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Trump Declares National Emergency; Special Counsel's Team Meets with White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders; Nigerian Elections; World Leaders in Germany to Discuss Global Threats; Rising Popularity of Backcountry Skiing; Police Release Actor's Alleged Attackers. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired February 16, 2019 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster.

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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president, Donald Trump, pulls the trigger, declaring a national emergency to fund a border wall. And he's already being sued over it.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Another American community in mourning. What we are learning about the gunman behind a mass shooting in an Illinois workplace.

Also --

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HOWELL (voice-over): Haiti's president refuses to resign as violent protests spiral out of control.

ALLEN (voice-over): These stories ahead this hour.

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ALLEN (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): I'm George Howell from CNN NEWSROOM.

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HOWELL: 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. The lawsuits are already flying. The U.S. president barely uttered the words "national emergency" and the lawyers came out fighting. Members of his own party warned it was a terrible idea. President Trump declared a national emergency days after Congress refused his demand for border wall funding. He will face a gantlet of legal challenges that could drag on for months or longer. And as CNN's Jim Acosta reports, he may have already sabotaged his own case.

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JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trying to take a victory lap after a stinging defeat in Congress, President Trump declared a national emergency at the border to start tapping into administration funds to build his wall.

But the president may have already undercut his case when he indicated his real motivation is to speed things along.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this, but I would rather do it much faster. And I don't have to do it for the election. I have already done a lot of wall for the election, 2020.

ACOSTA: Adding in more than $1 billion authorized by Congress, the White House said it's secured a combine $8 billion for the wall. But the president was still selling the project, accusing critics of lying when it's pointed out that most illegal drugs coming into the U.S. go through legal ports of entry.

TRUMP: When you listen to politicians, in particular certain Democrats, they say it all comes through the port of entry. It's wrong. It's wrong. It's just a lie. It's all a lie.

ACOSTA: But the president was once again hyping the threat at the border, making all sorts of unproven claims of his own.

TRUMP: Women and girls, you can't take them through ports of entry. You can't have them tied up in the backseat of a car or a truck or a van. They open the door. They look. They can't see women with tape on their mouth or three women whose hands are tied.

ACOSTA: And the president lashed out when the facts were presented to him.

ACOSTA (on camera): There's a lot of Department of Homeland Security data out there that shows border crossings at a near record low --

TRUMP: That's because of us. But it's still -- excuse me --

ACOSTA: -- that shows undocumented immigrants committing crimes at lower levels --

TRUMP: You don't -- you don't really believe that stat, do you?

Do you really believe that stat?

Take a look at our federal prisons.

ACOSTA: What do you -- well, let me ask you this. I believe -- I believe in facts and statistics.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president sounded petulant, grumbling over the likelihood that Democrats will take him to court for circumventing Congress.

TRUMP: And we will then be sued and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, even though it shouldn't be there and we will possibly get a bad ruling and then we'll get another bad ruling and then we'll end up in the Supreme Court and hopefully we'll get a fair shake and we'll win in the Supreme Court.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump also appeared to mimic the president of China as he marveled over how the autocratic country punishes drug dealers.

TRUMP: I asked President Xi, I said, do you have a drug problem?

No, no, no.

I said you have 1.4 billion people.

What do you mean you have no drug problem?

No, we don't have a drug problem.

I said, why?

Death penalty. We give death penalty to people that sell drugs, end of problem.

ACOSTA: And the president bristled at the notion that conservative media stars are actually calling the shots when it comes to his policy.

TRUMP: Look, Sean Hannity has been a terrific, terrific supporter of what I do. Not of me. If I changed my views, he wouldn't be with me.

Rush Limbaugh, I think he's a great guy. Ann Coulter, I don't know her. I hardly know her.

ACOSTA: But there are cracks in his wall of conservative support.

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot.

ACOSTA: The president all but stomped his feet when he was asked whether he was simply making up this national emergency. But the president has bigger things to worry about than which questions are asked at a news conference, such as the growing number of Republican senators who are raising concerns about the president's declaration, saying it may be unconstitutional --

[04:05:00]

ACOSTA: -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: Much talk everywhere about this move by President Trump. Declaring a national emergency to fund his wall it's a risky gamble. If the president prevails, the White House believes he could come up with $8 billion.

HOWELL: It's a lot of money. Here is where it would come from. Nearly $1.4 billion from the Homeland Security appropriations bill that the president just signed; $600 million from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion from the Defense Department's drug interdictions program and $3.5 billion from the Defense Department's military construction budget.

ALLEN: Within hours of his declaration, congressional Democrats were demanding to know the legal basis for making such a claim.

HOWELL: Democratic congressman Jerry Nadler is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and told our colleague Chris Cuomo, when the president said, I didn't need to do this -- those were his words -- it greatly weakened his own case. Listen.

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REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: The lawsuit will say that there is no real emergency. He'll say there's a real emergency. The defense will be that the president decides whether there's an emergency. The court can't look behind that. The president is saying there's no real emergency.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Right.

NADLER: That's a body blow to his case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: As we mentioned, the first lawsuits have already been filed to block the national emergency. One filed was by the government watchdog group, Public Citizen. According to its press release it's representing the Frontera Audubon Society and three private landowners in South Texas.

ALLEN: That is because eminent domain, when the government legally seizes private land for public purposes, will be a crucial issue in any border wall construction. Much of the U.S. border where a wall or barricade will go is currently privately owned.

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HOWELL: Let's talk more about this with David Katz. He is a former U.S. attorney joining us in Los Angeles.

Thank you for your time.

DAVID KATZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Pleasure to be here.

HOWELL: This whole debate, is this truly a national emergency or not so much? Let's start with the president's own words. Listen closely to how he answers the question from reporter Peter Alexander with NBC News.

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TRUMP: I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this but I would rather do it much faster.

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HOWELL: OK. So he didn't need to do this but said that he wanted to do it much faster. Keeping in mind, it took the president five minutes to talk through a range of many other issues before even announcing the national emergency.

These plainspoken words you just heard, legally, how will that play into the challenges that are surely to come?

KATZ: I think the fatal flaw, George, it's not an emergency. Everybody can plainly see that. When I was an official in the Reagan administration, we had more than twice as many people cross the border and get caught. It was an intractable problem. Eventually President Reagan had an amnesty and it has gotten actually better in those years.

There are fewer people crossing the border. Every year, there are fewer people crossing the border than there was the previous year. So people say the courts are not going to sit there and fine-tune whether it's an emergency or not. But it's not an emergency.

The other thing you hear people say the Supreme Court and the courts have never struck down an emergency. That's true, under the new act. But there's a famous case in American history, where President Truman seized the steel mills and that was ruled unconstitutional, 6-3 by the Supreme Court.

So there's lots of precedent.

HOWELL: If you break down the legal vision the White House is staking out, the merits of the challenges that are sure to come to the national emergency declaration.

KATZ: Well, they amended the law in 1976, right after Watergate. It was supposed to ironically limit national emergencies. The idea was that President Nixon had abused them.

Unfortunately, it doesn't specifically define what's a national emergency. But it's common sense, that if it's not emergent, if it's not a situation like 9/11 or the Ebola scare, if it's not an emergency, it's not an emergency.

If you just can't agree with Congress and persuade Congress, so you want to snatch more money than Congress will give you, that's not an emergency.

Now the breakdown of how President Trump wants to do it is first he has to say, here are the laws he's going to amend. Here are the laws he is going to effect because it's a national emergency. Then, Congress votes on it. They pass a joint resolution or disavow the emergency. It can be expected that the House will promptly disavow the emergency and it will go to the --

[04:10:00]

KATZ: -- Senate for them to act on the joint resolution. Let's assume 55 senators say it's not a national emergency. It will have passed both houses of Congress. It'll go to President Trump, who will veto it. There was no point in declaring a national emergency for him to accept that bill.

Then, two-thirds of each house of Congress would have to override the veto. I don't believe that will happen. The opponents, who are 70 percent of the population, don't believe that will happen. That's why, already, they are going to the courts to get them to enjoin it and eventually to stop the spending of money and the exercise of power. Because, again, there is no true national emergency.

HOWELL: As you point out, it has some Republicans, both in the House and Senate, worried. Both ideological conservatives and Democrats say this sets a dangerous political and even legal precedent.

Before the president made this announcement in the Rose Garden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned a Democratic president might have the same call, make the same call on a range of issues, on climate change or even gun violence. Listen.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CALIF.), HOUSE SPEAKER: 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. That's a national emergency.

Why don't you declare that emergency, Mr. President?

I wish you would. But a Democratic president can do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Again, many of these House and Senate Republicans have made statements on the record, legally how could this come back and bite Republicans in the future?

KATZ: Well, you know, true conservatives want to conserve the framework of the country and the rule of law, which gives a lot of power to Congress, it gives all the power to Congress in allocating funds. It doesn't give the power of the purse to the president.

But now no matter what the courts rule, President Trump has now acclimated, he's accustomed the population, the people in this country to expect firm, dramatic action by the president. So if there's a president who's a Democrat and he has an

obstructionist Congress, has a Republican Congress that won't pass legislation about the scourge of gun violence -- even today in Illinois, we had another outrage -- who won't do anything about what the planet is suffering, with global warming, then the president will be expected, a Democratic president will be expected by the people to declare a national emergency and to proceed, just as President Trump has with this example.

That's why the conservatives think it's a very, very bad example.

The question is, will they knuckle under to the president?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: That was David Katz speaking with me earlier. But this certainly sets a precedent and we'll have to see where it ends up in the courts.

ALLEN: It's going to be weeks, months, who knows.

HOWELL: It's uncertain where it goes from here.

Moving on now to the Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller's team says Trump's former campaign manager deserves to spend essentially the rest of his life behind bars.

ALLEN: Paul Manafort is 69. He was convicted by a Virginia jury last year for bank and tax fraud and other crimes related to money he earned from Ukrainian politicians. For more, here is Evan Perez.

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EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Paul Manafort could spend the rest of his life in prison if a judge follows sentencing guidelines endorsed by special counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors.

The guidelines call for between 19.5 and 24.5 years in prison. A federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, convicted the former Trump campaign chairman guilty of financial crimes, including tax and bank fraud.

He's turning 70 this year. The prosecutors say he shouldn't get a break because of his age. They say that Manafort, quote, "acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law."

Manafort has separately pleaded guilty to federal charges here in Washington but a judge has voided the plea agreement after ruling that Manafort lied to investigators and to the grand jury during the time he was supposed to be cooperating.

A newly released transcript in from a hearing in D.C. federal court centers on the importance of Konstantin Kilimnik in Manafort's case. He was Manafort's business partner in Ukraine.

Special counsel Robert Mueller says Kilimnik is essentially a Russian spy. Manafort's lawyers have tried to push back against that, saying that Kilimnik also met with U.S. diplomats, suggesting perhaps he was a double agent.

During a sealed court hearing a few days ago, the judge said it doesn't matter. She said that Manafort lied about his communications with Kilimnik and the judge said that Kilimnik is the link between the Russians and the Trump campaign, which goes to the heart of Mueller's Russia investigation -- Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.

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ALLEN: The special counsel's office says they have evidence --

[04:15:00]

ALLEN: -- Roger Stone had direct communications with WikiLeaks.

HOWELL: Earlier court filings had only outlined his attempts to communicate through intermediaries. Prosecutors say Stone wanted information about emails stolen by Russian hackers that could aid Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

ALLEN: CNN has learned exclusively the special counsel's team has interviewed White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. The subject of the interview isn't clear but it could have to do with how she composed statements she made about the Russia investigation.

HOWELL: Sanders told CNN, quote, "The president urged me, like he has everyone in the administration, to fully cooperate with the special counsel. I was happy to voluntarily sit down with them."

That might not be completely accurate. A source says the White House did not immediately agree to let Mueller's team interview Sarah Sanders.

Another terrible, horrific mass shooting in the United States. Police say a warehouse employee in the state of Illinois was being fired from his job when he went on a rampage at a facility in Aurora, Illinois.

ALLEN: The gunman killed five fellow workers, he also wounded five police officers and another employee. For more, here is CNN's Sara Sidner.

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SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have heard from the police department, the chief, talking about how this all went down, the officers responding very quickly to what was an active shooter call.

We are told the first couple officers to go in were shot. Then more showed up. What they found, once they were inside, were people who were shot, people who were killed, people who were wounded, a terrible scene inside of this manufacturing business.

We should also mention that police say they believe that the shooter did work at this particular manufacturing business. We also heard from a witness, telling our sister station here in the Chicago area, that, indeed, he seemed to be shooting at everyone indiscriminately but the gun he was using had some sort of green laser. It was pointing at people.

As you can hear, throughout the night, this scene has been filled with emergency vehicles, whether it be the paramedics or the police. We have seen SWAT units that have come and gone. Certainly, police will be here for some time. We also saw a chaplain here.

All in all, this is a really terrible day for those in this neighborhood. By the way, this isn't just an area that has manufacturing businesses. This is a neighborhood. There are homes here. There are people that have their kids usually out in the streets. They say this has been a really, really rough day here in Aurora, Illinois -- Sara Sidner, CNN, Aurora, Illinois.

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ALLEN: Coming up, the wait is not yet over for voters in Nigeria. Presidential elections were supposed to take place Saturday. They have now been postponed. We'll go there live.

HOWELL: Violence in Haiti has protesters lob allegations of corruption with the country's president. We have the latest here on CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: Welcome back. A major development to tell you about in the Catholic Church abuse scandal. Former U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been kicked out of priesthood.

ALLEN: A church trial found the disgraced former archbishop of Washington guilty of sexually abusing minors. The Vatican says the pope recognized the judgment as definitive, meaning it cannot be appealed.

HOWELL: McCarrick was forced to resign from the college of cardinals last year after decades-old allegations resurfaced of sexual abuse involving a teenage altar boy. McCarrick had maintained that he is innocent.

ALLEN: Nigeria's top political parties are condemning election officials for postponing the presidential elections. Voters were supposed to head to the polls Saturday. But at the last minute, they decided to delay the elections until next week.

CNN's David McKenzie has been following the election, the developments from Abuja.

David, the 2015 election was seen as one of the least violent elections ever there.

What's behind the problems now?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now people are scratching their heads. I'm in an area of Abuja. You see here, this was a primary school where they were going to have the voting today.

There are some frustrated election volunteers and officials behind me. You know, they said that they heard that --

What time did you hear that this was going to be postponed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 2:00 am.

MCKENZIE: 2:00 am -- and are you frustrated right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are disappointed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are disappointed in our government, our own -- very disappointed.

MCKENZIE: You are disappointed.

And are people worried that this might be something other than just logistics?

Are they worried that this might be rigging?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a vote, well, we don't know. But we have to stop protecting him.

MCKENZIE: You are disappointed.

And many of these gentlemen came here overnight. They said they were with the materials, sleeping in this primary school, waiting for people to line up in the early hours of the morning.

But what hadn't arrived were the ballot papers and there have been logistical issues in pockets of the country for this critical election. Both parties have condemned this delay by the electoral commission but there's already hints from the opposition saying they believe it's political, trying to push down the voting levels in some key areas to turn down the turnout.

But they aren't officially complaining yet. People are calling for calm. These gentlemen will come next week on Saturday to try to do it all over again. But I have to say, the worry is that, as the delays continue, the tension will rise -- Natalie.

ALLEN: How many people are expected to vote in the country when this election does happen, David?

MCKENZIE: More than 80 million people are registered to vote. They obviously --

[04:25:00]

MCKENZIE: -- travel to places like this and from places like this to go to their home areas. Throughout the country, you weren't allowed to drive today. The borders were shut down. People were expected in their millions to cast their ballots.

Some came to this polling station, this primary school, to find out, when they got here, they weren't allowed to vote. You can understand that frustration. People putting their lives on hold to vote for these candidates and a lot of anger already at the electoral commission for this delay and what it could mean for the credibility of this crucial election -- Natalie

ALLEN: We thank you, David McKenzie, for that live in Abuja. Thank you, David.

HOWELL: Just getting a sense of what people are saying.

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN: Showing up, saying no, you can't.

HOWELL: The president of Haiti is refusing to step down as that nation descends deeper into chaos from violent anti-government demonstrations.

ALLEN: Local media report several people in Haiti have been killed. The U.S. and Canada are advising their citizens to get out. Zain Asher has more about it.

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ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Protesters running from tear gas. Clashes with police. Barricades and fires. Stores looted. These are the scenes of anger paralyzing Haiti's largest cities after more than a week of deadly unrest. The demonstrators are demanding their president's resignation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm in this situation because of the Haitian president. I can't go to school. Here is the thing. He must go. If not, we'll burn down this whole country.

ASHER (voice-over): Accused of corruption, the administration remains silent for days as outrage grew. Then in a televised address on Thursday, the president issued a defiant response.

JOVENEL MOISE, HAITIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have already had a series of transitional governments that have given a package of disasters and disorders. I will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers.

ASHER (voice-over): As the security situation worsens, Canada has closed its embassy and dozens of foreign tourists reportedly found themselves stranded after roads to Haiti's largest airport were blocked.

The U.S. has ordered all non-emergency personnel and their families to leave and advising U.S. citizens not to travel to Haiti, due to crime and civil unrest, citing widespread violent and unpredictable demonstrations.

Meanwhile, humanitarian aid agencies are evacuating some staff who have been working to provide relief for the impoverished nation.

CHRISTOPHER BESSEY, CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES: The work has basically ground to a halt. Public transport has been more or less nonexistent. And it's unsafe to go out in cars because you don't know where roadblocks will be and -- or demonstrations.

ASHER (voice-over): Haiti remains one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. After a devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 200,000 people, despite international efforts to help, the state of the economy remains in a state of disarray.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The price of the dollar is going up and up and up. We can't stay in this situation. There will surely be a revolution in the country.

ASHER (voice-over): Besides skyrocketing inflation, reports of a long-running corruption scandal are also fueling unrest. Billions of dollars earmarked for social development in Haiti allegedly went missing, sparking anger among citizens with little left to lose -- Zain Asher, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: It is a story we will continue to follow for you here.

President Trump's demand for border wall money got shut down by Congress (INAUDIBLE) what he threatened to do all along: declare a national emergency. We'll talk more about it coming up here.

HOWELL: Plus world leaders are in Munich discussing the state of peace and security. Why this conference might be different than previous conferences. CNN is live in Germany on this story. Stay with us.

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ALLEN: Welcome back. Our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: Thank you for visiting, I'm George Howell.

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ALLEN: President Trump declared a national emergency on America's border with Mexico. The move certain to invite lawsuits and could ultimately end before the U.S. Supreme Court. But, if Mr. Trump prevails, he could access an additional 6.6 billion to fund a border wall.

Let's talk about the latest story from the White House with Richard Johnson. He joins us from Lancaster, England. Richard lectures on U.S. politics and international relations at Lancaster University.

Good to see you again, Richard. I want to ask you, according to polls, two-thirds of Americans are against this national emergency declaration. #FakeTrumpEmergency a top trender on Twitter.

How risky is this move by Donald Trump?

RICHARD JOHNSON, LANCASTER UNIVERSITY: I think he's calculated it's less risky than another government shutdown. I think if you look at the president's approval rating during the previous shutdown, he took a significant hit. He's managed to recover some of that popularity.

But I think he's calculated that here he has to deliver or be seen to try to deliver on this key commitment, not because of it being generally popular with the American public but it's popular with his base.

He even alluded to that in his press conference when talking about the 2020 election. I think it is risky but I think he thinks it's less risky than another --

[04:35:00]

JOHNSON: -- shutdown.

ALLEN: It's divided conservatives, many in his own party pleaded with him not to take this step. But Senate leader Mitch McConnell standing with him as he announced the White House move on the Senate floor.

What's at stake for the Republican Party?

JOHNSON: Look, if Congress wanted to stop this, there is provision for them to stop it. The National Emergencies Act of 1976 says that if two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to say that there isn't a national emergency, then that national emergency declared by the president is invalid.

What that would take, of course, is a substantial portion of Republicans in both the House and the Senate to side with the Democrats on this.

And although we have heard some voices who are concerned about this because they are concerned about the precedent that it sets, I don't yet think we see the numbers of Republicans who would be necessary, actually, to stop this.

ALLEN: Let's look at the other side. We know, again, lawsuits are being file and President Trump basically said bring it on in the Rose Garden announcement. Nancy Pelosi, who leads House Democrats, called it a power grab.

What does this do to his already frayed relationship with the new House Democratic majority?

JOHNSON: Well, look, they are going to try to seek legal redress because they realize they don't have votes in Congress to block this through a legislative process. They are going to seek judicial action on here.

This is where, I think, President Trump thinks he has a chance in getting through, although there are circuits, like the 9th Circuit, which includes California, which he mentioned this week as being a left-leaning circuit, there are a large number of Obama appointees on there.

The Supreme Court ultimately has been fairly deferential to President Trump on some of his more controversial policy initiatives. So I think he's hoping, even if the Democrats do take action against him, that the Supreme Court will side with him at the end of the day. I think that's a risk he is prepared to take.

ALLEN: Regardless, if it does fail, he can say to his base, I did everything I could possibly do.

Would that help him?

JOHNSON: I think that's the political calculation he is making. You can quite imagine a presidential campaign, which is actually about elect President Trump so that President Trump can put more conservative justices on the court, so that next time we don't get blocked by the Obama justices or however he wants to put it.

So I have been expecting him to declare a national emergency for some time now. I think the politics of it, in terms of his, again, sort of direct focus on his base, I think it makes sense from that perspective.

It may not make sense in terms of the wider public perception but certainly from his core Republican constituency, I think this is a logical action from his perspective.

ALLEN: He definitely likes the fight. Spent a lot of time in the Rose Garden talking about it today. Richard Johnson, thank you for your insight.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

ALLEN: In the meantime, the state of world security is front and center in Germany right now. Heads of state, defense ministers and security experts from around the world are coming together for the Munich Security Conference.

This year the U.S. is bringing the largest-ever delegation led by vice president Mike Pence. CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is live in Munich, Germany, following this.

Nic, the U.S. vice president had a specific message to European allies about the state of security in the Middle East, this back in Warsaw, regarding the U.S. view on Iran.

Is there an expectation you will hear more of the same along those lines?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I think there is that kind of expectation here, that there will be a similar message on Iran, the criticism of Britain, France and Germany for trying to find financial instruments to keep trading with Iran because they didn't pull out of the international joint nuclear agreement that is widely regarded that Iran is compliant with the nuclear component that President Trump and his administration is dissatisfied with what they see as Iran's growing hegemony and of course he will find support for that idea in Europe.

It was interesting when the host here of this Munich Security Conference was welcoming all the delegates that had come from --

[04:40:00]

ROBERTSON: -- the United States, when he mentioned Nancy Pelosi, there was quite a big round of applause. That gives you an idea where the sentiment in this audience is lying. That certainly would characterize some of the speeches from Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, speaking at the moment, talking about the interconnected nature of things, specifically global warming and how this is related.

It's not directly about military and defense but it's directly related to that. Her speech, again, is one of a European perspective, putting forward to the United States you cannot just opt out of tackling the global climate change issue. There is more at stake.

She also spoke -- again, this is from the European perspective -- that it would be aimed at the White House and she spoke about the horrors of World War II, the international infrastructure, the international bodies that now, you know, help the world cope and get on at an economic, political, military security level.

There is a call for change but not to throw away those world bodies but to work with them and help them change. So this is the message. There's a message coming from vice president, Mike Pence. There's a message going back as well toward the United States from here.

HOWELL: Nic Robertson following this conference in Munich. We'll stay in touch with you. Thank you.

ALLEN: Coming up here, we have a different way to enjoy the winter season in North America. HOWELL: Take a look at this. That's our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, chasing powder in the backcountry. He's got a report to tell as well. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: It is winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The snow has been piling up all season. Ski resorts in North America but many are ditching the long lines for a unique experience.

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ALLEN: We know someone that just did that. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam found a way to turn his love of snowboarding in the backcountry into a really cool story for us.

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DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: -- snowboarding with meteorology, right?

ALLEN: Why not?

VAN DAM: Backcountry skiing and snowboarding is anywhere outside of the resort. You know, every time this time of year, I get excited about the potential of snow, how deep it will get. I'm not the only one out there.

I found an answer to this winter addiction that I have. You need to see this. By the way, I'm the guy in the yellow and the brown jacket. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN DAM: As a meteorologist, I thought I had the inside track on when the snow would dump. But here with the Steamboat Powdercats, they know when the big snow is coming. So we have perfect conditions for backcountry skiing and snowboarding. Come on.

VAN DAM (voice-over): The allure of backcountry skiing comes from people's desire to skip the long lines at resorts while virtually guaranteeing the deepest, softest, powdery turns one can imagine.

But traversing untouched mountainous terrain comes with its challenges. That's why Steamboat Powdercats enlists expert guides and specialized machinery to transport the customers to the best snow of their lives.

BRITNI JOHNSON, STEAMBOAT POWDERCATS: I guess I'd liken a Sno-Cat to have a bulldozer on track so that we can move through deep powder without getting stuck so to speak. VAN DAM (voice-over): It is no coincidence that Northwest Colorado consistently receives some of the highest snowfall totals in the state.

JOHNSON: Buff Pass (ph) is known for having some really special orographics. It's one of the deeper snow packs throughout the state of Colorado.

VAN DAM: This is a trademark champagne powder they keep talking about, low density and high fluff and maximum fun.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN DAM: Nice.

VAN DAM (voice-over): As if skiing perfect snow all day long wasn't enough, there's even a gourmet meal and a warm drink waiting for us at this private cabin deep in the wilderness. The 11 others who joined me on this adventure clearly knew what they were doing. Me, on the other hand, could have benefited from another day on the mountain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(WEATHER REPORT)

[04:50:00]

HOWELL: We'll be back after the break.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SPORTS)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: Rapper 21 Savage is speaking out for the first time after being detained by U.S. immigration officials.

ALLEN: Authorities say the Grammy nominated artist has been living in the U.S. illegally since childhood. In an interview with ABC News, the rapper said he believed his arrest was a targeted sting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened?

21 SAVAGE, RAPPER: I don't even know. I was just driving and I just seen guns and blue lights and I was in the back of a car and I was gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They tell you you are under arrest?

(CROSSTALK)

SAVAGE: No. They didn't say nothing. They just said we got Savage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They said we got Savage?

SAVAGE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sounds like this was potentially something they set out to do, that this would have been targeted and not just a random traffic stop?

SAVAGE: It was definitely targeted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: 21 Savage has been released on bond but he still faces deportation.

HOWELL: He had a message for other immigrants facing similar fates, saying, quote, "I feel your pain. I'm going to do everything in my power to bring awareness to your pain."

ALLEN: A new twist in the investigation of the alleged attack on actor Jussie Smollett. The two men --

[04:55:00]

ALLEN: -- being questioned were released without charge.

HOWELL: Smollett is from the TV drama "Empire." He told police that he was attacked on January 29th by two men, who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, put a noose around his neck and poured a chemical on him.

ALLEN: The two Nigerian brothers being questioned were known to Smollett. Police let them go after new evidence was found. Police say they haven't found video of the alleged attack but there's also no evidence it was a hoax.

On March 14th, CNN partners with young people around the world with a student-led day of action against modern-day slavery.

HOWELL: Ahead of #MyFreedomDay, CNN asked actors on the red carpet at the BAFTAs, the British film awards, what makes you feel free. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTOR: What makes me feel free is that I get to speak my mind and I get to write projects and get things made where I get to have my own opinion. And everyone doesn't have to agree with it. But I feel free when I get to voice what's in my heart.

STEVE COOGAN, ACTOR: What makes me feel free is when I wake up in the morning, knowing that what I do with that day is my choice and my choice alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: You can tell the world what makes you feel free. Share your stories using the #MyFreedomDay.

We thank you for being with us this hour. The day's top stories are ahead. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. We'll be back after a short break.