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Trump Under Pressure As Democrats Ramp Up Probes; Cohen Provides More Documents To Congress; Huawei Suing U.S. Government Over Federal Ban; Knife Attacks A National Crisis In Britain; U.S. Journalist Detained In Caracas, Released Hours Later; Homeland Security Chief Defends Immigration Policies; "Jeopardy" Host Battling Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer; U.S.-Backed Forces Say 30,000 Have Fled ISIS Enclave; Reports of Will Smith's New Role Sparks Backlash. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 7, 2019 - 01:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The once loyal fixer to the U.S. President makes his final appearance on Capitol Hill, and Michael Cohen arrived with hard evidence for lawmakers. What's the definition of a cage? Under five of Democrats, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security said a chain-link fence enclosure into a chamber on a concrete floor is not a cage.

And fire off the outrage machine. There's a new debate in Hollywood over colorism. Is will smith the right shade of black to play the role of Venus and Serena Williams's father in a new film. Hello, welcome to viewers joining us more around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

No letter for Donald Trump and his administration under fire on multiple fronts as Democrats ramp up their investigations. On Capitol Hill, Mr. Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen met privately with the House Intelligence Committee. He provided documents showing edits to his false testimony back in 2017 which he says were made by former loyal lawyer for the president.

Also in the hot seat the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who answered some tough questions about the administration's immigration policies during contentious hearing on Capitol Hill. And there is new polling out which shows how Americans see the state of the country. According to a Monmouth University poll, almost two- thirds say it's heading in the wrong direction. That's up eight points since November. Only 29 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction.

At the same time, the Trump administration security clearances are back in the spotlight with new questions about the role the president played when it came to his daughter and son-in-law. We get details down from CNN's Pamela Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: A special person and she's worked so hard as you all know.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Tonight pressure mounting on the White House to explain its security clearance process. The House Oversight Committee Chairman says he wants answers after sources tell CNN President Trump demanded his daughter and adviser Ivanka be given a clearance despite objections of two top White House officials.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not going to comment on security clearances. That's the policy of the White House and that continues to be the policy of the White House. We're also not going to get into comments and back-and-forth over things that are currently dealing with the oversight.

BROWN: Ivanka told ABC several weeks ago her father wasn't involved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are a lot of people that question whether you were given special treatment by the President overriding other officials.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: Absolutely not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you speak to that?

I TRUMP: There were anonymous leaks about there being issues but the President had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance.

BROWN: Sources tell CNN it's possible she didn't know. One person familiar with her process says quote she did not seek nor have outside counsel involved in her process as no issues were ever raised. CNN's reporting comes days after the New York Times revealed the same thing happened with the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Today freshman Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib announced she's taking steps to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump even as Democratic leadership say it's too soon.

SANDERS: They continue to be a group that is totally taken by a small radical leftist fringe of their party and they're completely controlled by it. They know that's not enough to beat this president so they're going to look for other ways to do that.

BROWN: Democrats may choose to focus on the President's economic record after the merchandise trade deficit hit a record high of more than $890 billion, the worst in the history of the United States. Both a trade and budget deficit increase surpassing President Obama's record which Trump routinely bashed on the campaign trail.

TRUMP: Our trade deficit in goods with the world is now -- think of it -- $800 billion trade deficit. Can you imagine? This is the legacy of Barack Obama. This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton.

BROWN: And in yet another economic blow, the GM assembly plant is closing in the key state of Ohio eliminating some 1,700 positions by the end of this month. Now it is important to note that job growth is on an upward trend and last year was the best for manufacturing jobs in decades. But certainly, this GM plant closing is only adding salt to the wound with this news of the ballooning trade and budget deficits despite President Trump's America-first policies. Pamela Brown, CNN the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen has handed over key documents to the House Intelligence Committee. Cohen has said the president encouraged him to lie to Congress in 2017 about the timeline for negotiations over a Trump Tower in Moscow. But no one was talking specifics about Wednesday's closed-door hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[01:05:08] MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: The hearings went very, very well. I believe that all of the members were satisfied with the statements and the responses that I gave to them. I told them that any additional information that they would want, they should feel comfortable to reach out to my counsel and I would continue to cooperate to the fullest extent of my capabilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: David Katz is a former U.S. Attorney for Los Angeles. He's now criminal defense attorney and he joins us from Los Angeles. David, thanks for coming in.

DAVID KATZ, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Great to be with you.

VAUSE: Here's a little bit more from CNN's reporting about what actually happened on Wednesday. Cohen provided new documents showing edits to the false written statement he delivered to Congress back in 2017. Not entirely clear precisely what wording was changed, how much was changed, how significant it was. But the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, he seemed pretty happy. Listened to Adam Schiff. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He answered every question that was put to him by members of both parties. He was fully cooperative with the committee. We had requested documents of Mr. Cohen. He has provided additional documents to the committee. There may be additional documents that he still has to offer and his cooperation with our committee continues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: OK, so from a little we know about the evidence of the changes of the testimony, also judging you know, by Schiff's reaction, do you get a sense here of just how credible or not credible these accusations are by Cohen that Trump's lawyer was involved in changing this statement in 2017 which was you know, a false statement which he made to Congress?

KATZ: Well, I believe they're very credible, John, because there was a joint defense agreement at the time. And what Michael Kohn says is that it was edited, that the statement that he made was being edited by those lawyers. He actually named names which I won't, but there are lawyers for Trump who are in potentially serious bar and other trouble.

And you can infer that it had to do with the length of time that the negotiations were going on about the Moscow Trump Tower that the thing that Cohen lied about and perjured himself in front of the Congress. What he lied about was how long the negotiations went on because he wanted to make it look like the negotiations had stopped in January 2016.

In other words they did not go on through the heart of the campaign and while Trump was becoming the Republican nominee and during the campaign against Hillary Clinton. In fact Trump expressed his interest repeatedly in having that Trump Tower Moscow go forward. And the counsel for Trump it appears didn't want to give that impression to Congress into the world that the Trump had, in fact, tried to keep that Trump Tower Moscow alive and going even throughout the campaign.

In July 2016, Trump had said I have nothing zero to do with Moscow. That appears now to have been a lie, it appears that Trump's attorneys as part of the joint defense agreement wanted Cohn to tell that lie. He says he did tell that lie and so I think that that's what the changes in his testimony had to do deal with.

And on top of that, John, he presented today the draft. It's not been released yet but there's a draft of what he intended to say and then there's the final version which was edited. Michael Cohen said under oath by Trump's lawyers extremely troubling information.

VAUSE: Last week Cohen also claimed that the President directed him to pay hush money to the two women who claimed to have had an extramarital affairs with Trump, money which was reimbursed to Cohen in 11 payments of $35,000. And now here are six of those checks signed by the president with that very you know, notable signature that he has. These images were obtained by the New York Times.

But again, the point here is that you know, Cohen may be an admitted liar who's going to jail, but he's a liar with documentation, he's a liar with a paper trail which supports at least some of his claims.

KATZ: Well, you know, when I was in the Reagan administration, Adam Schiff was an assistant U.S. attorney right here in our office in Los Angeles. He was a great prosecutor then. He's a great prosecutor now as the head of this committee. And as we used to always say, documents don't lie.

These checks tell a tale and the tale really hurts Trump. It turns out that the first two checks were written on a corporate or Trump organization account. Then seven days after, six or seven days after Mueller is appointed, the special prosecutor, it appears that no one at the Trump Organization, not Weisselberg and not Don Trump Jr. were willing to sign those checks.

They were not willing to sign them which left Trump the conundrum of who's going to sign them. So Trump started to sign them with this very distinctive signature. Throughout the rest of the year, the checks are written by Trump not on a corporate account but on a Donald Trump account. Now this makes no sense.

Now there's a mountain of evidence but this small molehill is important because under this molehill, why would Trump not want to sign -- why would the Trump Organization officials not want to sign the check. Why would Trump be the only person willing to sign them? Why would Trump so much want to have these checks paid? He's a notoriously stingy guy who doesn't like to pay his bills but it was essential to keep Cohen happy throughout 2017 and to reimburse him.

Why are those checks being written by someone who doesn't have a legal relationship anymore with Trump? Why do I say that Cohen didn't have that relationship? Because there's no retainer. No one's ever heard of an attorney working and making $35,000 a month with no retainer. Trump hasn't produced the retainer. The Trump Organization has introduced the retainer. How can it be payment under a retainer?

[01:10:55] And then at the end of 2017, Cohen has finally reimbursed the whole enchilada that he's owed plus enough that he can falsely say it's income when it's not income. And so he's got to be paid double the amount to cover federal and state income tax in New York that Cohen is going to pay and then four months into 2018 that's when Cohen is raided.

When Cohen is raided by the FBI, and the FBI and the federal government have that trove of documents, then there's no more playing around. Those checks are going to be revealed. Those checks come from the federal raid. The only reason that Cohen has them is that there was litigation over the raid. He got a copy of what the FBI and the government already have against Trump.

VAUSE: OK. There some -- I'm glad you're with us, David, now because there is a lot to get through here. The other issue that Cohen also report -- reportedly told the Intelligence Committee that his lawyer discuss the subject of a pardon with one of the President's lawyer. Jay Sekulow has actually finally denied any such discussion took place.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer as well told CNN's Dana Bash I have been asked about pardons by lawyers and the press and I've said the president is not going to talk about pardons now. What I am saying is that I never offered anyone a pardon, not Michael Cohen, not Paul Manafort, not Roger Stone, not George Papadopoulos, not John Smith.

You know, we also heard from Cohen I think last weeks it's basically saying that he never thought of pardon and he would never accept a pardon. And that was in his sworn testimony before you know, the committee just last Tuesday (INAUDIBLE) So you know, this sort of tends to contradict what he's saying. We're hearing from Cohen's lawyer that basically they're trying to

split hairs. He was saying that he never sought a pardon once to you know, these discussions were over. And it was his lawyer he never did it himself. But you know it Cohen lies, then his legal jeopardy goes through the roof. If it turns out that Trump's people were offering pardons as part of some kind of deal, what sort of legal jeopardy could they be in?

KATZ: Well, the President has a right to offer pardons. It's huge power that he has at least as to federal cases. But the president cannot offer a pardon or do anything else if the President is obstructing justice. Neither can people who work for him. That's the allegation that this was part of the many efforts along with firing Comey, along with lots of other things that happened during the investigation where it appears that the President obstructed or may be tampered with witnesses, encouraged witnesses. This could have been part of the overall obstruction of justice to dangle pardons.

One of the reasons dangling pardons -- I don't think ever worked with Cohen was that Cohen had committed state crimes. There was a cooperating witness in a state taxi medallion case in a state income tax evasion case. And so Cohn could never get a federal pardon that was going to keep him out of prison. He would have just gone to Sing Sing the state prison in New York instead of federal prison.

So Cohen eventually rejected it. But Cohen describes how two mysterious lawyers approached him and said that they were going to help with this pardon. They were going to help negotiate with Giuliani. The weird thing is that they sent Cohen an invoice for services rendered. Included in that invoice was a meeting with Giuliani.

Now Giuliani has a lot of explaining to do, did he or didn't he have that meeting about pardons that these lawyers billed for or maybe these lawyers have a lot of explaining to do that they were just running a hustle. But again on top of everything else, it's the drip, drip, drip that leads to the flood of bad news for Trump.

VAUSE: Every day there's a thing, a new thing every day. And it's very hard to keep track of everything. But David, we glad you with us to help. Thank you.

KATZ: My pleasure. Thank you.

VAUSE: OK, well Huawei has filed the latest (INAUDIBLE) in his long- standing dispute with the United States. The Chinese tech giant is suing the U.S. government over law which bans federal agencies from buying Huawei products. CNN's Business Reporter Sherisse Pham joins us now from Shenzhen in China just across the border from Hong Kong.

So I guess, if we look at the details of this lawsuit, what are they alleging and what they say has been the harm done by this federal law?

[01:14:57] SHERISSE PHAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL TECH AND BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, Huawei is alleging is that the United States has unfairly singled it out by banning it, banning any federal agencies from buying its equipment and buying its technology, and they are saying that it is unfair and it is unconstitutional because it -- because it is essentially punishments without trial, John. Let's take a listen to a little bit of what rotating chairman Guo Ping, said at a press conference today about what they are trying to get out of this lawsuit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUO PING, DEPUTY CHAIRMAN, HUAWEI: Huawei sets remedies including a declaratory document that's a restriction targeting Huawei are unconstitutional. We are left with no choice but to challenge the law in court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHAM: So, they're saying they have no choice but to challenge this in court. And the reason for that is because Huawei is coming under not only pressure in the United States, but the United States has taken its campaign against Huawei on the -- on the road, on the international stage. It is pressuring allies to limit, or restrict, or ban Huawei completely from the rollout of 5G networks. And this would be a crippling blow to Huawei. So, Huawei is basically saying, "Look, we want our day in court. The United States, you have always said that we pose a national security risk, show us the evidence and show us the proof." John.

VAUSE: Yes, the U.S. is sort of putting pressure on allies to follow suit. But some of the allies are pushing back. I guess, you know, which is -- yes, a problem for Donald Trump and the administration.

But just immediately with this lawsuit, what sort of the next thing that happens? What's the process here?

PHAM: Well, the next that, that should happen is the United States government has about 60 days to respond to this. Huawei has filed it in Texas where their American headquarters is based. And within 60 days, the United States has to respond or either throw out the lawsuit altogether. That's unlikely to happen, but we'll be watching for next steps, John.

VAUSE: Sherisse, thank you. We appreciate the update. And good to see the Huawei officials getting out there and having a news conference. Maybe others will follow. Thank you.

Still to come here. Britain struggling with a record number of knife attacks. We'll tell you why those crimes are on the rise, and what's being done to stop them.

Also, Venezuela's Maduro regime continues a crackdown on journalists. This time, detaining an American reporter in Caracas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: More suspicious packages have been found in the U.K., a day after three explosive devices were found around major transport hubs in London. Authorities destroyed one package on Wednesday inside the University of Glasgow's mailroom in Scotland.

Another package raised concerns at a bank in Edinburgh. But police say it did not pose a threat. Officials also say the package from Glasgow is similar to those located in London.

Meantime, Prime Minister Theresa May will host a summit dealing with a record number of knife attacks that's set to get underway the next couple of hours. She's been criticized for rejecting the argument that cuts to the police force have contributed to these attacks. With grieving families want this talk, then what more action. Here's CNN's Nina dos Santos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[01:20:35] NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: This is what the U.K.'s knife crime epidemic looks like. Filmed in South London more than a year ago, a man tries to smash his way into a car with a Rambo knife, after its driver pulled out unexpectedly. Another scene, this time at a fast food outlet in the north of the capital. A fight breaks out and within seconds, three blades are brandished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the (BLEEP) are you doing on this street?

DOS SANTOS: Knife attacks claims 285 victims across Britain last year, the highest tally since records began in 1946. In the first three months of 2019 alone, 10 teenagers have lost their lives.

Rachel, thank you very much for agreeing to tell us your story. Please sit down.

Rachel Webb's 15-year-old son, Kyron, died a year and a half ago, after a trivial dispute with two other boys.

RACHEL WEBB, MOTHER OF KNIFE CRIME VICTIM: The young boys were in their group and they made a song. And Kyron said on a Snapchat video that he didn't like the song. And that potentially is the reason that we were given as to why he's no longer walking the earth.

DOS SANTOS: Wasn't a gang member, his mother says, but he was found to be carrying a knife at the time. Five months after losing one child, another of Rachel's sons was also stabbed. He survived, but the family's scars remain.

WEBB: Those three individuals that were involved in the incident on October 17th, it left my son dead, but it left two young boys in prison. But the ripple effect destroyed three families. My youngest two, they're twins. When they go on the road, they're now frightened of seeing teenagers.

DOS SANTOS: Knife crimes rose 30 percent last year across the country to almost 43,000, atrend blamed on cuts to policing and community services. Are all of the youngsters who are carrying knives in gangs?

DAL BABU, FORMER CHIEF SUPERINTENDENT, UNITED KINGDOM INTERNATIONAL POLICE: No, I think a very small minority are in gangs. I think what's now happened is that young people carry knives for protection, and the bizarre thing is statistically, seven out of 10 individuals who get stabbed get stabbed by their own knife.

WEBB: So, that's -- that was Kyron at the time when he died.

DOS SANTOS: Rachel says the solution isn't just policing but better prospects for youths. She plans to meet her son's killer in jail this year with a message to turn his life around.

WEBB: You now need to complete what Kyron was building. You got potential. I don't want to hear, oh, I'm sorry. I want you to now make something of your life.

DOS SANTOS: Message of hope not hate to prevent things like these. Nina dos Santos, CNN London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: There's a lot more about this epidemic of life violence in Britain on our web site, cnn.com.

Two sisters who fled Saudi Arabia will be allowed to stay in Hong Kong another month, while they seek emergency visas and apply for asylum. The women who say they were abused by family in Saudi Arabia. So, last year, before a family vacation, they applied for Australian tourist visas. Then tried flying from Hong Kong to Melbourne. But authorities stopped them, rebook them on a flight back to Riyadh.

The woman refused to go and have been hiding in Hong Kong ever since. A human rights attorney fears the women could be prosecuted before they can get asylum elsewhere.

Now, the Venezuela and the Maduro government crackdown on journalists. On Wednesday, authorities raided the home of an American freelance reporter in Caracas. He was taken into custody, then released a few hours later.

A press workers union says, at least, 36 journalists have been detained in Venezuela just this year. And it comes as the opposition leader Juan Guaido turns up the pressure on the Maduro regime. We get more details now from CNN's Paula Newton, reporting in from Caracas.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Opposition leader Juan Guaido has now spent a full day back to work, back to business here in Venezuela. He was at the National Assembly. Really, we were trying to get some indication of what his next moves are?

One of them has to do with, of course, the protests that he's called for on the weekend. But more than that, he has now called for a series of national strikes. It's a very risky strategy. What he's trying to do though is inject more momentum into this movement.

The problem is, is that it will be risky if he does not get the participation he's looking for. And more than that, the Maduro government may also claim that what he is doing by calling for those strike is again, against the law.

Now, some were surprised that the Maduro government did not arrest Guaido. Maduro himself had said that he had the full right to some kind of justice because he was contravening a law by leaving the country. But they didn't arrest him. What they did though, they did strike back and sent a signal to the diplomats that greeted him at the airport.

There was a collection of diplomats that offered him some support and protection. One of them was the German ambassador to Venezuela.

The Maduro government has now said that, that ambassador is persona non grata. He must now leave the country. Adding to the tensions on the ground, here American journalist Cody Weddle was detained for the full day of interrogation here in Venezuela.

On Wednesday he was later released. CNN has reached out to his family. His mother telling us that, in fact, she expects him back in the United States on Thursday.

But certainly, a very tense day as he was interrogated and that at first, the military intelligence had indicated that they wanted to speak to him based on his work and perhaps, some allegations of espionage.

It comes as a relief especially after both the State Department and Juan Guaido, and Senator Marco Rubio had all called for his release.

Again, something here that is added to the tensions but as of right now has not escalated, what are already very complicated politics on the ground here. Paula Newton, CNN, Caracas.

[01:26:05] VAUSE: Well, CNN is partnering with young people around the world for a student-led day of action against modern-day slavery on March 14th. We're asking, "What makes you feel free?" Here is our singer and songwriter Rocky Peter responded. He's a former American Idol contestant returned to music after escaping slavery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROCKY PETER, FORMER CONTESTANT, AMERICAN IDOL: I was a slave from the age of eight to the age of 14. After six years of slavery, I escaped.

For many kids across the globe, escaping is not an option. We must fight for them. We must fight because this is what humans do. We fight for justice, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.

I found solace by losing myself in my music because that is what makes me feel free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Tell the world what makes you feel free. Share your story using #My Freedom Day. A short break. When we come back, a combative hearing on Capitol Hill. The U.S. homeland security secretary grilled about the Trump administration's policy of family separation at the southern border.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VAUSE: Hello, welcome back everybody. Thanks for staying with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

Donald Trump former lawyer has turned over documents to a House panel, which he says were reviewed by attorneys for the president, his daughter, and son-in-law. Michael Cohen, says Mr. Trump encouraged him to lie about a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign.

Chinese tech giant, Huawei is suing the U.S. government. Saying a law which bans federal agencies from buying Huawei equipment is unconstitutional.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:29:41] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome back, everybody. Thanks for staying with us.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

Donald Trump's former lawyer has turned over documents to a House panel which he says were reviewed by the attorneys for the President, his daughter and son-in-law. Michael Cohen says Mr. Trump encouraged to him to lie about a project to build a Trump Tower Moscow during the 2016 campaign.

Chinese tech giant Huawei is suing the U.S. government saying a law which bans federal agencies from buying Huawei equipment is unconstitutional. The U.S. claims Chinese intelligence could use Huawei products to spy. Huawei though rejects those concerns and says the U.S. hacked its server and source code.

Singer and accused sexual predator R. Kelly is back in jail after not paying $161,000 in child support. He'd been out on bail after being indicted on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. All of this comes the same CBS aired an interview with Kelly where he became hysterical, emotional and angry. He denies all of the allegations.

There have been many memorable moments for all the wrong reasons for the Trump administration and add to the list Wednesday's appearance before lawmakers by the Homeland Security Secretary. She was grilled under oath about the administration harsh immigration policies which separates parents from children and puts kids in cages.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you give me the numbers of how many children have died?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Yes, I can if you give me one second. I just don't want to misspeak. But this last year we had -- so far this year we've had three as you know in CBP custody. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So far, Madam Secretary? Are you expecting more

children to die?

NIELSEN: No, ma'am -- I just want to be accurate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Holly Cooper is the co-director of the University of California Davis Immigration Greyson Law Clinic. She joins us from Woodland, California.

Holly -- thank you for taking the time.

HOLLY COOPER, CO-DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA DAVIS IMMIGRATION LAW CLINIC: Thank you -- John.

VAUSE: I want to start with this dramatic increase in the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants last month. After testimony from the Homeland Security Secretary Fox News had this five-alarm headline: "Nielsen declares immigration crisis spiraling out of control, warns it will get even worse."

Ok. The bigger picture here, let's head over look to CNN's reporting. "Nielsen said the U.S. is on track to apprehend 900,000 migrants at the border this year." For context 2006 was the last year to reach over a million apprehensions. Total apprehensions have remained under 500,000 since 2010.

Also add to that February 2000, you know, more than 200,000 were caught trying to cross the border illegally, almost 1.7 million (INAUDIBLE). So the point is yes, there's a spike in the numbers which until now have been historically low and downward trending.

COOPER: Right.

VAUSE: So what does this now say about the effectiveness of the Trump administration's immigration policies?

COOPER: Well, it tells us that their whole model was based on deterrence, right. That we are going to cause terror. We are going to detain. We are going to not release people from detention once they get to the United States. And we're going to bottleneck the borders. Right?

And so we now know that the deterrence policy has not worked, right? Again, it is too early to tell with these the numbers -- what they mean in terms of the entire fiscal year.

We're only five months into the fiscal year. So it will remain to be seen what the numbers end up being at the end of the fiscal year.

But right now we know there's an upward tick but it's really too early for us to know exactly what that means in terms of long term migration trend for this year.

VAUSE: Because what we have though is with this Trump policy is that we have all deterrence and nothing to encourage and nothing to deal with the problems in the countries where these people are coming from. So you have deterrence -- we have sticks but no carrots.

COOPER: That's correct. So, I mean really to look at this systematically, people don't traditionally want to migrate. They want to stay in their home countries where their cultures are, where their people are. But when things, you know, start to get violent, when war begins to break out, when poverty begins to break out, then people begin, you know, to migrate to better conditions for their children.

And so until you deal with those systemic issues of war, poverty then you're going to have migration in its -- you know, it's been happening since the beginning of time. And it will continue to happen unless we can deal or try and solve some of the more systematic problems in Honduras and Guatemala and other countries from which we're seeing migration.

VAUSE: Secretary Nielsen was also asked specifically about the Trump administration's policy of putting children into what most people would say are cages. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Yes or no, are we still putting children in cages?

NIELSEN: To my knowledge, CBP never purposely put a child in a cage.

THOMPSON: Purposely or whatever -- are we putting children in cages as of today?

NIELSEN: Children are processed at the border facility stations that you've been at, some of --

THOMPSON: They're in cages. I just want you to admit that the cages exist.

NIELSEN: Sir -- they're not cages.

THOMPSON: What are they?

NIELSEN: Areas of the border facility that are carved out for safety and protection of those who remain there while they're processed --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: The answer is yes. Children are still being put in cages, right.

COOPER: That's correct. I mean in Texas, we have an expressions that says you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig. And you can put, you know, a toilet. You can put sleeping bags into these cells but at the end of the day they are cages.

I've seen them. All of my clients -- I've been doing this for 21 years. They all call it a dog cage. So it's not only, you know. You know, what we're calling it but it's just an accurate depiction of what's happening.

VAUSE: Yes. And then -- so I just want to follow up very quickly because what followed then which is so -- this ridiculous debate about the definition of a cage. I want you to listen to this.

[01:35:05] COOPER: Right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN (D), NEW JERSEY: Is it different?

NIELSEN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In what sense?

NIELSEN: It is larger. It has facilities. It provides room to sit, to stand, to lay down.

COLEMAN: So did my dog's cage.

Are the jails different than the cages that you have allowed the children to be put in?

NIELSEN: I'm sorry, which kid.

COLEMAN: Are the jails that you put their parents in or the adults that come here with children that you say are coming here illegally.

NIELSEN: The detention centers most of them no ma'am, they have a border around the outside. But they essentially sleep in dorm-like conditions.

COLEMAN: So they live in better conditions than their children.

NIELSEN: No, Ma'am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: You know, the point of the lawmakers went on about was basically the dogs get put in cages and it is very similar to what these kids are being put in.

And then you had this ridiculous semantics to try -- to try and worm their way sort of out of what was actually happening. If this is a Trump administration policy, why not just own it?

COOPER: Right. I mean that's exactly what it is. I think that, you know, that they're trying to create a policy of terror deterrence and part of that is putting human beings and children in cages.

So they really need to own it and defend it. And I think that all of the congressional members who were asking questions have seen it as have we, as have the public. And I think that everyone would agree to the naked eye it is a cage.

VAUSE: Finally there was also this question to Secretary Nielsen about, you know, the increase in the number of apprehensions at the border. Basically it is -- despite that what the President has been saying about the crisis on the border is still not supported by the actual official numbers. And she was basically saying well, I don't understand the context. What do you mean by that. You know, I'm not so sure what the President was saying.

I mean it just seems like she was running a mile away from the President while trying not to run a mile away from the President. And there's a dilemma within this administration because the President saying one thing, his base loved it, and all these cabinet secretaries are nevertheless trying to clean it up and explain to a wider audience and they just can't sell it.

COOPER: That's correct. And I think, you know, there's two options for Secretary Nielsen. One is that she was ill-prepared for the hearing. And the second is that she's not telling the truth and she's trying to cover up, you know, some of the policy statements that Trump has made that are based on -- not based evidence.

So I mean I'm going to go with the latter because it just seems that she has to know for example the number of children that are in Customs and Border Patrol custody. I mean even I know that.

So I find it really hard to believe that as a person preparing for a hearing that she would not know even the number of children that she has in her custody.

VAUSE: Very quickly, what message does the rest of the world get from all of this?

COOPER: The message the rest of the world gets from all of this is that our country does not believe in the truth and our country does not believe in dignity of human life.

VAUSE: Yes. Holly -- that's a sad point to leave it on but it is a good point to leave it on. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

COOPER: Ok. Thank you.

VAUSE: A stunning revelation from a U.S. lawmaker during a hearing on sexual assault in the military. Freshman Senator Martha McSally told witnesses there to testify about their own assaults that she too is a survivor of sexual abuse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: The perpetrators abuse their position of power in profound ways. And in one case I was preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer. I stayed silent for many years but later in my career as the military grappled with scandals and their wholly inadequate responses, I felt the need to let some people know I too was a survivor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: McSally was the first American woman to fly in combat after the ban was lifted. An aide tells CNN McSally spent the past several days working on her testimony so she could speak honestly with witnesses.

Now some troubling (ph) news from the beloved host of the TV quiz show "Jeopardy". Alex Trebek went on YouTube to reveal he's battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It has a very low survival rate. On average, just 9 percent of those with this disease are still alive five years after diagnosis. But a flash of grace and humor, Trebek answered the question what will he do now?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX TREBEK, TV GAME SHOW HOST: I'm going to fight this and I'm going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.

Truth told, I have to. Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host "Jeopardy" for three more years. So help me. Keep the faith, and we'll win. We'll get it done. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[01:39:58] VAUSE: "Jeopardy" and versions of it have aired in dozens of countries. Trebek, originally from Canada, has been the host of the since 1984 -- almost 7,000 episodes. Let's hope there's many more to come.

Next up on CNN NEWSROOM -- thousands of civilians getting out while they can with the end of the ISIS caliphate now just a question of when.

Also Will Smith has more than 70 acting credits to his name but reports of a casting in a new biopic is sparking a lot of controversy. We'll discuss all of that in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: The last vestige of the ISIS caliphate is slowly shrinking to nothing but the fighters who remain in the Syrian town of Baghouz are said to be the most battle-hardened and determined.

No one imagined the place held so many people when this offensive began. U.S.-backed Kurdish forces say more than 30,000 have been evacuated since February -- 9,500 in the past three days alone. Among them are hundreds of ISIS fighters who have surrendered or been captured.

Aid workers say they're struggling to care for thousands of women and children many of them weak and injured at an overcrowded camp in the Syrian desert.

The International Rescue Committee says aid dozens of infants have died.

Barbara Walter is a professor of political science at the University of California in San Diego. She has an expertise in international security as well as civil conflicts as she joins us now on the line.

So Barbara -- it's been quite remarkable and surprising to see all these thousands of civilians walking out of Baghouz, just giving themselves up.

I want you to listen to part of a report from CNN's Ben Wedeman who is there on the frontline.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The victor leaves the vanquished. Boys and men of the so-called Islamic state now in the hands of their enemies.

Tuesday thousands of men, women and children were trucked out of ISIS' doomed domain. The numbers fleeing the sinking state, well over 6,000 in the past two days have taken the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces by surprise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So Barbara -- is this sort of the only reason, or one of the major reasons why this military operation is just not over? A full- blown assault seems to be on hold until all of these civilians are cleared.

BARBARA WALTER, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA - SAN DIEGO (via telephone): Well, this is a really interesting case where it seems like ISIS is about lose. It has this one last stronghold which it is unlikely to hold on to and people -- its supporters, the wives of many of the soldiers are fleeing with their children. And it appears as if ISIS is about to be defeated.

[01:44:56] And that's misleading. They might lose all of their territory in Syria but the group itself is not defeated. There's going to be a lot of covert soldiers. ISIS has footholds in other countries around the world. This is a setback but it is not a defeat.

VAUSE: Yes. Because there's been reports of ISIS fighters, you know, trying to escape from Baghouz. So I guess the question is if they're trying to escape, where do they go?

WALTERS: Oh, there's a lot of places that terrorist can go. One of the things that we know from the very good research that now exists on civil wars and its relationship to extremism is that terrorists thrive in what is called ungoverned spaces. And civil wars are ungoverned spaces.

And if you look at where ISIS' last stronghold in Syria is -- it's on the border with Iraq. So they can move into Iraq. They can move into Afghanistan where the civil war continues there. It could move into Yemen. They already have a presence in Yemen, in Libya, in Somalia, in Central and Western Africa in the Lake Chad Basin, in Southeast Asia.

So there's a lot of places around the world that are unstable. Some of those places are already experiencing civil wars like Yemen. Some of these places are Muslim majority countries. These are places where ISIS can move. As it faces defeat in one place it could move to (INAUDIBLE) and regroup and regrow.

VAUSE: Here's a little more from Ben Wedeman reporting on the offensive by U.S.-backed forces there to liberate Baghouz, and the counter-offensive by ISIS fighters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEDEMAN: What we've been seeing this morning is intense bombardment, air strikes 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 and there was just one big blast after another.

We also have been speaking to some of the soldiers who were 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 (ph) it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So Barbara -- that was Ben Wedeman reporting, you know, from the front lines, you know, this battle and, you know, the offense and the counter offensive. What's actually in it for these ISIS fighters to delay, you know, this last piece -- hanging on to this last piece of ISIS territory?

I should there's a (INAUDIBLE) -- it's only a matter of when this city will be liberated or this town will be liberated. So why delay it? What is the tactic here?

WALTER: Well, the dynamics are going to change. One of the big surprises that happened in this past year was that Donald Trump suddenly announced to the surprise of even his military leaders that the United States was going to pull all of its soldiers and there were about 2,000 soldiers in Syria and their main purpose was to defeat and degrade ISIS.

Donald Trump suddenly announced that the U.S. soldiers were going to would withdraw from Syria. This is a game changer. It is a game changer for the Assad regime. It's a game changer for ISIS.

Now the United States hasn't done that yet. And it appears that President Trump is backing off from that statement and he'll probably leave approximately 400 American soldiers there but that is a reduction.

And if you're ISIS and you're desperately trying to hold on to territory and you believe that the United States is going to significantly reduce its forces, the game is going to change as soon as that happens. And so you want to hold on as long as you can knowing that your position is likely to improve once the U.S. leaves.

VAUSE: Ok. Barbara -- we appreciate the analysis. Great to have you with us. It's been a while. So thank you so much. Well, diversity in Hollywood once again in a spotlight over the

reported casting of Will Smith to play the father of Serena and Venus Williams. We'll tell you why it is stirring controversy -- just ahead.

[01:48:55] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Facebook's founder says it's now all about privacy first. Mark Zuckerberg spent the last couple of years dealing with data privacy scandals so this is a big course correction.

Zuckerberg says users these days want to connect in small groups or with private messaging and they don't want -- they want to share -- they don't want what they share on the Internet to stay on the Internet forever.

He says his plans to integrate WhatsApp, Instagram on Facebook will let people communicate easily and securely across those networks, plus users will be able to delete their messages and content.

(INAUDIBLE) nice guy superstar Will Smith is at the center of a controversy but he is and it's all about something they're calling colorism.

He's reportedly being cast as the father of Venus and Serena Williams in an upcoming movie "King Richard". The father who raised his daughters to become tennis legends without ever playing the game himself. The criticism though is that the part would have been better suited to an actor with darker skin.

Politics and pop culture journalist Jarrett Hill joins us now from Los Angeles.

Ok. We're a long way from, you know, whitewashing, ok. And that's good thing. This entire story has had a lot of reaction on Twitter.

Sports writer Clarence Hill, Jr. (ph) tweeted this, "Colorism matters. Love Will Smith but there are other black actors for this role."

Some I'm wondering, is that where all of this is coming from that there is there another actor out there who may have been better or more appropriate to get this role. And Will Smith is like this commercial guy who they can bank on but, you know, maybe isn't quite suited to the part.

JARRETT HILL, POLITICS AND POP CULTURE JOURNAL: Well, I think it is not necessarily about a specific other actor so much as it is about how different he looks from the actual person that he's playing.

And realistically, this kind of goes back to the colorism conversation that always happens here in America where we're talking about really about white supremacy. This is about being fairer-skinned, being seemingly something that's more appealing, more attractive, more salable if you will that will seemingly bring people to the theater more than a darker skinned actor might. So this is something that I' think we're going to feel a lot more in 2019 than we would have felt in 2015 or 2006 or, you know, in past years when representation is something that is such a huge part of the conversation in culture and society.

VAUSE: I'm just thinking Jarrett, if you take that argument to the nth degree, you know, because, you know, Hollywood is incredibly shallow, right. It is all about looks. It's all about, you know, they've gone through you know, actors and actresses starving themselves to death so they look on camera -- all this kind of stuff. And you know, that's obviously a problem.

But you know, at the end of the day, you know, it is an acting role. I mean, there's a certain visual medium and element to this. And you know, they're not meant to be identical copies of the person that they're playing.

HILL: Yes, absolutely. So I think -- we saw this happen earlier last year with Bryan Cranston playing a person that was differently abled or handicapped. And there was a big backlash to him, saying like, you know, there are handicapped actors who can't get jobs. And why not find an actor that actually lives this experience?

I don't know where the line is going to be when we look at this kind of like in the long arc of history. But I do think it's a time where, you know, a darker skinned actor probably could have gotten this role.

And I think Will Smith is a huge name, right. So then there's an appeal that comes with Will Smith. But then some people would probably argue he's been able to have as much success as he has because of the way that he looks.

I'm a light skinned guy. There's a bit of privilege that comes with being a light skinned black man in America and in other places around the world. So it's something that is a conversation that we're able to have more now in 2019 than I said we probably would have had in the past when he was playing Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian doctor from the CTE conversation and concussion.

VAUSE: We will get to that in a second but you know, we'll get the other side of the debate calling it, you know, sort of overblown.

Here's another tweet. "We have actual racism to deal with. Making a big deal over the skin tone of an actor seems a bit silly."

You know, I tend to agree with that. I mean is this really, you know, the biggest scandal to happen so far in the last couple of days? People on social media who need to find other things to do?

HILL: So I -- the question of whether or not it is overblown really depends on who you ask, right. So if I were a darker skinned person I would probably have -- a level of outrage that is probably different than if I were a white person in America.

If I were a brown skinned actor, I would probably have an even bigger issue with this right. So kind of like when we talked about Bryan Cranston and the disabled actor that wished that they could have gotten that role. I think it's kind of a similar thing.

I hadn't even thought about it from that perspective with Bryan Cranston until I heard someone say, like well, what about me. I'm a handicapped actor and I can't get this role.

[01:55:04] I think it's kind of similar in this situation where a darker-skinned man, we see a lot less darker skinned people on television and media. And I always think back to the time when there was that study that was done with children where they have white dolls and dark brown-skinned dolls and they ask which on is the good doll, which was the nice doll?

VAUSE: Yes.

HILL: Which one is the kind doll? Which one is the mean doll? And it was always the darker skinned doll that was seen as negative and the lighter skinned doll or the white doll that was the kinder one.

So this is where that comes from. All this really dates back to slavery for black folks. When we have the conversation, it is a very big conversation within the black community.

VAUSE: I think -- obviously there will be real progress made, you know, when someone like Denzel Washington is cast in the role of Superman. That's when we'll know that this whole color thing is not an issue and you know, all the white folks don't get upset.

HILL: Absolutely.

VAUSE: You mentioned, you know, the role that Smith played back in 2015. Dr. Bennet Omalu, the movie was in fact "Concussion". Let's look at the side by side. They look nothing alike but no one said a word.

HILL: Absolutely.

VAUSE: In 2006, "Pursuit of Happyness" Will Smith played the stock broker James Garnet. There you go -- again, nothing alike. So I guess, you know, what has happened between 2006, 2015 and now?

HILL: I think this is a sign of the times. Donald Trump is president, racial tensions are as high as they've been in seemingly a very long time if not ever.

I think we also have the advent of social media where there are a lot more spaces for people to have a voice and for people to speak up about this and have a conversation about it and say this is a problem for me. This is how I feel about this and for people to really latch on to that and let it become a movement. I think that's what we're seeing.

We saw, you know, just a few years ago, Oscar so white, that's how that was able to become such a big conversation and such huge hash tag started by April Rain. I think with MeToo and "Times Up" and all of those things, I think social media has had a really major impact on the way that we have conversations about these kinds of social issues --

(CROSSTALKING)

VAUSE: The danger is that --

Very quickly -- we're almost out of time. It's a danger that goes too far. You know, we have too many conversations, so it gets to the point of being just so ridiculously specific that, you know, everyone is offended and I guess no one is offended.

HILL: Yes I think I don't know where the line is going to be. I don't know how far this goes in, like I said, in the arc of history. But I do think it's something that -- that producers and casting directors and writers are going to have to think about when they're doing these things, especially a bio-pic, right.

VAUSE: Yes.

HILL: So this is a person that is well known. Doctor Omalu's story was not very well known and so, you know, there probably wouldn't have been as much backlash. And that was in 2015 where as now, the Williams sisters are a very well-known story and their father is such a big part of that.

VAUSE: It is a sensitive time. Jarrett -- for a variety of very valid reasons I guess that people are sensitive too. So Jarrett -- thanks for coming in, thank you.

HILL: Thanks -- John.

VAUSE: Cheers:

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

I'll be back with a lot more news after a short break.

[01:57:51] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END