Return to Transcripts main page


Venezuela Braces for More Mass Protests against Maduro; Inflation, U.S. and Russia on Opposite Sides of Venezuela Struggle; Parliament Gives May Backing to Renegotiate Irish Backstop; U.S.-China Trade Talks Resume amid Huawei Charges; Venezuela Opposition Leader Speaks with Trump; Trump Slams U.S. Intel Chiefs after They Contradict Him; Ex-Army Chief Kicks off Campaign to Unseat Netanyahu; EU Rules out New Withdrawal Negotiations; Extreme Cold Blast Northern U.S. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired January 30, 2019 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN HOST: Hello, welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones live from London for you.

We begin the program in a nation hoping for change but bracing for violence. Massive street protests are expected to get under way in the

coming hours across Venezuela. The opposition leader, Juan Guaido, called for the protests that started last week to continue today in an effort to

push President Nicolas Maduro from power. Guaido has declared himself interim president to the country but says he wants a transitional

government and fresh elections.

Mr. Maduro meanwhile told Russian state news he is willing to meet with the opposition, but he's ruled out new elections until 2025. Maduro himself

was re-elected last year but the United States and more than a dozen other countries do not recognize his presidency as legitimate. Now, we have

multiple reporters covering this story for you. Journalist Stefano Pozzebon is in Caracas where the protests are about to start. Good to see

you. CNN's Nick Payton Walsh also in neighboring Columbia. Nick spent the past week undercover in Venezuela with members of the opposition. We also

have CNN's Fred Pleitgen. Fred's in Moscow. And Russia has, of course, has been President Maduro's closest ally through all of this.

So Stefano, let's come to you first, the epicenter of all of this in the Venezuelan capital. Protests have been called for today. What's the mood

in the capital right now?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: OK, they're doing it right now.

JONES: I think we are having a few technical problems speaking to Stefano, he is obviously in Caracas, in the Venezuelan capital at the moment. Nick

Peyton Walsh is in neighboring Columbia for us. He has, as I just said in the introduction, he has spent the last week undercover in Venezuela as

well. And Nick, question to you, there have been a number of moves now by Venezuelan state institutions to clamp down on the self-declared interim-

president, Juan Guaido, the opposition leader. And this all comes at a time when international allies have come to his aid as well. What are the

current restrictions on Mr. Guaido?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's been told by the Attorney General of Venezuela that his bank account is frozen, he can't

leave the country. They say they are investigating him, but I got to point out here, they stopped short of calling for his arrest. Remember this is a

man who has sworn himself in, in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands under what he says is the appropriate legislation as the interim president

of the country. He could have a more basic challenge to the power of the Maduro government. But they did try just over a week or so ago to arrest

him, but he was quickly released. In fact the Maduro government saying the whole thing had been a misunderstanding and I think that shows you really

the contradiction here, on Guaido, clearly enjoys a lot of popular support and we'll see on the streets moving forward exactly how that translates

into protest size this afternoon.

But he has an enormous impediment inside the country. Just a reality check here. He isn't running the country. He doesn't his hands on the levers of

power at this point. He has a lot of people supporting him. But he can't get money in, obviously, his bank accounts have been frozen. He does have

access to some of the Venezuelan state assets that the U.S. have frozen, they deemed him the person with the power over that money. And that could

have a massive impact down the line, as the Maduro government begins to run out of cash, and therefore can no longer buy the loyalty of the elite

around it. But they still control the borders, the army, the police, the state institutions, so he has a lot of international support.

He's just tweeted his appreciation to Donald Trump today. Who said that the Maduro government was willing to talk to the opposition. That's not

new. That's been the case for a number of weeks. But also advised Americans not to travel to Venezuela. Well, I should also say that it's

been State Department advice for quite some time.

But were reaching a moment here where I think we'll learn in the next few days exactly what the next steps are. Juan Guaido is trying to act like he

is an alternative government. Practically, I think that's incredibly difficult. But the basic challenge is for ordinary Venezuelans on the

streets, what really, I think is fueling these protest. You saw Stefano there, you know, simple mobile phone connections almost impossible in some

areas. It does get worse when it comes to try to feed yourself, there's hyperinflation. So we talk about this in terms of geopolitics, of

Washington support for Guaido, and Moscow's undying support for the Maduro government.

And people standing on the streets there today, the real question is, what am I going to eat tonight -- Hannah.

JONES: Yes, Nick thanks very much. Standby for us. You were just talking there about the telecommunications problems within Venezuela at the moment.

[10:05:00] We are going to try and re-establish that connection with Stefano Pozzebon, who's standing for us in Caracas right now. Stefano, if

you can hear me, just explain the mood right now in the Venezuelan capital.

POZZEBON: Well, the mood here in Caracas is from one side, there's a lot of expectations about today's protest, about next Saturday's protest, about

what is happening in the country. The first time in years that the opposition has a clear path, and real shot at in taking Maduro out of power

and taking Maduro out of government. But at the same time, there is a lot of worrying here in Caracas because of what happened yesterday, with oil

sanctions against the giant oil company here in Venezuela, PDVSA.

Today, we were out on the street, and we filmed with scores of cars trying to fill up their tank, as long as they can. Because the feeling is that

next week, they may not even be able to fill up the tank. And it is country where you have difficulty of feeding yourself, you have difficulty

finding medicines, and yet, with yet another difficulties in terms of transportation, finding petrol will become even more, even more difficult.

And will add to further pressure on Nicolas Maduro to open a negotiating table and to try a way out of the stalemate. Back to you.

JONES: Stefano, thanks very much indeed. And for talking through those telecommunications problems.

Fred Pleitgen is standing by for us in Moscow now. Russia, of course, is a big player in what is going none Venezuela. And we know, Fred, that

Nicolas Maduro, the current president at least on Venezuela has very much turned to Russia and its state media as well to be its sort of mouthpiece.

And just explain for our viewers then what is Russia's vested interest in Venezuela right now?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they have a massive vested interest, Hannah. They have big economic relations with

the Maduro government, certainly some oil deals very much going on. So the Russians really very much in the corner of Nicolas Maduro.

Also if you look back to late last year, the Russians even flew two strategic bombers to Venezuela, and want to expand military cooperation as

well. There is a lot of contact between Vladimir Putin and Nicolas Maduro. And the Russians have stated again and again that they are firmly in his

corner. Now they even say, Vladimir Putin has said in the past that they believe that the protests that have been going on in Venezuela have been

induced from the outside. Obviously, them very much blaming the United States. Nicolas Maduro in that interview that he gave today to RIA -- one

of the state-run news agencies here in Russia -- essentially saying the same thing. Let's listen in to what he had to say.


NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have Russia's full support at every level. And we welcome it gladly. And very

gratefully. What did I ask President Putin? To stay in permanent contact.


PLEITGEN: So there you have Nicolas Maduro talking about the fact that he has those close relation, that close relationship with Vladimir Putin.

Also I think quite interesting to see the video of that interview, the informal setting that it happened in. Obviously, him just sitting there at

his desk. Interesting also from that interview -- at least the part that he gave to RIA -- was that he also said that he believed that President

Trump was trying to kill him. And he said that he was trying to do that in conjunction with the authorities of the neighboring country of Columbia.

And that he blamed President Trump and said they would be accountable if something happens to him.

So certainly, you can see the stakes are very high. And one of the things that we see here in Moscow is that the Russians, just very, very much in

the corner of Nicolas Maduro, being very critical of the United States. And even saying that they believe that what is happening right now is

happening there, because the U.S. is essentially meddling in Venezuelan affairs -- Hannah.

JONES: Fred, thanks very much. Let's get back to Nick Payton Walsh who is in Columbia for us. Nick has spent the last week or so undercover in

Venezuela as well.

Nick, from your perspective, now that we hear all this talk that perhaps Maduro might be willing to hold negotiations with the opposition, there are

still mutterings of foreign intervention, military or otherwise. How do you see this playing out, particularly if we see the people, protests on

the street today?

WALSH: I don't know about the negotiations, he said we do that. The charge d'affaires representing the Venezuelan opposition, recognized by

the U.S. administration in Washington said, they are not interested in Maduro. But Maduro's caveat is, I'm not having new elections, I'm still

the president essentially.

The one key thing here is, who's president is not really up for discussion. So I think we can park the idea of a negotiated settlement to some degree

to one side. So the question really is when does the clock that's ticking, clearly in Nicolas Maduro's head tier telling him he is running out of

money. Now we don't see a sign of that immediately but it's essential for him keeping a grip on the military. The generals there seem to have their

subordinates under control, or certainly fearful of an uprising at this point. And also, the elite around him too. When that runs out, he's

really in trouble.

The other question is what happens on the streets right now.

[10:10:00] Now the protests we saw on the 23rd of January, they were peaceful, frankly. They were polite. They were angry, yes, but turned up

for a few hours, expressed their support of Juan Guaido. Watched him swear himself in, Swear in fact, alongside him symbolically too. But they went

home after a few hours.

Do they stay out longer today? Do they match the size and crowd? I have to say there's always a risk of violence or bloodshed or even crushes when

it comes to these number of people, without crowd control in an area like that. Everybody will be hoping to avoid that today. And I should point

out, we saw no attempt by the Maduro government last week, to be violent towards the peaceful massive protesters that were listening to Juan Guaido

swear himself in.

The clashes occurred at the edge of the protest near a military base where some youthful protests threw stones and a sort of standoff has been going

on frankly for months now. So we have to wait and see how these protests play out, the numbers on the street. And also, too, you're going to be

calculating if you're a Maduro supporter --

JONES: And it looks like we have just lost our connection there to Nick. Nick's in Columbia for us. But my thanks to awful our team, to Fred, Nick,

and Stefano as well.

Let's move on now to a different story. And a crisis over a rather different kind. The U.K. is facing its own chaotic cross-roads, as it

asks what is the next step for Brexit. For its part, Parliament is backing a new plan by Prime Minister Theresa May to return to Brussels to get

concessions on her divorce agreement. But Europe's leaders maintain it is a done deal and cannot be renegotiated or even reopened.

Before she even faces Brussels, Mrs. May is set to meet with the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn this hour. She'll also telephone European

Council President Donald Tusk and, of course, her Irish counterpart as well, to discuss the crucial sticking point of the Irish backstop.

Now, let's get over to two of the major hubs in this Brexit debate, Phil Black is live on Downing Street for us here in London. Erin McLaughlin is

in Brussels, which is of course the de facto heart of the European Union.

Phil, to you first. It was a win of sorts at least for the Prime Minister last night. She says she is going to go back to Brussels with alternative

arrangements to the backstop. Has she been able to give at least Parliament today any clarity on what those alternative arrangements might


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You would have to say not really, Hannah. I think as you say, this refers to the backstop. The hypothetical but

potentially indefinite sharing of regulation, customs notably in the future, between Britain and Europe, to prevent a hard border on the Irish

border in the future. So what we've heard today, from government, is talk about a time limit on those arrangements, or perhaps a mechanism so that

Britain can pull out of them unilaterally or the possibility that technology can somehow be used to be sure there is never any hard border

infrastructure there.

All of this has been talked about before. All of this has been rejected by the EU previously. There is also talk about a new compromise that been

hashed out by opposing wings of the ruling Conservative Party. But the early indications from Europe are that it's not a starter.

So today in Parliament, the opposition leader, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, pushed the Prime Minister on how the quest for vague alternative

arrangements could change the deal, could result in a deal that is suitable to everyone. Here is a little of what the Prime Minister said in

Parliament today.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What has been absolutely clear, is my contacts with European leaders, is that they want a deal. What this House

voted for last night is to leave the European Union with a deal. But it also crucially showed what it will take to see support in this House for a

deal in the future. I think the plan that was set out last night shows that we can obtain a substantial and sustainable majority in this House.


BLACK: So you heard the Prime Minister there essentially saying that last night's vote on this amendment to find alternative arrangements to the

backstop is essentially Parliament saying to her, saying to Europe, this is what we need to pass a withdrawal agreement. That is true. But you have

to say only to a point. Because while the current backstop arrangements are widely hated within the Conservative Party and others, they are hated

to varying degrees. So short of stripping out that entire section of the withdrawal agreement, you have to think it is unlikely that she can come up

with an arrangement that can satisfy all of the people that majority that voted in favor of that amendment last night.

And the other point of course is that the backstop arrangement, as it pertains to the Irish border is, not the only thing in the withdrawal

agreement that people don't like. It's not the only potential deal breaker. So those could cost her votes and ultimately a majority of

support on any potential withdrawal agreement as well. She said she's got a mandate to go back to Brussels now. But if you look at this from pretty

much every angle, it really does look like a mandate to try and achieve the impossible -- Hannah.

JONES: Phil, thanks very much. Let's go over to Erin. Erin is standing by for us in Brussels now. Erin, it does seem that renegotiations have

sort of begun in earnest, even if not formally. They've begun in terms of conversations over the phone and like.

[10:15:00] And plans for travel to go and meet each other and talk once more. Given that, does that suggest that there is at least some wiggle

room from the EU on this?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hannah, I was just on the phone with an EU official, who told me he was left scratching his head at what

played out in Westminster yesterday. They want clarity from the United Kingdom, specifically what Theresa May means, in terms of this amendment,

seeking alternative arrangements. What sort of arrangements would possibly help this situation? And that's why I think the phone calls that are

scheduled for later today between Prime Minister May, and Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, as well as the Irish Taoiseach, are

critical. They're going to be looking to her for a detailed plan, how she intends fix this situation.

In the meantime, we're hearing once again from EU leaders and officials rallying around Dublin and we heard from the Leo Varadkar, of the Irish

Taoiseach, earlier today, say that the withdrawal agreement is not open for negotiation. Take a listen.


LEO VARADKAR, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: As President Tusk said yesterday, we are not offering renegotiation and renegotiation is not on the table.

There is no plan to organize an emergency summons to change any changes to the guidelines. Nor is there any pressure to hold one. I do not know what

those alternative arrangements are. And we've been down that track before. And I don't believe that such alternative arrangements exist.


MCLAUGHLIN: And I was speaking to a senior EU official prior to the vote, and he was telling me that it was his belief that the withdrawal agreement

was not open for renegotiation. But he said that that doesn't mean some other solution could be found.

The problem here is, is that Theresa May took the Brady Amendment which was vague in wording and explicitly said before the House of Commons that she

wants the withdrawal agreement reopened. That she wants to revisit the issue of the backstop, which is a crimson red line, said time and time

again, for the EU. So it's really unclear at this point where she goes from here. She has few options.

JONES: She certainly does. And I guess, you know, the main point being as well, that even if she does secure an opening over the withdrawal

agreement, it may not be just the backstop that is open for renegotiation, the EU might have something else up its sleeve as well. We have to leave

it there. My thanks to you both, to Erin and to Phil. Thank you very much indeed.

All right, still to come on the program, trade talks between the United States and China have now resumed. But charges files against Chinese tech

giant, Huawei, are hanging over these crucial meetings. We are covering the story from opposite sides of the world coming up next.


JONES: You are watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones live in London for you. Welcome back.

Now, to the United States where escalating tensions are threatening critical trade talks between China and the Trump administration. Beijing's

top trade negotiator is in Washington for two days of high stakes meetings with a deadline to reach a trade agreement just over a month away. Now, if

a deal isn't reached, there is a risk the U.S. will impose tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

But criminal charges brought by the United States against Chinese tech giant, Huawei, will surely cloud discussions between the two nations. And

now the U.S. has requested at the extradition of the company's CFO, Meng Wanzhou, from Canada, for allegedly helping Huawei dodge Iran sanctions.

CNN's Cristina Alesci joins us from the New York Stock Exchange. But first of all let go over to our Matt Rivers. And Matt's live for us in Beijing

with the Chinese perspective on all of this. Matt, first of all, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, says that the Huawei criminal case is a

separate issue. But how big a factor does the Chinese think it is to the trade negotiations happening in Washington today?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean there's no doubt that this is going to be a topic of discussion. I mean you have President Trump last month,

in an interview with "Reuters" actually admitting that the Meng Wanzhou case, the Huawei case, could absolutely have something to do with the

negotiations overall. It could be used as some sort of leverage for the United States. He's openly said that. And so you know or at least can

expect, it's extremely likely that this case is going to have something to do with these negotiations.

One thing that is very interesting, though, Hannah, is China's initial response to the indictments that the United States levied against Huawei.

Really what they did was repeat denials against wrongdoing -- of denials of wrongdoing that the United States has already accused Huawei of, and

they didn't take it any further. They didn't increase the rhetoric, they didn't make it any more heated. And I think you can look at that and say

they did that because they don't want the Huawei case to scuttle these trade talks. Yes, it's going to be a discussion, but so far it doesn't

appear that the Chinese are going to let that completely throw off any prospect of a trade deal.

JONES: OK, Cristina is standing by for us now at the New York Stock Exchange . And the clock is ticking for these trade talks already, just a

month to go to try and get some kind of deal and avoid these further tariffs. What impacts have the tariffs had so far on what is essentially a

global slowdown? How are the markets reacting?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well one respected research firm estimates that if this does go on, if the trade

war does go on, then global growth could dip below 2 percent. Which would be an enormously negative impact, which would have an enormously impact on

the market.

Look, the administration, the Trump administration will try and spin that and say it's going to impact China more than it impacts the U.S., but as

time goes on that, is less true. We are seeing signs that in fact large companies like industrial equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar, for example,

is taking a hit because of tariffs. We had tech darling, Apple warned that tariffs are also causing trouble for it to be able to generate the kind of

revenue that they have historically generated, especially in China.

So these are little data points that show that pressure on the U.S. is ramping up. And what's different now than what was true a few months ago,

is that Trump does want a deal done. Now, whether or not they can reach an agreement that will satisfy the trade hawks in the administration is still

yet to be seen. There are still big issues like forced technology transfer, and nontariff barriers, that have nothing to do with the trade

imbalance, that need to be addressed.

JONES: Yes, and Christina, I said earlier that you were at the Stock Exchange, you're obviously in our New York bureau, my apologies for that.

Who has the most leverage at the moment, going into these trade talks? Is it China or the U.S.? And what would each have to concede in order to try

and deescalate this?

ALESCI: Well, going into this meeting a few months ago, it did seem like the U.S. had a little bit more leverage, because our economy was strong,

jobs obviously, our unemployment rate was very low. And the Chinese economy was showing signs of weakness, the Chinese government had to step

in, and take some measures to prevent further fallout.

[10:25:00] But now, as time goes on, the both sides are going to feel the pain and I'm not sure that either side has a tremendous amount of leverage

over the other one. What it'll take is essentially the hawks in the administration, Peter Navarro, and to a certain extent Robert Lighthizer,

who is the U.S. trade representative, to really soften their approach and sort of move in the direction of the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steven

Mnuchin, who has been pushing for a deal to come together. But the two sides, even within the administration, remain far apart. So that is the

biggest challenge right now to trade talks.

JONES: Matt Rivers, still standing by for us in Beijing. Matt, the backdrop to all of this and has sort of raised tensions between the U.S.

and China is that now we're hearing Chinese counter-intelligence is potentially the biggest challenge to the United States. How is that kind

of rhetoric being received where you are in Beijing?

RIVERS: Well, I mean they always deny that. But the fact of the matter is that most objective analysis would suggest that the United States is

absolutely right, when they say that. That companies like Huawei and other big tech giants are absolutely beholden to Beijing. I mean there are

Communist Party members that sit on the board of almost every private major company in China. I mean it is absolutely true. I think you could argue,

that these companies have to answer to Beijing.

So when the United States does what they did for a company like Huawei, for example, they're basically setting precedent. Say to the Chinese

companies, that want to do what they've done, or what they accuse Huawei of doing, which is stealing intellectual property, flouting international law

but at least at this point the United States is not going to stand for that. And I think that you have a lot of people who might disagree with

the Trump administration in a lot of other ways, who might disagree with tariffs. You might disagree with not using international support to

counter the Chinese. But I think for the first time, in a long time, you're seeing a U.S. administration really back up some of these claims

that have been complaints against Chinese company for a very long time. The Justice Department really taking the kind of concrete steps that we

haven't really seen before, and if that continues, that will fundamentally change the way that Chinese companies interact with the United States.

JONES: Matt Rivers in Beijing, Cristina Alesci in New York, thank you.

Live from London, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Still to come on the program, President Trump pushes back against his own intelligence chief assessments

on ISIS, Iran, and North Korea. And then, a popular general turned politician, formally kicks off his campaign to unseat the Israeli Prime

Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. A lot more on that after this break.


JONES: You're watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones live in London. Welcome back to you.

And an update now on our top story and the crisis in Venezuela. U.S. President Donald Trump called the opposition leader Juan Guaido today and

he reiterated his support for the self-declared interim president. Antigovernment protests are expected in the Venezuelan capital Caracas in

the coming hours. Mr. Guaido tweeted he appreciates the U.S. President's support.

Now, meantime, the U.S. President Donald Trump is firing back today at his own intelligence chief, suggesting they should perhaps, quote, go back to

school. He's been tweeting up something of a storm. On the defensive after his director of national intelligence, and other top officials,

contradicted his assessment of security threats from ISIS, to Iran, to North Korea. Here is just one example.


DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely

to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime



JONES: Well, as you'd imagine, that is not sitting well with Mr. Trump. Let's bring in our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, for more on

all of this. So there is clearly a gap then, Joe, between Donald Trump and his intelligence chief. How big is that gap though and how dangerous could

it be?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's anybody's question and anybody's answer, I think. But I can tell you this, there's always

been an antagonistic relationship, if you will, Hannah, between this administration and the intelligence community, almost from the very start.

And the news is now, that two years along, it hasn't gotten any better.

The intelligence chiefs on Capitol Hill delivering what is known as the worldwide threat assessment, showing a lot of daylight between themselves

and the President of the United States on a variety of issues. You had just one example there. I think there is another very striking example in

the views of ISIS. The intelligence chiefs say that in their view, ISIS is looking to reconstitute, still has thousands and thousands of fighters.

The President has said at one time, that ISIS has been defeated, in fact, and some of his people in his administration have said that publicly as


The President taking to Twitter this morning, essentially offering his own rebuttal, if you will, saying the caliphate will soon be destroyed.

There's one point in the President's tweets where he's almost resorted to personal attack. And that is, he tweets the intelligence people seem to be

extremely passive and naive, when it comes to the dangers of Iran, they are wrong. That's important, because the intelligence chiefs have assessed

that Iran at the current time is not taking the steps necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

So what does all this mean? It's important to our allies, and it's important to foreign diplomats around the world, because there is this

continuing view that the United States has an often inconsistent or even contradictory message about hot spots around the world. This is just one

example of why -- Hannah.

JONES: And Joe, another pressing domestic battle ground for the President is of course the ongoing talks over this border wall and funding.

[10:35:00] And whether there will be another government shutdown. More talks potentially today.

JOHNS: Right. More talks today on Capitol Hill. This is a conference committee. Pretty rare these days. Between Democrats and Republicans,

seeking to come up with some type of a border security agreement that they can live with and the President might sign. The President himself tweeting

to those conference committee member, telling them essentially that if they are not considering a wall or a border barrier, they are wasting their

time. Important there, because they have until February 15 to come up with another agreement, or there's potential danger of yet another government

shutdown after the longest in American history -- Hannah.

JONES: Joe Johns, live for us there outside the White House. Thanks very much, Joe.

We turn our attention now to Israel, where a retired general is finally breaking his silence, spelling out his plan to take on Benjamin Netanyahu.

A former army chief, Benny Gantz, could be the Prime Minister's toughest rival in upcoming elections. He formally launching his campaign on Tuesday

night, positioning himself as the new broom that would sweep out corruption. Gantz also accused the current administration of encouraging,

quote, incitement, subversion and hatred. Now Mr. Netanyahu's party is slamming Gantz as a weak leftist but the record may show otherwise. Let's

bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann to explain it all for us. Oren, first of all, exactly is Benny Gantz, and what are his prospects, his legitimate

chances of actually defeating Netanyahu?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well one political analyst called Benny Gantz the flavor of the election. Saying he was now the big name

here, to take on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is famous for having been the IDF, the Israeli military chief of staff -- the former

chief of staff, that is, through two wars with Gaza, 2012 and 2014. And that certainly carries with it -- especially in Israel -- a certain amount

of security credibility. Giving him an ability to attack Benjamin Netanyahu who has always positioned himself as Mr. Security.

And on that note, at his big election kickoff on Tuesday night, Gantz was joined by a former IDF chief of staff -- another one that is -- as well as

a former defense minister who has recently joined his party trying to boost his security credibility. And it looks to be on that point that Netanyahu

will try to take on the current Mr. Security, that is Netanyahu.

What kind of chances does he have now? Look, it's difficult to tell. In some of the preliminary polls that have come out -- that have come out --

he's gotten a nice little bump in his numbers perhaps at the expense of the centrist or leftist parties. We'll see if that holds. He still falls

quite a ways behind Netanyahu himself and it is Netanyahu that has defines politics right now. So, we'll see how the election shape the over the

coming months. But as of right now, this is a very brief glance, it is Gantz that appears to be the number one competitor here.

JONES: And he's been branded a leftist by Netanyahu and Netanyahu's party and supporters. Is he, though, a leftist? And what could his victory

mean, if we suddenly saw an Israeli Prime Minister who was left or center left, at least? What could that mean for Israeli politics and regional

security in general?

LIEBERMANN: So historically Israeli right and left have been defined on one's position on a peace process, one's positions of making concessions to

Palestinians in a peace process. Given that, listen part of what Gantz said in his introductory campaign kickoff speech.


BENNY GANTZ, FORMER IDF CHIEF (through translator): Israel will not be deprived of its status as a strong Jewish and democratic state. We will

strengthen the settlement blocks in the Golan Heights from which we will never retreat. The Jordan Valley will remain our eastern security border.


LIEBERMANN: He also talked about a united Jerusalem remaining Israel's capital. In addition you heard him talk about strengthening the settlement

blocks, hanging on to the Golan Heights, a security presence in the Jordan Valley. This is certainly not the talk of a leftist. This would have been

defined of somebody who is on the right quite recently in Israeli politics. But ostensibly what defines right from left in Israeli politics these days

is whether you support Netanyahu or not. If you do, you're on the right. If you oppose him in any way, his coalition, his backers will brand you as

a leftist. What would it mean for Israeli politics if Gantz wins? Well it could be a dramatic shift of policy or not. If you actually look at where

Netanyahu stands on most of the issues and where Gantz stands, there is not that much of a different. A lot of the question is, Netanyahu himself and

will he continue if he is indicted, Gantz's answer was, he would not support an indicted Prime Minister.

JONES: All right, Oren, live for us there in Jerusalem, thanks very much indeed.

And now the odds that Britain will drop out of the European Union without a deal by March 29 are hovering currently around three to one. And no group

is taking the possibility of no deal more seriously than British businesses. The director -- director general, rather, of the Confederation

of British Industry says firms might soon accelerate their no-deal planning after events in Parliament last night.

[10:40:00] When only two of seven amendments to Theresa May's Brexit plan were actually voted through. Meaning she will head back to Brussels in an

attempt at seeking a renegotiation with the EU.

Now, most European markets are slightly higher today, suggesting those votes in Parliament that we saw last night, investors have fared and trade

talks, of course, between China and the U.S. -- that we were telling you about earlier. That's all firmly on their minds today. And the pound has

been recovering after falling sharply against the dollar on news that Theresa May will attempt to reopen the withdrawal talks. And you can see

at the moment, currently down again. Now Vicky Pryce is an economist at the Center for Economic and Business Research and former chief economic

adviser to the British government's business department. As you can see, she joins me now. Vicky, good to see you. We know that businesses like

certainty. Given what we saw last night, is the business community feeling any more certain about Theresa May's prospects at renegotiating this deal?

VICKY PRYCE, ECONOMIST, CENTER FOR ECONOMIC AND BUSINESS RESEARCH: I would say the opposite. There has been uncertainty for the last two and a half

years. And the interesting thing is if you look at what is going on with the economy, in 2018, we've had a number of quarters of falling investment,

business investment going down. We've had manufacturing, despite the fall in the pound, not doing well at all. We have had many months of declines

in manufacturing output. Business optimism is at the lowest it has been for years. And the same thing is the case with the consumer, despite full


So there had been hope that there would be some certainty a month ago when first the Parliament looked and then wasn't allowed to vote on the

withdrawal agreement. Which businesses actually backed, because they wanted at least some certainty and at least the customs union. Therefore a

while to come, and the transition period, that would be good. But of course, that was all shattered after the Parliament voted it down very

decisively. Now, with last night, who knows what the end game is likely to be. So businesses are not very happy at all.

JONES: You are talking about the transdisciplinary period as well. One of the things that emerged over the last sort of 48 hours or so, is a plan C.

This idea that if we get to March 29 and there is no-deal, that somehow, the EU would let us still remain in a transitory period so that we don't

sort of fall off a cliff edge that everybody's been talking about. Do you think the EU is being boxed into a corner so much now, that they might

agree to that, given the fact that they would essentially get a lot of money from the U.K. to stay in that transition period?

PRYCE: Well the EU has already put in place procedures which will allow us to give us a certain number of concession, certainly if there is no-deal,

so that things could continue to operate for a while. But they made it very clear, this is only temporary. That includes the financial sector,

which could carry on and operate for a while. But then at some point they will no longer have the passport to be able to work properly across. So it

depends really what type of transition period we're talking about. The normal transition period, which had been negotiated before, we would

certainly have at least two years, if not longer, of everything staying the same. And there would be time to prepare.

But of course, we're still won't know what the final trade negotiations will be and so uncertainty will continue. So businesses haven't been happy

generally and they are --feel like voting with their feet. We've already seen a number of firms relocating their headquarters. A number of them

also looking to get closer to the supply chains in the continent so it doesn't have problems with the border. And it is actually probably one of

the worst times to make any investment decision in the U.K. right now.

JONES: The other thing that businesses are good at is striking deals, negotiating. It must be infuriating for the business community to be

looking at politicians when we're talking about economic trade deals and the like, and transactional deals going forward. But having said that, has

Theresa May put herself -- or has Parliament now put our Prime Minister in a stronger negotiating position when she goes back to Brussels?

PRYCE: I don't think so at all. What she has done is she has basically ripped apart the two and a half years of negotiations that have been taking

place, where they finally came to some agreement on the Northern Ireland border, this backstop. Which actually was not bad for business. Not a

very good deal but not for business because it kept us in the customs union for quite some time to come and maybe forever. And now she is going back

again to say, we'll so sick of these British people all I mean this woman is an economist and given if I could probably understand your is probably

making some really important points but I can't understand her first of all. All of the things we've done in the last two and a half years, and we

threw them out and can you do something about it and change. It's a very, very crucial point which is either withdrawal deal. Of course, there is a

Political Declaration attached to it, and that is one that can be amended, words can come, and say all sorts of things. But there is no certainty

that anything in there is actually going to be a total amendment and we will end up with that at the end of the day.

JONES: All right, Vicky Pryce, thank you very much indeed. Vicky is the economist at the Center for Economic and Business Research. Thank you for

your analysis on all things Brexit. We appreciate it.

Now, live from London, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Still to come on the program, we take you to the perfect place for some winter comfort food. A

noodle restaurant in northern Japan that encourages you to eat and eat some more.


JONES: This is CNN. And this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones in London. Welcome back.

Now all this week we are exploring the winter landscapes of northern Japan. In the next part of the series "DESTINATION TOHOKU", we visit a Japanese

noodle restaurant that's giving a new meaning to the phrase "all you can eat."


BILL WEIR, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Imagine a restaurant where overeating is actually encouraged. Here, in the capital, it is not only a

reality, it is a tradition. This is Iwate's capital is not only a reality, it's a tradition. This is Azumaya, a 111-year-old noodle shop in the city

of Morioka. There is only one specialty here, wanko soba.

AKIHITO BABA, OWNER, AZUMAYA (through translator): Wanko soba, the small portions of soba noodles that are served one after the another. It's the

traditional food of Iwate, served on special occasions or celebrations, and when we welcome outside guests.

WEIR: What began as a show of hospitality, encouraging guests to eat as much as possible, has morphed into an all-out soba noodle binge. Diners

devour the small bowls. A waitress pours the next mouthful. Then repeat. Until either you stand up, or you're too full to go on. Patrons stack

empty bowls like badges of honor. 100 here. 200 there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): Two years ago, I ate 222 bowls. But after I ate, I still had room to eat more.

WEIR: And that's not even half the current record, 570 bowls. This young woman, Naoko Obaru, weighing just 50 kilograms is hungry to beat it.

NAOKO OBARU, COMPETITIVE EATER (through translator): After eating a lot, I get a similar feeling to a runner's high. I feel happy and enjoy it.

WEIR: The waitress cheers her on saying, more, more. In the back, the kitchen races to keep up.

While there's four noodle shops go through over four tons of buck wheat flour each month. On this day, Obaru puts down the lid to say enough, at

300 bowls. No new records at this wanko soba shop for now. But there's always another meal tomorrow.


JONES: I don't know what to make of that. Live from London, this is CONNECT THE WORLD.

Coming up, nearly three quarters of the U.S. population, that's more than 200 million people, are facing some very trying days ahead indeed. As they

endure one of the coldest winter blasts in decades. We are live in Chicago, next, this hour.


JONES: Welcome back to CNN and to CONNECT THE WORLD with me Hannah Vaughan Jones live from London.

Now in the United States, the coldest air in a generation is sinking south and the worst is still to come. Much of America is getting blasted by the

polar vortex, as temperatures in some areas will plummet to colder than Antarctica. Thousands of flights have already been canceled. It is so

cold, the U.S. postal service is out of action in parts of ten states. Let's get over to our Ryan Young. Ryan is in the frozen city of Chicago,

the epicenter of the extreme cold, in the U.S. Ryan, it's not just dangerously cold, it is almost life-threateningly cold at the moment. How

are you bearing up?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Look, we're trying to work together as a team here, my photographer, Leonel Mendez, and my

producer, we're all kind of together trying to make sure we stay warm between these hits.

But really when you start talking about this, you talk about the dangerous cold and the wind whipping through, this really has a life-changing kind of

implications for the entire city. In fact they have warming centers throughout the city. They canceled school today. And when you think about

this, this is the Chicago River. So many people travel to Chicago to see this site, and when you look at it, it looks like an Iceland, you know what

I'm saying? And in fact, my mouth is starting to freeze up a little bit. But we've been out here all morning long.

The whole idea though as they talk about just how cold it is, we know we've hit record temperatures and we wanted to show you something. My producer

is passing me this hot water right here. Hold the mike for me, Bill. There we go. This is hot water and were going to throw it up in the air

and show you what happens next. So hold on, watch this. You can see, it's freezing basically right there, right in front of us, that's how cold it


We've been talking to people who are commuting all day. They say they're trying their best to try to stay as warm as possible. When you think about

this, schools are closed, a lot of businesses are closed as well because they didn't want their employees dealing with this severe cold. I will

tell you, toes, nose, fingers, that's where we really field these cold temperatures, and especially the lungs, they actually say try not to

breathe in too heavily because your lungs can freeze in temperatures like this.

JONES: Yes, you know, I will never complain again about the cold in London from what we're seeing for you, Ryan. And a question for those people who

aren't so fortunate to have, you know, a fire, the central heating, and the like, and the warmth around them, what does the city have in terms of, what

plans does have it, for those people who are potentially, I don't know, homeless or of course just out in the cold?

YOUNG: Look, that's a great question. Especially in this downtown area. There's a lot of people who use downtown as their homeless shelter. We see

a lot of them on the way to work in the morning. The city has been trying to help those people. There are also people who are sort of stuck in the

middle, right, and so they've been using their stoves to heat their homes.

[10:55:00] They're really trying to encourage those people to do go to one of the 24 heating centers throughout the city so they can come in and get

warm, and not do something dangerous like try to start a fire or do something inside the house like using a stove and leaving it open or having

old heating sources, to kind of heat their bodies. I mean honestly, this is one of those days where we talk about getting in and out of the car very

quickly. This is one the days where you start to feel the pain of the cold after about ten minutes of being outside.

JONES: Ryan, we urge you, I urge you to get inside right now. And wrap up warm as long as you can before you actually have to do another hit with

CNN. Ryan Young there for us in Chicago. You can see from what Ryan was just displaying with that cup of hot water, throwing it up into the air,

and turns straight to ice. And of course, the river, astonishing pictures there, Ryan. Thank you very much indeed. And as I said, go inside, go

into a car, go somewhere, just don't be outside.

And I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones, live in London. That was CONNECT THE WORLD. And thank you so much for watching.