have a lot more on the confidence vote and Theresa May's future here in the U.K. after a quick

break. Stay with us when we continue with our special coverage after this.


GORANI: Quick little detour here for you before we get back to coverage of Theresa May's political future and it's about Tokyo. It's a place, as many

of you know, with old and new experiences. And now new businesses are breathing life into some traditional communities. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the district of Yanaka in Tokyo, there's a feeling of nostalgia. It is one of the city's oldest areas where temples, old

stores, and houses line winding alleys. Reminiscent of Tokyo's past. Untouched by natural disaster and war, Yanaka has been able to maintain its

traditional look and feel, as well as the way of life.

HIDETOSHI NAKATA, HOST, SPIRIT OF TOKYO: This is the beauty of Tokyo, I think. You can have more than beautiful buildings. At the same time, you

have a really traditional places like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here at the new concept hotel, Hanare, it is working to integrate visitors with the local community.

KYOKA ARISAWA, HANARE (through translator): We built upon the idea of putting the hotel reception in one location, the rooms in another. The

other activities are also in various locations so you can use the whole town as one hotel.

NAKATA: I think that was my first time to ride on the bike in Tokyo. But it was really nice. I think, you know, today I use a lot of cars. I need

to use bicycles. And I have to walk around to discover really small beauty of Japan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A hotel with a new concept. Bringing life to a traditional Tokyo community.

In Yanaka, whether it is visiting one of Japan's oldest shrines or a vintage photo studio. It's about living like a local.

[14:55:11] NAKATA: Lifestyle here in Yanaka seems like goes slower. I can find cozy, nice lifestyle that I can feel also the traditional way of



GORANI: Returning to our top story here as we wrap up this hour. Turmoil in Britain as Prime Minister Theresa May's political fate hangs in the

balance. A secret confidence vote by her own Conservative Party is scheduled to be finishing right about now.

Carole walker, what are you hearing? You've been speaking to MPs.

CAROLE WALKER, POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, certainly. And of course the voting window is just about to close. Just within the next hour. We

should know the result.

But I'm hearing from supporters of Theresa May sounding pretty confident that Theresa May has won and won by a convincing majority. Now, of course,

how do they know? How does anyone know? This is a secret ballot. This is going by what people have been publicly declaring. We cannot be certain

until we get those figures.

But certainly, allies of the prime minister are sounding confident that the prime minister has won. Won by a significant margin. Perhaps in excess of

200 votes. That would mean she is not only in her job but cannot be challenged for another year. And just has to get on with that awesome

process of trying to get her deal through parliament.

GORANI: And how does it work now? Is there an announcement? Do they issue a statement? Sir Graham Brady is the chairman of the 1922 committee.

This is the committee that accepted the 48-plus letters of MPs who triggered this no confidence motion. What do we expect in the next hour?

WALKER: Yes. When the ballot closes in just a couple of minute's time, Sir Graham Brady will verify the ballot papers, count the ballot papers.

Shouldn't take too long. Only just over 300 to count. He will then inform the prime minister of the result before he makes the public declaration of

the figures and we should have that no later than 9:00.

GORANI: That's in one hour. It's 7:57 p.m. London time. And, Carole, you'll be with us throughout. Appreciate it.

We'll take a quick break. We'll see you on the other side. Stay with CNN for our special coverage.