Return to Transcripts main page


U.K. Prime Minister Makes Last-Minute Appeal For Her Brexit Deal; Trump Lashes Out At FBI, Denies Russia Reports; Rome Mayor: Money Tossed Into Fountain Will Still Go To Charity. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 15, 2019 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Moment of truth for Theresa May with her Brexit deal being voted on in Parliament, the British prime minister facing a defeat of historic proportions.

The do-over denial for the U.S. president, telling reporters he doesn't and never has worked for the Russians.

And a Canadian man sentenced to death by a court in China for attempted drug smuggling, a tough penalty which some believe is the result of a diplomatic feud between China and (INAUDIBLE).

Hello, I'm John Vause, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: The real question for Theresa May this Tuesday is the margin of defeat for her Brexit plan when it goes before Parliament. If and most likely when it is rejected, Britain could be forced to leave the E.U. at the end of March with no deal.

Others are pushing hard for a second Brexit referendum. Opposition leaders say if the vote fails, Ms. May's government should go with it. But the prime minister is doggedly refusing to budge.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH 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 economy, our security and our union or did we let the British people down?


JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, U.K. LABOUR PARTY: The government is in disarray. It is clear. If the prime minister's deal is rejected tomorrow, it is time for a general election. It is time for a new government.


VAUSE: CNN business reporter Hadas Gold live outside Number 10 Downing Street.

So Hadas, the British prime minister made a last-ditch appeal to lawmakers on Monday. It could be worse and do you really want Jeremy Corbyn as your next prime minister?

Neither would be the case.

Is there any indication she won any last-minute support?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In short, there were maybe five or so MPs who were going to vote against the deal and then switched. But those numbers don't add up to the numbers she needs.

She needs 320 members to vote for her deal and right now estimates are that she will lose 100-200. That will be the margin of difference. In short, we're just 12 hours away from what will likely be a crushing effect for Theresa May and her deal. It doesn't seem as though there's a consensus for her deal or for any other path forward.

So the question now in London is not so much will she lose but what does Ms. May do next?

And what do the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn and the other Brexiteers do in the coming hours and days after the vote is defeated?

VAUSE: Essentially one of the options here, if the Brexit plan is voted down, what can Theresa May do in a really big crushing defeat?

GOLD: There are a few things that will likely happen the moment that deal is defeated in Parliament tonight.

First of all, due to a recent amendment passed, Theresa May actually has just three days to come back to Parliament with a new deal. That means by Monday, we may see another vote on a new deal. She will likely go to Brussels and try to get some extra concessions over things like the Irish border, the backstop, in order to win over some members of the Parliament.

But at the same time, we will see a lot of action from Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, who have said that they are likely to table a no-confidence vote in Theresa May and the Conservative Party as soon as the Brexit deal is defeated.

But it is not clear whether Jeremy Corbyn has the numbers to defeat Theresa May or her government. There's a feeling that some in Parliament are trying to wrest some more control over the process, out of Theresa May, including some plans we've seen that show that Parliament may try to negotiate a new deal instead of Theresa May.

Theresa May and the government has warned against this, saying it would upend years of how the government works in United Kingdom. But we're really in uncharted territory and it's not clear what the next steps will be after the vote tonight.

VAUSE: Hadas, thank you, you have a very busy day ahead. We will be checking in with you for the next couple of hours.

GOLD: I do.

VAUSE: Thank you.

To Los Angeles now and CNN's European affairs commentator, Dominic Thomas.

The big question now is the margin of defeat. Some suggest that if Theresa May and her Brexit deal --


VAUSE: -- goes down by 70 votes or fewer, maybe they live to fight another day. More than 100 votes, it is game over.

So explain the math here?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, John, you are absolutely right. I think the math is the very fact we are talking about how bad the defeat is absolutely absurd. One has to wonder why Theresa May would even go ahead with this vote tomorrow.

In December, she was able to postpone it. This time around, though, it is unlikely the Houses of Parliament will have the appetite for the delay in this and should she not make the vote through, should the numbers not be there for her, the next option is plan B. And we know she doesn't have a plan B and the European Union has essentially foreclosed further discussions over this question.

Right now, if you just take -- if the Labour Party were to be all-out for her, add in the Liberal Democrats and the Brexiteers, the question is when she faced a vote of no confidence in December, 100 people within her party did not support her.

Will those people go ahead on this vote?

When that happens, the question is, and I think the main word that will emerge out of tomorrow is the word extension.

Where do we go from here and will the European Union allow the U.K. to extend this discussion?

Legally, it is about the only way one can move forward on this without revoking Article 50.

VAUSE: If a no-deal Brexit means economic pain for Britain and Europe, parts of Europe are on the brink of a recession.

So does that mean it is a little more likely that the E.U. will give Theresa May some breathing space here to continue on, especially if that margin isn't as bad as some predict, within that 70 vote range?

Maybe there is a chance of winning a few other MPs over?

THOMAS: Right, well, I think there are a couple of things. First of all, whether one likes this or not, the fact remains that the Conservatives control Parliament at the moment along with their 10 votes from the DUP, which means they can do all sorts of things in terms of delaying action as long as possible because nothing can be put through Parliament that they themselves don't support.

So they do control in that particular regard. When it comes to the European Union, this is talking about the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration.

When we get beyond that, should Brexit be triggered?

We have a whole process of discussing among the 27 countries some type of trade agreement. The basic thing as far as the European Union is concerned right now is that there are 27 countries signed off on this withdrawal agreement, this declaration.

The European Union, one could argue, is united over this. It is back in the U.K. but both the Labour Party and Conservative Party cannot reach any kind of consensus. The problem is not with the European Union.

And I don't see any reason why the European Union should compromise its fundamental values and its integrity -- the question of integrity has been so important territorially in the U.K. -- in order to satisfy not just U.K. but, let's face it, the Brexiteers pushing for a hard version of the Brexit that will extricate them from the European Union.

And there is no reason why the European Union should make any kind of concession over the Irish border. You leave the European Union, a border must go up. Unless you remain in the customs union and the single market, it is as simple as that. So I don't see what the European Union can do to satisfy any kind of a negotiation here as they go forward.

VAUSE: You raise that issue; the British prime minister talking about the exchange of letters with senior E.U. officials. She is very proud of this, this is a great achievement, talking about this backstop with Ireland.

But at the end of the day, there is no guarantee here that they would actually ever get out of the backstop arrangement and exit that customs union. Here is the one line that is sticking with many in Britain. This is from the E.U.

"As you know, we are not in a position to agree to anything that changes or is inconsistent with the withdrawal agreement." In other words, you can say whatever you want, the reality is there are no legal guarantees that a trade deal will be done.

THOMPSON: No, absolutely and you can imagine if you get to Brexit, what the next few years will be like, what the transition period will be like. One of the reasons why the European Union does not want to revisit the withdrawal agreement or the political declaration is it could potentially open up all sorts of other requests from the 27 members.

We saw this happen with Spain over Gibraltar. We saw this over fishing rights and with the French. One of the things that is interesting for tomorrow is if Jeremy Corbyn decides to propose a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty's government and potentially wins that vote, which is a straight up and --


THOMAS: -- down vote -- you need a majority in the Parliament for that to go about -- that does not immediately trigger a general election.

The Conservative Party then has a 14-day window, opportunity, to return with a new government even with a new leader and propose that to the Houses of Parliament. But furthermore, even if they successfully supported a general election, these things don't happen overnight.

There are rules and regulations in place and for any of this to take place, an extension must be provided for by the European Union or, quite simply, the U.K. will be leaving on March 29th. There is no other mechanism. These are now inscribed into law, both in the U.K. and the European Union.

VAUSE: You wonder about the parliamentary rules here which control by the Conservatives as the government in power. So this is shaping up as a huge constitutional test for the country, which has no written constitution.

So there is part of a "Wall Street Journal" report, saying, "Assuming Ms. May loses on Tuesday, a battle between her minority government and Parliament will ensue to take control of the Brexit process, with each side seeking to exploit obscure rules of parliamentary procedure that form part of Britain's constitution, which has never been codified."

If you look at what's happening or will happen in the coming days, this -- what started as a referendum two years ago is now shaping the country in a major challenge to areas of this country and to parts of the fabric of its society. This is the law of unintended consequences writ large.

THOMAS: Yes, but the 2007 Parliaments Act that revisited the question of elections, setting a 5-year boundary between different elections unless a vote of no confidence is provided in Her Majesty's government and then it has to be followed up by a vote of confidence or of no confidence 14 days later, has in fact inscribed certain rules and regulations.

You're absolutely right. There is so much uncertainty, that as we go along with Brexit, we must never forget that this has never been done before. So not only did we go into Brexit with the word itself being Googled the next day on the Internet or being the most searched word on the Internet and no one knew what it was about, people are a lot more informed about what Brexit is today, which is why the arguments for a second referendum are often so compelling.

But after that, every single day brings new twists and turns in this particular process, compelling people to look at loopholes, legal possibilities and so on and so forth as we navigate this uncharted territory.

So a new day is upon us in the U.K. And it is going to be very interesting to see how this develops. I would say, if anything, we will have a better idea by the end of tomorrow as to where we stand on this than we maybe do now and that is probably an improvement.

VAUSE: The Brexit rabbit hole is long and deep. It goes on forever. Dominic Thomas, we'll talk again next hour. Thank you for being with us.

THOMAS: Thank you.

VAUSE: Please stay with CNN with special Brexit coverage all day long, for hours after that vote. Live reports from London, Brussels and worldwide on the impact of this parliamentary vote on a historic day.

We head now to the United States where on a Monday afternoon, the President of the United States had to deny working for a hostile foreign power.


TRUMP: 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 is a disgrace that you even ask that question because it is a whole big fat hoax. It is just a hoax.


VAUSE: This comes after a weekend filled with sensational allegations, among them Mr. Trump's behavior was so worrisome after he fired FBI director James Comey that the FBI looked into whether he was in fact working on behalf of Russia.

And now this. CNN spoke with a source who said Mr. Trump went to extraordinarily lengths to conceal details of his meetings with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

So how far did he go?

As first reported by "The Washington Post," Donald Trump even took his interpreter's notes, according to "The Post," swore the interpreter to secrecy.

For more now we're joined by CNN contributor and former Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty.

So Jill, as it turns out, if the president is in fact working for the Russians or, as it happens, he is not working for the Russians, the end result here seems to be the same, it is a win for Moscow and a win for Vladimir Putin.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you are right, John, there's no question. The fact that we're even discussing something like this is monumental and mindboggling. Even asking the question, even discussing something like this, it is something that we never would have contemplated.

So where does that leave it?


DOUGHERTY: -- Today I was trying to figure out, where are we with the Russians right now?

I was reading some of the Russian commentary on various sites, some in Russian, some in English, one in Russian, on this news site and they went through this litany. They said well, look what happened to Syria. It is not even clear who is running the United States right now. Bolton is saying one thing, the president is saying another, then they take a dig at Trump, saying he is famous for his explosive temperament.

And they finally end up by saying all of this is going to put the rest of the world will only benefit from this confrontation between what they say is the deep state and Donald Trump.

They are right. Right now, the United States is being weakened by all of this in a serious fashion.

VAUSE: So would you say the overall tone of the reporting, is it ridicule, is it joyous, is there scorn?

How would you describe how it is being reported?

DOUGHERTY: It is all of that. I think, on the official level, it still is. This is so ridiculous, we can't even talk about it, to think we colluded with the United States with Donald Trump -- this is the Russians speaking -- is ridiculous. We can't even justify talking about this.

So there's constant denial but that was going on a couple of years ago. But then when you get down further into these stories, I think what is interesting is the scorn for Trump -- and you say why would they scorn the person they obviously liked in the election?

But I think they realize there is chaos. So in a kind of flipping of the situation, Russia can take advantage of that by saying, look at the United States, it is going crazy, why should anyone ever believe the United States could be a beacon of hope for democracy?

It is a joke, they are a mess. So they get -- it is like a two-fer or maybe a five-fer because they get to benefit from all of this. And then they listen to some of the things President Trump has been saying. The most recent is a repetition of -- according to "The New York Times," a repetition of his threat or idea to pull out of NATO. That would be just what Russia and what President Putin would want.

So on every level, no matter which way you play it, it is really bad.

VAUSE: Yes, it's an incredible development; it's been an incredible couple of days just here in the United States and now around the world, especially in Moscow. Jill, thank you very much, we will see you next hour. Appreciate it.

DOUGHERTY: Thank you.

VAUSE: Coming up next, when is a piece of mail not just an ordinary piece of mail?

Well, when it is sent from the president of the United States to the leader of North Korea. We'll tell you what it could all mean in a moment.

Also ahead, a sentence of death for a drug smuggler, a Canadian man who may face the ultimate punishment because in party of his country's strained relationship with China. We'll be live in Beijing for the very latest.





VAUSE: A move towards a second North Korea-U.S. summit is picking up pace. One sources says a letter was President Trump was flown to Pyongyang and then hand delivered to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last weekend. The source says North Korea's former spy chief and top negotiator could visit Washington this week to finalize details of that meeting.

For more now CNN's Will Ripley joins us live from Tokyo.

Will, how significant can this be if Kim Yong-chol, the former spy chief, turns up in the United States and not just the U.S. but in Washington to finalize these details?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, remember, John, it was back at the beginning of June of last year when Kim Yong-chol first flew to New York and met with secretary of state Mike Pompeo and then went to Washington and met with Trump at the White House and handed over that big envelope from Kim Jong-un.

Days later, the summit happened in Singapore for the historic first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and the North Korean leader.

So the fact that Kim Yong-chol could be traveling to Washington this week does indicate that progress is moving forward quickly and my sources tell me we can likely see a second summit occur perhaps the end of this month or next month.

Of course all of that can change. We've seen in the past announcements to cancel. But it does clearly show there is momentum on the U.S. and the North Korean side in arranging this second summit.

Now what we don't know is if there is any agreement on what, if any, preconditions both sides are willing to meet in terms of denuclearization. It is hard to believe that Trump and Kim would agree to meet, whether in Hanoi or Bangkok or any of the other locations being floated around, if they have not come to a decision on what each side is willing to give here.

It is a disclosure of North Korea's arsenal, could broker North Korea take some steps toward denuclearization, a change for the U.S. easing some sanctions. Both sides are so far apart on the issues, have they made any progress?

Those are the things we don't know but we do know the two sides have been exchanging letters and we know this letter from President Trump was actually flown to Pyongyang and hand delivered over the weekend -- John.

VAUSE: Do we know if, this time around, they've sorted out a lot of the details, has there been much groundwork ahead of the second summit?

Ensure that some of the more serious details will now before these two leaders meet?

Unless they do that, we just have a repeat of that first summit in Singapore, which kind of really achieved nothing.

RIPLEY: Well, there was a statement that both sides walked away from it thinking the other had agreed to something that they didn't. The North Koreans clearly want economic relief and they event want a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War. The Americans want North Korea to take some sort of tangible step to give up nukes. But the North Koreans say they will not give up their weapons unless they get something in return to help build confidence with the United States.

So both sides will have to soften the hardline stance, you would imagine, to at least have the second meeting even take place. We also expect that shortly after this second meeting between Trump and Kim, that the North Korean leader could, if things go well, make an historic first trip to Seoul, South Korea, the first time a North Korean leader has done that.

But there is a lot riding on these talks and at this stage we don't know what the two sides have actually agreed to, if anything, or if they are counting on the fact that Trump and Kim will get into a room, continue to get along, as they apparently did in Singapore, and then sign something that they can both feel good about.

I do know this. The North Koreans feel that there is no one else in the United States that they think they can get a good deal with other than President Trump. They found Pompeo to be very difficult to work with. Pompeo found Kim Yong-chol very difficult to work with.

There was that disastrous trip to Pyongyang over the summer, where Pompeo left and a couple of hours later he was being blasted in North Korean state media for making gangster-like demands. Nobody wants to see a repeat of that because there will be a lot of egg on people's faces if both the U.S. and North Korea, if the two leaders meet and walk away with nothing.

VAUSE: OK, Will, thank you, live in Tokyo.


VAUSE: A Chinese court has sentenced a Canadian man to death in a case of drug trafficking which is said to further strain the diplomatic relationships between two countries. Robert Schellenberg was found guilty of trying to smuggle more than 200 kilograms of meth into Australia.

He has 10 days to appeal. This comes as China protests Canada's arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou. Canada has accused the CFO of Huawei of violating sanctions against Iran.

For more, CNN's Steven Jiang is live in Beijing.

Steven, is seems someone's lawyer may be planning to appeal. The other success in the Chinese court when it comes to allegations of drugs and smuggling are always pretty long odds. They get even longer I guess in the current state of relations between China and Canada.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: That's right, and given the current state of relations between these two countries, it is probably not surprising to see this verdict. It is such a highly politicized case, despite the Chinese government's denial.

And that is also why the Canadian government has also reacted very quickly and strongly to this news. Here is what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had to say.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all of our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply death penalty in cases facing -- as in this case facing a Canadian.


JIANG: And the keyword here is arbitrarily because what stands out in the case is a timeline. Schellenberg was actually arrested back in December 2014 and it took almost four years for the Chinese court to hand down his first conviction as an accessory to drug smuggling and a sentence of 15 years in prison.

But after he appealed that decision last November, all of a sudden, his case appears to have been fast-tracked.

He had an appeal hearing, during which the court sided with the prosecution, who says they have uncovered new evidence against him to prove he was a principal offender, not just an accessory.

And two weeks later, he stood a new trial yesterday and was quickly convicted and sentenced to death. So a lot of people pointing to the December 1st arrest of Meng Wanzhou in Canada as behind all of this.

John, this is a country where the ruling Communist Party is in absolute control of the judicial system. And officials and state media have been warning all along that Canada would face serious consequences.

So with this latest conviction, people say this is Beijing's clearest and strongest warning yet to Ottawa as officials here continue to ramp up the pressure over the Canadian government to release Meng Wanzhou.

VAUSE: OK, Steven Jiang, thanks, live in Beijing.

New details are emerging in the horrific abduction of 13-year-old Jayme Closs and the murder of her parents. The suspect told Wisconsin investigators he first saw Jayme boarding a school bus and knew she was the girl he was going to take.

Jayme said he showed up at her house last October, shot her father while she hid with her mother in a bathtub. Her mother was also killed. Jayme spent almost three months in captivity before escaping last week. These are exclusive pictures from the "Daily Mail" of the house where she was held.

The suspect has confessed to kidnapping the 13-year old and killing both of her parents and was formally charged on Monday.

We'll take a short break. Not every day does a sitting president go out and publicly deny he is not a criminal and an asset. And it took two days and two attempts for Donald Trump to actually deny the allegation, more on that in a moment.


[00:30:00] VAUSE: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, I'm John Vause, with the headlines this hour.

British Prime Minister Theresa May urging lawmakers to take a second look at her Brexit deal with the E.U. Parliament is expected to reject the proposal when it votes in the coming day. Opposition Jeremy Corbyn says if the deal does not pass, time for a new government.

Poland is mourning the death of the Mayor Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz was stabbed in front of thousands of people at a charity event on Sunday. The 27-year-old suspect is in custody. Authorities say his criminal record including bank robbery and that he blamed the man and his party for being sent to prison.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he never worked for Russia. This comes after some bombshell new reporting about his unusual dealings with Moscow. Mr. Trump calls the investigation a big fat hoax and blasts the FBI for being known scandals and dirty cops.

For more on this, let's go to Ron Brownstein, Senior Editor at the Atlantic and also CNN Senior Political Analyst, boy, oh, boy, Ron, what a couple of days this has been. And just think that at the moment, this seems to be an incredible moment, in history, when a sitting U.S. president publicly declares he is not working for the Russians.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I am not a crook, by Richard Nixon, is now joined by, I am not a spy or I am not a Soviet asset by Donald Trump. And, of course, it is one of those moments where whatever is said in response is less remarkable than the question is asked in the first place, and of course, we have further, you know --

Tonight, with the New York Times reporting that the President has repeatedly pressed senior administration officials about the possibility of the U.S. exiting NATO, which would be certainly the most disruptive thing, I believe, that President Trump could do to undermine the western alliance including Vladimir Putin's goals on the world.

All of this is just taking us deeper and deeper into uncharted waters where I think that, you know, the country is asking questions. So, there is no proof, you know, on all of these questions yet, but the fact the questions are asked is just an extraordinary moment in the history of the century.

VAUSE: Yes, Hillary Clinton tweeted out a few hours ago, like I said: A puppet. As a reminder, she accused Donald Trump of being a Putin puppet during the presidential debate in 2016. Not the first time Secretary Clinton has, you know, essentially declared what is essentially, you know, I told you so. But, you know, what does that do, right now, for this debate?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think, you know, where we are, is the trenches around Donald Trump are dug -- are dug pretty deep, right? I mean, his approval rating has never exceeded 45 percent. And you look at something like the government shutdown that we're in now, over his border wall.

In the exit poll, John, on the day he was elected, 41 percent of the country supported the border wall. The President, for two years, where the (INAUDIBLE) you know, all of the arguments have been able to (INAUDIBLE) and an appalling on the border wall phase, somewhere between 39 percent and 43 percent, now he 39 in CNN, up to 43 in Quinnipiac, essentially no movement at all.

He has -- he is a president who is unique in his lack of focus or interest in being president of the whole country or even half the country, he is (INAUDIBLE) speaking to what he considers his Republican base, and that is kind of where it leads us, which is ultimately, if there is going to be more serious questioning of his behavior, certainly the House is going to, you know, begin subpoenas and investigations and hearings.

But on many fronts, starting with the government shutdown, it really is up to the Republican Party to see if this is the direction they want to continue going in.

VAUSE: I just want -- how long will the Republican Party be essentially hostage to, you know, there's small minority of the country whether it's, you know, 30 percent or 40 percent, relatively small, I guess, you know, that believes Donald Trump will be the 5th president on Mount Rushmore or, you know, the rest of the country that believes he will be the third president to be impeached. When does that balance tilt?

BROWNSTEIN: It's a great question. And look, I mean, you know, we saw in the last election the price of a presidency that is aimed solely at the preferences and really the resentments of a minority of the country (INAUDIBLE) 40 seats in the House, the most since Watergate.

[00:35:17] They won the popular vote by bigger margins and Republicans did in their landslides at 2010 or 1994, in fact, in (INAUDIBLE) they won it by the biggest margin ever, in a midterm election, but, and here is the big but, you know --

There are parts of the country where the President is much more popular in Red states, interior states that are so predominantly white, heavily Christian, really untouched by the economic and demographic changes, remaking America. And that is the core of the Republicans' strength in the Senate.

I mean, just look at immigration, for example, we're fighting about this border wall, the 20 states with the most immigrants. Republicans had only 8 of the 40 senators, I mean, their senators are, you know, from these states where kind of Trump-ism has more strength.

And so, the one -- the Republicans who are kind of on the outside of that, the people who are in swing states, like Cory Gardner in Colorado or Susan Collins in Maine, or even Martha McSally in Arizona, are sitting there with very little leverage at the moment, and their willingness even to use the leverage that they have.

And so, I think the question really has to be -- yes, there is a chunk of the Republican Party is perfectly comfortable in this direction because it plays in the place that they are, but that is a distinct minority of the overall country, and when do the Republicans were most exposed by almost everything about the Trump administration really crystalized in this shutdown over the wall, when do they begin to get more rested.

VAUSE: And there is also that part of the Trump base which, you know, agrees with the President when he goes on the attack, and he lashes out at the FBI. That's been a familiar pattern from this president when, sort of, confronted by these allegations, and he did it again on Monday. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people doing that investigation were people that have been caught that are known scoundrels. They're -- I guess, you could say, they are dirty cops.


VAUSE: You know, it has worked before in the past, could still be effective because he's part of Tuesday's editorial in the Wall Street Journal, which rides at (INAUDIBLE) in the New York Times, did confirm that senior officials in the FBI were in need of adult supervision. Think about the implications of this for one minute. Senior FBI officials decided to investigate Mr. Trump because the President had fired their boss.

You know, the report in Times details a lot on that.


VAUSE: But, you know, clearly, the President still has his supporters, and it's not just in this, sort of, you know, blue collar areas, it --


VAUSE: He had exposed, as you're saying, on Capitol Hill and, you know, within the conservative media.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, certainly in a conservative media, you know, Trump, in many ways, is the culmination of the arguments that FOX is making, at least, since B ill Clinton, certainly since Barack Obama, in terms of trying to shift the focus of the Republican Party from economic issues, at least, as a selling point to one about cultural issues, about, you know, kind of this idea of defending American culture, against all the forces demographic and cultural that are allegedly trying to undermine what the country has historically been.

So, they have a big investment in proving that this strategy works and then, you have a lot of Republicans who say look, they might be gnashing their teeth or biting their lips about the way Trump talks about race, some of them, the way he talks about women, certainly the way he talks about law enforcement.

But they are getting a lot of things that they want, Supreme Court justices, lower court justices, tax cuts, undermining climate plans, et cetera, out of the fact that he, unlike Mitt Romney, unlike John McCain, he is the one who picked the electoral college lock and figured out a way to give him the power to get all of this done.

And that kind of coalition between the parts of the Republican Party that liked this kind of cultural antagonism and the others who tolerated as the price of getting what they want, keeps him in the game. But it is pretty clear it is not a majority of the country, the polling could not be more clear, in terms of the shutdown or the wall that he is playing on the short side of the field.

And it isn't -- even with the, kind of, the geographic distribution of the response to that, it remains an open question, can a party sustain itself, aiming its agenda, essentially at the priorities and resentments of something like 44 percent of the country.

VAUSE: Yes, and what we're thinking right now with the government shutdown, as a result of this (INAUDIBLE) for the border wall. Majority of Americans blamed the President for the shutdown, and that wasn't helped when a senior White House say, basically described this is a win-win for federal workers because they're all on extra vacation days. But, Ron, thank you, as always. Good to see you.

BROWNSTEIN: John, thank you.

VAUSE: Well, legend has it, if you toss a coin into Rome's Trevi Fountain, you'll return to the city one day, but, what about the bunny? Where does that go? And that recently set up a fairly big controversy, details in a moment.



VAUSE: Forget Three Coins in a Fountain, how about more than $1-1/2 million a year? When you're talking that sort of money, then, naturally it seems, almost certainly a legal dispute will follow. And this is all over the fabled Trevi Fountain in Rome. And as CNN's Barbie Nadeau reports, that legal dispute has now being settled.


BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Every year, millions of tourists sit on the edge of the Trevi Fountain in Central Rome, and throw coins over their shoulders into the water. These coins have meaning, based on the 1954 film, Three Coins in a Fountain. One coin symbolizes their return to Rome, two coins means they'll fall in love with the Rome, and three coins, apparently ensures that they'll marry that Roman.

But all of these coins add up to a vast sum of money, around $1.7 million every year. In 2001, those proceeds started going to the Catholic charity, Caritas that takes care of homeless people and the poor in the city. In December, Rome city council passed a directive that said they would start counting, collecting and determining where that money was going, would no longer go to the Catholic charities.

Over the weekend, such an outcry ensue that Rome's popular mayor, Virginia Raggi, turned an about face on Monday, and said yes, in fact, the coins will continue to go to the Catholic charity. And in fact, all of the coins from all of the fountains in Rome will now go to the Catholic Church. None of them will stay in Rome's coffers.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, for CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us for "WORLD SPORT" with Kate Riley, as we leave you some images from Arizona, of a highway turned into a river of chocolate. That's what happens when 13,000 liters of liquid chocolate flows uncontrollably, enough to make up, what, millions and millions of those Hershey Kisses. You're watching CNN.


[00:45:00] (WORLD SPORT)