Return to Transcripts main page


Countdown to Brexit; Kevin Spacey Pleads Not Guilty; Former Sex Child Trafficking Victim Granted Clemency. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 8, 2019 - 01:00   ET



[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Ahead this hour, a Beijing birthday for North Korea's Kim Jong-un. The 35-year-old dictator traveled by train for his fourth trip to China raising speculation of possible progress installed nuclear talks with the U.S.

A Saudi teen makes a desperate plea for asylum from her family claiming they'll kill her and she's forced to leave Thailand and return home. For now, though, she's under U.N. protection. And Kevin Spacey appears in court pleading not guilty to charges of groping an 18-year-old busboy. These allegations could ultimately come down to the evidence on his accuser's cell phone.

Well, just as the U.S. is planning for a second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader has arrived in Beijing for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Neither side has announced an itinerary for Kim's four-day visit but China remains the North's closest ally and biggest trading partner. CNN's Matt Rivers live this hour for us in Beijing.

So Matt, the previous trips that all happened at pivotal moments for North Korea and negotiations either with the U.S. or South Korea. Are this trip could suggest that those stalled nuclear talks with the U.S. could be moving forward or Kim is sending a message to the U.S. about his options after a warning last week of a new way forward if the U.S. doesn't ease up on sanctions. So where does all this stand now?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, I mean, you're right, John, to point out that the three trips that took place in 2018 did come at interesting moments. You had the March trip in 2018. That was the first time Kim Jong-un left North Korea. There was another trip in Dalian which is a coastal Chinese city. Both of those trips between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping happened before that pivotal summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in June 2018.

And don't forget it was one week after that summit was over that we saw Kim Jong-un make his third trip here to Beijing presumably to brief Xi Jinping on what happened during that summit. So the fact that this trip is happening now would lend some credence to the fact that a summit could be happening in relatively short order between the United States and North Korea. Of course, CNN has its own reporting. We know that the United States

has been looking for locations. But the fact that Kim Jong-un is here in China now would suggest that he believes that a summit between the United States and North Korea is going to happen. In terms of though you mentioned his New Year's Day speech where he talked about a new way forward, you know, there's been a lot of North Korea watchers that have said that that doesn't necessarily mean North Korea if things don't go well with the United States will all of a sudden jump back into let's say doing ballistic missile tests, nuclear test. A new way forward could also be talking specifically about China.

Of course, we know that North Korea and China have been allies for a long time. But that relationship has been strained over the past several decades. That relationship has gotten a lot better you could argue over the last year or so and this could be North Korea really putting it out there saying to the United States, look, we I have a good relationship with China. China is backing us. China is on the same page as us and we're going to involve China in any negotiations moving forward. So if you want things to happen on the Korean Peninsula like denuclearization, China needs to be involved in that conversation because we know that we have China's economic and political backing.

VAUSE: Yes, to that point, Xi Jinping, this visit seems to suggest he has a lot of influence over the North Korean leader. That gives him you know, leverage when it comes to those disputes with the United States.

RIVERS: Yes. And it's worth noting that you know, generally what happens is Beijing always says look, we don't conflate issues of national security and trade for example. But we know that nothing happens in a vacuum here. And the fact that this meeting is happening on a day, don't forget there is a U.S. trade delegation in town right now that is would have been our live shot I think today John if this Kim Jong-un news hadn't have happened. But there's a trade delegation here right now.

And this is very -- you could easily say look, yes, it's about Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un talking about a potential summit with the United States, but let's not ignore the optics here. This is also a way for Xi Jinping to show the United States look if you want something to move on North Korea, if you want to make progress on North Korea, if you need to make things happen like denuclearization, you need us in the picture because clearly, we have North Korea's ear. Don't forget this is the fourth time that Kim Jong-un has come visited -- has come to visit Xi Jinping. It has not gone the other way around.

Xi Jinping has not gone to Pyongyang while president of China. So if you need to know where the balance of power lies in that relationship, you can just look at that. This is China saying in the U.S. we have sway over North Korea.

VAUSE: And you know, with each trip away from home, it seems Kim Jong-un gets a little more relaxed in terms of both the time away and the level of transparency rather this know a lot but there's a lot more than we're used to.

RIVERS: It's just amazing where we've come in in literally ten months. I mean, the first time the Kim Jong-un got on a train and came all the way from Pyongyang to Beijing, it was shrouded in secrecy and we didn't know. Chinese state media didn't confirm that Kim Jong- un was in fact here until hours and hours after he actually arrived. This time we heard about the train crossing over the border last night local time around 10:15 p.m. and before Kim Jong-un even arrived in Beijing, hours before he arrived in Beijing, in fact, Chinese state media was putting it out there saying Kim Jong-un is going to be visiting Beijing for the next couple of days.

That goes to show you that Chinese state media is looking more and more at the -- this kind of a situation like it's normal and in a very weird sort of way, so is the international community. Oh, Kim Jong-un is making an international trip, tell me something that hasn't happened before.

[01:05:43] VAUSE: OK, Matt, good to see you. We appreciate the analysis and the update. Matt Rivers live for us there in Beijing. U.S. president Donald Trump is stepping up his push for a border wall preparing for a direct appeal to the nation with a televised address from The Oval Office on Tuesday. Then it will be follow two days later with a visit to the border with Mexico. All this comes as the government shutdown drags on and with no end in sight, it soon become the longest in U.S. history. Details down from Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: For President Trump this week, it's the wall or bust. Today the White House announced the President will deliver a prime-time address to the nation Tuesday night and make a special trip to the border. All part of a last-ditch effort to ram his wall through Congress. Democrats doubt the speech will be worth the airtime.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I expect the President to lie to the American people. Why do I expect this? Because he has been lying to the American people and his spokespeople continue to lie to the American people.

ACOSTA: With Democrats refusing to give the President his wall, Mr. Trump is warning he may declare a national emergency to get his way. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters in an off-camera briefing that the White House Council is looking at whether Mr. Trump can declare that emergency despite the fact that the President said on Twitter that there's no doubt he has that authority.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I may declare a national emergency depending on what's going to happen over the next few days.

ACOSTA: Democrats predict that's a fight that will go to the courts.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D), WASHINGTON: Now, he'd be challenged in court because there clearly is no emergency. There's no -- there's no reason for this on border security grounds. It would be wrong, it would be horrible policy and I'm totally and completely against it. But from a legal standpoint he could do it.

ACOSTA: With the shutdown now entering its third week, hundreds of thousands of federal employees are facing the prospect of working without pay. The President claims he can feel their pain.

TRUMP: I can relate and I'm sure that the people that are or the receiving end will make adjustment. They always do. And they will make adjustment. People understand exactly what's going on. But many of those people that won't be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I'm doing.

ACOSTA: Democrats argue it would be a mistake to cave to the President who vowed he would own the shutdown.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: If you reward the president with that kind of tactic, Jake, then we're going to see every year the president shutting down the government and we just can't afford to do business that way.

ACOSTA: One way the White House is trying to win the shutdown battle is by declaring war on the facts. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tried to suggest that thousands of known or suspected terrorists are coming across the border with Mexico, only to be fact-checked live by Fox.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's by air, it's by land and it's by sea. It's all of the above. But one thing that you're forgetting is that the most vulnerable point of entry that we have into this country is our Southern Border and we have to protect it. And the more --

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: But they're not coming -- they're coming across the Southern Border, Sarah, they're being stopped and they're being stopped at airports.

SANDERS: They're coming in a number of ways. They're certainly -- I'm not disagreeing with you that they're coming through airports. I'm saying that they come by air and by land and by sea.

ACOSTA: But a State Department report out in 2017 found no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States.

TRUMP: They've killed Isis.

ACOSTA: The President is also finding himself contradicted on his vow to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria after declaring late last year that Isis had been defeated. National Security Advisor John Bolton now says the fight against Isis will continue at least for now with U.S. troops.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, UNITED STATES: We're going to be discussing the President's decision to withdraw, but to do so from northeast Syria in a way that makes sure that Isis is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again. ACOSTA: As for the White House claim that there are terrorists coming

across the border with Mexico, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted that is happening, but when pressed for numbers, she could not provide any insisting that information is classified. Jim Acosta, CNN the White House.


VAUSE: A nationally televise address from the Oval Office was once considered a symbol of presidential gravitas, usually reserved for major announcements and often at pivotal moments in U.S. history like President Eisenhower in 1957 explaining why he sent troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce school desegregation, or 1962 when JFK briefed the nation on the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the night after 9/11 when George W. Bush delivered a message of reassurance after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

[01:10:13] But here's the problem ahead of President Trump's first Oval Office address. Will it be fact-based and deal with a major policy issue or just another political stunt filled with misleading or incorrect facts. Bill Carter is a CNN Media Analyst and before that spent 25 years in the New York Times as their Media Reporter and he joins us now from Los Angeles.

OK, Bill, the television networks apparently all on board with this even though they're not legally required to carry the address. And it seems this would be a tough call. One TV executive told CNN's Brian Stelter he calls us fake news all the time but needs access to airwaves. If we give him the time, he'll deliver a fact-free screen without rebuttal, and if we don't give him the time, he'll call every network partisan. So we are damned if we do and damned if we don't.

Has there ever been this sort of dilemma when it comes to a U.S. president who simply just doesn't tell the truth as often as Donald Trump does, and this is decision by the administration an indication that they believe they're losing the argument?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: No, I think that there's this was forced on them. They -- he's never given an address before. So it's hard for them to say no. They -- and they don't know exactly what's going to say and there's a threat that he's going to declare a national emergency over the border thing which would be massive news. I was -- I would suspect that they went back and forth about this because he's so unreliable with what he says that they have to have a means to then at least comment afterwards and say well he said this and it's not true, when he said this and it's not true, and he said this and it's not true.

They have to provide that or they're not doing their jobs. But in the end I think they -- on the unbalance they had to say if we don't do it and he does make news, we're going to look like we only did it because we're biased against him and I think they feel like they can't do that.

VAUSE: Yes. And Pelosi and Schumer, the Democrats who are demanding equal time after Trump deliver his address. Will they get it? CARTER: Well, they should get it. I mean, normally they don't get it because it's not a political thing. You know, they get equal time when it's a State of the Union address, but they're not going to get it over this just because it's a political speech. However, in this case, I would expect him to attack the Democrats and that -- then you really think they have a right to come back and say no he's not representing their facts and here are the real facts.

Somebody has to respond to this because you can't trust what he says. He's proved this over and over again. And in this case all over the immigration thing, there have been so many misrepresentations and false information given out that you almost -- it's imperative that you come forward with you know clarifying information. You have to do that as a journalist.

VAUSE: The big picture here is that all administrations are guilty of spitting, but usually it means emphasizing facts which support a policy position or arguments or downplaying those facts which don't, and then there's the Trump administration. Here is a Fox News's Chris Wallace fact-checking Press Secretary Sarah Sanders over the weekend. Listen to this.


SANDERS: We know that roughly -- nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally and we know that our most vulnerable point is at our Southern Border.

WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait. I know this statistic. I didn't know if everybody use it but I studied up on this. Do you know where those 4,000 people come or where they're captured? Airports.

SANDERS: Not always. Certainly --

WALLACE: Airports. The State Department says there hasn't been any terrorists that they found coming across the Southern Border from Mexico.

SANDERS: Well, it's by air, it's by land, and it's by sea.


VAUSE: There has been a strategy here repeatedly implemented by this administration to muddy the waters and to exactly you know, confuse the public over -- out there of what is real and what is not.

CARTER: It's not just muddy the water, it's scaring people. The idea is how can we frighten people into thinking they have to support this really ludicrous idea of a wall which is you know, what is it, 5th- century technology? I mean, it's not a smart idea so you know, you would think that rational minds would say, no, let's not do that. But he's so committed that he has to then pile some other information on top of that to justify it and including apparently calling it a national emergency.

It's obviously not a national emergency if there aren't 4,000 terrorists, in fact, there are 14 parents that are crossing. So it's obviously not a national emergency.

VAUSE: OK, beyond this immediate sort of (INAUDIBLE) that we're looking at here where you know, the president lies. He says that and says this. There are consequences here in the bigger picture. What happens when there is a real national emergency and members of the administration get up there and you know, tell the -- tell the country what's going on and they have no credibility, and the President has no credibility.

CARTER: This has been an issue that has been floated before. What happens when there is some reason why he needs to call the country together to do something together? He has so divided everyone and he is so muddied the waters as you say, with factual information that he doesn't believe in. He -- there's facts that he just eradicates and there's others that he makes up. So I think it's really going to be a crisis if that comes up. And you know, an awful lot of the public now is just not going to go with him. It's the boy who cried wolf in Spades. I mean, you know, if he -- if he really has a serious issue, people are going to be doubtful about it.

[01:15:10] VAUSE: Yes, and it all started on the day of the inauguration. Bill, thanks for coming in. Good to see you.

CARTER: Good to see you, too.

VAUSE: And you can watch President Trump's primetime address as well as the response by the Democrats right here on CNN. Starts at 9:00 p.m. Tuesday in Washington. 2:00 in the morning, Wednesday in London. 10:00 a.m. in Hong Kong.

World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim is resigning three years ahead of schedule and that could bring a challenge to U.S. dominance of the Bank.

The U.S. traditionally picks the president, the Europeans choose the head of the IMF. That's how it's worked. But there is no word from the White House if President Trump will name a successor or even provide a list of potential candidates. Other countries have been increasingly critical of U.S. authority over the Global Development Bank.

Next up here on CNN NEWSROOM, the latest on the Saudi teen who barricaded herself in a Bangkok Airport hotel room, demanding asylum. We'll explain why the U.N. has now intervened.

Also, Carlos Ghosn, once sat atop at automotive empire, now he's in court facing years in prison. We'll tell you what he said to a judge just a moment.


VAUSE: At least one person has died in a fire onboard an oil tanker on route to Hong Kong. The ship was transporting kerosene. The fire broke out a few hours ago as it passed near Lamma Island.

As the flames spread, the crew jumped into the water. 21 were later rescued by marine police. Nearby residents say they heard a loud bang so powerful it shook their windows.

Well, the former head of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn has made his first public appearance 51 days after being arrested and accused of financial wrongdoing.

And took at the courtroom, Carlos Ghosn, said he's done nothing wrong, was innocent of crimes like underreporting his income by millions of dollars.

Kaori Enjoji joins us now live from Tokyo with more on this. So, Kaori, what precisely was revealed during this court appearance with regard to all the charges that Ghosn is facing?

[01:19:39] KAORI ENJOJI, TOKYO BUREAU CHIEF, CNBC: Well, John, we know that Carlos Ghosn has now denied all of the allegations that have been made against him, during these three arrests that have taken place over the last seven weeks.

We're at the foreign correspondents Club of Japan where press conference has just started and his defense lawyers will be speaking for the first time publicly. That press conference has just begun behind me.

So this is the first time that we are going to get their version. Carlos Ghosn's version of what has happened while he was the chairman of Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi Motors. The huge alliance that he spearheaded and turned around over the last 20 years.

We know from a statement that Carlos Ghosn made in court today, which in itself is extremely where he said, he addressed the two main allegations against him. One is that he has made no income. He has earned no income from Nissan that wasn't on the books. So, he does -- he claims no financial wrongdoing.

And the second point of contention is whether or not he transferred personal investment losses that he incurred way back 10 years ago during the Lehman crisis to Nissan, and he made the company shoulder that -- those losses.

He -- this point is a little bit not as clear as the first point. He said that he needed collateral to back up some of these (INAUDIBLE) transactions. He said, he asked for collateral from Nissan, but that he -- that Nissan did not incur any losses as a result of this.

So, these seem to be the two main points. Carlos Ghosn statement to the court was very brief about 10 minutes in total. So, we will get more detail hopefully from this press conference and from his defense lawyers as to what specifically he is alluding to.

Bear in mind that his lawyer used to be a prosecutor. He used to be very famous for white-collar crime. In fact, he's successfully prosecuted on the other side of the fence white-collar crimes like internet moguls, some high-flying investment bankers. So, this is his first major case on the other side of the fence.

Bear in mind, of course, that these -- this detention period in Japan can be very, very long. Carlos Ghosn has been held in a Japanese cell for the last 50 days plus. His current detention will take him until Friday, at least, January 11th.

So, I would like to hear what plans his defense team has to try and bail him out of that situation. Particularly, since one of the other Nissan executives Greg Kelly who was arrested at the same time as Carlos Ghosn was released on bail a few weeks ago on Christmas Day.

So, just to give you a little bit of colors to how Carlos Ghosn look, because this is the first time that the public has been able to see whether there is been any physical tool on Carlos Ghosn during these long weeks of detention.

His hair is usually jet-black. But it was starting to gray around the temples. Cameras are not allowed into the courthouse but there have been court sketches that have been released since then. It shows that his cheeks have sunken in, suggesting that perhaps he has lost a little weight. But his voice was clear, and it was strong, and he spoke in English, and through an interpreter.

But he was taken back to the detention center after this court hearing, which lasted for about one hour and 45 minutes, John.

VAUSE: Kaori, we appreciate the detail. Thank you. Kaori Enjoji, there in Tokyo.

Well, the Saudi teen who barricaded herself inside a Bangkok hotel room demanding asylum is now under the protection of the U.N. refugee agency. The 18-year-old says her life would be in danger if she's sent home. CNN's Alexandra Field has the latest.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A Saudi teen who says she fears for her life if forced returned to her home country is now under U.N. protection. Monday night, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, left the Bangkok Airport hotel room where he had been hold up for two days while threatened with deportation. On Twitter, she had begged to the world for help.

RAHAF MOHAMMED AL-QUNUN, SAUDI ARABIAN ASYLUM SEEKER: I'm not leaving my room until I see UNSCR. I want asylum.

FIELD: She later says, "I need any country to protect me as soon as possible. I require asylum." And then, "I cannot leave the airport because my passport has been taken away and they won't give me a visa."

Human rights groups in contact with al-Qunun demanded Thai officials put an immediate stop to the plan to send her home.

PHIL ROBERTSON, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: She stated repeatedly that she is definitely afraid of being sent back to Saudi Arabia. She believes that her family will kill her.

FIELD: Now, Thai authorities are reversing course. Allowing the U.N.'s refugee agency to determine whether she needs refugee protection.

Previously, officials said they were deporting her because she didn't have proper documents. Thailand's immigration chief also said al- Qunun was trying to escape an arranged marriage.

LT. COL. SURACHET HAKPAL, COMMISSIONER, IMMIGRATION BUREAU (through translator): We will talk to her and do whatever she requests. Since she escaped trouble to seek our help, we are the Land of Smiles. We will not send anyone to their death. We won't do that. We will adhere to the human rights principles under the rule of law.

FIELD: Al-Qunun says she never planned to stay in Thailand. She says she was changing planes in Bangkok on her way to Australia when she was stopped.

Before Thai authorities blocked her from going further, al-Qunun says she was intercepted by officials from the Saudi embassy who took her passport. On Twitter, she said it had since been returned.

Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry has denied the claims. Saying the teen was being deported for violating Thailand's immigration policies. And that its officials remained in touch with her family. The family could not be reached. They have not made any public statements. Alexandra Field, CNN, Hong Kong.


[01:25:28] VAUSE: Next up here on CNN NEWSROOM. How the U.K. is preparing for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit? Which is looking more likely ahead of a key parliamentary vote next weekend. Yes, it's a traffic jam.


VAUSE: Thanks for staying with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause, with the headlines this hour. Kim Jong-un made an unannounced visit to Beijing to talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The trip comes as U.S. officials are said to be scouting location for a second summit between the North Korean leader and the U.S. president.

And Donald Trump will make his speech for funding a border wall in a televised address Tuesday night. To followed that up with a trip to the southern border two days later. Democrats refused to fund his wall. The dispute has caused a partial government shutdown, now into its third week.

A Saudi teen says her life is in danger if forced to return home is now under U.N. protection in Thailand. The 18-year-old had barricaded herself inside a Bangkok hotel room using social media to post desperate please release for asylum. Claiming her family will kill her if she's sent back.

It might just be a date with disaster. The British parliament set to vote next week on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal, a vote she's currently expected to lose. As CNN's Nina dos Santos reports, the government is preparing for a worst-case scenario.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In British politics today, all paths lead to Brexit. And with just over two months to go before the U.K. leaves the E.U., the roads to and from the country's biggest trading port of clogged, in a dry run to prepare for a possible return of customs checks.

Parliament is gridlocked too. With M.P.s returning from their winter break, support for various solutions to the Brexit impasse has split multiple ways. As the P.M. once more prepares to put her unpopular deal to a vote next week. One, which may include some concessions.

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: I've been speaking to European leaders in the intervening period, speaking to colleagues. I'll be continuing with that, talking to colleagues, listening to colleagues, and speaking to European leaders.

DOS SANTOS: More than 200 M.P.s have written to Theresa May demanding that she rule out a so-called hard or no-deal Brexit. Or some vocal members of her own party suggests that only a clean break with Brussels will deliver upon the result of the 2016 referendum.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't see how it's got the numbers to pass. Unfortunately the deal on the table from -- that's been put forward by the government just isn't in the national interest and doesn't respect the vote to leave which is why I feel that I can't support it.

DOS SANTOS (voice over): And support for a second referendum is also growing even though it's unclear as to whether the U.K. would have the time to hold one before Britain leaves the E.U. in March.

The leader of the opposition accused the government of wasting precious time by delaying December's vote with little to show for that decision.

JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: The government is trying to run down the clock in an attempt to blackmail this house and the country into supporting a botched deal.

DOS SANTOS: For Downing Street, the new year begins with a charm offensive opening its door to doubters for drinks on Monday before the Brexit Secretary unveils a new information campaign set to hit the press on Tuesday. Debate resumes in the House of Commons on Wednesday and MPs will cast their ballots on the 15th.

If May's deal still doesn't pass she may have to return to the E.U. for further changes. Otherwise scenes like these could soon become a way of life in Brexit era Britain.

Nina Dos Santos, CNN -- London.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas is with us this hour from Los Angeles.

So Dominic -- critics think point here that, you know, up to 10,000 trucks pass through the port of Dover every day -- so 89 lorries rolling through the countryside doesn't seem even close to (INAUDIBLE) the types of delay a no-deal Brexit would cause which leaves, you know, Option D to explain what happens here.

Was it a stunt? But if it was a stunts what did it prove?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Right. Well, actually it proved very little. And this has been going on for the past few weeks, really since the holidays got going. The government has engaged in the kind of campaign of fear-mongering, you know, to try and terrify the British public into the consequences of a no deal as a way of trying to bolster support for Theresa May's deal.

So this manifested itself with a whole range of discussions about, you know, threats at the borders and so on. And of course, the kind of the chaos that they keep talking about. They attempted to do it by essentially renting, hiring these lorries to show the sort of the chaos that would come along with it.

But I don't think that any of these measures have really -- have really work and had their desired impact. The politicians have returned to parliament. They are as entrenched in their positions as they were when they took off for the holidays.

And this latest stunt, if anything, weakens Theresa May's position by pointing to sort of the desperate range of measures that she's having to take to make sure that she gets some kind of Brexit deal over the next few weeks.

VAUSE: And part of that sort of, not quite hysteria in the last several weeks but there's been, you know, the Prime Minister consistently out there warning of the dangers ahead, you know, of this possible no deal if they leave without a deal in place.

This is, you know, part of what she said over the weekend. Listen to this.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We've got people who are promoting a second referendum in order to stop Brexit and we have people who are -- want to see their perfect Brexit.

And I would say don't let the search for the perfect become the enemy of the good --


MAY: -- because the danger there -- the danger there is actually end up with no Brexit at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Why has it been so easy, you know, not just for lawmakers, but it seems for the, you know, the general public as well to ignore these warnings that are coming not just from Theresa May but, you know, the Bank of England, the IMF and business groups. The list just goes on and on and on.

THOMAS: Well I think that what's so interesting is that the one area in parliament where there seems to be consensus is over the fact of avoiding a no deal. And so as we are sort of moving nearer, nearer, nearer to the sort of the cliff edge, which was postponed over the holidays, now we have a date that's been provided for next week where there will be a vote on her withdrawal agreement for which there does not seem to be any kind of shift in sort of support.

But each side is playing a kind of game of strategy on the one hand with the understanding that Theresa May will not be around forever. And so there is a kind of strategizing going on in the conservative party over a potential leadership take over down the road.

But on all sides of the political spectrum each particular group is pushing it as far as possible to sort of see what they can get away with, with the understanding that at the end of the day they can pull the plug and at least avoid some kind of no deal.

Now, what that will mean for the Brexiters or the remainers or the Labour Party and so on, we have yet to see.

The good news is, is that in the next 10 days, we are going to have a much better idea as to where we are going to end up with this, you know. Whether there's going to be a referendum, a general election, a transition period that is extended with the European Union that we will get some kind of greater clarity out of it.

It's just almost impossible at this stage to sort of figure out what it will be and what direction we're going to be taking in here.

[01:34:04] VAUSE: You know, you were talking about, you know, nothing really has changed over the last couple of weeks. And that's true for the most part at least in terms of support for Theresa May's Brexit plan or for the withdrawal.

But there is one big factor which is changing, correct me if I'm wrong. But under the Tory Party rules because May was challenged for the leadership before Christmas last year, it means that isn't she immune from a party leadership challenge for at least the next 12 months? So that's gives her at least some kind of security in the job, at least as far as, you know, the conservatives are concerned.

Does that in in any way sort of free her hand or give her more options in trying to force this deal through parliament?

THOMAS: Well, it might be and you have just made the argument there that, you know, that ultimately what the conservative parties want least of all is a Jeremy Corbyn government, right. And so there's a good chance together that the one thing that will unite them will be that possible scenario. You're absolutely right that she survived the leadership challenge within her party. This does not mean that a leadership challenge cannot be brought by the Labour Party.

Of course getting a vote on that is highly unpredictable. But it is in the realm of possibility.

But, of course, next week when she puts the vote for a meaningful vote in front of the parliament, if that vote does not go through she finds herself in a very difficult position.

She'll have an opportunity to bring it back for a vote. She can go back to the European Union and so on. But I think that her position will be weakened even further than it was when there was a leadership challenge put to her by the members of her own party.

And so next Wednesday is an important date. And it is not impossible that she could herself step down or even trigger a mechanism to allow for a general election.

So there are just so many different doors that remain unopened but they could potentially take us down these different roads as we move along. So we are exactly where we were a few weeks ago and that's -- we're back talking about it again and it's the story, you know.

VAUSE: It is head spinning at the moment where this could possibly end up.

Dominic thank you. Good to see you.

THOMAS: Thanks. Good to see you.

VAUSE: France taking a tough stand against the so-called Yellow Vest protesters. Marches in Paris not only began peacefully but turned violent when demonstrators threw missiles at riot police.

The prime minister announced plans to toughen sanctions against undeclared demonstrations. He said the legislation will be modeled against laws -- after laws, rather, against football hooligans. There will also be increased police presence at marches this coming weekend.

Next up here on CNN NEWSROOM, after a string of allegations of sexual misconduct which ended his career, actor Kevin Spacey is now in court facing criminal charges of groping an 18-year-old busboy. In a moment a closer look at the case against him.


VAUSE: Kevin Spacey has pleaded not guilty to allegations of groping an 18-year-old busboy at a restaurant in 2016, the first criminal case brought against him after a string of accusations of sexual misconduct.

The small courtroom on the island of Nantucket was packed with reporters. A request by Spacey's lawyers that he not be required to appear had been denied at a previous hearing. A bad bay for Spacey was made worse when he was pulled over by police for speeding at Reagan National Airport at Arlington, Virginia. He was led off with a verbal warning.

CNN Jean Casarez has more now on the criminal charges Space is now facing.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The next hearing -- the pretrial hearing will be in March for this case. But the arraignment yesterday was extremely important.

It was the initial appearance for Kevin Spacey through a felony charge of sexual assault, indecent assault and battery and Kevin Spacey arrived here. so many media in the courtroom and outside the courtroom. He went into that courtroom, was extremely serious.

We do know that a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf. Nothing was spoken about that in open court. But the defense attorney questioned during the time of the alleged assault which, according to the accuser, it was a three-minute period. He was texting his girlfriend. The defense wants those texts to see exactly what he said to his girlfriend contemporaneous to the time that the alleged assault was happening.

The prosecution agreed. They will preserve that if they can. And then the judge spoke to Kevin Spacey directly.

JUDGE THOMAS BARRETT, NANTUCKET DISTRICT COURT: Sir, you'll be on probation. You'll sign those conditions and you are required to stay away and have no contact direct or indirect with the alleged victim.


CASAREZ: The allegations in the complaint are in summer of 2016 a young busboy, 18 years old, worked at a local restaurant a couple of blocks from here, he knew that Kevin Spacey was coming to the restaurant bar. He was very excited to meet him. When he got off work at midnight he changed his clothes. He met Kevin Spacey.

They were together for about an hour there. They exchanged phone numbers. They sat at the table. They went up to the bar. They went outside. And he says that at that point after Spacey, believing he was of legal age to drink, had bought him four to five beers and four to five shots of whiskey, began to sexually assault him. An unlawful touching without the accuser's consent -- that is what led to the allegations today.

Kevin Spacey faces five years maximum in prison and if convicted would have to register as a sex offender.

Jean Casarez, CNN -- Nantucket, Massachusetts.


VAUSE: Live from Los Angeles and CNN legal analyst and civil right attorney, Areva Martin is with us.

Ok Areva -- you know, there is one part of this hearing where the defense and the prosecution went back and forth over the text messages between Spacey's accuser and his girlfriend at the time.

As Jean Casarez reported the defense wanted all those cell phone evidence preserved. Here is the response we heard from the assistant D.A. to that request.


MICHAEL GARDINO, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: As it relates to the motion to preserve itself, we are suggesting at this point that the scope that is being requested by counsel is overly broad. We would suggest that it's a fishing exhibition at this point. And that the motion should be narrowed at least to the 7th and 8th of July of 2016.


VAUSE: But ultimately they agreed to all of it. Were you surprised at the hesitancy there from the prosecutors? Isn't there an obligation on their behalf to preserve all evidence even if it helps the defense?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. Prosecutors have an obligation to turnover what's considered exculpatory evidence. And so it's not surprising that Kevin Spacey's team would want all of the text messages between this victim and his girlfriend because maybe the victim said something to the girlfriend after the incident allegedly occurred that again could be exculpatory for Kevin Spacey.

I was a little surprised to hear the prosecutors try to limit the scope of the text messages. And ultimately knowing that that motion was probably not going to be successful the prosecution agreed with the defense team to preserve all of the text messages because undeniably the court was going to allow the defense team to have access to that information.

VAUSE: These text and these Snapchat messages apparently they're relevant to this issue of consent. With that in mind here is testimony from a state trooper questioned by the defense at an earlier hearing. Listen to this.


ALAN JACKSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR KEVIN SPACEY: Instead of walking away or moving away or moving back or grabbing the wrist or slapping the hand, he indicated to you during that three minutes time period that he was texting and Snapchatting.


JACKSON: You found no witnesses to corroborate his statement about the three minutes' worth of groping, correct?

DONOVAN: That's correct.


VAUSE: You know, the defense strategy is shaping up to be to question the credibility of the accuser whose action they argue is inconsistent with a victim of sexual assault. Is that an effective argument from what you know about the case or is that their only argument at this point.

MARTIN: Well, you know, John -- we have seen these kinds of arguments made time and time again when you have what essentially is a he said, she said. In this case it's a he said, he said dispute. You don't have any third party witnesses so you really have to rely on the credibility of the two people who were involved.

And Spacey's team is challenging the credibility of this victim. They're saying look this young man first of all lied about his age. He said he was 23 years old when he was only 18. He also waited a year before he came forward with these allegations.

And now from that line of questioning what the defense is trying to suggest is if he felt uncomfortable, if this was a nonconsensual act why was he texting his girlfriend. Why was he sending messages rather than trying to get away, move away, say stop or do something to prevent the act from occurring?

This is typically used by defense teams, sometimes it's effect and sometimes it's not. I think it again goes to whether the jury in this case is going to believe that this young man was frightened, whether he had an opportunity to move his body or to say stop.

And it all boils down to -- in this case, it's going to boil down to credibility and what's on that videotape. Because the defense doesn't believe that tape is going to be dispositive as it relates to the allegations against Kevin Spacey.

VAUSE: From what we know already, all these facts that you outlined -- you know, the video, the consent, the text messages there is also the fact that the victim may have joked about the incident with his friends.

What is the biggest problem would you say out of all that is confronting the prosecutors? The jokes, the fact that there's no witnesses to come forward to support the allegations. The fact that, you know, he may have actually said something to his girlfriend at the time.

How do you see, you know, the biggest challenge here right now for prosecutors in this case?

MARTIN: I think the biggest challenge is credibility. If the jurists believe that this victim is not credible on something as simple as, you know, how old was he, then they may believe that everything that this victim says is subject to, you know, not being believed.

And if you have a witness that's not credible, it's very difficult for the prosecutors to meet that very high burden of proof which is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

And if the defense team can create any sense of doubt about this incident and about the credibility of this witness, I don't see the prosecutors being successful in this case.

VAUSE: Very quickly, on Christmas Eve you may recall Kevin Spacey posted a video on YouTube. He seemed to be in the character or at least in the voice of Frank Underwood, the role he played in the Netflix series "House of Cards". Here's part of it. Listen to this.


SPACEY: But you wouldn't believe the worst without evidence, would you? You wouldn't rush to judgments without facts, would you? Did you?

Because I can promise you this, if I didn't pay the price for the things we both know I did do, I am certainly not going to pay the price for the things that I didn't do.

Oh, of course they are going to say I am being disrespectful, not playing by the rules, like I ever played by anyone's rules before.

I never did. And you loved it.


VAUSE: Apart from being kind of just plain creepie, does it harm his case?

MARTIN: Well, no defense attorney would like to see their client make any kind of statement while they are under criminal prosecution. So I don't know if it was his way of denying the charges or being dramatic about the charges.

But I am certain that his attorneys have admonished him over and over again to stop talking about this case, to let them do the talking. Let them do their jobs. Let them put on the best defense that they can put on to help him avoid what could be a five-year jail sentence if he is found guilty of these charges.

VAUSE: Yes, these are serious charges and, you know, could have all sorts of ramifications for Spacey. And clearly this is going to go to court and neither side seems willing to budge on this.

So Areva -- thank you. Appreciate you being with us.

MARTIN: Thanks -- John.

VAUSE: An update on our story we first reported in CNN's Freedom Project. A woman serving a life sentence for killing a man who bought her for sex when she was 16 has been granted clemency. Cyntoia Brown will be released on parole in August, I should say, after serving 15 years in prison.

She was meant to serve 51 years before she could even try for parole. But her case drew national attention as an example of the need for judicial reform and the tragedy of human trafficking.

Since Brown's conviction juvenile sentencing guidelines in Tennessee have been changed. One of her attorneys says that change was long overdue.


[01:49:54] J. HOUSTON TORDON, CYNTOIA BROWN'S ATTORNEY: Her story, though, is a story that should be a catalyst for a lot of others -- thousands of other juveniles. We need to see this as a national awakening to change the draconian laws that allow juveniles, children, to be placed in adult prisons when they're just children.


VAUSE: Brown's case drew support from celebrities including Kim Kardashian West, Ashley Judd and Amy Schumer.

We will take a break. But when we come back it's a wall, it's a fence, it's a backup plan -- what is it? What's happening. What are they building down there on the U.S. border with Mexico?


VAUSE: A state of emergency has been declared in southern Germany after a winter storm dumped more than half a meter of snow. Many roads are blocked, schools have bene closed and the avalanche warning level has been raised in some parts. More heavy snow is expected in southeastern Europe this week.

So let's get the forecast now. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us with more. So I was going to it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas but that's a little late.


As you know, of course, just two, two and a half weeks in to officially the start of the winter season. We're getting pretty significant snow here and typically this sort of a pattern when you have the persistent deep winter-like pattern, that's in February not in the beginning portion of January. But this has all led to at least seven fatalities, some related to snow, some related to avalanches in Austria and also in portions of Germany.

But you know, as the Bavaria region on into Austria, school closures, as John mentioned, and of course, this led to widespread disruptions when it comes to transportation even in some ski resorts. Not only residents but guests -- everyone within one of the ski resorts across Austria actually asked to evacuate because of the dangers being so high with avalanches in recent days.

But south of Munich, southern Germany this is what it looks like across that region. Significant snowfall coming down on the order of meters in a few spots in the past couple of days. And unfortunately, this sort of pattern expected to persist the next couple of days as folks continue shoveling what has come down across this region. The pattern, very little of it has changed here at least the next several days. So we'll expect as much as a half a meter in some of these favorable areas of additional snow. With the red warnings that are still in place for dangerous avalanche conditions but very easy to pick out the system as it dives to the south over the next couple of days. And with it, again we expect not only winds, not only rain, but that heavy snowfall to come down and pretty much the identical spots that have been coming down in recent days.

In fact the ski resorts, they're loving life at this point as the amount of snow is pretty impressive. But the extent of this to the south is also impressive.

In fact, notice this. Once you work your way towards portions of Greece, even decent snowfall accumulating across that region, John, were seen as much as 50-plus percent of Greece in particular, that has snow on the ground even at this hour. So it really speaks to the extent of how far south the snow is reaching at well -- John.

VAUSE: Pedram -- we appreciate the update. Thank you.

JAVAHERI: Thanks - John.

VAUSE: Well, for the first time Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg missed oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The 85-year-old is still recovering after surgery for lung cancer last month.

She was in hospital after breaking three ribs in a fall. That's when doctors discovered the nodules. The court's chief justice said she will participate in cases by reading the transcripts. Ginsburg is the oldest and the senior liberal member of the court and has been treated for cancer twice before.

Well, it may have been Robert Shakespeare, William's lesser known brother who said a wall by any other name could not compete with a barrier made of concrete. But now it's a fence that makes more sense whatever the expense and I made that part up about Shakespeare's brother.

[01:55:04] Here is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With both sides walled into a corner, the wall itself has begun to morph.

Donald Trump used to say --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not a fence, it's a wall.

MOOS: But now.

TRUMP: Wall or fence or anything the Democrats need to call it because I am not into names.

MOOS: And instead of concrete --

TRUMP: You could call it a steel fence.

MOOS: But why stop at fence --

TRUMP: We'll build a steel barrier.

MOOS: -- if only the President could bury some of his old quotes in concrete.

TRUMP: I said I was going to build a wall. I never said I am going to build a concrete -- I said I'm going to build a wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are the walls going to be made out of.

TRUMP: I'll tell you what it's going to be made of. It's going to be made of hardened concrete. Concrete plank, precast, boom, bing, done.

MOOS: But now concrete seems boom, bing, done for.

Ever since he started talking about steel slats last month he's been getting slapped.

JIMMY KIMMEL, TV HOST: A computer generated representation of what this wall might look like with slats. And while it is --

MOIOS: Steel slats have been turned in to prison bars. Next thing you know he we are wall-to-wall with smart-aleck-y suggestions.

Read one tweet "Has anyone considered a corn maize, a 2,000-mile long corn maize?" "The wall was diminished to speed bumps." "The red velvet VIP barrier is coming." "Next week it will be a bunch of chihuahuas patrolling the border."

Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich suggested Trump would bargain down from a steel wall to corrugated tin to chicken wire, to a chalk mark. And end by stationing troops at the border wearing wall costumes which actually exist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One man even want a spandex wall costume.

MOOS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw shade when she said, "Now he's down to I think a beaded curtain or something". It's hard not to be on the fence about this border wall.

TRUMP: A wall or a slat fence, or whatever you want to call it.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN -- New York.


TRUMP: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Stay with us. The news continues right here on CNN with Rosemary Church after a short break.


[02:00:05] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Back to Beijing. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un returns to --