Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Lashes Out as Democrats Step Up Investigations; Meetings between Afghan Leaders, Taliban; Interview with Hamid Karzai; Villagers Fleeing from Syria Tell Their Stories; Movies about Women Being Celebrated This Year; U.K. Meets European Council President In Brussels; France Recalls Ambassador To Italy In Diplomatic Spat; Jeff Bezos Accuses National Enquirer Of Extortion Attempt; Venezuelans In The Slums Face Hunger, Question Maduro; Football Star Emiliano Sala's Body Identified. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired February 8, 2019 - 01:00   ET



[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello everybody. Thank you for joining us. I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Ahead this hour and incredibly bad no good horrible day for Theresa May in Brussels. E.U. leaders refusing to reopen Brexit talks and praising the plan put forward by the Labour opposition.

Below the belt selfies, graphic text messages, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos goes public with graphic embarrassing details from his private life which he says the National Enquirer tried to use in a blackmail attempt.

And while Venezuela's president says his people are not figures and actively blocks the delivery of humanitarian aid, CNN reports from Caracas where millions are facing starvation.

Of all of Theresa May's based bad Brexit days, none could have been much worse than Thursday. The European Union is standing firm no new breaks a deal, they told her. The British Prime Minister went to Brussels hoping to reopen the U.K. withdraw agreement. Once again she came away with nothing.

Sources say the European Council President Donald Tusk told her that opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn might have a solution to the impasse and just hours before she arrived. Tusk said there was a special place in hell for people who promoted Brexit without a plan on how to leave.


THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: First of all, I've raised with President Tusk the language that he used yesterday which was not helpful and caused widespread dismay in the United Kingdom. The point I made to him is that we should both be working to ensure that we can deliver a close relationship between the United Kingdom the European Union in the future and that's that he should be focusing on. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: CNN's European Affairs Commentator Dominic Thomas joins us now from Los Angeles. So Jeremy Corbyn, Dominic. Jeremy Corbyn to the rescue, just let that sink in for a moment. He's been hiding his lighter under the bush all this time. Tusk telling the British Tory Prime Minister the Labour Party opposition's plan is promising. OK, this is extraordinary. Let's hear from Corbyn first. This is him outlining the five demands has to -- Brexit demands that he has in return for Labour's support. Listen to this.


JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, LABOUR PARTY: The principal points are that we need a comprehensive customs union with the European Union. We need a comprehensive trade agreed with the European Union and we need what's called a dynamic relationship on rights and work, rights of environmental protection and consumer protection so this country doesn't then consistently fall behind in the future.


VAUSE: That's great, you know, all great. But what's not clear is that if any of those demands can actually be met.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes and I think one thing to not underestimate what is absolutely extraordinary is that you have the leader of the Opposition here talking about Brexit rights. So at least the official position of the Labour Party is to have some kind of Brexit which is what's so incredible about this and so divisive within his own party as well.

If you look very closely at what he's done with these latest five demands which has sort of been toned from the initial kind of six that were proposed by the Labour Party is you find in their words like alignment and commitment and so on and so forth. Words that will of course drive the Brexiteers crazy who want no regulations, no alignments, and no obligations with the European Union.

The fact remains though that the proposal to have a customs union and to maintain an alignment with the single market solves the Irish backstop problem. The problem is though for Theresa May is that if she goes towards the center to try and achieve a deal, she's going to fracture the Conservative Party that is being driven by the Brexiteer agenda on the far right side. And so it's the kind of catch-22 situation.

But what's also remarkable is that Donald Tusk today really doubled down not only sticking by and standing by his comments from yesterday but then as you just mentioned to go across and speak and talk about the fact that it was Jeremy Corbyn's plan just goes to point to sort of the you know, the ultimately sort of you know, surrealistic aspect of these -- of all these negotiations.

VAUSE: It may have spent all of Thursday sticking a fork in her eye it seems to be considered an improvement on what she endured in Brussels. You know, it's not just Tusk which is talking up Corbyn's plan you know, the E.U. Brexit negotiator, and a whole lot of others, it seems to be a clear signal coming from the E.U. they've lost faith in her ability to get anything done in Parliament.

THOMAS: Yes. I think they lost faith with her but also they can see clearly and unambiguously just how divided the Parliament is and how incredibly complicated it is to get -- to get anything through there. And I think that the fact that they've said to her that they of course are willing to continue discussions but not until the end of the month of February just points to the sort of the fertility of the exercise at the moment and that there is no way of kind of advancing or budging on this and they don't have time for her right now, basically.

VAUSE: Yes. I mean, you know, this is -- she still caught in a catch-22 in a maze inside a house of horrors. Meantime, the outer bands of this looming no deal Brexit disaster having an increasing impact on the economy. Listen to this.


[01:0512] MARK CARNEY, GOVERNOR, BANK OF ENGLAND: And the fog of Brexit is causing short-term volatility in the economic data and more fundamentally it is creating a series of tensions in the economy, tensions for business. Although many companies are stepping up their contingency planning, the economy as a whole is not yet prepared for a no deal, no transition exit.


VAUSE: Still not prepared and GDP would take hit they went on to say. You know, a divorce is never easy and often it does gets nasty but you know, of all scenarios, two years of you know, of how Brexit would play out, this would seem to be the absolute rock bottom worst. It couldn't have been any worse than what we're looking at now.

THOMAS: Yes. Well, I mean, it's very hard to anticipate this. I mean, let's not forget that the parliament initially voted not only for there to be a meaningful vote but also to trigger article -- to trigger Article 50. And so where we've ended up is just -- is just absolutely you know, extraordinary that they've been unable to come up with anything that would go through parliament and they could bring to the European Union.

And Theresa May crosses the channel with demands that the European Union tell them they will not support, the latest being these alternative arrangements to the backstop and so on when the E.U. has said that they wouldn't go along and touch this. And so of course as far as businesses are concerned, what they're looking for is security and stability and there's no evidence of that at the moment.

It is as if you're watching a sort of a Hollywood movie where in the opening scene an explosive device timer has been set and we're just waiting to find by the end of it whether we're going to end up with it going off or end up with this kind of no deal, you know. And at this particular juncture, there's no indication that anything else is going to step in to stop this that just simply ending up at the end of March and exiting and crashing out of the European Union.

VAUSE: A very long movie. Stay with us Dominic because there is unhappiness not just in Britain with E.U. leaders. There's unhappiness in Europe and other places as well. France is recalling its ambassador in Rome amid a worse diplomatic spat with Italy. The wrath has been brewing for months with France accusing Italy's far- right politicians of insulting Emmanuel Macron after he spoke out against the rise of populism in Europe.

Tensions came to head early this week with one of Italy's deputy prime minister met with the yellow vest. That's an anti-government movement which is being sweeping across France pressing a direct challenge to Emmanuel Macron. So Dominic, back with us on this. You know, the last time France recall its Ambassador from Rome, June 1940. And that's when the stakes were a little high. Mussolini had declared war on France.

So you know, the current souring of diplomatic relations, it seems to be more than name-calling going on here. The bad blood sort of goes back you know, years.

THOMAS: Yes, it does. And I think what's extraordinary is that Emmanuel Macron has taken some pretty harsh criticism but the bromance with Donald Trump ended when he went off to him on Twitter and yet Emmanuel Macron didn't really act to that. The comments of Salvini, far right Minister of the Interior and of the Di Maio the Leader of the Five Star Movement in this kind of three-headed government with the top of its Prime Minister Conte particularly biting I would say because they hit Macron where it hurts.

There were two issues that Macron has been undefending. One is them is the European Union and he's absolutely right that in the last five to seven years, there's been a remarkable shift towards the far right and towards detractors of the European Union. We see it in Austria, in Hungary, Poland, Italy, you name it. Brexit feeds into this of course as does the Trump presidency.

But what has really I think hurt Macron here are in these negotiations or on these talks with the yellow vests because the opposition to Macron right now is very much galvanized around this particular issue and it's bringing together Le Pen's new party and the far left (INAUDIBLE) party, the (INAUDIBLE). And Emmanuel Macron is struggling to extricate himself from this political crisis at home.

And to have other leaders interfere here in essentially what other domestic affairs of the European Union country is really crossing a red line. Now that doesn't mean that Macron has not himself had a level of hypocrisy when it comes to dealing with the migration crisis and so on but it has really hit him where it hurts.

VAUSE: OK, Dominic, yes, happy times across Europe and with Britain as well and it sits to get all happier, I guess. Good to see you. Thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you, John. VAUSE: Next stop on the Theresa May Brexit tour is Dublin and as CNN

Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson reports there's a good deal of frustration mixed with anger for the British Prime Minister and surprisingly even a little pity as well.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Don't be afraid. The last words of legendary Irish poet Seamus Heaney. They have a prophetic feel in Dublin today. Brexit is looming and there's a lot of stake for Ireland.

At the nearby pub, the weekly restock (INAUDIBLE)

Tell me what do you think about Brexit?

[01:10:12] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disaster.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's going to change the whole economics, the whole island, both Britain and the Republic of Ireland. And in Ireland, don't mind the Republic.

ROBERTSON: A hard Brexit, possible border controls, and its impact on peace.

But what about the question of the border, the backstop on the border, could you compromise on that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think so. I think like the borrower should be cut down you know. It's out with a peace process.

ROBERTSON: And are you afraid of what some of the implications of the outcome might be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I'm actually from the border myself. I live just by the border at home and I think in fact that it's going to happen. Those kind of really rural communities and agriculture in particular over there is going to be huge. Yes.

ROBERTSON: But not just fears for themselves but for the U.K. as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel sorry for the English.

ROBERTSON: Why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they don't seem to know what they're doing. They're in a mess. They're going to suffer economically and probably socially.

ROBERTSON: Some pity but a lot of loathing for London's politicians too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Britain chooses to pull out without any plans in place and we get all the bad press.

ROBERTSON: Could this government compromise on the border issue?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This government? Why would this government need to compromise?

ROBERTSON: Could they do it you think on the backstop issue on the border issue?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Why would you want to compromise with people who have no plan, who keep changing their minds?

ROBERTSON: Frustrations that appear to go all the way to the top. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in office here has said that the no deal Brexit threat is not of Ireland's or the E.U.'s making, it's down to Theresa May to fix. A message she'll no doubt hear during her visit. Nic Robertson, CNN Dublin, Ireland.


VAUSE: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says he was the target of attempted blackmail by tabloid magazine, the National Enquirer and its parent company AMI. The background here is Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post. Well the publisher of The Enquirer David Pecker is a longtime associate of the U.S. President.

An extraordinary blog post Bezos includes e-mails he says was sent from lawyers representing AMI. They took a compromising photos of Bezos and his mistress. Bezos says The Enquirer threatened to publish unless the posting gave up its own investigation into the Enquirer.

To summarize this, a man named Pecker owns the Enquirer, a tabloid magazine which has been accused of threatening to publish incriminating pictures of a below the belt selfie taken by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos unless he drops his own investigation into the Enquirer. Welcome to 2019. It's just like 2018, only worse. CNN Legal Analyst Areva Martin joins us now from Los Angeles with more.

OK, Areva, Bezos published what he said you know where the e-mail exchanges between the lawyers to him and American Media which owns The Enquirer. You know, again keep mind, the Washington Post which Bezos own has been looking into political motivation, possible political motivation read Donald Trump for a story The Enquirer ran about Bezos at an extramarital affair he had. And like here's part of the e-mails which I think could mean trouble for American Media.

At this point of the conversation, the National Enquirer has made it known they have these graphic photos as well as these steamy text messages from Bezos. This is what it read. "Please be advised that our news gathering and reporting on matters involving your client including any use of your client's private photographs has been and will continue to be consistent with applicable laws." You know, they then goes on to talk about you know, demands that the Washington Post drop the investigation, threatens legal actions if it doesn't.

And now comes to kill a line. That said, if your client agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behavior, we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the text and photos which we have in our possession. Dylan Howard stands ready to discuss the matter at your convenience.

A common defense for extortion and blackmail could be that you know, that this is within the bounds of normal business. This is not within the boundaries of normal business.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, John. This is pretty extraordinary. You have AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer that has a history of using strong-arm tactics, a history of catch and kill and this relationship with Donald Trump. So you have this media company essentially saying to a private individual if you don't capitulate to the demands that we are making, we will publish these embarrassing photographs about you.

Imagine if this were a 16-year-old girl or a 35-year-old single mom and not one of the most powerful and one of the wealthiest men in the country. You know, what would they do in a similar situation? Jeff Bezos turned the table on AMI. And said, rather than capitulate, rather than to agree to this agreement that's been presented to him, he goes public with it. He says, "Let's air to the public what AMI is demanding that I do."

And I think this is going to raise some serious problems for AMI, particularly given the non-prosecution agreement that AMI has with federal prosecutors related to the Michael Cohen campaign finance violation charges that he was indicted on.

[01:15:21] VAUSE: There's a comic sort of irony in all of this because AMI has this deal with the Southern District of New York that they basically struck this non-prosecutorial plea deal, because they were all part of the hush money payment made by Cohen on behalf of Trump to the two women who said they had extramarital affairs with Trump.

National Enquirer basically withheld a story after paying up -- you know, a bunch of money to one of the women. I mean, so that deal that would seem to be just off the table now, right?

MARTIN: Well, that deal said that AMI could not engage in any kind of criminal conduct for at least three years. And so, the question becomes whether this letter -- whether this alleged blackmail and extortion is baseless cause? Does that violate that non-prosecution agreement? Does that now mean that everything that the federal prosecutors learned in investigating the campaign violations against AMI come to the light, come -- you know, become known to the public and does it become the basis of a prosecution against key members in the AMI organization?

VAUSE: You know, what are -- what are -- what are sort of a stock excise in contrast? One man, Donald Trump, pays hush money to cover everything up. Another man puts it all out there. This is Jeff Bezos. He actually put in his blog, he wrote this. "Something unusual happened to me yesterday. Actually, for me it wasn't just unusual, it was a first. I was made an offer I could not refuse. Or at least that's what the people and the National Enquirer thought. I'm glad they thought that because it emboldened them to put it all in writing."

If this was done verbally with no record, you could argue others misunderstanding just tonight and outright. Pretty hard to argue that when it's written and documented.

MARTIN: And I cannot imagine that a lawyer for AMI or the senior executive that works for AMI had any idea that Jeff Bezos would go public with this -- would publish it. And he said he did so at great cost to himself, his family, his relationship.

Although The Enquirer had already published text messages between Bezos and his mistress, they are now threatening to publish very embarrassing -- maybe sexually explicit photographs that would even make this divorce with his wife I'm sure even more complicated and caused him even more embarrassment.

VAUSE: You know, the president has very close ties, as we said, with the National Enquirer and its owner. Also, he also has a longstanding feud with Jeff Bezos because most of the reporting done by The Washington Post into his presidency.

When the Enquirer story about Bezos and the extramarital affair was first published by the Enquirer, Trump tweeted, "So, sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor who's reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post, blah, blah, blah.

What are the implications here for the president if any of those allegations of blackmail or attempted blackmail actually can be linked back to him?

MARTIN: Well, it's rather unusual, John, that the President of the United States would have a comment about the divorce of a private citizen. Again, why is the president even commenting on Jeff Bezos divorce and in such a gleeful way?

And now, the allegation that they want Bezos to make is that there is nothing politically motivated about the investigation or the reporting on Jeff Bezos. So, this e-mail or this tweet, rather, could become a part of any federal and possibly even state investigation of these charges that have now been leveled against AMI by Jeff Bezos.

And we know the president doesn't think -- you know, strategically. He doesn't think about what he is doing what the issues of these tweets. He just does so from a place of emotion and we've -- have seen these tweets get him into trouble before in other court cases.

So, I would not be surprised if that tweet about the divorce and Jeff Bezos does and become a central part in an investigation related to this letter and these attempts by AMI to have Bezos in his investigation about where the tweets came, or where the text message just came from in the first place.

And why they were interested in his text messages and his relationship with this woman he's apparently having an affair with.

VAUSE: You know, it's extraordinary, Bezos has done this. It seems to be in some ways just a game changer in how these things might just play out in the future. He says -- you know, essentially putting himself out there in literally in a way that I don't think anybody has ever really done before and has brought all of this -- you know, it's changed how all of this will play out and really -- this is extraordinary. Areva, thank you so much. Good to see you.

MARTIN: Good to see you, John.

[01:19:50] VAUSE: After an emotional two weeks, a search team has brought some closure to the family and fans of football star Emiliano Sala. We'll have more on that after the break.

Also ahead, Venezuela's president refuses to allow humanitarian aid into the country even as thousands maybe hundreds of thousands face starvation ahead the heartbreaking conditions in the slums of Venezuela.


VAUSE: A delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance for Venezuela has reached the border with Colombia. But the trucks having the food, medicine, and other supplies are stuck on the Colombian side of the border. And it's unclear when or if they'll actually be allowed to cross.

Earlier this week, the Maduro government blocked a key bridge into the country preventing the delivery of the aid. The president had said, Venezuelans are not beggars.

Well, tens of thousands are living like beggars. They're scrounging for food every day with no real hope that things will actually get any better. Many once supported President Nicolas Maduro. But as their lives have become more desperate, they say being more hungry, they're now changing their minds. CNN's Sam Kiley, reports.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Petare, a slum. Home to about 750,000 of Venezuela's poorest people. These locals have little, yet they know of others much worse off, of children who face starvation if no one helps. So they do, volunteering to cook donated food.

It seems incredible in an oil-rich nation such as Venezuela that you would have therapeutic feeding centers. And this is one of dozens -- just in this one barrio alone. This small bowl of rice and beans is the only meal these children are going to get each day.

3 million Venezuelans have fled this country, food is rationed and in short supply.

ISABEL BLANCO, SOUP KITCHEN VOLUNTEER (through translator): Here, for one to eat, it's become difficult. Sometimes, I even can't get food for one.

KILEY: These slums used to support President Nicolas Maduro, who's blocking aid from being brought in by his rival, Juan Guaido. Guaido is recognized as president by the U.S. and many other nations. Now, the barrios are hotbeds of dissent.

Marvelys is a soup kitchen volunteer. We meet in secret. Her cousin campaigned against Maduro and paid a heavy price for it.

And after he returned from an opposition rally, the Special Forces were looking for him. They'd seen his video, Marvelys says.

[01:25:08] MARVELYS PAREDES, SOUP KITCHEN VOLUNTEER (through translator): He came out with his hands up, and they take him up the stairs. You hear a first shot, you hear a first shot and you can hear him pleading with him not to kill him. They go further up and you hear a second shot. One of the neighbors then saw how they put a cloth in his mouth and they killed him. They suffocated him.

KILEY: Amid widespread criminal murder and political killings, the government has said nothing about Jhony's death, and he's become just another reason for Venezuelans to leave. Sam Kiley, CNN, Petare, Caracas.


VAUSE: More than two weeks of not knowing have come to an end with British police identifying the body of Argentine football player, Emiliano Sala. The star forward was on a flight to his club Cardiff City when his plane went missing over the English Channel. Patrick Snell has details.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It's a story we've been following with a very heavy heart indeed in recent weeks. And now, police in the U.K. have confirmed that a body recovered from the wreckage of a plane crash is that of the Argentine footballer, Emiliano Sala.

The South American striker who had just signed with English Premier League Cardiff City for a club record $19 million from French Ligue side Nantes. The news perhaps bringing, at least some degree of closure to the family of Sala, whose sister, Romina had pleaded all along for the search for her brother to continue even after officials have called off the initial one.

Her family's persistence was not in vain over $350,000 were donated to fund the private search which located the Piper Malibu plane over the weekend in the English Channel.

Sala and the pilot David Ibbotson, who was yet to be found, with the only two people on board the light aircraft which went missing as it traveled from Nantes in France to South Wales, ahead of what would have been Sala's first training session with Cardiff.

France's World Cup winner, Kylian Mbappe, who himself donated $34,000 for the search has tweeted his condolences in Sala's honor. While Argentina's Football Association paid its own tribute, referencing its profound pain at the news with the #PrayForSala. Emiliano Sala was 28 years of age.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause, with the headlines this hour. British Prime Minister Theresa May has little to show for her talk with E.U. leaders in Brussels. They're in impasse over the Irish border backstop. And once again, the prime minister was told Brexit won't be renegotiated.

In the coming hours, she'll meet with the Irish Prime Minister in Dublin.

Trucks carrying lifesaving aid to Venezuela have reached the country's border with Colombia but no one has actually received any of the supplies. The Maduro government blocked a key bridge at the border preventing delivery of aid.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says the "National Enquirer" tried to blackmail and extort him. In an explosive blog post, he included e- mails which he says are from lawyers for the "Enquirer". The e-mails describe compromising photos and tabloids which the tabloid said it would actually release unless Bezos sad publicly that his coverage was not politically motivated. The "Enquirer's" publisher is a longtime friend of Donald Trump.

Democrats call it congressional oversight. Donald Trump says it's presidential harassment. Either way the reality is almost every aspect of Donald Trump's life is now under the microscope. His personal finances, his business, his family, his charitable trust, the inauguration and the 2016 campaign -- all the focus of investigations by lawmakers or prosecutors.

Here's Pamela Brown with the latest from the White House.



PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Trump fuming over multiple investigations involving his administration. According to a House Intelligence Committee aide, Chairman Adam Schiff has hired former members of the National Security Council to help with committee oversight of the Trump administration.

It is unclear how recently the officials worked at the NSC or if they even served under President Trump. But he took to Twitter to express his frustration attacking Democrats for initiating wide-ranging investigations examining his finances and potential ties to foreign nations -- well beyond the initial Russia scope.

Trump tweeting that Schiff, quote, "is going to be looking at every aspect of my life, both financial and personal even though there is no reason to be doing so." Adding, "I hear other committee heads will do the same thing, even stealing people who work at White House. A continuation of witch hunt," as the President once again claiming he is a victim of quote, "presidential harassment".

But according to a new CNN poll nearly half of Americans, 48 percent, think Donald Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government to help Trump get elected; while 42 percent say there was no collusion -- a sign the American public may support new oversight investigations set to the begin in the Democrat-controlled House.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We will not surrender our constitutional responsibility for oversight. That would make us delinquent in our duties.

BROWN: Oversight that could include obtaining the President's taxes and an investigation into the administration's child separation policy for undocumented immigrants.

TRUMP: I keep hearing about investigation fatigue.

BROWN: The President has insisted an onslaught of probes would be countered by the Republican-held Senate.

TRUMP: We can investigate. They look at us, we look at them, it goes on for two years. Then at the end of two years nothing is done.

BROWN: The Senate Judiciary Committee continuing the spirit of congressional partisanship voting along party lines to confirm William Barr as attorney general.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The nomination will be favorably reported to the floor.

BROWN: As attorney general, Barr will be responsible for determining how much of special counsel Robert Mueller's report will be publicly released.

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: My objective and goal is to get as much as I can of the information to Congress and the public.

BROWN: But some Democrats say they're uneasy about Barr's unwillingness to commit to releasing the full report.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: This is particularly concerning AS nothing in existing law or regulations prevents the attorney general from sharing the report.

BROWN: and according to a new CNN poll, the vast majority of Americans, nearly 90 percent say they want the Mueller report made public while just 9 percent say it's not necessary.

(on camera): Now, it is unclear who Adam Schiff is hiring and how recently they left the Trump administration. But for context, it is not unusual for the House Intel Committee to hire people who recently worked for the National Security Council for their intel expertise. Of course, what makes this unique is that the House Intelligence Committee has announced this investigation, this wide ranging investigation into the President himself.

Pamela Brown, CNN -- the White House.


VAUSE: Afghanistan's former president is praising Russia as a significant partner in peace talks with the Taliban. He's also criticizing the United States.

Hamid Karzai was in Moscow for unprecedented talks with the Taliban and Afghan political leaders who are not part of the Afghan government.

Russia organized these talks while at the same time the U.S. was also trying to negotiate an exit from Afghanistan and bring to an end its longest war ever.

CNN's Oren Libermann has this exclusive interview with Karzai.


[01:39:57] HAMID KARZAI, FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENT: And it was a grand gathering of all the Afghan people, the representatives of every part of Afghanistan, of everything of Afghanistan and the Taliban too.

It was a very significant meeting, one that perhaps like Russia could arrange and did.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Is Moscow a more honest broker than Washington when it comes to Afghanistan?

KARZAI: Moscow is -- a great power. Russia is one of the greatest powers in the world and an old friend of Afghanistan. Therefore Russia can play an extremely important role as it did. It is proven now. It's a country that you could trust and depend on surely.

LIEBERMANN: Does the U.S. presence in Afghanistan now contribute to peace and security?

KARZAI: It does not in parts that you know.

And for that reason was my opposition to the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan, unless the United States makes sure that peace returns to Afghanistan. So peace is the precondition for that. It does not contribute to peace right now, no.

LIEBERMANN: And how can you change that? How can you make the --


KARZAI: By doing exactly what the U.S. is doing now, by working for peace in Afghanistan. By working with dedication for peace in Afghanistan which is what they're doing now. LIEBERMANN: There's been a number of different possibilities raised

about how to proceed from this point whether it's the elections in July. Do you see an interim government as a possibility?

KARZAI: I would not be the one proposing that. But I also recognize that elections now are rather impossible, and indeed meaningless. We must have an election, not a sham of election. And if we are in a difficult situation where other measures are required first to bring stability and then go to elections -- that should be done.

Not that we don't want elections. We very much want that -- that's the only way producing democratic governments. But you must reach the stage where you have stability, the vigorousness (ph) on the ground and then the institution order and then go towards elections.


VAUSE: Stephen Biddle is a professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He joins us this hour from Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Professor -- thanks for being with us.


VAUSE: Well, these peace talks are moving on two competing tracks. There's the negotiations led by the United States and separate talks sort of sponsored by Moscow. But regardless, there is one common element to both. The U.S.-backed Afghan government is not represented at either talk.

So how can a lasting and meaningful peace agreement be reached if the government supposedly representing the people of a country doesn't get a say in the final deal?

BIDDLE: Well, it can't. An essential part of the U.S. position is that any deal is going to have to be negotiated with the Afghan government. What Ambassador Khalilzad has done so far is to set out some principles that the U.S. will offer and require in that eventual deal. But the eventual deal is going to have to be with the Afghan government.

So there's no deal yet. And if the Afghan government doesn't agree to one, there won't be.

VAUSE: But how do you get to that point, if they're not in on the ground level to essentially have their say in what is essential to them in the final process, you know?

BIDDLE: Well, I mean the sequencing of this is, you know, flexible. The United States for a long, long time said we won't even talk to the Taliban unless the Afghan government is part of it. The Taliban wouldn't talk.

That ice broke earlier this year and we agreed to hold preliminary talks with the Taliban. We don't call them negotiations, we call them talks. But it's very clear that this is not a substitute for some sort of arrangement between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Until and unless that happens, the war doesn't stop.

VAUSE: And it does continue. The Taliban continues to, you know, launch attacks on civilians and, you know, on Afghan government forces as well.

And they sat down with the United States negotiators in Qatar last week. They agreed to a framework of what a peace deal would look like.

The former U.S. ambassador to Kabul Ryan Crocker described this deal as surrender. He wrote in the "Washington Post", "The framework was reached without the involvement of the Afghan government. The Taliban has said all along it refuses to negotiate with the government, considering the government illegitimate puppet of the U.S. occupation. By acceding to this Taliban demand, we have ourselves delegitimized the government we claim to support."

It's hard to see how that assessment actually isn't wrong?

BIDDLE: Well, I mean I have a lot of respect for Ambassador Crocker. I don't entirely agree with him on his assessment. Khalilzad has made it clear that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. And everything isn't agreed therefore nothing is agreed.

We don't have a settlement. We don't have some timetable for U.S. withdrawal. All of this is pending as a function of -- of forthcoming negotiations if they happen between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban.

[01:39:59] Now, the Taliban wanted to talk to us first and not the Afghan government because they want to make the Afghan government look like a puppet and you can make a legitimate argument that we have as a condition for starting some sort of talks allowed them to do that.

VAUSE: Earlier this week the U.S. President touched on these peace talks with the Taliban during the State of the Union address to Congress. Here's part of what he said.


TRUMP: We do not know whether we'll achieve an agreement, but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace and the other side would like to do the same thing.


VAUSE: That's a question when it comes to the other side, the Taliban. You know, for most people who remember the days after 9/11, the Taliban were al Qaeda's best friend. The names were almost interchangeable at one time.

What's in the now then to ensure you know, the terrorist groups don't find safe haven in Afghanistan. Can they be trusted? Or more importantly what is the self-interest here for them to ensure it remain terrorist-free? And other issues like they respect women's rights which they say they do but, you know, that is been greeted with a lot of skepticism.

BIDDLE: Well, I mean central to what is going to happen if it happens between now and when there is a deal -- there isn't one now -- is there will have to be enforcement mechanisms written into any kind of settlement.

I think it would be foolhardy to simply trust the Taliban to do what we want them to do. There has to be some mechanism for enforcing a concession that they made, when they agreed, you know with Khalilzad that they would break with al-Qaeda and prevent Afghan soil from being used for terrorism.

Now, there are various possibilities for what those enforcement mechanisms might look like. But they're going to have to be there.

The fact that they aren't there yet simply means the talks aren't over yet. There's a lot of water to go over this dam between now and any signed deal.

VAUSE: The final question here though, is for you with regards to Moscow posting this second track of negotiations. This seems to be Kremlin's way of sort of getting back into the great game. Are they again playing in the great game? And are there consequences which come from that?

BIDDLE: I think they are partly because they have security interests on their southern border and partly because they like to limit U.S. influence and tweak our noses wherever they get the opportunity to do it. And this is a pretty good opportunity to do it.

The Taliban are perfectly happy to go along with this. They're delighted to have all sorts of negotiating channels that don't involve Ashraf Ghani and the government of Afghanistan.

And the Taliban, no -- if there's a settlement, there's eventually going to be some sort of political process that are legalized (INAUDIBLE) and they would like their opponents in the future political process to look as bad and as puppet-like as possible.

So they want as much puppet theater as they can between now and when that time comes. And a Moscow process where the Russians are perfectly happy to invite, you know, almost any living Afghan except Ashraf Ghani or a current government official certainly serves the Taliban's interests as well.

VAUSE: Professor -- thank you for being with us. It is a story which isn't getting a lot of coverage but it's an important one. So thank you.

BIDDLE: My pleasure.

VAUSE: We'll head to Syria after the break and hear from those who have spent years in ISIS-controlled territory unable to leave for now.

[01:43:25] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) VAUSE: With the once-great ISIS caliphate now just a small pocket of resistance in eastern Syria, thousands of people mostly women, children and the elderly, are free -- no longer living under the strict Islamic laws which the terror group brutally enforced.

(INAUDIBLE) the horrors they endured but others think of the good days under ISIS rule.

Ben Wedeman reports.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They arrive in pickup trucks -- dusty, shell-shocked, exhausted and afraid. From the town of Bahuzel Fulkhani (ph) all that is left of the so-called Islamic state.

Adult males are immediately taken aside for questioning. American, British and French personnel are here searching for ISIS members but we were forbidden to film them. 48-year old Dura Ahmed (ph) from Toronto, Canada arrived at this barren spot in the vast eastern Syrian plains this morning. She came to Syria at her husband's urging.

DURA AHMED: I don't know anything about ISIS or anything. Just come and see. Just come and see.

WEDEMAN: So she came four years ago.

AHMED: But when you come (INAUDIBLE) you look like, it sounds like a war. You're there, you're eating Pringles and Twixt, just singing -- you know, you're just -- you don't feel like you're in a war.

WEDEMAN (on camera): Do you still believe in the idea of (INAUDIBLE) --

AHMED: I believe in Sharia wherever it is, you know.

WEDEMAN: Was it worth it?

AHMED: Do I regret it coming? You mean. No, I don't. In a sense -- I had my kids here.

WEDEMAN: We also met this 34-year-old former graphic designer from Alberta, Canada. She declined to give her name or show her face. Her husband ordered her to come to Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He sort of -- he's like you have to come here. It's like, it's a (INAUDIBLE) for you to come here. You have no choice. Like as your husband, like I'm telling you to come here. And as a -- as a -- as a Muslim wife you have obey. Even though it was really hard for me to do it, I had to.

WEDEMAN (voice over): She has two sons and is pregnant from her second husband who she said was a cook before he was killed. Her first husband, a Canadian was also killed fighting for ISIS. In Syria, she kept her children indoors. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't let them go to school.

WEDEMAN (on camera): Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of danger. There's too many bombings. They don't speak Arabic. So I just talk to them myself.

WEDEMAN: What kind of life did you bring your children to? To this place that's been bombed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I was just trying to be an obedient wife.

WEDEMAN (voice over): It is difficult to determine who might be with ISIS and who is not. The answers to our questions often ambiguous.

Badahal Hasid (ph) is from western Syria and he told me he was just visiting a friend and couldn't return home because of the fighting. There are many foreigners, including Chechens and (INAUDIBLE)

It's strange, I say, that you find a Chechen in Bahuzel Fulkhani (ph) isn't it?

"I don't know if it is suspicious or not," he responds.

WEDEMAN: But among those fleeing, there are real horror stories of life under siege. Abderahmen (ph) from Iraq recounts that his home was hit in an airstrike at 3 a.m. He lists those who were killed that night.

"My mother, my brother, his wife, his son, my sister, my wife, my daughter, my uncle and his wife and their two children." he says. Only Abderahmen, his kid sister and his father Salaam survived but were badly wounded.

[01:50:05] "I'm afraid", says Salaam. Do you understand? All I have left is my daughter and son. I have left is my daughter and my son".

This experiment to implement a twisted version of God's will on earth has brought nothing but death, destruction, displacement, despair.

This is how the mad dream of Abu Bakr el Baghdadi self-proclaimed khalifo or caliph of the Islamic state comes to an end.

The subjects of the dying caliphate herded on to buses bound for already crowded camps further north, all illusions shattered.

Ben Wedeman, CNN -- Eastern Syria.


VAUSE: And we'll take a short break. Right back after this.

You're watching CNN.


VAUSE: Do you remember the old rhyme? "Beer before wine, all we'll be fine. Wine before beer, plenty to fear (ph)."

Researchers in Germany now know if it's in fact true. They've been researching hangovers and wanted to find out if they were less severe if you had wine before beer, beer or wine, just beer, just wine.

They conducted a series of tests on a Friday day at the local with lots and lots of booze. The bad news is the order you drink your beer or wine apparently makes no difference to the intensity of the hangover. Although I totally and complete disagree speaking from personal experience.

Awards season is well underway. It's the time of year when the great and wonderful of the entertainment industry engage in collective navel gazing. Britain's BAFTAs are on Sunday and the Oscars a few weeks later. And more women have been snubbed in the director category at both awards. Films about women are finding success.

Here's Nick Glass.


NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Another Sunday and yet another floor length frock for Lady Gaga. The awards season began what seems like a lifetime ago way back in early November. And we the media, who seem to obsess about the styling and the frocks, demand for wardrobe changes is unremitting.

These season's leading actresses would never dream of turning up in the same outfit they wore last Sunday. A lot of thought and effort goes into every single appearance.

But something rather more profound is also going on this year, beyond the red carpet looks. Movies about women are being celebrated. "Roma", directed by the Mexican Alfonso Cuaron is a semi- autobiographical film about how he was brought up by his nanny. Substantially a story of women deserted their men, one of them a domestic servant.

[01:54:59] YALITZA APARICIO, OSCAR NOMINEE: And it's fantastic that he gave importance to this social class and brought it to the spotlight. For me, that's wonderful.

MARINA DE TAVIRA, OSCAR NOMINEE: The wave (ph) of characters started to be close to our own lives was something really magical. I live along with my child and with the woman that helped me raise him and that's my little small family. So I think this is really moving for women that have to stand alone.

GLENN CLOSE, ACTRESS: I can't do it anymore. I can't take it. I can't take the humiliation.

GLASS: As this title suggests, Glenn Close is absolutely the central character in "The Wife", a woman who spent a lifetime playing second fiddle to her novelist husband. Close's performance has already brought her multiple awards. CLOSE: We're getting to a point where women are taking control and

nurturing stories that will give them good roles themselves and other good roles for women.

GLASS: At a "Hollywood Reporter" round table just for actresses, she elaborated further on her movie.

CLOSE: It's two women writers, a novelist and a screenwriter, and co- starring a woman, I'm an editor, costume designer. So to me that was amazing serendipitous time. But it is a fact that it took 14 years to make.

GLASS: "The Favourite" took even longer to reach the big screen -- 20 years in the making. Two women courtiers fight for the favor of a British queen in the early 1700s -- a rare movie with three women in the central roles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dear friend, how good to see you've returned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sure you shall pass through it one day.

RACHEL WEISZ, ACTRESS: Young girls growing up can see stories being told where a woman takes a central role, where she's not peripheral to the story, she's driving the story. So you as a kid can go, oh that's me.

GLASS: This year as it happens, there are more female Oscar nominees than ever before. Although some way of parity with the men as was evident from the annual photo call still, only about a quarter of the nominees are women.

As the Oscar president put it, of course, we need to do better.

Nick Glass, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. A lot more news here on CNN right after a break.


Humanitarian aid stuck at the border.