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Virginia Governor Apologizes for Racist Photo on 1984 Medical School Yearbook Page; U.S. Suspends Nuclear Arms Control Treaty with Russia; Anti-Maduro Protests Expected around the World; Interview with Asa Cusack, London School of Economics; Next U.S.-North Korea Summit End of February; Possible Candidate Sherrod Brown Plans to Conquer "Trump Country"; Cracking Down on Human Trafficking ahead of Super Bowl; China's Lunar New Year Preparations Underway. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired February 2, 2019 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Growing calls for the governor of Virginia to resign after he confirms he is in a racist picture from the 1980s.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): President Trump hints the border wall will be a big part of the upcoming State of the Union speech.

HOWELL (voice-over): In Venezuela, opposition prepares for an enormous protest against the sitting president as supporters of Nicolas Maduro plan for demonstrations of their own.

ALLEN (voice-over): These stories are all ahead this hour. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters. NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: Thanks for being with us. There are growing calls for Democratic Virginia governor Ralph Northam to resign after a racist yearbook photo of him surfaced.

HOWELL: The photo, here in black and white, one person in blackface and the other in a KKK signature white hood and robe. Northam has apologized for his part in this incredibly offensive picture but did not specify which person he is in that photo.

ALLEN: Demands to step down have come from a series of prominent Democrats and Republicans. And the list is growing by the hour. Northam has lost the support from the Democratic caucuses in both houses of the Virginia legislature and the president of the Virginia NAACP plans to hold a news conference in the coming hours to issue their response. HOWELL: Our Suzanne Malveaux reports, the fallout from this scandal may cost him his job.


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.


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.


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.


HOWELL: Suzanne, thank you. The chorus is certainly growing. Among the groups calling for him to resign, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which wrote in this statement, "We just finished meeting with the governor. We fully appreciate all that he has contributed to our commonwealth.

"But given what was revealed today --


HOWELL: -- "it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as governor. It is time for him to resign so that Virginia can begin the process of healing."

ALLEN: Former Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe, who was governor when Northam was lieutenant governor, is also speaking out.

He tweeted, "The situation that he has put himself and the Commonwealth of Virginia in is untenable. It is time for Ralph to step down and for the commonwealth to move forward."

CNN will continue to follow the developing story.

Now to the U.S. president and the upcoming State of the Union address set for next week and what will be in that speech, Mr. Trump saying it will be, quote, "very exciting."

ALLEN: He is sending strong signals he will declare a national emergency to get his border wall perhaps during that address. In the Oval Office Friday, he also touted positive economic news. For more, here is Boris Sanchez.


TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before taking off for a weekend in Florida, President Trump bragging about strong jobs numbers, despite the 35-day government shutdown.

TRUMP: We added 304,000 jobs, which was a shocker to a lot of people. It wasn't a shocker to me.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Trump also bashed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying negotiating with Democrats on a border wall agreement is a waste of time and teasing that he may declare a national emergency to pay for the wall without congressional approval during next week's State of the Union address.

TRUMP: Having a national emergency does help the process. It would certainly help the process. What would help a lot would be if the Democrats could be honest. I think Nancy Pelosi should be ashamed of herself. She is hurting a lot of people. I think the Democrats should be ashamed.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): The president remains also focused on the Russia investigation, dismissing the probe on Twitter and during an interview with "The New York Times," telling the paper that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein assured him he is not under scrutiny.


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.


TRUMP: That I don't know about.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): The president also said he never discussed WikiLeaks with Roger Stone during the 2016 campaign and never directed anyone else to, either. Trump defended his former associate.

TRUMP: I like Roger. He's a character. But I like Roger.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): The president contradicted his own attorney, saying that Rudy Giuliani was "wrong a little bit" when he said Trump may have discussed building a tower in Moscow as late as November 2016.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: It would have covered all the way up to November of 2016.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Trump argued he was too busy, saying, quote, "I was running for president. I was doing really well. The last thing I cared about was building a building." SANCHEZ: The option to declare a national emergency over the issues

of immigration has been on the table for some time. The president hasn't taken that step in part because there's no guarantee it would actually work.

Democrats have already vowed to challenge it in court. Some Republicans have criticized the president, saying it would set a dangerous precedent. Beyond that, CNN got a preview of what the president is expected to during Tuesday's State of the Union address. Nothing really groundbreaking there but we can expect President Trump to lay out a vision of a path forward following that record-breaking government shutdown -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president in Palm Beach, Florida.


HOWELL: Let's bring in James Davis to talk about this, the director of the Institute for Political Science at the University of St. Galen, joining us from Munich, Germany.

A pleasure to have you, James.


HOWELL: A lot to talk about. Let's start with the latest developments around the Virginia governor, Ralph Northam. This incredibly offensive picture, where he admits to being one of the two people seen in the photo. Northam has apologized with but both Republicans and top Democrats want him to resign.

I think we have seen the picture, we can get rid of it. Let's just move on, if we can.

If he tries to keep the job, how can he do so with any credibility?

DAVIS: I don't think he can. I'm reluctant to pillory people for things that happened 30 or 40 years ago. But when you look at that picture, you realize that was not only a mistake, it's offensive.

You have to wonder, what could have motivated somebody to participate in whatever that was, a costume party or some kind of frat party. It's offensive. It's eroded his ability to lead. That's the point here. I think the black caucus and the Virginia legislature has it right.

The question is, can he be effective?

It's clear, at this point, he can no longer be effective. He is the subject of discussion and not the policies he would like to promote. So I think it is clear he is going to have to resign.


HOWELL: It's offensive, for sure. Let's move on to the border wall the U.S. president wants. Sure to be a topic in the State of the Union speech next week. As we heard Mr. Trump dismissing the process and negotiating with Congress, now blaming the Speaker of the House much more forcefully. Listen.


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.


HOWELL: President Trump being clear he believes that Nancy Pelosi is being rigid. Indicating he's likely to declare a national emergency, that will likely land in the courts. But even if it gets held up there, does that path offer this president an out, so to speak, to go back and tell his base, hey, I kept my promise, I tried?

DAVIS: Look. The president has met with Nancy Pelosi, a woman who can match him as the dealmaker. She came out of this with the respect of even those that are on the other side of the aisle. The president is the one who's come out of the government shutdown with lower numbers, both within the public population at large and his base.

So Nancy Pelosi knows what she is doing. She's got the president in the corner. It's a corner of his own making and one he will have a hard time getting out of. We have a BP House and Senate conference committee right now working on some kind of compromise on border security.

If they come up with a compromise with some money for barriers, whether we want to call them fences or walls, with more money for enhanced surveillance, both along the border and border crossings, where most of the drugs and trafficking is taking place that the president is so concerned with, if they come up with a reasonable compromise and the president turns that down, I think the president is going to be seen by the bulk of the American people as the obstacle here and his numbers are going to reflect that.

HOWELL: It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the days and weeks ahead.

Now I want to ask you about Roger Stone while we have time, following the developments there, the president's friend and former adviser. A judge warned him not to try the case in the media and is considering a gag order. Stone argues he must speak out to defend himself and to raise money for his defense fund.

What do you make of his argument?

DAVIS: Anybody that seems close to this campaign seems to land in some kind of legal difficulty. You know, working for Donald Trump is not necessarily good for your career and it's certainly not good for your pocketbook.

Listen, Roger Stone is the guy who, you know, faces a choice -- or faced the choice to cooperate with federal law enforcement or not. They have accused him of lying, of engaging in inappropriate behavior. So, you know, this is the legal system in the United States. It's going to be costly and, you know, he has to pay the consequences.

HOWELL: James Davis, thank you for your time and perspective.

DAVIS: Thank you, George.

ALLEN: NATO says it supports the U.S. decision to quit the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty unless Russia comes back into compliance.

HOWELL: Russia is accused of cheating the INF with a missile system that can hit Europe. It's an allegation that Russia continues to deny. We have more from CNN's Alex Marquardt.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Good morning, everyone.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The United States announcing it's suspending one of the last remaining nuclear arms treaties between the U.S. and Russia.

POMPEO: We provided Russia an ample window of time to mend its ways and for Russia to honor its commitment. Tomorrow, that time runs out.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty or INF was signed by president Ronald Reagan and then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. The past several years, the U.S. accused Russia of violating the treaty, of developing and deploying medium- range, nuclear-ready missiles. TRUMP: We can't be put at a --


TRUMP: -- disadvantage of going by a treaty, limiting what we do when somebody else doesn't go by that treaty.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The Trump administration says Russia placed battalions of missiles at the borders of Europe, not allowed by the treaty's terms.

The missile is called the 9M729. Russia recently showed off the system but not the missile itself to journalists and claims it does abide by the INF.

"Russia has implemented and continues to meticulously implement the requirements of the treaty," this Russian general said, "and does not allow for any violations to happen."

The goal of the treaty was to prevent the two sides from developing land-based, medium-range nuclear weapons. NATO, whose members are most threatened by the Russian moves, expressed its full support of the U.S. pulling out.

While some experts, including former secretary of state, General Colin Powell, told Jake on "STATE OF THE UNION," it's a wrong and dangerous thing to do.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: There are a lot of people now who say, well, look, we got to get out of this treaty, we got to going to out of that treaty. Bad, terrible mistakes, which we will regret because they don't make sense.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The biggest concern: today's move could spark an arms race, not just with Russia but with China, which has not been constrained by the treaty and has grown exponentially more powerful over the past three decades.

ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: China is already developing these capabilities as well as strategic nuclear capabilities. You've got the North Koreans and of course the Russians have not only been developing these intermediate-range missiles but hypersonic and more strategic nuclear-capable missiles as well. So we are already in a bit of an arms race now.

MARQUARDT: And from this weekend, the clock starts ticking down. Russia now has six months to comply or the U.S. will fully withdraw from the treaty. There's no sign that the Russians will do that.

Also starting this weekend, the U.S. can start testing and deploying weapon that were banned under the treaty, which of course could now provoke Russian and Chinese responses and kick off a dangerous nuclear arms race -- Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: It's a big story and we'll have analysis on that story in the next hour.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, in Venezuela, the pressure mounting for the sitting president to step aside. Global rallies against Nicolas Maduro are planned for the weekend.

Will they have an impact?

ALLEN: Also ahead, from mayor to senator to the White House, Cory Booker joins a growing field of Democrats, ready to take on President Trump.






ALLEN: Welcome back.

From Caracas to New York to Berlin, protesters around the world will take to the streets in a few hours.

HOWELL: Their message, Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro must step down. The demonstrations, the latest in support of the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, in Venezuela, the tensions are especially high as those loyal to Mr. Maduro plan to hold opposing rallies.

ALLEN: The sitting president says he is willing to enter into talks with the opposition. But Guaido rejected an offer by Mexico and Uruguay to mediate. The two countries say they are neutral.

But in a letter, Guaido urged them to pick a side, saying "To be neutral is to be on a side of a regime that condemned hundreds of thousands of human beings to misery, hunger, exile and even death."

HOWELL: The rest of the world is picking sides. Take a look at the map here; several European countries are giving Maduro until this weekend to call an election. On Friday, six countries declared support for Maduro but all the powerful Western nations are against him.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For too long, the people of Venezuela have suffered under the heavy hand of oppression. But now there is hope. There's hope in Venezuela.

Across that country in the largest cities and smallest towns, people are rising up in defense of their rights. And as President Trump said just last week, the fight for freedom has begun.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALLEN: Joining me now is Dr. Asa Cusack from the London School of Economics Latin America and the Caribbean Center.

We appreciate your time, Dr. Cusack. I want to start right here. There will be demonstrations around the world on Saturday to protest Maduro and in support of Guaido.

Can international support and condemnation of Maduro have an impact at this point?

ASA CUSACK, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: I think it's a good question. It seems there's often a bit of a feeling that somehow protests, in themselves, will lead to some kind of pressure and that will lead to some kind of change.

But in the case of Venezuela, I think if you have been following the country for a long time, as I have, you know these things have happened time and time again. But, really, unless there's a shift in other factors within Venezuela, particularly the military, there's no guarantee that protest in itself will lead to a change.

ALLEN: Well, we know that the military is standing with Maduro for now. He's indicated he is willing to hold talks with the opposition. But Guaido rejected an offer by neutral countries, Mexico and Uruguay, to mediate talks.

Why was that?

Was that wise on his part?

CUSACK: Well, I can kind of understand that, to some extent. In the past, there have been dialogues between Maduro and the opposition, which haven't gone anywhere. It's never been quite clear which side brought the negotiations to a standstill.

Really, it seems like there's often been a lack of real goodwill on either side to try to reach a real solution. The polarization of the political forces, just like in society in Venezuela, is extreme. So it's quite hard to get past that.

One issue with the negotiated solution option, which is being pushed more and more, is that it is difficult to know if --


CUSACK: -- that will is really there on Maduro's side. Again, there's an assumption it will reach a stage where he will be willing to leave, perhaps given the opportunity to go into exile or amnesty for past corruption or involvement, repression, things like that.

Again, you have to assume that Maduro will be willing to take that option. And that's not guaranteed.

ALLEN: Right. He certainly hasn't, at this point. I was speaking with someone last weekend that said any plan of talks with Maduro, that's usually a ruse on his part. He doesn't want to go anywhere. Let's talk about the United States. Friday, it reiterated its support

for Mr. Guaido.

Is the United States doing enough?

Are there any more cards it can play here?

CUSACK: I think what the United States is doing at the moment is potentially quite significant already. The new sanctions on the Venezuelan state oil company are quite severe. It's quite severe, also, for the people of Venezuela.

The entire society and economy is based on the revenues that come through that company. That company is very deeply involved in the social provision. So if there are problems with cash flow through that company, which there are, anyway, but they'll be worsened by this, then that is going to inevitably have effects on the people of Venezuela as well.

So that step already is quite drastic. It all depends, really now, on how Venezuela responds to that (INAUDIBLE) to get different components they need to process their own oil and other markets to sell their oil. But those markets and those suppliers will be worse than the ones that they currently have in the U.S. So it is going to have an effect, already.

ALLEN: We appreciate your expertise, Dr. Asa Cusack. Thank you for joining us.

CUSACK: My pleasure.

HOWELL: Planning for a second summit between Kim Jong-un and the U.S. president, Donald Trump, is underway. But the president is hinting at the location. That choice could be intended to send a message. We'll explain.

ALLEN: Also, he is not officially running for the White House, yet. But we'll introduce you to a U.S. senator looking to conquer Trump country in 2020.





ALLEN: Welcome back to viewers in the U.S. and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

(HEADLINES) ALLEN: A top Afghan official warns a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan could lead to increased bloodshed. The message follows news this week from an American negotiator that the U.S. and the Taliban made progress in talks to end the U.S. Involvement in the war there.

HOWELL: There's still no deal at this point but the head of the Afghanistan High Peace Council told our Nic Robertson that a rapid U.S. withdrawal could backfire.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: What are the concerns of the Afghan government that the United States may try to withdraw its troops?

We saw President Trump do this in Syria.

OMAR DAUDZAI, AFGHANISTAN HIGH PEACE COUNCIL: If it happened in a matter that's not orderly and if it happens in a way that replacement is not thought about, if it happens that it leaves a vacuum behind, then obviously, the bloodshed would increase.

ROBERTSON: Is there a concern under this American president, that the possibility of having all the troops pulled out quickly, is that a feeling that that really could happen?

DAUDZAI: I would say, yes, there is that feeling that that might happen.

ROBERTSON: That must be a very big concern then?

DAUDZAI: But we judge the relationship on the ground. So we don't see any practical consequences yet. But like the pressure from President Trump that I'm going to withdraw, I'm going to reduce the costs, I mean, that pressure, in a way, is creating concern but it's also creating opportunity.


HOWELL: The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. They are mostly helping to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

Now to another hot spot involving the U.S. The U.S. president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are set to meet for a second summit at the end of the month.

ALLEN: Experts say the likely location is a natural choice for both countries. Our Brian Todd has that.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president is now all but confirming Vietnam would be the location of his next face-to-face meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. TRUMP: I'm over in a certain location; I'll be over in a certain location there, as you know. So that will be announced officially probably next week.

TODD (voice-over): The U.S. views the second sit-down with the 35- year-old leader as critical with pressure on both leaders to come up with real measurable steps to set Kim on the path of dismantling his nuclear arsenal.

There are now fresh indications that the site of their second summit has been carefully chosen to show the young North Korean dictator what is possible if he makes a nuclear deal with America. Two knowledgeable sources telling CNN, the current plan is for the city of Da Nang, Vietnam, to host the summit near the end of February.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For both the United States and North Korea, it's a natural choice.

TODD (voice-over): Natural, experts say, for several reasons. It's close enough for Kim to get there without borrowing a Chinese plane, like he had to do when he went to Singapore. And Vietnam is in Kim's comfort zone --


TODD (voice-over): -- because of his regime's ideological ties that harken back to the Cold War.

BALBINA HWANG, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: They are still Communist allies. And in fact, the current foreign minister recently visited Vietnam.

TODD (voice-over): Da Nang carries historical significance, sometimes haunting memories for a certain generation of Americans. The bustling port was a major base for U.S. and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War, a hub for air and naval operations.

Trump has repeatedly used that history as an insult, including on Friday, calling Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal "Da Nang Dick," because he once told a veterans' group he served in Vietnam. Blumenthal served in the reserves during the war but in the U.S.

TRUMP: Da Nang. Who does Da Nang remind me of, huh?

A certain senator, it's a certain senator that said he was a war hero when he wasn't. Never saw Da Nang.

TODD (voice-over): These days, Da Nang is trying to shed its wartime reputation. It is now a tourist magnet, known for its attractive beaches, luxury hotels and golf courses. The very symbol of what can happen when a small Communist nation, decimated and impoverished by conflict, transitions from an enemy of the United States to an ally.

HWANG: What the United States wants to do is send a signal to North Korea, that if you, North Korea, hold a summit with us and you are willing to give up your nuclear weapons, you, too, can open up like Vietnam.

TODD (voice-over): It's a message secretary of state Mike Pompeo sent to Kim Jong-un back in July when Pompeo visited Vietnam.

POMPEO: In light of the once unimaginable prosperity and partnership we have with Vietnam today, I have a message for Chairman Kim Jong-un.

President Trump believes your country can replicate this path. It's yours, if you will seize the moment. The miracle could be yours.

TODD (voice-over): But analysts are concerned the Vietnam model could send a different signal to Kim Jong-un, one the American side won't be crazy about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's been recent crackdowns on journalists in the media, university professors are restricted in what they say. So it's not the most politically open environment and in some ways this could reassuring to Kim Jong-un as he is able to make economic development reforms without opening up politically.

TODD: Analysts say no matter how youthful and moving the symbolism is for both Kim and Trump in Vietnam, none of that is going to matter if they don't come up with a better deal than the one in Singapore and really move tangibly toward getting Kim to give up his nuclear weapons -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: The crowded field of Democrats wanting to take on President Trump in 2020 seems to be growing by the day.

HOWELL: The latest is Cory Booker, the senator from New Jersey. He released a recorded video campaign announcement on Friday.



SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-N.J.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (voice-over): Together, we will channel our common pain back into our common purpose. Together, America, we will rise. I'm Cory Booker and I'm running for President of the United States of America.


ALLEN: He and a lot of others. It's already the most diverse group in history to run for president. Ten people have already announced they're running or formed exploratory committees, half of them women.

HOWELL: Another name that may soon be added to that list, Ohio senator Sherrod Brown.

ALLEN: He is in Iowa on the first leg of his Dignity of Work Tour, that's what it is called, and will soon head to the pivotal states of New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Our Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the senator. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From his home state in Ohio...

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Donald Trump used his phony populism to divide Americans and to demonize immigrants.

ZELENY (voice-over): -- to stops across the early voting state of Iowa.

BROWN: And there's a betrayal by this president of working class Americans, of all races, of all stripes.

ZELENY (voice-over): Senator Sherrod Brown is presenting himself as a true populist, one handshake at a time. He is hoping to reach the blue collar voters who supported Barack Obama but, disillusioned four years later, they turned to Donald Trump.

He's touting his Ohio roots in reelection to a third term in the Senate last fall, a Democratic victory in the state Trump won by 8 points. It's an example, he says, of how Democrats cannot ignore Trump country.

BROWN: I'm sort of wary of Democrats that say you only talk to progressives to win and excite the base.

ZELENY: The fact that you're exploring this would suggest that you think that voice is missing from the conversation?

BROWN: I think that voice needs to be stronger.

ZELENY (voice-over): He's casting Trump as little more than a snake oil salesman by not living up to his promise of bringing back manufacturing jobs, to places like the soon-to-be shuttered General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

BROWN: He promised them, a year ago, he said to workers in Youngstown, don't move, don't sell your house, we are going to fill your factories. We're going to rip them down and build new ones.

Well, we are still waiting.


ZELENY (voice-over): Now Brown is at least one of nine Democratic senators eyeing a bid for the White House.

ZELENY: Do you think your party needs a candidate from the middle of the country to defeat Donald Trump?

BROWN: I think that our party needs to nominate somebody that can win the industrial Midwest, the heartland, the Great Lakes states, Plains states from Pennsylvania to Iowa. ZELENY (voice-over): His wife, Connie Schultz, is often at his side



ZELENY (voice-over): A liberal newspaper columnist and a fierce campaigner, who could be a powerful partner in a presidential race. He talks more about Trump than many Democratic hopefuls, testing this applause line with Van Jones.

BROWN: I would say that I will beat Trump in Ohio where they know me best. And I'll beat him in my home state. I'll beat him in his home state of New York, where they know him.


BROWN: I have been working on that.

ZELENY (voice-over): But if he jumps into the race, navigating the Democratic primary will be the first task for a little-known, famously rumpled senator.

BROWN: Donald Trump, Chris, I mean, you're looking for something different. If my hair starts to looks worse than Bernie Sanders, it's time for a haircut. So I just kind of figured that.

ZELENY: Now Brown could be new competition for his Senate colleague, Bernie Sanders, who is expected to jump into the race soon. As Brown makes up his mind, he will travel to New Hampshire next week, followed by South Carolina and Nevada, trying to make a decision if he will join the race for the presidency.

But he says one Democrat must be able to speak to Trump country -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Perry, Iowa.



ALLEN: Breaking news to share with you from Moscow.

HOWELL: The Kremlin reports president Vladimir Putin says that Russia has now suspended the INF treaty. That's the Cold War-era Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces agreement. This follows a similar decision made by the United States.

ALLEN: Putin said this, here is a quote, "We will have a tit-for-tat response. American partners have announced that they are suspending their participation in the treaty, so we are suspending ours as well. They announced that they are engaged in research and technological development work and we will do the same."

We will continue to follow this developing story for you.

HOWELL: Still ahead, volunteers are working hard in the lead-up to the Super Bowl here in Atlanta, the biggest U.S. sporting event of the year. But for these volunteers, their mission isn't about football. Rather it's about saving victims of human trafficking. We'll have that story for you.





HOWELL: We are just a day away from the Super Bowl here in Atlanta. It is the biggest sporting event of the year in the States. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is where the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots will face off for the football championship.

ALLEN: 100 million will be watching.

Ahead of the big game, 40 people were arrested in a human trafficking sting. Four victims were rescued. Studies show that large events don't necessarily contribute to more sex trafficking crimes but this year's Super Bowl is being used to send a message. We learn more about it from CNN's Robyn Curnow.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The Super Bowl is surrounded with hype, large crowds and big dollars. But some local officials are concerned those dollars could be spent in a more sinister way. Atlanta's mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, is all too aware this city is already a U.S. hub for sex trafficking.

KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, MAYOR OF ATLANTA: We are concerned 12 months out of the year. We know that there's more attention faced on human trafficking during the Super Bowl. But what we know is that this is a growing problem and it's not someone else's problem. It literally is happening in our backyard.

So again it's about informing our hotel workers, even putting literature in some of our strip clubs throughout the city.

CURNOW: So with all this awareness, particularly in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, is this a disconnect perhaps that, by increasing awareness, it looks like there's a problem?

BOTTOMS: No, it's not a concern. I think that you have to look for opportunities to educate the public. And what we know is that when people are talking about the Super Bowl, there's an opportunity for us to increase awareness.

CURNOW: And it's not just about the lead-up to game day. The awareness campaign stretches from the airport to the taxi cabs, too hotel rooms and beyond.

CURNOW (voice-over): In this convenience store just miles from the stadium, an opportunity to spread the word or even spot a victim. I met Nita Belles, executive director of the non-profit organization called In Our Backyard.

NITA BELLES, IN OUR BACKYARD: And this store has done an excellent job. They have got the freedom sticker and the information about human trafficking right here on the front door.

CURNOW (voice-over): She's traveled to 10 Super Bowls with her organization.

BELLES: The Super Bowl does not increase trafficking. Sex buyers increase trafficking.

CURNOW (voice-over): She fights human trafficking by partnering with stores like this one.

BELLES: Traffickers bring their victims to convenience stores every day.

CURNOW (voice-over): The volunteers know that. So they put the human trafficking hotline number inside bathroom stalls for those rare moments when a trafficking victim is alone.

BELLES: We have documented cases of people that have actually found freedom as a result of the freedom stickers.

CURNOW (voice-over): Haley Bower represents this chain of petrol stations and convenience stores, where they train employees how to spot potential victims and traffickers.

HALEY BOWER, CLIPPER PETROLEUM: They are probably coming in to buy drinks, snacks, anything that they need for their hotels. So, yes, we think they will be coming in and hopefully we can put a stop to it.

CURNOW: You have your eyes open?

BOWER: They're -- eyes open, ears open. We are ready.

CURNOW (voice-over): They are the eyes and ears that you will never see out in the open. Nita led us to this secret location in downtown Atlanta, where volunteers are scouring the dark web, looking for new leaks to feed to law enforcement with the goal in mind of finding missing youths who are at risk of being trafficked.

BELLES: These are some of the children in our missing children's book and some of them, as you can see, have been recovered.

CURNOW (voice-over): Here we met Cheryl Csiky, a volunteer with a personal connection to trafficking.

CHERYL CSIKY, TRAFFICKING SURVIVOR: I was exploited as a youth around the age of 10. I was pretty much pinned in the mix of a neighborhood young child trafficking abuse ring.

CURNOW (voice-over): Overcome with emotion, she revealed it took her years before she realized what was happening but hopes her work can prevent others from the same trauma.

CSIKY: I think the most rewarding experience -- I have been around four years now -- is actually the Super Bowl, meeting up with convenience store workers and hearing them say they have seen some of these kids in the booklets.

CURNOW (voice-over): A glimmer of hope in the fight to save lives, as officials and activists use events like the Super Bowl to highlight a year-round problem -- Robyn Curnow, CNN, Atlanta.


HOWELL: A very important story. Robyn, thank you so much.

CNN is partnering with people around the world for a day of action on March 14th against modern day slavery.

This year, we are asking a very simple question, what makes you feel free?

ALLEN: We want to hear from you. Tell us what makes you feel free. Post a photo or a video using the #MyFreedomDay.

We'll be right back.





HOWELL: The countdown is on in China for the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Pig. The Spring Festival, as it's also called, will be rung in Tuesday.

ALLEN: Michael Holmes reports, it also marks a time when hundreds of millions of Chinese travel home.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's just days from the start of the Lunar New Year and the mad rush is well underway in China. Nearly 3 billion trips are expected across the country in the world's largest annual human migration. Hundreds of millions of people are trying to get home to celebrate the New Year's Spring Festival.

Twenty-one-year-old intern, Xiang Rumai (ph) is one of them. She's making a nearly 17-hour-long journey --


HOLMES (voice-over): -- to the northeast by train.

XIANG RUMAI (PH), INTERN (through translator): I have experience how hard life outside was and I miss home. Home is where the warmth is.

HOLMES (voice-over): More than 400 million trips will be by rail. And China says it is prepared to handle the onslaught. The country already has the world's longest rail network and 10 new railways were added at the end of 2018.

New technology also helping to make the long journey more convenient for travelers. There's the new automatic ticketing machines at some stations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We used to wait in line to buy student ticket at the manual ticketing office but now I only need to do some simple operations on the automatic ticketing machine to buy the ticket.

HOLMES (voice-over): Seventy-three million trips will be made by air. Regardless of the mode of transportation, a multitude of festivities await travelers in villages and towns across China. This is Yuchang (ph) City in Shaanxi province (ph), where decorative lights blanket the city.

Elsewhere, winter lanterns light up parks and streets. Traditional dances entertain audiences. And the side attraction in some areas, a trip to the zoo. This zoo even got into the festive mood with decorations, as it showed off two panda cubs to the public. Some visitors, brought gifts, fried food, hoping for good luck in return during the Year of the Pig -- Michael Holmes, CNN.


ALLEN: The pandas getting into it.

The day's top stories are just ahead here. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Stay with us. We'll be back after the break.