Return to Transcripts main page


Acting Attorney General Clashes with Lawmakers; Amazon CEO Accuses "The National Enquirer" Of Blackmail and Extortion; Deadly Fire in One of Brazil's Biggest Football Clubs; Syrian Villagers Fleeing ISIS Tell Their Stories; Amazon CEO Accuses national Enquirer Of Blackmail & Extortion; White House Declines Senate Deadline On Khashoggi Murder; British And Irish Prime Ministers Meeting In Dublin; France Recalls Ambassador Amid Diplomatic Row With Italy; Museum Of Islamic Art Inspires New Generation Of Artists; Movies About Women Being Celebrated This Year. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 8, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] HANNAH VAUGHN JONES, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hannah Vaughn Jones in for Hala Gorani. Tonight, an explosive

tell-all blog post where the world's richest man accuses the publisher of one of America's biggest tabloids of trying to blackmail him. Also,

tonight, Donald Trump's acting Attorney General is up on Capitol Hill giving testimony to a Congress now led by Democrats. It's been pretty

contentious. We have all the details for you.

And a heart-breaking story from Brazil. Ten people are dead after a fire breaks out at the training ground of football club. More on that later.

We begin with a bombshell revelation from the world's richest man. Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos making a stunning claim of a threat to use his

own explicit selfies against him. In an online post, Bezos accuses "The National Enquirer" of blackmail and extortion. He threatened to reveal

photos of him unless he dropped the investigation into how they got them. They are making an embarrassing admission, scantly, if clad at all, and

suggestive poses exist. This follows the enquirer's reporting of his extra marital affair. He said they also wanted had I am to publicly state the

tabloid's publishing isn't politically motivated. Its CEO is David Pecker, a close ally of the U.S. President Donald Trump, AMI for its part says it

acted lawfully in its reporting of Bezos. Now, there are many, many strands to this story. The implications are vast, so let's bring in the

man who can explain it all. CNN's Brian Stelter is live in New York. So, Brian, two media titans, Jeff Bezos and David Pecker. Who are they, what

are the companies they represent and why are they pitted against each other?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man is one of his titles. His day job, of course, CEO of

Amazon. He's still busy at work there despite all these distractions. He also owns The Washington Post and is the publisher of the post, and that's

a factor in this conversation. Because the post has been covering his love life. The outlet that revealed Bezos's new relationship with Lauren

Sanchez was "The Enquirer" which is owned and controlled by David Pecker. Pecker runs American Media, which owns "The Enquirer" and a bunch of other

magazines. Some of these are super market tabloids that have kind of a sleazy representation in the United States, but the reality is they break

real news sometimes. And they were right about Bezos. They revealed that Bezos was having this relationship with a former TV anchor named Laura

Sanchez. That story came out last month, it triggered a domino effect. Bezos wanted to find out how "The Enquirer" got hold of the text messages

and e-mails. He wondered if there were political motivations behind this because, after all, David Pecker had been close to President Trump for a

long time. "The Enquirer" had been promoting the Trump presidency for a long time. A lot of that changed last summer. We can get into why. There

are questions about whether "The Enquirer" targeted Bezos because Bezos is on Trump's enemy's list.

JONES: So, what exactly was it, then, that David Pecker American Media, Inc., what did they want from Bezos, what do they want from Jeff Bezos?

STELTER: According to Bezos, they wanted Bezos to back offer and stop claiming there was a political motivation behind the enquirer's coverage.

The idea of the enquirer as a political machine is something that came up a number of months ago when Michael Cohen was in court. Remember, the hush

money deals with Cohen and Trump and a couple of women that had relationships with Trump. In those deals the enquirer was singled out as

essentially a conspirator. "The Enquirer" struck an immunity deal with the federal government that said we will not prosecute you as long as you

cooperate and you don't commit any crimes in the future. The question now is whether those deals are going to be ripped up if American Media has

committed a crime in this case. And we know in the past hour CNN has confirmed the federal prosecutors are looking at this now, looking at this

evidence from Bezos and trying to determine if the immunity deal should be torn up. To get back to the point here, Bezos says in this incredible blog

post he's published that American Media wanted him to stop talking about the idea of political influence or political motivation. And the carrot

they waved was, if you stop accusing us of this, we will make sure the embarrassing pictures of you are never published. So, they threatened to

publish the pictures unless Bezos went along with their plot.

[14:05:00} JONES: And this gets to the heart of the story really, doesn't it? Bezos's blog saying that it's extortion, it's blackmail and that's how

they communicated their demands to him or his lawyers, at least.

STELTER: And this is on one level, you know, a possible legal matter. On another level, the American Media view would be, we're news gathering.

It's not the kind of news gathering CNN or other big outlets engage in. It's a much more tabloid, I would call it, a much more unethical form of

news gathering. But the "National Enquirer" might lean on that excuse to say that's what they were up to. They have these photos and texts and they

want Bezos to know they have them. When you look at the e-mails Bezos has published, it does have the whiff, the smell of an extortion attempt. So

that's why it is notable the prosecutors here in New York are looking at this and saying, has American media crossed the line here?

JONES: Yes. And there is also this question of any political motivation on either company's part. And interestingly, since this blog post has come

out, we know now that "The Washington Post" in particular or reporters from there have made reference to -- and this is just allegations at the moment

-- reference to what they believe is the involvement in a government entity in managing to access Jeff Bezos's e-mails and access these photos of him.

What do they mean there do you think by this government entity?

STELTER: The mystery is how were Bezos's text messages and private photos obtained by the "National Enquirer." there are multiple ways to do that,

right? If you leave your phone on the table and I might be able to peek, I might be able to access it that way. That's a very simple way to look at

someone's information. And then there are much more convoluted ways. There are ways to hack onto into people's phones. Maybe some entity, some

foreign government entity was able to hack into his phone. This is well within the speculation, it is only a theory. The fact it is even a theory

is remarkable. We're talking about one of the most important men. He runs a huge company, he has business dealings around the world, so it is within

the realm of possibility he is the target of multiple government entities. Again, this is the mystery. This is the part we don't know the answer to.

JONES: Yes, of course. We're talking about government entities, we don't know if we're talking about U.S. government entities.


JONES: The scandal, allege scandal gets wider and wider. Brian, thanks very much. AMI gave Brian a response to the claim. It reads, American

Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos. Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by

Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him. Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by

Mr. Bezos, the board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Let's look at the legal aspects of

this case.

I want to bring in CNN contributor Norm EiSEN. Norm is a former White House ethics czar in the Obama administration and a senior fellow at the

Brookings Institute. Norm joins us live from Washington. Good to see you. So, Ami in their response to Jeff Bezos's post, they're saying they acted

lawfully in reporting the story and that the negotiations afterwards were in good faith. Is it legal to say, you do x, y and z and we won't publish

knees photographs of you?

NORM EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR IN THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Thanks for having me back on the program. The question of whether it's

legal or not is a very challenging one, and we're really at the beginning of getting the answer. On the one side, the Bezos argument is that it's

illegal because under our American law, if you use extortion or blackmail, that is, if you get something of value -- this release AMI wanted to get

was valuable -- through coercion or fear -- and there is clearly a fear element in these papers, then that's extortion or blackmail. But on the

other side, it has to be a wrongful use of coercion and fear. And as you've seen in the AMI statement, they say we are a news gathering

organization. This is a first amendment activity. We were negotiating a legal resolution in good faith. You know, prosecutors don't like to bring

cases when they are murky. They are looking for the clear cases. So, I think we're at the beginning. We need to see how it unfolds, but, you

know, this is by no means a slam dunk where people are going to say a crime has been committed.

[14:10:00] JONES: It does, though, does it not, put AMI in slightly muddy legal waters given the fact Jeff Bezos himself in his blog post, he says if

in my position I can't stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can? And he says, in my position, his position is the world's richest man.

That carries a certain amount of influence. So, I guess my question is, what about all the other people who may have been the subject of this kind

of practice by American Media, Inc.?

EISEN: It's profoundly troubling. The same legal questions need to be explored and examined in those other cases. Perhaps there are other cases

where a line was crossed. But I think we can say that as an ethical matter, it stinks, Hannah. I mean, this is not the way we want to see

journalists doing business. And I do think that Bezos -- again, from a moral perspective, he did the right thing. When somebody is attempting to

come after you this way, you can't have the sword hanging over your head. So. he's emerged despite the smarmy nature of the information, the texts

that AMI has that are described in the back and forth Bezos published by standing up. Bezos emerges looking heroic from a very, very unpleasant and

unfortunate situation. Even AMI's representatives said in the paper that no editor takes pleasure in writing this kind of a note. I should say so.

It raises profound ethical concerns, and there are unresolved legal questions that are going to have to be seriously looked at and addressed.

JONES: And some wider legal questions for AMI which links this whole case in another way to the Trump administration as well, is that currently there

is a deal between AMI and federal prosecutors looking into the Michael Cohen case. Now, of course, this is Donald Trump's former personal

attorney. Could that deal, that hush money deal now be in jeopardy?

EISEN: Well, it could be. The terms of AMI's agreement to cooperate -- it signed a cooperation agreement.

JONES: Right.

EISEN: -- with the United States government, and that agreement says -- and this is to provide information on the possible campaign finance

violations that a lot of cash was spent to benefit the Trump campaign secretly. That raises campaign finance law issues under U.S. law and AMI

has information. But they promised they would not commit a crime. It's in the contract that they signed. So, if this were deemed to be the

commission of a crime, it's a big if. As I've said, prosecutors will struggle with it. We don't have enough information yet to know how

prosecutors will come out. And there are, you know, very tough legal questions here. Is it wrongful or not? But certainly, that's a second set

of questions that are at issue. The same as with the underlying, there are two sides to it. The prosecutors also, do they want to blow up their

immunity deal, the cooperation that they have with AMI who they need for their case, on this kind of complicated question. So, we need to see how

the facts continue to unfold. We're just at the beginning of yet another new scandal.

JONES: Norm, just so you know as well, CNN reporters, the latest we're hearing at least, is federal prosecutors are indeed going to review if AMI,

this company has violated the terms of that deal that it has over the Michael Cohen case. Norm, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much

for explaining all of the legal implications with this latest intrigue and scandal.

Now, turning to a drama-filled day on Capitol Hill, Acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker is appearing before Congress. Right now, after

initially threatening not to show up at all, the proceedings quickly became very contentious indeed. As House Democrats took the opportunity to grill

him on the Russia investigation.


[14:15:00] UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Have you ever been asked to approve any request or action to be taken by the special counsel?

WHITAKER: Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up, so -- I'm sorry, what was your -- I don't know if your time has been restored or not.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Mr. Attorney General, we're not joking here. And your humor is not acceptable.

REP. HANK JOHNSON (D), GEORGIA: Four individuals advised you that you did not have to recuse yourself. Is that correct?

WHITAKER: Congressman, let me be clear --

JOHNSON: You're not here to be clear, sir. In your obstruction and refusal to answer --

WHITAKER: I'm not obstructing anything. I'm answering your question.


JONES: Well, he's keeping his conversations with the President private and he did volunteer that he hasn't spoken with Donald Trump about the Russia

probe and Whitaker insists he isn't interfering with that investigation either. For more on this, Phil Mattingly joins me from Capitol Hill.

Phil, he's still giving evidence right now. But certainly, the committee members not taking kindly to Mr. Whitaker's time keeping.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, Hannah, I'm going to be honest. I've covered Capitol Hill now 11, 12 years, covered

thousands of hearings. I've never seen a witness do that before. Primarily because it's the chairman's prerogative in terms of how long he

wants to talk. So, the idea that a witness would question how long a chairman was talking is new, not visible. It underscores the reality of

this hearing. Anybody who didn't think it would be come pat I have or fiery hasn't been paying attention. The Chairman Jerry Nadler and the

Justice Department went back and forth about a subpoena threat whether or not Matt Whitaker, the Acting Attorney General, was willing to testify

about specific things Democrat wanted to talk about. You've seen that continue to spill over in this hearing. Democrats repeat lid going after

issues the acting Attorney General says he's not willing to discuss, namely specific conversations with the President, or trying to go after him on

anything related to the Mueller investigation. As you noted, Attorney General Whitaker made clear he hasn't done anything to meddle in the

Mueller investigation that he over sees and he hasn't had any discussions with the President about the Mueller investigation. I will tell you he

said that multiple times and Democrats are still asking about it. If that gives you any tone whatsoever, hint of a tone of what this hearing has

actually been like.

JONES: He's certainly guarding the executive privilege, as he's called these conversations with President Trump or otherwise. But do we know

whether he might be prepared to reveal more off camera?

MATTINGLY: Look, it's an interesting question because for every question the acting Attorney General is not willing to answer, the Democratic

chairman of the committee said, look, if you're not going to answer our questions, the questions we told you we were going to ask before this

hearing actually happened, we are going to subpoena you for a deposition off camera later. Now, there were some issues that the acting Attorney

General told a couple of Republican members he was willing to discuss in a different setting, perhaps a more secure setting off camera later on, but I

think the implication coming from Democrats right now is even though Matthew Whitaker will not likely be serving in government in five or six

days when he's replaced as acting Attorney General, the reality is the committee, at least at this point, plans on bringing him back and having a

deposition with him and they've made clear they will eventually make that public. So, again, a lot of threats going back and forth seeing if they

can pin him down on a lot of these issues on executive privilege. There is not a lot of leeway the Democrats have to push him away from his current

position. It has been interesting. He's willing to confirm things that maybe make him look better about conversations with the President,

particularly they haven't discussed the Mueller investigation, while not answering things Democrats believe are suspect. So, he's kind of opening

the door here to kind of a nuanced position of executive privilege, but he's certainly trying to stick to it as much as he can, Hannah.

JONES: We'll let you get back to it. Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.

Five youth were killed in one Brazil's biggest football clubs. Young players were sleeping at the training ground for Flamenco Foot Ball Club.

At least three others are injured. The victims themselves are as young as 14 years old. Flamenco, one of Brazil's most popular clubs, are playing

their home games in Rio De Janeiro. Let's bring in Patrick on this. What more do we know about how this fire got started?

[14:20:00] PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Another painful daily for football, it really is. Of the 10 fatalities, three are reported to be

of that youth team, the age range being 14 and 15. As you mentioned, a further 3 in hospital undergoing treatment there. This is a fire that

began in the early hours on Friday in the newly refurbished dormitory, the living quarters for the youth team Flamenco. It takes pride in the youth

team, players going down the line producing famous ones, elite level players. Really big names from the past, Romario. An investigation is

underway to determine what caused the fire, but there is no question this is a grieving community right now. This is a big, big club. Even on the

world stage as well, winning top flight titles on five occasions, including determining what caused the fire, but there is no question this is a

grieving community right now. This is a big, big club. Even on the world stage as well, winning top flight titles on five occasions, including

during the 1980s when they had that halcyon run of back to back titles. In 1981, that's the south American equivalent of the European champions

league. As I said, Hannah, deeply, deeply painful day Friday in Brazil.

JONES: Yes, you mentioned some of the Brazil football greats. Presumably a lot of flamenco club alumni as well. You say it is such a big and

significant club as well. And one wonders how the football world now moves on particularly in light of, as you said earlier, about Emiliano Sala.

SNELL: I always say times like this, Hannah, the worldwide football community comes together as one. We saw that during the Sala situation.

Perhaps the biggest and best-known name in Brazilian football, Pele taking to Twitter with poignant words. Pele saying, my day started with the news

of the fire in Flamenco, a place where young people pursue their dreams. It's a very sad day for Brazilian football. Ron Aldeno, a revered player,

a former star, came out with this again, very powerful, a very big sadness. He says, my condolences and heart felt feelings to all the families in the

red/black nation. Terrible, terrible tragedy. As I said earlier, Hannah, it's a club that prides itself in creating stars from a very, very young

age. Reported now, we are learning three days of mourning have been announced as well. Hannah, I do want to add this as well. There was meant

to be a cup semifinal taking place on Saturday. Two of them, in fact. Both of those matches have now been postponed Flamenco.

JONES: Thank you very much. Still to come on the program.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's like, he's like, you have to come here. He's like, it's obligatory for you to come here. You have no choice.


JONES: Some extraordinary interviews with civilians fleeing the last remnants of ISIS territory in Syria.


JONES: Welcome back. The leader of one of the United States biggest allies is contradicting Donald Trump's assessment of ISIS. German

chancellor Angela Merkel says ISIS fighters are far from defeated. She says even while they're being forced out of their last remaining territory,

they are transforming into a dangerous asymmetrical warfare force. Mr. Trump yesterday said he expects an announcement probably next week that is

has been, quote, 100 percent defeated. As ISIS fighters are driven out of eastern Syria, civilians who have been living under their rule are fleeing

the area. Some had come there willingly while others have no choice. CNN's Ben Wedeman got some extraordinary insights into their lives and

filed this report for us.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They arrive in pickup trucks, dusty, shell shocked, exhausted and afraid from the town, all

that's left of the so-called Islamic state. The 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. 28-year-old Dura Ahmed from Toronto, Canada, arrived in this

barren spot in the plains this morning. She came to Syria at her husband's urging.

DURA AHMED, CAME TO SYRIA FROM TORONTO: I didn't know about ISIS or anything. Come and see, come and see.

WEDEMAN: So, she came four years ago. There was a war in Syria.

AHMED: When you come, it doesn't look like a war. You're there, you're eating Pringles and Twix bars. You don't feel like you're in a war.

WEDEMAN: Do you still believe in the idea of -- the caliphate?

AHMED: I believe in sharia, whatever sharia is.

WEDEMAN: Was it worth it?

AHMED: Do I regret it, coming? No. 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. Her husband ordered her to come to Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said -- he's like, you have to come here. He's like, it's obligatory for you to come here. You have no choice. As your

husband, I'm telling you to come here. And as a Muslim wife, you have to obey. Even though it was really hard for me to do it, I had to.

WEDEMAN: It's difficult to determine who might be with ISIS and who is not. The answers to our questions often ambiguous. He is from western

Syria and he told me he was visiting a friend and couldn't return home because of the fighting. There are many foreigners, including Chechens in

ISIS's last enclave, he told me. It's strange, I say, that you find a Chechen here, isn't it? I don't know if it's suspicious or not, he

responds. But among those fleeing, there are real horror stories of life under siege. He is from Iraq and recounts his home was hit in airstrike at

3:00 a.m. he lists those killed at night. My mother, my brother, his wife, his son, my sister, my wife, my daughter, my uncle, his wife, and

their two children, he says. On he and his kid sister and father Salem survived but were badly wounded. I'm afraid, says salaam. I'm afraid.

All I have left is my daughter and son.

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

how the mad dream of the self-proclaimed Halifa or Kalif of the Islamic state comes to an end. The subjects of the dying caliphate herded onto

buses for already crowded camps further north. All illusions shattered.


JONES: Still to come, Jeff Bezos says the "National Enquirer" tried to blackmail him. Why he says there is also a Saudi connection to it.


[14:30:16] HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Welcome back. More now on the explosive tell-all admission by Jeff Bezos, the world's

richest man. The Amazon founder and Washington Post owner is accusing the U.S. tabloid, the National Enquirer, of blackmail and extortion for

threatening to publish nude photographs of him.

In a startling blog Post, Bezos revealed lurid details of the photos themselves and what he says are the Enquirer's demands to prevent their

release. He indicated it's connected, in part, to the Washington Post's investigation of the tabloid company's ties to Saudi Arabia.

Now, this is all, of course, happening in the wake of the murder of the Saudi journalist and the Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Our senior U.S. correspondent Alex Marquardt joins me now. What is this allegation of a Saudi connection made by Jeff Bezos?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hannah, it's a rather complicated web, but essentially in this lengthy blogPost, Jeff Bezos came

out and alleged that AMI, which is this company that owns the National Enquirer, led by David Pecker, is being investigated for its ties to the

Saudis and he also alleges that Pecker has acted on behalf of the Saudi government, has gone to Saudi Arabia looking for funding, and has published

pro-Saudi stories.

And the reason that he's doing this, it would seem, is to create a stronger line between the National Enquirer and David Pecker to the Trump

administration, to say that the reason that they came out with these allegations or this expose on his affair would be for political reasons.

And if you look at the possible reasons -- so you just highlighted there the fact that the Washington Post, whose own columnist was killed brutally

and the CIA believes it was done at the behest or at the order of the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. That is certainly something that would -- that

Pecker would be inclined to be motivated by.

And then if you just look at what they did last year, this company, AMI, put out this fawning 97-page glossy magazine before MBS came to the United


Now, the Saudis said that they had no control over that. They didn't have any role in that. But the Associated Press has put out a report saying

that officials at the embassy here did get advance notice.

So when you put all of this together, essentially what it does is that it furthers this allegation by the Jeff Bezos camp, that this was all done for

political reasons, Hannah.

[14:35:00] JONES: It is such a confusing web, isn't t Alex? It's understandable, and natural, I guess, that the Washington Post would want

to investigate the murder of one of its own. We know Jamal Khashoggi obviously a Saudi national, but he was also a Washington Post reporter.

Why would the Washington Post investigation into Jamal Khashoggi's murder be in any way dangerous to American media? We learned, according to Jeff

Bezos, at least, that David Pecker was apoplectic at the sort of the Washington Post investigating the National Enquirer.

MARQUARDT: Well, he's apoplectic at this allegation that it was done for political reasons. And then if this is indeed true, this allegation, then

it certainly jeopardizes the ties between the Saudis and AMI. So that's something that's at risk as well.

But, Hannah, we should also highlight the fact that this is not just the Washington Post that has been particularly harsh and particularly strong in

its -- in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi's death. The New York Times, we at CNN, the international media has come down hard and done fantastic

reporting that has shown that intelligence agencies around the world, including the CIA, believe that this -- that this was an order made by

Mohammad bin Salman.

And even up on Capitol Hill, you have this remarkable dynamic where Republicans, Democrats are working together to bring about a punishment

against Mohammad bin Salman under the auspices of the Magnitsky Act in stark contrast to the White House which just today was due to give a report

to Congress, but -- on Khashoggi, but said that it would not. The White House has shown absolutely no inclination to call out MBS for this alleged


JONES: Alex, thanks very much. And we're going to get much more on the White House, the State Department as well, and the Khashoggi murder right

now. Alex, for now, thank you.

The White House though is declining a deadline to share what it knows about Saudi Arabia's involvement with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The Trump

administration says the president is using his discretion to reject a Senate committee's request.

Lawmakers want more information about possible links between the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that the Saudi crown prince, MBS, told a top aid he would use, quote, "A bullet" on Khashoggi a year

before the journalist was actually killed.

Michelle Kosinski joins us now from the State Department in Washington for more on this.

So, Michelle, this deadline for the White House to respond has now passed. What's the White House's explanation for it and presumably Congress is up

in arms.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we expected them to say something on this because, first of all, the State Department

has said that they would comply with the law, although that was quite a vague statement.

And the fact that you have the U.S. intelligence community -- I mean, the CIA determining that Jamal Khashoggi's murder was ordered by Crown Prince

Salman. That Mohammad bin Salman ordered this murder.

Also, the senate voted unanimously to hold the crown prince responsible for Khashoggi's murder.

So with all of this pressure, all of this attention on it, you would think that with this deadline, according to the global Magnitsky Act that was

triggered by Congress, the White House would submit a report determining whether the White House indeed feels that the crown prince violated

Khashoggi's human rights and should be sanctioned.

I mean, that's what this law requires. But today, we hear from the senior administration official saying that the president holds the right to

decline to respond to this. That was surprising.

And in fact, Senate Democrats on the foreign relations committee came out with a statement of their own saying that the law is clear. It requires a

determination and report in response to the letter that we sent. The president has no discretion here.

However, it seems clear-cut, but it's not really. Now, we know that the White House is citing something that President Obama did on these type of


When these kinds of sanctions were signed into law, the president agreed, he signed it. He didn't veto it, but he included something called a

signing statement where he expresses that he won't recognize part of it, usually based on constitutionality.

So back in 2016, to sign this law into effect, President Obama said that he would reserve the right to decline to issue sanctions. He would issue them

or not issue them, and then basically Congress couldn't force him to do so. And some legal experts would agree with that because we have the separation

of powers here, that Congress can't force the president in this case to issue sanctions or not issue them. They would have to do that on their own

and in a different path to sanctioning someone.

[14:40:03] So, it is a legal sort of -- I don't want to say it's a murky area, but it's a tricky legal area and the president is going on something

that, in fact, President Obama recognized with this type of sanction. That they didn't want to be not merely pressured, but forced by Congress to make

this kind of determination.

And despite all the pressure over the Khashoggi murder, the White House is saying this is one of those cases where they won't be forced into doing


JONES: All right. Michelle Kosinski at the State Department, thank you.

Still to come tonight on the program, Britain's prime minister is meeting her Irish counterpart in Dublin. Will their dinner lead to any progress in

breaking the Brexit stalemate? We're live in the Irish capital.


JONES: The leaders of Britain and Ireland are sitting down for dinner tonight in Dublin. Theresa May is hoping to force some sort of Brexit

compromise with Leo Varadkar.

Tonight, the two prime ministers hope to find ways to move forward, but it's unclear what progress, if any, can be made during their dinner. Mr.

Varadkar spent the early part of Friday in Northern Ireland talking to leaders there about the main sticking point to a withdrawal deal. That's

the Irish backstop.


LEO VARADKAR, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: The Irish government and the European Union are all one when it comes to Brexit. And I'm sure people, if they

haven't realized that for the past two years, they're coming to realize it. And the decision that we've made as a European Union is at the withdrawal

agreement in the backstop are not up for negotiation. But we can talk about the joint political declaration and what changes might be made to

that and what assurances may be given.


JONES: And time is running out, of course, only seven weeks to go until the U.K. is due to leave the European Union. Our Nic Robertson is

following all the events for us. He's live in Dublin.

Nic, they're having dinner. One wonders if it's a long dinner and what can be achieved even own though we did hear those sort of positive notes, at

least, from the Taoiseach.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's been quite a week for both the prime ministers. I mean, if we think about it here, British

Prime Minister Theresa May, she's had three days out of this five-day week on the island of Ireland.

I can't think the last time that happened to British prime minister. Maybe back during the peace negotiations back in the 1990s. It's totally out of

the ordinary.

The Irish prime minister, as you heard there, was up in Belfast meeting with the political leaders up there. So, yes, I do think this has a

potential to be quite a long dinner. It's an informal setting. And it's come at the end of a long week for both of them. So I think the idea here

is not to change minds.

But as the Taoiseach, the Irish prime minister said, several times today, it's really about sort of exchanging perceptions. Maybe listening to other

ideas. But he's been very clear. He can't negotiate with Theresa May. It's the European Union that does that.

[14:45:04] So I think there'll be an exchange of ideas, a frank exchange of ideas. The British attorney general was here speaking to his Irish

opposite number in the middle of the day. Gives you an idea that sort of legal-based discussions going on there.

So I think this conversation will be one that maybe frank, it may be tough. There's been tough words already this week. But I don't think either of

them is going to walk out with their minds changed. They might just have a better view of the landscape going forward.

JONES: And, Nic, deal or no-deal come March the 29th, the ties between the U.K. and Ireland are, obviously, crucial, not just culturally, but also

trade-wise and everything as well.

Does that mean then that this is a sort of charm offensive, if you like, not just from Theresa May, but also from Leo Varadkar? They need each

other in seven weeks' time.

ROBERTSON: They do. They both recognize that. Theresa May spoke about that when she was in Belfast speaking to business leaders on Tuesday. She

said that she was looking forward to even after Brexit to developing a stronger relationship, to having more senior-level meetings with Irish

officials, even at a prime ministerial level on a more regular basis.

So there's definitely that very real view that the countries have to get along and have economic -- mutual economic interest. At them both --

that's why both countries said they're committed to getting a deal done committed to the open border, all those reasons.

I think where we stand at the moment, with the deadline being so close, the language and the heat in the debate has really been going up. So I think

this is really -- it's about bringing down the temperature.

Looking forward, yes, but really the idea that while some politicians are really throwing around some quite barbed language and trying to press them

as this notion here in Ireland and in Britain as well, that Britain would like to pressure Ireland and the European Union to soften its position.

And perhaps, these leaders mutually can maintain a more level discussion because it really is heating up.

JONES: Nic Robertson live for us in Dublin. Thanks, Nic. Meantime, a high profile Brexiteer has registered a new political party, Nigel Farage.

The former U.K. leader is calling it the Brexit Party. He announced it in an op-ed for the Daily Telegraph. Saying the party stands ready for battle

if Brexit is not delivered before those European elections in late May.

Now, while the U.K. and the European Union are squabbling over Brexit, France and Italy are in a diplomatic feud over statements from their

politicians. France has recalled its ambassador from Italy over what it says are unprecedented and repeated criticisms by Italian officials.

Melissa Bell reports.


MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For months now, French president Emmanuel Macron and Italy's interior minister, Matteo Salvini,

have been each other's favorite target. Regularly trading barbs ever since the populist Italian government took power last year.

MATTEO SALVINI, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF ITALY (though translator): I hope the French will be able to free themselves of a terrible president.

BELL: For Macron, the Italian government has acted irresponsibly and rising nationalism is like leprosy.

But for Paris, this was a final straw. A meeting on Tuesday between the Italian deputy Prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, and France's own populists,

the yellow vests. That led Paris on Thursday to recall its ambassador to Rome for the first time since World War II. Because of what the French

foreign ministry described as repeated accusations, unfounded attacks and outlandish claims.

But the ranker is such that it now threatens not just the world of politics, but of art.

Every day, some 20,000 visitors come to the Louvre or to marvel at Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Some Italians that she should be back in Italy, but

she was brought here by Da Vinci himself.

As special exhibition is planned in the autumn to mark the 500 years of Da Vinci's death. Italy is now threatening to cancel the loan of several of

his works.

Back in Paris, the former Italian prime minister, Enrico Letta, who now teaches politics, says that nothing much surprises him anymore.

ENRICO LETTA, FORMER ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER: I think this is really the true madness of this story. In words, Italy and France are the two

superpower of culture. I think we have to work together on many issues because at the end of the day, it will bring a lot of negative consequences

for both countries.

BELL (on-camera): Those consequences go far beyond just an exhibition here at the Louvre. They're about the future of Europe. And they stem from a

division that threatens the future of the European Union itself.

The fourth line that divides on one hand Europe's populist and on the other Emmanuel Macron who's positioned himself as their enemy. Ahead of this

spring's European elections.

[14:50:09] Melissa Bell, Paris.



JONES: Now, to one of the greatest collections of Islamic art, the artifacts and the spectacular museum that showcases them are inspiring a

new generation of artists in Qatar. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the heart of Qatar's capital Doha, the Museum of Islamic Art has become a unique feature of the city's landscape. Built on

its own manmade island, its cream colored limestone captures the changes in light and shade during the day.

JULIA GONNELLA, DIRECTOR, MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART: The Museum of Islamic Art is most important museums of Islamic art worldwide. It's a museum which

was built by the Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. A world famous architect.

Every day you see something else, because it's also very beautiful with the weather. Sometimes it's dusty and misty. And then you see it just like a


Sometimes you have strong sunlight. It's a very strong building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Its interior is no less spectacular. From its vast atrium to the 45-meter tall window, giving panoramic views of the 21st

century architecture of Doha.

GONNELLA: Our permanent galleries, we have really beautiful objects. One of the big famous objects, especially with the children, our Ottoman horse.

We have very nice jeweled falcon, amazing jewelry from the mogul period from India, very popular with the Indian population. Beautiful brass and

metal works from Syria and Egypt. Books and manuscripts, we have early Qurans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the last decade, millions of visitors have marveled at its riches. But its impact has been much more than showcasing

the Islamic world's vast treasures.

GONNELLA: The past 10 years of the museum of Islamic art were instrumental in fostering knowledge of art, curiosity in art, production of art. It

inspires artists, contemporary artists.

REEM AL THANI, DIRECTOR OF EXHIBITION, QATAR MUSEUM: There's a lot of investment in art and culture because we are going into a more knowledge-

based economy at this point. And we really need to invest into our youth, our public, our -- people who are here. We are a multi-cultural city and

we really need to bring that in there. You go anywhere in the world, and you find the same thing. So why not here?


JONES: Staying with the arts world, and we are just two days away from the BAFTAs here in London, when the top names and film will take to the carpet

for Britain's biggest award show. And it's very much the year of the woman, at least in the movies themselves.

Nick Glass has more.


NICK GLASS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Another Sunday, and yet another floor-length frock for Lady Gaga. The award season began what

seems like a lifetime ago way back in early November. And, we, the media do seem to obsess about the styling and the frocks. Demand for wardrobe

changes is unremitting.

This 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


[14:55:14] "Roma," directed by the Mexican 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 by their men. One of them a domestic servant.

YALITZA APARICIO, MEXICAN ACTRESS (through translator): 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, MEXICAN ACTRESS: The way the characters started to be close to our own lives was something really magical. I live along with my

child and with the woman that helps me raise him. And that's my little small family. So I think this is really moving for women that have had to


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

GLASS: As its 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. Her performance has already brought her multiple awards.

CLOSE: We are 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: Another Hollywood reporter roundtable 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, woman editor, costume designer. So, to me, that was amazing serendipitous timing. But it is a fact that it took 14 years to



GLASS: "The Favourite" took even longer to reach the big screen, 20 years in the making.


GLASS: Two women courtiers fight for the favorite 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 return.

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

RACHEL WEISZ, BRITISH ACTRESS: Young girls growing up can see stories being told where a woman takes the central role, but she's not peripheral

to the story. She's driving the story and say, 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 vertical, 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.


JONES: And the BAFTAs are on Sunday. Thanks so much for watching tonight. Stay with us here on CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up next.