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Trump Will Sign Bill To Avoid Shutdown, Then Declare National Emergency To Free Billions For Border Wall, Official Says; Drone Activity Halts Departures At Dubai Airport; Candidates Make Final Push Ahead Of Saturday's Election; Amazon Scraps Plans For Second H.Q. In New York; Trump White House; Koreas Tensions; A Dangerous Precedent; Concerns on Repatriation; Myanmar Violence; Rohingya Crisis Plan. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired February 15, 2019 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: One crisis averted, but an emergency will be declared. The U.S. president set to sign a bill to avoid a shutdown, but he's taking a controversial path to bring billions in for the border wall.

Plus this, an exclusive look at the brutal fights with ISIS, the push to root out the terror group from eastern Syria.

Also ahead this hour, another Brexit setback for the British prime minister, parliament refusing to reaffirm support for her strategy, and how it could impact negotiations with Brussels.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers all over the world, I'm George Howell. The CNN Newsroom starts right now.

Around the world, good day to you. The U.S. president is set to declare a national emergency in the coming day, focused on building the border wall that originally he promised Mexico would pay for. Mexico won't pay for that wall. Congress has refused to give him the money he wants. So now, the U.S. president is looking to take money from other sources.

According to one White House official, Mr. Trump will use executive actions to pull in about $6.6 billion from Treasury and Defense Department programs. Democrats and many Republicans are opposed to the president's sidestepping Congress this way. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: From here, we'll pay for wall (ph) under the constitution, especially Article 1, especially the system on checks and balances, we will not have anyone around the Congress of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: As for the budget compromise, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signed it. The president is expected too as well. And the bottom line, it means another possible government shutdown has been averted.

CNN's Manu Raju has this report from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The threat of a government shutdown now over after the president said that he would sign legislation moving through Congress to keep the government open, as well as declare a national emergency to try to tap into dollars already appropriated to fund the rest of his demands for a wall on the southern border.

Now, this move to essentially staves off another shutdown. Of course, for 35 days, the longest in history, a shutdown occurred at the end of last year through the beginning of this year, affecting a quarter of the federal government of 800,000 employees, many more federal contractors. But after the president decided to sign this, now, there's no more threat, at least until the end of this fiscal year, the end of September.

Now, all day long in the Capitol, people were uncertain about whether the president would go this route and sign this bill. Republicans in a closed door meeting did not know what the president would do. They came out saying they would not know if they would support this. They wanted to hear the president from himself what he would do.

But after he spoke with Mitch McConnell, he said that he would sign the bill, and McConnell decided to back off his previous reservations about a national emergency declaration and said he would support a national emergency move. Now, that allowed the process to move forward.

The question going forward also is whether the president will be able to do this because a national emergency move is opposed by a number of Republicans on Capitol Hill. They're worried about the precedent that it would set. Some may even vote for a resolution to block it from going forward.

Also, there are expected to be legal challenges raising question about whether the president has the authority to do just what he plans to do, tap into money elsewhere in the government to pay for his funds. A lot of questions remain, political fight ahead as well a legal fight. But nevertheless, at the moment, no government shutdown, at least not right now.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with Linda Feldmann. Linda is the Washington Bureau Chief for the Christian Science Monitor joining us this hour from Washington, D.C. Linda, again, thank you for your time. LINDA FELDMANN, THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Sure, my pleasure.

HOWELL: The president set to announce an executive order to fund the border wall, which is expected to include a national emergency declaration. It is important though to first hear from some of his own Republican colleagues who are urging caution on this. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I continue to believe that this is not what the National Emergencies Act was intended to be used for. It was contemplated as a means for responding to a catastrophic event like an attack on our country or a major natural disaster.

[02:05:00] SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: What about if somebody else thinks that climate change is the national emergency and then what will they do and how far will they go?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: So Linda, the same Republicans though maybe put to the test if Congress contest this emergency declaration. So the question here is do you see Republicans going against their own president, the Republican President Donald Trump, or do see them shifting positions to remain politically aligned with him?

FELDMANN: I think we'll see the typical pattern with this president, where you have some of his own colleagues in Congress uncomfortable with what he's doing but ultimately falling in line. You may see some peeling off and voting no. But at the end of the day, they'll be with him because he is the president. He has the support of most Republicans. And they don't want him -- most Republicans in Congress don't want to be seen as at odds with their own president.

HOWELL: The headline though is depending upon the president's signature, another government shutdown averted. But here's the question. What is the political cost for this president? He has been forced to accept the deal with far less money than he demanded for a border wall and even less than he could've gotten before the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

FELDMANN: Right. So indeed he got a lot less than he wanted. And he is just cruising right over that in going for the national emergency. Some people argue that he didn't have to declare a national emergency to get to -- to find government money that he can kind of move money around within his own government.

But that he wanted the drama of the national emergency. And he really wants to send a signal to his supporters that he's fulfilling his number one campaign promise, which was to build the wall.

HOWELL: And this really is, Linda, his last option, isn't it, to get money that he wants, that he needs to build this border wall that he said Mexico would pay for initially? Well, now it seems that he's finding another way. But in your estimation, is this being made out to be a crisis today for political reasons as opposed to two years ago, some are calling it more of a campaign promise emergency?

FELDMANN: Right. I mean a lot of people point out that in fact, the -- you know the numbers of people trying to cross the border have gone down in recent years, and that this really is sort of a fake crisis.

But I should also point out that just by declaring a national emergency in trying to move money around and really override the very core role of Congress in its power of the purse, he's going to face legal challenge, and he may not end up getting the money. This will -- there will be legal challenges all over the country as Democrats and opponents of the president try to deny him his ability to grab federal money that hasn't appropriated by Congress. So the battle has only just begun.

HOWELL: Linda, to your point, look, this is sure to be challenged by the courts as, you know, we figure out whether this passes or fails. But here's the question. Does that even matter? Is this an out for this president to simply say, hey, I tried?

FELDMANN: Definitely. I mean he is -- I mean we've heard him say build that wall a million times. And it's the number one chant at his rallies. And now, he can run for reelection and say I have done everything that I can.

And even if he is denied the wall, he can go to his supporters and say look, the courts have thwarted me or Congress -- you know, those Democrats have thwarted me. And so he will portray himself as a victim. But he's the one sticking up for a border wall, trying to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the United States.

HOWELL: Linda Feldmann joining us from Washington, D.C. Linda, again, thank you for your time.

From a former acting director of the FBI, some stunning assertions to tell you about, we're talking about Andrew McCabe who confirms there were high level talks about invoking the 25th Amendment. That amendment allows for the removal of the president if he is deemed unfit for office.

This happened in the days after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Scott Pelly of CBS News here in the United States says McCabe who was fired from the FBI last March offered details during this interview. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: 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 nos (ph). 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 nos (ph) in that effort. [02:10:10] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And this was not perceived to be a

joke.

PELLEY: This was not perceived to be a joke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: McCabe's new book also talks about President Trump's deference to Vladimir Putin. He writes Mr. Trump dismissed reports of a North Korean missile launch back in 2017, saying he knew they weren't capable of it because Putin had told him so.

In the meantime, the current Justice Department William Barr has been sworn in as Attorney General. He replaces Jeff Sessions who was forced out back in November.

In Warsaw, Poland, a two-day summit on the Middle East seemed to turn into an anti-Iran conference led by the United States. It was meant to focus on a range of issues facing that region. But instead, U.S. officials pushed for tougher action on Iran and pressured allies to withdraw from the nuclear agreement.

CNN's Atika Shubert is on the story following it from Warsaw with us. Atika, good to have you, with regards to the Middle East and Iran, look, this is clearly another touch point where Europe for the most part is taking a different path than the United States. Did the message from the vice president win over any new support or did it seem to fall on deaf ears?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he really seemed to be scolding European allies on this. And he specifically mentioned what is known in Europe as the special purpose vehicle, which is essentially a financial way to get around the U.S. sanctions on Iran. This is key to the E.U. to try and preserve the JCPOA Nuclear Agreement. Take a listen to what the vice president had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is 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 terms of the deal. But compliance is not the issue. The deal is the issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUBERT: Now, I don't think this is really going to change any minds in Europe. But you know, I think it is important to note that there were world leaders at this conference, not just Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, senior Arab officials from a number of Middle East countries.

However, Germany and France did not send their foreign minister. And I think is in -- even though they sent another high level representative, it shows that as far as Europe is concerned, the U.S. policy in Iran is not the way to go. U.S.

And we're seeing movement on this, this morning, as the U.S. continues to try and convince European allies. Secretary of State Pompeo has flown from Warsaw and is meeting with the E.U. Foreign Policy Chief Federica Maria Mogherini, excuse me, to press the U.S. case to get tough on Iran and abandon the nuclear agreement.

HOWELL: Atika, Mr. Trump set to attend the Munich Security Conference next -- can we expect the same tough message on Iran? Mr. Pence rather...

SHUBERT: I think -- exactly. The vice president is today actually visiting Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp that is here in Poland. He is making a memorial visit. And then he will be going to the Munich Security Conference. And there, he is also expected to make another speech. But there, I think the focus is not just on Iran. It is likely to be about other issues, such as Venezuela.

This will be a topic of heated discussion at the conference. But either which way, this whole trip is really a way for the United States to press its vision of foreign policy. However, it's all happening here in Europe with European allies who have maintained that the U.S. cannot act unilaterally. Pressing back, saying it has to follow this rules-based international order.

HOWELL: We'll continue to follow the vice president's travels and seems the message, Atika is consistent. Atika Shubert, though, live for us in Warsaw. Thank you for the reporting today. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani isn't pleased that the United States is trying to get Europe to back out of the nuclear deal. Our Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran and takes a look at that country's reaction to all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course, the Iranians are keeping a very close eye on that summit in Warsaw. They've been highly critical of it, but the same time have been mocking it as well, calling it the Warsaw Circus.

Essentially, what the Iranians are saying is that they believe that most of the countries that are taking part in that summit are less than enthusiastic to be there. They believe that the U.S. is essentially dictating the agenda of that summit, that the Israelis are essentially trying to speak for most of the countries that are at that summit, especially after those comments coming on Wednesday evening from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which of course, were softened a little bit in one of his later tweets.

[02:15:05] But essentially, the main thing that we're hearing from the Iranians is a lot of criticism towards the U.S., as for instance Mike Pence, the Vice President tried to criticize America's European allies for still remaining in the Iran nuclear agreement. The Iranians for their part are saying they're happy about the fact obviously that the Europeans are still in the agreement. But they believe that the Europeans need to get tougher on the United

States, and make clear to the U.S. that they want to do a full business with Iran, which is of course, something that the Iran nuclear agreement was supposed to achieve.

On the one hand, the Iranians are saying it is positive sign that the Europeans have put together an investment vehicle to try and get around American sanctions. But in the end, the Iranians say that is not going to be enough in the long term to keep Iran inside the agreement. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Fred, thank you. Russia held its own rival meeting while the United States led the Warsaw summit while that was happening. The Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Turkey and Iran's leaders in Sochi on Thursday, focused on the long-running war taking place in Syria. The three countries are all looking forward to the United States withdrawing its troops from Syria. As Iran's president says, everyone wins when the U.S. leaves a warzone. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (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, the American role has never been positive. Our view is that 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)

HOWELL: President Hassan Rouhani there. Still ahead here on Newsroom, for fighters, the battle against ISIS is personal after years of war against the terror group, it looks like they will finally get kick ISIS out of its last stronghold in Syria. We'll have more on that ahead.

Plus, another setback for the British prime minister, this time from lawmakers in her own party, why they turned down a motion backing her Brexit plan. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Welcome back. Another day and another setback for the British Prime Minister, Theresa May suffered a humiliating Brexit defeat in Parliament again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[02:20:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes to the right, 258, the no's to the left, 303. The no's have it. The no's have it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: And the clock is ticking. You see it right there, 42 days, 15 hours, 39 minutes, and 50 seconds, 49 continue on. Just over a month before the U.K. leaves the E.U., the motion lost by 45 votes, and even though it was just a symbolic vote reaffirming support for Ms. May's current Brexit strategy. The loss came at the hands of her very own conservative party.

CNN's Phil Black breaks it all down for us from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The problem once again this time with the hardcore Brexiters and the prime minister's own conservative party, the purists, who decided on this occasion they couldn't back a nonbinding motion. Really reaffirming support for the prime minister's Brexit strategy because they feared it implied Britain is no longer prepared to consider a no deal scenario.

Brexiters like no deal on the table to be used as leverage. But 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. is she believes she has a majority in Parliament that will vote for the entire negotiated withdrawal agreement.

If only E.U. will help her alter the highly unpopular provisions designed to ensure you never a hard border on the island of Ireland. E.U. officials have doubted the reliability of the prime minister's claimed majority. Tonight really proves that they were right to do so. And so, the prime minister's job of trying to persuade the E.U. to go ground certainly got much harder.

Phil Black, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with CNN's European Affairs Commentator Dominic Thomas, Dominic joining us from Paris. And there's a bit of a delay here, but Dominic, it's great to have you with us here to break this down. So this was important because Brussels was watching. The result was clear. Ms. May still lacks the support that she needs, specifically from the hard-line Brexiters within her own party.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes, George. You're absolutely right. And I don't think that much of that outcome of the vote was a great surprise to the European Union. They are aware of the situation and of what is happening in London.

And what is remarkable is that at end of the month of January, a number of amendments were voted on in the House of Commons. Two of them, the first, the Brady Bill, was essentially to give a mandate to Theresa May to go back to Brussels and to try and reopen negotiations on the withdrawal agreement to address the lingering issue of the Irish backstop. The other amendment, the Spellman (ph) amendment, which she ignored at the time essentially was to vote and take the no deal option off the table. And so the motion yesterday essentially was to hold those two into one and also to kind of check the pulse on the state of Brexit negotiations.

Theresa May has been to Brussels. She has been unable to reopen the withdrawal agreement. And the European Union does not want to make concessions over the potential border with Northern Ireland. And so the vote yesterday showed that on the one hand a position of wanting to go to the European Union to talk about the threat of the no deal was essentially taken off the table.

And the other argument, which is that she has the support of the House, was undermined by the far right Brexiters who did so much vote against the motion yesterday, but abstained on it, and essentially sent the strong message that they do not support her current negotiating strategy.

HOWELL: Clearly, she needed that support, Dominic. But look, so the clock is ticking down. We showed the clock just a moment ago. Time is of the essence for sure with this deal or no deal. But Dominic, let's say that there is no deal, what are your thoughts to those who say no deal is better than the current deal that's on the table?

THOMAS: Well, what we saw in the early discussions that took place in Parliament is that the government has a report that talks about the consequences of a no deal. And they've been reluctant to release that information into the public realm, because they obviously no that the findings of that report point to the devastating consequences of an un-negotiated deal. The European Union is aware of this as well and would like to avoid this.

[02:24:51] And ultimately, the power is in their hands because it will all be up to them in the end to decide whether or not they provide the U.K. with an extension, or whether or not they simply let Brexit go about its own way. We all know that the impact of the no deal would be devastating on both sides of the channel. Un-planning after two and a half years and walking away with nothing would not be a favorable option.

However, the prime minister seems to be completely stunned and paralyzed in terms of her negotiations with Brussels. So what we're seeing is the internal divisions within her party are evermore glaring that in order to satisfy the far right branch of her party, she needs to go for a kind of hard Brexit, which does not meet with the consent of the rest of the Parliament.

And yet, by moving to the center, by moving to the kind of deal the European Union are interested in, that even a leader of the opposition has been proposing around the notion of a customs union means fracturing her party. And she's trying to avoid that particular process happening as well.

But we're starting to see an increasing sort of attacks taking place across party lines, blaming the Labour Party as the Labour Party is blaming the conservatives for the paralysis on this. And one cannot help but think that all of this will eventually culminate in either some kind of second referendum or even a general election. And you already see some posturing around this potential outcome.

HOWELL: Dominic Thomas, again with context and perspective. And again, to our viewers, we apologize for the delay here, but always good to get Dominic in and his thoughts on this. We'll stay in touch with you for sure.

The CEO of Airbus is speaking out once again about the turbulence surrounding this issue of Brexit. Back in January, Tom Enders issued a video statement warning that a disorderly split would force his company to decisions that could be very harmful for the United Kingdom.

Well, you'll remember that Airbus employs about 14,000 people in the U.K. CNN asked Enders where his head is now as the Brexit deadline looms ever closer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM ENDERS, AIRBUS CEO: More time will help, absolutely, in preparation for the inevitable. And we will certainly be more relaxed, and though we look into the long term. I mean I said in this video don't take us for granted, dear friends in Britain, and I meant it.

I mean we're obviously not picking our factories in Britain and move them somewhere else. That will be uneconomical. But like many other companies, we will certainly review our investments in the future when we plan a new program etcetera. This is when we maybe speaking investments as you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Airbus is headquartered in France but has significant engineering and production facilities in the United Kingdom. After years of fighting ISIS, Kurdish and Arab forces in the final days of the final battle, an exclusive look inside that fight still ahead for you. Plus, it is crunch time in the trade talks between China and the United States. We'll take you live to Hong Kong for the latest deal or no deal. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:30:28] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A warm welcome back to our viewers all over the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you. This hour, the U.S. President plans to declare a national emergency to pay for the border wall that he wants with Mexico. A White House official says in the coming hours, Mr. Trump is set to sign a budget compromise approved by Congress.

But it has far less funding than he originally wanted. He's expected to use his executive powers to pull in an extra $6.6 billion from other projects. The U.K. Parliament deals another blow to the British Prime Minister. Lawmakers defeated a symbolic motion that would have given -- that would have reaffirm their support for Theresa May's Brexit strategy. A group of hardline Brexiters from her own party insured the loss by abstaining from the vote.

In the Philippines, the Justice Department says it will investigate alleged threats against journalists at the news site Rappler.com. The National Bureau of Investigation is accused of threatening reporters while they covered the arrest of their executive editor, Maria Ressa on Wednesday. She was charged with cyber libel I should say, but denies any wrongdoing. ISIS continues to lose ground in Syria. But it's putting up a brutal fight. The group pushing them out, the Syrian Democratic Forces have reason though to be hopeful. They believed these are the last days of the terror group's self-styled caliphate. CNN has obtained exclusive footage of what could be the final battle. Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is there and has this report for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In its dying days, ISIS fights to the bitter end. This 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 pin pricked 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 airstrikes captured in this exclusive video shot by freelance cameraman, Gabriel Shaim.

It has been hard going with repeated ISIS counterattacks using their usual tactics, booby traps, suicide car bombs, and human shields. And now, at the end after years of war, ISIS' foes have scores to settle. Syrian Democratic Forces commander (INAUDIBLE) has fought ISIS known here as (INAUDIBLE) across Northern Syria. (INAUDIBLE) is finished, he says. We're avenging our murders. 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 the town. The commander gives the final orders before they move out. An armored bulldozer designed to take the impact of improvise 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)

HOWELL: Ben, thank you. A British teenager who moved to Syria to join ISIS says she's ready to return home. Shamima Begum was 15 years old when she left the U.K. with two of her classmates from East London. She's now 19 -- she's now 19 I should say, nine months pregnant, and lives in a refugee camp in Northern Syria. She had two other children who died as infants from malnutrition and illness. Begum told the British newspaper, The Times, she had no regrets moving to Syria, but she can't endure it anymore.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SHAMIMA BEGUM, MOVE TO SYRIA TO JOIN ISIS: Yes. It actually really

did. It was like a normal life but the life that they show on the propaganda videos.

[02:35:01] No, it's a normal life. Every now and then there are bombs and stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever see executions?

BEGUM: No, never. But I saw a beheaded head from the bin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the bins?

BEGUM: Yes, in the bins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was that like when you first saw that? These are the heads of captives?

BEGUM: Yes, it didn't faze me at all. I have to think about my baby as well after my two kids died, I just -- now, I'm really overprotective of the baby. I'm scared that this baby is going to get sick in this camp. That's why I really want to get back to Britain because I know it will be taken care of like health wise at least.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How was it losing two children, so close to each other? You can't have been left unfazed by that.

BEGUM: Yes. It was really -- it came as a shock. It just came out of nowhere. It was so hard.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: My colleague Hala Gorani spoke earlier with a former metropolitan police official about Begum's chances of returning to the U.K. Here's a bit of that exchanged.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAL BABU, FORMER CHIEF SUPERINTENDENT, METROPOLITAN POLICE: The girls went in 2015 (INAUDIBLE) what we need to remember that the children, they're 15 years olds. They were radicalized over the internet. Their families -- I was bought in because the families were very disappointed at the fact that they weren't told that these girls were being targeted. So the police were aware of it. As the girl who gone out from that school.

She was in -- she's working with ISIS to entice other girls to come out there. One girl actually gone on a plane, and she was stopped -- she was sitting in the plane and taken off the plane and then these three girls went (INAUDIBLE) what happened bizarrely was that the police gave a letter to the girl, so these three girls saying we're concerned about them being radicalized and we're concerned about our safety. They gave the letter to the girls.

That letter was subsequently found in the girl's school bag once they've gone. HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: And would have -- wouldn't it

have been wiser to give the letter to their parents directly?

BABU: Absolutely. And I think their parents felt very, very angry that they weren't alerted. Yet, you imagine if your child is shoplifting, you've been told. But the girls they were risk of being radicalize of going to Syria and the parents had never been told.

GORANI: Does Shamima Begum I'm sure you read and listened to the interview she gave that Times reporter. Frankly, it's a little chilling. She's so calm and collected. I get that she was a child when she left, but she's now a 19-year-old young lady. She's an adult now. She said she was unfazed by seeing severed heads in bins. She said ice -- life under ISIS wasn't so bad except for the bombings. She speaks kind of pretty casually about two -- her first two kids dying before the age of one, what did you think of this?

BABU: Well, this is somebody traumatized. This is not a normal way that somebody would speak, you know, I mean I'd be horrified. You know, I was a police officer for 30 years. I'd be horrified to see a severed head, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

GORANI: But she didn't sound like she was.

BABU: But we're talking about a 19-year-old who has loss two children. She went there. She ended up marrying a man almost twice her age. This is not normal and I think what we need to remember is what she's been through. So I think what we need to understand is she going to be saying exactly what she wants to when she's in a camp with lots of ISIS people there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Hala Gorani there. They're speaking with Dal Babu who was involved in the investigation when Begum and the other girls joined ISIS in 2015. Begum told The Times that her husband, a Dutchman who had fought for ISIS surrendered to Syrian fighters weeks ago. She hasn't seen him since. It is a moment of truth in the trade war between the United States and China. This is the second and final day of high level talks that are taking place in Beijing and the clock is ticking.

Only two weeks left now to reach a trade deal and if they fail, U.S. tariffs on some Chinese imports jumped to 25 percent. President Trump says he might let the March 1st deadline slip if it looks like a deal is near. Following the story our Ivan Watson live in Hong Kong. Ivan, good to have you. The clock is certainly ticking. But the deadline possibly sliding back a bit might be a little more relaxed. How seriously is China taking all of these?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are hearing that the Chinese Leader Xi Jinping was planning to meet with the American trade delegation and we've heard that from none less than the White House Economic Advisor, Larry Kudlow speaking to journalists earlier. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: And 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, you know, I like that story and I will stay with the phrase the vibe was good, but I can't give you details. I can't give you details.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the decision on the tariffs (INAUDIBLE) extending the tariff --

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW: That is correct (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: Now, if Xi Jinping does meet with the U.S. Treasury Secretary and trade representative Rob Lighthizer, it may be a reciprocal move, a sign of respect after several weeks ago, President Trump meet in the Oval Office with China's lead negotiator, the vice premier, Liu He.

[02:40:01] But as you mentioned, the clock is ticking. But this is an American clock, George. It is the White House that imposed this March 1st deadline at which point if a deal is not reached, President Trump has threatened to ramp up tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods going to the U.S. That would ramp up the tensions and escalate the trade war significantly. But President Trump has pushed back that deadline at least once already from January 1st to March 1st and he floated the idea that it could slide further if there is some progress shown in these trade talks and that's what we're waiting to find out.

HOWELL: Right. As far as the detail around progress. We heard Kudlow just a moment ago. No detail being given at it this point. But, Ivan, here's the question to you, putting your finger on the pulse of where things are right now, sometimes the mood is optimistic. It's positive. Other times it is pushback and then you see uncertainty that follows all around. Where would you say the things are in this cycle right now?

WATSON: Frankly, I don't know. I'm not in the room and we haven't been getting briefed by either party here. We do know that going into this round of talks there were signs of goodwill coming from both sides, expressions of respect, and clearly both sides recognizing that the trade war is hurting both sides economically. That said, one side is being negotiated by an American president who's quite mercurial whose negotiating team is often at odds with itself.

You know, the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin widely reported to be a dove when it comes to the issue of global trade in comparative (INAUDIBLE) Robert Lighthizer who's a co-chair from the U.S. delegation who's very much seemed to be as a hawk when it comes to China and its trade policies. And China has its own domestic political considerations. Its economy grew at a slower pace than ever in 2018 compared to the previous generation really, though some of its import and export figures are higher for January than they were projected to b, George.

HOWELL: Ivan Watson live for us in Hong Kong. Thank you, Ivan. Nigeria's presidential candidates make a last minute push before the elections and one of the big campaign issues is fighting corruption.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no human vice that, you know, cannot be controlled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you yourself have been accused of these vices. What do you say to that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: CNN speaks with the front runners ahead of the big day. Plus, online retailer Amazon scraps plans for a second headquarters in New York just months after the city was chosen. We'll have details on that story. Stay with us.

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[02:45:45] HOWELL: A story just in to CNN. Dubai's International Airport is working to get back on schedule after drone activity forced authorities to delay flights there.

A spokesperson says the stoppage lasted about 30 minutes. Dubai is one of the world's busiest airports serving 88 million passengers a year. London's Gatwick Airport saw severe delays as well after suspected drone activity back in December.

Now, to Nigeria, where voters cast their ballots for president on Saturday. They are expected to choose mainly between two major front- runners. The incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari -- he is on the right there, is praised by the African Union for fighting corruption. His rival, Atiku Abubakar -- on the left, is an entrepreneur who served as vice president for eight years.

Let's look at the numbers now. Nigeria has more than 84 million registered voters and more than 200 ethnic groups. Young people make up a little more than half of the voters there. There are 91 political parties, 72 presidential candidates. The president will be elected to a four-year term.

The campaign has been marred though by casualties and violence. Some people have been killed at rallies and clashes by rival supporters, others in stampedes. In the meantime, the leading candidates have been crisscrossing the country with those last-minute pitches. Our David McKenzie has this report for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nigerians like to do everything faster, louder, bigger.

So this is the final stage of this hectic campaign season in Nigeria. Africa's most populous country. And this is democracy on its largest scale. The visit of the main opposition candidate to his home state. And this is what it means to the people.

Atiku Abubakar, known simply as Atiku, is a former vice president and business magnate.

ATIKU ABUBAKAR, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA: (INAUDIBLE) Nigeria requires my experience. Nigeria requires my capacity.

MCKENZIE: The party faithful has come out by their thousands, for both candidates.

The crowd, the heats, the passion of the Nigerian electorate, and the incumbent. 76-year-old Muhammadu Buhari, the president, this is one of his final rallies.

But if you look beyond the campaign marketing, there is frustration too. Both candidates are part of the old guard. Both political royalty of a system that was built on corruption, robbing the masses.

So many young people have complained to us that corruption is killing this country. Do you think you can change that?

ABUBAKAR: Why not? I mean, it's a -- it's a human vice. And there is no human vice that -- you know, cannot be control.

MCKENZIE: And you yourself have been accused of these vices. What do you say to that?

ABUBAKAR: Well, I mean they have not stood the test of time, and there is no public officer that is not accused of corruption vice.

MCKENZIE: Buhari isn't personally implicated. But his administration hasn't defeated graft, and they promised to defeat ISIS-linked Boko Haram is unkept. And then, there's the issue of age. Both candidates in their 70s looking to lead one of the world's youngest populations.

Mr. President, you're going to go to all of the states in this campaign.

MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA: Yes.

MCKENZIE: But some people say that you don't have the stamina for another term. What is your response to that?

BUHARI: Well, I have done it. So, they can give you another answer.

MCKENZIE: The sprint through all 36 states in Nigeria has ended. The brutal campaign is over. Now, more than 80 million registered voters are ready to decide. David McKenzie, CNN, Yola, Nigeria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[02:50:00] HOWELL: David, thank you. And one of the biggest storylines heading into Nigeria's elections has been the effect of misinformation, or otherwise called fake news. In the next hour, we will look at how social media has been used to spread misinformation and what's being done to fight it.

But first, a quick break here and when we come back, just months ago, it was the big reveal, now comes the big retreat. Amazon announces its scrapping plans for a second headquarters in New York, a story ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Flash floods, mudslides, and damaging winds have plagued the -- yes, State of California this week, and there is more to come. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam is in the International Weather Center to tell us all about it. Derek.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL WEATHER ANCHOR: All kinds of dramatic footage coming out of California, lately, George, including this one. A harrowing effort by the Cal Fire coming in with this helicopter and plucking two stranded individuals. They were actually stuck in a vehicle that got swept down a stream in a flash flood event in Riverside County in Southern California.

They were plucked to safety, no injuries from this particular event. But this is just one of many rescues that took place. High water -- swift water rescues, I should say. It's all because of the incredible amount of precipitation just battering the west coast of the U.S.

Check out this water vapor satellite imagery. What I've done here is I put the jet stream on coming all the way from South of Hawaii into the west coast of the U.S. This is that constant moisture stream just funneling in our cloud cover, rainfall, and of course mountain snows.

But first, let's talk about the rain because it has been excessive over 300 millimeters over the past 72 hours for some locations and that has led to scenes just like this, mudslides, debris flows. There were 50 homes that needed to be evacuated because mudslides were taking out some of these resident's locations in the southern portions of California that was actually in the San Francisco region.

Flood threat continues for the next 24 hours, or so, as another series of storms batters the region. What we found here is that the winds at some of the tops of the mountain ranges within California peaked over 200 kilometers per hour. That's equivalent to winds that you would experience in a Category 4 Atlantic hurricane.

So, some top-notch winds, they are still win advisories in effect across the central portions, and I mentioned some snowfall. Healthy snowfall totals across the Sierra Nevadas. Good news for the winter snowpack, and as we head into the spring and summer months as we start to melt that off into the reservoirs.

And the other good news about this, Gorge, is the fact that three years ago, we had 95 percent drought across the country, or at the State of California. Now, it's only at 10 percent. So, some silver lining amongst all of this wet weather.

HOWELL: Well, it is a silver lining indeed. Derek Van Dam, thank you.

VAN DAM: All right.

HOWELL: Now, to the online retailer, Amazon, saying so long to Long Island. The company abruptly canceled plans to open a second headquarters in New York.

In a statement, the company said this. "A number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project."

New York had offered Amazon tax credits and grants, but critics said the money should be used for other needs. The project was expected to bring in 25,000 jobs to the city. Our Cristina Alesci has more on this change of heart.

[02:55:07] CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY AND POLITICS 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 for 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 could have been improved and that there were legitimate concerns raised. But she was ready to work for those changes.

There's all -- this also represents a growing divide with the -- 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 interest against working people. This is a very divisive message but some of these progressives believe, it is a path to political victory.

HOWELL: Cristina Alesci, thank you. Amazon's reversal delivered prime material, you could say for comedians. Here is what some late night hosts here in the U.S. who happened to be New Yorkers had to say about it all.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SETH MEYERS, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS, NBC: Amazon announced today will no longer build its second headquarters in New York City, well then? Well, then an Amazon's own words, by now.

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW, COMEDY CENTRAL: You people will like, no, crunches come here, this whole corporate thing, this is New York. What do you want your corporate -- in the home of Wall Street, Time Warner, and the Trump Real State Empire? Forget about it!

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT, CBS: I will give you this, Amazon telling people you're going to Queens and then baling of the last minute is one thing New Yorkers can really relate to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: And thank you for being with us this hour. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. More news right after the break. Stay with us.

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