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HALA GORANI TONIGHT
Trump Says He Never Worked for Russia; "Washington Post" Says Trump Concealed Details of Putin Meetings; FBI Investigated Whether Trump Was Acting as A Kremlin Agent; Theresa May Says Approve My Deal or Risk No Brexit; Mayor of Gdansk, Poland Killed During Charity Event; China Sentences Canadian Man to Death for Drug Smuggling. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired January 14, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani coming to you tonight from outside the houses of Parliament in
Westminster where Theresa May has made a last-ditch attempt to get lawmakers to back her Brexit deal. The problem it seems to be falling on
deaf ears. The historic vote will take place around this time tomorrow. More on Brexit shortly. First, though, another moment for the history
books. This one from the United States. Today we heard the world's most powerful leader say something quite extraordinary, something you would
never think a President of the United States would even have to deny. Donald Trump stood on the White House lawn and responded to a bombshell
report that his own FBI began investigating him in 2017, trying to determine if he was secretly acting on behalf of the kremlin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never worked for Russia, and you know that answer better than anybody. I never worked for Russia.
Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it's a disgrace that you even ask that question because it's a whole big fat hoax. It's just a hoax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, let's remind you briefly what led up to those remarks. Over the weekend, two bombshell reports surfaced back to back. First "The New
York Times" reported that FBI officials considered Mr. Trump's behavior so suspicious that they began investigating whether he was acting as a Russian
agent. They were worried he himself might pose a national security threat to America. And before that could even fully sink in, the Washington post
was out with another revelation just as stunning. It says Mr. Trump went to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his meeting with Vladimir
Putin, even confiscating notes from his own interpreter at one point. The bottom line, U.S. officials say there is no detailed record of Mr. Trump's
meetings with the Russian President over the last two years, specifically at a G20 meeting in 2017. Well, let's bring in CNN White House reporter
Abby Philip for more. So, a strong denial from the President after slightly equivocal phone interview with fox news. What more did the
ABBY PHILIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The President seemed to try to clean up what he did over the weekend, which was not
definitively answer that question, something that really caused some heartburn among his aides who had wished he had maybe given a clear answer
on that. But he said pretty flat out, I did not work for Russia, and I've never worked for Russia. But he also criticized the reporter for even
asking that question. You could see in his demeanor and what he had to say that he was pretty irritated by this line of questioning reoccurring once
again. He continued to criticize the usual suspects of people at the FBI who he has accused of perpetrating a hoax against them. He called them at
one point, bad cops. This is a President who is a little on the defensive about this situation.
He said that he believes that his conversations with other world leaders are no different from his talks with Vladimir Putin, but that's clearly not
the case, considering that his aides themselves believe it is unusual that these conversations, these lengthy meetings in many cases, like the one in
Hamburg at the G20 two years ago, it was a lengthy meeting and virtually no one has a pretty clear understanding of what was going on in that meeting.
That being said, the White House, their explanation for all of this is that these meetings are coming at a time and in an environment in which
President Trump believes that people within his own administration are trying to undermine him. They are leaking conversations. There have been,
in fact, transcripts of conversations with world leaders leaked on the world stage. President Trump was simply reacting to that, trying to
protect the confidentiality of these conversations. But at the same time there is no evidence that this kind of effort to silence people around the
President in terms of who knows about what is going on in these meetings has been done with any other world leader. And President Trump is once
again trying to downplay what is going on with his relationship with Russia, which clearly has troubled people both within his administration
among his senior aides, but also at the FBI, prompting people at the FBI to contemplate launching a counter intelligence investigation into the
President of the United States, a truly extraordinary development over the last two years, Hala.
GORANI: And this investigation that the FBI felt was necessary, is it closed?
[14:05:00] PHILIP: Well, that investigation was basically absorbed by Robert Mueller's probe, the special counsel investigation after President
Trump fired Director James Comey. That probe is still ongoing, and it is not known to what extent President Trump is at the center of that, meaning,
are they looking into the central question of what prompted President Trump to act in such a conciliatory fashion to Putin. We know the same threads
that caused concern at the FBI when the President came into office have been absorbed by the special counsel probe, and it could be one of the
reasons why President Trump continues to believe that that probe is a witch-hunt.
GORANI: All right. Abby Philip at the White House, thanks very much. A lot of important facts and reporting here. We don't want to lose sight of
the big picture, how absolutely unprecedented all of this is that U.S. officials investigated whether the self-proclaimed America first President
was actually working on Russia's behalf.
GORANI: Let's bring in CNN's Wolf Blitzer, anchor of "THE SITUATION ROOM." So, Wolf, even by the own standards of the President, this was a remarkable
weekend. How unprecedented is it historically speaking that a U.S. President would have to deny that he's working for Russia?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Or any other foreign country, especially an adversary of the United States. I don't think there is a moment in
American history where an American President has had to formally issue a statement along the lines that we just heard from President Trump when he
was asked, are you working directly on behalf of the Russians. Now, all these reports -- and they are truly extraordinary, you know, Hala -- all
these reports say it is unclear whether the investigation involved directly working on behalf of Russian interests or inadvertently, accidentally, or
just being used by the Russians in whatever way. But it is truly, truly extraordinary that an American President would have to be asked, and it was
a legitimate question, would have to be asked by a reporter on two occasions. Saturday night, the host of a fox news show asked the President
that question. He sort of waffled in his response. Today he was very firm in flatly denying he was working on behalf of the Russians. But it really
is an amazing moment.
GORANI: And also, when the White House says that the reason some of these transcripts or that the interpreter notes of one-on-one conversations with
Russian President Vladimir Putin, that the President, the U.S. President had in Hamburg, for instance, during a G20 summit, that it's because there
are leaks. That, too, is unprecedented. You've covered many American Presidents over your career.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. That's another truly amazing moment. Here the President of the United States has a meeting with the Russian
leader, President Putin. Let's say at Helsinki, just the two of them, their only two interpreters President. And the Russians clearly know
everything that happened during that two-hour meeting. The President of the United States knows what happened during that two-hour meeting. The
interpreter is there, the interpreter's notes, apparently according to the Washington post, the notes are taken away and told, you can't reveal any of
this information to anyone. So, here you have a situation where some of the President's own top national security advisors, including some of his
own best Russia experts, they don't have a firm grasp on what happened during that meeting. They haven't seen any transcript. They haven't seen
any notes. They haven't heard a formal debrief by the President. And the interpreter is told, you know, she's told you can't release any of this
information. So, in every situation where some of the President's top advisors who have the most sensitive national security classified security
clearances, top secret security clearances, they're in the dark, but the Russians, they know everything that happened during that meeting. It's one
of these other moments in American history, I don't think I'm familiar with where something along those lines has happened.
GORANI: So, we've learned to expect the unexpected from Donald Trump. But there are career politicians. Among them, for instance, top Congressional
Republican Lindsey Graham, when asked, would you like to compel -- would you like to hear testimony on capitol hill from this interpreter to know
what was said in that meeting, he replied, no. I guess the bigger question is, Congressional Republicans are still very much backing this President,
despite the fact that he's been widely criticized for some of his behavior and some of the things he said. Why is that?
BLITZER: Well, they're very loyal to the President. His popularity, Hala, among that so-called Republican base that helped get him elected back in
2016, remains very high. Maybe 80, 85 percent still approve of the job he's doing.
[14:10:10] They like the fact that he cut taxes, ended deregulation, that he's done all sorts of other things that they are very pleased with,
including standing firmly in support of a wall along the border with Mexico. So, they're very happy in many of the things he's done since
taking office over the past two years. And a lot of Republicans are saying he's done all sorts of other things that they are very pleased with,
including standing firmly in support of a wall along the border with Mexico. So, they're very happy in many of the things he's done since
taking office over the past two years. And a lot of Republicans are reluctant to go against a fellow Republican, the leader of the Republicans,
the President of the United States. There are some voices, not many, some voices among Republican leaders who are beginning to question some of these
things. By and large, he still has that strong reservoir of support.
GORANI: So, does that mean his presidency is safe from any attacks from within his own party?
BLITZER: Not necessarily. Everybody is waiting right now over the next month or two for Robert Mueller, the special counsel, to release his report
on the allegations that there was some sort of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians, the Russians, as the U.S. intelligence community
concluded was interfering in the American elections in all sorts of ways. Everyone is waiting to see what Mueller has, what evidence he has. The
Attorney General nominee, William Barr, who is going before the senate judiciary committee tomorrow for his confirmation hearings, he said today
very significantly, he believes that Mueller's report should not only be made available to Congress, but also to the American public. So, a lot
will depend on what Mueller has. We don't know. The Mueller team has been very, very quiet. They haven't leaked virtually anything so far, so
everybody is bracing for that report. Once we see that report, we'll have a better sense on how secure the President is, where the Democrats will
lineup. We suspect we know where the Democrats will. But as you correctly point out, where will his Republican base go once that report is released,
how much credibility will it have.
GORANI: Wolf Blitzer, always a pleasure. Thanks very much, anchor of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for your analysis and perspective.
BLITZER: Thank you.
GORANI: Well, we were talking about history defining moments in the United States. There is one happening in the United Kingdom in the next 24 hours.
That's how long the British prime minister has to save her Brexit deal, potentially her job as prime minister. By this time tomorrow, lawmakers
are due to vote on that agreement. This is the deal that Theresa May struck with European Union officials to pull the U.K. out of the E.U.
tonight she's meeting members of Parliament to urge them to get behind it. It looks like she's hurtling to defeat. They are unlikely to back the
deal. Regardless, the prime minister gave a final pitch in Parliament. You are seeing her earlier today. She is very persistent, some have noted.
She told MPs there should be no further delay, this is the on the deal on the table or they could risk no Brexit at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, UK PRIME MINISTER: So, I say to members on all sides of this house, whatever you may have previously concluded, over these next 24
hours, give this deal a second look. No, it is not perfect and, yes, it is a compromise. But when the history books are written, people will look at
the decision of this house tomorrow and ask, did we deliver on the country's vote to leave the European Union? Did we safeguard our security
and our union, or did we let the British people down?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Britain's opposition leaders calling this a botched deal. Jeremy Corbyn says if lawmakers reject it, she, Theresa May, should resign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: The government is in disarray. It's clear. If the prime minister's deal is rejected tomorrow, it's time for a
general election. It's time for a new government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Bianca Nobilo joining me now here outside the Houses of Parliament talk to me -- sorry, I needed to hydrate. There's a lot to talk about.
Tomorrow there is a Brexit deal. They say they can table amendments, this could take a long time. In fact, her whole deal could die before it gets
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It gets a little confusing. This is something people who have worked in Parliament years and years, it takes
time to learn the rules. We can't be sure the speaker is going to follow them either. Before the deal is voted on, there is an opportunity for
amendments to be voted on. That's at the speakers discretion as to how many he selects. These amendments range from everything like what's been
tabled by the Liberal Democrats that's for a second referendum to extensions of article 50, for example conservative MPs table an amendment
that would only give the EU half of the divorce bill until the future relationship was settled. So, there are amendments of all shades. And if
they're selected and voted on, they could effectively render May's deal defunct.
[14:15:00] GORANI: Here's a hypothetical. Let's say there is an amendment that is tabled that calls for an extension of the negotiation period. I'm
coming up with a hypothetical. And that passes. I mean, this could completely change the reality for Theresa May and also whether or not the
deal dies right then and there.
NOBILO: It could. We're in very gray area at the moment because unless there is another statute to replace it, the default is leaving with no deal
on the 29th of march. However, anything that's voted on, it's going to pile on immense political pressure on the government if there is consensus
for nothing else. What else could there be consensus on in the house of commons? Clearly not may's deal. Her compromise approach hasn't worked.
She hasn't been able to appeal enough to MPs on either side. They prop up her government saying, assurances from the E.U. did nothing to satisfy
them. You have Brexiters with resolve as she continues the for the deal. You heard from Jeremy Corbyn, they desire to get power themselves.
GORANI: Is it inevitable that Brexit will be delayed? Because really there is also -- there is a majority for one thing, which is the majority
of Parliamentarians don't want a hard Brexit.
NOBILO: That's true. Unless there is another statute passed and they get voted on that could happen.
GORANI: I mean, surely, we're in uncharted territory.
NOBILO: We are in uncharted territory in bringing down the government through vote of no confidence would be the most likely way that would
happen as we see it. You're right it seems there is no majority for anything, and that's why the prime minister mentioned Brexit paralysis.
It's like newton's third law. There is an equal or opposite reaction. She makes headway with people who are wavering, and they have other people come
out and resign like a minister today. This is the situation we're in. The timetable, however, has been accelerated. Now she has three days to return
to Parliament if her deal is rejected. So, there is a chance she could, depending on the scale of defeat, return upon some amendments or other
guarantees from the E.U. and try again.
GORANI: Yes, Bianca Nobilo, thanks very much. The vote is scheduled or the vote is scheduled to start in the 7:00 p.m. local hour. That could,
of course, slide very much so. Bianca, thanks very much.
Now, as the battle over Brexit consumes Westminster, elsewhere in the country there is growing frustration over this political back and forth. I
headed to the town of Staines upon Thames. It is about an hour's drive southwest of London in Surrey. There 60 percent of voters are in favor of
leaving the E.U. and I asked how they felt about Brexit now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: What would you tell people who are looking on and thinking, oh, this looks like a giant mess. Why is it such a mess? How would you
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't explain it. We certainly weren't braced for what's gone on in the last two years.
GORANI: How do you make it less messy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're asking a green grocer, lady. I think the only way to fix it is to leave Europe with or without a deal, I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, you can see that full report later in the show. Luciana Berger is a Labour member of Parliament who backed Remain and she is
calling for a people's vote or second referendum. Hi, Luciana.
LUCIANA BERGER, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, LABOUR PARTY: Hello.
GORANI: You will vote against May's deal?
BERGER: I will be voting against the deal, we vote in Parliament tomorrow, yes.
GORANI: If it fails, then what happens?
BERGER: I think it's very clear it is going to fall tomorrow. There is no majority in Parliament for this withdrawal agreement whether it's members
of Parliament that very strongly Brexiter -- Liverpool currently on the current polling shows 70 percent of my constituents wish to remain. Having
seen the actual details of the deal. On that basis, it's very clear from everything you've been discussing we have this gridlock in Parliament.
There is no majority really for any option.
GORANI: Do you want a referendum that gives people the option of reversing the Brexit because there is no majority for that in the UK? In all the
polling that I have looked at.
[14:20:00] BERGER: If you look at the poll that came out over the weekend, increasingly there are people who voted for different reasons. To leave
to, remain, people that voted different ways last time that actually have in front of them the actual details of what Brexit will mean for our
country. There is a very big gap between what they were promised. We saw these shiny promises on the side of buses. We would have a Turkish
invasion. That's not everyone but obviously there are different groups of people in voted for different reasons. But it's certainly not a uniform
GORANI: I don't think this country will get a Turkish invasion any time soon. Labour Party, though, with such a disorganized and chaotic Tory
party, why aren't you doing better in the polls? The latest YouGov, the Tories are six points ahead of your party. It should be quite easy for an
opposition party that's organized and has a charismatic leader to make headway on that. Shouldn't it?
BERGER: All eyes are on Brexit, the prime minister, and what's happening. There is sympathy, she is doing her best. It's regrettable we are so far
down the line, less than 70 days until we are due to crash out of the European Union. It's very much so late in the day.
GORANI: That's not answering the question of why your party is not doing better in the polls. Shouldn't you be capitalizing on this?
BERGER: For no party, there are different ideas what we should be doing to overcome this issue. There is not uniformity within my party --
GORANI: What should you do in your party, in the Labour Party?
BERGER: When the vote falls tomorrow, we anticipate we will see a vote of no confidence called in the government. It is likely she is set to lose by
at least 150 votes tomorrow. It's not tenable for any government to continue in that -- in the circumstances. I would anticipate and sincerely
hope my party will be calling a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.
GORANI: And you'd want a general election after that?
BERGER: That's to see if there is any appetite within Parliament for a general election. We don't know what the outcome of that vote of no
confidence will be. I wish we could test the appetite of Parliament. And there is nothing to prevent us from bringing forth further votes of no-
confidence. And if that needs to happen, if it transpires, if there is a majority in Parliament for a no confidence vote, there is no general
election and if there isn't, we have to pursue other options. Our own conference party policy says we should be pursuing as a next stage the
people's vote -- take the deal back to the country and see if this is what they actually want.
GORANI: From the outside looking in, our international viewers comment on this as well, it seems there is this much disarray because there is no
majority for any position. There is no clear majority for a second referendum. There just isn't in all the polling I've seen, there's no
clear majority in parliament for a hard Brexit or May's deal or for maybe perhaps a third way. Isn't that why there is paralysis and what do you do
to overcome it?
BERGER: I have seen polling that shows there is a majority in the country to have a final say, however people voted.
GORANI: On the May deal, yes.
BERGER: On the May deal, yes.
GORANI: But not a yes or no, would you like Brexit, that could reverse Brexit. That's what I have not found.
BERGER: There are 19 different options what a vote in country would look like according to our constitution. There is discussion to be had what
that looks like. People know now three years after we had that first referendum vote, it's so starkly different, what promises were made. In
particular, we know there are 2 million young people today whose lives will be most affected by the Brexit deal itself who didn't have a say back then.
GORANI: 16 back then and 18 now.
BERGER: By the age of 18.
GORANI: Going forward, where do you see your country in a year's time, do you think? Do you see your country as having reversed this idea that is
clearly, one, a referendum, and two, the E.U.?
BERGER: Put it back to the country, people who live there, it that's fine. We have a gridlock we can't overcome. It is unclear where that is going to
continue to be the case. If it doesn't result in the general election, the process, that can be done to overcome all this is to take this decision
back to the country.
GORANI: Luciana Berger, M.P. from Liverpool. Thank you for joining us on CNN. Still to come, a shocking attack in Poland, a mayor stabbed at a
charity event. We'll tell you why he's being remembered as a hero by his supporters. We'll be right back.
[14:25:00] COMMERCIAL BREAK)
GORANI: Poland is mourning the loss of a popular politician, Pawe? Adamowicz, the mayor of Gdansk died Monday after being stabbed at a charity
event Sunday evening. He'd been mayor of the city for more than 20 years and he was a revered figure in Polish politics. CNN's Atika Shubert has
ATIKA SCHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The video is disturbing. Dansk mayor is on stage holding up a sparkler thanking those who attended a children's
charity concert when from the right, a figure in black rushes forward and stabs him in the heart and stomach. The attacker then turns to the crowd,
grabs the microphone and angrily blames the mayor's politics for putting him in prison. Doctors rushed to try and save the mayor in a five-hour
operation. But less than 24 hours later, Poland's health minister announced Mayor Adamowicz had succumb to his injuries.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUKASZ SZUMOWSKI, HEALTH MINISTER, POLAND (through translator): The information that doctors have provided is that a short time ago, the mayor
died. It was not possible to overcome everything that had happened to him. May he rest in peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: The attacker was subdued on stage, a 27-year-old man with extensive criminal record, five years in prison for bank robbery, released
just last month. Poland's vice minister of internal affairs says the man has a history of mental health issues. Police won't release his name, but
he has been charged with murder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is important for us right now to establish how it happened that this man came so close to the mayor of
Gdansk. We know he was using identification documents issued for media. We need to establish within the next few minutes or an hour how he got hold
of this press I.D. was this document in his name? How did he come into possession of it? And was he really allowed to be at the place where he
was? And the most important question remains, what motivated him to commit such a dramatic act?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: He was a fixture of Polish politics, serving as a mayor of Gdansk for 20 years. He championed the rights of minority groups and was known as
a calm voice in Poland's increasingly heated politics. By Monday night, scores were gathering on the streets of Gdansk and other cities across
Poland to condemn the violence, appealing for the country to unite in the wake of the shocking attack. Atika Shubert, CNN.
GORANI: A family in Canada says they are heartbroken after a Chinese court sentenced the Canadian citizen to death. Chinese authorities have
convicted Robert Lloyd Schellenberg of drug trafficking. His family back home in Canada say they are in shock and that they are overwhelmed.
[14:30:00] Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized the ruling. The case further strains relations between Ottawa and Beijing, which had
been tense since the Chinese tech executive was arrested in Canada last month.
A lot more to come tonight. In one town, the Brexit referendum results were exactly the same as for the country at large. How do those in basing
stoke feel now in we'll hear from them next.
[14:30:54] HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: The British Prime Minister Theresa May is making her final pitch for Brexit on the eve of Parliament's
vote for her deal. She urged lawmakers to give the plan a second look, saying it's not perfect, but the best deal they're going to get. She says
they must deliver on the promise to leave the E.U. or else let the British people down.
Now, despite the plea, her deal is expected to be rejected by the House of Commons and the opposition is calling for a general election if that
happens. First, of course, it will table a no-confidence motion in the government.
Nic Robertson joins me now from Downing Street with more. Does Theresa May have a plan B if this Brexit deal fails, if it doesn't make it through
Because I've asked, I asked the government minister Liam Fox last week. It didn't sound like there was something that they had something ready to go
in case plan A fails.
LIAM FOX, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think thinking about this and what Theresa May and her government ministers might say
about a plan B. If we think about this in the context of this as an extremely complicated negotiation not just because Theresa May's
negotiating with the European Union over the precise terms of this -- of this exit, with this withdrawal agreement or what the future relationship
But because in essence, she's locked into a negotiation with her own party to support her. She's locked into a negotiation with the whole of
parliament in support for the government and the way that she's negotiated this so far.
And in the art of any negotiation -- and I'm really here not trying to dodge your question, but in the art of a negotiation, you really give very,
very little away. And that's been the key trait of Theresa May's negotiation, all along, so far and it's why so many people are criticizing
her because she plays things so close to her chest.
So, does she have a plan B? I think it would be reasonable to think that she does. Do we have a whisper of what it is? I think again, in the
context of I just laid out, that it would be not unreasonable to think that she's not going to let any of that slip.
But what she has been told is, she does have to come up with a plan B by Monday. And I think in her -- on her calculus, what that plan b she will
finally articulate looks like. If it's a shade of plan A or if it's plan A full steam ahead or if it's something utterly different, it's going to be
based a lot, one would imagine, over by how many votes she loses tomorrow night. And that's, again, a calculus that she probably hasn't crossed over
GORANI: Sure. So, the E.U. sends a letter today, Donald Tusk sent a letter trying to be reassuring to those MPs and even Britons who don't like
the idea of an open-ended backstop at the Northern Ireland, Ireland border. It's not legally binding, but, you know, trying to reassure those people
who are unconvinced.
What are -- what are E.U. leaders thinking right now? They don't want a hard Brexit either.
ROBERTSON: They also know that the clock is ticking and the 74 days to when Theresa May has said that Britain will actually exit the European
Union with her deal or without a deal. And they also know that this is a negotiation.
[14:35:07] You know, Theresa May's calculus, it does seem to be that there's perhaps -- there's perhaps a little more to be had and that
calculus is to make it very, very clear there's nothing else to be had.
That Theresa May said today that she recognized that she hadn't been able to get the legal guarantees back in December she said she was going to try
and get from the European Union.
What she got from her own attorney general today was his read and the very first point of his comments on his read of what the European Union has
said, is that this has -- this has legal force internationally. So it falls short of what she set out -- what she set out to get.
So I think in the context of what the E.U. must be thinking at the moment is, how close to the wire can they take it? Is Theresa May really at the
last hurdle? And I think the sense is that in Brussels, they need to sit back and watch what happens here next before they can take that calculation
and what else they might give her or give someone else or push towards another deal.
Again, it's a finely balanced instrument for them. This European negotiation as we've always seen them.
GORANI: All right. 11th hour.
I can't remember, but somebody right after the vote predicted this is going to come down to the 11th hour. It's going to come down to the last few
hours on March 29th before we know what happens on the other side of that. And I think whoever predicted that is -- has been correct so far.
Thanks very much, Nic Robertson, at 10 Downing.
When it comes to Brexit, there's a town in the U.K. We're taking you on a tour of smaller towns today. The town of Basingstoke, which is a unique
reflection of the country as a whole.
In 2016, people there voted exactly the same proportion as the entire country. More than 51 percent voted to leave, about 48 percent voted to
Phil Black is there in Basingstoke, England.
Have there been any -- has anybody changed their minds on Brexit in the last two years that you've been able to speak to in Basingstoke, Phil,
because of the uncertainty and the chaos as the negotiations roll on with the E.U.?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if there is anyone who's had a change of heart here, Hala, we didn't meet them today.
For a lot of people outside of the U.K., they probably never heard of Basingstoke and they probably shouldn't feel too bad about that. Because
it is a relatively comfortable, but pretty average English town, about 90 minutes' drive from London.
It is unremarkable, you could say, I think, without offending too many people here.
And it is that sense of averageness that perhaps explains its relationship with Brexit. As you say, the local results in the referendum mirrored the
national result, 52-48.
And so this is, in many ways, the microcosm. Although the ideas, the feelings, the arguments that have been threshed out across the United
Kingdom over the last two years.
And so speaking to people on the streets here today, well, we heard about fear, we heard about frustrations, we even heard about concern at the
possibility of betrayal.
Here's a taste of what some people have been telling us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's completely messed up by dividing politics.
BLACK: Do you think it should still proceed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BLACK: You voted to leave?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did.
BLACK: Tell me why.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Resentment, a loss of sovereignty, essentially that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd like to see a second referendum so we could have a choice now when people know what the deals possibly could be rather than
just -- and in and out that was before. And I feel for my children and my grandchildren that the economy is going to get worse if we believe the
European Union --
BLACK: When I say Brexit, what's your automatic reaction?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a mistake, we should stay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pray that -- well, it's going to fail probably and then that we get people's vote and have a chance to overturn the referendum
because the people's will two years ago is not necessarily the people's will today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really unfair how -- so say all the people just vote on our behalf, and they've sort of left their mess for us to deal
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: So basically, it is a divided town in a divided country. And there is no sense of those vast differences narrowing.
But despite that, a lot of people, well, they have something in common. Many people here share a very profound sense of disappointment at the
politicians in London and their inability to get this sorted. Hala.
GORANI: All right. Phil Black, thanks very much.
With flags and signs in hand, demonstrators have been making their views known outside of parliament here for weeks now. It's been quiet though, I
have to say. Usually, it's a bit rowdier behind me, but I expect that tomorrow when the vote happens. It'll be party time again behind me.
[14:40:06] But anyway, our Matthew Chance went out and chatted with some of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's ask the people, is this what you really want?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, no issue has divided Britain more than Brexit.
And here, outside the Houses of Parliament, all of those different views are being aired, sometimes very vocally.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Empty promises. Park the bus.
CHANCE: You consent that your rights won't be respected under a Brexit?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the fact is we already have the best possible rights. Any other version of what we have now is inferior. So why would
we be in favor of Brexit?
CHANCE: Because almost 17 million people in the country voted for it. What do you say to do that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. But that wasn't what they were told though at the time. The campaign was based on lies. When people voted in 2016, it
wasn't been offered now. It wasn't been on the side of a bus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We demand a people's vote.
CHANCE: All right. Well, at the moment, the British government is ruling out any moves to stage that kind of people's vote, a second referendum or
any moves to stop Brexit.
Theresa May, the British prime minister, says the best deal is the one that she negotiated with Brussels that she said will deliver Brexit with minimum
damage to the country.
The problem is it's hard to find anyone here who supports that deal. And the same may be true on the floor of the British parliament too.
If there is no delay to Brexit and if Theresa May's deal is rejected in parliament, there's really only one option for the country and that's to
leave without a deal.
Now, some people think that is an absolute catastrophe, would be a worst- case scenario. Other people, though, they quite like the idea. You quite like the idea. You think you have a no deal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do. In fact, it's not a no deal. It's a world trade deal. Going to WTO terms would not be a bad deal for Britain. We're one
of the largest economies on the planet. We literally co-wrote the WTO rules. And to which most of the world trade rights.
CHANCE: What about the fact that it would be disruptive. There's a huge potential for chaos. It could be economically very bad for the country,
shouldn't that give you pause for thought?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I thought about it and I will bet the strength of the British spirit and the British economy into the cold hand
of all this doom saying predictions any day. We're one of the strongest growing economies on earth. We will be fine.
CHANCE: Thank you very much.
Well leave no deal. The Theresa May deal a delay to Brexit. Possibly a second referendum. I guess we'll find out which way this country plans to
go in the days ahead.
Matthew Chance, CNN, outside Parliament.
GORANI: And still to come tonight, they fought alongside U.S. forces, but what will happen to Kurdish troops in Syria when the U.S. pulls out? A
live report from northern Syria when we come back.
[14:45:06] GORANI: Donald Trump has a stern warning for Turkey. Do not attack Kurdish forces who have long been U.S. allies in Syria. He did it
on Twitter as he usually makes big announcements. He tweeted that the U.S. would devastate Turkey economically if the Kurds are attacked.
Turkey responded by saying, some of the Kurds are terrorists and it does not expect the U.S. to choose terrorists as allies. All of this comes as
the U.S. begins withdrawing equipment from northern Syria.
CNN's Clarisse Ward is in northern Syria. She's been speaking to Kurds there who feel that the U.S. has been abandoning them.
Clarissa, tell us what you've been hearing from the ground, from the SDF, from the Arab fighters and the Kurdish-led fighters that have been battling
ISIS for all these months.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, I think it started out with a lot of confusion on December 19th when President
Trump made that announcement on Twitter.
People here were flabbergasted. They knew that the U.S. would leave eventually, but they didn't expect it to happen in this way. They didn't
expect it to happen at this time. They didn't expect it to happen so suddenly.
I think now, people are starting to understand the reality is sinking in. And I also think that most people here felt somewhat reassured by President
Trump's tweet overnight that he told President Erdogan that Turkey would be economically devastated by the U.S. if they tried to do anything to
infringe on the Kurds' security.
But there are still a lot of concerns here, Hala, and also a sense that promises were made and promises need to be kept. Take a look.
WARD (voice-over): In Kobani, the graves of fighters are still fresh. 27- year-old Mahmoud (ph) Rasool was killed less than two weeks ago in an ISIS ambush near the town of Deir ez-Zor.
"Get up, get up, my son, I beg you," his mother Najma weeps. These are the people left behind to mourn. Now, they are bracing for the moment they
will be left behind again as the U.S. begins to withdraw its forces from Syria.
NAJMA RASOOL, MOTHER OF A DECEASED KURDISH FIGHTER (through translator): They got what they wanted. They used the Kurds to get rid of ISIS and now
they're leaving us, Najma says. America was supposed to have our back.
WARD (on camera): Almost every family in this town has lost someone in this war, and the very real fear here now is that when the Americans leave,
there will be war here once again.
WARD (voice-over): Just across the border is Turkey, which views the Syrian Kurds as terrorists. To the west is the brutal regime of Bashar al-
Assad and its Russian and Iranian backers.
Kurdish military commander Sharfan Darwish, tells us the Americans provided the Kurds with a buffer. In return, the Kurds took the fight to ISIS.
SHARFAN DARWISH, KURDISH MILITARY COMMANDER (through translator): After all those years that we fought terrorism together, he says, it's their
minimum duty to help guarantee our security.
WARD: He takes us to the town of Arima where the intricate patchwork of different powers can be seen close up.
So the regime and the Russians are just over there.
And the Turks are over there.
Well, Americans, the Americans?
We drive closer to the joint Russian regime base, but it's too dangerous to stop. Less than five minutes away, the Americans are still flying their
flag. But it won't be there for long. U.S. military hardware is already beginning to move out.
No one knows what comes next for the Kurds. On the road back to Kobani, we happened upon a funeral. Two Kurdish security officers killed by a road
side bomb, a reminder of the daily dangers faced here.
After an exhausting battle against ISIS, the Kurds may now have to defend themselves against more powerful enemies alone.
WARD: The question a lot of people here are asking now, Hala, is what did President Trump mean exactly by this tweet where he talked about this 20-
mile safe zone or buffer zone presumably up against the border, presumably to protect the Kurds?
They're asking, who would be in charge of implementing that? Who would provide security within that? They were very much hoping that this would
be some kind of a de facto no fly zone to protect the Kurds.
[14:50:02] But we've already heard now that President Trump and President Erdogan had a conversation together that President Erdogan says he is in
favor of this buffer zone, that making it pretty clear that Turkey is likely to play some kind of role in it.
Not clear yet what that would look like and how that will go down on the ground here with Kurdish people, Hala.
GORANI: And what about ISIS with the American withdrawal, how likely does that make some sort of ISIS comeback with Kurds left to their own devices?
WARD: Well, this is something that Kurdish military and civilian commanders have all talked about with us during our various interviews.
They've said, listen, don't be -- don't be complacent. ISIS still has sleeper cells in and around a lot of these areas. They do still pose a
And we've seen before, Hala, how groups like ISIS use power vacuums. They take advantage of the lack of security. They take time to reconstitute, to
regroup, to get stronger, and then they launch a comeback. They may be doing it as an insurgents group rather than as a self-declared caliphate.
But they can still pose a threat, they're still here, they're still dangerous, the fight is not over yet.
GORANI: And you were reporting last week that it was American equipment that was starting to leave Syria, not troops yet. When is that meant to
happen? When is that -- what are we expecting actual troops to leave the country?
GORANI: Well, I think -- I think it could start imminently, frankly. The U.S. military has said candidly that they will likely not tell us when
troop withdrawals actually begin for security reasons. We know that some forces will actually be needed to come into the country to try to help move
all of this hardware out. That's going to take some doing. And it can be a dangerous job, which is why they are probably taking the security
precaution of not giving us more information.
We've seen U.S. military convoys out and about. I actually saw some U.S. Special Forces guys around this area today. I tried to talk to them.
Unsurprisingly, Hala, they didn't have any interest in talking to a journalist.
But after President Trump's tweet, it does seem like that withdrawal is going to be happening sooner than the Kurds would have liked to see.
GORANI: All right. Thanks very much. Reporting from northern Syria, our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward. Thanks very much. A lot
of developments there in northern Syria with impact that will ripple throughout the country and beyond.
A lot more after a quick break. We'll continue with our reporting from London. Stay with us.
GORANI: So, here at Westminster, the fate of Brexit is tied up in a political battle. None of the politicians here knows exactly what it will
But many ordinary Britons are just frustrated. They say it's slow, it's all confusing and that the process really isn't clear, at all, for them.
And above all, they're worried about uncertainty in the future. So I traveled outside of London to a town called Staines. It backed leaving the
E.U. And I was -- we were wondering how people there are feeling with so much about Brexit still up in the air. Take a look.
GORANI (voice-over): Unanswered questions hang in the air over Britain like a cloud.
[14:55:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do I need to renew my passport earlier than planned?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well mobile (INAUDIBLE) and change.
GORANI: A government radio campaign reflects the countless unknown remaining ahead of Brexit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You might also have questions about how leaving the E.U. on the 29th of March will affect you.
GORANI: We traveled to the market town of Staines just outside London. Where more than 60 percent of people voted to leave the E.U., among them,
greengrocer Andrew Tate.
What would you tell people who are looking on and thinking, oh, this looks like a giant mess? Why is it such a mess? How would you explain it?
ANDREW TATE, STAINES GREENGROCER: You can't explain it. We won't -- we won't -- we certainly weren't braced for what's gone on in the last two
GORANI: How do you make it less messy?
TATE: You're asking a greengrocer, lady. I think the only way to fix it is to leave Europe. With or without a deal, I don't know.
GORANI: You must buy some of your produce from European countries?
TATE: Ninety-five percent of products come from around the world. It's acceptable to changes as in demand and supply. So we just ride with it.
GORANI: The Bank of England has warned of a massive fall in home values, high unemployment, and the U.K. economy could go into a recession shrinking
eight percent in the aftermath of a no-deal.
But Staines councilor, Denise Saliagopoulos, says that hasn't put people here off the idea.
DENISE SALIAGOPOULOS, STAINES COUNCILOR: I honestly believe, from what I hear on the streets here, people will go with no-deal. They just want to
GORANI: Even though it could be incredibly damaging to business, to industry, to employment, to the town, none of that matters to them?
SALIAGOPOULOS: I think it matters, but I think we have a lot of scare tactics and I just think people are saying, you know what? Get on with it
and we'll worry about it afterwards.
GORANI: For some here who voted to remain, the next few weeks will be a nervous time.
I met Papa (ph) and Daiva Frempong, and their two small children. Daiva is from Lithuania.
GORANI: You have your kids here with you. And I want to ask you, what do you think if Brexit happens, will be the future for your children?
DAIVA FREMPONG, STAINES RESIDENT: Well, it's so uncertain that I just -- I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know if we're going to stay
here or we have to leave.
GORANI: Leave the U.K.?
PAPA FREMPONG, STAINS RESIDENT: Possibly.
D. FREMPONG: Possibly
GORANI: Why would you leave --
D. FREMPONG: Germany --
P. FREMPONG: A place a bit more welcoming. Welcoming. But I don't know. We feel more appreciated.
GORANI: So this could mean a huge change for your family.
P. FREMPONG: Yes, life-impacting.
GORANI: A life-changing few weeks ahead for this family and a history- making few days for politicians back in Westminster.
GORANI: And we will be covering it all tomorrow. I'm Hala Gorani. Thanks for watching tonight. Stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.