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CNN NEWSROOM

Possible Activity at a North Korean Weapons Site; Bill Shine to Resign as White House Communications Adviser; Trump's Contrasting Views on Cohen and Manafort; Venezuela Recovering from Major Power Outage; Manafort Braces for Second Sentencing Next Week; Netanyahu's Likud Base Backs Him as Charges Loom; U.K. Risks Never Leaving E.U. if Deal Rejected Again; Duchess of Sussex Speaks about Female Empowerment. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 9, 2019 - 05:00   ET

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


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ten days after the second Trump-Kim summit shows North Korea may be preparing a missile launch.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Blackouts across Venezuela as power outages leave people vulnerable. The Maduro government points the finger toward the United States.

Also this --

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ALLEN (voice-over): Cities around the world celebrate International Women's Day, some even making it a public holiday.

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HOWELL (voice-over): We are live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We want to welcome our viewers here and around the world, I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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ALLEN: And we begin with potentially troubling news out of North Korea.

HOWELL: That's right. Just over a week after the Trump-Kim summit collapsed, new satellite imagery seems to show Pyongyang is in a final stages of preparing for a new launch. Some mission to launch a satellite. It's still unclear, though.

ALLEN: Either way, it is problematic. The U.S. would see any launch as a betrayal following the summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim.

HOWELL: Let's get to Will Ripley. He has covered North Korea extensively.

Good to have with you us, Will. Let's start with the latest on the satellite imagery.

What does it show us?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So we are seeing activity in two different sites inside North Korea. One a missile and rocket factory outside of Pyongyang in Sanumdong, we know intergalactic missiles have been assembled. Two analysts I have spoken with say activity at that factory seems else to indicate, something was assembled, put on a railcar possibly headed to the Sohae launch facility, which is fully operational, according to analysts, although not confirmed by the U.S. government, fully operational after a flurry of work in the last few days, work that occurred post-the Hanoi summit when Kim Jong-un launched the summit.

We know there was some activity beginning February 22nd. It has picked up, analysts say, in recent days after that humiliating walkout by the United States that left the North Koreans empty handed and having to go home with nothing.

So if you put all the pieces together, they put together something at a launch factory, taking it to a launch site. It appears North Korea may be preparing for a space rocket or intercontinental ballistic missile.

Or it could be a show for spy satellites to send a strong message to the United States in the wake of a disappointing end to the summit in Hanoi.

HOWELL: Reaction to that summit, what are you hearing from Kim Jong- un, what might it mean for North Koreans?

RIPLEY: We haven't heard anything directly from Kim Jong-un but we have seen in the last 24 is North Korean state media take a strong pivot in terms of their messaging of what happened in Hanoi.

In the lead-up it was glowing coverage. The North Koreans were confident they were going to have a favorable deal signed after sit- down talks with Kim Jong-un and President Trump.

The North Koreans say they didn't have a back-up plan for when President Trump left them without the deal. So there was this hour- long documentary in North Korea painting the overall trip in very glowing terms.

But now this new state media cover coverage not only for the first time acknowledge that Hanoi fell apart, it ended unexpectedly without an agreement, blaming the United States. And this could be an attempt by the North Koreans to shift their messaging internally for their own people to prepare them for what may lie ahead, which some analysts fear is a shift to a more militaristic posture after the embarrassment from Vietnam.

HOWELL: I remember from your travels, the imagery, the signage changes in North Korea when that pivot happens. So of course, we will continue to monitor that.

Speaking on that --

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HOWELL: -- sanctions, Will, what do sanctions mean in that nation?

Clearly North Korea wants sanction relief.

How big of an impact have sanctions had so far and how much pressure is it putting on the North Korean leader and on people there?

RIPLEY: So the reports we are getting inside the country are sanctions are having a crippling effect. That's why it was so important for North Koreans to get those lifted in Hanoi. They were making the argument that sanctions are interfering with everyday citizens' livelihoods and perhaps lead to more grave complications to food supply and whatnot down the road.

So from the North Korean perspective, they need the United States to lift sanctions.

That is an incentive for Pyongyang to work with Washington to try to strike a deal. They have to know if they do launch something, even if it is a space rocket, which North Korea claims is for scientific purposes, not a missile, which would be obviously for military purposes, a space rocket uses banned technology by the U.N., security technology that could hit the United States.

So North Korea has to know that any kind of launch, rocket or missile would be highly provocative. However, there is a lot of pressure on Kim Jong-un to save face after being snubbed in a public way by President Trump, particularly canceling the working lunch when the table was already set.

It was really -- it's hard to explain how big of an affront to Kim Jong-un's dignity that would be perceived inside North Korea. It's not something they will soon forget. Perhaps they feel the need now to show the United States, you know, that Kim Jong-un remains, in their view, somebody who is strong and willing to stand up to President Trump.

HOWELL: Will Ripley with perspective and reporting. Thank you.

ALLEN: In the aftermath of the summit, Vietnam may be felt in the trade talks with China.

HOWELL: Sources close to the negotiations tell CNN Chinese officials are no longer planning for President Xi travel to the United States later this month for talks. He is apparently concerned President Trump could walk out just like he did at the Vietnam summit.

ALLEN: China reportedly warning any deal to end the trade war to be all hammered out before he reaches the U.S. In the meantime, U.S. and Chinese negotiators are still talking to one another. HOWELL: President Trump is currently at his Florida resort for the weekend. He left Washington after another unprecedented week of turmoil.

ALLEN: His ex-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was sentenced to almost four years in prison for financial crimes. His long-time attorney went to Capitol Hill to testify under oath about his old boss. CNN's Jim Acosta has that.

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JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After shying away from the subject for days, President Trump took aim at his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, accusing his one-time fixer of lying to Congress.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a stone cold lie. And he's lied about a lot of things. But when he lied about the pardon, that was really a lie and he knew all about pardons. His lawyers said that they went to my lawyers and asked for pardons.

ACOSTA: The president is referring to this comment Cohen made last week under oath, when he testified that he had not sought a pardon for Mr. Trump, even though his own attorneys had done just that.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: And I have never asked for it, nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump.

ACOSTA: The president went one step further, alleging Cohen had sought a pardon personally, tweeting: "Bad lawyer and fraudster Michael Cohen said under sworn testimony that he had never asked for a pardon. His lawyers totally contradicted him. He lied. Additionally, he directly asked me for a pardon. I said no."

Cohen fired back, tweeting: "Just another set of lies by the president. Mr. President, let me remind you that today is International Women's Day. You may want to use today to apologize for your own lies and dirty deeds to women like Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford," a reference to Mr. Trump's alleged mistresses.

But the president's attack on Cohen could backfire, pulling Mr. Trump into a perjury investigation into his former personal attorney's remarks.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D), MARYLAND: We'd love to hear from the president about it. It does seem like one of these whimsical last- minute presidential inventions.

ACOSTA: Contrast Mr. Trump's war of words with Cohen with the sympathy expressed for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is headed to prison, but may receive a pardon of his own, as he stayed loyal to the president.

TRUMP: 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 hoax.

ACOSTA: Just before the president viewed storm day in Alabama, the White House announced its communications director, Bill Shine, is resigning. Sources tell CNN Mr. Trump had soured on Shine, questioning --

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ACOSTA (voice-over): -- his judgment on a number of issues.

Still, the president released a statement saying: "We will miss Shine in the White House, but look forward to working together on the 2020 presidential campaign, where he will be totally involved."

Shine, a former FOX News executive, is the sixth person to take on the communications job, raising questions about the president's commitment to hire the best people.

TRUMP: We are going to get the best people in the world. We're going to use our smartest and our best. We're not using political hacks anymore.

ACOSTA: The president may need a new communications director to help spin the latest unemployment numbers showing the economy only added 20,000 jobs last month.

Still, the president said there's nothing to worry about.

TRUMP: The economy is very, very strong. If you look at the stock market over the last few months, it's been great.

ACOSTA: The president is looking to put Democrats on the defensive, accusing them of going soft on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar after the House passed a measure condemning hate speech, a move sparked by the freshman Democrat's anti-Semitic comments.

TRUMP: The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They have become an anti-Jewish party.

ACOSTA: But the president overlooked his own record.

TRUMP: And you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

ACOSTA: As for the departure of the communications director at the White House, a source close to the White House said there were growing concerns about the administration's cozy relationship with FOX News, where Bill Shine was recently a top executive.

Shine was partly responsible for the dramatic reduction in press briefings with reporters -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: Let's talk about the goings-on at the White House. We have Leslie Vinjamuri, the head of the U.S. and Americas Programme at Chatham House think tank.

And, Leslie, thanks for being with us this morning.

LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you.

ALLEN: The president indicated a victory somewhat over the Manafort sentencing regarding no collusion. But we all know now Manafort wasn't on trial for collusion.

How in your opinion is the president handling the outcome of the Manafort story?

VINJAMURI: Well, I mean I think the Manafort story is very interesting. The president's response is certainly revealing. But I think there is this broader question also of the sentencing.

That's what the public reaction and response has been to, whether the length of the sentencing was fair or not and the perception that it was far shorter than the parameters recommended.

ALLEN: Many talking about light sentences handing down to a white collar crime. However, Manafort will face another judge on different charges. He'll be sentenced again.

So it's wait and see what happens there, correct?

VINJAMURI: It is wait and see. Also the other thing is the concerns are about equity in the criminal justice system. But "The Washington Post" reports today that if you actually look at white collar crimes, bank fraud, that Manafort sentencing is actually within the range of normal. So there is a broader question of equity.

It's not really perhaps Manafort specifically. It's just broader, deeper injustice in the system, which I think is very important for people to take note of.

ALLEN: You know, what's also interesting about this judge, who many have not liked the outcome and what the judge seemed to say about Manafort, almost acting like he liked him. I guess he could like him, but he's the judge, in talking about the question that Manafort never seemed to show remorse.

All that he's been through with this and he came to the court for the sentencing in a wheelchair suffering from go out and still not showing remorse.

VINJAMURI: The optics have been difficult on a number of dimensions for a long time. I think this is symbolic that there are a lot of things are happening that shouldn't be happening and without oversight and also without remorse and reflection. So I think that was a very telling moment.

ALLEN: I also want to talk about Jim Acosta's story there, the back and forth between Cohen and the president on Twitter. Both pointing the finger at each other, accusations of lies and pardon or no pardon. It's interesting that these two were together for so long and now they're playing this out in the public. This is the U.S. president, for all to read.

What do you make of it?

VINJAMURI: Well, I mean, it is striking that we are where we are, given that it was only last week during those Cohen hearings that the president of the United States of America was meeting with the leader of North Korea.

Yet the intense focus on Cohen. It demonstrates that, you know, that back and forth is because there is a real concern about that testimony and the effort now is --

[05:15:00]

VINJAMURI: -- to establish or to or to discredit the witness.

So there is a real question of the credibility of Michael Cohen and this is what we are seeing between not only Cohen and Trump but more generally. And so there is a question of whether or not he is lying.

There is also a question here of whether the president is planning to use pardons more generally and whether he has, at times, tried to use that in order to undermine the independence of the investigation, various investigations that are going on.

The back and forth is not surprising; it's disturbing. But again, it all goes to this broader question and the broader politics surrounding the credibility of Michael Cohen.

ALLEN: We always appreciate your insights. Thank you.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

HOWELL: The U.S. president is slamming Democrats after the House adopted a resolution condemning hatred and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought yesterday's vote by the House was disgraceful. It has become, the Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They've become an anti-Jewish party and I thought that was a disgrace and so does everyone else if you get an honest answer. If you get an honest answer from politicians, they thought it was a disgrace.

The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They've become an anti-Jewish party. And that's too bad.

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ALLEN: The resolution was written and was thought to what some called anti-Semitic remarks by Democratic House member Ilhan Omar. It was revised to include other forms of bigotry; 23 Republicans voted against it, arguing it did not do enough to condemn Omar by name.

HOWELL: The freshman Democrat is one of the first Muslim women elected to the U.S. Congress. She has been under fire, even from fellow Democrats, for criticizing Israeli government actions. She has also been the target of an anti-Muslim bias.

ALLEN: Venezuela's national power outage continues for a second day, the opposition and the government blaming one another for the blackout. They're also calling for new protests. We'll have the latest for you.

HOWELL: Plus President Trump surveys tornado damage in the southeastern U.S. But more severe weather could be on the way. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: In Venezuela, a major power outage enters a second day, that country's leaders are calling for new protests. They're set to begin in a few hours.

ALLEN: The two blame one another for the blackout that affected most of the country.

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ALLEN: Satellite image shows how widespread it was on the left, what the country was like before, the aftermath with almost all of Venezuela in darkness.

HOWELL: The government says it was a sabotage event caused by a U.S. cyber attack on a key power plant. That's what they say. But the opposition says the government has stolen money earmarked for electricity. Our Patrick Oppmann has this story from Caracas.

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PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At first, Venezuelans could be forgiven for thinking it was just one more power outage. They happen here all the time. But then it went on and on. Before long, power was out in most of the country, one of the most widespread outages Venezuela has ever suffered, taking place at the same moment the socialist government battles with the U.S.-backed opposition over who should run the country.

The government claimed, without presenting evidence, the blackout was caused by sabotage and the power would be back on soon.

LUIS MOTTA DOMINGUEZ, ELECTRICITY MINISTER (through translator): We are working to re-establish service as soon as possible and defeat again this new attempt to blackout the country and create chaos and destabilization in our country that is at peace. And I remind you, this is an attack to the government, this is an attack to the people.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Throughout the long night, Venezuelans did the best they could with what they had. Nurses at Caracas hospital took turns squeezing manual ventilators to keep newborn babies breathing. CNN could not independently confirm the video and when we went to the hospital, no one there wanted to speak to us.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido said Venezuelans needed to make their anger known over the blackout with an anti-government protest planned for Saturday.

JUAN GUAIDO, INTERIM PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): The whole nation is coming out to the streets. We will go back to the streets and we will not leave until we reach our goal.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Venezuelans took to the streets but merely to hunt down the bare necessities.

OPPMANN: You need electricity to pump gas and this is the only station that we have seen so far that has its own generator. So people have lined up all the way down the street and all the way around the corner to pump gas in a country that has the world's greatest oil reserves.

Alejandra (ph) said she waited for three hours.

ALEJANDRA, VENEZUELAN (through translator): This is madness. We live daily in the same circumstances. There are no services, there is no food, there is no medicine. This is a crazy nation.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Even with the lights out, the message is clear for everyone to see. Venezuela is falling apart -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Caracas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: The newborn baby of the so-called ISIS bride, Shamima Begum, has died. That according to Kurdish Red Crescent. Begum left the U.K. four years ago to join ISIS. Now she says she wants to return home, even though she doesn't regret leaving.

HOWELL: The British government revoked her citizenship so she couldn't return but she is fighting the decision. She was living in a Syrian refugee camp when she gave birth last month.

In the meantime, the fight to extinguish the ISIS caliphate is grinding down. In the past 48 hours, 2,600 people, including ISIS fighters, have left the last village controlled by ISIS.

ALLEN: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have been fighting since mid February to retake the enclave in Eastern Syria. Of course that fight goes on.

CNN is partnering with young people worldwide for a day of action for modern-day slavery. Leading the charge, students around the world.

We ask them, what makes you feel free?

Here are some of the answers from students at the American Community School in Abu Dhabi.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What makes you feel free?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What makes me feel free is that I can do something that people can relate to and not feel bad about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel free when no one has to tell me who I have to be and when I can be myself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel free because I have family that loves me and that supports me, that I can come to school and learn and have friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Join us March 20th. Celebrate #MyFreedomDay and to eradicate child slavery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: We invite you to tell the world, what makes you feel free?

Share your story using the #MyFreedomDay.

ALLEN: Well, President Trump made a stop in Lee County, Alabama, on Friday; back-to-back tornadoes devastated the area last week, killing at least 23 people, injuring dozens more. This weekend, nearly 15 million people across the southern U.S. are under a severe storm threat.

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[05:25:00]

HOWELL: Still ahead, President Trump expresses sympathy for his former campaign chairman after he is sentenced to prison.

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TRUMP: I feel very badly for Paul Manafort. I think it's been a very, very tough time for him.

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HOWELL: But a second sentencing next week could put Manafort away for a very long time.

ALLEN: Also ahead, here CNN goes to what is described as Bibi country. You hear from the base staying loyal to embattled Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers around the world, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our stories.

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HOWELL: Paul Manafort, the president's disgraced former campaign chairman, is already going to prison; for how long remains to be seen. His 47-month sentence for financial crimes triggered widespread criticism that he got off too easy.

ALLEN: But that was just the beginning. He's already pleaded guilty in a second case and will finally learn his fate next week from a judge who might not be as lenient. For more about this, here is CNN's Sara Murray.

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SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Critics say Paul Manafort got off easy, but next week, he'll come face-to-face with another judge who may take a harsher view of Manafort's crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm surprised at the sentence.

MURRAY: Judge Amy Berman Jackson is set to sentence Manafort for conspiracy and witness tampering, crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. In deciding whether to impose that maximum sentence, Jackson could also weigh the fact that Manafort continued to commit crimes even after he was arrested --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, traitor.

MURRAY: -- and later lied to investigators when he was supposed to be cooperating. A federal judge in Virginia Thursday, sentenced Manafort; President Trump's former campaign chairman to nearly four years in prison. Far less than the recommended sentence of 19 to 25 years.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CONN.), MEMBER, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This sentence in my view failed to do justice to the very serious crimes that Manafort has committed, as well his utter disrespect for the law.

MURRAY: The comments Manafort's lawyer made after his client's sentencing only further enflamed Democrats.

KEVIN DOWNING, ATTORNEY TO PAUL MANAFORT: There's absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with any collusion with any government official from Russia.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CALIF.), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The Intelligence Committee --

MURRAY (voice-over): Adam Schiff, the Democrat Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee fired back via Twitter, saying "the statement by Paul Manafort's lawyer after an already lenient sentence, repeating the President's mantra of no collusion was no accident. It was a deliberate appeal for a pardon."

In deciding Manafort's sentence, Judge T.S. Ellis called the recommendations excessive and claimed that Manafort lived an otherwise blameless life. But his resume shows a complicated picture. Manafort spent a lifetime enriching himself with lobbying work for dictators and regimes with abysmal human rights records.

Like former Philippines leader Ferdinand Marcos whose image Manafort tried to bolster in Washington after decades of his brutal rule. When he was light on cash, Manafort turned to a Russian oligarch for millions of dollars that Manafort never appear to repay according to witness testimony at his trial.

Later, he built ties with Ukrainian oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin and stashed the millions he earned from them in foreign bank accounts. As part of his illegal lobbying work, Manafort even pushed news to raising 2012, designed to paint President Obama's administration as anti-Semitic according to court documents.

For their part, prosecutors reached back nearly a decade to document Manafort's history of --

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MURRAY (voice-over): -- tax fraud, hiding foreign bank accounts and defrauding banks leading to his eight convictions in Virginia.

MURRAY: Now, even though the maximum that Paul Manafort could face when he was sentenced in D.C. is ten years, it will be more difficult for Manafort and his legal team to make the argument that the judge should not give him this maximum sentence. And that's because unlike Virginia, he actually pleaded guilty to the charges he was facing in D.C.

As part of that plea agreement, he acknowledged a number of other crimes that he was never even charged with. He even signed a document that of course prosecutors have, saying he deserved 17 to 22 years in prison -- Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Let's talk little more about that. Presidential candidate Cory Booker is one of those unhappy Democrats Sara Murray mentioned.

HOWELL: The senator of New York says a light sentence less than a presidential term would be given to a drug offender or minority offender. CNN's Van Jones echoed that during an interview with our colleague, Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At every stage of our criminal justice system, if you are a person of color, you get worse treatment even when you control for income, even when you control for neighborhood, even when you control for educational attainment.

African-Americans and white Americans use drugs, illegal drugs at exactly the same rate, study after study shows that. And yet African- Americans are six times more likely to go to prison for illegal drug use.

Now, you can come up with a lot of different explanations, it's hard. You know, if it's 30 percent more, 20 percent more, 12 percent times more, 100 percent more, six times more, that shows there's a systemic bias that we have to deal with.

And while this case is unusual, as Ken says, because of the political nature of it and unfortunately it's all too often the case that people who have all kinds of privilege, whether it's money, whether it's race, whether it's education, whether it's background, they wind up getting a better break.

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HOWELL: Again Van Jones there saying that such a light sentence would not be given to a drug offender or minority offender.

ALLEN: He played a role in getting a major U.S. prison reform bill passed late last year aimed at easing sentences for nonviolent offenders.

hw That's right. We are following a story of a U.S. actor who says he was attacked in a racist anti-gay hate crime. He is now facing some major legal trouble.

ALLEN: A grand jury indicted Jussie Smollett of multiple felony charges. Our Nick Watt has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Sixteen counts against Jussie Smollett. Basically, every crime he claimed he was a victim of is now a count against him. You double it because prosecutors say Jussie Smollett told the story twice, first to a police officer then later to a detective, roughly the same story.

He also went on "Good Morning, America" and told the story as he saw it, he believed it, he wanted it to be heard. What Smollett told police is he was attacked by two men, one of them white, who threw a noose around his neck, threw a chemical over him, shouted racist and homophobic epithets at him.

Two people were arrested. Those two people, who turned out to be African American men, they told police and a grand jury that Jussie Smollett had hired them to carry out the attack and he cut him a check for $3,500; that, in fact, they knew Jussie Smollett.

The superintendent of Chicago police thinks the reason Jussie Smollett did this is he wasn't getting paid enough money to appear on the "Empire" TV show. He has since been written out of the show for the final two episodes of the current season.

Even if he is convicted of all 16 counts, the sentencing guidelines are still just for the one crime, a class 4 felony, 2.5 years in jail or up to three years probation.

Jussie Smollett maintains his innocence. We've heard from his lawyers who call this prosecutorial overkill. They say it's a redundant and vindictive indictment and they say Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: In Israel, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dealing with his own demons. Criminal charges appear to be looming.

HOWELL: Some rightwing commentators in the United States have called on him to step aside for the good of his country. But he wants to win the April 9th Israeli election. And as Melissa Bell reports, his loyal base says he could do it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His late arrival did nothing to dampen his supporters' enthusiasm. With a month to go until the election, Benjamin Netanyahu may have slipped to second place in the polls nationally but this is Likud country.

In 2015, the party --

[05:40:00]

BELL (voice-over): -- won nearly 40 percent of the vote here in the southern Israeli town of Be'er Sheva (ph). 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 regardless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). Love Bibi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is charisma and the way speak over the world.

BELL: Who will you vote for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like Bibi. We Bibi.

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

URIEL GOR ADAM, LOCAL RADIO JOURNALIST: A lot of people not living in the central of Israel, maybe who live in Jerusalem, have found a place and found someone who speaks their anger and misery.

BELL: Hello, how are you.

BELL (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 (ph) 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 a left-wing conspiracy against him.

ADAM: You cover the indictment and you cover all the police investigations and they are doing OK in spite of that.

BELL: 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.

ADAM: And you remember we've mentioned that earlier people do give the benefit of the doubt.

BELL (voice-over): Shimon Boker, who is both the town's deputy mayor and the local Likud Party chairman agrees that far from being put off by Netanyahu's troubles, Likud voters have been fired up by them.

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. They more they torture him, the stronger he'll become.

BELL (voice-over): Yet even here in Be'er Sheva, Netanyahu spoke in an auditorium that was only half full. To those that did turn up, heavier, the 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.

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HOWELL: Britain's prime minister is fighting again to get her Brexit deal passed and she's putting out a stark warning about what will happen if it doesn't get enough votes.

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THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: 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 E.U. for many months. We may leave without the protections that the deal provides. We may never leave at all.

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ALLEN: So many unknowns for the people there. Britain's prime minister urging Parliament to approve her Brexit deal next week. She says, without it, the U.K. will be plunged into chaos.

With 20 days left until it's due to leave the E.U., there is not much time left to bargain with either Europe or British lawmakers.

HOWELL: The big issue still blocking progress is more than Ireland and what to do about the border there. A new poll shows how disillusioned Northern Ireland is about the whole process. Our Nic Robertson has this.

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NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The people of Northern Ireland are deeply disappointed with the way Brexit is going. Banner headlines in "The Irish Times" reveal startling poll numbers.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The border with the republic to the south is one of the big issues. Two-thirds of the 536 people asked face-to- face say the U.K. should stay in the E.U. single market to ensure no hard border, which is not what Prime Minister Theresa May plans.

This poll is also an effective repudiation of May's Northern Irish allies, the DUP, who prop up her slender majority and have voted against her Brexit plan. Two-thirds of those asked say they have done a bad job representing Northern Ireland, a sentiment we found among Unionist voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, in fact, one of the biggest potential threats to the union is that the --

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- their stance. There's a big swath of middle ground in Northern Ireland, who, quite frankly, has no one to vote for.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Indeed, a moment Northern Ireland's more moderate pro-British Unionist politicians, there's concern the DUP hardline stance is doing more harm than good.

MIKE NESBITT, ULSTER UNIONIST PARTY: It doesn't mean a united Ireland is inevitable but it does mean that Brexit possibly could be the biggest stronghold (ph) by unionism in 100 years.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The DUP, unrepentant.

SAMMY WILSON, DUP: We have huge historic links with the rest of the United Kingdom. And those go back hundreds of years. And we're not going to give that up. ROBERTSON (voice-over): For now, the DUP can breathe easy. The poll shows less than one-third of voters in the North want union with the South, even as polling south of the border of 1,200 people shows a significant majority in favor of Irish unity.

ROBERTSON: But all of that is in the distant future. Right now, the Brexit end game is front and center. On Friday the Irish prime minister says the U.K. has to compromise, just as Theresa May said that the E.U. is the one that needs to bend -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Dublin, Ireland.

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ALLEN: We'll wait and see what happens next week.

As women across the globe celebrate International Women's Day, protests to make their voices heard, Meghan Markle is speaking out for women everywhere. We will tell you why the Duchess of Sussex is on a new mission and what it's about.

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ALLEN: Here's scenes in Madrid from Friday's global observance of International Women's Day. Look at that crowd. The event itself may have come and gone but the fight for gender equality goes on. It is an important issue ahead of next month's Spanish elections. The country's new far right party wants to scrap a law on domestic violence against women.

HOWELL: Also in Turkey, dramatic protests that happened there. Four female members of the Turkish law enforcement descended 209 feet. That's 64 meters from the Bosphorus Bridge.

ALLEN: They were a part of a wider protest in Istanbul against pay discrimination and domestic violence. Also an issue there, police scuffled with demonstrators and fired tear gas to disperse them.

HOWELL: Berlin made the day a public holiday, I should say, thousands of people had a day off from work. They turned out in Germany's capital to demonstrate against sexual violence.

ALLEN: The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, is speaking out on female empowerment for International Women's Day.

HOWELL: Our royal correspondent, Max Foster, reports the event givers us insight how she copes with the positive and negative publicity as a woman and a royal.

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MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: We now know that she doesn't read the papers, she doesn't engage on Twitter. She's there to focus on her public role and the causes she's out to support.

MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: Again, it is our responsibility to make a choice in what we click on, make a choice in what we read, make a choice in what we engage in. That is our personal decision --

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MARKLE: -- to not feed into negativity, to be more cause-driven and action-based.

FOSTER (voice-over): This comes as CNN reveals the extent of racist trolling on social media, targeting the duchess.

MARKLE: I don't read anything. Much safer that way. But that's just my own personal preference because I think, positive or negative, it can all start to just feel like noise to a certain extent.

FOSTER: Meghan's was appearing on a star-studded panel to mark International Women's Day, including the singer, Annie Lennox, and former Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard and neatly she tied in women's equality with the impending birth of her baby.

MARKLE: We have actually been joking in the past few weeks, seeing this documentary on Netflix about feminism and one of the things they said during pregnancy was I feel the embryo kicking of feminism.

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MARKLE: I love that. So boy or girl, whatever it is, we hope that's the case.

FOSTER: The duchess dismissed the idea that feminism was just a fad.

MARKLE: The idea that there's a headline, saying feminism is a trendy word, that's not helpful either. Right?

FOSTER: So the duchess appearing on good form in what is expected to be one of her last appearances before she goes off on maternity leave. The baby due in April. Everyone is very excited about this next chapter in the Sussexes' royal story -- Max Foster, CNN, London.

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ALLEN: I think being a mom will serve her well, don't you think?

HOWELL: Absolutely, I think so.

ALLEN: So cool.

Thanks for watching, I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. For our viewers in the U.S., "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is ahead. Thanks for being with us.

ALLEN: See you next time.