Return to Transcripts main page

NEW DAY SATURDAY

Deadly Shooting in Aurora Early This Morning; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick Found Guilty; Manafort to Be Sentenced; The Field of Democratic 2020 Presidential Candidates is Active; Beto O'Rourke: I'll Decide if I'll Run for President By the End of the Month; Joe Biden Speaks at Security Conference in Germany; CNN Poll Shows 62 Percent of Democratic Voters Want Joe Biden to Run for President; Two Nigerian Men Released After Arrest in Alleged Attack on Empire Actor; Canadian Missionaries, Tourists Evacuated from Haiti; Protests Rock Haiti Amid Calls for the President to Step Down; Aviation Industry Rebounds from Historic Shutdown; Trump Faces Legal Challenges Over Emergency Declaration; Forecasters Say El Nino Could Cause Some Problems Despite Being Weak. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired February 16, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A terrifying situation here in Aurora, Illinois. Multiple people killed, multiple civilians injured and five police officers injured by gunfire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert Mueller asking a federal judge in Virginia throw the book at Paul Manafort, arguing that the former Trump Campaign Chairman deserves up to 24 1/2 years in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the first time, we learned that actually the Special Counsel's office on the record was investigating Roger Stone as part of this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah Sanders, interviewed by the Special Counsel, the president's press secretary sat down with Bob Mueller's team late last year.

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'd rather do it much faster.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only national crisis is that our president is an idiot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republican lawmakers have warned the president for weeks not to declare a national emergency if he felt he was out of options to get funding for the border wall.

(END VIDEO)

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN HOST: Good morning, everyone, I'm Kaylee Hartung in for Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to have you this Saturday. Our top story right now, police are saying the shooter who killed five people and at this manufacturing business in Illinois had just lost his job.

HARTUNG: After announcing a national emergency that he himself admitted he didn't need to do, legal challenges are already stacking up against the president this morning.

BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.

HARTUNG: And for the first time, prosecutors say they have evidence of Roger Stone talking to WikiLeaks about how hacked information could help Donald Trump win the presidency.

BLACKWELL: So yes, there is a lot going on this morning. We're covering all of it. We're starting with that shooting in Aurora, at least five people are dead, five police officers wounded after a man started shooting at that manufacturing business.

HARTUNG: And authorities say the suspect who was being let go by the company was killed in a gun battle with police. CNN National Correspondent Sara Sidner

has the latest.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have heard from the police department, the chief, talking about how this all went down when officers responded very quickly to what was an active shooter call. What we were today, the first couple of officers to go in were shot and 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 that it was pointing at people. As you can hear, throughout the night, this scene has been filled with different emergency vehicles, whether it be the paramedics, or the police. We've seen S.W.A.T. units come and gone. Certainly, police will be here for some time.

We also saw a chaplain here. All in all, this is a terrible day for those who live in the 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 on the streets. They say this has been a really, really rough day here in Aurora, Illinois.

BLACKWELL: Sara Sidner for us there. Sara, thank you so much.

HARTUNG: Now I want to bring in former police executive, Cedric Alexander. Cedric good morning.

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER POLICE CHIEF OF ROCHESTER: Good morning. HARTUNG: These incidences of gun violence all too familiar to us all.

This coming just one day after we remember the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, one year later. What stands out to you this morning about what we know to this point about what happened in Aurora?

ALEXANDER: Well, Aurora is another one of those situations we've all been watching across this country for years. It just seems to happen too often, too frequent and here we are again. But let me say this, in regards to those first responders that responded to that call, those police officers, and all of those first responders that move towards the danger, towards those gunshots, trying to make people secure to get inside, identify a target. And one thing that really stands out on me for this one, Kaylee and Victor, is that those officers entered into a 29,000 square foot plant in which they probably did not know the layout of. But they found their target. They identified their target. They neutralized the target, and they also took on gunfire where you have five police officers that were injured and unfortunately, and sadly, here we are again. We had five people who died, tragically who did not deserve to die, who was just there every day doing their jobs, supporting their families. We see this way too often in this country. We try to prepare for it as best as we can.

[06:05:00]

Throughout this nation, as you all well know, there's been a lot of training in workplace violence and how do we prepare ourselves for it. But unfortunately, we see this, and I think the most important thing that we have to keep in mind is keep our training in mind, what we're learning through our H.R. departments across this country, working closely with our law enforcement such as what you saw here.

BLACKWELL: Cedric, of course the question after any mass shooting like this is how do we prevent the next one? You talked a little bit what could happen inside a company about the H.R. element here.

ALEXANDER: Yes.

BLACKWELL: But from a law enforcement perspective, maybe even a legislative perspective, is there anything that could have changed this? I mean, this man walked in with a handgun, not a long gun. We don't know anything about his background that would have suggested he couldn't have gotten that legally through a background check. Do you see anything here that says "x" would prevent this from happening again?

ALEXANDER: Well, the hard part about this is that many times, and let's be perfectly honest, there's only a certain amount of prevention that we can do. We have a Constitutional right to carry firearms in this country, whether it's a long gun or whether it's a handgun and the greatest majority of people do the right things with their weapons but we're going to see these cases unfortunately where someone is going to go off the deep end because they lost their job or because they're mad with someone or they got a beef with the larger society. Whatever the case may be, but when these events do occur, we have to be able to respond fiercely. We have to be able to support each other, and we have to continue with the training, Victor and Kaylee, that here again we see take place at our work sites and our police departments -- our public safety, our police and fire, emergency management. They're well trained, and unfortunately, that training has to come into use at some point, but it could happen anywhere at anytime across the country.

BLACKWELL: All right, Cedric Alexander, thanks so much for being with us this morning as we try to understand...

ALEXANDEER: Thank you for having me.

BLACKWELL: ...certainly -- what happened there and how to prevent it again in the future. We'll talk more later this morning.

Well, President Trump admits just moments after declaring a national emergency, that he did not need to do it.

HARTUNG: And so this morning, as the president wakes up at his golf resort in Florida, lawsuits are already being filed to block his executive order. Let's get to CNN's White House Reporter Sarah Westwood in West Palm Beach, Florida. Good morning, Sarah.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Kaylee and Victor and President Trump recycling some misleading facts to make the case for his border wall even as - as you mentioned he undercut the leverage he thinks he might have in court by suggesting that this is not a national emergency at all; this is voluntary, something that he did not have to d but he chose to do after lawmakers did not even come close to giving him the $5.7 billion that he had requested in funding for his wall.

He was facing pressure from both sides of the aisle to sign a spending package that lawmakers in Congress - in conference put together for him. They provided $1.375 billion for his wall. That's far less even than half of what he had requested and the president was facing a conservative backlash for even considering signing that deal as many conservatives and some of his allies saw that as capitulation, as the president caving.

It was even less than the amount, by the way, that he could have gotten before the shutdown. And so the president despite expressing his dissatisfaction with that deal went ahead and signed it and coupled that with the national emergency declaration that could allow him to unlock as much as $6 billion in federal funds from the Treasury Department from forfeiture funds from the Pentagon from its Drug Interdiction Program and from military construction funds but the White House is prepared to face a number of legal challenges particularly from districts that are going to be affected by the construction of this wall so it could be a long time Kaylee and Victor, before the president is able to access those additional federal funds.

HARTUNG: A long time, no doubt. Sarah Westwood, thanks so much.

And breaking news this hour, the man who was once a power broker in the Catholic Church is now longer a priest. The Vatican has dismissed disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after a church trial found him guilty of sexually abusing minors for decades. McCarrick who once led the Archdiocese of Washington will not be able to appeal the decision.

BLACKWELL: Well still to come, a lifetime of spending his secret income has caught up to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Now special Council prosecutors say his penalty should be severe.

HURTUNG: Plus, special counsel prosecutors say they have evidence of Roger Stone communicating directly with WikiLeaks. Details from that court filing ahead.

BLACKWELL: And a new twist in the alleged attack on "Empire" star Jussie Smollett. Two brothers arrested in the case have been released and what police has learned is raising some new questions about this case.

[06:10:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Fourteen minutes after the hour now, special counsel prosecutors are not being lenient with former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. This is after a 26-page document revealed a lifetime of excessive spending and millions of dollars in secret income. Prosecutors say he deserves up to 24 1/2 years in prison for defrauding banks, the IRS and other federal authorities out of just pure greed. Manafort was convicted last August for bank fraud, tax fraud, other financial crimes relating to work he did for a Ukrainian politicians. He'll be sentenced next month.

HARTUNG: And meanwhile, Robert Mueller's special counsel team reveals in a court filing that prosecutors have evidence of Roger Stone's communication with WikiLeaks, relating to the release of those democratic e-mails that were hacked. The full extent of that communication has been not been revealed yet. CNN Corresponsdent Shimon Prokupecz has more details.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It was during his investigation of the Russian hacks, this is the Clinton e-mails and the Podesta e-mails that the government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release as well as to discuss timing for release as well as to discuss timing and promotion of their release.

This is what the special counsel's office said in their filing that they were able to learn that from these searches, several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Roger Stone's communications with Guccifer 2.0, which was a Russian intelligence agency and with Organization One, which is WikiLeaks.

Now, previously, prosecutors had only outlined how Stone attempted to get in touch with WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, through intermediaries and that Stone sought to learn about what the hackers had stolen from the Democratic Party and how he hoped for its release so it could help Donald Trump's campaign, prosecutors have said. Now, the new filing, provided no further details on what was contained

in the communications between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks. There is one known exchange of messages between WikiLeaks and Stone that was in February 2018. "The Atlantic" reported stolen exchange of direct messages via twitter with WikiLeaks account at which Stone was asked to stop associating himself with the site. Both WikiLeaks and Roger Stone have denied that they were in contact about the release of Clinton emails. And prosecutors have not yet explained in full the extent to which Stone actually reached out to WikiLeaks making it very much apparent that this court filing, that this part of the investigation may not be over. Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, Washington.

BLACKWELL: Shimon, thank you. Joining me now CNN Legal Analyst and Criminal Defense Attorney, Joey Jackson. Joey, good morning to you.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning, Victor.

BLACKWELL: So let's start here with Stone and then we'll get to Manafort. In the indictment filed last month against Roger Stone, the special prosecutor said that someone some senior official in the Trump campaign, was told to get in contact with Stone about the next e-mail dump. Now, we've learned that Mueller has it has evidence -- his team has evidence of stolen communications with Guccifer 2.0, which is essentially Russia, and WikiLeaks, right? Let's revisit the special counsel's mandate, let's put it up on the screen to investigate any links and or coordination between the Russian government and any individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump. Does this not meet the threshold?

JACKSON: It seems to me the threshold, Victor, and very directly. To be be clear with regard to the seven counts that Roger Stone is facing, even prior to this information establishing direct contact, that indictment is damning. You know, look, everyone is entitled to a fair trial. Everyone is entitled to presumption of innocence, but if you look at the indictment, again pre-today's discussion, it's horrific.

It's horrific as it relates to obstruction of justice. You testify before a committee, I don't have anything in my possession by way of e-mails, text messages. Guess what, they have the text messages and e- mails they talked to you about. You were asked questions with respect to whether you had contact; you say I had no contact. Now, we know you do have contact. You said you only contacted through intermediaries, they have the people and in fact you did not do so.

Multiple statements which they can prove based upon documentary and specific evidence that, of course, is the witness tampering charge. I don't see a way out and I know what people are talking about, oh process crimes, process crimes. Process crimes matter. When you lie to the FBI, it matters. When you tamper with witnesses, it matters. When you obstruct justice, it matters. I think Mr. Stone, notwithstanding his blustering and going on a media tour which he cannot do predicated on a gag order as of yesterday from Judge Jackson. I just don't see the viability of a defense here.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about this gag order, Judge Amy Burma Jackson said that Stone and any lawyers involved may not discuss any details publically, and this is a quote, "pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to the case." I mean it seems like a violation to that could be subjective. Why not a blanket gag order here leaving some room for Stone to talk about the case?

JACKSON: Well, you know, again that would be ideal, to the extent that you have a blanket order, but then you have issues as to whether it runs afoul to the Constitution. People have a right to speak. You have a right to express what you express. It's a fine line what you say being protected with the Constitution and what you say running afoul of an order. I think what the judge is doing is saying that we want a fair trial, but certainly you, Mr. Stone, need a fair trial and certainly the government in presenting its case is entitled to a fair trial as well.

To the extent that you make statements which might impair your ability to have that in any substantial way, you run afoul of it.

[06:20:00]

It's a lot like obscenity; maybe it's not quite defined but we'll know it when we see it and that judge will know it when she sees it and if there are any violations of that, he'll be held accountable.

BLACKWELL: All right, Mueller's office says that Paul Manafort now deserves 19 1/2 to 24 1/2 years in prison for his financial crimes and his age should not be considered to possibly get him a less severe sentence here. Based on your experience, what we learned about this judge in this Virginia case, Judge T.S. Ellis, do you expect that's the range in which he'll fall here - a life sentence essentially?

JACKSON: I do. And Victor, just be clear, I would never profess to speak for any judge, particularly not a federal judge...

BLACKWELL: Understood.

JACKSON: ... but here's the issue. The issue is not this is not the special prosecutor, to be very clear, trying to go hard on Manafort. Let me clarify what I'm saying, if you look at the sentencing memo they put forward. They take no position. What they're saying is under the federal sentencing guidelines, you have a level of offense and while it may get complicated. What happens is, you have a level of offense, in which case it's a 38. That's far down the scale. You have zone "a," zone "b," zone "c," this is a zone "d" offense.

And so if you look at the level of offense, just pure quantitative skills and you look at his criminal history, these are the amount of months he should spend in jail. The only way he gets out from under that is suggesting that he's entitled to some downward departure, meaning there's some mitigating factor for which he shouldn't be in that range.

The Department of Probation looks, they calculate, they do the math, they get their pencils out and that's where he falls. And so I think that unless he's able to establish that there's some mitigation, why should he fall elsewhere? This is a guy who took the government to task in Virginia; perhaps he should not have done so and perhaps should have advised accordingly. He went to trial and while there were hung counts, he got convicted of several of those. He has to be accountable. He's facing another of course, sentencing in D.C. for other crimes. And we know the crimes he was convicted of whether it's tax violations or hiding foreign money or bank accounts that essentially defrauding banks, these are serious offenses and under the law this is what he is really looking at and I don't see why the judge would move from that, absent some extenuating or mitigating factor.

Let's not forget, Victor...

BLACKWELL: Yes.

JACKSON: ... that's the same judge that said, "Look, you lied." He says he's not going to cooperate, he goes to trial, then I want to cooperate, you do cooperate, then you mislead the government. That's not really room for a judge saying, "You know what? I forgive you Sir, I understand your plight and as a result I'm going to go light on you."

BLACKWELL: Yes.

JACKSON: I see that he'll be within that range.

BLACKWELL: All right, Joey, we've got just a couple weeks to find out. Joey Jackson, thanks so much. Stay with us; we've got more to talk about.

HARTUNG: More than a couple weeks before the 2020 Presidential Election, but that's not stopping democratic presidential candidates from campaigning in full force today, so is former congressman Beto O'Rourke, although he says he still hasn't decided whether he plans to run.

BLACKWELL: Plus, Former Vice President Joe Biden is speaking at a high-profile security conference in Germany as he thinks about the presidential run.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:25:00]

HARTUNG: Welcome back to "New Day" this morning. I'm Kaylee Hartung in for Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to have you. Democrats are acting like it's a week before the election day this weekend. You got Kirsten Gillibrand. You've got Corey Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Pete Buttigieg. In New Hampshire, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren in South Carolina from where Warren heads to Georgia there and Amy Klobuchar is in Iowa.

HARTUNG: Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee's winter meetings are wrapping up this afternoon in Washington and with a historically large number of democrats planning to run for president, the DNC has already announced its format for the first two primary debates. Former Vice President Joe Biden who is also toying with the idea of running for president, he's in Munich right now and about to talk about America's role on a high stage at a very high-security conference.

BLACKWELL: Now if Biden does finally decide to run, it looks like he'd have the support of a lot of democratic voters. CNN polls show 62 percent of democratic and democratic-leading voters say Biden should run. Half of Americans say they would likely support him.

Beto O'Rourke is also on the fence on whether he should run for president. Today he's speaking to the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute Conference that's in Chicago. But the former Texas Congressman says he's still trying to figure out plans for 2020.

(BEGIN VIDEO) BETO O'ROURKE, FORMER DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN FROM TEXAS: I haven't made the decision with my family about what we're doing next, but definitely listening to people who are far smarter than I am, far more experienced than I am, to gain the benefit of their wisdom. and then make an informed decision about what is best for the country.

(END VIDEO)

BLACKWELL: O'Rourke has been, let's say, ramping up his public appearances recently. Earlier this week, he drew thousands of supporters to rally in El Paso. That was to protest President Trump's call for funding for a border wall.

HARTUNG: And joining me now, Daniel Lipmann, Reporter and Co-Author of POLITICO'S "Playbook." Daniel, let's start with Beto O'Rourke, OK? He became a celebrity of sorts during his run against Senator Ted Cruz last year. He appeals to young people and he has a blockbuster fund- raising ability. Now, he's saying, he'll decide by the end of the month.

[06:30:00]

If he does decide to run, I know this is not a new question, but what do you see his chance being? After all of this effort we've seen him put in?

DANIEL LIPPMAN, REPORTER & CO-AUTHOR OF PLAYBOOK, POLITICO: He'll definitely be in the top-tier candidates just because of his star quality, and the fact that he's a pretty good fighter. And he's going to point to his results in Texas where he came very close to beating someone Democrats despise, Senator Ted Cruz.

And saying that he can do the same with President Trump, and that he could beat the president. And he has long been talked about as the -- you know, future presidential candidate since his first term in office. And so, I think he has a very good ability to raise a ton of money, and he has that name ID that is crucial in the early stages of this primary. HARTUNG: You know, some of these candidates who have gotten their

names out there early, perhaps needing to do more work to familiarize themselves with voters, not among that crowd would be Joe Biden, if we can switch to him. You know what? As we've been saying, he's speaking at a Munich Security Conference very soon here today.

And whether it's deliberate or not, it's a good reminder of his foreign policy credentials and his experience in the top levels of politics, of course. Do you see this as being all about building that Biden brand before officially jumping into the race?

LIPPMAN: I think he's still debating whether to join this race because I think a lot of people around him, they thought he should have gone against Trump in 2016, they regret that decision. And they don't want to let that opportunity pass again.

This is Biden's last time to actually run for president. It seems because of his age, and he has the ability to be a consensus Democratic candidate. And he's a very good brawler. He -- even though, he is sometimes thin-skinned, he can really go against Trump in a way that would make it hard for Trump to attack him, because Biden would throw it back as best as he can.

And so -- and he has the ability to get work -- you know, blue collar workers to rally behind him because of his working class background.

HARTUNG: Yes, as you speak to so many of those strengths, a CNN poll shows that 62 percent say he should make a run for president and support for him higher among Democrats this year than it was back in 2015 when he mulled the 2016 run.

Given those strengths you just mentioned though and his favorability, are you concerned at all that he's running out of time?

LIPPMAN: It's so early that I think Joe Biden, because of his stature in the party, he has the ability to, you know, be patient, to think through all of this, his allies definitely want him to run. But this is just a question of him entering at the right time.

It would be very weird if he was the first candidate to announce. And remember, President Donald Trump, he only entered the race in June of that year. And so, if we were, you know, switching to this year, that would mean that Biden has another couple of months to enter the field.

HARTUNG: It is in fact only February of 2019. Thank you so much, Daniel, I appreciate it.

LIPPMAN: Thanks, Kaylee.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CO-HOST, NEW DAY SATURDAY: Senator Amy Klobuchar finishing up her first full week as a candidate for president. And Monday night, she joins New Hampshire voters to take the questions and talk about what's at stake for the country.

Don Lemon moderates a CNN presidential town hall, that's Monday at 10:00 Eastern right here on CNN. HARTUNG: And Chicago police have released two brothers from Nigeria,

just hours after investigators called them potential suspects in the attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett. So what changed, and how does this affect the investigation into what Smollett said was a hate crime.

[06:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARTUNG: A concerning situation developing in Haiti as 24 Canadian missionaries and more than 100 tourists are stranded there. They're being evacuated after several days of violent anti-government protests. A private helicopter is scheduled to take the missionaries to safety sometime today while a Canadian airline is arranging flights home for the tourists.

Protesters are demanding that the Haitian president resign over soaring inflation, fuel price hikes and accusations of corruption. CNN's Zain Asher has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAIN ASHER, CNN (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: I'm in this situation because of the Haitian president. I can't go to school, he is a thief, he must go, if not, we'll burn down this whole country.

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

ASHER: 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.

[06:40:00] And advising U.S. citizens not to travel to Haiti due to crime and civil unrest, citing widespread violence and unpredictable demonstrations. Meanwhile, humanitarian aid agencies are evacuating some staff who have been working to provide relief for the impoverished nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My work has basically ground to a halt. Public transport has been more or less non-existent, and it's unsafe to go out in cars, because you don't know where road blocks will be and more demonstrations. ASHER: Haiti remains one of the poorest countries in the western

hemisphere. And 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 the state of disarray.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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: Besides skyrocketing inflation, reports of a long-running corruption scandal are also fuelling unrest. Billions of dollars ear- marked for social development in Haiti allegedly went missing. Sparking anger among citizens with little left to lose. Zain Asher, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: Our thanks to Zain Asher for that report. New this morning, Chicago police have released two brothers, they've released them now, two brothers from Nigeria who were arrested earlier this week in the alleged attack on "Empire" star Jussie Smollett.

Now, the men were released last night without charges after investigators say they learned of new evidence during interrogations. They're not saying what the evidence is. But a source tells CNN that Smollett and the brothers had some kind of previous affiliation.

Smollett says last month, two attackers hurled racial and homophobic spurs at him, put a robe around his neck and poured some kind of chemical on him, the latest development in the case have raised obviously new questions about this story.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. Joey, so, what do the releases -- I mean, these men went from persons of interest to potential suspects, to being released without charges, all within a matter of hours. What does this tell you about this case?

JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, first, Victor, let's credit the Police Department with obviously taking this seriously with un-turning every stone they possibly can do, and find and of course, getting these brothers from the airport, they're saying on a flight back from Nigeria, and really taking this to where it has to go.

Hate crimes obviously have no place in this society, in the event that that's what happened. The persons or you know, whoever did it should be brought to justice. Now, with regards to what's happening here, it is very bizarre, and it's bizarre in as much as they're attempting to locate who specifically could have done this, and it seems as though they're running into dead ends.

They're running into dead ends, just as much as persons of interest. Let's talk about what that is, person of interest, you look and potentially, these are people who could have some involvement, you just don't know. Suspect the person you believe to have involvement.

A person who's released now, you know had no involvement at all, or at least not of a criminal variety. And so it is perplexing with regard to the police attempting to determine what happened, how it happened, when it happened, and it doesn't appear to this point to check out and that's fueling, of course, speculation --

BLACKWELL: Yes --

JACKSON: That it may not be so.

BLACKWELL: Quickly, Joey, he suggested -- Smollett suggested during his interview with "Abc News" that, his attackers were not black. He said that, "if I had said that it was Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, the doubters would have supported me." I mean, these two men are from Nigeria, I wonder what these inconsistencies mean for an investigation?

JACKSON: I think there are a number of questions. Police, of course, are saying, look, you didn't turn over your phone records when we needed them, and obviously that presents a question. He ultimately does turn them over, but they say that they're too heavily redacted to be favorable.

He suggests that he was on the phone with his campaign -- excuse me, his manager, at the time of the attack, that raises questions as to how convenient. And so again, I mean, you know, they do the search warrant at the time, he apparently at the time, that is Smollett, when he's seen, he still has the rope, he has the bleach.

They did get bleach from the house, but now they know that all these parties are known to each other, apparently the people from Nigeria are friends with him and may have been extras on set. And so, again, the police are doing their work, I they're doing it diligently, but to this point, it does not appear that they have a specific suspect who they could say actually did this crime if in fact the crime occurred.

BLACKWELL: All right, Joey Jackson, thanks so much.

JACKSON: Thank you, Victor.

HARTUNG: Now, more than three weeks after the end of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the aviation industry has still not fully recovered. Coming up, why one insider says Congress needs to act to prevent lasting damage to America's travel industry.

[06:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARTUNG: Well, a growing list of challengers is lining up to stop President Trump from implementing his declaration of a national emergency at the southern border. But by first signing a bipartisan border security bill, he averted a second government shutdown.

And that should come as some relief to millions of government employees and federal contractors, but the pain of the longest government shutdown in history lingers. Joining me now, Sarah Nelson; she's the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants. Sarah, is this not good news? SARA NELSON, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT

ATTENDANTS: Well, this is great news that the shutdown and the uncertainty of the shutdown has ended. But there are people who have been left behind here, and there are people who are trying to pick up their lives after all the pain that, that cost during the 35 days of not being paid. The federal contractors are looking at not getting back pay, that was not included in this deal.

[06:50:00] So people have harm to their credit, they're trying to pick up their lives again, they don't even -- the federal workers who are due the back pay have not even received all of that yet. This should have been avoided. This put our safety and security, our lives in danger, it put 11 million workers who work in aviation in danger and our communities, so on and so forth. Because the trickle-down effect is extraordinary.

HARTUNG: Yes, you wrote this week in "USA Today" that the industry still has not recovered. I want to read from your article where you say, "the unprecedented 35-day shutdown and the continued uncertainty of the last three weeks put the lives and livelihoods of flight attendants, pilots and our passengers at risk.

The systems that keep our aviation system safe and secure were stretched to a breaking point and can now just begin to recover. What are the problems you still see faced by the industry beyond just those at home. The ones that make flying for all of us less safe now, are you saying?

NELSON: Well, look, this government shutdown shows us that federal workers are not nameless, faceless bureaucrats. They're traffic controllers, they're transportation, security officers, they're FBI agents, they're food inspectors. And these people were put in the cross-hairs of a political battle that they should not have been.

And the ones who were deemed essential to be on the front lines like air traffic controllers and like our transportation security officers did not have the support of the other people who were deemed non- essential in this process. And so, programs that continue to update our safety and security systems, all of those were stopped.

And now we have to assess the damage and get them back up and running again. Take for example, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 that was overwhelmingly voted into place and signed into law in October. Those programs that were determined essential to continue to improve on the safest transportation system in the world have not been implemented.

Things like for flight attendants, the rest that we need to avoid fatigue. So these are issues that need to be implemented right away, and the shutdown stopped all of that effort. So, we are really concerned about where we are today, how people were stretched to a breaking point.

They need to -- we need to get our arms around them, we need to make sure that we're passing legislation that this never happens again.

HARTUNG: And flight attendants, of course, not federal workers, but as you say, the aviation industry can't operate without those federal workers. All of you working in concert, so what will you all do to continue that fight to ensure that this doesn't happen again?

NELSON: Well, look, we're going to be out demonstrating at three airports today. We scaled back plans to be at airports all across the country. But we're going to continue to say that there needs to be action taken right away. There are bills already moving in Congress, and some that are -- we expect to be introduced within the next week, that will make sure that these lock-outs of workers never happen again, that we never put lives in danger, that we never put our safety and security in danger in this country.

And so, we're going to be asking for that to be done. But we're also going to say that we need a government that works. And we need to be implementing the programs that have already been approved. And we need to make sure that the people, the over a million people who support our federal workers are in low-wage jobs, working in the cafeterias, for example, in some of these agencies.

These people went without work and without pay all this time. They didn't ask for this, they were thrown in the middle of it, and we should take care of them as well. Their families are hurting, and this was just wrong. This was immoral for America.

So we're going to continue to press to make sure that those people are taken care of, that we've got legislation in place to make sure that this never happens again, and that we get to work to implement the important programs in aviation that keep all of us safe, including a task force to address sexual harassment and sexual assault on planes.

HARTUNG: Sara Nelson, thanks for your time and thanks for all that you're doing in an effort to keep all of us who fly safe.

NELSON: We want you to fly with us and we want you to be safe every time, thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: El Nino is back, Allison Chinchar is at the CNN Weather Center. Allison?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, METEOROLOGIST: It's not really -- I was going to say, it's not really a term people really know a lot about, but the one general consensus is, people want to know what is this weather pattern going to do for the area I live in. We'll break it down region by region coming up.

[06:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: NOAA forecasters say El Nino is back and it could make for at least a rough couple of months.

HARTUNG: Yes, CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar joins us now. Allison, what does this mean?

CHINCHAR: Right, yes, so El Nino itself is actually just a warming portion of the Pacific Ocean, right, near or along the equator. The thing is, we look at this to see what effects it will have on weather patterns in the U.S.

Typically speaking, this gives us amplified storm tracks and for the southern half of the country, you end up getting a wetter-than-normal season, and that's what we expect over the next couple of months. The problem with that is, this is an area of the country that absolutely does not need to have any more rain back in the forecast.

Look at a lot of these cities, Atlanta averaging 8 inches above for the Winter season. Tallahassee is already 9 inches above average for the Winter season. And really much of the southeastern general, when you look at the short-term forecast, we have a lot of rain that's going to be pushed back into this area, widespread amounts of about 4 to 6 inches.

So this region doesn't need any more rain. And surprisingly, neither does California. When you look at this same time last year, 95 -- or a couple of years ago, 95 percent of the state was in a drought. That was the last time we had our big El Nino.

This year, only 11 percent of the state is under drought, so we really just don't need all of that excess moisture pushing into California. Same thing with the snow pack. This time at the start of the year, we were only dealing with about 60 percent of our snow pack, right now, guys, we're over 130 percent.

We have an excess of snow pack for the first time in a few years, and it's a nice thing to have.