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Trump Caps off Dismal Week with Long, Rambling Speech at CPAC; No Charges for Stephon Clark Killers; People Cross Venezuelan Border Illegally after Last Week's Clashes; "Brexit Heartland" Frustrated by Political Stalemate. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired March 3, 2019 - 03:00   ET




NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president goes off script at a conservative summit. Well, there probably was no script but there were expletives aimed at Robert Mueller and his investigation.

U.S.-backed Syrian forces close in on the last ISIS enclave in Syria.

And people desperate to get food back to their families in Venezuela have found another way. The closure of key border crossings between Colombia and Venezuela caused many to find an illegal alternative.

Live from CNN Center, I'm Nick Watt. It's great to have you with us.


WATT: U.S. president Donald Trump just regaled his true believers with a speech clocked at two hours as the president capped off an otherwise dismal week for Mr. Trump. He endured the failed summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un and watched his long-time former attorney say the most unflattering things about him under oath.

Much of his speech that day focused on his favorite nemesis, Robert Mueller. Here's some of what he said.


TRUMP: We're waiting for a report. By people that weren't elected. You put the wrong people in a couple of positions and they leave people for a long time that shouldn't be there. And all of a sudden, they're trying to take you out with bullshit, OK?

OK. Professor. Robert Mueller. Never received a vote. And neither did the person that appointed him. And as you know the attorney general says I'm going to recuse myself. And I said. Why the hell didn't he tell me that before I put him in? How do you recuse yourself?

Robert Mueller put 13 of the angriest Democrats in the history of our country on the commission. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: His performance before the conservative PAC was likely a warmup for the 2020 election campaign. We get more now from CNN's Boris Sanchez.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Early on during his speech at CPAC, Trump said he was going off script and he certainly did that, giving the longest speech of his presidency, going well over two hours.

At one point, President Trump attacked the press, Democrats; he discussed the crowd size at his inauguration and he talked about the Russia investigation, saying he believes Robert Mueller's final report will vindicate him.

He also got into detail about why he believes Democrats on Capitol Hill are investigating him. Listen to this.


TRUMP: So they don't have anything with Russia. There's no collusion. So now they go and morph into let's inspect every deal he's ever done. We're going to go into his finances. We're going to check his deals. These people are sick. They're sick. I saw little shifty Schiff yesterday. He went into a meeting and said we're going to look into his finance.

Where did that come from?

He always talked about Russia, collusion about Russia. The collusion delusion.


SANCHEZ: The president essentially gave us a preview of what we're going to see going into the 2020 election. At one point, he actually said he wished it was 2020. He called on Democrats to step away from their radical agenda.

And yet again we heard him proclaim that socialism would not take root in the United States. It is a line that drew a lot of applause and one we will likely hear again as we get closer to November 2020 -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.


WATT: We're joined by Jessica Levinson, professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

I want to play you a few little clips from that speech, President Trump talking about how nobody left during the two hours he was talking. The pool reporter tells us that people did leave. Also talking about his inauguration crowd size and the governor of California, Gavin Newsom. They have public spats. But according to Trump, in private, Newsom says Trump is a great

president. Take a listen to these clips.


TRUMP: Before I got on, I said to the people sitting next to me,


TRUMP: -- I've never seen anything like this. Look at that crowd. And it was wide. By the way, I'm watching those doors. Not one person's left and I've been up here a long time. The new governor, nice guy. When I'm with him, face-to-face, nice. Face-to-face he love me.


WATT: So those are very obviously falsehoods.

Can you speak to that and just the general tenor of the speech, two- plus hours preaching to the choir?

JESSICA LEVINSON, LOYOLA UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: What I made of it, I found it rather frightening. Even for President Trump, who tends to be, let's charitably call it, freewheeling, I thought this was truly off the rails.

And the number of falsehoods and outright lies that he uttered was frankly very troubling. This is a theme that he's come back to over and over again. He's obsessed with crowd size, that people don't leave his rallies, that people don't leave his speeches. And he's still talking about the inauguration crowds.

I would love for him to start talking about poverty, true immigration reform, problems with health care. But we keep going back to these very superficial and inaccurate statements.

You can never prove it unless you're recording it live. But I would say Gavin Newsom is -- we're waiting for him to say absolutely not. You could just see the governor of California, where I'm talking to from, basically try and shrink away when President Trump was trying to shake his hands when they were touring fire damage.

And so I would say it's bizarre, because this is easily fact checked. But I think he knows who he's talking to. He's talking to a crowd that eats this up.

WATT: This is what won him the 2016 election. The GOP is still sticking with him. They love this.

LEVINSON: They do. Well, this particular group and I would say this group is not the entire GOP. But he knows where his base is and he knows that his base is steady. If you look at his approval numbers for the entirety of his presidency, they always have helped bump between 35 percent and 45 percent. He has a floor and ceiling. He knows these are the types of rallies where he can talk to this

group and they will sit there, basically, with rapt attention. Some of them will leave but this is not the group that's going to be fact checking him. It worked in 2016.

The real question will be, who's he running against and will it work again?

Because he needs more than his base to win, even with our electoral college. He needs to go beyond what he has right now in order to be successful in 2020.

WATT: Now I want to play you one more clip from that speech. Abortion is a huge issue here in the United States. And President Trump addressed a recently defeated bill in Virginia that was dealing with third trimester late-term abortion.

The governor of Virginia did give a pretty clumsy description of what that bill was about. Let's take a listen to how Trump describes that bill and what he claims Democrats are trying to do in Virginia. Take a listen.


TRUMP: If they didn't want the child, who is now outside of the womb, long outside of the womb, they will execute the baby. After birth.


WATT: Now I mean, that's not true but listen. President Trump can have multiple marriages. He can curse from that stage there. He can allegedly pay off porn stars but as long as he continues saying stuff like that, will he keep that crucial evangelical vote for 2020?

LEVINSON: I think he absolutely will. I think it has not wavered. If you look at all the allegations against him, all the comments that have been proven against him, if you look at what he's admitted to in terms of sexual assault, in terms of his behavior in his own personal life, in terms of what he's done with his charity, I think there's every indication that this core group will not leave him.

And I think that these comments will just strengthen their allegiance to him, frankly. As you said, abortion in the United States is such a hot button issue. Whenever we have another vacancy on the Supreme Court, the first thing the majority of Americans think about is what is going to happen to Roe v. Wade, the decision that said there is a privacy interest in allowing women to have access to an abortion.

I think this is a question that will come up not just in the 2020 election but 20, 30, 40 years later this will be one of the biggest questions facing American politics.


LEVINSON: And Trump has been brilliant in keeping those evangelical voters, even though the way he conducts his personal life may not match up with the philosophies that they espouse.

WATT: Jessica Levinson, thank you very much for your time.

LEVINSON: Thank you.


WATT: Meanwhile U.S. senator Bernie Sanders just staged the first large rally of his 2020 presidential bid. He set the scene not far from where he was born in Brooklyn, New York, making a point, contrasting his blue collar upbringing with President Trump's more upscale childhood.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did not come from a family of privilege that prepared me to entertain people on television by telling workers, "You're fired."

I came from a family who knew all too well the frightening power employers can have over everyday workers.


WATT: As he seeks the Democratic nomination for the second time, the septuagenarian social Democrat has a new campaign manager and a more diverse staff. They're credited with urging to speak more about his past, including relatives who died in the Holocaust, and his family's economic struggles while he was growing up.

And it seems to be working. His campaign has gathered $10 million in donations in the first week alone.

Meanwhile, a battle against ISIS has raged through the night in Eastern Syria.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language)



BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We understand the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have run into a fair amount of resistance. They say ISIS is using armed drones as well as heat- seeking missiles. And since the operation began, eight of their fighters have been wounded, some of them critically.

We were a little closer to the front a few hours ago. And we did see a thick column of black smoke rising from that one-half square mile encampment that's all that's left of the Islamic State, which once stretched from the outskirts of Aleppo to the outskirts of Baghdad.

We also have been hearing aircraft overhead, saw some helicopters overhead as well. How long this operation is going to take is not at all clear. Now it had -- military activities had halted for a few weeks as they tried to get all the civilians as possible, convince them to leave that town.

We were on the scene when the last group came out. It was about 250 people. Among them, there, we saw, we met a man from Azerbaijan, another from Bosnia, some women and their children from Indonesia. Many of them continue to be, to believe in the idea of the Islamic State, despite all they've been through.


WATT: That was CNN's Ben Wedeman reporting from Eastern Syria.

Now in the wake of that failed Trump-Kim summit, the U.S. and South Korea will begin the first of their reconfigured, scaled-down joint military exercises on Monday. The two sides are shifting their training strategy away from the big high-profile drills that have so irritated North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.

Now the U.S. and South Korea say that they'll focus on the smaller exercises and even virtual training.

Two California police officers who shot and killed an unarmed black man will not face criminal charges. This, according to the district attorney for Sacramento. Stephon Clark died almost a year ago, gunned down in his grandmother's back yard, hit eight times.

The district attorney described Clark as quote, "taking a shooting stance," and one officer saw a light in his hand that they apparently thought was a muzzle flash.

It turned out Clark was holding a cell phone. Here's what his fiancee said about Clark on Saturday and the police who shot him.


SALENA MANNI, CLARK'S FIANCEE: Today the D.A. announced that the officers who shot my unarmed fiance won't face any charges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK. Take your time.

MANNI: Continuing the shameful legacy of officers killing black men without consequences and breaking my family's hearts --


MANNI: -- again.


WATT: Clark's death and the lack of charges against those officers have sparked protests. CNN's Dan Simon has more from Sacramento -- and a warning, his report contains video of the moment Stephon Clark was shot.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question this is a shooting that absolutely roiled the Sacramento community. Here you have this 22- year-old African American male, Stephon Clark, who police believed was breaking into cars. They followed him in the end to his grandmother's back yard.

As you see there on the police body cam video, police believe he was pointing a gun at them but in the end he didn't have a gun. He had just a cell phone.

The question for the D.A. was, did the officers' action amount to a crime?

This is what she had to say.


ANNE MARIE SCHUBERT, SACRAMENTO COUNTY D.A.: So when we look at all these facts and circumstances, we look at all of it, everything.

We ask our question that we started out with again and that question is, was a crime committed?

There's no question that a human being died. But when we look at the facts and the law and we follow our ethical responsibilities, the answer to that question is no. And as a result, we will not charge these officers with any criminal liability related to the shooting death and the use of force on Stephon Clark.


SIMON: The D.A.'s decision seemingly puts an end to the formal investigation. We should note that the Clark family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, a $20 million lawsuit against the city of Sacramento.

So this will continue in the legal arena for some time. And we're just going to have to see what happens here in Sacramento in the hours and days ahead -- Dan Simon, CNN, Sacramento.


WATT: Next, growing hardship for the people of Venezuela. A key border crossing with Colombia remains closed, forcing many to cross illegally just to survive.

Plus Brexit is approaching fast and, across the heartland, some are questioning their decision to vote leave or remain. The mixed feelings surrounding the Brexit mess. That's ahead.



(MUSIC PLAYING) WATT: Venezuela's self-declared interim president is wrapping up his

tour across Latin America. Juan Guaido has been building regional support in his effort to oust rival Nicolas Maduro.

Guaido, in Ecuador right now, says he will return to Venezuela as soon as this trip is through but he hasn't said when or how he will go back. But when he does return, he could face arrest.

And there is more fallout from last week's clashes at Venezuela's borders. A second victim from the skirmish at the border with Brazil has died. And at the border with Colombia --


WATT: -- desperation. Scores of people crossing illegally, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lifeline crossing barricaded, formally closed. But here at the Venezuelan-Colombia border, it is still bustling. And in the distance, people still seem to be getting across.


WALSH: Clashes exactly a week ago closed that border. It's now almost fortified. But people desperate to get food back to their loved ones inside Venezuela have found another way.

WALSH (voice-over): Down we follow the tide as Colombian police stand calmly by. These are steps of necessity, of desperation by people in need of everything. Endless in number, down to the river bank.

But these don't seem to be steps of just salvation, helped as they are at first. Across the water, past the treeline, we're told, are sometimes Venezuelan soldiers but mostly gangs who charge for each crossing.

Fifty cents per person, a $2 equivalent if you're carrying goods.

"Cars and trucks wait for me over there," he says. "It's mostly just guys, not soldiers. It's pesos they ask for."

Another adds, "It's not soldiers. I don't know who gets the money."

The dead go back to be buried in their homeland. And the living feel the slow collapse of their homeland bury them. Traffic both ways but with one shared Venezuelan burden: if you leave, it's more or less empty-handed. Yet, those who go back do so with pretty much everything they can carry.

Up on the bridge where thousands once crossed daily are the pellets fired last week to keep opposition protesters back, who below still carry on with their skirmishes and defenses, a people whose world is measured in varying degrees of nothing and whose suffering here finds only further exploitation -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Cucuta, Colombia.


WATT: We are less than a month away from the day Britain is scheduled to leave the E.U. And in towns far from London, far from the political squabbles in Westminster, the emotions that drove that 2016 referendum are still there and still strong. Phil Black traveled to a seaside town, which went all in for Brexit to see how they feel now.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sunny, warm February days are rare in Margate. And you don't usually see overexcited English people taking off their clothes at this time of year. It's a summer holiday town.

And like other seaside communities around the U.K., it's known tough times since cheap flights to Europe lured many tourists away.

That decline is a popular theory for explaining why so many people in this patch of Southeast England voted for Brexit, almost 64 percent.

MARTIN LANHAM, MARGATE RESIDENT: Can't beat it anywhere in the world.

BLACK (voice-over): We meet proud residents, Jackie and Martin Lanham (ph), while they take their daily cruise along the coast. Both are passionate Brexit believers who hate the idea of delaying the process further.

M. LANHAM: It's very simple. Europe needs us more than we need them. And that is something that you cannot get the Theresa Mays of this world to understand.

BLACK: So I'm guessing you're not a fan of the way Theresa May has handled all this.

M. LANHAM: Absolutely in no way. She's an idiot.

BLACK (voice-over): We easily find more disappointed Brexit cheerleaders enjoying the sunshine outside Margate's waterfront pubs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just dragged on and on and on. And now it's just like --


BLACK: And it could drag on longer --


BLACK: -- if they extend it.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It may never happen.

BLACK (voice-over): E.U. lovers here can be like good weather in February, difficult to find, except for Rob Yates.

BLACK: You don't support Brexit?

ROB YATES, MARGATE RESIDENT: No, I'm an ultra-Remainer.

BLACK (voice-over): Whose beachside windows subtly declare "Block Brexit."

BLACK: Is it fair to say that not everyone in town likes the windows of your apartment?

YATES: I think that's quite fair. There are some people who do not agree with what I'm doing. They find it quite arrogant. I think what I'm doing is showing that this is a political discussion that hasn't ended yet.

BLACK (voice-over): The rarest beast of all is the regretful Brexit voter. But we caught one. Meet 80-year-old Colin Sackett.

BLACK: You voted for Brexit.

COLIN SACKETT, MARGATE RESIDENT: I did, like millions of others but, you know, I never put enough thought into it, did I?

Are you a gambler?

BLACK: Not with stakes this high, no.

SACKETT: Yes, am I. But I do dabble a little bit now and then and I have an uneasy feeling about it, let's put it that way.

BLACK (voice-over): Brexit supporters in Margate hoped breaking with the E.U. would quickly bring --


BLACK (voice-over): -- sunnier, happier times for their community. More than 2.5 years after the referendum, they still can't be sure when or how or even if they'll get what they voted for -- Phil Black, CNN, Margate, Southeast England.


WATT: And right now, the people of Margate, the rest of the U.K. and Southern France are bracing for a storm.


WATT: I'm Nick Watt, I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.