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Venezuela's Juan Guaido Plans To Go Home Despite Safety Concerns; New Film Lays Out Abuse Allegations Against Michael Jackson; It's Carnival Time Around The World; U.S. Politicians Commemorate Alabama Civil Rights March; An Outbreak of Terrible Tornados is Sweeping Across the United States; Jerry Nadler Believes Donald Trump Obstructed Justice; U.S. and South Korea About to Resume War Drills; Juan Guaido Set to Return to Venezuela; A Look at ISIS' Last Enclave in Eastern Syria. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 4, 2019 - 02:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: An outbreak of killer tornados sweeping across three U.S. states. At this hour, many are missing, dozens badly hurt. The officials fear come first light, the death toll will continue to rise.

Of all the congressional investigations into the 45th president of the United States, the most consequential may soon just be getting started and it could mark the beginning to the road to impeachment.

A small count (ph) of 10 cars and trucks spread about a half a square mile in Eastern Syria, all that's left of the dreams of a grand ISIS caliphate. The terror group's control of this miserable place and territory is being counted in hours and days.

Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and all round the world, great to have you with us. I am John Vause. You're watching CNN Newsroom.

A cluster of severe storms ripped through the south eastern United States killing at least 23 people, including children, and leaving behind a trail of devastation from Alabama to Florida to Georgia. Lee County, Alabama recounts the entire death toll for now, but already it's been the deadliest day for tornados in the U.S. since 2013. The small town of Beauregard was hit with a one-two punch and two tornados have believed to have touched down within an hour of one another.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houses completely destroyed, homes just basically just slammed left where once stood a home. Massive damage just some of the area has -- specific areas the contents of one residence we know for a fact was located over 1,000 yards away. So we've got a wide -- very wide storm track that went through the area, maybe even been two storms. We're not sure, but massive damage.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Sara Palczewski is a digital producer for the Opelika-Auburn News in Alabama. She joins us now on the line. So Sarah, search and rescue has been scaled back overnight. Do you know what the plan is come first light? Is there one area in particular where they plan to focus resources, and how concerned are authorities by this time that by tomorrow the official death toll will be a lot higher?

SARA PALCZEWSKI, OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS: John, what we may have heard is that they are probably going to back off for most of the night because the damage is too extensive and it's dangerous for crews, but they plan to hit the ground running right in the morning.

Officials also told us that the National Weather Service, they plan to be out with survey crews throughout the day on Monday, surveying damage and getting more of an idea of what went through the area. It looks like most of the damage is around Lee County around the small country town of Beauregard, so that is probably where most of their search and rescues are going to occur tomorrow.

VAUSE: You know, this is a part of the world which is no stranger to severe weather. But has there ever been a day as bad as this in terms of loss of life?

PALCZEWSKI: Not -- definitely not in Lee County. This is probably one of the worst natural disasters, tornado events in the area. Like we said, it's just the death toll is going to continue to rise. It seems that the area went through a mobile home park kind of area in the county town, so it looks like the toll could rise, and it's definitely something people are keeping an eye on around here.

VAUSE: Yeah. Earlier, the National Weather Service tweeted out first tornado to impact Lee County today was at least an EF-3, at least half a mile wide. So an EF-3 means wind speeds up to 165 miles per hour. So can you describe just how much damage has been done by a twister which is that strong and that wide?

PALCZEWSKI: I was not able to go through the area. But from what the pictures and what the rest of our team has sent back, that small country town just -- it looked totally decimated. I went out to the other town of Smith Station, which is kind of a little bit larger town, and there were multiple businesses that are a complete loss, roofs ripped off.

It just looks like -- as one of the residents have told me that had a business said it looks like a bomb went off and blew up their entire business.

VAUSE: So what are residents being told now, those whose homes are still standing or those in emergency accommodation? What are they being told the plan should be for the next 24 hours? Do they stay where they are? Should they try to get somewhere where, you know, electricity and water are still functional?

PALCZEWSKI: They're definitely a couple things. They should set up in different towns. So they're kind of looking around and asking people to contact the local emergency management agency to let them know that they're OK, or for people to contact them if they're messing someone.

Right now, they're asking people to hang tight, and if they can leave their house to get to one of the Red Cross shelters or another shelter that they've setup such as fire stations. They're asking residents to go to there. Other than that, it's kind of bunker down, stay off the roads, and let EMA and other first responders through to be able to clear more debris.

[02:05:03] VAUSE: One report I read had 40 wounded people, injured people, turning up one of the area hospitals which essentially overwhelmed the medical facility. Also being overwhelmed, which is telling is the mortuary, the morgue services as well. That is how small this community is.

Clearly, they are struggling with the resources they have. Will there be more resources coming in first light to help with the search and rescue and help with the recovery?

PALCZEWSKI: We haven't been so, but it wouldn't surprise me. They will probably -- it will be an all hands on deck situation tomorrow. It looks pretty -- it's pretty devastating in multiple areas. So I can see them bringing in different agencies.

From what we know, the National Weather Service will definitely be on the ground tomorrow, as well as search and rescue teams and I would assume they bring in other teams to kind of help and go through just those debris. We've been told they've been using drones help locate possible lives that are buried in rubble. They've been trying to use every mean necessary with as many people as possible and get people out safely.

VAUSE: Yeah. Sara, it's a bad situation, obviously, and hopefully get better in the coming hours and the coming days. But thank you so much. We appreciate the update there.

PALCZEWSKI: Thank you.

VAUSE: OK. Let's go to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri with more on this. I mean looking at these images, this is just incredible. That -- 116 miles per hour, that's, you know, the strength of wind gusts, that's incredible.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is incredible. You know one thing it's really hard to relate to folks because a lot of people haven't felt tornados and certainly tornados of this magnitude. When you're talking about 165 miles per hour, that is healthy category five hurricane, except you get about a five minutes notice, it goes over community, and it just completely takes out the communities it's directly impacting versus a hurricane where you have multiple days to prepare, and of course, on a wider area of concern.

But this particular one essentially brings that magnitude into an area and a community in upwards of some 35 reports of tornados now across portions of the southern United States in the past 24 hours, and the deadliest outbreak since 2013 when it comes to tornados as well. So an incredible perspective when you consider how things have played out here, latest numbers now taking that up to 36. So, it kind of shows you how fluid the situation is across the southern United States, which by the way, that amount of tornados is equivalent to what this area of the United States and much of the U.S. get in the month of March in its entirety. And we're talking about this happening still in the winter season before spring even officially arrives.

But the track, the estimated track of one these tornados, the one that caused significant damage, potentially on the ground for over 65 miles, half a mile wide in diameters in spots. And again, as John referenced there, winds as high 165 miles per hour, and these are the initial estimates.

And you notice the month of March typically begins the on set of tornado season and then rapidly intensifies into what is among the deadliest events, of course, in the U.S. It happens every spring right there across portions of the tornado alley into areas of the southeast.

But the intensity of the storms beginning to wind down, look at this, almost 10,000 lightning strikes of these storms in the past 24 hours. There is what is left of this frontal boundary beginning to push offshore, so now back behind it this recovery mode across this region of the southern U.S.

But you go into northern tier of this particular storm system, and we often talk about the clash of air masses, what leads to strong tornados, blizzard-like conditions across portions of Interior, New England right now, gusty winds and also heavy snowfall coming down in parts of town, winter weather advisories across the northeast as well, and in fact, very heavy snowfall into parts of Boston.

Some models estimating as much as 8 to 12 inches of snow in Boston. If this verifies here, that is roughly already what has occurred so far in 2019 happening here into the overnight hours and early morning hours for Boston, so certainly a big snowmaker as well as a big severe weather maker on the southern end of it into the southern U.S., John.

VAUSE: A big take away for me in everything you said is this is the start of the tornado season, so obviously a lot more to come. Thanks, Pedram.

JAVAHERI: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Add another congressional investigation into the Trump administration to an already long list. The chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee believes that President Trump has clearly engaged in obstruction of justice. Congressman Jerry Nadler plans to focus on the firing of former FBI Director James Comey in the president's statement about a 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. For more, Boris Sanchez reports from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, making a statement on Sunday revealing that he is preparing to request documents from some 60 individuals and entities related to President Trump.

And this gets personal. Nadler specifically said that he would be asking for documents from the president's own son, Donald Trump Jr., as well as Allen Weisselberg. He's a top executive at the Trump Organization, somebody who is believed to be intimate with the president's tax returns, something that Democrats have long pressed the president to release.

Also on that list, the former chief of staff, John Kelly, as well as former White House counsel Don McGahn. So, Nadler's scope is very broad. Though he was asked about impeachment on Sunday, he said it is too soon to go in that direction. Listen to this.

[02:10:04] JERRY NADLER, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: Impeachment is a long way down the road. We don't -- we don't have the facts yet, but we're going to initiate proper investigations. It's our job to protect the rule of law. That's our core function. And to do that we are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption of -- into corruption and into and obstruction of justice.

SANCHEZ: Nadler saying that he wants to make a case to the American people about impeachment before going there. I asked for the White House to respond to Nadler's request. They ultimately declined to comment. It's clear, though, that we will hear more from President Trump on this. He tweeted a pair of times on Sunday talking about Democrats going after him unfairly. But again, this is personal. And we know the president is not shy about sharing his feelings.

Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.


VAUSE: Political analyst Peter Matthews joins us now from Los Angeles. Peter, good to see you again.


VAUSE: OK. Here is list of just a few of the congressional investigations which are underway right now. They're all House committees because Democrats control the lower house. Republicans control the Senate. So we just heard from Boris Sanchez about the Judiciary Committee looking into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power.

Ways and Means reportedly about to request Trump's tax returns, Oversight and Reform now looking into security clearance for Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and has set a Monday deadline for the White House to turn over documentation. Same committee is also considering calling the Trump children as well as Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, after questioning the personal attorney for Trump, his former one, Michael Cohen last week. We also have the Financial Services Committee looking into the

president's past financial dealings, including possible money- laundering. The House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. And look, it does go on and on and on.

Well, all these investigations could be potentially damaging to the president. It's only the House Judiciary, the latest to join the party which can recommend impeachment. That's according to The Washington Post. So regardless of what the Democrat leadership may be saying about waiting for Mueller, you're not ready to go down that road of impeachment. Does this now suggest that impeachment at least is on the horizon?

MATTHEWS: It's definitely on the horizon, and it may take a little bit of time. But Mr. Nadler is very serious when it comes out and says that he believes that the president obstructed justice. It's quite unusual for him to come out and say that, but he must have some evidence he's investigating with his committee to see how the president can obstruct justice.

That's a charge that brought down President Nixon, obstruction of justice and abuse of power as well. It's very similar and parallel here. And it's even more extensive it seems with President Trump when it comes to all these investigations that are going on, especially with the Judiciary Committee.

VAUSE: Yeah. There's also obstruction of justice for the Clinton impeachment as well. It does seem to go hand in hand, you know, with these investigations are underway. It does look to be the start of another bad week for the president after possibly one of the worst of his two years in office last week.

On Sunday, he lashed out on Twitter at this new investigation, "Presidential harassment by crazed Democrats at the highest levels in the history of our country. Likewise, the most vicious and corrupt mainstream media that any president ever had to endure."

Yeah. Of all the investigations, they appear to have merit though. Collectively though, are the Democrats risking at least the appearance of congressional overreach? The president can argue he's being hounded.

MATTHEWS: He's been arguing that, John. But I don't think it's overreaching. People perceived it that way, most people, because the Democrats have been very cautious. Even during the campaign, the election of 2018, Nancy Pelosi came out and said we are not going to be talking about impeachment in this election. We'll focus on issues.

It was very cautiously brought about, until now. The evidence seems to be so overwhelmingly coming out in the forefront. These various things that Trump has done and the documentation is available it looks like. That's going to be subpoenaed.

So all this is almost forcing Democrats to be able to say we have to investigate this because that's the rule of law principle. The Democratic Congress will be in dereliction of duty that does not investigate these things towards possible impeachment. They're not saying we're going to impeach. They're saying we can investigate him to see if there's any evidence at all that impeachment charges could be brought up. They're being so cautious.

VAUSE: I just want to -- there's so much evidence out there of -- at least to begin investigations into certain crimes allegedly committed by this administration. There was -- the old saying -- if you're going to take a shot at the king, you only get one shot so you better make it a good one. And that's kind of the theory here why wait for Mueller.

But it just seems there's so much stuff out there. You could take plenty of shot -- there could be multiple shots at President Trump, and there's ammunition to go.

MATTHEWS: There's so much, John. I mean look at when he fired Comey and he went on and bragged on NBC that he did it because of the Russia thing that was bothering him. And there was so many other things like that where he tweeted the evidence that there was corrupt intent. Corrupt intent is very important to prove obstruction of justice because it has to do with the person obstructing, using his power to block an investigation that could hurt him.

And it's so clear that when President Trump tweeted these things that explain them publicly, that there was corrupt intent there. It certainly seems that way, and I think that's what the committee is going to go after to find out whether that's clear.

[02:15:00] VAUSE: Exactly. They'll also be focusing on possible obstruction of justice by the president in the Mueller investigation. Here's another Sunday tweet from the president, "I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted, and corrupt people in a witch hunt that is illegal and should never have been allowed to start, and only because I won the election despite this great success."

A day earlier, at the annual gathering of conservatives known as CPAC, the president said this about Mueller's investigation.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of a sudden, they're trying to take you out with bull (muted), OK?


VAUSE: So two days, two separate examples of what the chairman of the Judiciary Committee specifically said are examples of obstruction of justice, calling it a witch hunt, questioning its credibility. But how do the Democrats prove that case? How do they go from, you know, what the president says, to actual tangible evidence of obstruction of justice as a result of those words?

MATTHEWS: By getting witnesses and also by getting physical evidence of actual tweets. And people can speak out and say this was the intent. Don't forget that they got information or trying to get information from the very staff members from the White House who will become witnesses to how the president operated behind the scenes. And that can be evidence right there very possibly. So they're going right down to the hardcore, solid information before making any kind of judgments on this. I think there's a good chance this can happen.

VAUSE: OK. Well, I want to finish up with the Kentucky Senator Republican Rand Paul joining three others in the Senate who plan to vote on Democrats to block the president's declaration of a national emergency, which he was hoping to do and he used to fund his border wall project, which means Democrats will have the numbers in the Senate if they will stick together to stop this declaration going through.

The president will then use his veto over that, which will be his first time. But still, this is a significant milestone and not a good one for the president.

MATTHEWS: It's very significant because it has to do with the -- what we call the balance of power and checks and balances between the president and the legislative branch to Congress. And the Congress is saying we're not going to let this president abusively use his power to declare an emergency which does not exist just so he can get money shipping (ph) around.

When the power to fund the government to budget is the Congress' power. This is the convolution (ph) of the fact he is going to be going up against, the Democrats in Congress, and Congress and all, Republican as well. They're saying we will not let this president take away the Congress' power. And so therefore, they're going to vote to block his declaration.

Now, the two thirds vote will be required to override the veto. That maybe a difficult thing to do, but you never know because things have changed so quickly then fastly in terms of people's mind -- in making up their mind, which way to go in Congress on this.

VAUSE: Yeah. With that, ice starts to crack. It cracks really quickly.



VAUSE: Absolutely. Peter, thank you. Good to see you.

MATTHEWS: You, too, John. Take care.

LEMON: Yes. Well, South Korea and the U.S. are resuming military drills while trying not to upset the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. We'll have more on that in a moment. Plus, Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch was supposed to be a child's dream. But for the two boys featured in leaving Neverland, it was more of a nightmare. We'll talk about the new documentary coming up.

[02:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) VAUSE: Venezuela's opposition leader, Juan Guaido, is set to return home Monday and lead new protests against the sitting President Nicolas Maduro. Guaido announced his plans in a video message recorded from an undisclosed location which was then posted onto social media.

He's been meeting Latin American leaders, trying to release reports that by leaving Venezuela, he violated a travel ban imposed by Maduro's government. So when he returns, Guaido could be arrested, but he warned Maduro detaining him would be a mistake.


JUAN GUAIDO, SELF-DECLARED INTERIM VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Tomorrow, anticipating any intent from the regime, we have left instructions for our people. First, we meet in protest tomorrow to announce the next step. They can cut a flower but never stop spring. This process is unstoppable. The transition has begun in Venezuela. The only one that puts a sub to it is a regime that blocks humanitarian aid. We are doing well because we are together.


VAUSE: CNN's Senior International Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has been following all the developments. He reports now from neighboring Colombia.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is clear both of Venezuela and for its self-declared interim president and opposition leader, Juan Guaido, that Monday is an absolutely key day in the progress of this opposition movement.

Now, he was quite clear in a 33-minute long speech which he gave. I have to say with worse audio and conditions that we've seen with his previous addresses on social media outside of the country. He was quite clear that if he is detained, he said that will be the Maduro regime, in his words, last mistake.

He said that you can't really stop the flower in spring, and he also was quite clear that they have a plan for the country and indeed a plan for government workers to assist in what he refers to as the resistance.

He referred to how 700 military have so far defected from Venezuela out of the country. But he was quite clear in how important it is for the country to be united on the streets. Monday and Tuesday, he's called for a 10th protest around Venezuela starting at 11 o'clock in the Las Mercedes area of Caracas. Quite whether or not he'd get to those protests is not clear though.

He didn't where he was. He said he was going back to Venezuela. It may be that he is already there. That would perhaps explain the worst audio conditions and presentation of this particular broadcast. We've seen them in Colombia much more professionally organized. But most importantly, the question is whether he can make it to these protests. Now, as I say, they will last potentially a number of days, and the

number of people on the streets is absolutely seminal as a sign of support here. By our count, we didn't really get above 100,000 or so streams of these different particular social media outlets, in which this was broadcast upon. That doesn't reflect necessarily people to whom it will actually reach.

But still a seminal moment, the Maduro government as often negotiations about Juan Guaido's volition has been. But unless there are fresh elections that can't be talks, we'll have to wait and see how many people turn out on the street for him, and frankly whether he has the freedom of movement, the E.U. and many of his supporters including the United States have insisted upon. Otherwise, there could be further sanctions on most against the Maduro government.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Bogota, Colombia.


[02:24:59] VAUSE: Joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea are set to resume, and they'll be smaller, slimmed down versions of previous war games, which have long been an irritation to Pyongyang. The announcement of new small drills came just days after the failed summit between the U.S. and North Korean leaders. Paula Hancocks is live this hour in Seoul, South Korea.

You know, Paula, last year when the U.S. president surprised pretty much everyone except Kim Jong-Un it seems, that these drills were actually going to be put on hold. He mentioned back then because of the costs. Reuters reported this. A joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea scrapped after President Donald Trump griped about tremendously expensive military drills.

It would have cost around $14 million, U.S. officials told Reuters. I believe that one exercise and it was a year ago. But now, once again, we're hearing from Donald Trump, saying that by putting these exercises on a much smaller scale, it will save the United States hundreds of millions of dollars. Where does he get that number from?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't know, John. I mean nobody knows where that figure comes from. It's not one that we have heard. I mean there's no doubt that these military drills are expensive. Clearly, they are massive. These ones during the spring, which have been held for decades now, are very large scale. And one of them goes on for a couple of months. So clearly, they're expensive.

But this figure of $100 million, which he did bring out last Thursday at his press conference in Hanoi, we simply don't know where that is from. But we're hearing what is the attempted to be a positive spin on this from both the U.S. and the South Koreans, the defense ministry in saying that it's not going to affect the battle readiness of these two militaries.

If they have these smaller units level exercises or if they have virtual training, but the skeptics say clearly it is going to affect the readiness of these two allies to be fighting together, especially when you consider the U.S. has rotational soldiers coming into the country, John.

VAUSE: OK, Paula. We're out of time. But just to put this in context, the U.S. defense budget is $700 billion between that $14 million. The president wants to spend $15 billion on his border wall, which some say is a solution in search of a problem, the military parade which he canceled last year because it would cost $92 million three times what White House had budgeted, and there's the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which was a $23 billion hit to the economy, which achieved nothing.

It makes you wonder, you know, where the $14 billion is such a big number. But thank you for being with us. Appreciate it. Just ahead here on CNN, a Saudi-American doctor held in detention and his family raising the alarm about his treatment, plus this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the earth shakes. Night into day, the onslaught continues.


VAUSE: The last ISIS enclave in eastern Syria has been reduced to this. We report from the frontlines where the terror group's defeat is imminent.


[02:31:20] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. Thanks for being with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour. Children are among the dead after a tornado touched down in the U.S. State of Alabama killing at least 23 people. The neighbor being State of Georgia also (INAUDIBLE) of the wild storm that swept across the southeast of the United States. It's all part of the storm system bringing severe winter weather to much of the East Coast.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says he believes President Donald Trump has obstructed justice and is launching an investigation. Jerry Nadler said documents will be requested Monday from 60 people make it to the White House in the Trump organization including the President's eldest son, Don Jr.

(INAUDIBLE) with leaders of Latin America. Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido plans to return home Monday to continually protest against his rival Nicholas Maduro. Guaido posted a warning on social media for the Maduro government any attempt to arrest him on arrival would be a mistake.

Hawei CFO is suing Canadian officials saying they violated her rights during her arrest in December. Meng Wanzhou says officers detained search and questioned her without advising her of her rights. She was arrested at the request of the United States which accuses of helping Huawei dodge sanctions on Iran.

The family of a doctor with dual United States and Saudi citizenship say they believe he's being tortured and beaten in Saudi Arabia. He was detained back in 2017 and since said -- his relatives say he is deteriorated both physically and mentally. CNN Nic Robertson has the story.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Fitaihi's family fear for his safety right now. They say that inside jail he doesn't feel safe and he's psychologically deteriorating, you know, a joint U.S.-Saudi national, 1980 moved to the United States, a med student studies there becomes a doctor, moves back to Saudi Arabia in 2006 and somehow in 2017 rounded up with all those Saudi Princess and businessmen by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman put him to Ritz- Carlton hotel but as we're hearing from his lawyer, his lawyer says that there has been no due process applied to his case.

That he doesn't know why he's being held. In fact the lawyer wrote to the U.S. State Department this year. I'll read that letter that his lawyer wrote to the State Department in January. And it reads, without explanation, he was transferred to a Saudi prison where he's been held for nearly a year during which he has been permitted that little contact with the outside world.

It is believed that Dr. Fitaihi has been and is tortured least psychologically during his imprisonment. The family obviously very concerned for his well-being. National Security Advisor John Bolton has said that there has been U.S. consular access to him.


JOHN BOLTON, UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, as of this moment, my understanding is we have had what's called consular access, meaning American diplomats in Saudi Arabia have visited with him, beyond that we don't really have any additional information at this point.


ROBERTSON: Sources I've talked to about his detention say that he's not the only one who is believed to have been beaten during his detention at Ritz-Carlton and is not the only Saudi being lock up for the moment without due process, without recourse to finding out even why they're being held. He was known -- Fitaihi was known as a motivational speaker, not just a doctor in the community but a motivational speaker and somebody who stood up for civil rights within the Saudi community.

VAUSE: Saudi officials have not returned CNN's request for comment. But in a statement to the New York Times which first reported the story, spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington denied any mistreatment of detainees saying "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes any and all allegations of ill treatment of defendants awaiting trial or prisoners serving their sentences very seriously."

[02:35:14] In the coming hours, the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem will merge with the American embassy in West Jerusalem. The move has been condemned by Palestinian officials. The stand-away consulate had provided diplomatic representation to Palestinians. U.S. officials say the consulate will continue to provide outreach to Palestinians. The State Department also says the move does not see a change of U.S. policy for Jerusalem, the west bank, or the gas strip.

Few years ago ISIS was on the verge of redrawing a map of the Middle East. The terrorist blitzed across large parts of Iraq and Syria, they defeated armies, skilling and enslaving tens of thousands of those who did not share their jihadist beliefs. That ideology may live on but the self-declared Caliphate is now ruined. The terror group was under siege, cornered by U.S.-backed forces in its last Syrian enclave.

It's a small heavily bombed camp near the Iraqi border and it's on the brink of collapse. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports now from the front lines.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hell in a very small place. Airstrikes, artillery and mortar round rain down upon the so-called Islamic state's miserable realm. Reduced to a ragged cluster of tents, wrecked cars and trucks perhaps just a half-square mile. Despite the onslaught people peopled men it appears can be seen walking the tents. U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic forces have given up trying to estimate how many people, all fighters they'd say are still there.

Some of them want to surrender, they're suicidal and some want to escape but we won't let them says the (INAUDIBLE) the commander on this roof. They can either surrender or die. They're surrounded, outnumbered and outgunned. Final defeat seems imminent yet they fight on convince perhaps that divine intervention will allow them to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

All indications are that this battle will not be over or tomorrow as President Trump says, one commander told us, maybe it will be done in four or five days. In the evening, SDF troops prepare their weapons for battle. The pounding carries on around the clock. There is no rest for the last holdouts. Midnight in the earth shakes. Night and the day, the onslaught continues.

ISIS lived by the bullet and the bomb and by the bullet and the bomb. It is dying. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Baghouz, Eastern Syria.


VAUSE: Algeria's aging and ailing president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika is defying protesters that announced he will run in elections next month. The country has seen some of the biggest demonstrations in decades. Demanding the president to sit down, postpone the elections and dissolve the government. Reading from a statement which was issued by the president, his campaign director said the elections will go ahead.


ABDELGHANI ZAALANE, CAMPAIG MANAGER FOR PRESIDENT ABDELAZIZ BOUTEFLIKA (through translator): A new set of presidential elections will take place, founded on the agenda produced by the national symposium. I promised not to run for the office and those presidential elections. Those elections are meant to among other things guarantee the transition of power under peaceful conditions.

And in an atmosphere of freedom and transparency, the national symposium will determine the date of the proceeding elections.


VAUSE: The 82-year-old president has served four terms and was first elected in 1999 but is lively incapacitated after stroke. And is believed he's allowed the military and civilian elite to run the country.

Michael Jackson was once considered the Peter Pan of pop but now a new documentary has a much darker tale to tell. That is next.



[02:42:36] WADE ROBSON, MICHAEL JACKSON ACCUSER: I was seven years old, Michael asked, do you and the family want to come to Neverland? On the story book, right? On the fairy tail.

MICHAEL JACKSON, AMERICAN SINGER-SONGWRITER: Hello, Wade, today is your birthday, so congratulations and I love you, goodbye.

ROBSON: There's no thoughts of this is wrong or anything like that. He told me if they ever found out what we were doing, he and I would go to jail for the rest of our lives.


VAUSE: Leaving Neverland is a new documentary that tells the dark story of two men who say they were abused by the world famous pop star Michael Jackson for years. All the time, their star struck families reaped financial rewards, these are not new allegations against Jackson, his associate denies all the claims but the documentary lays out some chilling details. It airs on HBO. CNN and HBO are both owned by WarnerMedia

CNN media critic Brian Lowry joins us now from Los Angeles. So, Brian, thanks for coming in. The overall consensus here seems to the documentary is essentially devastating. So, if that's the case, why hasn't there been sort of this widespread outrage, you know, calls to wipe Michael Jackson's music from the face of existence, there you hear it again. It's almost seems like (INAUDIBLE) this stuff is going on.

BRIAN LOWRY, CNN MEDIA CRITIC: Well, I mean, Michael Jackson has had a tremendous number of very loyal fans who really especially since his death have really glommed on to him and the state has made a fortunate in the decades since he died but you're right, these allegations have been around for a very long time and the documentary brings them back in a very wrenching and for a lot of people I think who weren't exposed to them in detail back when they were happening in a very wrenching and unsettling manner.

VAUSE: A lot dissenting moments which (INAUDIBLE) recall, we can't obviously go into a lot of them because of the nature, but here's one part when James describes how he would practice with Jackson, what to do if someone was coming while they're in bed together. Listen to this.


JAMES SAFECHUCK, MICHAEL JACKSON ACCUSER: We would be in the hotel room and he would pretend like somebody was coming in and he had to get dressed as fast as possible without making noise. So, not getting caught was a big point, just kind of fundament.


[02:45:00] VAUSE: You know, consciousness of guilt on Jackson's part is incredible and yet, you know, he publically pleaded his innocence. I remember the time he clearly talked about being hounded and being a victim.

LOWRY: Very much so, and you know, it's still to this day, there are people who will argue that he was a victim and it's trending M.J. innocent.

What's interesting about this is the documentary has Jackson defending himself at some length. They excerpt a good deal of the Martin Bashir interview, the Jackson did in 2003. Which I think, for a lot of people was just an example of how tone-deaf he could be on this issue.

Sort of reiterating over and over again that there was absolutely nothing wrong with a 44-year-old man sharing a bed with young children. And that it was merely the people who were asking about it, who were making it sound somehow unsavory or inappropriate.

VAUSE: Yes, this is what pedophiles usually say. Jackson's estate described the documentary is a public lynching, described James Safechuck and Wade Robson as admitted liars, because both had gone on the record as children denying they've been molested.

Again, here's Wade Robson, explaining why he said one thing as a kid and another as an adult.


WADE ROBSON, ACCUSER OF MICHAEL JACKSON: I had no understanding of it being abused, you know I loved Michael. And all the times that I testified and -- you know, the many, many times that I gushed over him publicly in the interviews or whatever it may be, that was from a real place.


VAUSE: You know, it just seemed very -- it seems a very credible answer like pretty much everything they say during this documentary just has this air of credibility. LOWRY: Well, and it's doubly effective because you hear these two parallel accounts that are so similar. Including not just the relationship with the young boys but the relationship with their families. And that really is one of the most unsettling things about this is that -- you know, if these allegations are true as they lay them out, not only were they being abused but they were often being abused with their parents or family members, you know, maybe a guesthouse away.

And the Jackson fame and money which has always been the enormous complicating factor and in everything about Michael Jackson -- all the coverage of Michael Jackson was part of that.

I mean even one of the mothers admits that Jackson helped them buy a house and that in hindsight it looks terrible and looks like they were somehow being bought off.

VAUSE: Yes, the parents are basically complicit in all of this. They were overwhelmed by the money and the fame. Safechuck and his mother, they were both the first guests ever invited to Neverland, which Safechuck said Jackson told him he actually bought the ranch, especially for him when he was a kid.

LOWRY: It is. I mean, one of the most interesting things is even now, when you see the interviews with the parents, and to an extent with the kids, you know, it was such a dizzying experience.

I mean, here was one of the most famous people in the world, a beloved entertainer who had brought them into their confidence, brought them into his circle, and just the idea that -- and this is the word that most people have used that this was the seduction. A seduction of the -- of the boys and the seduction of their families just in terms of what they were exposed to in this sort of magical landscape he laid out for them.

VAUSE: And this is the thing about -- you know, Jackson's music did now -- it just now seems so tainted. I mean, this is just a reminder of everything that we heard at the time of the trials that he went through when the allegations were first brought up.

But in some ways, it just seems so much worse now because we've had this time to think about it and to process it, it just seems it's very difficult for many people now to listen to Jackson's music.

LOWRY: Well, this is the interesting thing. I mean, the Jackson estate as you stated has pushed back very hard against this documentary. And they've stated that -- you know, both of these men are now seeking money, and they filed lawsuits, and this is true.

But the Jackson estate also has a tremendous amount involved and wrapped up in this, which is that -- you know, they have reaped hundreds of millions of dollars from Michael Jackson's memory.

And to the extent that his music is -- if his music is seriously tainted, one of the issue -- I mean, if his image is tainted, and therefore, his creative output is tainted. As we've seen with some other celebrities that have been subject of unsavory allegations, it will be interesting to see what happens to that going forward.

And whether some of these plans to continue to exploit his music and market his music and do stage shows and other things that have been discussed, whether those will actually happen.

VAUSE: Yes, he was so talented. But obviously, it seems very trouble as well. Michael Jackson. So, Brian, thank you. Appreciate it.

LOWRY: Thank you.

VAUSE: 54 years ago, police led a brutal crackdown on civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama. Coming up, we'll look back at America's Bloody Sunday.


[02:52:07] PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: One more last push of winter, at least, feels like it across portions of the United States where a significant cold upwards of 50 record cold high temperatures slated for portions of the Upper Midwest, while the frontal boundaries draped across portions of the Northeast.

U.S. brings in a significant bout of snow. Potentially, there's snowiest system of the season coming in, of course, just a couple of weeks before winter officially ends and blustery weather certainly adding some insult to injury across the area. But Boston could get the blockbuster event out of this potentially up to 20 or 30 centimeters of snow when it's all said and done.

Back towards the west where it all begins. Yes, another system and another round of wet weather into California. Come good old rain down towards the coast while significant snow builds out towards the mountainous regions.

But San Francisco will keep you cloudy, 13 degrees and work your way into portions of Texas. The cold air into North Texas, six below across that region. You want warmth? We can find out across portions of the tropics, of course, Kingston. Some blustery weather, but not too bad when you're approaching 30 degrees and sunny skies there.

And down into portions of say the northern tip of South America, Bogota, into the middle teens and upper teens. Manaus, around 31. La Paz, also looking at a few showers and thunderstorms.

And as we shift the attention down towards Montevideo, looking at some rain there. Buenos Aires also coming in with wet weather. One of the cooler spots down farther towards the south, Rio Gallegos, should be into the middle teens, some blustery weather across that region.


VAUSE: It's carnival time around the world. A time to celebrate before the for solemn days splint. Most famous party is held in Rio. Hundreds of thousands gather to watch and take part in raucous street parades. In Goa, India, a former Portuguese colony, hundreds of tourists have let spelled out by a glimpse of these Indian inspired floats. The Czech village of Vortova celebrates the country's version of Carlisle.

United Nations put the celebrations there on its list of events honoring the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, whatever that might mean.

And in Portugal's most famous carnival where social and political satire was featured, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had it out over the dove of peace.

More (INAUDIBLE) right now, prominent U.S. politicians join hands Sunday to mark the anniversary of a brutal crackdown on civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama.

Potential presidential contenders including Cory Booker and Sherrod Brown marched along with Hillary Clinton and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. 54 years ago this week, peaceful protesters demanding the right of black people to vote, were beaten with clubs and hosed by state troopers as they attempted to cross the bridge.

CNN reporter Nia-Malika Henderson's parents were civil rights activists.


[02:55:00] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I've never really been to Selma. And so, as I'm driving up to the Edmund Pettus Bridge here on the site of a massacre. Really right, you think about 54 years ago of what happened there, and the people whose lives are endangered during that instance.

I got very choked up in seeing of this scene, and of course, there were marches after that. Two marches after than the final successful one, which my father was a part of in March of 1965.

But listen, you talk to people around this March today I've just bumped into a man who said he was 16 in 1965, part of this March. And then, migrated to Indiana because things were so bad in 1965.

But the message here today, particularly from these Democratic candidates is that there's still so much work to do in terms of expanding the ballot and in terms of by ensuring our civil rights and equality for all.


VAUSE: And in her public remarks at the summer event, Hillary Clinton said the U.S. now has a full-fledged crisis in our democracy.

On that note, thank you for joining us. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. Another hour of news right after the break. You're watching CNN.