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WaPo: Trump Concealed Details of Putin Meetings; FBI Probe into whether Trump Worked for Russia; Trump Administration Preparing for Shutdown to Drag on through February; U.S. Secretary of State to Meet with Saudi Crown Prince; Rahaf al-Qunun Arrives in Canada after Asylum Offer; Castro Declares Candidacy as O'Rourke Mulls Bid; More Demonstrations Expected against Sudan's al-Bashir; What if Parliament Shoots Down May's Brexit Deal?; Lin-Manuel Miranda Brings "Hamilton" to Puerto Rico. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired January 13, 2019 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Keeping secrets: "The Washington Post" reports President Trump went to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus no end in sight for the U.S. government shutdown. We'll speak with a union official about the impact on-air traffic control.

ALLEN (voice-over): Also U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo expected to meet with the Saudi crown prince. One subject topping the discussion: the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

HOWELL (voice-over): We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen and CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: We begin with a new report that raises new questions about the U.S. president and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, zeroing in on the private conversations the two men have had and just how little we know about what was said.

HOWELL: According to "The Washington Post," Mr. Trump went to extraordinary lengths to conceal the details of his meetings with the Russian president. The paper says he went so far as to confiscate the notes from his interpreter, also not allowing the interpreter to discuss the meeting with anyone.

The president calls those allegations ridiculous. He says he hasn't kept anything under wraps. ALLEN: Mr. Trump is also slamming another familiar foe, "The New York Times." On Friday "The New York Times" published an article alleging the FBI was so concerned about Trump's actions following the firing of former FBI director James Comey that it opened an investigation into whether the president was secretly working on behalf of Russia.

Here's Mr. Trump's response to that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you now or ever worked for Russia, Mr. President?

TRUMP: I think it's the most insulting thing I've ever been asked. I think it's the most insulting article I've ever had written. And if you read the article you'd see that they found absolutely nothing.


ALLEN: Let's talk about it from Moscow now CNN's Fred Pleitgen. President Trump says there's nothing to this story. Let's listen to what Mr. Trump had to say about this meeting with Mr. Putin in Helsinki.


TRUMP: I had a conversation like every president does. You sit with the president of various countries. I do it with all countries. We had a great conversation. We were talking about Israel and securing Israel and lots of other things. And it was a great conversation.

I met with every leader, just about, individually. I meet with Modi, in Japan I meet with Abe, I meet with all of them. But nobody says anything. But with Putin they make a big deal. Anybody could have listened to that meeting. That meeting is open for grabs.


ALLEN: Is it?

What more do we know, Fred, about the meetings between the two presidents and what was discussed?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, I don't think that most of them or not all of them certainly are open for grabs. And there certainly does seem to be a lot of concern in Washington about what was discussed in at least some of these meetings.

One we were talking about earlier, that the newspapers are focusing on a little as well, that one in Hamburg, the foreign ministers were present at that meeting as well. That's the one people were saying those notes were apparently confiscated afterwards from the translators.

The foreign ministers were present at that meeting. And former secretary of state Rex Tillerson gave updates to the press and also to some others as well, possibly some cabinet members, detailing some of what was said.

But there are some people wanting more information and apparently that information is not available. The big meeting and the one that was the most important to the Russians, certainly the one that was held in the summer of 2018 in Helsinki.

And, of course, President Trump is saying, look, they talked about Israel and some other topics. Of course, the main topic that was of interest to the U.S. president was the topic of election meddling.

And the interesting thing that came out of that meeting is that, after the two had met and it was unclear what was being said at that meeting because it was a one-on-one meeting only with the interpreters, was the question of election meddling. And it was after that President Trump came out and essentially sided with the Russian government against his own intelligence services and said he had no idea why Vladimir Putin would have meddled in the U.S. election.

So that certainly is something where a lot of people would like some more information but not really much information is available on that topic.

So certainly very interesting to a lot of people, also very interesting to a lot of people here in Moscow as well.

ALLEN: That story came from "The Washington Post" and now --


ALLEN: -- the other one from "The New York Times," has there been any reaction in Moscow to the report?

The FBI investigated whether Mr. Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia.

PLEITGEN: No, there certainly hasn't been any reaction here in Moscow so far. Something that came out over the weekend. We are expecting at the earliest you might get any reaction from the Russian government, probably not even from the Kremlin itself, is sometime maybe later today, when Russian political talk shows might pick up on it.

There might be some politicians on those talks shows as well. So far the Russian government has been saying that the whole question of Russian election meddling, of Russia meddling on behalf of President Trump, is something that is absurd.

Vladimir Putin, of course, himself has said that, yes, he did want President Trump to win the election in 2016 because he heard President Trump saying things that are positive about the relationship between Russia and the United States.

But for President Trump to be an asset, that's certainly something I think the Russian government would shoot down. However, if you look at Russian political talk shows and some other Russian politicians, they do believe some of the things the Trump administration has been doing in the past couple of years since it's been in office has been beneficial to Russia.

In fact there's some political talk shows making fun of the government shutdown currently taking place, essentially saying, look, the Trump administration has managed to weaken the United States a lot more than Russia would have been able to weaken it -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Fred Pleitgen following it for us from Moscow. Thanks, Fred.


HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with Steve Moore and Robert English. Steve, a CNN law enforcement contributor and retired supervisory special agent for the FBI and Robert, a Russia expert as the deputy director at the University of Southern California School of International Relations, both joining via Skype from Los Angeles.

Gentlemen, thank you for your time.


HOWELL: Robert, I'd like to start with you. This latest reporting that the U.S. president allegedly concealed details of his private meetings with Vladimir Putin, a claim that without question would be out of the ordinary for senior officials to not know what was said except for the president's interpreter, who he allegedly instructed not to discuss what was said.

What does that mean for national security, in your view, for everyone else who was apparently left out of the loop?

ROBERT ENGLISH, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Well, it is not absolutely unprecedented. And probably, listeners, our viewers know, for example, of what occurred under the presidency of Richard Nixon.

The extraordinary secrecy that he and Henry Kissinger went to conceal the preparation for the dramatic change in relations, the recognition of People's Republic of China. That was all kept secret for fear that, if it leaked, opponents would raise a hue and cry and undermine that initiative before it got off the ground.

Trump is no Nixon. And his team is not full of Kissingers. So while we have seen this kind of secrecy before, the difference here is that it is not in the interest of any evident, competent, well thought-out and important breakthrough in relations.

Instead, it is this fumbling around, mainly with Russia but not only, right?

So Trump has also tried to conceal the details of meetings with Mexican leaders, with others. Across the board he's seeking to avoid embarrassing leaks because there is so much that is embarrassing. HOWELL: This is a president that puts a great deal of focus on leaks. He's frustrated with the fact that leaks do happen, coming out of Washington, D.C.

And, Steve, this plays right into the reporting from "The New York Times," just the other day that the FBI launched an investigation into the president because they were concerned that several of his actions could be construed as a national security risk.

What about private meetings?

Could that also be considered a threat?

HALL: Well, I have to agree with Professor English because I do believe that presidents have the latitude, obviously, to keep certain things secret. I mean, the other thing is I -- when I had interpreters, I would be very careful about what I would discuss in front of an interpreter.

However, if you are doing -- it really is -- what is your motive for hiding this?

And if it is just to hide leaks, I mean, that's what got the secretary of state in so much trouble trying to avoid things that could be accessed.

So yes, I think it is troublesome. The -- and it could cause the FBI to want to open an inquiry; was technically a preliminary inquiry according to "The Times" rather than a full fledged investigation.

HOWELL: Robert, there has always been the question who plays chess the best when it comes to Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin himself known as a formidable adversary, who has had his wins and losses against previous U.S. presidents.

As for this president, apparently discarding the knowledge --


HOWELL: -- and experience of some of his best officials to instead prefer this one to one approach in dealing with Mr. Putin, does it leave Mr. Trump vulnerable to being manipulated in a meeting like that?

ENGLISH: Oh, it does. But then again, aware of Trump's weaknesses, his foibles, suspicious of collusion and all the rest, the potential vulnerability because of financial dealings, the Congress and the entire Washington establishment have taken extraordinary steps to limit Trump's powers to act on that and do anything that would damage U.S. national security, hence the increased sanctions, the constant scrutiny and this pushback.

So if Putin looked forward to a malleable American president in Trump, who would do his bidding, he got more -- he got too much of it. He got one so malleable, so suspicious, generating so much suspicion, that the rest of the establishment has pushed back and he hasn't been able to do anything.

HOWELL: Steve, this question to you, the simple headline in play with this investigation, questioning whether a U.S. president could somehow be working on behalf of Russia, to say that statement is profound to say the least if indeed proven to be true.

As an investigator yourself, how significant is it that's where we were, that this investigation was launched?

HALL: Well, it is profoundly important that the FBI would be concerned enough to want to look into the possibility. Yes, I think we have to measure this and realize what was open was a preliminary inquiry rather than a full investigation. There is a significant difference.

And the other thing we have to realize is that the only people in the FBI after Comey was fired who could have opened an investigation, an espionage investigation of the president of the United States, would have been the acting director and the deputy assistant director in charge of counterintelligence and that would have been Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok, who both have asterisks next to their name right now.

And so the one thing I want to ask, as an investigator, is what happened to the preliminary inquiry?

Because within six months, it either has to be closed or converted to a full investigation. And I'm very curious as to what became of the preliminary inquiry.

HOWELL: Steve Moore, Robert English, again, we appreciate your time and perspective today, thank you.

ENGLISH: Thanks.


HOWELL: Now day 23 of this partial U.S. government shutdown. It is officially the longest shutdown in American history and, with no end in sight, some 800,000 federal workers have been left high and dry without regular paychecks now since before Christmas.

ALLEN: I know.

A White House official confirms to CNN the administration is prepared to be shut down through February. That's more than six weeks from now.

HOWELL: Time also ticking down for several government agencies. Federal courts, for instance, running out of money to operate.

ALLEN: And 51,000 security screeners at airports are now working without pay. Some have been calling in sick and this has been having a serious affect on air travel. The staffing shortage is so bad at the Miami airport that one of its concourses had to close. And a union representing thousands of air traffic controllers has

filed a lawsuit against the federal government. The National Air Controllers Association represents 16,000 government employees being told to work without pay. Their lawsuit claims that their constitutional rights are being violated.

ALLEN: To talk more about what's happening, we have with us Dan McCabe, an air-traffic controller and also a union representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

And Dan, you have also been affected by this shutdown, getting one of those checks, zero dollars, zero cents.


HOWELL: I want you to first of all start by telling about this lawsuit that's been filed, the argument here that constitutional rights are being violated.

MCCABE: Thanks for having me. It's really a three-pronged case, a couple of Fair Labor Standards Act violations, one of which is as simple as, we're not even making minimum wage to work. The other is no overtime payment or prompt overtime payment. And then the part you bring up is depriving workers of wages with zero due process, which is the worst part.

ALLEN: Yours is among a few that have been filed on behalf of federal workers.

What are the chances these lawsuits may have an impact?

MCCABE: We hope the chances are great. We just filed this two days ago so obviously it's in its infancy and we're still in the excited phase. As we learn more and keep our eye on what's going on with some of the other cases, we'll get a better feel for it. I'm optimistic.


HOWELL: So here in Atlanta, we have the world's busiest airport, so what does that mean, for your job, making sure that all of these planes coming in are safe, not only here in Atlanta but throughout the region?

MCCABE: So our day to day is 100 percent of your work has to be done 100 percent correctly. You don't have room for error. And in markets like Atlanta, Chicago, New York, it's busy, it's unforgiving.

Our job is to keep you safe from point A to point B, it doesn't matter where you go. And you balance that with efficiency. And the United States runs the safest, most efficient airspace system in the world and we take a lot of pride in that.

And we take a lot of pride going to work, working in bad weather and getting airplanes in and getting them in safely. So what this is doing is, it's adding new stress to the controllers that are currently working. On a good day, it's a stressful job. It's a very stressful job. There's a lot to think about.

ALLEN: I can't imagine. And the people that fly appreciate all of you very, very much. It's amazing what a wonderful job they do.

If, though, the shutdown goes on and on into February, we've got the Super Bowl coming to Atlanta. These are going to be busy times.

What then for air traffic controllers?

MCCABE: You know, at that point it's not even really an air traffic control issue. It's a human issue. I mean these are real people with real mortgages and real car payments. And, you know, there's 20,000 professionals that NATCA represents and there's 20,000 different stories as to what they're dealing with.

And being a union rep myself, I've gotten a lot of phone calls, people with medical issues and medical bills and people worried about homes and children and single income families and single parents.

I mean, it's sad. And it's scary. But now it's real. You know, a couple of days ago, we were fearful of what this would look like. We're here now. And everybody's trying to stay together and stay positive.

But for the Super Bowl, that's an influx of airplanes and what we're looking at is possibly 1,500 extra airplanes a day for a few days up to the Super Bowl and the day or two after. And that's on top of what we already do in Atlanta. And these extra airplanes won't just affect Hartsfield-Jackson, the big airport, they affect all the small metropolitan airports as well.

HOWELL: That's something to think about, not only are you focused on a very stressful, very important job, but there are people, colleagues who may go home and wonder, will I get evicted?

My credit is taking a hit, it's past 30 days or can I pay my other bills?

It is obscene, you know, what's happening to these people who work so hard not receiving pay. Dan, we appreciate your time and I just want to thank you myself.

ALLEN: All the best to you. Thanks.

MCCABE: Thank you.

ALLEN: Well, America's top diplomat will head to Saudi Arabia. Later he will meet face-to-face with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA says personally ordered the brutal murder of a journalist.

But what will Mr. Pompeo say about that?

HOWELL: Plus a state of emergency has been declared in Virginia as a dangerous winter storm moves east. The latest on the forecast ahead. Stay with us.





HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM.

The U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo will meet with the Saudi crown prince on Sunday. He says he will address the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with Mohammed bin Salman.

ALLEN: Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of the Saudi government. He was killed last October, you'll recall, in the Saudi consulate in Turkey by men with close ties to the Saudi crown prince. Ben Wedeman is covering the story for us. He's live in Cairo for us.

And hello to you, Ben. The last time the secretary of state met the crown prince, it was all smiles.

Can we expect anything less this time around?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that -- those pictures of smiles and handshakes with the crown prince happened on the 16th of October. That was just two weeks after the brutal murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate of Istanbul.

What we have heard from the secretary speaking with the Saudi-backed news channel, Al Arabiya, he said that the United States expects Saudi Arabia to hold those responsible for the murder of "The Washington Post" columnist.

But we also heard him describe Saudi Arabia in glowing terms as a key partner and ally of the United States and the region. And what we've heard essentially unwaveringly since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi admission that it was Saudi officials who did in fact kill and cut him into pieces, was that the United States considers Saudi arms purchases and Saudis' role in assisting the U.S. in the region as more important than the brutal murder, admittedly according to the Saudis, by rogue elements of a Saudi journalist.

So I don't think we're going to hear much different from the secretary when he eventually gets to Saudi Arabia. Right now he's in Doha, the capital, where he's signing an agreement for the expansion of an airbase. That is the largest U.S. airbase in the Middle East.

And really Qatar is a perfect example of the sort of confusion or complex nature of the Middle East because Qatar is a close ally of the United States but as a result of the spat between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which broke out in the summer of 2017, Qatar has become ever closer to Iran, which is really the focus of the secretary's trip in the region.

He is trying to line up U.S.-Arab allies in what some are describing as the Middle East strategic alliance, which some describe as an Arab NATO. But the experience of Arab unity isn't a very good one. Just down the street from where I'm standing is the Arab League, which has decades of experience of putting Arab disunity into action and it's hard to imagine how a collection of Arab states is going to confront Iran, which is an major economic and industrial power in the region and has managed to grow and expand its influence, despite decades of U.S. sanctions.

ALLEN: You were seeing a live video of Pompeo in Doha, Qatar, while you were speaking, Ben, and we will certainly continue to follow his trip. Ben Wedeman for us in Cairo, thank you.

HOWELL: A Saudi teen who says she faced death in her homeland has now arrived safely in Canada. Rahaf al-Qunun caught the world's attention when she was almost deported from Thailand. The 18-year old requested asylum and barricaded herself in a hotel. She --


HOWELL: -- begged for help on social media and says her family might kill her for renouncing Islam.

ALLEN: At that point the U.N. got involved. Canada's top diplomat welcomed her to Toronto and called her a very brave new Canadian.


CHRYSTIA FREELAND, CANADIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: It was Rahaf's choice to come out and say hello to Canadians. She wanted Canadians to see that she is here, that she's well and that she's very, very happy to be in her new home; although she did comment to me about the cold. I told her it does get warmer.


ALLEN: Australia was also considering an asylum request for al-Qunun. Its immigration minister says he wishes her the best in Canada.

Well, every president has his secrets but "The Washington Post" says Donald Trump is going the extra mile to hide his, especially when it comes to one fellow world leader. We'll have that story coming up.

HOWELL: His grandmother came to the U.S. from Mexico. He grew up in a part of Texas. Now Julian Castro wants to take his all-American story all the way to the Oval Office. The latest on his presidential bid when NEWSROOM continues.




HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM from Atlanta, Georgia. I'm George Howell. ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories this hour.



HOWELL: The U.S. president calls the idea that he would work on behalf of Russia insulting.

ALLEN: He is responding to that "The New York Times" article claiming the FBI was worried he was doing just that after he fired FBI director James Comey.

HOWELL: The president also had choice words for "The Washington Post," which reported Mr. Trump went to extraordinary lengths to conceal the details of his meetings with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

ALLEN: Mr. Trump says his conversations were like that of any other president and he has kept nothing under wraps.

HOWELL: Let's get some perspective with all of this with Inderjeet Parmar, a professor of international politics at City University, live in our London bureau this hour.

Inderjeet, thank you for your time.


HOWELL: We have two alarming reports to look into, basically questioning the loyalty and motives of the President of the United States with regard to Russia. He's been criticized for seeming to favor Russia throughout his time in office, though he would argue he is the toughest on Russia of any of U.S. presidents.

Do these new reports hurt the president or do they come off as he might describe them as paranoia or overreach?

PARMAR: Well, it adds more fuel to the fire. There's been suspicion about a number of areas about President Trump's campaign and candidate Trump's attitude towards government and towards America's global relations.

And this basically adds a little bit more fuel to that. I think in the end I don't know if it's going to politically damage him any further. But it's certainly going to undermine his credibility even more among the Washington establishment, which is going to investigate him with greater intensity as a result of this.

As one of your earlier correspondents said, this is not the first president to try to keep secrets, diplomatic negotiations or conversations. And we can reach right back into the early part of the 20th century, for example, the shift with China which occurred as a result of some of these diplomatic conversations, for example the shift with china, which occurred in the 1970s. So I'm not sure this is a new, unprecedented but we don't know the

content of these conversations yet. And I wonder whether it is related to something larger scale, which may be in the offing.

HOWELL: Let's talk more specifically, digging into these claims raised by "The Washington Post," that the president concealed the information of his conversations with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Is there a danger to the country for senior officials to be effectively left out of the loop?

PARMAR: Well, it depends on the content of those conversations and what has been -- there's an attempt allegedly to suppress release of the information there. So one has to wait until the content is revealed.

But as I said, it adds to this general kind of lack of credibility that the president is really trying to serve America's national interests as established within the kind of broader foreign policy kind of groups which have dominated thinking, probably since about Pearl Harbor.

He has challenged those underlying ideas, concepts and the institutions of that whole order and I think therefore he is considered very suspicious. But we have to wait until we see what those conversations actually contained.

If they contained a major geopolitical shift in thinking -- and President Trump is probably too incoherent to be able to put that forward directly -- he's right in one sense, there's going to be political pushback if he's going to reveal those. If he's going to do something coherent, it'll be very interesting. There's a lot of people around him or near him --


PARMAR: -- who are arguing the U.S. needs to shift its geopolitical attitude towards the world, towards strategic restraint. Whether President Trump is part of that is very difficult to tell. But his instinct does incline in that direction, I think.

HOWELL: To your earlier point and out of fairness, this is not the only President of the United States who has worked to preserve the confidentiality of information when it comes to sensitive discussions. So this president, we know he likes crack down on leaks.

What do you make of this argument, if proven true, this might have been a matter or preventing leaks of sensitive discussions that the two men might have had?

PARMAR: Well, that is the whole point. And the key issue is, is this to do with hiding something which damages President Trump, Trump's credibility, because of some business connections, financial connections, something which is suspicious in that character?

Or is it an attempt really to shift the orientation of the United States in a direction which challenges established ways of thinking?

You'll recall that President Obama and one of his advisers called it the blob. They argued the blob sits there, has a group think, has a particular way of looking at the world and anyone who challenges that is trying to undermine.

And I think whether that's the more sort of important element of this, which we may learn from as we go forward. At the moment it's very, very difficult to tell.

HOWELL: The context certainly important but it is reporting that is definitely in play right now. Inderjeet Parmar, live for us in London, thank you for the context.

PARMAR: Thank you.

ALLEN: It's official; a young popular Texas Democrat is running for president. But it's not the former Senate candidate, the one you might be thinking, Beto O'Rourke.

HOWELL: We're talking instead of the former chief of Housing and Urban Development. Julian Castro has announced his bid for the White House. CNN's Dan Merica has more now from San Antonio, Texas.


DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Julian Castro announced his presidential campaign on Saturday, here in San Antonio, where he was born and raised, across the street from the church he was baptized in.

Castro has made his family's legacy and history here in the United States where his grandmother emigrated to the United States in 1922 after her parents were killed during the Mexico Revolution, a center point of his candidacy.

And he referenced his grandmother when he announced and made his campaign official. Take a listen to what he had to say.

JULIAN CASTRO (D-TEXAS), FORMER HUD SECRETARY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When my grandmother got here almost 100 years ago, I'm sure that she never could have imagined that, just two generations later one of her grandsons would be serving as a member of the United States Congress and the other would be standing with you here today to say these words, I am a candidate for President of the United States of America.

MERICA: Before Julian Castro even had a shot at President Trump, he's going to have to win the Democratic nomination and he admitted to me in an interview that that could be a long shot. He could have issues with money. He also may have issues resonating outside of places like San Antonio.

His campaign says he will travel to Iowa in the future and he will play across the country but that could be an issue. Another issue for him is the fact that Beto O'Rourke, the popular former congressman who ran for Senate unsuccessfully in 2018 but captured the imagination of Democrats, is considering a presidential run. In an interview with CNN after he announced his campaign, Castro said

that while he's not worried that Beto O'Rourke could get into the race, he obviously would like him to stay on the sidelines.

CASTRO: Of course, I would rather be the only Democrat running from Texas. But, you know, I think that we're going to have a crowded primary. We don't know who is going to run. And so everybody is just going to have to go and put out their vision and go and do the hard work of campaigning and reaching voters.

MERICA: And now the real work begins for Julian Castro. On Sunday, he'll travel to Puerto Rico for his first post-announcement event, a Latino event, in Puerto Rico. He will then travel to New Hampshire, where he will meet and mingle with a number of top Democrats in the state. They, of course, have questions for him and he says he has answers to give them -- Dan America, CNN, San Antonio.


ALLEN: Well, as Julian just said, he expects to have a crowded field and, yes, more Democrats are joining the race or exploring a possible run. House Representative Tulsi Gabbard said this to CNN's Van Jones.


REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement in the next week.


ALLEN: Gabbard is an Iraq War veteran and serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She joins a fairly deep pool of Democrats considering runs.

HOWELL: One of them is the former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, who says if he runs, he will pay for his entire campaign himself. And also Senator Elizabeth Warren. She held an event in New Hampshire, her first since launching an --


HOWELL: -- exploratory committee for a 2020 bid.

A violent crackdown is not stopping protests in Sudan. How the president of that nation is clinging to power -- ahead. Stay with us.




ALLEN: A violent crackdown isn't stopping anti-government protests in Sudan. More demonstrations are expected in the coming hours. Protesters have been defying security forces for weeks, that despite being shot at with tear gas and live ammunition. HOWELL: The demonstrators are angry about food prices. They're angry about fuel shortages and also about efforts by this man to stay in power. The president, Omar al-Bashir, has ruled there for three decades. Many Sudanese say 2019 is the year that comes to an end.

ALLEN: Will that be the case?

Let's get the latest from CNN's Farai Sevenzo. He is in Nairobi, Kenya.

Farai, always glad to have you with us.

Is there any sign the government is willing to give in to some of the protesters' demands?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, it's quite difficult to pinpoint what exactly the protesters' demands are. There's a variety of things. Remember this began as a protest over the price of bread. That's very basic politics of this kind of stuff.

There's no bread, no fuel. And, of course, now that has turned into real demands against President Omar al-Bashir to step down over the economic straits they find themselves in.

And of course that coupled with the government's response, which as you say, is all about bullets and tear gas and live ammunition, according to Amnesty International, at least, over 40 people have been --


SEVENZO: -- killed since the 19th of December.

So it remains to be seen whether the government is willing to come to some kind of middle level with these protesters who are, essentially, Sudanese youth.

ALLEN: It's so tragic that these people are being fired on for protesting. Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court.

Could that be a reason why he insists on staying in power?

SEVENZO: You know, you've hit the nail on the head there. Some people within Sudan, including the very influential billionaire, Mullah Ibrahim (ph), say perhaps it is. Once you've been in power for that long, for 30 years and counting, and the ICC's charges of crimes against humanity and genocide, referring to what your army did in Darfur between the years of 2003 and 2008, of course, the only protection he has is the presidency.

And if these charges were to be dropped, perhaps he'd be willing to walk away from this job. But we're only speculating, Natalie. These charges were stuck there in 2010 and no country has been able to enforce those warrants of arrest, including South Africa, Egypt, everywhere he's flown. So it is a sort of Damocles sword over his head. But as yet we don't

know if that is the reason why he's still clinging on.

ALLEN: We know you'll continue to follow what's going on. We appreciate it, Farai Sevenzo there out of Nairobi, thanks.

HOWELL: And now to the United Kingdom, the ongoing issue of Brexit. The clock is ticking down toward a critical vote come Tuesday and the result could mean chaos for the British economy.

ALLEN: Prime minister Theresa May is trying to convince Parliament her deal with the E.U. is the only way forward. But many lawmakers, of course, don't see it that way. CNN's Bianca Nobilo takes a look at what could happen if the vote doesn't support May's plan.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sun rising and setting are just about the only sure things at Westminster nowadays. The defeat in Parliament for Theresa May's Brexit deal on Tuesday is almost a certainty.

So what happens after that?

The prime minister would have to return to the House of Commons days later with an amended plan, perhaps after yet another breathless trip to Brussels. For now, she insists her deal is the only one on offer. There are now basically three possible outcomes.

Number one, perhaps with enough amendments, assurances and strong- arming of MPs, May's deal for a close continued relationship with the E.U. will pass eventually. Right now the parliamentary arithmetic is not very encouraging.

Two, maybe there'll be no coalition for anything and Britain will fall out of the E.U. with no deal in March. That's during a period of acute uncertainty. That's the option backed by hardline Brexiteers on the Conservative benches.

And the third option is everyone takes fright and can't agree on anything, so they kick the entire exit process into the long grass. That would involve an extension of Article 50, which would also need the agreement of all 27 E.U. states, far from the given.

Ministers continue to insist if the agreed-on tax with Brussels is rejected, Britain enters uncharted waters.

JEREMY HUNT, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: We can no longer assume that by rejecting this deal there will be a better shade of Brexit. And what is more likely, if this deal is rejected, is that we have the risk of Brexit paralysis.

NOBILO: Rarely has the government been so thwarted getting its key policy through the House of Commons. Now Parliament has more power but no common purpose. Brexit and British politics are beyond prediction -- Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Several people have died in a winter storm going across the nation. It is a monster that has buried parts of the U.S. Midwest. It's now headed to the mid-Atlantic. And Derek Van Dam will bring us the latest on it coming up next.





ALLEN: A deadly winter storm is moving across the U.S. It's already hit the state of Missouri, killing four people there and stranding a lot of motorists.



HOWELL: The cast of "Hamilton" and actor and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda just had an opening night they will soon not forget.

ALLEN: The audience in Puerto Rico cheered widely on Friday as the cast of the hit Broadway musical kicked off a 23-performance run. The show is raising money for arts programs in Puerto Rico, which is still trying to cover from two hurricanes a year and a half ago.

HOWELL: It all hit home for Miranda, whose father was born in Puerto Rico. He reprised the role he created of U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton.


LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, CREATOR, "HAMILTON": People are going to come to Puerto Rico because of "Hamilton" and hopefully spend a lot of money here, eating cuchifritos and leave their hotels and actually spend money at small businesses on the island. At least, that is my hope. That's what I've been pushing.

But they're also going to see blue tarps and they're also going to see how much work is left to be done.


ALLEN: The benefit is already a theatrical smash. Tickets have sold fast. They cost from $10 for many people there to as much as $5,000 to guests.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. For viewers in the U.S., "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is ahead.