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Bombshell by Former FBI Deputy Shocked People; Haitians Plea to Stop Violence; Tea from Mom's Sweat and Blood; Humanitarian Aid to be Distributed in Venezuela; Saudi Releases Pakistani Prisoners; U.S.- Backed Forces Struggles to Take Last ISIS Territory; President Trump Warns Europe; Heaviest Cross to Bear; Thick Snow in the Southwestern U.S. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired February 18, 2019 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Spying on the president. In a shocking interview the former acting director of the FBI says the deputy attorney general was absolutely serious when he offered to wear a wire to gather possible evidence against President Trump. Plus --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is your intensive care unit?

CADET JOSEPH, PHYSICIAN, STATE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL OF HAITI: Yes. We got nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Violent protests in the streets and no medicine in the ward. CNN goes inside a hospital in Haiti struggling to care for patients.

And after another deadly shooting rampage in the U.S. on Friday, a town in Illinois is saying good-bye and remembering all the victims.

Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.

Details are emerging on why the former acting director on the FBI launched a counter intelligence investigation into President Donald Trump. In a stunning interview with CNS's 60 Minutes Andrew McCabe said the president's own words triggered the probe.

President Trump asking former FBI director James Comey to drop his investigation into the national security advisor and then firing Comey raised concerns of obstruction of justice. McCabe also said the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein was absolutely serious when he reportedly offered to wear a wire in his meetings with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: The deputy attorney general offered to wear a wire into the White House. He said I never get searched when I go into the White House. I could easily wear a recording device. They wouldn't know it was there.

Now, he was not joking. He was absolutely serious, and, in fact, he brought it up in the next meeting we had. I never actually considered taking him up on the offer. I did discuss it with my general counsel and my leadership team back at the FBI after he brought it up the first time.

SCOTT PELLEY, ANCHOR, CBS: The point of Rosenstein wearing the wire into a meeting with the president was what? What did he hope to obtain?

MCCABE: I can't characterize what Rod was thinking or what he was hoping at that moment. But the reason you would have someone wear a concealed recording device would be to collect evidence. In this case, what was the true nature of the president's motivation calling for the firing of Jim Comey?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: A statement from the Justice Department said Rosenstein never authorized any recording that Mr. McCabe references. The chairman of the U.S. Senate judiciary committee is promising an investigation into McCabe's claims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I know he is selling a book. But we need to take it with a grain of salt maybe what Mr. McCabe is telling us, but he went on national television and made an accusation that floors me.

You know, I can imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. This what we're talking about getting rid of President Clinton, it would be frontpage news all over the world. Well, we're going to find out what happened here, and the only way I know to find out is to call the people in under oath and find out through questioning who is telling the truth because the underlying accusation is beyond stunning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Challenges to President Trump's national emergency declaration are already in the works. The state of California is planning an imminent challenge and U.S. lawmakers are preparing a measure to try to block the president's move to secure funding for his border wall.

But as Sarah Westwood reports, the White House is ready to fight back.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well Trump's national emergency declaration has opened up even more divides among lawmaker on Capitol Hill, even among just Republicans who are split on the president taking this approach.

Now Democrats have always opposed the idea of the president building a border wall no matter the funding source, but they also say the president using his emergency declaration powers in this way is unconstitutional.

And while some Republicans have expressed some discomfort with the idea of the president setting a precedent by using his emergency powers in this way, others are arguing that there's a genuine national security and humanitarian crisis on the border, and they're also saying that this is not a subversion of the will of Congress.

Because Congress did include some funding for the border wall in this spending package that Trump signed on Friday.

Take a listen to the startling different opinions expressed by Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff and Republican Congressman Jim Jordan on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[03:04:57] REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: This is the first time the president has tried to declare an emergency when Congress explicitly rejected funding for the particular project that the president is advocating, and in saying just the other day that he didn't really need to do this. He just wanted to do it because it would help things go faster, he is pretty much daring the court to strike this down.

REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) OHIO: All I know is this is a serious situation. This is a crisis. Look at the drug problem, the human trafficking problem, the gang violence problem. That's why we need the border security wall, and that's what the president is committed to making sure happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: The White House is prepared to fight legal and congressional battles in defense of the president's move. House Democrats are already working on a resolution of disapproval to try to prevent the president from using his executive power in this way. That could gain some traction in the Senate.

But top Trump advisor Stephen Miller suggested on Sunday that the president would be willing to use his veto power to stop that measure from moving forward, if that resolution were to reach his desk.

So there are a number of roadblocks facing the Trump administration before they are even able to touch a single penny of the roughly $6 billion in additional federal funds that Trump had hoped to unlock by declaring a national emergency.

Sarah Westwood, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.

CHURCH: Let's get some analysis on all of this, we are joined by Inderjeet Parmar, professor of international politics at City University of London. Thanks for being with us.

INDERJEET PARMAR, PROFESSOR, CITY UNIVERSITY IN LONDON: You're very welcome. Thank you.

CHURCH: So many explosive revelations in this Andrew McCabe interview. I want to start with the revelation the deputy Attorney General rod Rosenstein apparently considered removing President Trump from office by invoking the 25th amendment after Mr. Trump fired former FBI director James Comey.

Rosenstein said he wasn't in a position to consider invoking that amendment and it appears nothing came of it, but what is your reaction to this bombshell revelation from McCabe?

PARMAR: Well, it's an allegation which we've known about for a little while, but it doesn't diminish the explosive character of it. This is the agency, if you like, it within the Constitution of the system of government is that to protect the government of the United States and the people of the United States, and they're saying they're going to remove the president, and they are discussing with like-minded individuals within the agency, and no doubt, outside of it to some extent as well.

So, I think this is, this suggests there's a kind of deep schism within the very body of the United States where the president is being spoken about in that kind of way.

CHURCH: Yes. And presumably, though, they changed their mind, if they got as far as that with it. Now we also learned another shocking revelation from Andrew McCabe's interview that President Trump did not believe his own intelligence agency that told him North Korean missiles could hit the U.S.

Now he didn't believe it because Russia's President Putin told him it wasn't true. How concerned should we be about this unprecedented disclosure?

PARMAR: Again, it kind of adds further fuel to the fire, which is the kind of original, if you like, sin of candidate Trump is that we appear to be fairly kind of not unfriendly or not hostile enough for many in the United States to Russia and what is going on in Syria and Ukraine and so on.

I think President Trump or candidate Trump was under suspicion from 2016 onward during the summer in that year. So, I think by the time that he gets into office, there is a great deal of skepticism whether President Trump actually, if you like, trustworthy according to some of the particular kinds of forces within the United States.

So, again, I think this adds further fuel to that fire that somehow, he's saluted with Putin to get into office and he's behaving accordingly, and therefore, is at war with those who would defend America too. And I think that's an essential allegation which is fueling all of this, and I think it needs to be tested somewhat blow away. CHURCH: Right. And as our report showed, McCabe also revealed that

Rod Rosenstein was apparently willing to wear a wire into a meeting with President Trump. Rosenstein denies he pursued any recording and a source in the room said Rosenstein was being sarcastic, but McCabe insists he was serious about this. What would Rosenstein have been trying to get on tape from the president, do you think?

PARMAR: Well, if you look at the whole series of allegations that President Trump was somehow colluding or was too friendly with Russia, which the FBI and McCabe and others, many others, in the kind of broader establishment of American foreign policy considered to be an enemy of the United States and of the west and so on.

[03:09:54] You can see that approximate what would he be looking to get from wearing a wire? You could get in trying to get some kind of information which the president would let slip, which he, you know, often speaks rather in offhanded ways, which would be add further evidence to that frame, which I think it's a rather far-fetched claim. But that would be my guess as to what he would be looking for in any kind of conversation that he was recorded.

CHURCH: Right. Again, there was no apparent follow-through on this. Inderjeet Parmar, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

PARMAR: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, border patrol agents say barriers have helped their efforts to prevent people from entering the country illegally.

Nick Valencia looked at all the tools at border agents' disposal for this report in June of last year. The border patrol says the area still looked much the same today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see if I see any indication, any foot sign of anything that's come across so we can get on it.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are a lot of things. Articles left behind articles of clothing, water bottle. We have an inhaler. Looks like a bag of salsa left behind. With these agents, agent Rodriguez is doing right now, he is trying to listen to hear for signs of foot traffic, signs of migrants that are coming across here illegally. The river Rio Grande is just right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This area is an ideal location for border police. You have the impedance right here of the wall. You have technology just behind us. That's a tower that has a day camera and a nighttime camera, and then you have the access roads, right, for the access and mobility of the agents.

So, we need to have a strong capability of detecting any illegal incursion, identifying that illegal incursion, having the capability of responding to that incursion and then, of course, coming to resolve. Now they have this wall here. They have the technology piece that is

able to identify that incursion and detect that incursion early so agents can respond to it, so the traffic here has been minimized greatly.

VALENCIA: It gives you a fighting chance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

VALENCIA: Here in the Rio Grande Valley sector this is the end of the border wall or the infrastructure as they call it here. With the initial project, they ran out of funding, so you may notice a big part of it missing where. But with the current funding allocated, they say this is one of the things that they're going to address first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, this is the Rio Grande, guys, right behind me. The wall is, what, maybe a couple hundred yards away.

VALENCIA: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a really quick process and really quick run for the smugglers to get either their narcotics commodity or illegal aliens to a lot of spot so that's Mexico right there?

VALENCIA: That's Mexico right across.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They literally cross in routes within seconds. Maybe a minute. right? So, they're very organized, the smuggling organization. They have scouts on the Mexican side that are watching our every move.

They have facilitators that are also monitoring the main roads. They're watching foot border patrol agents are doing and so forth, so very coordinated effort. It's not just a random run that we can get across on land.

So, on the past part of the infrastructure, the technology that was that's currently placed here, we have groups of like 40, 50 runs across here and make it to a load-up spot really, really fast.

VALENCIA: And how has the wall changed things?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, the wall has been huge. Not only the wall, but the technology piece here as well. We'll go over that here in a bit, so rather than them just running across a small levy, now they have the infrastructure, the border wall in place that impedes their quick movements.

Right now, they have to scale the wall so the groups have gone down from about 40, 50, to 15 or 20 at the most. And this is an area where we don't see that much traffic anymore because the smugglers know that it's being monitors.

VALENCIA: Are there certain times of day that you see more trying to get across? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're opportunists, so whenever they feel that

the opportunity is there for them to run their narcotics or they are illegal aliens, they're going to do it.

VALENCIA: So, you are watching them, but they're also watching you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

VALENCIA: This is something else that's been very effective for the border patrol to stop illegal migration and narcotics trafficking. This is leftover bits of the border wall. So far no one has tried to -- tried to look at it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Nick Valencia with that report. And you can get an in-depth look at the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border at CNN.com.

John Moore's photographs say the many different ways the border is marked along some 3,200 kilometers or almost 2,000 miles.

Well, violence and protests are making life difficult for Haiti's hospitals, and they already have plenty of challenges to deal with. That is next.

Plus, the looming showdown over humanitarian aid for Venezuela.

[03:14:59] The current government won't let relief in, but the opposition leader is proposing an ambitious plan to get it delivered.

And it's the side of India's profitable tea business you don't see. Many women, some of them pregnant, picking tea leaves for long hours and little pay. Why they're willing to risk their lives in the fields.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

In Haiti, the government is pleading for peace in the streets after days of violent protests. Officials are asking schools, universities, and businesses to reopen on Monday. They are mobilizing the country's police force to make that happen.

For more than a week, angry crowds have been demanding Haiti's president step down over crippling inflation and corruption allegations, and the riots have blocked access to basic goods for the people who need the most.

Sam Kiley reports.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KILEY: 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.

[03:20:00] Protests mark the second anniversary of Jovenel Moise presidency. Demands across Haiti that he steps down.

Confidant Joseph (ph) tells me that most of the patients, hundreds of them, have fled. It's easy to see why.

KILEY: This is your intensive care unit?

JOSEPH: Yes. We have nothing.

KILEY: We really have nothing.

JOSEPH: Nothing.

KILEY: There's no machinery.

JOSEPH: There's no machinery for --

KILEY: One oxygen. The doctor tells me that the hospital was crippled by shortages before the riots. Now it's also short of patience.

This is the State University Hospital of Haiti, and it's been cut off by the city by riots. There's no food here or water. No medicines either. This man is now stuck.

My name is Sam.

This is Gillem (Ph). He was getting drugs now he's just stuck here the doctor says. Next to him is Madam Samvi (Ph). Her catheter drains into a wash bowl.

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

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

Sam Kiley, CNN in Port-au-Prince.

CHURCH: We turn now to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is slamming the government of sitting President Nicolas Maduro for rejecting much needed relief.

Rubio visited a Colombian warehouse where U.S. aid for Venezuela is being stored and said the suppliers will be delivered with or without Mr. Maduro.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Well, look, the aid is going to get approved. And I think ultimately the question is whether it gets through in a way that he is cooperative with or in a way that he is not. But there's no way you are going to stand ultimately in the wave of people whose children are starving to death, whose families are dying in hospitals because of preventable diseases, and they don't have the medicine for it. So, obviously, tactics or something I'm not going to publicly announce

to allow the regime and their allies to do and make efforts to block it, but I would say this.

Imagine for a moment if you're a member of the National Guard or the Venezuelan military, your own family is hungry. Your own family is starving. Your own relatives are dying because they can't get dialysis or HIV medications, and you're going to follow an order to block them from reaching the people?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guido is urging his supporters to stand against President Maduro. He says his goal is to enlist a million volunteers to deliver the aid by Saturday.

Stefano Pozzebon has details now from Caracas.

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: There's no end in sight for the humanitarian aid still the issue around the humanitarian aid here in Venezuela with the opposition adamant that by February 23 the humanitarian aid will arrive in Caracas.

But Nicolas Maduro still giving no sign of balking under the pressure from the international community to let the humanitarian aid in.

Meanwhile, on Sunday morning we were able to visit a field clinic that the NGO's that are working with the opposition's plan have set up to bring relief to the populations affected by the dramatic humanitarian and economic crisis that has been happening in Venezuela for the past four years.

We were there, and we spoke with the volunteers who have signed up with Juan Guido's plan to bring the humanitarian aid into Venezuela, and they told us that that these -- this plan is not political. Here's what one of those volunteers told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not here for a political case. We are not here for Guaido or for other political (Inaudible). We are here for help. only for help. We aren't here because we want to give this opportunity to have a medicine for the community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POZZEBON: Well despite what that volunteer told us that the aid is not a political issue, Nicolas Maduro seems only intent to keep the border shut to the humanitarian aid.

And on Sunday at the allegations of the European parliament who was visiting Juan Guiado was, they said, blocked at Caracas international airport and being deported back to Europe. They said the delegation meant to come to Caracas to visit him, but they were turned away from -- by Nicolas Maduro's guards.

[03:25:05] For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Caracas.

CHURCH: Tea is big business in India, earning the country hundreds of millions of dollars every year, but as Kristie Lu stout reports, pregnant women are risking their lives to bring that tea to the world.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN HOST: Tucked away in the northeastern tip of India are the lush green hills of Assam state. More than half of the country's tea leaves are grown in plantations here, but the bright vistas hide a dark reality.

Some female tea pickers get pregnant while working and feel that they have to stay in the plantations until they're full-term. Two of them spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity.

(SPOKEN IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

STOUT: Temporary tea pickers who spoke to CNN said they collect leaves nine hours a day, six days a week.

(SPOKEN IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

STOUT: The women say they get less money if they don't fill up their baskets. The tea industry says it insures that tea sold internationally meets the highest standards of health and labor protections by working with independent accrediting agencies, but at two unaccredited plantations that CNN visited, workers complained to CNN of a lack of medical care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAYSHREE SATPUTE, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: Some has above 1.5 million tea plantation workers, more than 70 percent of this workforce are women. These women have been working in the slave-like conditions for over decades.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOUT: Since 2005, the Indian government has introduced programs to provide free prenatal care. Tests and births in public hospitals helping many people across the country. But Assam state still has a high maternity death rate.

Two hundred thirty-seven women died for 100,000 births more than any other state in India. The state health director says the death rate is improving and hopes things will continue to get better as they introduce new public-private partnerships with the plantations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J.V.N. SUBRAMANYAM, STATE DIRECTOR, ASSAM NATIONAL HEALTH MISSION: We are moving into the tea garden with our mobile medical unites. So, we will expand to the tea gardens. Because the land belongs to the tea garden owner or the tea garden company, but we are -- we are now -- we want to get into this tea garden areas drastically so that finally the human rights are taken care of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: For now, though, many women don't have access to or are not aware of what services should be available to them. They work until the later stages of pregnancy and sometimes give birth in the fields.

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

STOUT: The women are afraid of what might happen, but just can't afford to miss out on a full day's pay.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN.

CHURCH: ISIS is close to a major defeat in Syria. Why a former CIA operative says that could make the terrorists even more dangerous. We'll have that for you in just a moment. Do stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:30:00]

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. I'm Rosemary Church with a check of the headlines this hour.

The former acting director of the FBI says he ordered a counter intelligence and obstruction of justice probe of Donald Trump for a number of reasons, including the president's own words.

In a CBS interview, Andrew McCabe said the president's request that FBI director James Comey drop the investigation into then-national security advisor Mike Flynn and Comey's subsequent firing were among the reasons for launching the probe.

The U.N. says that Yemen's warring parties have agreed on the first phase of a troop withdrawal from the key city of Hudaydah. The parties also agreed in principle on a second phase. Another meeting is to be held within a week to finalize the agreement.

Pakistan's foreign minister said Saudi Arabia has agreed to free over 2,000 Pakistani prisoners. This comes after Pakistan's prime minister had asked the Saudi crown prince to treat millions of Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia as his own people. Earlier, Saudi Arabia signed investment deals with Pakistan reportedly worth $20 billion.

Well, a new warning on the reach and remaining power of ISIS. A U.S. military official says many fighters have likely fled from Syria to Iran in recent months and they may have taken quite a bit of cash with them.

Now, this comes as coalition forces close in on the last ISIS held enclave in southeastern Syria, and as U.S. troops get ready to leave the country.

But Washington's special envoy is trying to reassure allies about the pull-out saying it will be neither abrupt or rapid.

CNN's Barbara Starr has been traveling with senior U.S. military officials in the region. She filed this report from Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Perhaps more than 1,000 ISIS fighters have fled Syria in the last six months of fighting into the western deserts and mountains of Iraq and they may have $200 million in cash with them to finance future operations.

All of that according to the latest U.S. assessment. All of this comes as the U.S. backed its Syrian fighters with U.S. assistance are struggling to take the last ISIS stronghold in Syria. The big concern now is there may be hundreds if not thousands of civilians in the area. many of them perhaps being held by ISIS.

The top U.S. general tonight in Baghdad talking about how little the U.S. may be able to predict when that last stronghold is taken.

PAUL LACAMERA, COMMANDING GENERAL, OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE: It's an active battle. I mean, they could capitulate while we're sitting here. It could be several days. I mean, there's a lot of fog and friction on the battlefield.

I mean, we were moving at a pretty good clip three, four days ago. And then, the amount of displaced civilians that is starting to come out, civilian fighters that were trying to infiltrate or exfiltrate out with families. We slowed it down so that we could do the proper screenings.

[03:35:01] STARR: And what happens after the last stronghold falls? Lieutenant General Paul LaCamera, the top commander here says that SDF, the Syrian democratic forces, that the U.S. has been backing will have to make some key decisions.

The U.S. is willing to continue providing weapons and aid, but that may only last so long. If the SDF decides its only option is to now align itself with the Assad regime.

LACAMERA: So, we are in Syria because of the threat to Iraq. They are our partners in Syria to fight ISIS. Once that relationship is severed because they go back to the regime, which we don't have a relationship with, the Russians we don't have a relationship with, when that happens, we're in longer partners.

STARR: Now that the U.S. is pulling its troops out of Syria, the SDF may have few options. They cannot align themselves with the Turks. They're enemies, of course, and if they go with the Assad regime for protection, the U.S. will cut relations with them because the U.S. cannot legally do business with Assad.

Barbara Star, CNN, Baghdad.

CHURCH: And all this comes after a series of tweets from President Trump that read to many like a threat. He said Europe has to take back hundreds of ISIS fighters and put them on trial. If it doesn't, the U.S. will be forced to release them and they could then, quote, "permeate Europe." So, let's get more on all of this with CNN security analyst Bob Baer.

He joins us from Washington. Bob, always great to talk with you.

So, it's not the first time, of course, we're hearing this warning that the defeat of ISIS in Baghouz al-Fawqani won't mean a total end to the terror group, but now a U.S. military official tells us that more than 1,000 fighters have fled from Syria into Iraq with about $200 million. What are the possible ramifications of this well-funded exodus?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Rosemary, I don't think we've heard the end of the Islamic state by any means. It's simply gone underground. It's become a guerrilla movement as it was, but before 2014, and what you have in Anbar province in Iraq are the tribes are receptive to the Islamic state, simply because they've gotten a lousy deal from Baghdad.

And they look at the Islamic -- they look at the Islamic state almost as a protector, and so you can see not only the thousand that fled across the border into Iraq reforming and guerrilla groups, you're going to see more people joining it, and I think that's a pretty safe prediction.

CHURCH: And Right. And of course, all this as coalition forces are closing in on that last ISIS-held enclave in southeastern Syria, but also as those U.S. troops who appear to leave, although Washington special envoy suggests that won't be an abrupt or rapid operation. Nonetheless, is this really the time to be pulling U.S. troops out of Syria?

BAER: No. I don't -- you know, what's going to happen is the Islamic state is going to launch some sort of attack in Europe, in the United States somewhere to announce its, you know, its presence, and it will also continue to attack Baghdad, and I think that's what the government in Baghdad is worried about.

All these people are showing up. There's no political settlement in Iraq that would -- what should I say, squash this movement at this point. And as long as these political tensions continue, the Islamic state will be looked at as a vehicle for resistance, and I just think, like I said, we haven't heard the last of it.

CHURCH: Very sobering. But what about President Trump's request to Europe to take back some of the 800 ISIS fighters captured in Syria and put them on trial. If they don't do that, Mr. Trump is threatening to release them. What did you make of that?

BAER: It's absolute catastrophic to tell the Europeans to take them back, put them on trial. You know, it's not the way this is going to be solved. And as likely it's not some of these Islamic fighters are going to go back and launch a terrorist attack. This is not the way to bring this conflict to an end.

CHURCH: But then, also, to threaten to release them if Europe doesn't take them and put them on trial? Does that seem an astounding thing for a U.S. president to say? BAER: It's a threat against their closest allies. It's never happened

before. It's more of Trump picking away at NATO. This completely shocked the Europeans that we would even considering -- consider releasing these people and sending them back home. They're still dangerous. They're committed. The possibilities of them launching attacks, like I said, are very good.

[03:40:05] I mean, this is just -- Trump has no idea how to bring this conflict to an end. He simply made up his mind that he wants out of the Middle East, and whatever the consequences, be damned.

CHURCH: And of course, in that same tweet, President Trump said that the caliphate is, in his words, "ready to fall." Is he right or wrong? What sort of advice is he getting on this?

BAER: Well, it's a parastate, the caliphate will fall, it be overrun. But I think it will be more dangerous once these people are let loose and driven underground because it will be impossible to find them in Anbar province and in a lot of parts of Syria. A lot of them are going to end up in Turkey. Excuse me.

CHURCH: And is --

(CROSSTALK)

BAER: A lot of them are -- a lot of them are going to end up in Turkey. I mean, it's just, you know, this is an underground movement at its heart, and its most dangerous as an underground movement.

CHURCH: Right. And you think President Trump is missing the point that even if the caliphate falls, that doesn't mean it's the end of ISIS. He is getting advice of that, but he doesn't seem to be processing that information.

BAER: Well, Trump doesn't listen to the Central Intelligence Agency or the Pentagon. Both of whom understand what's going on in this part of the world. And if the caliphate should fall, that Al-Baghdadi should be captured and arrested, and the rest of it, that's not the end of it.

It's a resistance movement, very much like Marxism. It will continue on until there's some sort of political resolution, and he is just disengaging from the Middle East way too fast, and he is going to regret this, and I would say very soon.

CHURCH: Bob Baer, always great to have your analysis on these matters. Many thanks to you.

BAER: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, 26,579 and counting, a man who has spent years making wooden crosses to honor America's shooting victims builds five more. As the latest tragedy hits too close to home. His story, up next.

And was actor Jussie Smollett attacked or was it stabled? Coming up, what sources are telling CNN about the investigation? [03:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Aurora, Illinois, is mourning the loss of five people gunned down in the latest mass shooting in the United States. They were killed when a co-worker went on a rampage after he was fired from his job last week.

A memorial has gone up outside the Henry Pratt building where they worked, and part of that memorial, five white crosses made by a man who lives in Aurora. He's actually done these thousands of time for nearly every U.S. tragedy over the past 20 years.

Scott McClean shares his story.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For more than two decades 68-year-old Greg Saniz has been making and hand delivering comfort to grieving families across America. It's a big job that takes a lot of lumber, a lot of paint, and countless nights inside of his truck.

GREG ZANIS, MAKER OF WOODEN CROSSES: I'm the kind of guy that falls asleep real easy here.

MCLEAN: It's not comfortable, but neither is the task at hand.

Most people don't want to think about the shootings until they happen on their doorsteps. But you live at 365. Why?

ZANIS: Because I feel it's making a difference.

MCLEAN: He has placed his wooden crosses at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Sutherland Springs, Texas, Orlando's Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas, Parkland, Florida, and that's barely scratching the surface in total --

ZANIS: Twenty-six thousand five hundred seventy-nine. You have no idea what I have seen in this country.

MCLEAN: He has seen America at its worst, yet still believes in its best.

ZANIS: We're in a country that's so full of hope.

MCLEAN: In every place he hears people say they never thought it could happen here. Even he believed that until Friday.

ZANIS: I feel so dumb that I wasn't thinking that it could happen here. I should have thought it could happen here.

MCLEAN: Just three miles from his home in Aurora, Illinois, a man opened fire on his colleagues after learning he had been let go. Five people were killed. The next day Zanis left five crosses bearing their names.

ZANIS: My heart rate was going up because I can't believe I'm standing on the ground here in my town, in my town doing this. That's all. My town, you know, it's like a nightmare. MCLEAN: Following each tragedy Zanis takes comfort in the fact that

he can get in his truck and leave.

ZANIS: I put on, like I'm strong, like I'm carrying the whole weight of the world on my shoulders because I know that I'm going to be in and out.

MCLEAN: Just not this time.

ZANIS: That's why I'm having a hard time living here because I'm not in and out.

MCLEAN: This time it's a much heavier cross to bear.

Scott McClean, CNN, Aurora, Illinois.

CHURCH: He is right. It is a nightmare. And CNN is learning new details now about the alleged attack against actor Jussie Smollett. Sources tell CNN that police believe the crime could have been staged.

Two brothers were arrested, but released without charge days later after police say they found new evidence.

Ryan Young has the latest.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We now know the detectives have obtained and are examining the cell phones of the two brothers they suspect that Smollett paid to orchestrate the attack according to a source familiar with the investigation.

The source also tells us that the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement. In a statement to CNN Saturday night, Smollett's attorneys wrote in part, "As the victim of a hate crime who is cooperating with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by the recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that say Jussie played a role in his own attack is nothing further from the truth. And anyone claiming otherwise is lying."

As a group of detectives continues to work the case, Chicago police did confirm to us the information received from the brothers has, in fact, shifted the trajectory of the investigation adding that they have reached out to the actor's attorney to request a follow-up interview. They would not comment if they still considered the actor a victim at this point.

Ryan Young, CNN, Chicago.

CHURCH: Ahead on CNN Newsroom, severe winter weather is barreling down on millions of Americans and threatening to create treacherous travel conditions. We'll take a look at where the storm is set to strike. That is coming up next.

[03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHURCH: Sixty million Americans are under a winter storm alert. A weather system that dumped heavy snow on Northern California is now poised to do the same in the American southwest.

We have our meteorologist Ivan Cabrera in with us to talk about this messy, horrible, nasty weather.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And that's just the first storm. Rosemary, we're talking about a second storm coming in by the middle part of the week. So, it is hitting the ground (inaudible) are going to be in early spring. That is now panning out for some of us across the northeast.

So, let's talk about it here. It is a holiday in the U.S. for international viewers here. So, a lot of folks hopefully staying at home. If you are going to be off here.

It is raining from Atlanta. So that's a wet commute through the Carolinas and into Philly as well. But once it gets into New York and points to the north, that's where it's cold enough for snow.

Where you see the purple here that's even worse. That's the transition line. That's never a good thing because that's why we have freezing rain and potential for some icy roadways with the wintery mix.

Winter weather advisory and a winter storm warning for the south shore of Massachusetts and into Rhode Island as well. That's where we are accumulating significant amounts of snow for these four to seven inches. You know, that will require a shovel to a lot of treatment on the roadways here. So early on we're going to continue to see them.

[03:55:01] But look at the clock here. This is today. Right. This thing is adding in by later this evening and into the overnight hours. The problem is we have another one cued up and ready to go. You see that moisture in the four corners there. That's going to transition into a big low. I think this one is going to be a bigger deal. It's going to impact more people. And as snow fall it's going to more widespread and more significant, certainly through the Great lakes.

And then this pushes east. Look at Wednesday there. We'll begin to see another snow event for New England and then New York I think gets into it as well. Perhaps up to an inch of snowfall. But that's enough to make for a mess on the airports.

That's for today. Then I'm showing you the total here for the next five days because this is a mess. You pick up the cold. Very heavy rainfall across the south, in fact, I think heavy enough for the potential of some flooding here across the midsection of the southeast, and then up to the north you see the snowfall.

I mean, this is not going to be blockbuster as far as the snow amounts here for this time of year. We can certainly get into more of that, but as we get closer to March, people start wanting, you know, fall things out.

CHURCH: Yes. CABRERA: And we're not going to do that for a little bit. If you are traveling Friday, by the way perhaps, you're going to New York, it can be OK.

CHURCH: Yes.

CABRERA: Temperatures climbing up.

CHURCH: No delays in place.

CABRERA: So, I think we'll be good.

CHURCH: All right.

CABRERA: So, there you go.

CHURCH: Good. Thank you so much.

CABRERA: Good shape.

CHURCH: I appreciate it

CABRERA: Yes.

CHURCH: Thanks, Ivan.

CABRERA: You bet.

CHURCH: And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me any time on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you. And Early Start is next for our viewers here in the United States. For everyone else, stay tuned for more news with our Max Foster in London. You're watching CNN.

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