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Trump Expected Emergency Declaration Examined; McCabe Claim of Article 25 Discussion Reported; U.S.-China Trade Talks Latest; Iran Sunnit Explored; Another Brexit Vote; Sandy Hook Lawsuit Against Alex Jones; Pitched Battle as ISIS Clings to Last Syrian Enclave; Amazon Scraps Plans for New York Headquarters; California Rain Leads to Mudslides, Floods; Chelsea, Inter Milan Win Their Games; Kuchar Defends Himself in Caddie Pay Dispute; Japan Rugby Super Fan Shares Memories of South African Win. Aired 12m-1a ET

Aired February 15, 2019 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[00:00:00]

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Hello. I'm John Vause. Wherever you are around the world, thanks for being here. You're watching CNN Newsroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should all pray the president will have wisdom to signs the bills so the government doesn't shut down.

VAUSE: But they did not pray for the president not to declare a national emergency. Donald Trump has now set in motion a series of events which could ultimately change the authority and power of the American presidency.

The final days of the final battle in Syria - Arab and Kurdish forces, backed by the U.S., are now closing in on the last town under ISIS control. And for years, the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed the school shooting at Sandy Hook's was a hoax - the dead children did not exist; their parents were actors.

The children were real, and the parents are fighting back, and Jones will soon face their lawyers under oath. He went there, yes, he really did, despite all the warnings, not the talk of setting a dangerous legal precedent, Donald Trump is now set to declare a national emergency to fund his border wall with Mexico.

The move came after the president decided to make an end run (ph) around Congress, because the House and Senate approved a compromise spending bill which had just a fraction of the money he demanded. With explicit wording, it would not be used for concrete and steel.

Another costly government shutdown will now be avoid, but according to one White House official, Donald Trump will use executive actions to pull that $1.6 billion from other sources - that includes $600 million from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund -- $2.5 billion from the Defense Department's Drug Interdiction Program, and $3.5 billion from the Defense Department's military construction budget.

Democrats and many Republicans are opposed to the president side- stepping Congress' authority to appropriate funding. The administration is already preparing for the legal challenges, and there will be many. Ron Brownstein is a senior political analyst for CNN, also senior editor for The Atlantic; he is with us from Los Angeles.

RON BROWNSTEIN, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Hi, John.

VAUSE: Unbelievable day, Ron. OK.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

VAUSE: It ended very unexpectedly. In the end, it was the Senate leader, the - a Republican, Mitch McConnell, who made the announcement on behalf of the president. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCH MCCONNELL, U.S SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER: I've just had an opportunity to speak with President Trump, and he - I would say to all my colleagues, as indicated, he's prepared to sign the bill. He will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time.

And I've indicated to him that I'm going to prepare - I'm going to support the national emergency declaration. So for all of my colleagues, the president will sign the bill. We'll be voting on it shortly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: OK. So the spending bill passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities. So you know, it doesn't really matter if the president was willing to sign it or not. So why would McConnell, who's been warning against a emergency declaration for weeks, actually go onboard now and support a declaration.

BROWNSTEIN: No, I mean, look. First - I mean, I think the obviously quid pro quo was the president signed the bill. I think he was very clear; there were multiple conversations between the Senate majority leader and the White House today.

And all indications are, he felt that the only way he'd get the president to sign the bill was to support the emergency declaration. But as you point out, there was a veto-proof majority. Now whether that would've held with Republicans in the Senate, if in fact he did veto the bill, is less clear.

You know, look, this - this is, I think, just - just an extraordinary day, as you were - as you were suggesting. One the one hand, this is exactly the sort of thing that so many feared when Donald Trump won in the first place, that he would, you know, simply shatter constitutional norms and, in fact, that Republicans would find a way to kind of sweep up the glass every time he broke a window.

On the other hand, there have been parties in both parties for several months now who had felt that the only way out of the corner into which he has painted, the only way to avoid another shutdown was for him to declare a national emergency, to allow him to look as though he is advancing, even though it really is a retreat and hope that he courts will ultimately say no.

VAUSE: You know, under the National Emergencies Act, Democrats have 15 days to pass a resolution of disapproval. The Washington Post reports, "once that passes the law of House," which it will, "it would trigger automatic consideration by the Senate, where a civil majority vote would be required to agree to it."

(Inaudible) the opposition from some Republicans that raises the prospect that a disapproval resolution would pass the narrowly-divided Senate in an embarrassing rebuke to Trump - a scenario McConnell privately warned the president about recently. You know, from - so from there, the president could veto the resolution, which means all of this is probably now heading to the Supreme Court.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, you know, about a - about 35 years ago, maybe, the Supreme Court said that legislated vetoes of this kind had to be subject to president review and thus veto. And that is really where we're headed.

[00:05:00]

It is possible that there will be a Senate majority to say no to this, but whether there would be enough to overturn a Senate - a presidential veto is unlikely. So as you suggest, we already have today press releases from the Democratic Attorneys General and the states, civil rights groups, consumer groups, some conservative think tanks that said they might go to court to oppose this.

The likelihood is that this will be decided by John Roberts is feeling on the morning that it, you know, comes to the Supreme Court. Does - if it seems it is possible that one or the other Republican-appointed justices might think this is bridge too far. But the Supreme Court, as you know, John, as been very differential, historically, to the president on - any president on national security issues and especially on immigration issues.

So there's no guarantee that they will reject this. The - the - the bigger likelihood is that he will be embroiled in this large - for a large part of the remainder of his term, and if he doesn't not win reelection in 2020 that might be the disposition of it - it might simply go away at that point.

VAUSE: You know, the plan here, if it all comes together, as you know, that's the matter of the court challenges (ph), is essentially for the president to go to these other pots of money which are already approved for - yes, in many cases, you've got (ph) construction work to - you know, after national disasters, like the hurricanes in Puerto Rico, you know, the fires in California.

So they'll be taking emergency money which had been allocated for real disasters, real emergencies that exist to pay for a wall to solve a crisis on the border which is non-existent.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, border apprehensions are down to a quarter, roughly, of their level when George W. Bush took office. The undocumented population in the U.S. itself peaked about 10 years ago; it's about 1.75 million lower than it was at the peak. Yes, there is an issue with a larger number of family and unaccompanied children, but especially families, coming north from Central America.

The idea that this is some kind of pressing security emergency is not supported by the facts and it's not supported by the country. Now that is the really striking thing about this; the president, both through the government shutdown and now even more so through the prospect of an emergency declaration, is using a means that most people oppose, 2/3, in the last seen end poll.

So they opposed a national emergency toward a goal that most people also oppose. I mean, he's never had more than 45 percent support for the wall, and usually, it's closer to 40 percent. So he - and this really is a powerful symbol of kind of the choices he's making politically and the choice that the Republican Party is making to allow him to define it as a party that is so hostile to immigration and, specific, demographic change more broadly, and paint them into a corner that, as we said, the majority of the country does not want to go to.

VAUSE: And - and - and it was the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, the woman is who is so firm against Trump on all of this, who seemed to issue a reminder to - to Republicans what's at stake here. This is what she said about two issues today - firstly about this emergency declaration and also about the year anniversary of the shooting in Parkland at the high school in Florida. This is Nancy Pelosi; listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI, U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: You want to talk about a national emergency, let's talk about it today - the one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So in other words, you know, if this goes through, a future president, a Democrat could declare, you know, what actually is a real emergency, the epidemic of gun violence, and introduce sweeping new gun laws.

BROWNSTEIN: And you know, we play this game all the time. There have been what, 100, 200 instances where Donald Trump has done something, and your first reaction is, "Can you imagine what the Republican Congress if a Democratic president had said or done the same thing?"

Now I don't think the precedent will constrain them in the future. Mitch McConnell will find a way to oppose a future Democratic, if he ever serves with one, who tries to use these same powers. But yes, this is a precedent and an expansion of federal power that, by any rational set of compass (ph) points, Republicans and conservatives would oppose.

And don't forget, even apart from the litigation over the emergency declaration itself, we're going to have a whole separate round of lawsuits over the use of eminent domain, if he gets that far, where you're going to have landowners in - along the border, much of which is in private hands, going to court to stop the president from trying to take their - their land under this emergency powers.

And again, what will John Cornyn say, who will be running for reelection in 2020? Will he support the use of eminent domain against a Democrat who undoubtedly will oppose it in taxes? I mean, this - this thing is going to - and in Arizona, Martha McSally will be running for reelection in 2020. Is she going to support the use of eminent domain over the objection of landowners along the border?

There - there are - there are lots of twists yet to come; and it seems hard to for me to imagine the president is going to get very much of his wall built before 2020, which will make this, you know, right in the center of that 2020 debate.

VAUSE: Yes, the president thinks he's fixing a political mess by creating a national crisis with profound implications.

Ron, thank you; appreciate you being with us.

BROWNSTIEN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Cheers.

Now to some (inaudible) claim from a former acting director of the FBI. Andrew McCabe confirmed there were high-level talks about invoking the 25th Amendment which allows for the removal of the president if he is unfit for office. This happened in the days after President Trump FBI Director James Comey. Scott Pelley of CBS says McCabe offered details during an interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PELLEY, CORRESPONDENT, CBS NEWS 60 MINUTES: There were meetings at the Justice Department in which it was discussed whether the vice president and a majority of the cabinet could be brought together to remove the president of the United States under the 25th Amendment.

They were counting noses, they were not asking cabinet members whether they would vote for or against removing the president, but they were speculating this person would be with us, that person would not be -- and they were counting noses in that effort.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And this was not perceived to be a joke?

PELLEY: This was not perceived to be a joke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: As for a response from President Trump, he called Andrew McCabe a politically biased disgrace. But a moment of truth has arrived in the seven month old trade war between the U.S. and China. Negotiators from both sides are holding their second, and final day of high-level talks in Beijing and the clock is ticking. After months of stop-start progress they have just two weeks now to

hammer out a comprehensive trade deal. And if they don't, the U.S. will impose 25 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. What impact that might have is anyone's guess, but chances are it's not good.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Ivan Watson with us live this hour from Hong Kong. Ivan, we talked a day ago about this and there was optimism on the first day, now we're looking about pessimism, they're far apart (ph). These talks seem to have the kind of emotional whiplash on a daily basis which is only rivaled by "The Young and The Restless," or "General Hospital." The bottom line here seems to be no one really knows what's happening or where they're heading.

IVAN WATSON, CNN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, and the best insight that we've really gotten as these delegations have sat down for a second straight day in Beijing is coming from the White House's Economic Advisor, Larry Kudlow who spoke to another network and other journalists -- take a listen to what he had to say about the progress on these discussions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISOR: I've talked to the group, they're covering all the ground, they're hard at it -- they are going to meet with President Xi, so that's a very good sign. And they're just soldiering on, so I like that story and I will stay with the phrase, "the vibe is good," but I can't give you details. I can't give you details.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: So he's talking about the White House possibly extending that March 1 deadline that the White House initially imposed, which would dramatically increase tariffs from 10 to 25 percent, John, on some $200 billion worth of Chinese exports to the U.S. if a deal is not reached by then.

But the most important detail, I think that we're getting from Larry Kudlow's comments there are that they're expecting the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, to sit down with the American delegation that's lead by the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the Chief Trade Negotiator Robert Lighthizer. And that is a sign of how serious China is taking these trade negotiations and a possible way out of this costly trade war. John.

VAUSE: Ivan, thank you. I guess as soon as we find out some real, solid details we'll bring them to you -- from you, and to our viewers. Thank you. On a two day mini Summit in Warsaw, Poland seemed to turn in to an anti-Iran conference lead by the U.S..

It was meant to focus on a range of issues facing the region, but U.S. officials pressured allies to withdraw from the Iranian Nuclear Deal. Vice President Mike Pence called out Germany, France, and the U.K. for creating a payment system designed to skirt U.S. sanctions. In the same breath he called Iran "murderers," (ph) here's Mike Pence making his case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: It's an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the E.U. and create still more distance between Europe and the United States. Some argue that Iran is in technical compliance with the narrow terms of the deal, but compliance is not the issue. The deal is the issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: U.S. ally Turkey was notably absent, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan actually attended a rival summit hosted by Russia. The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was there as well, they talked about the situation in Syria where all three countries have forces on the ground. Mr. Rouhani brought up (ph) the U.S. role in the region.

HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The important thing is that the U.S. in the past 20 years in the region had a destructive role whether it was Afghanistan, whether it was Iraq, or Syria, or whether it was Yemen.

[00:15:00]

The American role has never been positive, our view is that the U.S. should revise their views and understand that influence in the area is not a way forward, it is not a good approach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: The end result of that summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the Idlib province would be temporary, saying militants who are carrying out aggressive attacks must be punished.

Another day, another setback. We've heard this before for British Prime Minister Theresa May suffering a humiliating Brexit defeat in Parliament.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERCOW, BRITISH HOUSE OF COMMONS SPEAKER: The "ayes" to the right, 258 -- the "no's" to the left, 303. So the "no's" have it -- the "no's" have it...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: With just over a month until the U.K. leaves the E.U. the motion lost by 45 votes, even though it was just symbolic we are forming (ph) support for Ms. May's current Brexit strategy. The loss came at the hands of her own conservative party. CNN's Phil Black has details now from London.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The problem once again, this time without (ph) hardcore Brexiteers (ph) in the Prime Minister's own conservative party -- the purists, who decided on this occasion they couldn't back a non-binding motion.

Merely reaffirming support for the Prime Minister's Brexit strategy because they feared it implied Britian is no longer prepared to consider a no-deal scenario. Brexiteers like no deal on the table to be used a leverage with the E.U. in negotiations, but also for some of them they still see it as a viable option, if no other form of Brexit can be secured.

Now this all matters because Brussels was watching and the Prime Minister's current pitch to the E.U. if she believes (ph) she has a majority in Parliament that will vote for the entire negotiated withdraw agreement if only E.U. officials will help her alter the highly unpopular provisions designed to ensure you never get a hard border on the island of Ireland.

E.U. officials have doubted the reliability of the Prime Minister's claimed majority, tonight's vote proves that they were right to do so. And so the Prime Minister's job of trying to persuade the E.U. to give ground, well it's only got much harder. Phil Black, CNN, London.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

VAUSE: After years of fighting ISIS, Kurdish Armed Forces (ph) in the final days of the final battle. An exclusive look inside the fight, that's ahead. Also radio host Alex Jones has long been accused of using the rogue (ph) shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary as a way to make money -- claiming the murder of 20 children was a hoax, now he'll have to answer to that under oath.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:20:00]

VAUSE: Across the U.S., they're having tributes to the victims of the deadliest high school shooting in the country, with a wide arrange of events. Thursday marked the first anniversary that Parkland, Florida massacre, which claimed 17 innocent lives since the tragedy. Many of the young survivors and their families have become activists defending (ph) tougher gun laws.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID HOGG, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: The top polling issue with young voters across the country is gun violence, it is school shootings, it is every day shootings, right? And what we've been working to do is make sure that we're able to increase youth voter turnout. For example, in Florida, compared to 2014, we were able to nearly double youth voter turnout in our state. And there's a reason -- the reason why we don't focus on voting for one party or another or one individual or another is because we realize no matter who is in power, if they're elected by the youth, they will have to care about the youth no matter their political party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: U.S. House Nancy Pelosi went even further using the Parkland anniversary to take a swipe at President Trump. She says if he plans to call the border wall a national emergency, that it will set a precedent that Republicans may later regret. She says Democrats could use this in the future to push for their own priorities, like stricter gun laws.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE SPEAKER: You want to talk about a national emergency? Let's talk about today, the one year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Since the parkland shooting, 26 states and Washington D.C. have passed various gun control measures.

Well, all the voices spreading conspiracy theories on the internet, a few come close to the likes of Alex Jones whose outright false comments brought pain and anguish to those who have already suffered more than anyone ever should. In 2012 when 20 elementary school children were murdered by a deranged 20-year-old with a military grade weapon, Jones saw, all a set up, he told his loyal audience at the time. The parents were crisis actors. And the reason why? It was a pretext to seize America's guns by the Obama administration. It ticked all the boxes for his followers and would be a recurring discussion in the years after the shooting.

On its own (ph), that baseless claim was painful and cruel, but a small number of the most feebleminded believed it was true and they were incensed (ph) they went after the parents with death threats and harassment which only compounded the pain of losing a child to gun violence.

But now a Connecticut judge ruled that Jones must submit to a sworn deposition as part of a defamation case brought by some of the Sandy Hook parents. For five hours, he'll be grilled by lawyers who especially want an answer to this question. Why? What was his motive for denying not just the murder of 20 children, but why deny their very existence?

One father's son Daniel was among the children who were murdered that day, and Mark is with us from Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Mark, thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

MARK BARDEN, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Six years since the shooting and dealing with the loss of Daniel, I imagine was tough and bad enough on its own, but Jones and his followers took this tragedy to a whole new level for you and other families. What has been your experience?

BARDEN: Well, I'll correct you on one word, John, is was. This is a continuous process of really getting from one moment to the next when you're dealing with the murder of your child. Daniel was seven years old, he was the third of our three children and he was shot to death in his first grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary school on December 14th, 2012.

And that is a pain that inarticulable (ph) , its inexplicable and then on top of that, to find out that there are people out there, this Alex Jones character, saying that it with was a lie, that Daniel didn't exist, that we are crisis actors, that we're making this up and faked his death, is -- is beyond -- is beyond explanation of how horrible that is and then add on top of that that he is doing this for profit and he's doing it repeatedly for profit. And its -- its lower than I thought that humanity could actually ever get, and -- and -- but here we are.

VAUSE: You talked about the profit here, the money factor. Because this company is private, Jones doesn't have to report financial results. But an investigation by the New York Times found that in a 2014 court case, Jones testified that his operations were bringing in more than $20 million a year in revenue.

Records reviewed by the New York Times showed most of his revenue that year came from the sale of products like supplements, such as the Super Male Vitality, which purports to boost testosterone or Brain Force Plus, which promises to supercharge cognitive functions. So if what you and your lawyers are alleging is true, he knowingly a false story, which was to deny the shooting ever happened, deny the pain and suffering of the people of Newtown, Connecticut. So he could build what, a bigger audience, which would mean he could charge more for advertising to sell male supplements and vitamins?

[00:25:00]

BARDEN: Yeah, it just gets more crazy and heinous as you go. And I hope no one's -- the irony isn't lost on anyone that he was selling supplements that were supposed to increase your cognitive capacity. But -- and then he's inciting, as you say (ph) these small minded delusional, easily lead people -- inciting them to act out in dangerous ways, really.

I mean, to attack us verbally with death threats and with threatening behavior and I believe there has been some physical attacks. And as you said some families forced from their homes, you know while you are grieving the murder of your child, to then be attacked like this is unconscionable.

VAUSE: You know the ruling by the Connecticut Court, it's a big deal here because it's not just that Jones will be deposed, but also a number of his business associates, a number of people who work for him -- they'll also be deposed by lawyers.

And he's also turning over financial records, and he fought this every step of the way. He does not want to be doing this so specifically, what are you and the lawyers looking at (ph)? What do you need to prove to win this case?

BARDEN: There has to be a precedent set, this can't just go run amok and you know, a slap on the wrist and say, "OK, you made your hundreds of millions of dollars, now you have to stop." That's not acceptable, there has to be a precedent set that this is

unacceptable and this is not protected under the first Amendment, no right is exclusive without responsibility. All rights have responsibilities, all rights have limitations -- this is certainly under that category. It's dangerous, irresponsible, reckless behavior in the name of profit, at the expense of others.

VAUSE: I never understood why, you know, the first Amendment ruling which is, you know, freedom of speech is not freedom of speech when you yell "fire," in a crowded theater and everyone runs out and somebody's hurt. Why is that not exactly the same as what Jones is doing here?

BARDEN: Well he's willfully inciting people to act out in dangerous ways. I mean, they're threatening us, they're threatening our livelihood, they're threatening our safety, they're threatening our lives -- that's unacceptable. That's not protected by our Constitution.

VAUSE: Yeah, it seems like pretty obvious -- an obvious case (ph) I don't know why it's taking this long to make this guy stop doing what he's been doing and actually account for it. But it does seem the tide is turning, because there was a similar ruling made by a judge in Texas last month. We also know that Jones is being banned by Facebook, Twitter, Apple, YouTube -- they're taking away that social media platform.

BARDEN: Good.

VAUSE: He recently started a deal for this radio show, and that's being revoked (inaudible) the distribution -- does it feel it finally (ph), I mean what it's been such a long time for this to happen, that maybe now this is the end of people like Jones.

BARDEN: Yeah, I hope so and I hope -- you know, this has not been easy by at stretch for any at all. And I mean, a lot of damage has been done, and while he's been making money in these six years while we are grieving the murders of our loved ones. And so it's overdue, it's about time and hopefully we can forge that trail and make this better for others.

VAUSE: Yeah. Mark, thank you and...

BARDEN: Thanks John.

VAUSE: Thanks very much, and you know, good luck.

BARDEN: I appreciate that, thank you.

VAUSE: The massacre at Sandy Hook is just one of dozens of school shootings in the U.S. in the past two decades. It was a year ago this Valentine's Day when 14 students and 3 staff members were shot dead at Stoneman Douglas High in Florida.

With time they all seem to blur precise details like places and dates are forgotten, so too, the name of the victims. So here are the names from years ago -- the children of Sandy Hook.

Daniel Barden -- Mark's son, who we just spoke with, seven years old. Charlotte Bacon, she was six. Jack Pinto, six years old as well. Noah Pozner, Jesse Lewis -- both six years old. Grace McDonnell, seven years old. Dylan Hockley, six. Jessica Rekos, Ana Marquez- Greene, Madeleine Hsu, Olivia Engel, James Mettioli, Chase Kowalski, Catherine Hubbard, Josephine Gay, Emilie Parker, Caroline Previdi, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison Wyatt.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:30:00]

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause, and up right now, top stories this hour.

Donald Trump set to declare a national emergency to pay for his border wall with Mexico. A White House official says the president expects to pull about $6.6 billion from other sources.

Congress approved a spending plan with far less money than the president had demanded.

U.S. and Chinese trade officials are holding their second and final day of high-level talks to avoid punishing new tariffs on Chinese goods to the U.S. Only two weeks remain to actually reach a deal, but President Trump says the March 1 deadline could slip if the deal is close.

U.K. Parliament deals another blow to the prime minister, Theresa May. Lawmakers defeated a symbolic motion that would have reaffirmed their support for Mrs. May's Brexit strategy. A group of hardline Brexiteers from within her own party ensured the loss by abstaining from the vote.

The end result is not in doubt. The only uncertainty is how long and how hard ISIS will fight before it's over. And for the Arab and Kurdish forces leading this final charge in Syria, it's not just about winning this battle but the revenge and payback for all those who have been killed during fightings -- during the fighting over the years.

CNN's Ben Wedeman reports now from the front lines.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In its dying days, ISIS fights to the bitter end.

The small, remote, otherwise unremarkable Syrian town of Baghuz Fawqani on the banks of the Euphrates River where it is now finally cornered, reduced to a pinprick shadow of its former self by a combination of Kurdish and Arab soldiers, backed by U.S., British and French Special Forces.

And unrelenting coalition air strikes captured in this exclusive video shot by freelance cameraman Gabriel Chaim.

It has been hard going, with repeated ISIS counter attacks, using their usual tactics: booby traps, suicide car bombs and human shields.

And now at the end, after years of war, ISIS's foes have scores to settle. Syrian Democratic Forces commander Hava (ph) Simko has fought ISIS, known here as DAISH, across northern Syria.

"DAISH is finished," he says. "We're avenging our martyrs." Its black banner now in his hands.

The battle, like the bombing, continues around the clock. These Arab tribal fighters preparing to take open ground on the edge of town.

[00:35:07] The commander gives the final orders before they move out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WEDEMAN: An armored bulldozer designed to take the impact of improvised explosive devices leads the way, and the troops follow.

Flares illuminate the skies over Baghuz. The sounds of battle echo in the distance. The final battle is in its final days.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Eastern Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Just months ago was the big reveal. Now it seems, comes the big retreat. Amazon announces it's scrapping its plans for a second headquarters in New York. We'll explain why in a moment.

Also, heavy rain is creating big problems in some parts of California, with flooding causing mud slides, forcing people to head to safety. Details and a look at the forecast in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Some are celebrating. Others are furious, now that Amazon have probably cancelled plans for a second headquarters in New York City.

The online retailer issued a statement which read, in part, "A number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and we will -- and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project."

There's widespread criticism of New York for offering Amazon huge incentives in return for the thousands of jobs which would have been created.

CNN's Cristina Alesci has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amazon shunning New York. Clearly, the online retail giant didn't feel welcome in New York because of state and local opposition, so Amazon decided to take the debate away from New York.

This is a huge blow to both New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Cuomo. As recently as last week, they were reportedly telling Amazon they could smooth things over with the local opponents. And earlier this week, Governor Cuomo was still trying to salvage and sell the deal to New Yorkers, arguing that the $3 billion in city and state tax incentives were well worth it, because Amazon would bring in 27 billion in revenue to New York, a record number of jobs, at least 25,000 with an average salary of $150,000 a year.

But critics of this deal, including progressive Democrats were really against it. They wanted to see Amazon do more for New York, like invest in transportation, perhaps help with rising housing costs. Ultimately, they were concerned about gentrification, that it's happening too quickly; and they were worried about the fate of public housing.

Look, in some ways, this is a perfect example of the junior members of Congress driving the conversation and making an impact. But the big question for many New Yorkers is, was there a way to salvage the deal and get more from Amazon?

For example, New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said the deal would have been improved and there were legitimate concerns raised, but she was ready to work for those changes.

This also represents a growing divide within the Democratic Party itself. Bill De Blasio and Cuomo on one side, and the more progressive voices on the other, who are pushing a narrative that it's the wealthy and corporate interests against working people. This is a very divisive message, but some of these progressives believe it is a path to political victory.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, California has been hit by powerful storms bringing heavy rain, snow, and wind. In Sausalito, two homes were destroyed by a mud slide, which uprooted one of the houses and slammed it into the other.

And flooding in the state's south has left a gaping hole in one of the highways, and that meant a huge waterfall right there.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us with more on this. And yes, the reports I'm getting from everyone back there is that it just has not stopped raining for days and days and days.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Probably plenty of your friends in California, as well.

VAUSE: The dog's not happy, man, I can tell you. Can't go out.

VAN DAM: I'm sure. Incredible images, dramatic imagery. And this is a dramatic rescue. Two people plucked from this flash flooding situation in Riverside County in Southern California. They were originally in a trapped vehicle. Managed to get their way out before Cal Fire came into the rescue with their helicopters and plucked them out of the rising waters.

There have been some seriously impressive rainfall totals coming out of California over the past three days. Over 300 millimeters in Sonoma County. No wonder there's been flash flooding here.

We are just getting a constant stream of moisture, basically lining up right along the entire West Coast, honing in on California. You can see that stream of cloud cover on our water vapor satellite imagery.

Flood threats still existing across the Sacramento Valley into portions of Southern California, although it is starting to diminish as the rainfall slowly eases.

What's been impressive is the wind gusts that have been associated with some of these low-pressure systems. Over 215 kilometers per hour reported on some of the highest mountain peaks.

But just to put that into perspective, that is equivalent to a Category 4 Atlantic hurricane. That is some seriously strong winds, folks.

We do have wind advisories across much of Central and Southern California today as we continue to get battered by somewhat weaker storm systems but enough to bring more rain and more mountain snowfalls.

In fact, speaking of snow, we have had some impressive snowfall totals. Great news for the winter snowpack as we fill up the reservoirs later into the spring and for the summer snow melt into the dams and reservoirs there.

But let's just look how active it's been over the western parts of the U.S. The spine of the Rockies filled with all kinds of pinks and blues here. That's winter storm warnings and advisories. You can see the Sierra Nevada still expecting significant amount of snow that will be measured in feet over the coming days as these low-pressure systems move across the region.

I want to end on this, though, John. This is great news for the state of California, considering that three years ago to the date, over 95 percent of the state was under some sort of form of drought. Now we only have about 10 percent of the state under moderate to severe draught so all of this rain has done wonders for that situation. And great news for the agriculture community, as well, all the farmers out there -- John.

VAUSE: Every cloud has a silver lining, but yes, it needs to rain.

VAN DAM: That's true.

VAUSE: OK, Derek. Thank you.

VAN DAM: OK. VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. WORLD SPORT is next. You're watching CNN.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. Thanks for joining us today. Welcome to CNN WORLD SPORT.

The Champions League has been taking center stage this week on its return, but on Thursday, it was the return of the Europa League where English Premiere League giants Chelsea took to the field of play, looking to banish memories of that 6-0 horror show last Sunday against Manchester City.

Well, Chelsea faces the Swedish team Malmo here in the round of 32. And it will be Ross Barkley keen to make amends after a less-than- stellar showing at the Etihad, doing really a nice finish there into the corner. No mistake from close range. The opening goal of the night. The first ever European goal for Barkley, in fact.

In the second half, the Brazilian, Willian, acres of space, teeing it up nicely for Olivier Giroud with a really cheeky back here. We'll show you that one again. Lovely with the skill there. Chelsea running out 2-1 winners in the first leg.

Elsewhere, BATE Borisov hosting England's Arsenal on Thursday night. Remember these two clubs meeting in the group stages of this very competition last season. This would be a tight, tense affair. Just one goal in this one, and from the set piece, in fact, BATE. Stanislaw Drahun outjumping his man to power home the header there. Really fine header. One-nil it ends.

Second leg next Thursday at the Emirates. It is all to play for in this finally poised two-legged tie.

Meantime one of the most coveted strikers in all of Europe, Mauro Icardi, has cast his future with Inter Milan in doubt. This after refusing to travel with the squad for the game at Rapid Vienna.

Now it comes after the 25-year-old Argentine was stripped of his captaincy over, well, difficult talks he's been having with the club over a potential contract renewal. Icardi has been linked with a move to Spain's Real Madrid or even the Premiere League. We'll see.

So how would the Italians fare, then, amid these distractions on Thursday? Better than their opposition in more ways than one. The Austrian player, Mario Sunline (ph) getting a full head clash stapled after the clash of heads there.

The visitors would seal this one, just the loan goal of the match coming from the penalty spot. The young Argentine, Lauro Martinez making no mistake from 12 yards out, Inter edging the first leg.

Let's change tack now and tell you about the American golfer Matt Kuchar forced to defend his actions after becoming embroiled in a caddie-player dispute showing no sign of going away right now.

Kuchar walked away with $1.3 million. This was after he won the Mayakoba Golf Classic late in 2018. Well, the world No. 22 broke his four-year drought with that victory in Mexico; but the issue of paying his caddie has been making the headlines seemingly ever since.

His bag man for that week, Derek Ortiz, was paid 5 grand for that particular tournament. Caddies, just for context here, they usually receive up to 10 percent of a player's winnings if he goes on to take the title, which in this case would have meant around $130,000 for him.

Now Kuchar is saying the amount was agreed before play started and that Ortiz had actually agreed to the amount in question. Kuchar, who added an extra thousand for what he called a thank you, telling GolfChannel.com, "I feel like I was fair and good. You can't make everybody happy. You're not going to buy people's ability to be OK with you, and this seems to be a social media issue more than anything. So I certainly don't lose sleep over this. This is something that I'm quite happy with, and I was really happy for him to have a great week and make a good sum of money."

Remember Kuchar's regular caddie was not available for this tournament. He went on to tell Golf.com, "For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week."

Well, keeping it financial, we can tell you Manchester United's former manager, Jose Mourinho, and his coaching staff received a staggering $25 million pay-out when the Portuguese was dismissed from his post in December. On Thursday, the Premiere League giants revealing details of the financial sums involved here, meaning that the club has now spent over $40 million in dismissing three managers: Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and David Moyers, this all since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

We're counting down to this year's Rugby Union World Cup in Japan. And when it comes to witnessing history in the making and if you want to meet the host nation's ultimate super fan, then you have come to exactly the right place.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:51:35] SNELL: Welcome back to you. Now later on this year, Japan will be hosting -- the first Asian country ever to host the rugby World Cup. Now, ahead of part three of our special series, we take you back to four years ago in England, when Japan produced the greatest upset in tournament history by beating South Africa in Brighton.

It was a moment the Japanese supporters who witnessed it will surely never ever forget. In particular, one super fan who experienced it sitting near Japan's coach at the time. That was Eddie Jones.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAISUKE KOMURA, JAPAN RUGBY SUPER FAN: (SPEAKING JAPANESE)

GRAPHIC: I'm willing to die for my team.

I have been playing for nearly 50 years. Here the heart is very important, not only physical strength.

My name is Daisuke Komura. I'm a super fan.

GRAPHIC: Rugby's greatest upset?

KOMURA: (SPEAKING JAPANESE)

GRAPHIC: When we played South Africa, it was the best game ever for me. I was moved with as much happiness as when my first son was born. I can't describe how I felt. It was an experience that I would never, ever get again. I was so happy, I could not hold my tears.

In the last 10 minutes, the entire stadium was shaking with the call for Japan. Eddie (Jones) was sitting right behind me. He was shouting, "Shot, shot" and got really upset and left.

But there was a try and the stadium erupted with noise. I saw Eddie come back with a huge smile. We shook hands, and I could see by Eddie's face he did not know what happened. It was a funny moment.

GRAPHIC: What will you be doing at the next World Cup?

KOMURA: (SPEAKING JAPANESE)

GRAPHIC: Because of my experience of the South African match, I decided I would support the World Cup as a volunteer. As I got so much from rugby, I would like to give something back to rugby. I hope to see more rugby fans. By working as a volunteer, I won't be buying tickets, I will be cheering in my heart. I'd be happy for other people to take my seat and become new fans.

Rugby's principles hold integrity, solidarity, passion, discipline and respect. Playing rugby allows strangers to become friends. That's the beauty of rugby.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Make a note of this, because still to come this week, we'll be wrapping up our series on Japan rugby, taking you to the spiritual home of the sport in Osaka, to an event absolutely steeped in history.

It's Oscar season here in the United States with the 91st Academy Awards coming up in 9 or 10 days or so from right now. So keep that in mind as we reflect on Wednesday night's NBA clash between the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers.

Now during the game, Philadelphia's Cameroonian star, Joel Embiid, always athleticism here, leaping into the stands. I guess you might say a star is born indeed. Look at the leap over there.

The actress, Regina King, who's the favorite for an Oscar for her role in "If Beale Street Could Talk," she got hit a bit on the head. The guy behind her, he got the brunt of it.

Embiid saying afterwards it's good he saved her life but felt bad anyone had to take that kind of a hit there. King taking to Twitter saying, "Thank you, God, and Joel Embiid for

all of your athletic abilities. Crisis averted."

Now, just before we go, Thursday Valentine's Day, of course, in many countries across the world. So in keeping with that theme, let's hear from the greatest men's tennis player of all time. We're talking a certain Roger Federer here on his first kiss with his future wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER FEDERER, TENNIS PRO: It was more than just a kiss, I guess. It was something that lead to something extraordinary for us, and we're very happy still to be together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It wasn't an awkward first kiss, then.

FEDERER: No. No, it --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was more of a "this is the -- this is it"?

FEDERER: Actually, one of my friends, the wrestlers (ph), he said, "Hey, go kiss her now."

And I'm like, "No, I don't know. Maybe. Should I?"

He was like, "Yes. You know, it's the moment." So anyway, so then I did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you were younger than she was, as well.

FEDERER: Oh, I was horribly young.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That took some guts.

FEDERER: Yes. And I tried to tell her I was almost 18 and a half, because she told me I was so young when she kissed me, after she kissed me. I was, like, "Well, I'm almost 18 and a half." So I tried to sneak in a quarter year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This half year's up (ph).

FEDERER: A quarter year. Back in the day that was a big -- that was a big deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNELL: OK. Thanks for joining us. Bye for now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Hello, I'm John Vause and wherever you might be around the world, thanks for joining us for this next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.