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Anti-Maduro Protests Expected around the World; Trump Says He Never Asked Stone about WikiLeaks; U.S. Suspends Nuclear Arms Control Treaty with Russia; Virginia Governor Apologizes for Racist Photo on 1984 Medical School Yearbook Page; Hindu Pilgrims Celebrate Kumbh Mela. Aired 3-3:30a ET
Aired February 2, 2019 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A show of force in a few hours. The Venezuelan opposition plans more mass rallies like these against President Nicolas Maduro.
Donald Trump hints he may declare a national emergency to secure funding for his border wall.
And the U.S. governor of Virginia facing calls to resign after a racist yearbook photo emerges.
Live from the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It is great to have you with us.
VANIER: From Caracas to New York to Berlin, protesters around the world will hit the streets in just a few hours to march against Venezuela's sitting president, Nicolas Maduro. As CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports, Maduro continues to reject calls for him to step aside.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A beleaguered president Nicolas Maduro has tried to make a show of support, appearing for the third time in a week alongside his military commanders on national television, a bid to shore up or at least show visibly the support he says he still has from the military elite.
He also presented a list -- list of smaller countries, Suriname, Laos, Benin, who he says have expressed support for his government. But the pressure continues to mount. It will be seen on the streets when potentially tens if not hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans take to the streets.
We've also heard from vice president Mike Pence at a rally in Florida saying it is time for Nicolas Maduro to go and Venezuela to be freed from the grip of Cuba, essentially his expression of how close the Cuban government is to that of Nicolas Maduro. But really eyes are on exactly what Juan Guaido, the interim
president, self-declared and opposition leader, who'll be leading the protest, what he can practically do in order to try and show that he has some kind of control over the levers of government.
He's said he's in talks with the military. We haven't seen the military seeming to crumble in its support of the Maduro government. And he's also, in fact, this day, said he wanted to see some sort of humanitarian aid coming into the country and appealed to the military to assist that.
But the key test I think is whether demonstrations pass peacefully. I suspect they probably will. We have heard also from the supreme court of Venezuela, two of those judges tweeting that they believe some of the restrictions against Juan Guaido, freezing his bank accounts and giving him a travel ban, that they're against those.
Not quite sure what legal force that necessarily has. But so far, a relatively moderate and restrained reaction from the Maduro government. We'll have to see if that's sustained through the protests and whether that moves the dial in terms of who supports the Maduro government going forward -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Bogota.
VANIER: Brett Bruen joins me. He's president of the Global Situation Room. He spent several years as a diplomat in Latin America, including in Venezuela. He was the director of global engagement in the Obama White House.
Brett, first tell me how you think the U.S. has been handling itself in this crisis?
They have been -- they have sided with Guaido in a way that the U.S. hasn't sided with the opposition recently.
BRETT BRUEN, FORMER U.S. DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT: So I give them mixed marks. On the one hand, I think they have taken a strong, principled position, which we haven't seen in other parts of Trump's foreign policy, promoting issues like human rights and democracy.
On the other hand as you allude to in the intro, the administration has been a little bit reckless with its rhetoric. They haven't taken account for -- or even acknowledged some of the concerns that exist about American engagement in Latin America.
I have to say that worries me that it is going to make it more difficult for leaders in the region to extend support for Guaido.
VANIER: As a matter of fact, Guaido has rebuffed offers at mediation, most recently from Mexico, among others. And he doesn't want to talk with Nicolas Maduro directly or indirectly through mediators.
What do you think of that?
BRUEN: Well, Maduro and Chavez before him used these offers of negotiations as delaying tactics and they would just tire out the opposition and try to undermine them throughout the process.
So I think his skepticism is well founded. At this point, quite frankly, I don't see a negotiated solution being the path forward. I think what we're going to need to see is an effort for Maduro and the --
BRUEN: -- military that supports him to acknowledge their time is up constitutionally and we will need a transition. What that transition actually looks like I think is open to some discussion.
VANIER: So tell me how that works from the military's point of view. The common -- it is common knowledge that the military is deeply involved in the Venezuelan economy, that they're deeply imbedded in the Maduro state, in the Maduro government, in the institutions and therefore they may have too much to lose to simply switch sides and drop Maduro.
Do you think -- is that narrative accurate?
BRUEN: Well, they're in for a rude awakening when the funds dry up, as they will invariably in the coming days and weeks. The Maduro government no longer has access to its primary source of revenue, which was the oil sales in the U.S.
Let's be honest here. The military is not backing Maduro because of some ideological affinity. It was mostly an economic decision for those officers. Maduro doesn't have the charisma that his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, enjoyed. He could cast spells over the rallies and enjoy the popular public support.
Maduro is deeply unpopular even among the Chavista class of the poor barrios in Caracas and elsewhere.
VANIER: But he's not apparently -- not yet -- deeply unpopular with the top brass.
What would it take to peel away the military within the support from the very highest ranks of the military from Maduro?
BRUEN: I've been talking to folks in the region and on the one hand, it is a good sign that Guaido is offering amnesty. But that's not enough. What I think we will need to see in the coming days are some pretty concrete offers made by Guaido, regional powers, to entice military officers literally to cross the border.
Give them a job on the border, supporting refugees. There's 3 million Venezuelans that have already fled the country. That will seem a lot more enticing to the Venezuela military officers who are looking for an excuse to leave.
VANIER: Brett Bruen, thank you so much for coming on the show.
BRUEN: Good to be back with you. VANIER: President Trump is now in Florida at his Mar-a-lago resort. His first trip there since late November. Despite words of caution from some Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Mr. Trump is sending strong signals that he will declare a national emergency to get his border wall. Our Abby Phillip is at the White House.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump venting his frustrations as Democrats stonewall his border wall. Trump once again dangling the prospect that he will go around Congress and build it anyway, even if a bipartisan group of lawmakers don't fund it.
TRUMP: We will be looking at a national emergency, because I don't think anything's going to happen. I think the Democrats don't want border security.
PHILLIP: And teasing a potential announcement during the State of the Union address next week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you saying now you expect to declare a national emergency?
TRUMP: I don't want to say, but you will hear the State of the Union and then you will see what happens right after the State of the Union, OK?
PHILLIP: As Democratic candidates jump into the 2020 presidential race to defeat him, Trump is accusing the party of playing politics.
TRUMP: They're only doing it for one very simple reason. It's one simple reason. Couldn't be simpler. Because they think it's good politics for 2020, because they say, maybe we can beat Trump, because this is a big issue.
PHILLIP: Trump also slamming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's criticism of the administration's decision to suspend an arms control deal they claim Russia has been violating for years.
TRUMP: Honestly, I don't think she has a clue. I really don't. I don't think Nancy has a clue.
PHILLIP: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing the suspension today.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Russia has jeopardized the United States' security interests and we can no longer be restricted by the treaty, while Russia shamelessly violates it.
PHILLIP: Though Trump keeping the door open for negotiations on a new pact with Putin.
TRUMP: I hope that we're able to get everybody in a very big and beautiful room and do a new treaty that would be much better, but because, certainly, I would like to see that.
PHILLIP: All this after the president sat down with "The New York Times" for a wide-ranging interview, where he downplayed any potential risk in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, claiming he got private assurances from deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.
TRUMP: He told the attorneys that I'm not a subject, I'm not a target of...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He told your attorneys?
TRUMP: Yes. Oh, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he say that about the SDNY investigation -- because there's two. There's Mueller and then there's Cohen.
TRUMP: I don't know. I don't know about that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
TRUMP: That I don't know about.
PHILLIP (voice-over): The president also explicitly denying he talked to his longtime adviser, Roger Stone, about stolen information that WikiLeaks released during the campaign.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Did you ever talk to him about WikiLeaks? Because that seemed to be what Mueller was...
TRUMP: No. No.
HABERMAN: You never had a conversation with him about that?
PHILLIP (voice-over): And contradicting his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who said the negotiations with Russia about a Trump Tower in Moscow, Trump telling "The New York Times," "He was wrong. Rudy has been wrong a little bit."
President Trump, who normally denounces the media as being fake news, is also citing CNN's exclusive reporting that three phone calls his son, Donald Trump Jr., made after the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians, promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, were not made to him.
Trump tweeting, "The big deal, very mysterious Don Jr. telephone calls after the innocent Trump Tower meeting that the media and Dems said were made to his father, me, were just conclusively found not to be made to me. They were made to friends and business associates of Don. Really sad."
PHILLIP: And White House officials won't say much in detail about what President Trump might say at his State of the Union address next week. But they have said that he's going to call on lawmakers to break decades of stalemate on various issues.
He'll also strike an optimistic tone. And as for that announcement the president seemed to tease on the government shutdown, the official said that he will offer a way forward. But what seems clear is that the way forward is unlikely to be through that bipartisan group of negotiators who have been working for weeks to end the stalemate -- Abby Phillip, CNN, the White House.
VANIER: In an interview to air Sunday on CBS, President Trump doubled down on his justification to shut down the government over the wall and had a few choice words for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You had quite the showdown with Speaker Pelosi.
What did you learn about negotiating with her?
TRUMP: Well, I think that she was very rigid, which I would expect. But I think she's very bad for our country. She knows that you need a barrier. She knows that we need border security. She wanted to win a political point. I happen to think it is very bad politics because basically she wants open borders.
She doesn't mind human trafficking or she wouldn't do this because --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She offered you over a billion dollars for border security.
TRUMP: Excuse me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She offered over a billion dollars for border security.
TRUMP: She --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She doesn't want the wall.
TRUMP: She's costing the country hundreds of billions of dollars because what is happening is, when you have a porous border and when you have drugs pouring in and when you have people dying all over the country because of people like Nancy Pelosi, who don't want to give proper border security for political reasons, she's doing a terrible disservice to our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: Political analyst Michael Genovese joins me now. He is president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. He's also the author of "How Trump Governs."
So, Michael, Donald Trump dismisses the negotiations going on about the border wall in Congress and it looks now like he's leaning towards declaring a national emergency. Is that his only way out of this?
MICHAEL GENOVESE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is not but I think it would be his preferred method. He likes to have the table all to himself. He likes to be the decider, the decision maker. He sounds a bit like a broken record.
I mean, we've heard this story before. And I think he'll use Tuesday's State of the Union to set up a call for a national emergency. He has the authority to call such an emergency but it would create a great backlash, both in Congress, even among some Republicans and then the courts as well.
So I think when you set up a faux emergency, it sets a bad precedent and it only guarantees there's going to be more hostility, more argumentation. And it's not going to be solved by negotiating. That's what you really need to do.
You need to get the sides together and a great deal maker has to make a great deal.
VANIER: But the reason I ask the question is, his base has been sending him pretty strong signals, they want him to hold firm on this. So if you take that as right -- as the starting idea of his calculus, that's why I ask, maybe there isn't another way for him to handle this.
GENOVESE: Well, he's jealously guarding his base and he has done so from the very beginning. And that's a function of the fact that he's not been able to expand the base.
So he's protecting that base because they're loyal to him. They'll stay with him. But to govern, you have to go beyond that. You have to make deals with people who aren't part of your base.
So that's why I think the president would prefer to engage in the broken record rhetoric and then call an emergency and then simply decide and move and act. His base demands a wall.
VANIER: All right. I want to pivot to foreign policy because he's pulling out of another international treaty. I think he hasn't met yet an international treaty he doesn't want to pull out of. This one is an arms reduction treaty with Russia that dates back to the Cold War. It is the INF, the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. And the president said that the U.S. has been treated unfairly through this pact for the last 30 years.
Is he right?
GENOVESE: Yes. The Russians have been violating the treaty, there's no question about that. President Trump --
GENOVESE: -- likes to basically undo what his predecessors have done, for what they've gotten credit. Usually it's with Obama. In this case, he's taking one of Ronald Reagan's signature achievements and he wants to dump on it.
Do you have to get rid of the treaty or can you renegotiate it?
Can you deal with it?
I think Trump is conscious of two very big issues. One, of course, is Russia violating the treaty but, number two, the unspoken part of this is they're worried about the build-up of China. China's military build-up is what's really I think behind the president wanting to unburden himself of the restrictions of the INF deal and he wants to be able to build militarily, both to deal with Russia's violations and also to try to match China.
VANIER: That's really interesting because Russia says if the U.S. does carry through and pull out of the treaty and formally that will happen in six months, even though the U.S. said they won't be bound by their obligations starting right now.
But if the U.S. pulls out in six months officially, Russia says it would trigger an arms race and you say that's the point. The U.S. wants to be able to compete in this arms race and not be bound by this treaty.
GENOVESE: Well, if China is going to build up, the United States will want to build up. Russia is not the big threat. Russia can only build up so much. Their economy is not as strong.
China's economy is strong. Their ambitions are great. You see both China and Russia talking to one another, almost as if they want to unify against the United States. And I think that's overblown in the news a bit. But it is a real possibility.
So I think the president would like to unleash the American military might, the economic might that we have, that could be converted into military weaponry, in the same way that Ronald Reagan tried to basically spend the Soviet Union into oblivion. Trump wants to do much the same thing.
VANIER: All right, Michael Genovese, speaking to us from Los Angeles. Thank you so much for joining us.
GENOVESE: Thank you.
VANIER: A scandal has erupted involving the governor of Virginia. Now political friends and foes alike are urging him to resign. Details of the racism scandal that may cost the governor his job -- when we come back.
Plus the terrifying moment when a Brazilian dam collapsed, releasing this deadly torrent of mud and mining waste. We're seeing this for the first time.
VANIER: Calls for Virginia governor Ralph Northam to resign are growing louder after this racist yearbook photo of him from 1984 emerged. It's here, screen right. You can see two people on the right, one in blackface, one dressed as a Klansman.
Northam admits that he's one of them. Now the Democratic caucuses in both houses of Virginia's legislature are among those demanding his resignation.
In a statement, the Virginia Senate Democrat said, "After --
VANIER: -- "seeing the yearbook pictures that surfaces of Governor Northam today, we were shocked, saddened and offended. Virginia has a complicated racial history and past and those pictures certainly reflect that. Blackface was used to ridicule African Americans and the Klan was a source of terror and intimidation. We are beyond disappointed."
News of the pictures surfaced on the first day of Black History Month here in the U.S. Northam has since apologized for his actions. Susanne Malveaux has the story.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Virginia's Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, is facing growing criticism and calls to step down after this racist photo emerged Friday from his 1984 medical school yearbook page that shows a person in blackface and another dressed in a Klansman robe and hood.
Publicly confronted with the photo, Northam confirmed that he in fact was one of the people in the picture but declined to say which. He apologized and vowed to show Virginians he had changed and he would do so for the reminder of the term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: That photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents does not reflect that person I am today or the way that I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor and a public servant. I'm deeply sorry. I cannot change the decisions I made nor can I undo the harm my behavior caused then and today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: The photo is from 1984, when Northam was 25 years old at the time, from the Eastern Virginia Medical School. Under the photo, it lists his alma mater, Virginia Military Institute; his interest, pediatrics, and a quote, saying, "There are more old drunks than old doctors in this world so I think I'll have another beer."
Northam's yearbook from his time at the Virginia Military Institute in 1981 revealed that he had two nicknames, Goose and Coonman. The reaction from many political corners has been fast and furious. The photo was first reported by Big League Politics, a conservative news outlet, followed by the Virginia GOP caucus, calling for his resignation.
Well, since then, some of Northam's most powerful allies are also calling for him to step down.
The NAACP tweeting, "Blackface in any manner is always racist and never OK. No matter the party affiliation, we cannot stand for that behavior."
The president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who had been vocal in her support of Virginia Democrats earlier in the week during the abortion controversy, now saying that he's got to go, along with Planned Parenthood and the mayor of Richmond, Virginia. Several Democratic presidential primary candidates as well.
This from Senator Kamala Harris, saying, "Leaders are called to a higher standard and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government."
This from the "Richmond Times-Dispatch" editorial, quote, "He is all by accounts a decent and considerate man. And yet his poor judgment has undermined his standing in ways we believe will permanently impair his ability to act as an effective governor."
Holding off, however, Virginia's two powerful senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, calling for Northam to reflect on how to move forward, giving him more time. The big question, of course, will Northam heed these calls if this chorus grows louder over the next 24 hours?
Will he survive?
Susanne Malveaux, CNN, Washington.
VANIER: And we are now seeing dramatic video of the deadly dam collapse in Brazil from last week. This here is the moment that the dam failed. It unleashed its tsunami of mining waste that buried houses, cars, more importantly people in its path.
At least 115 people have been confirmed dead and that number could still rise because more than 240 people are still missing. And there's growing public anger in Brazil at Vale, the owner of the mine.
Uganda said it has seized a huge shipment of illegal ivory and other contraband animal products. Officials say it had a market value of more than 8 million dollars and was heading to Vietnam. They say the elephant tusks and other illegally obtained items were hidden in hollowed-out logs.
Uganda is clamping down on contraband from endangered wildlife.
In France we're expecting, once again, thousands of Yellow Vest protesters to take to the streets in the coming hours. This will mark the 12th consecutive weekend of protests across country.
The demonstrators say President Emmanuel Macron is not doing enough to address economic inequality. In an attempt to address their concerns, Mr. Macron began a series of forums, known as the great debate.
To an incredible sight out of India, millions of pilgrims and devotees are celebrating the Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela. Our Ram Ramgopal has their story.
RAM RAMGOPAL, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Welcome to the largest religious festival in the world. The Kumbh Mela is celebrated four times within a 12-year period in India, alternating between four cities. Over the course of eight weeks, it attracts upwards of 120 million people, including 1 million international visitors.
Devotees will bathe in sacred rivers to cleanse them of vices, coming one step closer to salvation. Kumbh Mela directly translates to party festival. The name comes from a Hindu story about the god of Vishnu, in disguise, battling over a pitcher of nectar with demons.
In the 12-day fight, four drops of the nectar of immortality fell to the Earth on the sites that now host the festival. A number of ceremonies are to take place at the Kumbh Mela. The festival encapsulates the science of astronomy, spirituality and ritual.
You'll see all types of people, from conventional practitioners of Hinduism to hermits who temporarily trade their seclusion for civilization. It is an unusual sight for many, sadhus sporting dreadlocks mired in ash.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels surreal. All this time you've read about them. They're almost like fictional characters and then you meet them.
RAMGOPAL (voice-over): Also in attendance, Hindu priest, like this man who has been helping generations of pilgrims at the Kumbh Mela.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): People have been coming here to perform various rituals, from prayed for departed souls to immersing ashes of their dead.
RAMGOPAL (voice-over): This spectacle of faith is as mesmerizing as it is spiritual for the devout who travel from afar for the world's largest congregation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Faith compensates for everything. You don't feel cold or hot, neither do you get annoyed with the crowd nor do you feel hungry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the worries, whether physical or mental, all problems disappear by taking the holy dip here. RAMGOPAL (voice-over): The Kumbh Mela is expected to reach a peak this Monday with some 30 million people taking a dip. And the festival will last until early March -- Ram Ramgopal, CNN.
VANIER: All right. Thank you very much for watching, I'm Cyril Vanier from the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.
VANIER: Welcome back. Let's look at those headlines.