Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

COP24 Climate Summit to Keep Paris Climate Deal Alive; Family of 7-Year Old Who Died in U.S. Border Patrol Custody Call for Investigation; Police Use Tear Gas at Latest Yellow Vest Demonstrations; Ryan Zinke Out as U.S. Interior Secretary; ObamaCare Struck Down but Still in Effect; Mick Mulvaney New Acting White House Chief of Staff; U.K. Prime Minister Endures Bruising Week; Italy's Budget Battle with E.U. Raises Exit Questions; Sanders and O'Rourke Popular among Iowa Democrats. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired December 16, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A breakthrough on climate change: nearly 200 nations reach an agreement that puts the 2015 Paris climate accord into action. But it's the same treaty the U.S. president promised to back out of.

A heartbroken father speaks out as unanswered questions surrounded the final hours of his daughter's life, his daughter who died in U.S. Border Patrol custody.

Another staff shakeup: it's the Trump White House. Interior Secretary Brian Zinke out the door.

Live in CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: At 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. Thank you for being with us.

Before he won the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump promised to rip up the Paris climate agreement. After he became President of the United States, he aimed to make good on the promise, announcing the U.S. would back out of the international accord.

This morning, that agreement is still alive and well in Poland. Delegates from nearly 200 countries okayed the rules to put the Paris climate accord into action. That prompting a celebratory jump over the tables and cheers after two weeks of some sleepless nights.

Those countries, which include the United States, actually cannot leave the agreement until 2020. Let's go live to Poland where this conference is taking place. Nick Paton Walsh is covering it for us and joins us live.

First, tell us about what came out of the agreement.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Undoubtedly good news really. You can't hope to state that what happened last night raises the possibility that mankind will be able to live like it does now on the planet over a decade from now.

That's what's at stake here and it's not understated. I'm standing in raging snow here but the planet is warming. There's been record emissions in 2018, which are causing that slow warming.

The agreement we saw last night hashed out over sleepless nights, nearly 200 nations are signing up to the same technical framework. That takes a Paris agreement back from 2015, which was put together under the Obama administration's guidance and dragged through. It was an enormous international consensus that global warming was a thing but couldn't be denied but had to be dealt with.

This agreement helps provide the technical framework of how you would do that, the rules, so to speak, and the transparency. There's no point just saying we'd like to reduce our emissions, unless we actually do it, unless we transparently show, as different nations around the world, that we are doing that.

That's essentially what we saw last night. But it was a very rocky road and a sign of how far we've slipped back, sadly, since Paris 2015. The Trump administration sent a career diplomat who actually really didn't get in the way of the process of the agreement being hashed out.

It was last weekend where they were on the sidelines, along with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, who said they really didn't accept. They refused to endorse the key scientific report behind all of this, over the next 12 years, unless we limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we'll see the planet change beyond recognition.

We're already seeing it in extreme weather around the U.S. East Coast, even the forest fires in California, many say, are connected to manmade changes connected to the climate. But they essentially rejected that science.

That was got around in the final agreement we saw last night, where everyone agreed to, quote, "welcome the timely completion" of that scientific report, essentially saying they were glad it was done on time rather than agreeing to what was in it.

And also to another hurdle at the last minute from Brazil, currently on track to embrace a new president, many calling him the Brazilian Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, as from January the 1st, he's made no bones about his refusal to accept climate change but Brazil at the last minute tried to mess around with some of the carbon trading accounting rules.

That issue has been bit on until next year. They'll be addressed at the next meeting they have. But good news essentially, the Paris agreement continues to exist. But really a rocky road of getting here and the denial of climate science in the background has left many perturbed.

HOWELL: Nick, it is also important to point out, as it stands now, it's the very same agreement that the U.S. president promised to pull out of.

He can't do that until 2020 but given that U.S. representatives there signed onto these rules, are there any signs of an opening, that some attitudes might be --

[04:05:00]

HOWELL: -- changing about this agreement or shifting, a silver lining?

WALSH: No chance that we'll see the U.S. perspective on this change. Throughout they have politically they have said they do not endorse that key piece of science. A key piece of science, frankly, that they asked for under the Obama administration.

On Monday we saw U.S. officials here give a strange presentation, endorsing fossil fuels, promoting their use -- remarkable. They were shouted down by younger protesters, who sort of hijacked that and made that the news story.

But the protests here we've seen -- I tried to talk to one of them; he seemed almost allergic to the news media, ran away when I tried to start a conversation -- they're keeping a low profile. We understand that they're not being the spoiler inside those closed negotiations, I presume because they are saying we are not going to be part of this Paris accord anyway by the end of 2020. So the rules don't affect us.

But you might also see perhaps that if they're people who spent their life devoted to the climate change science, they perhaps see that the U.S. needs to be part of this, the world needs to be part of it.

George, I hate to repeat this but this is not a debate. The world is getting warmer. It's getting warmer much quicker than perhaps people thought was going to be the case. And we're using more greenhouse gases, we're creating more greenhouse gases than ever before.

So everything is going in the wrong direction. But what we saw here was perhaps a sign the world begins to recognize this. This is a voluntary rulebook. There's no teeth; there's no reason why they get fined or have to go to court if they don't meet those targets.

But finally there's this general feeling that we need rules, we need to lower our gas emissions and we need to make massive changes in daily life. That's you and me, George, everybody.

HOWELL: You did that, a story in my hometown, Austin, Texas, on beef. Beef certainly something that I like but it was very insightful and it is something that points out, people will have to change their positions on these things for something that is certainly real. Nick Paton Walsh, live for us in Poland, thank you for the reporting. We're following the story of a Guatemalan girl who died after being detained by U.S. Border agents. Her father has no complaints about her treatment, according to a Guatemalan counsel.

But the family of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin is still calling for a thorough and objective investigation. They said in a statement that she was not suffering from a lack of food or water when she was taken into custody by U.S. authorities and had not been crossing the desert for days.

In a statement read in part it says, "Jakelin and her father came to the United States seeking something that thousands have been seeking for years, escape from the dangerous conditions in their home country."

In the state of Texas, demonstrations took place, as you see there, in El Paso, Texas. Protesters coming out at the border crossing, protesting U.S. Border policy, given Jakelin's death. CNN U.S. correspondent Ed Lavandera has more from Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are learning new details from the father of the young Guatemalan girl who died while in Border Patrol custody shortly after crossing into the United States, a little more than a week ago.

According to a statement from the father's attorneys, the father is grateful for the efforts of first responders including those Border Patrol agents and medical personnel who treated his daughter. We've also spoken with the consul -- the Guatemalan consul who has spent some time here in El Paso, speaking extensively with the father.

He tells me that the father told him that he has "no complaints" about the way Border Patrol agents treated him and his daughter shortly after they were picked up or they turned themselves into Border Patrol agents on the night of December 6th.

And he says that he believes that those Border Patrol agents after his daughter had fallen ill inside the bus that was taking them from the border point entry, all the way to a border patrol station some 95 miles away, that those agents and the medical personnel did everything they could to save his daughter's life.

So this is the first details that we've heard from this young girl's father; the family says they are devastated. He has been housed in a shelter here that helps migrants and migrate refugees here in the city of El Paso.

The director of that shelter spoke a little bit about the condition that his father that the father is in and how he's dealing with this ordeal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBEN GARCIA, DIRECTOR, ANNUNCIATION HOUSE, EL PASO, TEXAS: He's very grateful with what he saw, the response and the attempts that were made to save his daughter's life. At the hospital, his daughter arrested a couple of times and they were unable to revive her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: The family of the young girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, also says that they're rather frustrated by the speculation of exactly how the young girl died. The father in the statement also confirms that and confirms the timeline put out by the Department of Homeland Security that the first signs --

[04:10:00]

LAVANDERA: -- that this young girl was in some sort of distress came at 5:00 in the morning, on the morning of December 7th, while in the middle of that bus ride from the border to the Border Patrol station, some 95 miles away.

But the family says that any speculation as to what the exact cause of death should not be discussed, that the official cause of death has not been ruled on by the medical examiner here in El Paso. And they're urging everybody not to -- not to speculate as to what might have caused the death of this young girl. Ed Lavandera, CNN, El Paso, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: In Paris, protesters took to the streets for a fifth straight weekend. Though the numbers are not nearly as strong as we've seen before, authorities say only half of these Yellow Vest protesters came out Saturday compared to last week. Most of the demonstrators were peaceful but some turned violent, into skirmishes with police.

CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman has this story from Paris.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Another day of pandemonium in the heart of Paris, it was thought this Saturday's protest might be smaller after President Emmanuel Macron's latest concessions among them raising the minimum wage and after the Strasbourg terrorist attacks.

Yet several thousand Yellow Vest protesters braved at the bitter cold to return to the Champs-Elysees.

Jacques, 66 years old is protesting for the first time in his life.

"Macron," he says, "has not given us a crumb of what we demand. We can't live this way."

Those demands include the introduction of Swiss-style popular referendums, lower taxes and dignity.

"We want to work to please ourselves, not just to survive," says Sylvan.

The day's demonstrations began largely peacefully. By afternoon, however, the boulevard was thick with tear gas and chants for the president to resign, some tearing up the cobblestones for the battle not eager for attention. Eight thousand members of the security forces were deployed in Paris Saturday, far outnumbering the demonstrators.

Gil, a protester, tells the riot police they should switch sides and don yellow vests.

"Today, they're here. But we have to ask, where is this going?" he says.

"Will they hold? For how long? We can see they're tired, they shoot for nothing."

Maybe for nothing, but shoot they did. This is Act 5, the 5th consecutive week of protests here. And it doesn't appear, even though the numbers are smaller, that the protests are in any sense coming to an end. Act 6 may very well be a re-run -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: The revolving door at the Trump White House and another one bites the dust. We'll explain why Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he's quitting -- still ahead.

Plus a new poll shows key U.S. Democrats want to face off with the U.S. president in the next election. How the new names and familiar faces did, as NEWSROOM pushes ahead. Stay with us.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SPORTS)

[04:15:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: Another day, another high-level resignation at the Trump White House. This time the U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke set to step down at the end of the year. Zinke's faced multiple ethics investigations and was reportedly under pressure to resign. In fact, "The Washington Post" reports Zinke was given an ultimatum: leave by the end of the year or be fired. CNN's Boris Sanchez picks up the story from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We can tell you the White House was closely watching Ryan Zinke's legal situation amid his departure as the Secretary of the Interior. Zinke's been accused of misusing agency resources to advance his own personal finances. There are more than 15 different inquiries that were opened by the

inspector general of that agency into Zinke's behavior, questions about his lavish spending on travel, whether his wife was using government vehicles, his involvement in a casino deal in Connecticut and one that's now being investigated by the Department of Justice, this land deal that he struck in his home state of Montana with the head of Halliburton.

Zinke has denied all allegations against him. In a tweet, he justifies his departure by saying he didn't want to spend thousands of dollars to try to clear his name. He is a favorite target of Democrats, who are relishing his departure, including the minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.

He wrote on Twitter, quote, "Ryan Zinke was one of the most toxic members of the cabinet in the way he treated our environment, our precious public lands and the way he treated the government, like it was his personal honey pot. The swamp cabinet will be a little less foul without him."

We should note Saturday night was the congressional ball here at the White House, with President Trump greeting several members of his cabinet as well as members of Congress.

Zinke was here on hand. The reports out there that the White House forced him out, CNN still trying to confirm that. We can tell you that the administration certainly wanted to put some distance between yet another member of the president's cabinet with questionable ethical behavior and the White House -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Boris, thank you.

And Zinke is not the only one leaving the White House. He joins a big group of people who have either left or are in the process of leaving. You see all the faces and names there from the Trump administration and more could be coming. Here is what President Trump told "60 Minutes" on CBS about this situation two months ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think I have a great cabinet. There's some people I'm not happy with.

LESLEY STAHL, CBS NEWS HOST: Who are you not happy with?

TRUMP: I don't want to say that. I have people I'm not --

[04:20:00]

TRUMP: -- thrilled with. I have other people that I'm beyond thrilled with.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: Now to the issue of health care in the United States. The Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, is still the law of the land, despite being struck down by a federal judge on Friday as unconstitutional.

The deadline to sign up for the ACA has now expired except for a handful of states where the deadline is January 31st. President Trump welcomed the judge's controversial decision, as you'll hear here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I believe we're going to get really good health care. Exciting things happened over the last 24 hours. If everybody is smart, because we have a lot of Democrats here tonight and I'm very happy about that. People don't realize that I have a lot of friends who are Democrats. We have Democrats here.

If the Republicans and Democrats get together, we are going to end up with incredible health care which is the way it should have been from day one. It's going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The current president there. And we also heard from the former U.S. President Barack Obama, who is quick to reassure Americans that their health care was not going away because of this ruling.

Mr. Obama posted a lengthy response on social media, that you see here, telling those who depend upon ObamaCare that the judge's decision, quote, "changes nothing for now at least."

Let's bring in Steven Erlanger to talk more about this, the chief diplomatic editor in Europe for "The New York Times."

Always a pleasure, Steven, to have you on the show. Let's start with ObamaCare. The law was struck down by this federal judge and certainly has been hit in the kneecaps plenty of times since the U.S. president took office.

Politically, the question, where does this put Democrats as far as campaigning toward 2020?

And what does it mean for Republicans, who are surely satisfied, optimistic about seeing this law struck down?

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think everyone should take a breath which is pretty much what Obama said. It's a very sweeping ruling, it's probably too sweeping to hold up under appeal. And nothing will change in the meantime.

It does give the Democrats an opportunity to work out a better deal, perhaps, with the Republicans in Congress. It's a way of showing a sort of bipartisanship.

But I think the issue of pre-existing conditions, all that has been very popular for the Democrats in the midterms. And any attempt to really get rid of ObamaCare in all of its particularities would be very unpopular for the Republicans. So I think everybody has to be a bit careful. But the judge's ruling itself I think will be too sweeping to stand up.

HOWELL: It will be interesting, because Republicans may view health care differently than Democrats. The difference between, is it a right or is it a privilege?

We'll have to see if the parties can come together on this.

Let's talk about the changing of the guard. "The Washington Post" reporting that the U.S. Interior Secretary was given the ultimatum to leave by the end of the year or be fired.

Here is the thing, Steven. He reportedly wanted to stay on at least through his Christmas party, Zinke did, where he invited lobbyists, conservative activists and even posed for a photo in front of a large polar bear wearing a Santa cap, despite being mired in investigations.

What do you make of this situation where the White House is pushing him out?

ERLANGER: But everybody loves Christmas, everybody loves a good Christmas party. He's been a real embarrassment for the Trump administration. He's done environmentally some of what Trump really wants. My guess is he'll be replaced by someone who is also very, very tough on all these efforts at conservation.

But in terms of his personal behavior and all the investigations he's involved with and the money he's spent on his office and everything else, I think really he looks so out of touch with the people who are supposed to be Trump's base.

I think, whether the White House pushed him out or not, it's probably good for Trump that he's going because he's likely to be indicted down the road.

HOWELL: And continuing on the topic of the revolving door, the current chief of staff, General John Kelly, on his way out; the director of Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, is on his way in, at least on a temporary basis.

There's an interview, though, from Mulvaney back from a debate he took part in, in 2016, that's catching some attention where he had a very specific description of his boss. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, I'm supporting Donald Trump, doing so as enthusiastically as I can --

[04:25:00]

MULVANEY: -- given the fact that I think he's a terrible human being. but the choice on the other side is just as bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: It's another case where words come back to haunt and a president who has thin skin for criticism.

What do you make of that statement and how it plays into Mulvaney taking this new role?

ERLANGER: Well, Mulvaney was quite a conservative congressman from South Carolina. He was speaking after the tapes came out about Trump's famous expression about how to treat women by grabbing their genitals.

So I think he was responding to his constituency and saying what a lot of people who ended up voting for Trump felt, which was that this was not a very nice thing to say. It will haunt him.

It's very hard working for Donald Trump, that's for sure. He's flighty, he runs by instinct, he changes his mind. He falls in love and out of love with people very, very quickly.

So my understanding is that Mulvaney actually asked for the title of acting chief of staff because, when Trump gets tired of him, it will be easier to go. Somebody has got to do the job. And he gets on with Trump. They play golf together. He's apparently well known for bringing lots of bright, sharp graphs into the White House with his, that Trump likes.

So let's see. Somebody has to try to run the White House. So why not Mr. Mulvaney?

HOWELL: The old saying, it's a tough job but somebody has got to do it. We'll see how this plays out. Steven Erlanger, live for us in Brussels, Belgium, thank you for your time.

ERLANGER: Thanks, George.

HOWELL: Around the world and in the United States, you're watching NEWSROOM.

Still ahead, Brexit is turning into a major headache for Theresa May, the British prime minister. We'll discuss what's next for Ms. May after her own party triggers a confidence vote over her handling of Brexit.

Plus another country could soon follow Britain's lead, Italy. The budget battle with the E.U. is raising concerns it may also try to leave the E.U. We'll have details from Rome as CNN NEWSROOM continues.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:30:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING) HOWELL: From coast to coast across the United States, good morning to

you. Live around the world, good day to you. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from the Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines this hour.

(HEADLINES)

HOWELL: Now to the United Kingdom and Brexit. The British prime minister is headed into the Christmas holidays perhaps feeling a bit less cheerful than usual.

One of her top ministers acknowledged it's been, quote, "a pretty tough week." It's been a pretty tough week for the prime minister. To recap, her week started by pulling a crucial Brexit vote in Parliament because of the near certainty that her unpopular plan would go down in flames.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We will, therefore, defer the vote scheduled for tomorrow and not proceed to divide the house at this time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: On Wednesday, hardliners in her own party staged a revolt, triggering a no confidence vote. May survived that vote but it was made very keenly aware one-third of her MPs had turned against her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAY: I'm pleased to have received the backing of my colleagues in tonight's ballot. Whilst I'm grateful for that support, a significant number of colleagues did cast a vote against me and I have listened to what they said.

Following this ballot, we now need to get on with the job of delivering Brexit for the British people and building a better future for this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: After that, May immediately went to Brussels to enlist the E.U.'s help to try to save her Brexit deal. She didn't get it but she tried to stay optimistic. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAY: I note that there has been reporting that the E.U. is not willing to consider any further clarification. The E.U. is clear, as I am, that, if we are going to leave with the deal, this is it. But my discussions with colleagues today have shown that further clarification and discussion following the council's conclusions is, in fact, possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: That was the week that was.

And where do things go next?

Let's bring in Quentin Peel to talk about this, associate fellow in the Europe program at the London think tank, Chatham House, also a commentator for the "Financial Times," live in our London bureau.

Pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you.

QUENTIN PEEL, CHATHAM HOUSE: Thank you.

HOWELL: Let's talk about again the week that was for the British prime minister, caught between the proverbial E.U. rock and the Parliament hard place with a deal that remains widely unpopular.

Where does Theresa May go from here?

PEEL: Well --

(LAUGHTER)

PEEL: -- it was a disastrous week for her, really. And she's emerged from it looking exactly where she was, in a funny way, at the beginning and even more stuck. It's as if she's in a deep hole and she hasn't stopped digging. She has a deal that she wants to get through the British Parliament and no majority for it.

[04:35:00]

PEEL: And so even though she's saying, I think I can get this deal, essentially the rest of Europe is saying, well, we're not going to change any of the fundamentals. So she's stuck. Now all the conversation is looking at what happens next.

And on that score it's not just that her own Conservative Party is totally divided but her cabinet seems to be fragmenting in three directions. You've got one side saying we want no deal. If there's not going to be a deal approved, we'll go out with no deal.

You have a second side saying, no, the only answer is, if there's deadlock in Parliament, we should have a second referendum.

The third side is rather feebly and bravely saying we'll still struggle to support the prime minister in her hopeless deal. So it's real deadlock in the party.

The one other thing on the table is, will the Labour Party have a go at a no confidence vote in the whole of Parliament and thereby trigger a new election?

HOWELL: Reminds me of the song, "Stuck in the Middle with You," not sure exactly which way this moves, to the right or left. Let's talk more about Theresa May.

As we get closer to March and the day the U.K. exits the E.U., is this a matter of Theresa May running down the clock?

The closer we get to the day, does it put more pressure on MPs to make peace with this deal or be held responsible for a hard Brexit with no deal?

PEEL: I think that is or was her plan. But it doesn't seem to be going anywhere because there is a very clear majority in Parliament, which says no deal would be a disaster and they say they will find one way or another of ensuring that the government can't crash out without a deal.

There's one event that happened last week which may actually prove to be the most important and that was last Monday, when the European court of justice ruled that the British can unilaterally revoke their request to leave the European Union. They can decide all alone, stop Brexit.

Now nobody is really talking about that yet but it means, as the clock gets closer and closer to midnight, there is a chance that the government can say, this is a nightmare, this is a disaster; we will simply revoke Article 50, by which we plan to leave the European Union. We'll stay in.

HOWELL: That can certainly happen without putting the vote to the people, some would argue that. It could also be catastrophic. Let's ask that question of you.

What about the possibility of this second referendum?

Does that become even more of an option as the clock continues to tick down?

PEEL: Yes, it does. I think that's the point that Tony Blair was making last week and causing a furious reaction from Theresa May, who said he was insulting the office of prime minister and the democracy of Britain, which I think was, for Theresa May, who is normally quite mild, to say things like that about Tony Blair, showed the degree to which she's on the back foot.

But I think this vote in Parliament I was talking about, if the British are to revoke their request to leave the European Union, if they're to say stop, they do have to pass a new law through Parliament. It would require cross-party support. And I'm pretty certain what it would say is, we will stop the process in order to hold a referendum.

HOWELL: It will be interesting to see what happens with this.

Who knows where this goes?

Quentin Peel, live for us in our London bureau. Thank you for your time. We'll stay in touch with you.

PEEL: Thanks for having me.

HOWELL: While Britain waits on its critical vote, Italy's new populist coalition government is deadlocked with the E.U. over its proposed budget.

The dispute is raising questions about whether Italy could eventually follow the United Kingdom out of the E.U. Atika Shubert has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A grand entrance from Matteo Salvini, leader of La Liga, The League political party, and Italy's interior minister, though the soaring score to this thank-you rally six months after Italy's elections suggests bigger ambitions for the man who has made "Italians First" his rallying cry.

SHUBERT: Now, this is a show of force by The League and its party leader, Matteo Salvini. Remember they only won 17 percent in the national election. They're actually in a coalition with the Five-Star Movement. However, since then, under Salvini's leadership, they have surged in popularity. Recent polls placed them at 34 percent.

[04:40:00]

SHUBERT: And this rally is a way of consolidating that power.

SHUBERT (voice-over): Salvini has made a name for himself by attacking the E.U. on immigration and defending Italy's troubled budget.

"Italian nationalism," he says, "will bring Europe back to its, quote, 'civilized' Christian roots."

In his speech, he said, "Someone has betrayed the European dream. We will give blood and strength to the veins of a new Europe, founded on respect, work, economic and social progress," he said.

After Brexit, Britain's imminent departure from the E.U., could we see an Italexit?

Well, not yet, one of La Liga's youth leaders told me. The immediate goal is to gain more seats at European Parliament in next year's elections to constrain the E.U. first.

DAVIDE QUADRI, YOUTH MOVEMENT, LA LIGA: We are very good to see on the society, a very good reading of the society. And then we understand that the -- there is a new challenge.

It's not only local against the state bureaucracy but is the local against the globalism. It's the local against globalization and against the European super-state that they want to build.

SHUBERT (voice-over): Not far away, the volunteers at Europe Now, a tiny grassroots movement, are trying to convince Roman residents that Italy needs more Europe, not less. Alarmed at the precedent set by Brexit, every weekend they set up their stall and give out E.U. flags.

ERIC JOSEF, VOLUNTEER, EUROPE NOW: The nationalist threats are real. And it's -- you know, for instance, we say. "Oh, is that just rhetoric."

It's not Brexit rhetoric; Brexit will have its real effect.

SHUBERT (voice-over): For some of Salvini's supporters, leaving the E.U. is no longer unthinkable.

ELEONORA RAFAELI, SUPPORTER OF MATTEO SALVINI: It may be good, it depends. It depends what happened in the future, but maybe it could. I don't know. I'm not against it, anyway. I'm not against the Brexit. I'm not against it.

SHUBERT: Yes?

RAFAELI: Yes, I was very happy about Brexit as well.

SHUBERT (voice-over): The nationalism that triggered Brexit is similar to the populist way that Salvini is now steering. But while his power is growing, Italexit is not likely yet -- Atika Shubert, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Atika Shubert with that report.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, a new poll puts the spotlight on Democrats, who want to challenge the U.S. president come 2020. What they're saying about Bernie Sanders and several other possible contenders as NEWSROOM pushes ahead.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:45:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

Here in the United States, ready or not, the 2020 presidential election is getting closer. Democrats are desperate to find any candidate to beat the U.S. president Donald Trump. A new CNN/"Des Moines Register"/Mediacom poll shows which Democrats may be in the running. To break down those numbers, CNN's Ryan Nobles filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: There's no doubt that we are a long way away from Iowa voters heading to their caucus sites for the 2020 presidential campaign.

But it's never too early to get a sense of what Iowa voters are thinking and Democrats are telling you what their early thoughts are about the 2020 race for president. And what we are seeing is that their thoughts are matching up pretty closely what we are seeing nationally.

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the field at 32 percent. Bernie Sanders, who had a pretty good performance in 2016, comes in second at 19 percent. And then the name that jumps off the page, Beto O'Rourke, the congressman from Texas, who just lost a narrow race for Senate to Ted Cruz, is in double digits, 11 percent.

And keep in mind, in the last Iowa caucus, many Iowans probably didn't even know who Beto O'Rourke was. You have Elizabeth Warren at 8 percent, Kamala Harris and the rest of the field all below 5 percent. We could be in store for a wildcard when it comes to this race.

And there's some names that we threw into this poll to see how Iowa voters are thinking about them. Among them, Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.

It's pretty clear Iowa voters would prefer not to see any of them get into this race. Seventy-two percent of Iowans say that Hillary Clinton would be a distraction and 55 percent say that Oprah would be a distraction.

What is the minds of Iowans, picking a winner. Fifty-four percent of Iowa Democrats say that they are going to vote for someone in the caucus who they can believe can win the presidency and that is more important to them than necessarily voting for someone who strictly aligns with their ideology.

This is about picking a winner. This is something that Democrats in particular have always cared a great deal about. And that is exactly what they are thinking at this early stage of this campaign.

So, a long way to go, 14 months before the Iowa caucus, but we are now starting to see what Iowa voters are thinking -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: It is interesting to see what's ahead there, Ryan, thank you.

Now to the oldest sitting justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is now back in the spotlight with an update on her health, this after more than a month when she fell and broke three ribs in her office. She sat down for an interview in New York. She said she's feeling much better now. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NINA TOTENBERG, NPR CORRESPONDENT: How is your health?

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: It's fine. Thank you.

TOTENBERG: And those ribs you busted?

GINSBURG: Almost repaired.

TOTENBERG: That's good.

(APPLAUSE)

TOTENBERG: And did you -- have you gone back to your trainer, Bryant Johnson?

GINSBURG: Yes. We went back immediately after the fall, we could do legs only. But, yesterday, we did the whole routine.

TOTENBERG: The whole routine?

GINSBURG: Yes.

TOTENBERG: The whole routine that most 35-year-olds can't do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Yes, puts 35-year olds to shame.

Despite her accident, Ginsburg never missed a day of arguments at the Supreme Court. Speaks to her resilience.

Still ahead, in the Pacific Northwest, strong winds and torrential rains knock out electricity to thousands of people. Trees and power lines came down. The very latest on the weather forecast as NEWSROOM continues.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:50:00]

(SPORTS)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: The scene from Seattle, Washington, hundreds of people there will be waking up in the dark this morning, this after a strong storm that brought high winds that knocked over trees and power lines, leaving many people there without power. At one point, more than 100,000 customers didn't have electricity.

(WEATHER REPORT)

[04:55:00]

HOWELL: Thank you very much. Thank you for being with us for this hour. For CNN NEWSROOM, I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. More news after the break. Stay with us.