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HALA GORANI TONIGHT
Sources Say Trump Will Sign Budget Deal He Doesn't Like; Former U.S. Air Force Intelligence Specialist Charged with Spying for Iran; Tehran Brandishes Weaponry; U.S. Aims to Strengthen Ties with Eastern Europe; U.S. Targets Iranian Mideast Conference; Trump and Duque Praise Venezuelan Opposition Leader; High-Profile Journalist Arrested in The Philippines. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired February 13, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani. Tonight, sources tell CNN Donald Trump will sign the
border security deal as he admits another shutdown would be terrible.
Also, this hour, who is Monica Witt, the U.S. Air Force intelligence specialist at large? She is being charged with spying for Iran.
And from one of "Times" People of The Year to a Philippines jail, speak to the lawyer for high-profile journalist Maria Ressa after her arrest today.
24 hours ago, Donald Trump made headlines saying he didn't like the budget deal that doesn't give him funding for a border wall, but now sources are
telling CNN he will sign the bill anyway. Just a short time ago, Mr. Trump wouldn't commit to signing the deal. He says he wants to see the exact
wording of the legislation first, but he made it clear he wants to avoid another government shutdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing. I think a point was made
with the last shutdown. People realized how bad the border is, how unsafe the border is, and I think a lot of good points were made. But I don't
want to see another one. There's no reason for it. And we're going to look at the legislation when it comes, and I'll make a determination then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, let's get more from Sarah Westwood at the White House. So, the President is saying a shutdown would be terrible. It would probably be
terrible as well for his popularity rating because the last time he was being blamed by more Americans for the shutdown than Democrats were.
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Hala. That's one of the reasons why you're not seeing an appetite for the shutdown here at
the White House. You're not seeing it on Capitol Hill. No one wants the government to shut down again on Friday. So, sources do tell CNN that
President Trump does intend to sign this deal, although they are not officially committing the President to sign the deal until they get a
legislative text. President Trump says he wants to see if there are, quote, land mines inside of it. This deal would provide less than half of
the funding that he requested before the shutdown began. It is similar to a Senate package he rejected before that shutdown. So, the President sort
of being forced into a deal that is far less than optimal for him and his base, and he's facing pressure from conservatives to take some kind of
executive action to supplement the funding he'll get in this deal, try to tap into existing federal funds. We don't know what exactly that might
look like, but we do know the President is seriously considering that as an additional option, Hala.
GORANI: And he's getting, as you mentioned, half of the amount that essentially was offered to him. Does the legislation -- is there wording
for a wall sniffle because Democrats had been opposed to that. They wanted to include wording along the lines of funds for border security, not
specifically referencing a wall
WESTWOOD: And there are billions of additional dollars for boarder security, things like repair ports of entry, drone technology. The
President will be getting $1.75 billion for the construction of barrier. He'll get 55 miles of new wall. That's far less than the 200 miles of new
wall the President was seeking at the outset of this process. There are also restrictions from that being a concrete barrier. This has to be some
kind of steel barrier, some kind of double-layered fencing. It is not exactly what the President had envisioned, but at a certain point Democrats
were unwilling to give anything for the wall and they wanted to limit it barrier funding to just be used on repairs to existing fencing. So, the
President did get Democrats to move off that hard line position of refusing to fund any parts of the wall, but certainly he is getting far less than he
wanted for that wall, Hala.
GORANI: All right. We'll see how he communicates that aspect of the deal to his Twitter followers. No doubt we'll hear from him on the social media
platform today. Thank you very much, Sarah Westwood.
The U.S. Justice Department is charging a former air force intelligence specialist with spying for Iran. An indictment says Monica Witt defected
to Iran in 2013, and she remains at large. She is accused of revealing a highly classified intelligence program to Iran along with the identity of
U.S. intelligence officer. Let's get straight to Alex Marquardt in D.C. with more on that. What more do we know -- what more is revealed in this
indictment about what the U.S. is alleging Monica Witt did?
[14:05:00] ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, this is someone who operated at the highest levels of intelligence. As you
mentioned she was an intelligence effort for the Air Force. She left the Department of Defense after serving as a contractor in 2010. She had a
high level of security clearance. She had served overseas and what the Department of Justice is now saying is that she not only conspired, but she
actually did deliver what they call national defense information. So, some of this country's biggest secrets. The way this all played out, after she
left the Department of Defense in 2010, she initially went to Iran the first time as a private citizen in 2012. And then officially defected in
2013. What the Department of Justice is now alleging is that she then turned against her former colleagues. She handed over the name of at least
one fellow intelligence officer as well as a highly classified intelligence program and helped Iranian intelligence officers put together what they
call target packages against U.S. agents. Now, in addition to wit's indictment, the Department of Justice has also indicted four Iranian
hackers who allegedly used the information that wit gave them in order to target as the D.O.J. put it, wit's former colleagues here in the U.S. as
you mentioned, Hala, she is at large. She is -- certainly she is believed to be in Iran. In that poster, the FBI saying she does speak Farsi. It is
highly unlikely the Iranian government would hand her over.
GORANI: I'm wondering do we know what circumstances she ended up going to Iran as a private citizen in 2010? What was the connection, the draw for
her there? Do we know more?
MARQUARDT: There was an event in 2012 that the Iranian authorities were hosting that served to drum up anti-American sentiment, that served to
highlight American influence around the world, which, of course, is not terribly popular in Iran. And then the Iranian authorities in the early
part of -- after 2010 started cultivating that relationship and she finally went over in 2013. She was listed by the FBI as a missing person. That's
when that relationship really got underway and the Iranian government was sheltering her and helping her turn, as the D.O.J. is now saying, against
her former colleagues and hand over that information, and work with these hackers who are under the auspices of the revolutionary guard to, to target
these intelligence agents with -- through a variety of methods including Facebook. But to try to get them to use malware on their computers to try
to get more information from them here in the United States, Hala.
GORANI: All right, Alex Marquardt, thanks very much, live in Washington there on this U.S. air force intelligence specialist charged with spying
for Iran, believed to be inside the country.
The U.S. spy charges are reflecting growing tensions between the U.S. and Iran, and it has, although it has to be said, a lot to do as well with some
of the activities that Iran is engaging in the U.S. says in terms of missile production. Well, our Fred Pleitgen is inside the country and sent
us this report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Iran flexing its military muscle, launching ballistic missiles which the Islamic
Republic has said has become more lethal in past years. At this arms expo in Tehran a spokesman for the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps praising the
BRIG. GEN. DAVOUD ABDI, SPOKESMAN FOR THE ELITE REVOLUTIONARY GUARD CORPS: The Islamic Republic of Iran is able to respond on the same level
to any threats against it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: On display, ballistic missiles with ranges up to 2000 kilometers or almost 1300 miles. Capable of hitting targets in many places in the
Middle East. And highly maneuverable cruise missiles with a range of several hundred kilometers, according to Iran's armed forces. Hossein
Kanani Moghaddam is a former senior revolutionary guard commander who used to meet regularly with Ayatollah Khomeini. He said Iran's missiles are key
to its defense and bargaining power.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOSSEIN KANANI MOGHADDAM, FORMER SENIOR REVOLUTIONARY GUARD COMMANDER: One of our policies to counter the sanctions is to expand our missile program,
he says. This is exactly the path we're following. The more they increase the sanctions, the more we will boost our missile capabilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: For the first time, Iran recently revealed video of a secret missile assembly factory. The U.S. says Tehran is breaching U.N.
resolutions by bolstering its missile programs. A claim the Islamic Republic rejects.
[14:10:00] Iran says missiles are vital to their defense and they say they have every right to not only maintain but to also enhance both the range
and the quality of their missile arsenal. Israel says Iran's ballistic missiles are an unacceptable threat to its security. And the Trump
administration has hit Tehran with crippling sanctions, also citing its ballistic missile program. National Security Advisor John Bolton ripping
into Iran's leadership. Iran continues to seek Israel says Iran's ballistic missiles are an unacceptable threat to its security. And the
Trump administration has hit Tehran with crippling sanctions, also citing its ballistic missile program. National Security Advisor John Bolton
ripping into Iran's leadership.
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Iran continues to seek nuclear weapons to intimidate peaceful people all around the globe, and ballistic
missiles to use as delivery systems.
PLEITGEN: Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, but it's not backing down from its missile program. A major factor driving the confrontation between
Iran and the U.S.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: All right. Well, Fred Pleitgen joins me live from Iran. There was an attack on a Revolutionary Guard convoy, I understand. 30 people
potentially have been killed. Do we have any idea who is behind it?
PLEITGEN: Yes, it looks like 30 people have been killed, at least so far as Iranian media, Iranian sources are concerned. The Revolutionary Guard,
the most elite unit of Iran's military. All of this took place in the east of Iran, the region that has seen a lot of instability in the past. And
you were asking about a claim of responsibility. There has indeed been one by a separatist group that has been active there in the past. And I
Iranians very angry about this. News just a couple minutes ago came from the Iranians say they vow revenge for this attack that took place. And
still the casualty numbers could mount. We've been seeing some reports coming out saying there could have been as many as 40 people killed in this
GORANI: So, the Israeli Prime Minister tweeted a tweet. I'm looking down at my phone actually right now because this tweet has just been deleted.
In it, the official Twitter account of the Prime Minister of Israel said they had been meeting -- I'm paraphrasing now because the tweet had been
deleted. They had been meeting with Arab countries in the common interest of going to war against Iran. Again, this tweet was deleted literally
minutes ago because I saw it on my phone minutes ago. It's late there in Iran. I realize there's no reaction. But I mean, it's no secret that
Israel is trying to drum up support for some type of military action against Iran.
PLEITGEN: Certainly, the Iranians believe the Israelis and the Americans are trying to drum up support against Iran in various ways. It was
interesting. I was at an event with the Iranian foreign minister. He said, look, they're looking at this conference, they see the agenda of the
conference in Warsaw has been changed. At the beginning it was supposed to be about Iran, then it was more the broader Middle East. But he said that
he believes firmly it is about Iran and trying to marginalize Iran.
And that of course has caused anger in Tehran, many governing officials saying they believe this conference is dead in the water. They are even
claiming -- I haven't heard any members of that conference come up with this. They are saying somewhat pressured to come to that conference. Some
of the nations that are taking part. On the one hand they're trying to mock the conference. They believe the United States and, of course, Israel
being aggressive towards the Iranians. You do have what we saw in the report that we did from here today, the ballistic missile program that the
Iranians have the Americans and Israelis say is unacceptable. Certainly, the Iranians are saying Americans are putting more pressure on us and the
Iranians digging in their heels. If you look at the ballistic missile program. And also, you look at the fact, at this point in time, they are
still in the nuclear agreement, they are curbing their nuclear program. That is also something that can change very quickly if the Europeans, for
instance, don't come through and give them more economic leeway or help them get more economic investment here in the country as the nuclear
agreement stipulates. Right now, you do feel there is a lot of tension in the air between the U.S., Iran, of course, as usual, with Israel as well.
That conflict there for a very long time.
GORANI: Fred, just to let our viewers know, the official Twitter account of the Prime Minister of Israel, the word war was in the initial tweet.
The amended tweet reads -- this is an open meeting with representatives of leading the Arab countries
that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of combatting Iran and not going to war with Iran as was initially
stated, or something along those lines. So, they've softened it a bit clearly, and that was after a bunch of people retweeted it. But still, the
message is quite similar. Thanks very much, Fred Pleitgen live in Tehran. Still to come tonight, strengthening ties and sending a message to Russia.
[14:15:00] The Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, is in Poland as the U.S. aims to minimize Russian influence in Europe and also
sell the country some arms. We'll bring you all the details coming up.
GORANI: Well, Russia is trying to assert more influence. The Trump administration is working to strengthen some of its ties with eastern
European countries. "We're happy to push back. "
Meeting in Warsaw with Poland's President, the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence finalized a deal to sell American mobile rocket launchers to Poland.
And the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, confirmed that the Trump administration is considering a request to send more American troops to
Poland. Pompeo visited a polish base, 57 kilometers from a Russian military outpost. Accusing the Russian President of launching war in
Ukraine, he said they could open a second front in Poland. Pence and Pompeo are in Poland for a conference on the Middle East. We were
discussing with Fred Pleitgen with the Israeli minister making news on his Twitter page. Atika Schubert is standing by in Warsaw. How does this fit
into the U.S.'s strategy? Pence and Pompeo are trying to do what to kind of attract Poland into their sphere as Russia is becoming emboldened in the
ATIKA SCHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what you've got here is sort of a bit of a diplomatic jigsaw puzzle. Basically, Poland's interest in this is
that Poland wants to see greater U.S. engagement here, specifically it wants to have more U.S. troops permanently based here. And for that
reason, it suggested, for example, establishing a Fort Trump here. And so, because that's Poland's interest, they have also in a sense agreed to host
this conference on Middle East peace and security. The U.S. has gone to great lengths. Jared Kushner is here to that point. But the reality is
the focus is on Iran, and that was clearly brought into the frame today by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with that tweet that you discuss
with Fred, very brazenly so for the Israeli Prime Minister, this is a conference clearly about meeting with leaders across the Middle East to
combat Iran, to rally against Iran. And that is the sole purpose for him of this meeting.
[14:20:00] GORANI: And is he getting any traction? And by the way, we should mention -- and I think I did when I was trying to look it up. They
deleted that tweet, his office, and instead of the common interest of war with Iran, they replaced that with a common interest of combatting Iran,
just a little bit softer. But the idea behind the tweet is still there. Is he getting any traction from these Arab countries he says are happy to
join this common interest of going to war ironically having this discussion at a peace conference?
SCHUBERT: We have seen an increasingly warming up of relations between Israel and other Arab nations. He met with the foreign minister of Oman
today. What that means in terms of, as he puts it, combatting Iran, there are no details on that. But the very fact that Israel, for example, that
Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to Oman is a diplomatic step for Israel. It's clear the Prime Minister wants to push that even further with
this Iran agenda in mind.
GORANI: All right. Thanks very much. Atika Schubert is live in Warsaw. There's a lot going on there with that Middle East conference. Lots of
news lines coming out. Thanks very much for joining us.
All right. We are going to go to Washington now. The Columbian President has been meeting with President Trump at the White House. He's talking, of
course, about the crisis playing out in Venezuela. Columbia is the staging area for U.S. aid intended for Venezuelans suffering their country's
economic meltdown. But this aid is being blocked by the embattled President Nicolas Maduro who denies that a crisis even exists. Here's what
the Columbian President had to say about that. I think we have to give a very strong message to the dictatorship obstructing the access of
humanitarian aid is and we have to ensure that the humanitarian aid gets to the ATD, Columbia is commit today receiving aid from the U.S. and other
countries so it can access Venezuela and help the Venezuelan people.
Well, Isa Soares has been following this every step of the way. She joins us now from the Columbian side of the Venezuelan border. You were at some
of these border crossings. It's not like Columbia can impose its aid on convenience if they're intent on blocking it, right?
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. We had very strong words there from the President of Columbia who clearly, as he said there, wanted
to keep Venezuela la also so far, that aid is in the warehouses. The rhetoric we had today at least from President Trump, may perhaps try to
pressure, once again, the embattled President Nicolas Maduro who until now has really digging in. President Trump was asked whether we had option b.
If Nicolas Maduro did not agree to deliver aid, would there be a plan b. He said there is a plan b, c, d and f. He was then asked by a journalist
whether they would be sending 5,000 Columbian troops. John Bolton appeared with the yellow notepad several weeks ago that had written 5,000 troops
Columbia. He said, to which Donald Trump -- President Trump said you'll see, so more pressure coming from President Trump, meanwhile we've been
hearing from the Venezuelan side and we heard from the Vice President of Venezuelan who called humanitarian aid basically calling it toxic really it
was contaminated from the Venezuelan side the aid is sitting where it has been for the past week or so, Hala.
GORANI: All right, Isa Soares, thanks very much. Meanwhile this crisis that was taking place, in Venezuela, is taking a heavy toll on health care.
The people's lives who want to hear that, sneaking into a hospital in Caracas, some of the images you are about to see are disturbing. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM KILEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In heavily guarded hospitals, the government here wants to keep visitors out and its shameful secrets in. A failed
economy now being crippled by American sanctions has starved hospitals of drugs and the very necessity of life itself. Food. Like us, it's smuggled
in by volunteers. If the government got hold of these essential supplies, these aid workers believe, they would be stolen and sold on the black
Angie cannot leave the hospital. She lives on a ventilator. Incredibly the President has closed the country's borders to foreign aid.
[14:25:00] The government refuses to take it. It will not accept it needs help. The government admits that it has failed.
Antonella is 6, she has a tumor in her neck. She is terminally ill and there are no cancer drugs to buy her extra time. It is the mother getting
treatment today. She fainted from lack of food when she arrived at the hospital. Now she's recovering on a trip. It's just saline solution. So,
this handout is just in time. In every room here, small donations are welcome. Staff here tell us that only three of 18 operating theaters are
working. That this is the only pediatric surgical unit left in the capital and that 500 children are object r on its waiting list. One doctor quickly
writes a shopping list of desperately need supplies. She can't show her face for fear of being punished for doing this. The U.S. and many other
nations blame President Nicolas Maduro for scenes like this. They support his rifle. The cut off to currency is intend today drive him from power.
That might work eventually. In the meantime, it can only deepen the suffering. Sam Kiley, CNN, Caracas.
GORANI: Still to come tonight, a high-profile journalist has been arrested in the Philippines. But is it just an attempt to silence a government
critic? I'll be speaking to her lawyer next.
And then critics say Egypt is taking yet another step toward authoritarian rule. We'll see how the President could remain in office for the next 15
years. We'll be right back.
GORANI: A journalist in the Philippines who [14:30:00] has been an outspoken critic of Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has been arrested.
Maria Ressa has been charged for cyber libel she wrote in 2012. Ressa is CEO of the news website "Rappler"
and a former colleague, she was CNN's Manila bureau chief. You might remember she was named "Time Magazine's" 2018 person of the year as part of
a group of global journalists fighting to report fairly. Our group also included Jamal Khashoggi.
Her lawyer joins me now over the phone from the Philippines. J.J., have you been able to speak to Maria since her arrest?
J.J. DISINI, LAWYER FOR RESSA (via telephone): Yes, we were at the national bureau of investigation where she is detained, and I had an
opportunity to speak to her.
GORANI: How long will they hold her?
DISINI: So, we're waiting for the courts to open in a couple of hours and we will file an application for bail. And if all goes well, we're hoping
to have her release within the day.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: But why did they deny bail initially?
DISINI: So there would have been an opportunity for us to post bail earlier. Unfortunately, the arresting officers came after office hours,
which made it difficult for us.
And when we attempted to post bail at a night court, the judge had informed us, verbally, that he had no jurisdiction to do so. So I think it was just
a circumstances conspired to prevent her to get her liberty tonight. She has to spend overnight.
GORANI: J.J., do you believe these charges are politically motivated?
DISINI: It seems to be the case. So it seems to be a lot of established jurisprudence that the Department of Justice seems to ignore in order to
make this fit. So normally, or as provided in the revised the penal code. Libel is supposed to -- you are not allowed to file a case for libel, more
than one year the date of publication.
This was a -- this is a publication or republication, as they indicated, this 2014, although the article first went online in 2012, even before the
cybercrime statute came into effect.
GORANI: So because among freedom of expression activists and the committee to protect journalists, the feeling here is that the government is
attacking Maria Ressa because she works as a journalist she's published accounts and stories that have been critical or embarrassing to the
government. Do you share that view?
DISINI: I think there's some reason to believe that there's some political motivation for the case. It seems that when sort of doctrines are being
bent in order to accommodate a prosecution. There's some reason to believe that that is the case.
In fact, the National Bureau of Investigations that initially investigated did not believe that there was a case here, but when they submitted their
recommendation to the Department of Justice, they recommended the case not be filed because of established jurisprudence. But the Department of
Justice reversed that and filed the case.
And in fact, we should have an opportunity to file a motion for reconsideration. But instead the DOJ went straight to court. We had just
received the order yesterday. And apparently, the case was filed in court as early as a week ago. So we were denied the opportunity to have this
reviewed before it was filed in court.
So, as you said - as you said, the circumstances conspired against you, the fact that this happened after office hours, the fact that you weren't able
to review the charges ahead of time.
Let me ask you, though, about Maria herself. How is she holding up? Because she's being detained right now. She was quoted as saying in her
20-plus career -- and she is an extremely well respected journalist over many decades. She has never been detained. This is the first time. How
is she doing?
DISINI: She's in high spirits, but -- and she's, of course, unhappy about her circumstances. But she's in high spirits. She's in fighting mode and
she wants to push forward and bring the arguments to the court and attempt -- what the first thing we're going to do is try to get those charges
GORANI: And she could have predicted this, she was broad, she was named one of the Time's People of the Year. She's accepted awards for her
fearless reporting. Why did she choose to go back?
DISINI: So this is not the only case that she's facing. In fact, this is the sixth time that -- this is the sixth criminal case that she's facing.
So she's there's been a multiple cases of tax evasion along them, right, that have been filed against her and against Rappler.
And that's why, I think, there's reason to believe that there's a sort of conspiracy, right, to silence or to quash the voice here of Rappler and of
GORANI: J.J. Disini, the lawyer for Rappler speaking to us about the detention of journalist Maria Ressa in the Philippines. Thanks very much.
Well, moving on from the Philippines to another part of the world. He was swept into office by a military coup and now he appears ready to cement his
grip on power. For years and years and years to come.
[14:35:09] Abdel Fattah el-Sisi could remain Egypt's the president until 2034. If parliament votes to amend the constitution to extend presidential
terms. Lawmakers are also now debating granting Sisi even more sweeping powers.
We're joined by Steven Cook, a senior fellow from Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He's also the author of "False Dawn:
Protest Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East."
Are you surprised that parliament could allow Sisi to stay in power for another -- I guess, up until 2034, if this goes through?
STEVEN COOK, SENIOR FELLOW, MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES AT THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, Hala, this is the least surprising thing to
happen in the Middle East in the last decades.
I think from the very beginning when Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in July 2013, the Egyptian elite have been trying to reset the natural order
of things. And by changing the constitution to allow him to run again, changing the tenure of the president to six-year terms for at least another
two terms that would, by the end of the current term, he's in leave him in power for 20 years.
I'll remind you and your viewers that President Mubarak was in power to shy of 30 years. So this is really an effort to return things to the status
GORANI: And it's been eight years since the Arab Spring when everything seemed possible, a new dawn, you wrote the book on it literally. A new
dawn in the Arab world and Egypt, in particular. Is Egypt worse off now than it was in 2010?
COOK: Well, I think undoubtedly Egypt is a more repressive country than ever before. I think that President Sisi and his advisors believe that
Egypt has a series of problems that really can be resolved through the application of force on the population.
In contrast, President Mubarak saw things -- he certainly used force, but he used a lighter touch at times. He saw things to be -- that could be
managed rather than through, as I said, force and violence.
GORANI: Yes. It certainly felt less repressive. It was easier to work there as a journalist. There's no doubt about that. But, you know, the
reality is a lot of Egyptians are pretty comfortable with Sisi in power, especially those who are very, very fearful of the Muslim brotherhood.
And I'm talking there not just about minorities like the Coptic minority and others, but just kind of ordinary middleclass Egyptians. There are
those who are happy to have Sisi in power as opposed to Mohamed Morsi whom he overthrew.
COOK: I think that that's right. And you do have large numbers of people who are quite fearful of the Muslim brotherhood. It was extraordinary how
many people actually came out into the streets in July 2013, in support of the military. That's because there really was this crucial issue at the
heart of the post-Mubarak period about the future direction, the identity of Egypt.
Then you heard from a lot of people, not just elites or supporters of the military, that one of the reasons why they so opposed Mohamed Morsi was
because he was undermining what they saw as the heart and soul of Egypt, what Egypt stood for. In favor of a more religious type of polity.
Now, Egyptians are quite conservatives at large, but it seems to suggest they did not want to live in a Muslim brotherhood defined political system.
GORANI: But I wonder if the next revolution is inevitable and perhaps not so far away. I mean, this is a country that is demographically exploding.
Poverty is increasing. There's an insurgency in the Sinai. The repression is also increasing.
I mean, this is not -- this does not guarantee any stability, to say the least, going forward for Egypt.
COOK: I think it's clear that Egypt is unstable. It's virtually ungovernable. The question of whether there will be a revolution, though,
is really anyone's guess.
Certainly, there are signs, as you quite well point out, of instability. But whether that turns into another mass uprising against the political
system, I think, remains a question that no one can really answer.
Just think about Tunisia eight years ago. Did anybody think that the suicide of a young man in a south central town would cause a revolution
that would overthrow a terrible dictatorship in Tunisia and then it would spread to Egypt and other parts of the region? No one knows, and no one
could possibly predict.
GORANI: You're right. You're right. Predicting anything, whether it's the U.S. politics or Middle Eastern politics is a dangerous game.
[14:40:00] And certainly no one predicted that this revolutionary fervor would spread, and certainly in 2011 all the way to countries like Syria
where Syrians themselves, I remember at the time would say, there will be no uprising against Assad, people are too afraid. And we all - we all
knew, unfortunately, how that ended up for people there.
Steven Cook, it's always a pleasure. Thanks you so much for joining us.
COOK: Thank you, Hala.
Now to a little boy in Afghanistan who's become a Taliban target, unfortunately. You may remember the 7-year-old who became an internet
sensation, thanks to a picture of him wearing a homemade Lionel Messi jersey.
Nick Paton Walsh explains why his family is now begging the football star to rescue them from Afghanistan.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fame has a totally different price in Afghanistan. Meet Murtaza age 7.
His bid to emulate his football idol Lionel Messi with a plastic bag is a football shirt and handwritten number 10 went viral over two years ago. He
got this signed shirt and even met the Argentinian star in Qatar.
But this is a story of unintended consequences and how celebrity in Afghanistan doesn't mean paparazzi or footballers' wives but threats and
fleeing your home in the night.
Soon after Murtaza's fame, the Taliban attacked their village.
"The Taliban were killing our relatives," he says, "and they were searching houses. They stole cars and killed their passengers searching houses and
killing people. I told my mother to take me somewhere else. We weren't allowed to play football by the Taliban or even go out of the house. We
used to hear the sound of heavy machine guns and Kalashnikovs and rockets at home. We also heard people screaming. Then my mother decided to bring
His father took them to a nearby city but had to stay behind to fight.
"The last time I saw my father," he says, "was on the first day we came here and then he went back and I haven't seen him since then. I miss him
so much. When he calls my mother, I also talk to him."
Even here, they live behind closed doors, says his mother, Shafika (ph).
"It would have been better if Murtaza hadn't gained fame," she said. "He spends all of his time here inside the house. Not only the Taliban but
some other groups have started thinking that Messi might have given him a lot of money. We stopped sending him to school, because we were being
threatened all the time."
She appeals again to Messi to help them leave Afghanistan, but their story is just one in the spotlight, where there are millions of displaced here in
the growing darkness.
Murtaza hails from the Hazara minority, often persecuted by the Taliban and fearful of their ascendance in any peace deal with the Americans.
"In Kabul, I cannot go outside the house," he says. "My mother doesn't let me go out. She's afraid. I only play with my friends inside. When I was
in my hometown, I couldn't wear my Messi jersey, because I was afraid somebody would hurt me. I want to be taken from this country, because
there's fighting here. I want to become a football player like Messi and play with Messi."
Caught now, like much of the country, in the gap between how much foreigners are willing to do to help and what Afghans need.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.
GORANI: Still to come tonight, an elusive predator has been captured on camera, that is. A rare black leopard has been photographed in Africa for
the first time in a century. We'll bring you the pictures, next.
[14:45:52] GORANI: Voters head to the polls this weekend in one of the largest democracies on earth. Nigeria. There are more than 70 candidates
running for president of Africa's most populist country. They're hoping to unseat President Muhammadu Buhari who is 76. He's been president since
David McKenzie got a chance to speak to Buhari at a recent get-out-the-vote rally. What did he tell you, David?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Hala. That get-out-the-vote rally was what they call the mega rally here in
Abuja, the capital. They're down to the last stages of this very intense campaigning season here in Nigeria, as you say, one of the biggest
democracies in the world, more than 18 million people registered to vote on Saturday throughout this country. Thousands and thousands of polls will be
And really, the two leading candidates are both in their 70s. Not just the president. And Muhammadu Buhari who took the helms some for years ago,
well, he in fact has spent a large amount of time-out of the country getting medical help. So I put that sensitive question to him at one of
his final rallies. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE: Mr. President, you're going to go to all of the states in this campaign.
MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA: But some people say that you don't have the stamina for another term. What is your response to that?
BUHARI: Well, I have done it so they can give you another answer.
MCKENZIE: So you are ready to take this country forward for the next four years?
BUHARI: Yes, I'm ready for it. And I'm just reminded this audience, just like the previous one, that when we came in 2015, we promised (INAUDIBLE)
security, economy and fighting bribery and corruption.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE: Well, Hala, he has really said he'd be tough on graft. But there haven't been too many high-profile prosecutions of those involved in
corruption in the country which has really been beset for many years.
His main opponent is Atiku Abubakar. He is a businessman, former vice- president, and is being personally implicated in graft in the past, something he denies. But, Hala, across this country there will be a lot of
excitement as they head to the polls. And the questions is, will Buhari manage to stave off but strengthening it seems opposition in this very
GORANI: All right, David McKenzie, you'll be covering it. Thanks very much for jointing us.
Take a look at this. We've got some incredible pictures to bring you. What you're seeing now is an almost mythical black leopard. For the first
time in more than 100 years, we have got photographic evidence of a black leopard living in Africa.
Scientists managed to get that extremely rare video of the animal after months of watching and waiting near a wilderness camp in Kenya. These
majestic animals also known as "black panthers" are described as critically endangered. There's a picture of it, looking very handsome.
CNN's Farai Sevenzo has more from Kenya.
FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, the incredible discovery -- so much not a discovery, as a confirmation that black leopards
do exist in an area called Loisaba in Kenya. It's come as a great source of fascination and enjoyment to conservationists in this part of the world.
Now, it all started with a young man called Ambrose Letuai, who is from the Samburu tribe. And he was working in conjunction with San Diego Zoo to try
and find out what the leopard population was like in this region.
And he tells a story of talking to elders in this area who were always complaining that leopards had been going after their goats and their
cattle. In fact, some of them called calf killers to these black leopards, that they would come in and take their cattle.
But, of course, scientists live in that very, very no man's land of knowing that these things exist and trying to prove them. Now, for the first time,
those scientists, together with the conservationists like young Ambrose Letuai, have gone and talked to the community in the area and set up their
cameras which are motion sensitive cameras to try and capture these beasts.
And, of course, we now have confirmation that black leopards actually are alive and well in Kenya.
[14:50:59] Conservationists have been agog at this news. And they're saying this really brings it to the heart that the government of Kenya has
to try and strike a fine balance between conservation and development. They point to the fact sometimes government are keen to put a high-speed
train through these lands where wild animals live and whose habitat it is so that they attract more tourists. And they're saying it's a very fine
balance to be struck here.
But, of course, this news is very well can use indeed for everybody involved in trying to preserve the leopard to the fact that there is now a
black leopard, which by the accident of (INAUDIBLE) or an anomaly in biology turns out to be (INAUDIBLE) is a completely black leopard. Very
exciting it is for conservationists in this part of the world, Hala.
GORANI: Farai, thanks very much.
More to come including chances you've seen this U.S. political oversight hearing. Now, it's not an event many people seek out, but this particular
moment is going viral. We'll tell you why, next.
GORANI: Well, you've probably -- you might have seen this next video online. In fact, it's been viewed more than 38 million times. It's of
U.S. House Democrat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in the House Oversight Committee hearing grilling officials on campaign finance laws.
She highlights calls -- she highlights that lawmakers can abuse the current system for personal gain. Now, this is normally a very obscure topic and
who listens to these oversight committee hearings. But as I said, this went viral. Here's a little clip and then we'll analyze it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: So now I'm elected, I'm in, I've got the power to draft, lobby and shape the laws that govern the
United States of America. Fabulous. Now, is there any hard limit that I have, perhaps, Ms. Hobert Flynn, is there any hard limit that have in terms
of what legislation I'm allowed to touch? Are there any limits on the laws that I can write or influence, especially if I'm -- based on the special
interest funds that I accepted to finance my campaign and get me elected in the first place?
KAREN HOBERT FLYNN, PRESIDENT, COMMON CAUSE: There's no limits.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: There's none. So I can be totally funded by oil and gas, I can be totally funded by big pharma, come in, write big pharma laws and
there's no limit to that whatsoever.
FLYNN: That's right.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: OK. So --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: All right. So what I find interesting about this, is this is really not normally a topic of conversation that goes viral. How campaign
finance laws work, right? It's a five-minute video as well. We're always told on social media, keep it to 30 seconds. People can't pay attention
for more than that.
But this video, and regardless of where you are politically on the spectrum, is bringing into the mainstream these previously fringe notions
and ideas and concepts, right?
SAMUEL BURKE, CNN BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: And that video has now been viewed 38 million times. According to some metrics, that
makes it the most viewed video ever of a politician on Twitter and the 41st viewed video of all time on Twitter. So you're talking about competition
with Beyonce and the likes.
It is fascinating that this freshman congresswoman, who's had very little time in politics, is now the second-most traffic -- attracting politician
in terms of Democrats on the internet.
Let me just put up on the screen for you how far her reach is. She has three million Twitter followers. She's got 2.4 million Instagram followers
on just one account. She has multiple accounts. And on Facebook, the platform that she doesn't use as often, that's out of sync with the young
folks, I think she would say. She has about 600,000 followers.
[14:55:12] Now, she's not the most followed politician. And of course --
GORANI: No. Trump has many more.
BURKE: Exactly. And a lot of people compare her to Trump in the sense that she is doing this herself. Just the way you can tell that tone from
President Trump, even if he's not the person who push send. And the way that he'll go after the media, she's also willing to go after the media
calling out CBS for not having a black reporter, for instance, on the 2020 campaign trail. So there are some similarities in what they're doing. But
she's pushing very different topics.
GORANI: What I find interesting is that even -- and again, I want to stress that this is not a conversation about where she stands politically
or where any of our viewers stand politically.
But the fact that previous fringe ideas like taxing very rich Americans or people who make more than $10 million a year, up to 70 percent, that's the
tax bracket that she's proposing.
That a few months ago before her election that was never discussed in the mainstream. And the fact she's tweeting those ideas out and talking about
them a lot on social media is bringing those ideas into the mainstream. And that's a new thing.
BURKE: In fact, one of the topics that she tweets most often about, in fact, it is the most topic she tweets about most often is #green new deal.
This type of government plan to change -- although the funding is questionable where the money would come from.
How the government would change their spending and this has spread. If you look after she's been tweeting about it, far beyond the United States. And
if you look at her reach on Twitter, far beyond the United States as well.
She's also doing classes for other members of Congress. We have a selfie, actually. We can show from when she was teaching other members. And I
thought it was very interesting. She said, you've got to be authentic. If you're an old woman talk like an old woman, embrace that. If you don't
know what a meme is, then you've got to post the meme. Social media is not a press release. She's doing things even going farther than --
GORANI: Wait. What's the old woman quote?
BURKE: She said, if you're an old woman, talk like an old woman.
GORANI: That's really not the -- you should never say that. Because even if you're an old woman, you don't want someone young telling you. Yes.
BURKE: but I think what she's saying --
GORANI: She's saying the authentic, be yourself.
BURKE: Be authentic. Be yourself. And she even pointed out that John Dingell, who actually just passed away since she said was one of the best
tweeters out there. He was one of the -- an old man before he passed away, to put it directly.
GORANI: And John Dingell was never -- one of the questions was named something on Twitter, I think I participated in that game. That you lived
through as a child that people who are younger would not understand. And John Dingell replied the great depression.
BURKE: I'm sure you don't have a lot of time, but I just got to say. I work at CNN, in Espanol as well. I cover Hugo Chavez for years. And he
was really the first tweeting president. So whether if somebody like Hugo Chavez or then Donald trump, and now this congresswoman, you see how people
are able to leverage these platforms and get to people in ways that nobody else has before.
GORANI: What's the name of the game? You've got to play that game. It's kind of the way it is.
BURKE: I'll see you on Twitter.
GORANI: See you on Twitter.
I'm Hala Gorani. From Samuel and the whole team and myself, thanks for watching. Quest is next.