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Trump Caps off Dismal Week with Long, Rambling Speech at CPAC; U.S. Allies Attack ISIS' Last Syrian Enclave; No Charges for Stephon Clark Killers; Interview with Benjamin Crump, Clark Family Attorney; U.S.-South Korea Military Drills Start Monday; People Cross Venezuelan Border Illegally after Last Week's Clashes; Europe's Biggest Port Bracing for No-Deal Brexit. Aired 4-5a ET
Aired March 3, 2019 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president goes off script at a conservative summit, tearing into the Mueller investigation, complete with some words I can't even say on television to you. That story ahead.
Plus in the state of California, protests after the district attorney decides not to charge two officers who shot and killed an African American man with only his cell phone in hand.
Also ahead this hour, Senator Bernie Sanders hosts his first big rally in his bid for the White House in 2020.
We're live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta and we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. The CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
HOWELL: 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast and a developing story we are following out of Syria. After intense fighting U.S.-backed forces could be close to seizing all of the last ISIS territory there in an enclave we're following.
Live to our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman on the front lines, he's been covering the story for weeks.
Ben, what more can you tell us there?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we can tell you is we're about 500 meters from that encampment, that last bit of land, about a square, half-square mile still occupied by ISIS.
And what we have been seeing this morning is intense bombardment, airstrikes as well as mortar strikes as well. What we saw just a little while ago was an ammunition dump, apparently, by the looks of it, that got struck. There was one big blast after another. But what we also have been able to see from here is that there -- we
can still actually see people through our telephoto lens moving among some of the camps, despite this intense bombardment been going on since day before yesterday.
Also we have been speaking to some of the soldiers at this forward position who told us that overnight there was an attempt by ISIS fighters using tunnels to attack this area. But they were able to repulse it.
They also told us that there are still civilians inside. The civilians essentially being used as human shields. So we don't have any idea, even a rough estimate, about how many human beings are left alive inside this camp. But there won't be many more if this keeps up at this rate -- George.
HOWELL: Ben Wedeman on the front lines. And in the distance we can see the smoke, where the fighting is taking place. Ben, you've also been reporting on those people there in those camps, who still believe in the ISIS ideology. Just to give a sense to our viewers again, the territory may be winding down but people still believe.
WEDEMAN: Yes, this is what -- we have talked to many people who have come out from a variety of different places, not only from Syria and Iraq but also from Azerbaijan, Turkey, Indonesia, Canada. And these people, who have come from around the world to join this experiment in God's will on Earth, still believe in the idea of an Islamic State.
And even though that state is crumbling before our very eyes, even though the powers of the world have come against it, to try to extinguish it, they keep that flame alive with them as they go out into the world.
Many of them are going to El Hul several hours north of here and these people are going to be kept in what amounts to an internment camp, not allowed to leave, not free to move.
The men have been separated and they're being held in a different location, where probably they will continue to be interrogated as not only the Syrian Democratic Forces intelligence personnel but also American, French, British and others try to get as much information as possible about this organization that is very soon, I think it is safe to say, about to lose its territory.
But its appeal, despite everything, lives on.
HOWELL: Ben Wedeman, giving us a sense of what is happening on the ground. You see the smoke in the background, Ben's team on the front line, giving us a firsthand look, U.S.-backed forces close to --
HOWELL: -- seizing the remaining territory of ISIS in Eastern Syria.
Ben, we wish you and your team safety. Thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you all. Now turning to the U.S. president, ending a very bad week for him, now turning to his crowds of cheering supporters with a campaign style speech that was the longest of his presidency. He had a lot to say.
The occasion, it is called CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference. And in his speech, he glossed over the failed summit over Kim Jong-un, brushed off criticism for saying the dictator didn't know about the American student, Otto Warmbier, being tortured in a North Korean prison.
Instead, Mr. Trump returned to familiar territory. He tore into the special counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation in a speech that, well, may make you want to cover your kids' ears if they're near. Our Boris Sanchez has this report.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TRUMP: Again, Mr. Trump had a lot to say and he focused on all the things that his audience wanted to hear. Like these.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Unfortunately, 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 (INAUDIBLE), OK. (INAUDIBLE).
Robert Mueller never received a vote. And neither did the person that appointed him. And as you know, the attorney general said I'm going to recuse myself. And I said, why the hell didn't he tell me that before I put him in?
If you tell a joke, if you are sarcastic, if you're having fun with the audience, if you're on live television with millions of people and 25,000 people in an arena and if you say something like, Russia, please, if you can, get us Hillary Clinton's emails, please, Russia, please. Please get us the emails. Please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: A lot to put into focus and let's do so with Inderjeet Parmar, a professor of international politics at City University of London, joining us from our London bureau. Good to have you.
INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you.
HOWELL: So hardly a mention of the summit with Kim Jong-un but clearly Mr. Trump was having fun on the stage, tearing into the Mueller investigation, playing to the crowds, cursing.
What do you take from it?
PARMAR: Well, as your correspondent said, President Trump is now in campaign mode. He's going back to styles and themes which got him into office in first place. And he's trying to salvage a large number of failures in the very recent past: the big defeat in the midterms, the disastrous government shutdown --
PARMAR: -- the collapse of that Kim summit a few days ago and the national emergency, which has got defeated in the House and is going to go to the Senate and may well be defeated there, too.
So basically what President Trump is doing now is he's kind of sharpening all the tools for 2020 and he's drawing the boundaries or the sort of modalities of that particular campaign and he's trying to paint the Democrats and anybody against him as against America itself and, in effect, President Trump himself is the savior of the United States and he's trying to paint himself or cover himself in the flag in that kind of way.
HOWELL: It is interesting you mention campaign. I'm reminded of the quote that rang so loudly after Mr. Trump won the presidency, that some take him seriously and not literally. Others take him literally and not so seriously.
So the cursing, the lies, the mistruths, the allegations of affairs, of misconduct, even mocking a Southerner, Jeff Sessions' accent, do any of these things make a difference for his diehard base, some of whom are Southerners, some evangelical voters, to name a few, who say he's getting things done?
They say he's cutting regulations, they say he's building a wall they want and so on.
PARMAR: Yes. I think that's one of the key things. There are many academics and others who are now claiming that this is an ordinary presidency. This is just a normal Republican president doing what Republican presidents do; that is, they deregulate, cut taxes and so on.
But President Trump, I think, is doing a lot more than that. That CPAC rally, the meetings, the conference yesterday, in the last few days, it tells us something, that basically President Trump is building a movement outside of the political process as well, outside of the party system. And in a way that is symptomatic of a very deep crisis.
What he's basically doing is preparing the ground for not only a kind of mass movement outside of the party system but he's also using whatever leverages he has to try to ramp up -- and has ramped up the authoritarian character of government and the much more coercive character of the agencies of the government.
When we look at agencies like ICE and other agencies at the border, he's put military at the border and declared a national emergency against the Constitution itself, I think what we have seen is a very dramatic shift to the Right and I think that's what he wants to continue to do.
And that's why I think he's ramping up that same kind of rhetoric from the campaign. The U.S. is in a cold civil war and I think President Trump is right at the heart of it.
HOWELL: It was also interesting to see President Trump on one side of the screen at CPAC and on the other, split screen, many networks showing Bernie Sanders as well making his case for his campaign. Both represent the polar sides of their party.
Is this shaping up to be the race of 2020 for president and do you see room for centrists, like former Vice President Joe Biden, should he choose to run?
PARMAR: That's the biggest question. And I think we're going back to 2016 and polarization. I don't think you can bury 2016 because 2016 wasn't the kind of year zero of American politics. It was a culmination of many decades of disillusionment with the two main parties. When -- we know historically, when the sort of main establishment ways
of doing things and saying things and running things loses legitimacy, then charismatic men of destiny tend to appear on the stage. Those are very violent and dangerous times. I don't think 2016 can be buried.
2020 is going to be a similar kind of election campaign. That is why, if you like, President Trump has elected to talk about socialism as the biggest threat to the United States. He says socialists in America are like -- want to make America like Venezuela; socialism is the biggest threat, it's part of the establishment strategy against the American people.
I think centrism in both parties is under major threat. We can see many, many forces on sort of polar opposites, if you like, which are emerging and I think that's the kind of shape of things to come.
Joe Biden is steeped in the past. It would be very difficult for him to establish anything radically different and claim that he's going to change the levels of inequality that the U.S. have suffered, which are really at the core of this legitimacy crisis.
HOWELL: Will be an interesting election to come. Inderjeet Parmar, thank you.
PARMAR: Thank you very much.
HOWELL: An African American man with only his cell phone in hand, shot dead and no charges for the police officers who shot him. We hear from an attorney for Stephon Clark's family still ahead. Stay with us.
HOWELL: Now to the U.S. West Coast, the city of Sacramento, California, and an announcement by prosecutors that outraged many people in that community: the decision that two police officers who shot and killed an unarmed African American man won't face criminal charges.
Stephon Clark was gunned down in his grandmother's back yard almost one year ago. And our Dan Simon has this new update, the announcement from the district attorney; parts of this report are graphic.
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 --
SIMON: -- cell phone.
The question for the D.A. was, did the officers' action amount to a crime?
This is what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
HOWELL: Dan, thank you.
In the background you saw the protesters in Dan's report. The news also hitting Clark's family very hard. There are reports that an ambulance was called to his grandmother's home on Saturday. You can see the video here taken from our affiliate KOVR in Sacramento.
Relatives say that she has a heart condition. Here's what Clark's mother said about justice for her son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SE'QUETTE CLARK, STEPHON'S MOTHER: We're outraged. We're outraged. They executed my son. They executed him in my mom's back yard and it is not right. It is not right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: We also heard from Clark's fiancee speaking to the media and, through tears, she said she believes the police murdered Clark.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALENA MANNI, CLARK'S FIANCEE: On March 18th, 2018, Stephon Clark, my fiance and the father of my two sons, Aidan and Cairo, was shot to death by police officers, by two Sacramento police officers and my family's world was turned upside down.
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 again.
It is about the officers who murdered him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.
MANNI: Murdered him because he had a cell phone in his hand.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right. That's right.
MANNI: And now he'll never come back to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Clark's fiancee speaking out after that decision was announced. And now I'd like to bring in one of the attorneys representing Stephon Clark's family, Benjamin Crump, joining us this hour.
Ben, we appreciate your time today. We just heard that very emotional statement after this decision was reached. I'd like to get your reaction first to this decision.
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY: Well, George, oftentimes in these police shootings of unarmed black men you find this playbook they use where, after they have assassinated his person, they then assassinate his character.
But this district attorney took it to a whole other level. It was almost disgraceful the lengths she went to do try to justify a bad shooting by these two police officers. It is just simply outrageous. The family is outraged, the community is outraged and we're going to make sure that his children, his family know that we're going to get justice for him in the civil courts.
HOWELL: Ben, you touched on this here but, again, during the investigation, the family did complain, they felt that it focused much more on Stephon's personal life rather than the incident itself.
CRUMP: Absolutely, George. It is almost as if Stephon was the person who shot the officers. He is the deceased person. He's the person, unarmed, dead on the ground. And when you listen to the D.A.'s justification, you -- if you believe her, you would have to say, well, Stephon was shot --
CRUMP: -- eight times in his front. But he was shot eight times in the back.
So the question really becomes, why did the district attorney, in her hour-long press conference not speak at all about the shots coming to his back?
Eight shots to the back. The reason why she didn't do it, George, because it did not fit the narrative and it will show that these officers were -- used unnecessary and unjustifiable deadly force when they shot him, executing him in his grandmother's back yard.
HOWELL: Benjamin, and it is good to have you on. The audio is a little rough but we're understanding what you're having to say. It is good to get your insight into this investigation.
So the question I have for you next, just briefly, what is next?
You say you take it to civil courts.
How does that play forward?
CRUMP: Yes, we filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Stephon Clark's parents and his two children. We believe clearly that a jury looking at this evidence will conclude that this was an unnecessary, unjustified shooting, where they shot him eight times in the back.
HOWELL: I do want to apologize to our viewers, the audio and the video not the best but it is great to get the insight here, to understand where this case goes next, to get the attorney, one of them representing the family, Benjamin Crump on with us, Ben, thank you for taking time with us and we'll stay in touch.
CRUMP: Thank you, George.
HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, Bernie Sanders delivers some of his most deeply personal remarks at a campaign rally as he reaches, again, for the U.S. presidency.
Plus the United States and South Korea scale down their annual joint military exercises to help calm tensions in that region.
The question, though, will that work?
We take a look. Glad to have you with us. Be right back after the break. (MUSIC PLAYING)
HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewer here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.
HOWELL: U.S.-backed forces report heavy fighting as they push into the last ISIS enclave in Syria. The footage, exclusive footage shows blasts lighting the night sky on Saturday. The terrorists have been cornered for weeks.
At CPAC, the president said the self-declared caliphate would be defeated within days. However, you'll remember he said that ISIS was already 100 percent defeated. Clearly video shows that's not the case but it is winding down.
On Monday, the U.S. and South Korea will start the first of their new scaled-down joint military exercises. This comes just days after the failed U.S.-North Korea summit. Paula Hancocks is following the story, joins us live in Seoul, South Korea.
What can you tell us about the new exercises?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, these are going to be a lot smaller than the previous exercises. Every spring for decades now, the U.S. and South Korea have been holding these very large, very visual military exercises for a couple of months.
And every single year it has annoyed and irritated North Korea. We did in the past see an increased number of rocket and missile launches by North Korea as these drills were going on.
But what we're seeing now is that these drills are no longer going to be held. The key resolve, Foal Eagle, they're called, the defense ministers of both the U.S. and South Korea have announced they will end and they will be replaced by something much smaller, that it could be just a unit level that we see this, as opposed to large battalions.
And also saying that a lot of it could also be virtual training. So it is really an effort, according to the two defense ministers, to help the diplomatic process along. And they believe that they will be battle ready, they will have enough training to be able to be battle ready.
But, of course, it has raised eyebrows, the fact that this is considered a fairly significant concession by the U.S. to the North Koreans after last week's summit ended without an agreement. Now we know how the U.S. president Donald Trump thinks about these
drills. He said in his press conference on Thursday, I gave that up a long time ago, talking about these military drills, saying they cost $100 million every time one is carried out.
Also complaining that South Korea doesn't pay its share as far as the U.S. president is concerned for these drills as well. Certainly this will be welcomed by North Korea. And it would be seen as a concession by the U.S. at a time when really the process of denuclearization is not moving forward and they couldn't even agree on anything last week.
HOWELL: Paula, I'm curious to know, if you had a chance to get a sense of what people think about this or what is the general mood about the fact that these drills that typically are larger in scale, that they have been scaled down.
HANCOCKS: Well, as far as I could gauge last week, George, these drills were being planned as normal. This is a relatively new occurrence that they are going to be -- they are going to be canceled, these large-scale drills. Certainly the plans were going ahead for them to be held as normal.
We know certainly from a military point of view that they were welcomed by many of the military on the U.S. and the South Korean side, that it is necessary for these two allies to be prepared and to be fighting alongside each other.
So these kind of drills have always been -- I've been told in the many years I've gone along to film them, that they were essential for the two militaries to be able to fight side by side.
Of course, now what we're hearing is that --
HANCOCKS: -- these much smaller drills are going to be -- they're going to suffice. So certainly I think everybody is trying to put a positive spin on it. We're hearing both defense ministers saying it will be absolutely fine and this is necessary.
But I think certainly from a very basic military point of view, the two militaries would be better, according to what I've heard over many years from these soldiers, training on a large scale.
HOWELL: Paula Hancocks with the reporting and some insight there. Paula, thank you for the reporting.
Now back here in the United States, the U.S. senator Bernie Sanders has set the stage for his first large-scale rally of his 2020 presidential bid.
This the scene, not far from where Sanders was born, in Brooklyn, New York, and making a point, contrasting his blue collar upbringing with President Trump's more upscale childhood, Sanders also giving a great deal of credit to his immigrant father. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unlike Donald Trump, who shut down the government and left 800,000 federal employees without income to pay their bills, I know what it is like to be in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck.
Now it is true I did not have a father who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers, casinos and country clubs. I did not come from a family that gave me a $200,000 allowance every year beginning at the age of 3. As I recall, my allowance was 25 cents a week.
But I had something more valuable. I had the role model of a father who had unbelievable courage, in journeying across an ocean, with no money in his pocket to start a new and better life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Bernie Sanders, again, preparing for his presidential bid for 2020.
It has been more than a month now since the U.S. government reopened from the longest government shutdown in the nation's history.
But we're learning now that more than a thousand TSA workers, those very essential workers in U.S. airports, they're still waiting on their back pay. Our Rene Marsh has this report.
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As we know, many TSA employees impacted by that government shutdown live paycheck to paycheck. They were depending on food banks; some even received eviction notices.
So it was really unbelievable when CNN learned more than a month after this shutdown ended, more than a thousand TSA employees are still owed back pay. This includes screeners, inspectors, canine teams.
But here is the thing, the reason for the delay stems in part from an unusual move by TSA administrator David Pekoske during the shutdown to pay a partial paycheck to workers in order to help keep them on the job.
Remember, hundreds of TSA workers called out from work during the shutdown. The current problem with the back pay was the subject of a phone call that TSA headquarters held with field offices across the country on Wednesday.
And according to a partial transcript of a call, obtained by CNN, the agency said their partial payment to employees coincided with the end of the shutdown, when funding got restored.
And I'm quoting, they said on this call, "Our timing could not have been poorer in terms of when we executed partial pay."
Well, the result is an administrative mess. Now the agency is working to make corrections in its system to reflect that some employees have already received a partial payment so that the balance that is owed to them is accurate.
As one frustrated TSA official put it, this cheated the purpose of the shutdown. During the shutdown, people are intended to basically not receive a paycheck because it is not supposed to be comfortable; it is a way to ensure that the shutdown does not last very long.
But what we saw was agencies looking for ways to soften the blow of what was the longest shutdown in U.S. history. And now, as this official put it, this created more problems for employees and they are dealing with it more than a month after the shutdown is over.
We did reach out to the agency and TSA tells CNN in a statement, "Of TSA's 60,000 employees, approximately 1,000 throughout the country require some sort of pay correction."
And the agency says that it is continuing to process those corrections but no clear deadline from when everyone will receive their back pay -- reporting from Washington, Rene Marsh, CNN.
HOWELL: Rene, thank you.
Now to South America, Venezuela's self-proclaimed --
HOWELL: -- interim president is wrapping up his tour across Latin America. Juan Guaido met with leaders to build up international support in his bid to unseat Nicolas Maduro. Guaido's now in Ecuador and said he will return to Venezuela after his trip is finished. He hasn't said when or how he will return.
But when he does return, he could be arrested. The E.U. is urging the Maduro government not to threaten his freedom.
The impact of last week's border skirmishes are still being felt. A second person has died after the violence at Venezuela's border with Brazil. And at the border with Colombia, desperate people are now crossing illegally. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has that report.
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.
HOWELL: Europe's biggest port is bracing for Brexit. Why Rotterdam says life is going to get harder for people trying to buy groceries if there is no trade deal reached by March 29th. That story ahead.
HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.
Well, less than a month to go before the day many in the U.K. rallied for, a day that half the country fought against, Brexit, the planned withdrawal from the E.U. and Europe's biggest port is concerned about what could happen if there is no trade deal.
Right now Rotterdam works like a well-oiled machine and the U.K. benefits greatly but that could all come to an abrupt end come March 29th. CNN's Atika Shubert has this.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 42 kilometers long, Rotterdam is Europe's biggest and busiest seaport and the U.K. is the fourth largest customer here with 40 million tons rolling in and out annually. Now that a hard Brexit looms, Rotterdam port is sounding the alarm.
MARK DIJK, PORT OF ROTTERDAM: Of course we were hoping for a transition period but therefore we said, together with the Dutch customs, prepare for the worst and prepare for a no-deal scenario on the 29th of March.
SHUBERT (voice-over): That could hit British supermarkets first.
SHUBERT: So this is peak loading time at Daily Fresh Logistics. You can see this one is going straight to the U.K. after this. And they run about 150 to 200 trucks a day. But after Brexit, this is all going to slow down.
Ninety percent of its business is delivering fresh produce across the U.K. within 24 hours. Here's how it works: a British supermarket can call in the morning to Daily Fresh Logistics for an order of radishes, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes and, by closing time on the same day, this will arrive on supermarket shelves. That's pretty fast. But after Brexit, it won't be happening like that anymore.
SHUBERT (voice-over): Peter Trigg remembers waiting hours for customs before the U.K. joined the E.U.
PETER TRIGG, DAILY FRESH LOGISTICS: Always waiting, waiting, waiting. So when the day came, we don't (INAUDIBLE) anymore, everybody was happy.
SHUBERT (voice-over): Those waiting days are back. Daily Fresh says it will see delays of 48 hours initially, as truckers will have to fill out eight times more paperwork just to get on the ferry to Britain. Still, it is determined to keep supplying the U.K. after Brexit.
NICOLA VISBEEN, DAILY FRESH LOGISTICS: Two years ago, we still have two years and then after you think, oh, we still have one year. But now it's only one month and you think, oh, that's going to be tight.
SHUBERT (voice-over): No fresh tomatoes may be the least of it and Rotterdam, when it comes to Brexit, the phrase you hear most is hope for the best, prepare for the worst -- Atika Shubert, CNN, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
HOWELL: Brexit is upon them, coming soon.
Still ahead, get ready. Yet another winter storm slamming North America with more than 52 million people under a weather alert. We'll have all the details for you. Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:50:00]
HOWELL: Thank you for being with us for NEWSROOM. Back after the break with more news for you. Stay with us.