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CNN Police Sources: Evidence Suggests Smollett Orchestrated Attack; Heather Nauert Withdraws U.N. Ambassador Bid Over Nanny Controversy; Democratic Presidential Contenders Campaigning Like It's 2020; More Than 1,000 ISIS Fighters Likely Fled Syria in Last 6 Months; Canadian Tourists Evacuated from Haiti Amid Protests, Riots; Crisis in Venezuela: U.S. Aid Lands in Colombia to Deliver Supplies for Thousands. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired February 17, 2019 - 07:00   ET



[07:00:09] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A dramatic twist in the story surrounding "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chicago police believe he paid two men to plan this assault.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would expect the judge to take this very seriously and for law enforcement to take it very seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert has now dropped out of the running to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States is asking Britain and France and other allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria. The alternative is not a good one.



KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN ANCHOR: It's 7:00 a.m. in the East. Good morning, everyone, on this Sunday. I'm Kaylee Hartung, in for Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Happy NEW DAY to you. It's Sunday, February 17th. There's a lot going on.

We're going to start with police sources telling CNN, new evidence suggests that actor Jussie Smollett may have paid two men to orchestrate an assault against him in Chicago.

HARTUNG: President Trump's pick for U.S. ambassador bows out. Former Fox anchor-turned-State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert withdraws as details emerge that her nanny is working illegally in the U.S.

BLACKWELL: And the president's ultimatum to European allies, take more than 800 ISIS captives and put them on trial or the U.S. will be forced to release them.

HARTUNG: And we begin with developments out of Chicago and the alleged attack on actor Jussie Smollett.

BLACKWELL: And CNN police sources are providing new details about the investigation this morning. Watch.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): Two law enforcement forces with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN that Chicago police believe actor Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate an assault on him that he reported late last month and allegations Smollett denies. The men who are brothers were arrested Wednesday but released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of new evidence. The sources told CNN that the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.

GLORIA SCHMIDT, ATTORNEY: Innocence prevails, right? My guys are walking home and they are not charged and they are not suspects in this case.

BLACKWELL: Smollett told authorities he was attacked in late January by two men who were yelling out racial and homophobic slurs. He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured unknown chemicals substance on him.

JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR: I noticed a rope around my neck and I started screaming, and I said there's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) rope around my neck.

BLACKWELL: The sources told CNN, there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett's neck at a hardware store in Chicago.

In statement to CNN, Smollett's attorneys wrote, quote: As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent r reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.

Smollett claims his attackers referenced President Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.

SMOLLETT: I see the attacker masked and he said, this MAGA country (EXPLETIVE DELETED) punches me in the face. So I punched him right back and we started tussling. It was very icy.

BLACKWELL: But he refutes reports that he told police the attackers wore MAGA hats.

SMOLLETT: I didn't need to add anything like that. They called me a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). They called me a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). There is no which way you cut it. I don't need some MAGA hat as a cherry on top of some racist Sunday.

BLACKWELL: And during the same ABC News interview, he expressed frustration of not being believed.

SMOLLETT: It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more, a lot more. And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now.


BLACKWELL: Let's talk about this. With us, criminal attorney and anchor of Court TV, Yodit Tewolde. And Brian Stelter, CNN chief media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Welcome back to both of you.


BLACKWELL: Yodit, let me start with you, if this is true that Jussie Smollett orchestrated this, that he paid these men, how much legal trouble is he in?

YODIT TEWOLDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: OK. Victor, let me first just say when this story first broke, many people, including myself, believed that Jussie was assaulted for being black and gay because of violence against queer and trans people of color occurs at alarming rates, not to mention there's been a steady uptick in the number of hate crimes being reported in 2016 with black people accounting for nearly half of the hate crime victims.

[07:05:00] So, these new developments don't change those facts. But if this was, indeed, orchestrated by Jussie Smollett, then not only has he made it that much harder for victims of hate crime but he is also in legal trouble because it is a crime for someone to file a false police report, meaning that person knew that no crime was committed when making that report and that carries some serious jail time. So, people lie all the time to authorities without any consequences.

So if this was orchestrated by him, I do believe that prosecutors will pursue Jussie Smollett because they want to use him as an example to send a very strong message that lying to authorities carries a serious, serious penalty and can't be taking it lightly.

BLACKWELL: I appreciate you very clear, offering those statistics that the increase of violence against the LGBTQ people of color in this country is up and do not use this, if it is, indeed, a hoax, to dismiss those allegations of people who are actually being the victims of those attacks.

Brian, let me come to you and what you're hearing professional on the side of Jussie Smollett and Fox. A couple of days ago, mid-day last week, they came out with a statement saying no way we were going to drop him from this show. Any report suggesting that is false? Are they saying anything now? STELTER: No. Nothing since the new reports about the police

believing that he orchestrated this plot, nothing news from Fox, the studio that employs him. Look, he is a beloved cast member on "Empire". A lot of viewers loved him. There was an initial rallying around him when the report came out about the alleged assault because it was so disturbing, the description that he provided to police was so disturbing.

But there was also a rush to judgment, Victor, by political activists, by some Democratic politicians, by others who describe as a modern day lynching, et cetera.


STELTER: I absolutely understand the impulse to want to support your colleague or want to support a celebrity who says they have been assaulted in a disturbing way, but it does seem there was a rush to judgment by some people in this case. And now, frankly, the ball is in his court and we don't know what Jussie Smollett is going to do or say next.


STELTER: Chicago PD told me overnight, quote. We reached out to Mr. Smollett after receiving information from the two men brought in for questioning. Quote, we need to speak to him now and corroborate that information now and ask him additional questions.


STELTER: We'll likely to them actually responding, I don't know. He has hired a number of lawyers. It would seem unlikely that he's going to walk right back to the police department and talk to them more now.


STELTER: But the police are being very clear, they need to special with him as soon as possible.

BLACKWELL: Let me get your deep back on that angle, getting him back in front of police, as a criminal defense attorney, if, again, this is all the possibility that he orchestrated this, would you put him back in front of police?

TEWOLDE: Not without attorney being present, not at all. I don't even know when he might have employed these attorneys, given the fact that he gave his "GMA" interview. I would look toy this he if, me, personally, would have convinced him not to do it because I think he made the case that much more stronger for him, in terms of, you know, pleading to the public and believing him.

But he's going to have to speak to law enforcement now, given the fact they said this investigation has taken a different turn after interrogating these two individuals who might have been involved. He's got a lot of questions to answer but he can certainly not do that without an attorney present and it doesn't mean that -- it doesn't point to guilt. He is preparing himself because, of course, the court of public opinion has a lot to do with police and how this investigation should go.

So, he is lawyering up. He is being smart. And so, I wouldn't let him talk to law enforcement without an attorney present, no.

BLACKWELL: All right. Yodit Tewolde, Brian Stelter, thank you both.

STELTER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Be sure to catch Brian Stelter later this morning on "RELIABLE SOURCES" at 11:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

When we come back, now hiring. The former Fox News anchor, turned State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, is forced to end her bid to become U.S. ambassador.

HARTUNG: Plus, President Trump tells Europe to put more than 800 ISIS prisoners on trial. Otherwise, he is going to let them loose.

BLACKWELL: Also, a dire situation in Haiti's main hospital, during those violent protests. There's a shortage of medicine and a lot of doctors and patients have left. A CNN report, ahead.


[07:13:28] HARTUNG: State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert is ending her bid for U.N. ambassador. Sources tell CNN Nauert hired a nanny who is not legally allowed to work in the U.S. and was not paying taxes. Officials say the nanny has paid the taxes she owed back.

CNN national correspondent Kristen Holmes joins us from West Palm Beach.

Good morning, Kristen. How did we get here?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kaylee. Well, this is a bit of a mess and I am going to walk you through it.

Now back in December, President Trump announced he was going to nominate the spokesperson for the State Department, Heather Nauert, to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to replace Nikki Haley. Now, this nomination was never sent to the Senate which raised some eyebrows but others thought it might be a bureaucratic hang-up. This is, in fact, obviously, Washington.

Now, that was until last night when Nauert withdrew herself from consideration and pull up a statement here issued by the State Department on Nauert's behalf. And she says the past two months have been grueling for family and therefore, it's the best interest for my family that I withdraw my name from consideration.

And, of course, now we have learned about this nanny who was legally in the United States but not legally allowed to work in the United States and not getting taxes while she was employed -- not paying taxes, excuse me, while she was employed by Nauert, even though the back taxes have been paid. About the last week, it became apparent this was going to be a problem for Nauert. While she was at the State Department, they did not know about this, but she did, in fact, disclose this information through this process.

[07:15:04] And you asked how we got here. Well, big question is how did it get this far? And we have learned that President Trump did not consult his White House team before making this announcement that he had not been -- Nauert had not been formally vetted by the time he made this announcement. So that is how that ended up happening to quickly.

And what is next for her, sources say she will not be returning to her post at the state department.

HARTUNG: Kristen, thanks so much.

We hear from President Trump began discussing with advisers last night who would fill this U.N. role now.

Joining me now is CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, Errol Louis.

Errol, good morning.


HARTUNG: So, this case is just the latest in this story of the Trump presidency of a revolving door in his administration. We now know six positions in his cabinet that are unstaffed or filled with an acting head. I'm curious, from your perspective, how difficult does this bigger staffing problem make governing for this administration?

LOUIS: It makes it tremendously difficult. You often hear president talk about it. It's a two or three stage problem.

The administration never really got off to a good start. You may remember that they got rid of the personnel operation that Chris Christie had put together right at the start of the administration and never really recovered. Out of 700 odd positions that require Senate approval, 270, as of last month, were still unfilled.

You got to find the people. You got to vet the people. It is a tremendous undertaking. This White House, I think, didn't really understand how difficult it would be to sort of take people through all of those background vetting issues before you put the names forward.

And then all the way at the top to make the problems even worse, there are about ten cabinet level folks who have left and I don't know if I'd call it a revolving door. I think I'd call it a rush for the exits, you know? When you got nobody at the top, you got people in an acting capacity, you can't set policy, you're not really taking it seriously by the mid and lower levels of the bureaucracy. Members of Congress can't make lasting deals with you. It really does undermine the administration in a fundamental way. HARTUNG: President Trump has tried to put a positive spin on this

saying these acting heads give him flexibility.

But in terms of this U.N. vacancy in particular, nearly six months ago that Nikki Haley left that post and Mike Pompeo take the lead at the U.N. Security Council meeting last month in Venezuela. What impression does this situation now at the U.N. give off to our allies and partners there?

LOUIS: Well, it's a little bit more difficult, I think, than -- look. Let's be clear. Heather Nauert might have done a fine job. She didn't have the same diplomatic or political or academic experience than that of her most illustrious predecessors but she might have grown into the job. She might have figured it out.

Without her there, though, you have to wonder what the White House is going to do, what path do they want to take. This is somebody who has to think on their feet and somebody has to deal with very, very sharp and aggressive adversaries. People from adversarial nations who in many cases have longstanding deep, rich experience.

So, whoever is going to sit there and defend America's interests in the U.N. day after day, is going to have to be somebody who really has got a lot of talent or a pedigree, some experience they can fall back on. So, we'll see which way the White House goes. I don't think hiring one of his buddies out of Mar-a-Lago is the way to go but this White House has surprised us time and again.

HARTUNG: When you speak about defending America on the world stage, yesterday, we saw Joe Biden doing just that. He was in Munich for the security conference and he didn't mention Trump by name, but he made it clear that he doesn't agree with the way he is governing. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I promise you, I promise you, as my mother would say, this too shall pass. We will be back. We will be back. Don't have any doubt about that.


HARTUNG: I don't think Joe Biden is throwing his name in the hat for U.N. ambassador, but what sort of statement did you see him making there?

LOUIS: Well, look, Joe Biden has been contemplating whether or not to make what I guess would be his third run for president. Every indication is that he is getting the bug just like many other Democrats, that he's got the experience, he's got a lot of attention, he's got a lot of people I'm sure willing to write checks for him and at least get him off the ground.

[07:20:04] I'd be very surprised if he doesn't run at this point. And what you just showed is one of the indications that this is somebody who really, really wants to be back in the limelight. HARTUNG: And he had the light shining very bright on him in Munich

yesterday. Errol Louis, we really appreciate your time.

LOUIS: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: This morning, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will start look being for funding sources for President Trump's border wall. You remember, the last week, the president declared a national emergency. The administration said a total of $6.1 billion will be diverted from the military to pay for the wall.

Shanahan will have the final say on how much will be taken from which programs but a military official says he is likely to approve the $3.6 billion from construction projects.

Today on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper, Senator Sherrod Brown and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff both weigh in on the president's national emergency declaration. That's "STATE OF THE UNION", 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

And up next, here on NEW DAY, Senator Bernie Sanders has reportedly recorded a video saying he will launch another presidential run in some form. We'll delve into that when we come back.


[07:25:25] HARTUNG: Welcome back on this Sunday morning. I'm Kaylee Hartung, in for Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

HARTUNG: We are calling this next story, Mike Pence's awkward pregnant pause.

BLACKWELL: Pregnant with twins. The scene is set standing at a podium in a room full of U.S. allies, again, U.S. allies. The vice president announces a warm greeting from his boss. Watch this reaction.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America president Donald Trump.

Last August --


HARTUNG: So there you have it. Five-second pause for applause that just never happened. Clearly not what he expected in that crowd.


BLACKWELL: So, Democratic presidential candidates are hitting it hard again today. HARTUNG: Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren,

they're all over the map, talking to potential voters, and here is what they are saying.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I am a big believer you cannot campaign wrong and think you're going to governor right. I will not take PAC money in this. I will not take federal lobbyist money. I will not take pharma executive money.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The minimum wage was set to support a family of three. Today, a minimum wage, full-time job in America, will not keep a mama and a baby out of poverty, and that's why I'm in this fight.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: We don't have gun reform in this country because of NRA. It's not about the Second Amendment or guns (ph) rights. Let me be very clear, it's about gun manufacturers that fun the NRA that want to sell more weapons.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: When you look at the national emergency in the past, it has been for actual national emergencies. It's been for things like hurricanes and firefighters and earthquakes and things like that.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: When we are looking at an administration that has a policy of taking babies from their fathers and mothers at the border, that is not about border security. That is a human rights violation.


HARTUNG: It's being record that Senator Bernie Sanders has recorded a video saying he is going to launch another presidential run in some form.

"Politico" reports that he will say he is running but it's going to be a full -- but isn't going to be a full candidacy or just an exploratory committee?

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining me now, Peter Beinart, CNN political commentator and contributing editor at "The Atlantic".

Peter, welcome back.


BLACKWELL: So, let's start here with Senator Sanders in this recording that is he reportedly getting into the race. In 2016, he had, let's call it, the progressive lane pretty much to himself and he was calling for Medicare-for-All, Secretary Clinton saying it's never, ever going to happen. That lane is pretty crowded this time around.

Can he come in and dominate that lane again? BEINART: I think it's going to be hard. He does have a huge network

of people from his last presidential campaign which gives him something of an advantage. The challenge, as you said, though, in some ways he is a victim of his own success which many of the agenda items he put forward back in 2016 were considered radical then, free college, $15 minimum wage and Medicare-for-All, for instance, are now being embraced by all of the Democratic candidates and some of those candidates might have certain advantages that he doesn't have, for instance, more appeal to African-Americans, for instance.

I think he is going to have to find new ways of distinguishing himself. I would look at foreign policy. Foreign policy may be the clearest area where I think you'll see him running significantly left of the other candidates.

BLACKWELL: OK. So, speaking of lanes and, you know, kind of pulling yourself apart from the field, let's talk about former Vice President Joe Biden. He was at the Munich security conference yesterday talking about America's role in the world.

He may have this party elder kind of role lane to himself but how long can he stay on the sideline? It's a question that comes up almost daily now, considering that the other candidates are getting in and he won't be the last to get in, but when does he have to make the call?

BEINART: I'm not sure in Joe Biden's issue is which exact week he enters the race. I think Joe Biden's challenge is, Democratic Party has changed really dramatically in a fairly short period of time.

[07:30:04] And Joe Biden has a very, very long track record at a time when you could be a Democrat and take positions that are now really anathema. So, if you go back an look at Joe Biden's records on deregulating Wall Street or his treatment of Anita Hill, or his views on abortion, a whole series of issues, those were more mainstream in the Democratic Party now but they're really hard to defend today, his support for the Iraq war.

I'm just not sure how much tolerance there is going to be in today's Democratic Party for some of the positions that Joe Biden took in the past.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: So, you believe that these polls that show him far ahead in primary choices is name recognition. He is not now having to defend his positions over the last 30, 40 years?

BEINART: Yes. I think so. I think it's mostly name recognition. Joe Biden might have certain strengths as a general election candidate, but you have to remember, Iowa -- the Iowa caucus is dominated by Democratic activists. The Democratic Party activist base which plays a disproportionate role in nominating candidates has been moving in a very progressive direction and I think it's going to be challenging for Joe Biden.

He is going to have to frankly spend a fair amount of time explaining and even apologizing for previous positions he took and that's never a good position as a politician. BLACKWELL: Let's talk about the progressive direction. Yesterday,

President Trump tweeted out a video, a clip of his State of the Union Address, including his line with America never be a socialist nation and kind of pointing out some of the Democrats who were there who were in Congress, and previewing what could be his argument going into 2020, right? I mean, going against raising taxes on the super wealthy, against Medicaid for all.

But if you look at the popularity of some of these programs, Medicaid for all, according to recent polls support that and 70 percent support earning taxes above $10 million. Did this first swath work and is this a good position potentially for the president?

BEINART: Look, I'm not a fan of Donald Trump in any way, shape, or form but I think this is a shrewd move for him. There are a lot of Republicans are somewhat uncomfortable with Donald Trump. So, Donald Trump is not going to win this re-election if the campaign is simply a referendum on him. He has to make it a contrast. He has to basically say to a whole bunch of Republicans and independents, look, you may not like the style I've done but these Democrats are really crazy now, really threatening, even more threatening than I am.

And I think socialism and opposition of socialism is something that will unite Republicans, even some of those who are concerned about Donald Trump. The policies, yes, if you look at the specific policies, they generally poll pretty well but socialism, you notice particularly they are continuing it tie it to Venezuela. Bernie Sanders when he talks about socialism, he talks about Norway and Denmark, but talking Venezuela is a way of making more frightening, suggesting to Americans that somehow this would not be America as we know it any more.

And given that Donald Trump is in a relative weak position, I think this is a good play for him to make.

BLACKWELL: In the same vein, the Green New Deal which was released a couple of weeks ago, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was out this weekend with her inaugural address defending the Green New Deal. Do you think that's a net positive or net negative for some, not all, but some of the Democratic primary candidates who have endorsed it?

BEINART: I think it's important to understand that people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are playing a longer game here. They're trying to fundamentally shift the terms of American political debate and move them substantially to the left, kind of in the way that Ronald Reagan was able to move the entire of political framework to the right.

Do they think they will accomplish everything in the Green New Deal? Probably not. There is some political danger in the short term I think for Democrats that these proposals seem too radical and utopian and even threatening to ordinary people. But what Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez are trying to do is to shift the entire structure of the debate, to make thinkable policies that in the past, say, in the Clinton and Obama era could not even be discussed. BLACKWELL: One more here before we let you. Former Maryland

Congressman John Delaney, I guess he's been running a year and a half now for the nomination, got in in July of 2017, he was asked here on CNN last night if it's a disadvantage in this party, this cycle to be running as a white man. Here is his response.


JOHN DELANEY (D-MD), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't have any advantage running for president as a white man which I would have across history, right? So the way I look at it right now, I think the Democratic Party voters are going to elect the person they think is the best leader and they are not thinking about this other stuff.


BLACKWELL: Two questions. What do you think about his answer? And do you think he has an advantage or disadvantage as a white male?

[07:35:05] BEINART: I think his answer is really naive. The truth is that race still plays -- and gender both play huge impacts on the way the candidates are evaluated. Look at Cory Booker, for instance, who has this kind of very loving, kind of Mr. Nice Guy persona.

Cory Booker partly understands as an African-American candidate, it's much harder to express the kind of political anger that white candidates are allowed to express because white voters would react much more negatively to that. That's something that Barack Obama had to deal with as well. Race colors the way candidates are perceived in profound ways even if Americans are not honest about those things.

So, I think John Delaney is just wrong here.

BLACKWELL: All right. Peter Beinart, good to have you.

BEINART: Thank you.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN ANCHOR: And a reminder, tomorrow night, Don Lemon moderates a CNN presidential town hall in New Hampshire with 2020 presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar. She will answer voters' questions and discuss what's at stake for the country's future. That's Monday night at 10:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Ahead, breaking news. We have just learned that more than 1,000 ISIS fighters likely fled Syria in the last six months. We will tell you more about this live from Syria, next.


[07:40:35] BLACKWELL: Breaking news in the fight against ISIS. More than 1,000 ISIS fighters have likely fled Syria into the remote mountains and deserts of Western Iraq in the last six months and they may have taken up to $200 million in cash with them.

HARTUNG: CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live from Eastern Syria with us. Ben, what do you know about this breaking news?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this doesn't really come as a surprise, because we have known that as the campaign has continued against ISIS, not only in Iraq as well as here in Syria, that ISIS fighters oftentimes are able to escape from advancing forces. They sometimes mix in with the local population. And in the case of Syria, they can go to the mountains and deserts of Iraq which the Iraqi army and other forces simply aren't capable of completely keeping an eye on many of their troops or, for instance, pin down in places like Tikrit and Mosul where they require a large military presence.

And really, more than a thousand, contrast with what we heard from Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, who said that somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 ISIS fighters are on the loose and the evidence of their presence is very clear in many places. In fact, for instance, yesterday at 10:00 a.m., not far from where I'm standing, there was an attack by an ISIS sleeper cell on a four-wheel vehicle belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces that resulted in the death of two SDF soldiers.

So, there are ISIS sleeper sells working throughout this area as well as many parts of Iraq and, therefore, it comes as no surprise whatsoever there are more a thousand ISIS fighters who have fled Syria into the mountains and deserts of Iraq. In fact, the only surprise is there are so few -- Victor, Kaylee.

HARTUNG: Ben Wedeman, thank you so much for giving us some context and perspective on the ground in Eastern Syria for us.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, the crisis in Haiti is hitting hospitals hard. Medicine is scarce and a lot of the patients and doctors have left. Look at this.

CNN goes inside the capital's main hospital to find the junior level practitioners now just trying to keep the patients alive.


[07:47:22] HARTUNG: New video in overnight of Canadian tourists reuniting with their families after evacuated from Haiti in the midst of these violent protesters. A hundred and thirteen people were lifted by helicopter to Port-au-Prince airport and then flown to Canada where the emotional reunions took place.

BLACKWELL: The flights were coordinated with the help of the Canadian government to advice citizens to avoid all travel to Haiti. The U.S. State Department also warned Americans to defer any trips to the country. For more than a week now, violent protesters and riots have rocked Haiti's capital over the shortage of basic supplies like food, water, and fuel. The impact at the hospitals is dire. Medicine is scarce there.

HARTUNG: CNN correspondent Sam Kiley spoke to two doctors inside Haiti's main hospital who are struggling to care for the remaining patients.


SAM KILEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the road to the capital's biggest hospital. More than a week of rioting has left it desolate. Its grounds are home to livestock and protesters mark the second anniversary of Jovenel Moise's presidency and demands across Haiti that he step down.

Cadet Joseph tells me most of the patients, hundreds of them, have fled. It's easy to see why.

(on camera): This is your intensive care unit?


KILEY: You really have nothing.

JOSEPH: Nothing.

KILEY: There is no machinery, there is no -- one oxygen tent?

(voice-over): The doctor tells meal the hospital was crippled by shortages before the riot and now it's short of patients also.

This is the state university hospital of Haiti and it's been cut off from the city by riots. There is no food here or water. No medicines either.

This is Elam (ph), he was getting drugs and now just stuck here, the doctor says. Next to him is (INAUDIBLE). Her catheter drains into a water bowl.

DR. WISLET ANDRE, STATE UNIVERSITY OF HAITI HOSPITAL: We have blanket. We don't have drugs because all the area is blocked. This is why we exist, and it's the reason why you exist that you can do what you have to do. It's like you doesn't exist.

KILEY: And when already poor people believe their very existence is doubted by their leaders, they're likely to try and prove otherwise.

Sam Kiley, CNN, in Port-au-Prince.


HARTUNG: From the crisis in Haiti to the one in Venezuela, a second wave of aid arrived at the Colombian/Venezuela border this weekend.

[07:50:03] Supplies included food and hygiene kits that can help about 25,000 people.

BLACKWELL: People have been struggling for basic necessities during these shortages of food, fuel, medicine there as well.

CNN correspondent Nick Valencia is in Colombia with more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These supplies here are part of the U.S.-led humanitarian mission to help those affected by the crisis in Venezuela. These items, for the most part, arrived February 8th and are still sitting here on the border of Venezuela prepositioned in Colombia. Nicolas Maduro is not allowing them in. Not allowing his people to get help.

The U.S. is still forging on. And on Saturday, three more C-17s carrying basic goods, commodities that could feed up to 3,500 children and 25,000 adults arrived on the border here. Things like rice, steams, basic goods you can find in an everyday supermarket, but not right now in the current conditions of Venezuela.

These are high energy biscuits also intended to help the children. We're hearing terrible reports of children starving in the country. Sanitary napkins, things like that, hygiene kits to help those currently suffering.

This aid has been called politicized by the Maduro regime. His deputy going so far as to say these items contain carcinogens. It was earlier I spoke to U.S. State Department Julie Chung who is part of this humanitarian mission and asked her if there is any concern this humanitarian aid may provoke Nicolas Maduro to doing something drastic. She says the United States isn't the one politicizing the crisis. That's on the Maduro regime.

Nick Valencia, CNN, reporting on the Colombia-Venezuela border.


BLACKWELL: Our thanks to Nick for that report.

Next: is Russian President Vladimir Putin self-styled macho image at stake after members of the national judo team get the better of him here. We'll be right back.


[07:56:29] BLACKWELL: So you've probably seen the pictures rolling around on the judo mat or riding bare-chested on horseback.

Russian President Vladimir Putin likes to style himself as a macho leader.

HARTUNG: But now that tough guy image, it's taken a hit. That's after members of Russia's national judo team got the better of him.

Matthew Chance has the story from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is classic Vladimir Putin. The Russian president bolstering his macho credentials on the judo mat. In carefully choreographed hand- to-hand combat, the political strong man grapples with members of the Russian national judo team throwing a few of them effortlessly to the ground.

It doesn't all go Putin's way. He gets flipped himself and in a sparring session with one Olympic medalist, the president seems to hurt his finger. Nothing serious, says the Kremlin, just the nature of the sport.

But his opponent was careful to sing Putin's praises on Russian television straight afterward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Well, for his age, I'm sure no other president in the world can take him down in a one on one fight. That's for sure.

CHANCE: Putin was certainly throwing his diplomatic weight around with these two presidents just hours before. Meeting his Iranian and Turkish counterparts in Sochi, southern Russia, to discuss or dictate the future of Syria. When U.S. forces eventually leave the north of the country, he told them, Syria's government will be taking over. They both agreed.

Casting Putin as a tough guy man of action has become a staple of the Kremlin propaganda machine. Who could forget these images of the Russian leader bare-chested on horseback and fishing in a Siberian River. Many Russians are extremely proud their 66-year-old president is so fit and youthful.

And although Putin's popularity may have dipped from its all-time highs, most Russians still see him as their champion. Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


HARTUNG: Might be a little less intimidating to play golf with President Trump as opposed to rolling around on a mat with Vladimir Putin.

BLACKWELL: He hurt his finger. Had to take a moment out. He hurt his finger.

HARTUNG: Thank you for starting your morning with us. Victor, thanks for letting me spend the weekend with you.

BLACKWELL: Always good to have you.

HARTUNG: Always glad to be here.

BLACKWELL: Thanks for coming along.

"INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" is coming up next. But we want to leave you with Alec Baldwin's impersonation here of President Trump's national emergency on "SNL".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALEC BALDWIN IMPERSONATING PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. I'm here to declare a very urgent, important national emergency. Let's cut to the chase, folks. We need wall, OK?

I'm basically taking military money so I can has wall. So I'm going to sign these papers for emergency. And then I'll immediately be sued and then the ruling will not go in my favor, and I'll end up in the Supreme Court and I'll call my buddy Kavanaugh and I'll say it's time to repay the Donny and he'll say, new phone, who this?

And the Mueller report will be released crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months at the puzzle factory, and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over.