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Virginia Governor Denies He's in a Racist Yearbook Photo; Interview with Rep. Karen Bass (D), Congressional Black Caucus; Thousands Rally in Venezuela in Pro- and Anti-Government Protests; U.S. Suspends Nuclear Arms Control Treaty with Russia; Pope Makes Historic Visit to UAE; Prime Minister May Determined to Deliver Brexit on Time; Rams versus Patriots in Super Bowl. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired February 3, 2019 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In the U.S., the governor of Virginia holds onto his job after changing his story about a racist yearbook picture.

Protests and counterprotests in Venezuela. While opposition supporters fill the streets of the capital, President Nicolas Maduro remains defiant.


JOHN BERCOW, SPEAKER, BRITISH HOUSE OF COMMONS: Order, order. The House will have heard very clear order. Please.


VANIER (voice-over): You know that voice, the man playing referee in Britain's Brexit drama. A rare exclusive interview with Speaker of the House of Commons.

We're live from the CNN Center. I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.


VANIER: So the Democratic governor of Virginia is changing his story about a racist photograph that could ultimately drive him from office. Just a day after admitting that he was one of the two people in this offensive picture, Ralph Northam now claims that he wasn't in the shot after all.

But in trying to explain himself on Saturday, he may have hurt his case even more.


GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: When I was confronted with the images yesterday, I was appalled that they appeared on my page but I believed then and now that I am not either of the people in that photo.

I am not and will not excuse the content of the photo. It was offensive, racist and despicable.

I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio, in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume.

I had the shoes, a glove and I used a little shoe polish to put on my cheeks. And the reason I used a very little bit is because I don't know if anybody has tried that but you cannot get shoe polish off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you still able to moonwalk?

NORTHAM: My wife says "inappropriate circumstances."

I was the president of the VMI Honor Court. Our code there is, "A cadet shall not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do." That is the most meaningful thing to me in my life. I tell the truth. I'm telling the truth today.


VANIER: Former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe is now calling for Northam to step down. Northam served as lieutenant governor under McAuliffe. Both of Virginia's U.S. senators also say the governor has lost credibility and should resign.

Democratic congresswoman Karen Bass currently serves as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Earlier she spoke with our Ana Cabrera about why she believes Governor Northam should resign.


REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: The idea that he's going to come out yesterday and say that he was in the picture, today deny it and then, on top of it, to say that he hopes that people would make a distinction between wearing blackface and imitating Michael Jackson and because he wasn't standing next to someone in the Klan, he is completely tone-deaf.

Then to say that his nickname of Coonman, he doesn't know where that came from or how that appeared, this was not a 16- or 17-year-old boy. This is a person who graduated medical school in the early 1980s, when there was a tremendous amount of activity around Jesse Jackson's campaign, the anti-apartheid movement.

It was not the '30s, the '40s or the '50s. So it is inexcusable and I think that he absolutely should resign and clearly he's lost all support.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: I'm glad you point out because Northam made the argument that blackface wasn't viewed in 1984 the same way it is now. I'm glad you point out the fact that 1984 wasn't all that long ago. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NORTHAM: While I did not appear in this photo, I am not surprised by its appearance in the EVMS yearbook. In the place and time where I grew up, many actions that we rightfully recognize as abhorrent today were commonplace.


BASS: That is just a lie. I am sorry but that is a lie. In 1984, there was a tremendous amount of activity and enthusiasm and excitement over the possibility of the first African American president. There is no way in the world he can say that he didn't know better.

Now I also question both schools as well, you know, how inappropriate it was for them to even allow those kinds of photographs in a yearbook. But right now it was his responsibility. He took responsibility yesterday. He retracted it today.


BASS: But, you know, the other thing, I think, is why didn't he come forward years ago?

Since he has such great relations in the community, why didn't he sit down with black clergy and say, you know what, I did something when I was younger; it was really stupid; I'm sorry?

If no one had discovered this, he would have continued on. In a way, it's like he hid this and only acknowledged it when he was exposed. No excuse.

CABRERA: If Northam resigns, he'll be replaced by Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax.

BASS: Yes.

CABRERA: Fairfax would be the second black governor in Virginia's history.

How significant is that?

BASS: I think that is very significant. I think it's very appropriate. Again, the state of Virginia has a day in which they celebrate Robert E. Lee. Robert E. Lee before Martin Luther King holiday.

The governor came out very strong after Charlottesville, talking about getting rid of Confederate monuments and then he backtracked on that. So I think it would be extremely appropriate.

I know that the lieutenant governor is very, very popular in the state and I think it would be a tremendous step toward healing for him to take over. It should be Governor Fairfax at this point.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: And more prominent Democrats are calling for Northam to step down. Former presidential candidate and secretary of state Hillary Clinton is among them.

She posted on Twitter, "This has gone on too long. There is nothing to debate. He must resign."

Now new developments in Venezuela's political standoff. The country's ambassador to Iraq says he has defected from the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

In a video, he declares support for the opposition, making him the first known ambassador to switch sides.

Earlier, a Venezuelan air force general announced he had defected. CNN cannot independently verify either of those videos.

And despite mass protests, the Venezuelan president remains defiant. Saturday, Mr. Maduro said he would support early elections for the opposition-controlled national assembly. Stefano Pozzebon has details from Caracas.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two leaders, two crowds battling for the future of Venezuela. On one side, the Venezuelan opposition rallies around its leader, Juan Guaido, the young president of the national assembly who swore himself in as acting president of Venezuela on January 23.

People gathered from early hours of the morning to wait for Guaido's speech, many just hoping for an end to the country's years-long downward spiral. Over the last few years Venezuela's economy has collapsed and its people have been unable to put their hands on the basics of food and medicine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope we in this right now, I hope we have a free country. I hope we start our new lies, have this nightmare past this inferno situation we're in right now.

POZZEBON (voice-over): There is a new momentum behind the Venezuelan opposition after Nicolas Maduro began the second presidential term that many consider legitimate here and abroad.

POZZEBON: A lot of geopoliticians say here in Venezuela they have seen the negotiating going on. We have heard that both Russia and China are on Maduro's side and how the rest of the international community is on the opposition side. But today here in Caracas is the return of the street.

POZZEBON (voice-over): When Juan Guaido finally arrived at the rally, an avenue full of enthusiastic supporters welcomes him. On stage, the young leader outlined his plan to put an end to the humanitarian crisis that is bringing Venezuela to its knees.

JUAN GUAIDO, INTERIM PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): We are also announcing to the people of Venezuela that we already have three collection points for humanitarian aid. The first point, Bogota, Colombia, will be the first collection point of humanitarian aid. And there will be two more, which we will announce precisely where they will be in the upcoming days.

POZZEBON (voice-over): On the other side of the city, another rallying cry from the old leader.

NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): I am the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. And I owe myself to everyone, not just to some of them. I owe myself to all of Venezuela.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Nicolas Maduro standing firm, calls of fresh parliamentary elections that mean dismantling the national assembly led by Guaido.

MADURO (through translator): I am in agreement with rectifying the legislative power of the nation and going forward with free elections in the nation with guarantees for the people to decide on a new national assembly.

POZZEBON (voice-over): A proposal cheered by Maduro supporters, wary of the international interest towards Venezuela.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are telling those Yankee lovers, don't you dare do anything here.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Two crowds, two leaders, today simply not able to speak to each other. For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon.


VANIER: Russia says it will develop powerful new weapons now that a key 1987 nuclear missile treaty is effectively dead.

On Saturday, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo officially gave --


VANIER: -- notice to U.S. allies that Washington would pull out of the treaty in six months. Russia quickly followed suit. Now critics fear a new arms race may be on the way. Oren Liebermann has the details.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It seems Russia was very much expecting the move from the U.S. to either suspend or outright withdraw from the INF Treaty and Russia had its response ready.

On Saturday morning, Russian president Vladimir Putin, meeting with his defense minter and his foreign minister, and announcing that Russia, too, would be suspending its participation in the INF Treaty and the limits it places on weapons development. As for fears of an arms race, which is the major concern here, Russian

president Vladimir Putin said there should be no arms race and there will be no arms race. But shortly after that announcement, he also said Russia would further develop one of its missiles. That missile is known as the Caliber missile.

It is a sea-based, medium-range hypersonic missile. That missile, in its current form, falls under the limitations of the INF Treaty. It is permissible. But Putin said it would be developed as a ground- based missile, which would be a blatant violation of the terms of that treaty, which now no longer holds any water with its suspension from both the U.S. and Russia.

Russia here signaling, if the U.S. isn't going to stand by the treaty and be in compliance with it, Russia isn't, either. Russia also fired back at the U.S., accusing the U.S. of violating the treaty for something over the course of the past nearly 20 years, saying that the U.S. drone development is like the land-based missiles prevented by the INF and, therefore, the U.S. has been in violation of this for a long time.

So Russia very much firing that accusation right back at the United States. Russia has, in the past, signaled it may be open to some sort of multilateral agreement to replace the INF, not just a U.S.-Russia treaty.

But Putin also pointed out it would not be Russia that would initiate that. It would have to be some other country signaling they have the will, the initiative to pursue that multilateral agreement.

But right now it seems the diplomacy and willpower to keep the spirit of the INF alive simply isn't there at this point. If this falls apart, that means there's only one major arms control treaty left. That's the New START treaty and that comes up in 2021 -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Moscow.


VANIER: Brussels has agreed to allow the former president of the Ivory Coast to live in Belgium after the International Criminal Court acquitted Laurent Gbagbo last month of crimes against humanity. Gbagbo had been on trial for violence in Ivory Coast following the 2010 elections.

He spent seven years in custody in The Hague. His release is provisional and subject to appeal.

Pope Francis is about to kick off a historic trip to the United Arab Emirates. It is the first time a Roman Catholic pope has ever visited the Arabian Peninsula. The Vatican wants more freedom for the region's Christians and this will be a chance to discuss that with Muslim leaders. CNN's Becky Anderson has more from Abu Dhabi.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): A message to the faithful ahead of his historic trip to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam and home of some of its holiest sites attracting millions of pilgrims each year. The Gulf also has a Christian past.

PETER HELLYER, UAE HISTORIAN AND WRITER: We have evidence of Christianity in Eastern Arabia, including the UAE and Oman, certainly well into the 9th and 9th centuries A.D.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Abu Dhabi itself is home to the ruins of an ancient monastery built around 600 A.D., fragments of which can be found at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

HELLYER: It was founded by a denomination called The Church of the East, which is one of the eastern churches, that still survives. So the visit by the pope actually has a local resonance in that there is a tradition here of Christianity that is still related today to the Catholic Church.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Hellyer says history suggests that local followers of that church converted to Islam but it didn't mark the end of the Christian presence on the Arabian Peninsula. While Islam is the official religion of the Gulf States and leaving Islam is illegal, in the UAE alone, it is believed there are over 1 million Christians, the majority of whom are Catholic migrant workers.

HELLYER: You can't be a trading nation on the shores of a great maritime trade route without learning to develop some kind of tolerance and understanding and acceptance.

ANDERSON (voice-over): A champion of interfaith dialogue, Pope Francis will meet with the grand imam of the Egypt's al-Azhar mosque in Abu Dhabi during his trip, a cleric regarded as the highest authority in Sunni Islam.

ABDULKHALEQ ABDULLA, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE: UAE is already a role model of sorts. It's the trendsetter for the whole region. Whatever the UAE does, others follow.

ANDERSON (voice-over): The UAE is using this visit to shine a spotlight on its carefully cultivated --


ANDERSON (voice-over): -- image of tolerance on a world stage while maintaining a more muscular foreign policy. UAE's version of tolerance stands in contrast to neighboring Saudi Arabia, where churches are illegal and non-Muslims can't worship in public.

ABDULLA: And tolerance these days are in short supply, not only in this very troubled region but all over the world. It's in short supply in Europe, in America, wherever you go. So the UAE wants to be a leading global force for tolerance. And I think that is the kind of legacy that we are hoping that the pope's visit will leave us.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Becky Anderson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: If you've been following Brexit, you may be familiar with this man's colorful demands for order. CNN speaks exclusively to Britain's Speaker of the House of Commons to see how it's going.

Plus on the ground and in the air, the challenges of securing Super Bowl LIII. Why you should leave the drone at home -- when we come back.




VANIER: Brexit is less than two months away and there's still a lot that needs to get done before the U.K. leaves the European Union. The British Parliament told prime minister Theresa May to renegotiate but the E.U. says it's not interested. As the clock ticks down, Britain's options shrink.

The man responsible for keeping British parliamentary debates in some semblance of order is the Speaker of the House of Commons. That task has been even more challenging when it comes to Brexit. Speaker John Bercow spoke exclusively to CNN's Bianca Nobilo about how he gets it done.



Stop it. It's low grade, it's useless and it won't work.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Bercow, one of he most recognizable voices in British politics, in a role almost as old as Parliament itself.

BERCOW: The best-known visible function of the speaker is to chair in the chamber, chair the prime minister's questions, to chair the debates. In that capacity, I'm the referee.

Don't tell me what the procedures of this house are.

If the speaker is the sort of person that will be cowed or intimidated by an administerial rant or a letter sent by way of complaint, that person isn't fit to be speaker.

NOBILO: Speaker since 2009, how has he learned to control hundreds of lawmakers?

BERCOW: You sometimes you do have to speak loudly. There's no point in saying, would you mind awfully, just possibly, after due reflection, thinking about stopping speaking?

If somebody is going on too long, sometimes you just have to interrupt and say, "Order, order!"

BERCOW: Order! Order! Order!

NOBILO: A job fraught with the difficulties of the day.

BERCOW: We're grappling with the biggest difficulty facing us, Brexit. No resolution of the matter has been obtained.


BERCOW: It is a concern. It isn't something that the speaker can determine.

NOBILO: All six centuries of speakers have faced their own challenges, including mortal danger.

(on camera): Do you feel that weight of history when you conduct your daily duties?

BERCOW: The truth is that it was a very perilous enterprise to stand for speaker before the Democratic age came upon us.

The historians here will note that some seven speakers lost their heads for championing the Commons against the executives.


That does enable me to view the woes and challenges which afflict and confront the House of Commons and which, if truth be told, periodically, afflict and confront me. That is to say, whatever happens to me, I'm not likely to lose my head.

NOBILO (voice-over): Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.


VANIER: American football's biggest game is just a few hours away right here in Atlanta. The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams are set to face off in Super Bowl LIII right there. Live picture of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the game is going to take place.

A game this big is a huge undertaking for law enforcement from around the country. CNN's Kaylee Hartung has this look at Super Bowl security.


KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is an aerial team of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home of Super Bowl LIII, courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the same officials known to patrol the U.S. border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We consider the Super Bowl to be a national security special event. This is a tier 1, level 1 event.

HARTUNG (voice-over): That means more than 50 federal, state and local agencies are working together in careful coordination, each with a specific role to play. The Air and Marine division of Customs and Border Protection are enforcing a temporary flight restriction with a 30-mile radius of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta on Sunday.

HARTUNG (from captions): But there are exceptions for that no-fly zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the aircraft will be allowed inside the TFR, some of the military aircraft, the law enforcement. But the key thing is, everybody who is operating inside of here, the airliners and so forth, they've been cleared by us.

HARTUNG (voice-over): If any aircraft should breach the no-fly zone, this Blackhawk, along with six others, will work to spot it and intercept it. Fighter jets are on standby if a threat arises.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a different mission but it's one we are very familiar with, intercepting aircraft, steering aircraft away from sensitive areas. This is what we do, day in and day out.

HARTUNG: Last week that Blackhawk UH-60 helicopter that I rode on was doing a counter drug mission in Puerto Rico. Officers on board saying next week it's very likely they could be back patrolling the border. Very different missions from Super Bowl security but those officers say, it's the same job every day of dealing with people and vehicles.

At this time, we are told no credible threats have been brought to officials' attention -- Kaylee Hartung, CNN, Atlanta.


VANIER: All right. So let's get the latest on the weather for the Super Bowl.



VANIER: One more thing. U.S. President Trump keeps changing his mind on what to call his proposed border wall. First it was a wall, then a fence, then steel slats. So with his back to the wall, Mr. Trump changed his mind again and went, well, back to the wall. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump has finally come full circle on the wall after all the jokes.

BILL MAHER, HBO HOST: First it was a wall. Then it was a fence. Then it was just, I guess, cones, you know.

MOOS (voice-over): With his back to the wall, the president has gone back to his roots, tweeting, "Let's just call them walls from now on and stop playing political games. A wall is a wall," which brought retorts like, "And a fence is a fence."

"And ladders are ladders."

"In the words of the immortal Dr. Seuss, a wall is a wall no matter how small or even if it isn't built at all."

In under 20 seconds, watch the president end up where he started.

TRUMP: I will build a great, great wall.

Powerful wall.

As beautiful as a wall can be.

Pre-cast concrete, going very high.

Wall or fence.

It could be some fencing.

It has to be see-through.

You could call it a steel fence.

We'll build a steel barrier.

Or a slat fence.

MOOS (voice-over): And now a wall is a wall.

Oh, wait. We left out the best one.

TRUMP: Name it peaches. I don't care what they name it.

MOOS (voice-over): Just the other day, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway was counseling reporters not to use the word "wall."

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: I'm asking why you in the polling questions, respectfully, are still saying wall, when the president has said you can call it whatever you want.


QUESTION: He calls it a wall himself, Kellyanne.

So why can't we call it a wall when he called it a wall?

MOOS (voice-over): Besides, "Build a slat fence, it's the best defense" doesn't have quite the same ring.

MOOS: Remember the good old, bad old days when a wall really was a wall?

MOOS (voice-over): Imagine President Reagan saying --


TRUMP: Solar wall.

Steel fence.


MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VANIER: All right. That's it for me this hour. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. We'll have the headlines for you again in just a moment. Stay with CNN.