Return to Transcripts main page
U.K. Parliament to Debate Next Steps for Brexit; Chasm Between Rich and Poor Continues to Grow; Copenhagen Light Festival, a Winter Wonderland. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired February 14, 2019 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:14] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Reports from the front line, thousands of civilians leaving a nightmare behind to face an uncertain future, as they flee from what's certain to be the last major military offensive on ISIS-held territory in Syria.
A day for confrontation in Venezuela. With the Maduro regime denying the entry of humanitarian aid, the opposition is set to confront the military and distribute the supplies, now stockpiled on the border with Colombia.
Plus, yet another crucial Brexit vote in the British Parliament. Yet another potentially bad day for the Prime Minister, another attempt for her terminated Teflon.
Hello, everybody, great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
The sprawling ISIS caliphate has been reduced to a single pushpin on a map. This little town on the Euphrates River is all that's left of the dreams of the Islamic caliphate stretching across the Muslim. I mean, there were calls urging all Muslim groups to swear allegiance. The ISIS fighters remained fiercely, holding on to a piece of real estate, roughly a square kilometer in size. But their days are numbered. U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters aided by American airstrikes are pressing the final offensive And as they advance, terrified civilians are fleeing by the thousands. And CNN's Ben Wedeman is there.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kurdish soldiers, female soldiers frisked the veiled women one by one, after they fled ISIS's last enclave in Syria. Bags are searched, scissors, nail clippers confiscated. The soldiers say this morning they found a pistol in one purse. They both inhabit this land but live in different worlds. This woman only identifies her as Umm Miriam, the mother of Miriam. Her description of conditions in the town of Baghouz Al-Fawqani, bleak.
"There's lots of shelling, lots of wounded," she says.
The men folk are held depart, waiting to be questioned by Kurdish, American, French, and British intelligence officers on the look-out for ISIS members and foreign nationals trying to escape among the civilians. Prior to the launch of the offensive on ISIS's last sliver of land, Syrian democratic forces officials said about 1,500 civilians were inside. What's clear is that officials have massively underestimated the number of civilians in the town. Within the last three days, more than 2,000 people have left Baghouz Al-Fawqani, and there may still be thousands left inside -- inside and under heavy round the clock, air and land bombardment.
There is no clear picture of the number of civilians killed and wounded. The accounts of those who have escaped to this area where those fleeing are registered impossible to verify. (INAUDIBLE) and her family were staying in a camp for the displaced inside the town. She says they left with bullets flying over their heads.
"Yesterday, rockets hit the camps," she tells me. "They killed civilians. As soon as the plane see movement, they strike, they don't know if they're hitting ISIS or civilians." (INAUDIBLE) was in the same camp. "There was hunger, fear, bombing, cold," she says. "Many women and children were killed. But there was no ISIS there."
As they wait to be trucked to a camp for the displaced north of here, there is no bombing, there is hunger and thirst and misery. Supplies arrived, they're gone in seconds. Children jostle in the dust for the scraps. Ben Wedeman, CNN, on the plains of Eastern Syria.
VAUSE: Major pushes underway to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. A resolution passed the lower House calling for a withdrawal of U.S. forces within 30 days. And a stunning rebuke of President Trump and his close relationship and defense of Saudi Arabia in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Kashogi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This will now go to the United States Senate where it passed in the last Congress and we're expecting it to pass in this Congress. And giving the President an opportunity to potentially veto this. Now, again, you're right, it does not have enough votes to override a presidential veto but a very symbolic rebuke from Congress and bipartisan opposition to the Saudi- led war in Yemen. The U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, putting pressure in the administration to change course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[01:05:12] VAUSE: The United Nations says the situation in Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The Trump administration, though, says the blame for that rests solely with Iran. Here's U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appearing on PBS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: The Americans, the Brits, the Saudis, and the (INAUDIBLE) are doing everything we can to take down the threat from the humanitarian crisis even while Iran fuels it. It provides missiles to the Houthis that they launch into airports in Saudi Ararbia, and the Emirates. These are the challenges in Yemen, this are the challenges that this administration is determined to push back against. And we're going to keep at it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: With the standoff on the Venezuelan border, U.S. officials are considering alternatives for the delivery of humanitarian supplies, possibly by air or by sea. Forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro have barricaded a key international crossing from Colombia. For now, the U.S. says supplies will continue to be stockpiled on the border ready for delivery once it's safe. Through a meeting with Colombia's President, Donald Trump again hinted at possible military intervention, and both leaders expressed strong support for the self- declared head of state Juan Guaido.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVAN DUQUE MARQUEZ, PRESIDENT OF REPUBLIC OF COLOMBIA: I think we have to give a very strong message to the dictatorship, obstructing the access of humanitarian aid is a crime against humanity, and we have to ensure that a humanitarian aid gets to the Venezuelan people, and Colombia is highly committed to receive humanitarian aid from the U.S. and other countries so that it can access Venezuela, and help the Venezuelan people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: CNN's National Security Analyst Samantha Vinograd is with us this hour from Washington. Previously, Sam served on President Obama's national security council. So, Sam, we saw Presidents Trump and Duque very much on message in the Oval Office when it comes to words. You know, the words of support for the man who they say is the legitimate, you know, acting President of Venezuela. But you just spent some time with a small group, with the Colombian President. Did he actually flush out any of the how details in this issue? Like, in particular, how they plan to get that humanitarian assistance from the Colombian side of the border, pass the barricades and the soldiers, and into Venezuela.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: He didn't. Instead, I was just at a small dinner hosted by the (INAUDIBLE) I met with President Duque, and the conversation was more centered around why Colombia is so supportive of interim President Guaido, and what we should be looking forward to over the weeks to come. And part of why Colombia is so supportive of transitioning away from Maduro is because they don't want to see a demagogue in Caracas that is contributing to massive migration flows out of Venezuela to countries like Colombia who right now is hosting over a million Venezuelan refugees and more coming every day.
There are about 40,000 Venezuelans that crossed the border between Venezuela and Colombia every day. Some -- most of them stay in country, others travel to other neighboring countries in the region, but that is obviously an enormous burden on Colombia while they struggle, while President Duque struggles to try to bring more Colombians, more of his own people to a higher income status.
VAUSE: Yes. Actually, there's so much invested in here in the region, and there are certain countries have a lot more at stake than others, butt what we're seeing now inside Venezuela is Juan Guaido, you know, the opposition leader who's created this huge expectations that come a week from Saturday. Somehow, humanitarian corridor will open up, aid will be distributed across the country. Just how all of this will happen is not entire clear, but what does seem to be clear is that the objective here is to set up, you know, a potential class between the rank and file soldiers on the one side and the moms and the dads and kids and everybody else who's part of these anti- government protests?
VINOGRAD: That's exactly right. And there's certainly an urgent need for humanitarian assistance across the border, or the United States, Canada, Germany, and others would not have contributed these additional levels of assistance to the country, but this could potentially set up a clash between military and security forces and Venezuelans that are loyal to the opposition, and what Juan Guaido is trying to do is essentially to get that humanitarian assistance in and help the Venezuelan people, will try and accelerate a process under which Nicolas Maduro loses his primary base of support, which is the military and security officials.
And time is a factor here. We know that there have been sanctions put in place by the United States under which Nicolas Maduro is no longer selling oil to the United States. He's lost a cash cow. But the question really is has the military and security, and the top tier officials made a decision that their pockets aren't getting lined by Maduro anymore, it is better to really abandon him and to side with the opposition. I don't know that we're at that point yet, John, particularly because Russia and China are still continuing to prop up Maduro.
[01:09:59] VAUSE: If this was just purely about getting humanitarian aid into the country, there are other ways: they can do by air, they can do by sea. I mean, I don't know about the logistics, but you know, there -- if it was just about getting the assistance into the country, they don't have to do it this way, they don't have to go past the soldiers on the border.
VINOGRAD: That's exactly right. There are several ways for getting aid into Venezuela and there are several organizations that are still quite active within Venezuela itself. All that assistance is not bilateral assistance from foreign countries like the United States, Canada, and Germany. This is another bucket of assistance that we have announced since Juan Guaido was named the interim President of Venezuela, and it's needed, otherwise we would not be trying to send diapers and medicine and basic necessities to the Venezuelan people. The hope -- the problem is that, of course, Maduro is calling anything that he doesn't like a foreign invasion. And at what point is he going to just completely shut off all foreign assistance coming into the country because he says it's evil and he views that as a mean of usurping his hold on power.
VAUSE: Yes, we also heard from the recently appointed U.S. special envoy to Venezuela, he told the Congress the military leadership is still backing Maduro despite efforts by the opposition to convince him to change sides. Abrams also went onto say, there are signs though that there are rumblings within the ranks. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLIOTT ABRAMS, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR VENEZUELA: We are hearing a lot of discontent in the military. I mean, for one thing, if you're a general and you looked down at the ranks, you know your own people in the army are starving. And what about their brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers? So, we think that this opinion is spreading within the military that the current situation is untenable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know, I want -- you know, one indication that, you know, that rings true is the fact that this unrest is going on for weeks. And yet, Maduro hasn't ordered the military to disperse the crowds, hasn't sent them to break up these demonstrations. It seems in a way there's always, you know, a reluctance to test the loyalty of the soldiers with the guns on the ground.
VINOGRAD: I agree with you on that, and I also think that Maduro is likely worried that if there is a direct confrontation between the military and unarmed members of the opposition which of course he would pretend were heavily armed and creating conflict. That could in some way be a predicate for foreign powers coming in to stage a humanitarian intervention of some kind. That would be a legally complicated but the cast is strong if Nicolas Maduro is slaughtering his own people and the military and security forces are opening fire on unarmed women and children, that may be another reason that he's holding back. But at this point, while we wait for sanctions to bite, Nicolas Maduro is probably just going to keep doing what he's doing and hoping that he paints the United States and the 38-plus countries that have sided with Juan Guaido as the enemy, so that he can maintain his hold on power.
VAUSE: Yes, and that's the problem, the longer he keeps doing what he's doing, the more sort of normal the situation becomes, the more to his advantage. That's why the time issue is so crucial. Sam, thank you. Good to see you.
VINOGRAD: Thank you.
VAUSE: The fate of the global economy might just depend on the success or failure of U.S.-China trade negotiations underway right now in Beijing. The International Monetary Fund is warning, the world economy is slowing faster than expected, citing Donald Trump's trade war with China as one of the factors that could cause an economic storm. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is in Beijing. His only brief comment in the past couple of hours, he said, "so far, so good."
(INAUDIBLE) China, the U.S. have agreed to a tariff truce. They have until March to reach a deal and avoid a major escalation in this trade war. That would be a 25 percent U.S. tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods. But President Trump has said, if both sides are close to a deal, that deadline which he imposed could slide. CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Ivan Watson is keeping a close eye on all of this from Hong Kong. So, Ivan, there is optimism that we're hearing from the White House. There is optimism coming from the people on the ground. So, where we stand right now about, you know, the likelihood of some kind of deal, and then, what happens?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, you know, last hour, you talked about markets and how they were reacting to this round of negotiations. I'd like to take a look at Asian markets really quickly, and you'll get a sense that across Asia the markets are pretty flat right now, and a little bit into the red as opposed to the previous day of trading in Europe, where the markets were up just a hair. Nobody seems to know what exactly will happen here. There have been notes of cautious optimism coming from both Beijing and Washington, as these officials sit down for another day of negotiations between the world's two largest economies. The deadline everybody is looking at is March 1st, that's when the Trump administration has threatened to dramatically increase tariffs up to 25 percent, up from 10 percent on about $200 billion worth of Chinese exports to the U.S.
[01:15:00] That is a deadline that was set by Washington that has already been moved once since January 1st -- was the initial deadline. And in the past 48 hours, President Trump, as you mentioned, has suggested that, that deadline could again slide if both sides look like they were working towards a deal.
Also, we've heard from President Trump that he thinks there needs to be some kind of a face-to-face meeting with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping to iron out any last wrinkles that may exist between the two countries about the future of trade. We don't know if it's really possible to set up that kind of a summit before March 1st.
So, you know, the bets are out that, that maybe again, this deadline could slide a bit. And we're also getting signs from China that it wants a deal. If you take a look at Chinese state media, it is not overwhelmingly hawkish right now when it's talking about kind of calm going into this final round of negotiations.
And the Chinese have made a number of goodwill gestures. They've agreed to buy billions of dollars' worth of U.S. soybeans, they've agreed to lift temporarily a tariff on -- U.S. exports of cars to China, even though that's not a very, very big market.
But I guess, we'll just have to watch closely because as you have pointed out in the past, the wild card here is President Trump himself, an awfully unpredictable American president. John.
VAUSE: To say the least. Ivan, thank you. Ivan Watson there, live in Hong Kong.
Well, President Trump is widely expected to sign off on a border security deal, a deal which he says he does not like. But a bigger priority it seems is to avoid another government shutdown. If the spending bill was not approved, government funding would end midnight on Friday. But as Kaitlan Collins reports, nothing is too certain until the president puts pen into paper.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump leaving Washington guessing tonight.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're, going to look at the legislation when it comes, and I'll make a determination then.
COLLINS: Declining to say whether he'll sign the border security spending deal until he's seen the final package.
TRUMP: Well, we haven't got that yet. We'll be getting it, we'll be looking for land mines because you've could have that, you know.
COLLINS: Despite claiming earlier this week that Democrats would shoulder the blame for another government shutdown, Trump all but ruling one out today.
TRUMP: I don't want to see a shutdown. Shutdown would be a terrible thing. I think a point was made with the last shutdown. People realized how bad the border is.
COLLINS: The president hinting that if he does sign the deal, he could still use his executive powers to secure further funding for the wall.
TRUMP: Regardless of what I do, you know, we already have as you know, a lot of money where we're building existing wall with this existing funds. But I have a lot of options. Just like we do with Venezuela, we have on the border.
COLLINS: Adding he has options most people don't understand to build the wall without congressional approval.
TRUMP: It's going to happen at a really rapid pace. We're giving out contracts right now and we're going to have a great wall. It's going to be a great powerful wall.
COLLINS: The bipartisan compromise includes just over a billion dollars for 55 miles of new fencing. Far below, the $5.7 billion for 230 miles, Trump shut the government down over in December.
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I'm extremely disappointed an amount of money in this compromise. I assume the president is going to sign it. I don't think anybody is interested in having another government, government shutdown, but he has to be frustrated.
COLLINS: The questions remain about whether the president could be swayed by a conservative backlash.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS: I'm not happy that nobody should be happy. The president has every right to be angry. The so-called compromise is typical of the D.C. sewer and swamp. And its level of funding for security and safety of the American people is pathetic.
COLLINS: At least, one immigration hardliner in the president's corner is framing it as a win for him. Pointing to remarks made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she said she would only give the president $1 for his wall.
LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS: Well, try $1.375 billion. She might not want to call it a wall, but that's what it is, and that's not all of that.
COLLINS: Now, White House officials have not gone on the record to say whether or not the president will sign this bill. They say that's because they're waiting on the final text of this legislation to come through, they want to know exactly what's going to be in here, even though they know a rough outline of what's in it because the president has been briefed not only by his legislative affairs director but even from Senators who have been calling the White House to pitch the President on this deal.
However, White House officials are waiting for the president himself to come out and publicly endorse this bill because they don't want to be contradicted by their boss. Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.
[01:19:46] VAUSE: The U.S. court has ruled Paul Manafort, the one- time Trump campaign chairman turned convicted felon, violated a plea deal by lying to investigators. Three counts in all but Manafort's lawyers say it was not intentional.
Intentional or not, the ruling could result in a much longer prison sentence for Manafort, who cut a deal with a special counsel in the Russia investigation. And pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and witness tampering in return for promises of less jail time.
Well, Airbus is pulling the plug on a jet once described as the future of air travel. Production of the Airbus A380 will stop in 2021. The decision came after Emirates cut back on its orders.
The world's largest airliner first took flight 14 years ago, and since then, 234 the double-decker planes have been delivered, a fraction of what Airbus once predicted it would sell.
Still to come, lost in translation. So, when the Israeli president -- prime minister, I should say, threatened Iran with war in a tweet, what did he really mean? We tell you after the break.
And FBI charging a former U.S. Air Force officer for spying with the Tehran. Just how much has she revealed? We'll have details next, CNN NEWSROOM.
VAUSE: Iran, says there will be retribution for a suicide bombing which blew up a bus carrying members of the elite Revolutionary Guard. At least 23 people were killed, 17wounded in the blast which left the bus in a heap of twisted metal. The attack was carried out on a desert road in a remote region near Iran's border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. A militant separatist group has claimed responsibility.
Iran is at the top of the agenda at a security conference in Warsaw, Poland. The U.S. vice president has expected to speak in the coming hours. He's expected to call out the Iranian regime from nefarious activity in the Middle East.
But Iran's foreign minister said the meeting is just a circus. He also slammed Washington for withdrawing from the nuclear deal last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER, IRAN: Let's put them to return to the negotiating table. They're not supposed to bring -- take us back to the negotiating table. We and the rest of the international community are at the negotiating table. They're the ones who left, they can come back. Because it's the United States that is breaking the law. It's the United States that is violating every known international agreement. I think, I mean, you name it, they withdraw from it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, says this conference is a chance to reach consensus on a lot of issues. In the past though, Pompeo has advocated for regime change in Iran.
And that conference has already seen, at least, one international controversy when Israel's prime minister posted a tweet calling for war with Iran. It was quickly deleted but not forgotten. CNN's Atika Shubert has details.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the conference has kicked off with a dinner at the Royal Castle happening behind me. But headlines were made even before the dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's making this statement after meeting with the Foreign Minister of Oman. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL: What is important about this meeting -- and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those -- is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[01:24:57] SHUBERT: How ostensibly, this conference is supposed to be about regional security. Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But really the focus is Iran as the prime minister clearly has made a point to say in that video.
Now, since then, the government press offers in Israel has put out a statement saying that the translation should have been combatting Iran rather than war with Iran. Either which way, the prime minister has clearly made Iran the focus of this conference.
And indeed, this is what the U.S. is trying to do with this conference, rally its allies to contain what it sees as Iran's aggression. But it has a lot of work to do. There are 60 governments being represented at this conference, but the E.U. nations, in particular, France and Germany have not sent their foreign ministers. The head of foreign policy for the E.U., Federica Mogherini is not attending.
They have let sent high-level representatives, but it shows a clear split between what the E.U. believes should be done about Iran and what the U.S. does. So, it's not clear at this point what diplomatic goal can be achieved at this conference. Atika Shubert, CNN, Warsaw.
VAUSE: Well, she vanished years ago in the Middle East. But beyond that, her disappearance had raised a lot of concerns because she had access to so much highly classified secrets of the United States military.
On Wednesday, the FBI announced she's a fugitive and an accused spy for Iran. Barbara Starr has details.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, a former U.S. Air Force intelligence specialists who disappeared and was believed to be in Iran is now wanted by the FBI for spying on behalf of the Islamic Republic. 39-year-old Monica Witt, who had access to top-secret information including names of U.S. intelligence officers, defected to Iran in 2013. And was once thought to be missing. But instead, the Justice Department says, she was recruited by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Monica Witt provided the Iranian government with the identities of employees in the U.S. intelligence community who were operating covertly. The Justice Department, says, Witt worked with Iran to target, at least, eight U.S. government agent computer accounts in order to deploy malware that would provide access to computers and networks used by the U.S. intelligence community.
The U.S. also alleges Witt, created target packages for Iran to identify and track down U.S. government agents. This week, Iran marks 40 years since the Islamic Revolution brought the current regime to power. And the rhetoric from the Trump administration is getting hotter.
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think you'll have many more anniversaries to enjoy.
TRUMP: What I appreciate --
STARR: The hawkish language from National Security Advisor John Bolton is at odds with the Pentagon according to a senior military official. The official said the military is seeking to avoid open conflict with Iran and rely instead on economic and diplomatic pressure. But in an exclusive television interview, the top Navy commander for the region says the threat is real.
VICE ADM. JAMES MALLOY, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES CENTRAL COMMAND: They have a growing capability in cruise missiles. They have a growing capability in ballistic missiles. They have a growing capability in unmanned surface systems.
STARR: CNN went aboard the USS Gladiator, one of the Navy's mine countermeasure ships in the Persian Gulf, where the crew faces the threat Iran poses to the U.S., and shipping in this critical area.
MALLOY: We are prepared for everything that they actually have and everything that their rhetoric says that they have.
STARR: For the commanding officer of USS Gladiator, the mission is making sure that if Iran lays mines in the vital Strait of Hormuz waterway, the ship will be able to find and destroy them.
LT. CMDR. REBECCA WOLF, COMMANDING OFFICER, USS GLADIATOR: We take it as a threat that -- is something that could happen and that we need to be ready for and prepared for.
STARR: U.S. officials say, some of the new Russian weapons going into Iran are so powerful and have such long ranges that it may change the way the U.S. military conducts operations in the Persian Gulf, within the next five years. Barbara Starr, CNN, Oman.
VAUSE: In the Philippines, journalist Maria Ressa is free on bail. She's an outspoken critic of the Philippine president and was arrested for cyber libel. The CEO of the online news site, Rappler spoke to reporters after she was released from custody.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA RESSA, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, RAPPLER: For me, it's about two things, abuse of power and weaponization of the law. This isn't just about me and it's not just about Rappler. The message that the government is sending is very clear and someone actually told our reporter this last night, be silent or you're next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Ressa posted nearly $2,000 bail. Local and international journalism groups and Amnesty International among those condemning her arrest.
Another parliamentary debate on Brexit in a few hours. We've seen this movie before so, so many times before. And with just over a month until the U.K. crashes out of the E.U., can the determined, persistent, constantly smiling Theresa May really pull together a new plan?
And 90 years after the Great Depression the chasm between rich and poor in the U.S. is staggering. Ahead, a look and how some want try and level playing field.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. Thanks for being with us. I'm John Vause.
And right now the top stories.
High level trade talks are under way in Beijing. The U.S. Treasury Secretary says so far so good -- whatever that means. And trade representatives could soon meet with the Chinese president.
But hanging over the optimism is a March 1st deadline. If a deal is not reached by then, U.S. tariffs could go up to 25 percent on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
The U.S. House has voted to end any U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The U.S. approved a similar resolution back in December and is expected to pass this one as well. If the measure is sent to the White House, it could set off a possible veto by President Trump.
And sources say the U.S. president will sign a border security bill to avoid another government shutdown. The compromise includes nearly $1.4 billion for a border barrier, far less than the $5.7 billion less he had demanded.
It seems the only matter U.K. lawmakers are able to cope with at the moment and deal with is Brexit. And they'll debate it again to death in the coming hours even though not much has changed since Parliament rejected Theresa May's deal last month.
So far the Prime Minister has failed to convince the E.U. to renegotiate but she reassured the government those E.U. talks are at a crucial stage. And despite no deal in place and no likelihood one will be, she says the U.K. will still be leaving the European Union come March 29th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The government's -- the government's position is the same. We triggered Article 50. In fact this House voted to trigger Article 50. That's had a two-year timeline. That ends on the 29th of march. We want to leave with a deal and that's what we're working for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And so the British prime minister badly battered and bruised by endless Brexit battles pushes on with a persistence and determination not seen since the T-1000 was sent from the future to terminate John Connor, the would-be savior of the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(SCENES FROM "TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY") UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Only Theresa May keeps smiling. Nile Gardiner is with us now from Washington. He is the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation. Ok. Nile -- thank you for being with us.
NILE GARDINER, DIRECTOR, MARGARET THATCHER CENTER FOR FREEDOM: My pleasure -- John. Thank you.
VAUSE: Persistence, determination, unbridled optimism -- all admirable qualities to be sure. But alone there, not a strategy.
[01:34:57] So with just over a month before this Brexit deadline, do you see the outlines of a plan here for Theresa May apart from just simply running down the clock and then hoping, you know, a mild state of panic among lawmakers, they will see no other choice but to support her Brexit deal?
GARDINER: You know, I think Theresa May refuses to accept the reality which is that it is highly unlikely she's going to get her deal through the House of Commons because the European Union, especially the European Commission or the European Council -- they're not willing to make any concessions with regard to the original deal negotiated between London and Brussels.
And so I think the prospects of Theresa May getting any sort of, you know, renegotiated deal through parliament are very, very slim. And there are no indications whatsoever coming from Brussels that the E.U. is going to do business actually with Theresa May on this.
And so I think the reality is that Britain is heading towards a no deal Brexit. And I think the sooner that Theresa May accepts that reality and prepares Britain for a no deal exit on March 29th, the better really.
VAUSE: Let me just jump in there because it sounds to me as if you're saying that this most -- you know, from what you're saying, almost certainly always going to be -- to be the outcome from the very get- go.
GARDINER: Yes. And I think that, you know, this has been the entire approach taken by the European Union so far. This has not been a good faith negotiation. I think there'll be extortionate demands from Brussels with Britain, you know, being forced to hand over 35 billion pounds to the E.U.
My former boss, Margaret Thatcher would never have accepted this kind of arrangement. And I think she would have walked away from these talks a long time ago. And it's very clear that, you know, the E.U. just isn't interested in doing a, you know, a fair, balanced deal here that is to the benefit of both sides.
And I just think that Theresa May, you know, she just doesn't really accept the reality of the situation. And she's also being -- it has to be said -- very weak in terms of her approach towards Brussels. Far too many concessions.
And she's given away too much really at a very early stage. And so, you know, I think she started off from a very, very weak, you know, start. And that hasn't benefited Britain at all.
VAUSE: Just to wrap up here, Nile. We're almost out of time, we have about 30 seconds left.
The situation with Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, it seems the stress of Brexit now exposing some very serious cracks within the Labour Party. There are, you know, rebel Labour MPs who are joining and breaking away and separating, you know, and forming another party. Still seems such a long way off but clearly, you know, Corbyn is now possibly facing his on internal strife.
GARDINER: Yes. Well, you know, Jeremy Corbyn needs to make his own mind up about Brexit. I mean he says one thing in one day, completely the opposite the next day. The Labour Party leader is, you know, that space pretty confused and hopeless in many respects.
And you know, he needs to, you know, basically stand for one clear position on Brexit. He doesn't do that. I think his leadership as a whole has been pretty -- pretty disastrous.
GARDINER: And I think opinion polls, you know, reflect the reality. The British public are not keen on having a far left-wing, you know, Labour government. And so the conservatives are now significantly ahead in the latest polls. If there were to be a general election today, the conservatives would win it quite comfortably, I think.
VAUSE: Yes. It's interesting Theresa May has maintained this lead in the opinion polls despite everything and she probably has Jeremy Corbyn to thank for that and there's a few members of the Labour Party who would agree as well.
Nile -- thank you so much. Good to see you.
GARDINER: My pleasure. Thanks very much -- John.
If there's one early defining feature of the coming U.S. presidential election, it is the number of Democrat candidates calling for a big increase in taxation on the America's uber rich. And troubling new economic data released this week might explain why that idea is gaining support among voters.
New research from the University of California has found income inequality in the United States is now at its highest level since the day before the Great Depression.
And on Tuesday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported a record number of Americans, seven million, are 90 days late on car payments or auto loans. Economists warn this is a red flag which shows many Americans are struggling to pay their bills.
As the "Washington Post" explained, "S car loan is typically the first payment people make because s vehicle is critical to getting to work. Someone can live in a car if all else fails. When car loan delinquencies rise, it's usually a sign of significant duress among low-income and working class Americans."
And despite a strong economy and low unemployment, the recent government shutdown revealed hundreds of thousands of federal employees are barely getting by, living paycheck to paycheck.
For more now of potential consequences from the growing income inequality. We're joined by Robert Reich who was the Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration. And among his many current titles, Chancellor Professor of Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley. Secretary Rice -- thanks for coming in.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Delighted.
[01:40:02] VAUSE: Ok. A few years ago, I remember seeing this, a very good documentary which very closely looked at income inequality, explained the causes and consequences. And here's part of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of all developed nations, the United States has the most unequal distribution of income. We're surging toward even greater inequality.
1928 and 2007 have become the peak years for income concentration. It looks like a suspension bridge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we made $36,000.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's how I make $50,000 working 70 hours a week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Ok. That documentary came out a few years ago as you know. And back then you predicted this chasm between rich and poor would continue to grow and it has. How much longer can it go on before there's some kind of a setback or a correction of sorts?
REICH: Well, it's not sustainable either on economic grounds or on moral grounds. Economically, you don't have enough people WHO ARE earning enough to keep the economy going because 70 percent of the economy in the United States depends on consumer demand. And if consumers are not earning enough, they just can't demand enough goods and services.
But more to the point, as more and more wealth and income concentrate at the top, you also have more political corruption because with great concentrations of wealth and income also come great influence politically. And we're seeing that in the United States. In fact, we see it all around the world today.
VAUSE: Here's part of the argument from those who believe there's no need to be concerned about this income inequality even at these extreme levels.
This comes from Jesse Colombo, an analyst at Real Investment Advice. He wrote, "What is lost on the left wing wealth inequality alarmists is the fact that America's wealth inequality is not a permanent situation but a temporary one because the asset bubble behind the wealth bubble are going to burst and cause a severe economic crisis. My argument is that our society should be worrying more about these asset bubbles than the temporary inequality."
He seems the argument that market forces will ultimately correct this inequality and that is when the real pain will be felt but so the premise is incorrect because the market forces so far have not dealt with the inequality?
REICH: Market forces have not dealt with inequality at all. It would seem over the past 40 years, the median wage, the typical wage -- half above, half below in the United States has barely budged adjusted for inflation. Most of the economics gains have gone to the very top.
And this is a cause for worry in many of the ways I indicated. But also it suggests that market forces are not doing anything to counter this. If anything, what we see is that the people at the very top, many of them have enough income and wealth they can effect political decisions about how the market is to be organized itself in terms of taxes and subsidies, various forms of details like bankruptcy.
What are the rules to be that actually constitute the market? That kind of concentration of wealth and income generates a market that itself is tipped toward the wealthy.
VAUSE: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young freshman congresswoman -- she's not running for President but no doubt she will when she's old enough. But she is making the case here for a much higher tax rate on the very wealthy. Here's what she said to Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: When you have a progressive tax rate system, your tax rate, you know, let's say from zero to $75,000 may be 10 percent or 15 percent, et cetera. But once you get to like the tippy tops on your $10 millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent. That doesn't mean $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate. But it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more.
VAUSE: You know, the current top income tax rate in the U.S. right now is what -- 37 percent. So, when you hear a plan that says that should be almost double, to some people it sounds radical but in historical context it is far from it. REICH: No. In fact, the first decades after the Second World War in
the United States, the typical tax are at the top -- that is the marginal tax on those additional dollars at the very top averaged about 70 to 75 percent. Under Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower the top marginal tax rate was 93 percent.
And again, we're talking about those dollars at the top. And so what is being talked about among Democrats today is far from radical and it is supported by our history.
And I might also add that during those years, the first three decades after the Second World War, the economy grew substantially. There is absolutely no evidence suggesting a correlation or certainly causation between high taxes on the rich and economic problems.
VAUSE: You know, that number 70 percent, AOC as she's known, didn't just sort of plucked that out of thin air.
[01:44:59] There's actually an economic theory out there that, you know, there is an optimal tax rate that will essentially see everyone, you know, enjoying the benefits of the economy, not just the wealthy.
The Web site Vox actually used potatoes to explain how it works. Have a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government decides to shift the tax burden. It will increase taxes on rich farmers to pay for programs that benefit the poor because as long as the rich farmer has more, one potato is still worth less to him than it is to the poor farmer.
So the rich farmer's taxes go up. And then they go up some more. And more and more people are better off. Then something happens when the government takes more, the rich farmer no longer thinks it is worth it to grow so many potatoes so he grows fewer potatoes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And what they found is that, you know, it's around the 70 percent rate on those top-top dollars. There seems to be disagreement if 70 percent is the actual, precise number. But regardless the fact that this country is now at least talking about high taxes on the wealthy, is it time to declare an end to, you know, trickle-down economics? Can we put it back in the wardrobe alongside shoulder pads and double-breasted suits and thin leather ties and, you know, not look at it again for a while?
REICH: Well, I wish we could. Unfortunately Donald Trump and the Republicans did a major trickle down economic -- well, it's not even an experiment -- major trickle-down economics law with that tax bill a little over a year ago that is going to cost $1.9 trillion over the next ten years.
Most of the benefits have gone to corporations and the wealthy. And the evidence so far is that nothing has trickled down. Wages remain stuck pretty much where they were adjusting for inflation.
Trickle-down economics has proven time and time again to be a hoax. Ronald Reagan tried it. George W. Bush tried it. It is a thinly- veiled justification for the rich to keep more and more and more of their money. But it's not really their money if you understand that they got rich in part because of all of the investments made in the United States, including national defense and police and enforcement of property laws and a population that is educated enough to understand that an economy needs a lot -- infrastructure and education and so forth.
You simply cannot expect an economy to function without the public investments that in turn depend on revenue generated by the very rich.
VAUSE: We're out of time -- Secretary Reich but thank you so much. And if anyone has not seen your documentary out there, "Inequality for all", they should. It is a great explainer and it goes deep into the weeds in a very easy, understandable way. So thank you.
REICH: Thank you.
VAUSE: Still to come here. He's off the streets, headed to prison most likely for life. But despite the high-profile conviction of drug uber lord Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, the illegal drug trade it seems has barely skipped a beat.
Also ahead, a confessed serial killer is now drawing portraits of his victims to help investigators close decades-old cold cases.
[01:48:09] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: A serial killer who's confessed to more than 90 murders is now helping investigators identify his victims. Samuel Little drew portraits of the women he killed between 1970 and 2005.
The 78-year-old was serving three consecutive life sentences when he confessed to all these new cases. And so far two women had been identified from the portraits. Investigators have confirmed 34 of the killings but they have yet to corroborate the rest of Little's claims, which if true, would mean he would be the most prolific serial killer in American history.
Well, despite the ten guilty verdicts for the Mexican drug lord, Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, many experts as well as his own lawyer says his conviction will do nothing to slow the illegal trade in drugs. But notably Mexico's president has a different take.
More now from CNN's Rafael Romo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He was the reputed leader of one of the biggest transnational criminal organizations in the world, shipping drugs to the United States and Europe by the ton.
Now Joaquin Guzman faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars. What was El Chapo's reaction to the guilty verdict?
JEFFREY LICHTMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR JOAQUIN GUZMAN: He wasn't stunned. I mean I think he fully expected this. This case was impossible to win. I think he was convicted before he even came to America.
ROMO: In Mexico City President Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador sends a message to those in the drug trafficking business.
"Freedom", he says "is precious and you shouldn't be causing harm to others." There was mixed reaction to the verdict in Sinaloa, El Chapo's native state.
"He was captured here and he should have been tried here," this man said.
Security analyst say the bloodshed hasn't stopped in Mexico even with El Chapo gone.
ANA MARIA SALAZAR, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If you follow the data closely, violence in Mexico has increased in the last two years, the last year and a half is at historic levels. And it part can be explained because there is an ongoing feud among two or three different cartels.
ROMO: During the trial, prosecutors didn't take any chances. The jury was partially sequestered and it was kept anonymous after roughly 34 hours of deliberations. So for six days, jurors found Joaquin El Chapo Guzman guilty on all ten counts related to his role as the reputed leader of one of the largest drug trafficking enterprises around the globe.
Will extraditing El Chapo to the U.S. and putting him in jail for the rest of his life change anything? His attorney told CNN the answer is a resounding no.
LICHTMAN: The problem with America is getting rid of Chapo has not changed anything. The drug flow hasn't changed. The violence in Mexico hasn't changed. What we need to figure is why are Americans so hellbent on doing illegal drugs.
MALCOLM BEITH, AUTHOR, "THE LAST NARCO": This is not the last we will have seen of him. Somehow through his sons who are believed to be running the Sinaloa cartel or the remnants of it, we will hear his name again.
ROMO: Back in Mexico City, people reflected on the life El Chapo has lived.
"He brought it upon himself," this man said, when he gets sentenced to life, he will be reaping what he sowed."
Rafael Romo, CNN -- Atlanta.
(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Those long 14 hours of winter nights in the far reaches of northern Europe can be a bit depressing but Denmark's capital is trying to lighten the mood with some illuminating art. That's next.
[01:54:02] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: A light festival in Copenhagen is transforming the Danish city into a winter wonderland.
Here's Christina McFarlane.
CHRISTINA MCFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Scandinavian winter can be a grim experience. In February sunrise is about 8 a.m. in the morning local time and it sets again around 5:00 in the evening.
The Copenhagen light festival gives visitors a reason to brave the freezing temperatures.
MARTIN ERSTED, ARTIST: I think the light festival gives people a head start on spring. So many months it has been dark UP HERE in the northern countries. And we hunger for summer and spring. So this gives us a, yes a little head start of that spring feeling.
MCFARLANE: The festival brings together 40 designers from many different countries who have set up displays all around Copenhagen. Installations range from this depiction of the northern lights at Tivoli Gardens to this warning about global warming to this pyramid complete with artist doing tricks..
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is like a dance basically between many, many colors. I think it is -- it can be remarkable for many people to see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're amazed by it. I saw a couple -- I wandered around last night as they played -- it was pretty cool.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very charming, very beautiful.
MCFARLANE: The Copenhagen light festival opened on February 1st and runs until the 24th. Organizers say 130,000 visitors have already viewed the installations by boat in the city's canals.
Christina McFarlane, CNN.
VAUSE: It's just pretty cold as well.
You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for your company. I'm John Vause.
Please stay with us. Rosemary Church is up after the break.
You're watching CNN.
[01:57:21] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)