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Trump's Communication Director Quits; Manafort Sentenced to Only 47 Months for Bank and Tax Fraud; US Judge Says Manafort Has Lived an Otherwise Blameless Life; Theresa May Says United Kingdom Risks Never Leaving the EU If Brexit Deal Rejected Again; EU Commits to Giving United Kingdom Unilateral Exit from Customs Union; Five Years Since Malaysian Plane Carrying 239 People Vanished; ISIS Fighters Give Up, But Ideology Lingers; Interview with Stefano Severe, UNHCR representative in Jordan, about ISIS Refugee Problem; Blackout Leaves Most of Venezuela without Power; Netanyahu's Base Remains Loyal Despite Possible Charges; Protestors Around World Call for Gender Equality. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 8, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Happy Friday. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani. Tonight, another shock resignation in

Washington. This time it's Donald Trump's communications director, just as the President arrives in tornado-torn Alabama.

Also, this hour, running out of time, Theresa May admits she has no idea what will happen if she loses the vote on her Brexit deal next week.

And defeated, but not broken, the ISIS fighters surrendering in Syria still clinging to their warped ideology. We are live inside the country.

Donald Trump is expressing sympathy for his former campaign chairman who received a lighter than expected prison sentence for tax and bank fraud.

But the American President is also using Paul Manafort's case to try to claim a victory of sorts in the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump and First

Lady Melania are touring tornado damage and meeting storm victims in Alabama. Before they left Washington, Mr. Trump talked about a federal

judge sentencing Manafort to less than four years in prison, well below the guideline.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel very badly for Paul Manafort. I think it's been a very, very tough time for him, but if you

notice, both his lawyer, a highly respected man and a very highly respected judge, the judge said there was no collusion with Russia. This had nothing

to do with collusion. There was no collusion. It's a collusion hoax. It's a collusion witch-hunt. I don't collude with Russia.


GORANI: Well, the problem is this trial was not about collusion. The issue wasn't even before the court and that's what the judge stated, not

what President allege. Jeremy, let me first ask you about the surprise resignation of Bill Shine, the communications director at the White House.

Do we know why he is stepping down?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Went don't know the exact reasons behind the resignation, but we do know it came as a surprise to

many people this morning. It seems to have come together very, very quickly. Many folks in the Trump campaign itself found out only this

morning that Bill Shine was leaving the White House and joining the campaign as a senior advisor, and so far, how substantive that role will

actually be seems unclear. One source who I was speaking with this morning said simply Shine will be advising the campaign but wouldn't go any further

in describing what specifically the senior advisor role will entail. But we do know that the President had begun to sour on Bill Shine in recent

weekends, particularly because he thought that Bill Shine coming on, the former co-President of fox news, that him coming on, that he would help

improve the media coverage of the President's administration. That obviously did not happen, and the President in part, at least, blamed Bill

Shine for that reason. But Bill Shine, of course, is not the latest de facto communications director to get the brunt of the blame for the

President not getting positive media coverage. We know that the President has gone through a handful of other communications director and none of

them have really satisfied his needs and his goals as far as the messaging is concerned. In part, because the President, of course, is often his own

communications director and steps on the messaging that his professional communications advisor is trying to actually put out there.

GORANI: And, Jeremy, before I let you go, a question on Paul Manafort. The President saying, he feels very badly for him, saying that the judge

said there was no collusion, but this was not a case about collusion, right? So, I guess he could see it as somewhat of a victory that the

sentence was lighter than the guideline would have suggested could have, could have come his way?

DIAMOND: Look, the President is going to grab onto whatever he can in this case. And we have seen him in the past -- any time anybody says something

about collusion saying so far we have not seen any evidence of collusion, which the Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr said previously, he

wasn't ruling out the possibility that there could be evidence that they hadn't uncovered or making a definitive statement, the President always

grabs onto that. Specifically, what the judge said was Mr. Manafort is not before the court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian

government. Again, the case wasn't about that. So obviously the judge was simply making clear that even though this was a case brought forward by the

special counsel, that this particular case had nothing to do with that. He wasn't making a definitive statement about that.

[14:05:00] The expectation is that that maybe come in the special counsel Robert Mueller's report, which we expect to come any time within the coming

hours, days, or weeks, but that will soon emerge. And that is perhaps where we will get the answer of whether or not the Trump campaign did or

did not collude with the Russian government. But what this judge said in this case yet, in Paul Manafort's case, it did not amount to that kind of

definitive statement.

GORANI: Jeremy Diamond is in Lee County, Alabama, part of Alabama that was very badly hit by tornadoes. The President and Melania Trump are visiting

victims there. And if he says anything from Alabama, we'll bring it to our viewers. Thanks very much.

Steven, to you now. I guess this is -- I mean, if the best news you have is that your former campaign manager was only sentenced to 47 months in

prison for a variety of fraud crimes associated with fraud, it means there is not really a lot of good news to latch onto here.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's a good point. Let's face it. Manafort is one of a number of people who have been in Trump's

orbit, who have found themselves full foul of the law, accused of lying, lying in many cases about Russia. But the President is an expert in

extracting the most advantageous episode from any news event for his own good. Of course, he has spent months trying to build a campaign to

discredit special counsel Robert Mueller before that report is filed that Jeremy was talking about. Any reverse for the special counsel is good for

the President and gives him a propaganda weapon, as did the remarks of the judge which he was able to exploit and take out of context. The good news,

if it is that, may not last very long. Manafort is due to be sentenced in another case in Washington, D.C. next week, a case in which he was accused

by the special counsel of lying during interviews as part of a plea bargain agreement. The judge in that case is seen as much less well disposed

towards Manafort than the case adjudicated in Virginia yesterday. He could get up to ten years in jail in that case. That could either run

concurrently or be stacked on top of the one that was handed down, the four years handed down in Virginia. So, Paul Manafort is not out of the woods

and it's still very, very likely he's going to spend many years in jail.

GORANI: And, Stephen, a quick word on Michael Cohen, the campaign -- the President's former personal attorney. This tit for tat over Twitter, it's

remarkable to think this is the President of the United States getting into this type much, you know, personal attack battle on social media with his

former attorney. He's calling him a liar. He said Michael Cohen did ask him directly for a pardon. Michael Cohen goes back on Twitter and says

absolutely not. Also, it's international women's day. Maybe you could start respecting women, that kind of thing. This is also not great for the

presidency to have this swirling around Donald Trump pretty much every day.

COLLINSON: Well, you know, I think you're right to point out how unusual this is. I mean, we have entered this strange world with Donald Trump's

presidency and it's not at all unusual in that world for the President to stage this Twitter spat with an enemy with an ex-lawyer. You have to

remember Michael Cohen was President Trump's lawyer for ten years. He was a fixer. What kind of person requires having a personal fixer to look

after their personal business and take care of their messes? So, to have the presidency itself embroiled in this is remarkable. But I think it's a

sign that, you know, when Donald Trump took office, the big question was whether he would be changed by the presidency or he would change the

presidency with his behavior. There is no real change or difference between the way Donald Trump conducted himself in business, as a reality

star and the sort of tabloid life he had in New York, and the way he's conducted himself since he was President. And I think that is -- this

Twitter argument with Michael Cohen is answering quite a few of those questions about the Trump presidency.

GORANI: Stephen Collinson, thanks very much joining us from Washington.

It wasn't just Paul Manafort's sentence that took many by surprise, but also the judge's remarks about him, saying, other than committing tax and

bank fraud, he's lived a, quote, blameless life. Let's bring in legal analyst Joey Jackson. Joey, there's been some criticism of this judge,

T.S. Ellis, that he wasn't impartial, that he sided, essentially with the defense in this case. Could there be an appeal of this very, very lenient


[14:10:09] JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Hala, good to see you. I certainly hope so. Let me be clear. I think we have to have a system that

is uniform, that treats people consistently and that whether you're a celebrity or the worst person or potentially the best person who made a

miss step, there has to be some way to measure everyone in a manner that they're sentencing that makes sense. There's no question you talk about

criticism of the judge. Well, let me continue that criticism. The criticism is that you have federal sentencing guidelines. I know all the

lawyers yelling at the TV saying they're not mandatory, that's true. They're discretionary. But the reason they exist is so you could have some

barometer to meet out a sentence that is just, that's appropriate, that's fair.

Let me tell you something quickly. I tried a case in the Southern District of New York, just by way of comparison. My client was acquitted of

excessive force, acquitted of obstruction of justice, he was convicted of filing a false report. The judge gave him 16 months. Compare that to Mr.

Manafort, privileged Mr. Manafort, convicted of eight various counts for tax fraud, tax evasion, bank fraud, you name it. The fact is he gets 47

months when his guideline sentence provides for up to 25 years. That's not justice. And so, when you ask me whether the prosecution should appeal,

yes. Not only --

GORANI: They have the right to appeal on this.

JACKSON: Yes, they do. Not only --

GORANI: What would the prosecution argue? They would say the judge time and time during the case appeared to side with the defense, criticized the

prosecution, implied also that the prosecution was not following his orders. They say that's not true. Is that what they can do? This that

case, who would be hearing that appeal?

JACKSON: Well, it's not only that. It's not only on that basis that they can appeal. They can appeal on the basis that there is not a factual

record and not a factual accounting that would justify the actual sentence itself. And so, when you meet out a sentence, you give findings of fact as

to why the sentence is appropriate. And yes, judges have discretion, Hala, to depart in a downward way as the judge did here significantly, or in an

upward way as judges can do, but they have to give some accounting for that and they have to match it, versus what generally occurs. That didn't

happen here. To be clear, they shouldn't appeal because it's Manafort. They should appeal because it turns the system on its head. Who would hear

it would be 9th Circuit Court, appellate court who would weigh in whether this was right or appropriate? So, when I look at this, it's not only

Manafort which I think this would apply to, but it's everyone who comes before the court. You lose complete faith in a system that treats one

party differently from another because a judge --

GORANI: What is it -- is it the crime? Is it the white-collar crime that less penalized, less punished in America?

After the sentence was announced, a host of lawyers went on Twitter. One said for context, my client yesterday was offered 36 to 72 months in prison

for stealing $100 worth of quarters from a laundry room. What is it in the U.S. justice system that allows for such disparity in the sentencing -- you

know, in criminal court? What is it exactly?

JACKSON: It's a wonderful question. It comes down to judicial discretion. And that judicial discretion could, in fact, treat people who commit one

type of crime -- white collar crime, what have you -- differently and distinctly to another type of crime, stealing quarters. It could come down

to socioeconomic background. It could come to celebrity status. It could come to a number of things. The fact of the matter is there is no

disparity between different people who are sentenced. The whole reason that you have sentencing guidelines is the judge ignored in this case so

that you can have some consistency, excuse me, and uniformity in the law. When you turn that on its head, what's left? And so, yes, I do think it

comes down to a number of things as it relates -- uh-huh?

GORANI: I hate to jump in.


GORANI: What about for smaller crimes, crimes that, for instance, could have come down to a's lapse in judgment or selling pot or whatever,

stealing quarters.

JACKSON: Exactly.

GORANI: How is it that then some judges sentence some people to so much time behind bars? Is that within the guideline or do they choose to go

above the recommended guideline in that?

[14:15:00] JACKSON: They choose to depart from the guideline. You have -- and we could have a whole discussion about guidelines, I know we don't have

time. But you have what are called departures in guidelines and variances in guidelines. A judge could impose what's appropriate from downwardly

departing or varying in guidelines and give a factual accounting for why. A federal judge can do darn near anything because they serve for life. As

long as they use that judicial discretion in a way that's reasonable and not arbitrary, they will be upheld. I don't see anything reasonable here.

I see something arbitrary and capricious and should be undone. Yes, there are problems in our system, and this sentencing is one of them. And I

don't care, Hala, about the other judge and how she'll sentence and Miss Jackson, Judge Jackson will sentence him to consecutive time -- that means

he has to serve this sentence, then another sentence, it's still wrong. He's already been in jail for nine months so that he'll get credit for time

served so it's three years. And you apply that to a what generally other people get. I started by telling you what my client got. It's an outrage

in our system. It shouldn't happen. It did happen. It's wrong, prosecutors should appeal and I hope the second circuit -- sorry, not the

second circuit that's my jurisdiction. The Circuit Court in this jurisdiction rights the wrong.

GORANI: Joey Jackson our legal analyst, thanks very much for weighing in.

JACKSON: Thank you, Hala.

GORANI: Brexit, 21 days to go until Britain is due to leave the European Union. You would think the outcome would-be crystal-clear right now. To

put it mildly. It is not. Theresa May made that very point earlier saying if her deal is rejected in a meaningful vote, she said no one knows what

will happen.


THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: Next week, members of Parliament in Westminster face a crucial choice. Whether to back the

Brexit deal or to reject it. Back it and the U.K. will leave the European Union. Reject it and no one knows what will happen. We may not leave the

EU for many months. We may leave without the protections that the deal provides. We may never leave at all.


GORANI: Let's take you to northern England. Oren Liebermann is there. Oren, this is the Prime Minister once again reiterating her message, that

if MPs do not approve her deal, then perhaps Brexit will not happen at all, right?

But the new angle here, which is quite remarkable, is that the Prime Minister herself is saying, I have no idea what will happen if this deal


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Reiterating is a good word there, Hala, because you basically said the message she's been saying to this

point. We did not hear new ideas, new policies, new proposals, some way to get more MPs to support this Brexit deal. She talked to essentially the

faithful. She talked in a town that supported Brexit to convince them to still support Brexit. It wasn't an issue. She put it on the table. The

only sure option is to vote for the deal I have on Tuesday. Anything else brings you the uncertainty of the options she mentioned. Whether it's a

delayed Brexit, no Brexit. She also said that all of that increases the chances of a second Brexit referendum. Which she still adamantly opposes.

It opposes the Democratic will of the people. She reiterated the message she had and spent the time, this is important, Grimsby. Instead of

soliciting MPs to support the deal, she's preaching to the choir, those who support the Brexit, even if that leads the big risk she says comes after

Tuesday if her deal doesn't get through.

GORANI: Well, she wants Brexiters to hear that message because she wants Brexiters MPs to support her plan next Tuesday.

Thank you, Oren Liebermann, in northern England. The issue still blocking the Brexit progress is Ireland, what to do about the border. We've seen

strong reaction from the Prime Minister there, Leo Eric Varadkar says Mrs. May is going against the majority of people in Northern Ireland and that is

the case because there is a poll out today that clearly states that almost 70 percent of people in Northern Ireland want to stay in the EU single

market. CNN's Nic Robertson is in Dublin, Ireland, with more. There's that poll with more. By the way, we're hearing from the EU chief

negotiator, Nic, that he is offering the U.K. the option of leaving the customs union unilaterally, so that if they agree to this backstop idea, if

they want to leave the customs union without the agreement, without the support and the OK. E.U., they can do that. Is that going to unblock this

whole thing for May?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Absolutely not. The wheels are coming off Brexit negotiations. This is what we're witnessing

today. The Prime Minister in Grimsby saying it is up to the European Union to move. If they make the right decisions over the weekend, it can go

favorably in Parliament.

[14:20:00] The Irish Prime Minister says that's not the case. This is the situation that Britain has made and it's down to the U.K., down to Theresa

May to move. You have that, you have Michelle Barnier putting the negotiations backwards, if you will, which is what the minister for exiting

the European Union, Steven Barclay, described it as taking the situation backwards, what Michelle Barnier said as you outline there. The whole of

Britain doesn't have to leave the Customs Union, but Northern Ireland would continue to have to be part of, effectively, the Customs Union, this

regulatory alignment which is what the European Union had originally said.

And Theresa May's answer to that was, well, because she wanted to appease her hard liners. Let's keep the whole U.K. within that Customs Union.

Barnier is offering her the option there. And what we've heard from the Democratic Unionist, a key voice for Theresa May to win this vote next week

and influence the hard liners in Westminster, saying this is neither sensible nor reasonable. They're saying that what Michelle Barnier has

said disrespects the constitution and the economic integrity of the United Kingdom. Essentially saying it calls into question Northern Ireland being

part of Britain rather than its association with the Republic of Ireland. This really today shows the negotiation is down to the wire.

GORANI: Let me -- OK. So, Michelle Barnier put out one tweet in five parts. Number four that we put up here on our screen and we are going to

put up again, states, the U.K. will not be forced into a customs union against the -- you're saying the U.K., not the U.K. minus Northern Ireland.

Am I misreading these tweets? I see nowhere here the idea that Northern Ireland would remain in the customs union while the rest of the U.K. would

be able to unilaterally exit it.

ROBERTSON: This seems to be the way that Steven Barclay, the minister for exiting the European Union, British minister, is interpreting it. It is

taking us backwards. As you say, that's number four. Number five is to continue to try to find a deal. Number three talks about the arbitration

possibilities if Britain feels the European Union isn't acting in good faith. That was number two. Number three is there will be legally binding

letter from Jean Claude Juncker written in January to Theresa May. That will have a legally binding value. But no, that issue of Britain -- the

whole of the U.K. not needing to be in the customs union seems to fit very clearly. And this is what seemed to be the Democratic unionist party's

understanding of it as well, goes back to what the EU had originally said as the backstop, that it's Northern Ireland essentially that needs to

remain in the customs union. That's the way Barclay is responding to it, that is the way the D.U.P.'s are responding. Tweets aren't the best way to

explain something as complicated as getting out of the European Union, but that does seem to be the way it is being interpreted.

GORANI: All right. Well, we'll wait for more clarity on that. Nic Robertson in Dublin. Thanks very much. Still to come tonight, it

disappeared five years ago with hundreds of passengers on board. What we know about the fate of flight mh370 and how it has changed flying forever.

Richard Quest joins me in the studio.


GORANI: A somber milestone for one of the aviation's most enduring mysteries. Five years ago, today, Malaysia's MH370 took off from Kuala

Lumpur never to reach its intended destination. It vanished with 379 people on board. It yielded few answers and no final resting place for the

plane. Richard Quest literally wrote the book on the disappearance of MH370, joins me now in the studio. What do you have with you?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST OF "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": This is the 400-page final report, safety investigation report from the Malaysian authorities.

It's very detailed. But I can tell you, I can sum it up in a sentence.


QUEST: They still don't know. Nobody -- excuse me. Nobody knows what happened when that plane did the turn about 40 minutes after leaving Kuala

Lumpur. Nobody knows.

GORANI: But we have found or some parts of the plane have been found.

QUEST: Yes, and they were found, and the evidence shows exactly what people thought the experts had said. They will be found a year later on

the western side of the Indian Ocean, Southern Indian Ocean in Madagascar. It took a year for the plane -- on that right arc of the picture you're

looking at, it went down and it took a year for the debris to drift across. They know from the drift patterns, they know from the patterns that they're

looking or they were looking in the right area.

GORANI: And what about the flight crew, anything -- has anything come of that, of that part --

QUEST: I was just looking at this because I knew I was coming to talk to you about it. This is clear, that there is nothing unusual about the

flight crew. There are no deaths. There are no scandals, the Royal Malaysian Police specifically say there was nothing unusual about this.

Eccentric -- they're not saying that, that's me. But there is nothing unusual about it. I still believe that you cannot say the pilot did it.

You cannot convict the pilot, the captain in the court of public opinion on the basis of, well, he must have done it, mustn't he?

GORANI: And the parts of the plane that were found gave no indication about what happened to the plane?

QUEST: No, they give an indication as to what the plane -- the way the plane was configured. Were the flaps down? No. So, this idea that the

pilot was preparing to ditch the plane and he lowered the flaps and everything, it seems to be untrue.


QUEST: We don't know. I mean, it's a bit like what people are saying about Brexit. What's going to happen about Brexit? I mean --

GORANI: No one knows.

QUEST: No one knows, and that is the way -- this report makes it clear, no one knows.

GORANI: I mean, eventually the parts of the plane are going to wash up. Where do they go?

TRUMP: It's in the bottom where they stay.


QUEST: And why have we not managed today find it? Give me a grain of salt and I'll just go and throw it there.

GORANI: It is so unusual for a plane -- it is actually, in fact, the only time it's happened, that a plane goes down and we literally have no idea

where the vast majority of the fuselage is.

QUEST: Correct. Because the confluence took place. The radar was switched off. The transponder was switched off. The mechanics was

switched off. Is that evidence of the captain intending the plane to never be found? I think that's a stretch. It is a mystery how we will not find

it, by the way, until there are more sophisticated, either more sophisticated search tools or the Malaysians are prepared to let the Ocean

Infinity Company go back out and search.

GORANI: But why wouldn't another part of the plane just show up like the others did?

[14:30:00] QUEST: It could do. It's probably now -- the drift patterns are such that it's going to have drifted, it would have done so.

GORANI: All right, Richard, we'll see you on quest business at the top of the hour.

Still to come tonight.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: Despite the war and all the problems imposed upon it, I think the Islamic State was a success, he

tells me. No one gave it the chance to offer anything to the world.


GORANI: Delusional and dejected, CNN sees ISIS fighters surrender as the caliphate takes its last gasp.

[14:30:07] Also, despite the threat of corruption charges, Benjamin Netanyahu's base is not wavering ahead of April elections in Israel. Find

out why when we come back.


GORANI: The lawyer for the so-called ISIS bride, Shamima Begum, tells CNN that he believes her newborn son has died. Begum is being held at a camp

in Syria and gave birth to a baby boy last month. She left the U.K. to join ISIS four years ago.

She recently said she wanted to come back to Britain, because she thought it would be safer to raise her child there. But British officials said

they would strip her of her citizenship, because she supports a terrorist organization.

By the way, this is her third pregnancy. Her two first children died, as well, she says.

As a self-declared ISIS caliphate in Syria becomes smaller and smaller, many fighters are now surrendering, but they're not giving up on their


CNN's Ben Wedeman has been speaking to captured ISIS fighters, and he joins me now live from eastern Syria.

What have they been telling you, Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're hearing from them is that some of them accept the idea that the Islamic caliphate,

the so-called Islamic state, has lost this war. It's lost its territory.

But the impression one gets, however, is that they aren't giving up. That in their belief, somehow ISIS will rise again.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): In defeat, gone is the bravado, the cockiness. In defeat, the men of the so-called Islamic state bow their heads and cover

their faces. The sharp contrast with the shrill triumphalism of ISIS's early days.

"We couldn't fight any more, so we surrendered," Ahmed (ph) the Syrian says.

In the last few days, hundreds of ISIS fighters have surrendered to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Some have yet to give up. This

video shot Wednesday of the group's last enclave shows men on foot and motorbike moving about in broad daylight.

Vanquished ISIS may be, yet Almud (ph), a Palestinian refugee who grew up in Syria, hasn't given up. He concedes defeat today, but not tomorrow.

"Maybe the Americans rule the world today," he tells me, "but God almighty promised the Muslims that, in the end, the world will be ruled by Islam."

Their state is close to death, not their delusions.

"Despite the war and all the problems imposed upon it, I think the Islamic state was a success," Filas (ph), an Iraqi, tells me. "No one gave it the

chance to offer anything to the world."

The state where men claimed to rule in the name of God and women obeyed. Is on the brink of extinction. And the children and the women are paying

the price. Caked in dust. Dazed and confused. Hungry and thirsty. Scrambling onto trucks normally used to transport livestock, bound for

camps to the north. In defeat, misery is their lot.


WEDEMAN: And certainly, the situation of where they're going is miserable. The U.N. put out a report today that 97 people have died on route or upon

arrival in the camp they're destined to go, which is called al-Hul, just a few hours north of here. Of those 97 people who died, two-thirds of them

were children under the age of 5 -- Hala.

GORANI: Yes. We saw that, and those kids, regardless of what their parents have done, are the innocent victims here. Thanks very much. Ben

Wedeman, in Eastern Syria, live.

As we just saw in Ben's reporting, the fall of ISIS has created yet another refugee crisis in Syria, and that has become quite an issue for Syria's

neighbor, Jordan.

Jordan has already taken in close to 700,000 Syrians forced from their homes. And joining me now to talk more about this is the UNHCR's

representative in Jordan, Stefano Severe.

Thanks for being with us. We're approaching the eighth anniversary of this terrible war in Syria that started with the uprising in March 2011.

Is Jordan -- Jordan has had trouble coping with these hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, right?

STEFANO SEVERE, UNHCR REPRESENTATIVE IN JORDAN: Yes, but the -- Jordan has been quite a good host, or a very good host.


SEVERE: And in fact, I think last week we had the London conference to reinvigorate the economy in Jordan in order to help take a bit of the brunt

of this crisis.

But now eight years into the crisis, I mean, as you've said, 700,000 Syrian refugees, but let's not forget there are many other refugees. In fact, we

have about 80, 90,000 of other nationalities. Fifty-seven different nationalities in Jordan, and Jordan has a long tradition of being a host

for refugees.

GORANI: But still, it's a burden. I mean, I know Jordanians individually and Lebanese and Turks have been welcome. Even though there's some

tension, I know, in Lebanon and elsewhere.

But it's still -- these are not economies that are very rich economies. They're still having to absorb these hundreds of thousands --

SEVERE: Yes. Particularly that over 80 percent of the refugees live in urban areas amongst host communities. So of course, they've taken a huge

toll on the infrastructure, schools, health. And, you know, even, of course, Jordan has also opened up the labor market, which is a very unique

experience that we have not seen anywhere else in the world, with over 120,000 work permits issued to Syrian refugees in the past few years.

GORANI: In your experience, the Syrian refugees in Jordan, by and large, do they want to return to Syria?

SEVERE: We are contacting regularly intention surveys. And the last one that we did a few months ago, about 8 percent said they would want to --

GORANI: Eighty?

SEVERE: Eight percent.

GORANI: Eight, OK.

SEVERE: But of course, we have seen, since the reopening of the border in October 2018, about 12,800 people have gone back voluntarily to Syria.

GORANI: Why are they -- why aren't the numbers bigger?

SEVERE: I mean, you know --

GORANI: Because these conditions in the camps are not all -- I mean, you don't want -- the UNHCR does what it can. But it's not home. It's not a

forever home for you and your kids.

SEVERE: In fact, some refugees now feel that they have to suffer economic hardship, that they have exhausted their savings, and, in fact, this

motivates them to go back.

As you know, the majority of the refugees come from the southeastern part of -- southwestern part of Syria. And we have seen some stability there.

And that has encouraged some of them to go back, but the majority, of course, still feel that, because of different questions of conscription law

(ph) on property issues, that they rather prefer in Jordan in this case.

GORANI: Also, there are concerns, I think, for their safety when they go back, that if they -- if they've aligned themselves or if they believe the

regime believes they're aligned with opposition or rebel forces, that they may be targeted.

SEVERE: Indeed. And in fact, the one -- the people that are going back, the majority, the higher percentage are actually women and young children.

So obviously, men still fear about the whole question of conscription.

GORANI: Sure. And at the -- are you seeing -- I mean, obviously, the longer a war goes, the less interest in it and the less outrage there is

surrounding what's going on. Are you at the U.N. suffering from that perhaps, that Syria, there is a bit of Syria fatigue?

SEVERE: There is, but we hope that the upcoming Brussels conference, Brussels 3 next week, will be again an opportunity for the international

community to make pledges. I think we urge that the host countries need to be continued to be supported. And, of course, with the London conference

last week, I think there is an indication that there are -- that willingness is there.

GORANI: And I look at the figures here. According to the U.N., 57 percent of the refugees around the world come from only three countries: Syria,

Afghanistan, and South Sudan.

SEVERE: Indeed. And this is, of course, a protracted refugee crisis in its eighth year, going to the ninth. But as you know, the average refugee

crisis goes along for about 26 years, up from 17 not so long ago.

GORANI: Yes. And it's a shame because Syria, the country itself, will probably not recover in the foreseeable future in any way economically, in

terms of its population makeup, in terms of its diversity. So something that is going to --

SEVERE: We don't consider the refugees to be homogeneous. I mean, they -- some of them have different motivations to go back. And it will also

depend a bit from the areas they are from.

GORANI: All right. Stefano Severe, thank you very much, of the UNHCR. Appreciate it. Thanks for being in the studio.

Check us out on Facebook,; and @HalaGorani on Twitter.

Now to the massive nationwide power blackout in Venezuela. CNN has obtained a powerful video that appears to show medical staff helping a tiny

baby breathe through a manual ventilator. An activist says it was shot by nurses at a hospital in Caracas overnight on Thursday. It's manual,

because there's no electricity in this hospital. And you can see the premature baby there in the incubator.

The outage left over 70 percent of the country with no electricity. We have not independently verified the authenticity of the video. We are

trying to reach out to the hospital.

And let's get more on this. Paula Newton is in Caracas.

Paula, tell us more about what's going on with this blackout.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the blackout now, slowly but surely, some power is being restored to some parts of the

country, and that includes here in Caracas.

But Hala, I have to tell you, this was just such a profound blackout that in terms of trying to bring the country back online, it will take some

time. And the risk to the system, the vulnerability of the system is still there.

I want to go back to that video that you were just looking at from that poor infant, of course, an incredibly alarming video. And I have to tell

you, Hala, the issue there is the fact that the back-up systems and the generators just do not work. They are not reliable.

I have been in hospitals, in pediatric centers, where they have been manually doing that hour after hour, with nurses taking shifts. This is

not new.

And yet -- and yet when the power went out about 24 hours ago, to see the power out in the entire country, very important. Why? Two levels.

One is it has already become a political football. Juan Guaido, the opposition leader here, saying look, this shows how disabled the country

has become, the Maduro government has destroyed the country. The Maduro government, for its part, alleging that the United States, in cahoots with

the opposition -- has called it sabotage.

At the end of the day, Hala, the people all over this country are stuck in the middle. There are so many people here right now, Hala, we've showed

you how hard people fight to put food in their refrigerator; and now across this country they're dealing with spoiled food.

I want you to hear from this lady, who was desperate to obviously get some drinking water this morning when we spoke to her.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I don't know where this water is from, but our pumps don't work without electricity. I guess it must come

from a dam or something.

NEWTON: President Maduro is to blame, President Maduro.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Well, I blame the government in general, because the president is Maduro, but there are all those who

follow him.


NEWTON: This will become quite a test going forward and as I said, Hala, political football.

We have protests by the opposition tomorrow. In fact, the government says it will have its own rival protest. All of that as people in their own

individual homes and in those hospitals and critical care units try and regroup, and pretty much, Hala, stay alive.

GORANI: What -- what is the opposition's strategy here? It just seems like the status quo of having, really, the country divided, the political

landscape divided, but Maduro still the president, with -- still benefiting from the support of the military, at least so far.

NEWTON: The support of the military and also other levers of power that can't be denied. The Maduro side saying, look, that, in fact, it's

momentum that he needs, Hala. Which is why even in the midst of this power outage, he's already calling for as many people as he can on the street,

saying look, the light will come when we can destroy democracy to Venezuela.

[14:45:18] He needs that momentum, Hala. I hate to say it, the United States continues to strengthen those sanctions, sure enough. But even on

an international, global level, they are at a crossroads. Why? They want this to end peacefully. And that will take time and a lot of tact.

GORANI: Paula Newton, live in Caracas. Thanks very much.

A lot more to come this evening. Strong words about Benjamin Netanyahu.


SHIMON BOKER, BE'ER SHEVA DEPUTY MAYOR (through translator): I want to tell you something. He's the Moses of our time. This is the Moses of

Israel. The more they torture him, the stronger he'll become. That's written in the Bible. The more they torture him, the stronger he'll



GORANI: Die-hard supporters of the Israeli prime minister are not trying to hide corruption allegations against their hero. They are using the news

to get out the vote in Israel.


GORANI: Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been told he will be indicted on bribery and breach of trust charges. His opponents are

calling on him to step aside. But his base remains fiercely loyal as ever.

CNN's Melissa Bell reports.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His late arrival did nothing to dampen his supporters' enthusiasm. With a month to

go till the election, Benjamin Netanyahu may have slipped to second place in the polls nationally, but this is Likud country.




BELL: In 2015, the party won nearly 40 percent of the vote here in the southern Israeli town of Be'er Sheva. And a week after the attorney

general recommended indicting Netanyahu in three separate corruption investigations, most of those we spoke to think he'll win his fifth term


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said that we want Bibi in at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all the paraphernalia (ph). Love Bibi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's his charisma and the way he speaks all over the world.

BELL (on camera): Who do you vote for?


BELL (voice-over): Our guide through Be'er Sheva is Uriel Gor Adam (ph), a local radio journalist.

URIEL GOR ADAM (PH), RADIO JOURNALIST: A lot of people which are not living in the center of Israel, mainly Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, have found a

place and found someone who would speak their anger, who would speak their misery.

BELL (on camera): Hello, how are you.

(voice-over): Inside the local Likud headquarters, the pile of signs was waist high, we're told, depleted by activists who came unprompted this year

to get involved.

They read, "Davka Netanyahu," encouraging his vote, not just in spite of his legal troubles, but because of them. A message not only aimed at

voters but also at the media, who Netanyahu accuses of leading a left-wing conspiracy against him.

[14:50:03] GOR ADAM (ph): You cover the indictment. You cover the whole - - police investigations. And they said, "OK, in spite of that --"


BELL (on camera): So what the signs say is pay attention to what he's being accused of and get out and vote, because he's under attack?

GOR ADAM (ph): And do remember, we've mentioned it earlier, people do give the benefit of the doubt.

BELL (voice-over): Shimon Boker, who is both the town's deputy mayor and local Likud Party chairman, agrees that, far from being put off by

Netanyahu's troubles, Likud voters have been fired up by them.

BOKER: Translator: I want to tell you something. He's the Moses of our time. This is the Moses of Israel. The more they torture him, the

stronger he'll become. That's written in the Bible. The more they torture him, the stronger he'll become.

BELL: And yet even here in Be'er Sheva, Netanyahu spoke in an auditorium that was only half full. To those that did turn up, however, their leader

left them as impressed as ever and convinced that his natural ability to connect with his faithful would see him through once again.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Be'er Sheva.


GORANI: More to come, including not a women's issue, but a human one. Thousands of people across the world stand together for gender equality.

We'll be right back.


GORANI: What if I told you there was a way to boost the economy by trillions of dollars within our lifetime? Or that we could save lives,

invent new technology, address climate change faster than ever before?

Experts say one big thing stands in the way of such progress. Gender inequality. That's why these people are out on the streets from Seoul to

San Francisco, Paris to Pakistan. They do so under the banner of International Women's Day.

And look at the massive crowd gathered in Madrid. Right now these are live pictures there on the right-hand side of your screen.

But as we've reported time and again on this program, the battle for equality is one that so many of us face every day. And I think we'll have

achieved full equality when there is no need for an International Women's Day, one day of the year to remind everyone of how unequal things still


Now, there is one woman who's been very much in the spotlight, and she's been vocal about equality from the moment she became a very public figure,

and that is Meghan Markle. She was at a panel discussion in London today. She was asked how she felt when headlines accused her of using feminism to

be trendy. And she said she stays away from papers and Twitter and added that equality is something that runs deeper.


MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I think the treat in itself is being able to be here and be with these incredible women on this panel. I mean,

that is a gift on this day. And then, separate from that, the women in my life that I want to celebrate, I will continue to send some love to today.

But also the men, you know, who are championing all of us as part of this journey is great. And then I'll put my feet up, because I deserved treat,

especially at this stage of pregnancy.


GORANI: Markle's word come a day after CNN revealed the royal family is taking action on some of those racist and abusive comments targeting Meghan

Markle online.

Gender equality is not merely a women's issue, as we mentioned. It is a human issue, which is why there's been some huge disappointment in comments

by Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison. Here's what he said in his own words.


SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIA PRIME MINISTER: We're not about setting Australians against each other, trying to push some down to lift others up.

That's not in our values. That is an absolutely liberal value, that you don't push some people down to lift some people up.

And that is true about gender equality, too. We want to see women rise, but we don't want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing



GORANI: OK, there might have been some big huge misunderstanding there with the Australian prime minister about what feminism and gender equality


But as you'd imagine, there was a massive backlash in Australia with particular criticism of how women are represented in Mr. Morrison's own


We should add, though, that he did post multiple tweets in support of gender equality, like this one, after he met with some, quote, "incredibly,

amazing strong women."

Again, not about pushing anyone down.

Finally, this hour, and on this Friday, SpaceX is celebrating the return of the Dragon, its crew Dragon capsule, that is. It came back to earth early

today, capping off a historic test flight.

SpaceX is developing commercial spacecraft to carry American astronauts to the International Space Station. Engineers will now look over the data

collected by the craft's on-board dummy, Ripley, a reference to Sigourney Weaver's iconic character in the movie "Alien."

Before I go, a big change is ahead for our show starting Monday, only for three weeks, but a big change. So please adjust your viewing habits. The

U.S. is going to Daylight Savings Time, so HALA GORANI TONIGHT will begin two hours earlier in Europe than it has this past week. It will start

airing at 5 p.m. London Time, 6 p.m. Central European Time. That's just for three weeks.

So in a way it's a good thing. If you'd rather catch the show early, then head out to dinner, or whatever you want to do during those three weeks,

perhaps it will be more convenient for you. But we'd love to still have you on board.

We'll be back at our regular time in April when Europe goes to summertime, so be sure to watch. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next in the studio with

Richard Quest.