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Trump Goes on Wide-Ranging Online Tirade; Top Film Executive Steps Down over Alleged Improper Behavior; Russia Defiant in Face of U.S., E.U. Pressure; P.M.: Tougher Gun Laws On The Way; Three Dead Five Wounded In Rush Hour Attack; Yellow Vest Rallies To Be Banned In Parts Of France; U.K. Parliament Speaker: May Cannot Resubmit Same Deal; Cyclone Idai Takes Heavy Toll In Southeast Africa; Orphans Facing Health And Mental Issues At Displacement Camp In Syria. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 19, 2019 - 01:00   ET



[01:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: New Zealand's Prime Minister promises answers and gun law reforms, try to make sure the worst terror attack in that country's history never happens again. Plus, police track down the man suspected of opening fire inside a tram in the Netherlands, the motive though still unclear.

Also ahead this hour, and emerging disaster in Mozambique, more than 1,000 people are feared dead after a tropical cyclone hairs ashore. Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers all over the world, I'm George Howell. The CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand continues to speak out about fellow citizens who lost their lives in Friday's terror attack. She's vocal about changing laws to make sure that it never happens again. But the one thing the Prime Minister will not say, she will not say the man accused -- the name of the man accused of killing people in cold blood. His name not even worth mentioning.

Jacinda Ardern and made that message quite clear when she spoke to Parliament's first meeting since those shootings. She called the suspect a terrorist who will face the full force of law. 50 people were killed when a gunman attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday.

The Prime Minister mostly used her comments before Parliament to comfort victims, their loved ones, and her country. She also promised justice.


JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER, NEW ZEALAND: There are many questions that need to be answered. And the assurance that I give you is that they will be. Yesterday, cabinet agreed that an inquiry, one that looks into the events that led up to the attack on the 15th of March will occur. We will examine what we did know, could have known, or should have known. We cannot allow this to happen again.


HOWELL: Our Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson is live in Christchurch, New Zealand. And Ivan, the Prime Minister spoke about a nation that is certainly mourning the loss of many of its citizens, but again there is one name that she says is he not even worth mentioning.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. She confronted the suspected terrorist behind the two mosque shootings on Friday that have resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people and so many more wounded including nine in critical care at Christchurch Hospital down the road from where I'm standing. Take a listen to another excerpt from her speech in Parliament.


ARDERN: He's a terrorist. He's a criminal. He's an extremist. But he will when I speak be nameless. And to others, I employ you speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety but we in New Zealand will give him nothing, not even his name.


WATSON: So let's speak about one victim and survivor Farid Ahmed whose wife was gunned down here in Christchurch on Friday. He described that agonizing responsibility of explaining to their daughter that their mother -- her mother was gone. And then he had some incredibly -- incredible words to say for this now unnamed suspected gunman.


FARID AHMED, SURVIVOR, NEW ZEALAND SHOOTING: I want to hug him and say I have forgiven him. I want to tell him, if he has any mother, I want to hug her too. And I want to tell her that I'll treat you exactly like my auntie. If he has any sister, I want to hug her, and I have to tell her from my heart I'll treat you exactly like my own sister.


WATSON: Now, George, we are hearing about growing impatience from families of the victims that who are desperate to get their loved ones back so that they can conduct proper burials. That is a process that has taken days. It has been slowed by the sheer number of victims and the complication of identifying everybody.

And it has clearly overwhelmed the authorities here because they've had to push back there scheduled for when they are going to release the bodies of the victims again, and again, and again. And it is something we are watching, and of course, the families of the victims watching very closely in agony. George? HOWELL: And, Ivan, you know, having covered mass shootings here in the United States and seeing that process play out, it is a great deal of agony for the families and the thing about it that is not the best news. It truly could take many more weeks and even longer as that process plays out but of course, has to be specific in the identifications.

Ivan, I also wanted to ask you about Jacinda Ardern speaking out about social media platforms. How they should have greater accountability for the content that they make available and their ability to monitor it.

[01:05:37] WATSON: That's right. Because not only have the New Zealand authorities but also the major social media sites, they're all scrambling to try to remove the images that the suspected shooter was live-streaming as he was carrying out the attacks on the mosques here in Christchurch.

And Jacinda Ardern said that it can't just all be profits. There has to be responsibility. The social media sites cannot just be the postman, they're also the publishers of this content.

Now Facebook just put out a statement in the last two hours that reveals some possibly chilling details. It says that the actual live stream of the video on Friday was viewed less than 200 times but there were no viewer reports about it. It was posted to this site 8chan before Facebook was even alerted about its highly controversial just appalling content. And that the first user report only came in 29 minutes after the start of the video stream and a full 12 minutes after that live stream ended.

Facebook has also said that in the first 24 hours, it removed 1.5 million copies of that same video to give you a sense of how much and how rapidly it spread like wildfire across the internet. A court here in Christchurch -- in New Zealand rather has declared that any images of the shooter himself must be blurred and they're illegal here.

An 18 year old has had to appear in court facing charges of violating a censorship act here for redistributing that kind of content. And the deputy prime minister of New Zealand has raised this issue with the foreign minister and vice president of Turkey when they were visiting in the aftermath of the terror attacks because the President of Turkey was showing excerpts, blurred excerpts of the gunman's video at political campaign rallies in Turkey ahead of elections at the end of this month.

The Deputy Prime Minister saying that that could misrepresent New Zealand and endanger New Zealand citizens. George?

HOWELL: Wow. Ivan Watson, following the story in Christchurch. Ivan, thank you. Let's take a moment now to get some perspective with Steve Moore. Steve is a retired FBI Supervisory Agent and CNN Law Enforcement Contributor. Steve is joining us this hour from Los Angeles. Steve, good to have you with us.


HOWELL: Good, Steve. The Prime Minister of New Zealand zeroing in here on strengthening gun laws in the wake of what happened to her country. Let's listen.


ARDERN: Part of ensuring the safety of New Zealanders must include a frank examination of our gun laws. As I've already said Mr. Speaker, our gun laws will change. The Cabinet meet yesterday and made in principle decisions 72 hours after the attack.


HOWELL: Steve, such a clear, sharp, swift response to what happened in that country in quite contrast, a stark contrast to what we see here in the United States.

MOORE: Yes. And part of that is because you know, they have a different culture. Part of that though is because they have a different type of government. The other thing I noticed that they -- that the Prime Minister did is immediately start an investigation of what the country itself, what the government itself knew and didn't know. They seem to hold themselves and hold the populace to a pretty high standard on those things.

HOWELL: So curious on that point, is there -- the fact that they don't have a gun lobbyist group there similar to what we see in the states?

MOORE: Well, I don't -- I don't know if that's part of it. It's probably very likely part of it. But the United States wouldn't have a gun lobby if this -- if some of the citizens didn't want it. So again that goes to the cultural thing.

HOWELL: Certainly. Just a noteworthy to kind of look into that as well. And as for the people who commit such violent acts for sport and social media, I'm curious to get your perspective. Given your background in law enforcement, what do you think of the prime minister's comments saying that social platforms need to have more accountability and how they monitor and manage the content that's out there?

[01:10:04] MOORE: You know, I try to balance this with freedom of the press and people's right to know and the danger that we have in secret trials, things like that. But I couldn't agree more that these people -- and I've investigated these things for decades. People who do these mass shootings want the notoriety. They want to be infamous. They want people to look at them and think that they were something amazing as horrible as that sounds.

So somewhere along here, we need to examine how we can do exactly what she's saying. I'm not going to say the person's name unless it's -- unless it's important to public knowledge. But it's not important to know the person's specific name. But it is important -- or their image by the way -- but it is important that social media start taking some responsibility for being the pulpit the people can get up and say and do horrible things with. And it can't be a free-for-all.

And I tend to be somewhat libertarian you know, don't let the government get in our way, but at the same time you can't become just an outlet for things that are just unspeakably horrible.

HOWELL: So the Prime Minister not saying the suspects name. You'll notice we haven't said it either here during the show.

MOORE: Good.

HOWELL: Social media accounts or platforms, the Prime Minister saying, should you know take some responsibility for it. But here's the question to you Steve. What about people right, who see this content available who decide to share it or even who decide to look at it, tricking algorithms to make it seem like people want more of that content.

MOORE: Yes. And you know, that's -- I don't care if they want more of that content. It's just -- it is just an announcement to what society is. And frankly, if you are someone who just needs to see this or needs to needs -- to share it, you might as well have loaded the person's guns because they are -- they are counting on you to do that and you're helping them.

HOWELL: That's a good point, Steve. Thank you for your time today.

MOORE: Thank you.

HOWELL: A morning rush hour shooting in the Netherlands to tell you about, it's raised regional terror threats to its highest level for some time on Monday. Three people were killed and five others wounded. A suspect is under arrest but as our Erin McLaughlin reports, the motive still unclear.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Authorities say they've arrested the key suspect in Monday's attack but they've yet to establish a motive. They've yet to rule out the possibility that what happened here at 10:45 in the morning onboard that busy tram was the product of terror but also have yet to rule out the possibility that this was some sort of family dispute. As suggested by an eyewitness that we spoke to earlier in the day who was on board the tram at the time of the horrific shooting describes the shooter opening fire seeming to target a woman on board the tram and anyone who tried to help her.

An eyewitness account such as that that authorities no doubt are going to be going over very carefully. The suspect 37-year-old Gokmen Tanis was arrested 800 meters away from where the tram attack took place. Authorities say they've made one other arrests although have yet to link that arrest to the attack itself.

They've yet to also release the identities of the victims. Three people killed in total, five injured, three critically injured. The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte a saying that the Netherlands mourns the lives lost on that Monday attack and that Tuesday morning the flags will be flying here at half-staff. Erin McLaughlin, CNN Utrecht, The Netherlands.


HOWELL: In France, the government is cracking down on Yellow Vest rallies in some areas after protests turned violent on Saturday. Some demonstrators smashed up shops and restaurants and set fire to a bank on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The French Prime Minister blames radical groups who aren't part of the Yellow Vest movement for vandalism and says the government wants to protect people's right to demonstrate peacefully.

With only ten days to go before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union, the British government's Brexit plan has been thrown into turmoil. Our Bianca Nobilo has more on this story from London.


[01:14:46] BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A fresh blow to Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal from a familiar face and voice in Parliament.


NOBILO: The Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has skippered the government's plans for a third vote on her Brexit deal this week.

BERCOW: What the government cannot legitimately do is to resubmit to the House the same proposition or substantially, the same proposition as that of last week which was rejected by149 votes.

NOBILO: Bercow made this ruling after questions from lawmakers concerned the government would ask them to repeatedly vote on her Brexit deal until it passed.

When I interviewed him recently, he said that he wasn't trying to direct the course of Brexit but to ensure that all of the views here in the House of Commons are heard.

BERCOW: It's not for the Speaker, let's say in the context of Brexit to prescribe one route or another. And I think the record shows that I've always been particularly keen, for example, to give a voice to the minority or dissident voices in the House of Commons rather than in any sense to side with the majority.

NOBILO: But Brexiteers question Bercow's neutrality in the Brexit debate. They say he's not consistent about which rules he chooses to follow and which he doesn't.

Hear on Monday, Bercow cited a 17th-century convention which blocks Theresa May from bringing her Brexit deal back for a third time. Just arcane law, says the prime minister cannot resubmit the same proposition without changing it. What does this mean for the government? Theresa May must either get substantial new changes from the E.U. which European leaders have ruled out before or come to an agreement on an extension.

Last week, the British Parliament voted against a no-deal Brexit in any circumstances. But next Friday remains the date, the U.K. leaves the E.U. in law unless something else can be agreed. Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.


HOWELL: Bianca, thank you very much. Massive and horrifying. That is how some are describing the impact of Tropical Cyclone Idai in Mozambique. We will have the very latest for you as that community, of course, begins to assess the damage that you see.

Plus the war against ISIS in Syria has produced a number of orphans with no place to call home and no family to lean on. Some of their heartbreaking stories to tell you about. Stay with us.


HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell. Several countries in Southeast Africa are coping with the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Idai.

The president of Mozambique warns that 100,000 people are in danger that his country faces a real humanitarian disaster of large proportions. Our Tom Sater has more.


[01:20:16] TOM SATER, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: This used to be a housing, people didn't stand a chance yet.

Misery in the wake of the storm.

This are coffins outside, this move coffins and bodies inside. Lots of people suffering.

This church like more than 2,000 square kilometers in East Africa wasn't spared from Cyclone Idai. With its whipping winds and drenching rains that cut a trail of destruction through Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique.

The storm began on land over a week ago, then moved offshore, strengthened, then powered back as a named cyclone. The president of Mozambique warns that the death toll alone in his country could exceed a thousand.

The town of Beira, home to half a million people was directly in the storm's path. A dam also burst here, adding to the devastation. The Red Cross, says some communities are completely cut off with no communications and no way to reach them. As many roads have been washed away. Rescuers and dinghies are searching for survivors. Finding a lucky few clinging to the trees above the waters. Mozambique's president, says more rescue equipment, as well as doctors and volunteers, are on the way.

FILIPE NYUSI, PRESIDENT OF MOZAMBIQUE (through translator): I spoke with people and they are calm and aware of what is happening. They said water is a problem and that we need to reinforce food supplies and also medicines.

SATER: Still, with so many missing in an area that was previously struggling from dry conditions. The scale of the damage from cyclone Idai may only just be emerging. Tom Sater, Atlanta.


HOWELL: Tom Sater, thank you. And now, our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri in the International Weather Center. Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, George. You know, this was a storm system that we saw. Had all the makings here to become a devastating system and unfortunately, that's how things played out. And you take a look at the deadliest tropical cyclones in Southern Hemisphere of history, top five at this hour.

Numbers still coming in somewhere close to 300 fatalities. We know that number, unfortunately, is going to increase in estimates as I'm sure you've heard would put this potentially over a thousand which would make it the single deadliest. And we know it was the single strongest cyclone that impacts this region since 2008.

And, in fact, now a humanitarian crisis with widespread flooding and that has been the primary threat here. We know it's the wet season. This cyclone comes in landfall around 1:00 a.m. local time on Friday. Comes in as the strongest as I mention since 2008.

So really, had everything going for it here in the wet season to produce an exorbitant amount of rainfall and with the Intertropical Convergence Zone, essentially a fancy term for where winds from the Southern Hemisphere and winds from the Northern Hemisphere collide. Where that happens, we get instability, we get thunderstorms.

And in the months of January, February, and March, this region of the world gets its heaviest rainfall. In fact, the wettest place on our planet right here across northern tier of Madagascar, it's a tremendous amount of rainfall every single year as a result of this.

But, the system as you heard in Tom's story there, originated over land, it worked its way over the Mozambique Channel, gaining strength there, and coming to shore with landfall and producing an access of 300 millimeters of rainfall in an area that again was already saturated because it's the wet season, so, really had a worst-case scenario lined up.

And, by the way, I forgot to mention. The storm made landfall at high tide, at 1:00 in the morning. So, the storm surge threat was even greater as a result of that, George.

HOWELL: Pedram, thank you very much. We'll keep in touch with you on this.


HOWELL: Now to Syria, that nation's defense ministers, stood side by side with Iraqi and Iranian military chiefs on Monday and lashed out against the U.S. military presence in his country.

During a joint news conference in Damascus, General Ali Ayoub said Syria had a right to defend itself and intends to regain control of areas occupied by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, either through "reconciliations or by military force".

His remarks highlight the risk of a new type of escalation in Syria once U.S.-backed forces defeat ISIS in their remaining enclave in Eastern Syria. And that is expected to happen soon.

In the meantime, we are learning more about casualties in the fight to drive ISIS out of its last bit of territory there. The International Rescue Committee says 108 children have died on the way to a camp for displaced people fleeing violence. There are also hundreds of children at the all halt camp facing serious health and mental issues from the horrors of war that they've seen. Our Jomana Karadshe has this report for you.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The aid worker coaxes a few words from the boy. His language classical Arabic. The boy, Indonesian. Growing up in ISIS's crumbling caliphate to parents who traveled across the world to voluntarily join the terror group and its man-made hell. They didn't make it out. But in the last few days, he did. Along with eight other Indonesian orphans.

With no parents for us to ask permission from, we cannot show their faces. There are now 250 children at al-Hawl camp in Northern Syria who emerged from the war against ISIS without families, without relatives.

[01:25:36] SHERIN MURAD-ISMAIL, CHILD PROTECTION OFFICER, UNICEF: They arrived to the camp in the worst case or the worst form. Because they are injured, they are traumatized, they are mentally -- I think they have also mental disorders.

KARADSHEH: In the tent next door, the impact of the horrors lived through their short lives play out in ways so painful to watch. Eight agencies say children here have witnessed acts of brutality and were trapped under bombardment in Baghouz. They're now showing signs of psychological distress including nightmares and withdrawal.

The vast majority in this overcrowded and underfunded camp are children. More than 40,000 of them stranded here. No one expected so many to pour out of the half square mile that remains of ISIS's so- called caliphate. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is an emergency, you have to help us fast. We have called on aid groups and foreign governments to assist us, especially at our home camp because this is going to turn into a disaster when it comes to things like health care, and things like food and shelter.

KARADSHEH: The worry is outside aid will be slow to come for this camp associated with ISIS. The most helpless caught up in the politics of the aid, they now so desperately cling to.

Hamid is seven months old. He arrived from Baghouz on the 25th of February. And he was severely malnourished that UNICEF and care providers here had to take him to a local hospital where he stayed for the past couple of weeks. And right now, after treatment, we're being told that he weighs about 3.7 kilograms that is how much a newborn would weigh.

The majority here never had a choice, ISIS's lethal legacy still defining their future. Jomana Karadshe, CNN, al-Hawl camp, northern Syria.


HOWELL: Jomana, thank you. While much the world over grieved over what happened in New Zealand, the U.S. president vented on several other topics. President Trump's barrage of Twitter attacks. He went after some of the usual suspects and a few new ones.


[01:30:11] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers all over the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern led tributes to Friday's shooting victims in her country. In parliament just a short time ago she spoke there.

A day earlier she and her cabinet promised tougher gun laws will be coming soon in response to what happened on Friday -- the mass shooting there. Fifty people were killed, dozens more wounded when a gunman opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch.

A Turkish man is in custody in the Netherlands, suspected of shooting three people and wounding five others, killing those three people. This happened Monday morning on a tram in the city of Utrecht. A manhunt for the suspect lasted for several hours. Authorities initially suspected terrorism but the gunman's motive at this point remains unclear.

Tropical cyclone Idai may have killed more than a thousand people in Mozambique, this according to the country's president. He called the situation a real humanitarian disaster, and warned that 100,000 people are still in danger there.

It was a busy weekend online for President Trump, you could say. He took aim at many of his adversaries-- both living and even deceased, leaving the White House officials there to follow behind him, attempting to clarify what the President meant, what his intentions were.

Our Jim Acosta has this report.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It started over the weekend when the President made a rare trip to church and lasted until his Monday morning executive time. And unholy tweet storm airing an avalanche of Mr. Trump's grievances.

The President lashed out at the press after the mosque massacre in New Zealand tweeting "The fake news media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand. So ridiculous.

But it was the New Zealand killer who called attention to the President's rhetoric describing Mr. Trump in a manifesto as a symbol of White identity. The President is back on his heels after downplaying why nationalism.

Donald Trump, President of the United States: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problem. I guess. If you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's was the case. I don't know enough about it yet. We are just learning about the person and the people involved. But it's certainly a terrible thing.

ACOSTA: In response to the barrage of tweets, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, prominent D.C. attorney George Conway suggested the President suffers from some kind of personality disorder adding, "His condition is getting worse," a view not shared by his wife.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE CONSELOR: No, I do not share those concerns. And I was getting -- I have four kids and I was getting out of the house this morning. Before I got here and talked to the President about substance. So I may not be up to speed on all of them.

ACOSTA: The President also attacked his old nemesis John McCain, accusing the late Senator who died in August of peddling a dossier of Mr. Trump's alleged misdeeds before the 2016 election tweeting, "So it was indeed John McCain that sent the fake dossier to the FBI and media hoping to have it printed before the election. He and the Dems working together failed as usual.

McCain's daughter fired back at the President.

MEGHAN MCCAIN, TV HOST: I just thought your life is spent on your weekends not with your family, not with your friends but obsessing -- obsessing over great men you could never live up to. That tells you everything you need to know about his pathetic life.

ACOSTA: In a sign of Republican reluctance to criticize Mr. Trump, McCain's old friend Senator Lindsey Graham only offered a muted response to the President tweeting, "Nothing about McCain's service will ever be changed or diminished."

The President's poll numbers have ticked up in recent weeks in part because of the healthy economy with 71 percent saying the nation is in good fiscal shape, which may explain why the President feels emboldened to call on Fox News to bring back Judge Jeanine Pirro -- one of the Network's host who was suspended after making bigoted comments about Muslims in a rant about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

JUDGE JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: Think about it Omar wears a hijab. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia Law which in itself is antithetical to the United States constitution.

ACOSTA: The President defended Pirro on the same weekend as people in New Zealand were reeling from a terror attack on Muslims. White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney insisted Mr. Trump is not a racist.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The President is not a white supremacist. I'm not sure how many times we have to say that.

ACOSTA: As the President attended church on Sunday, he was exposed to a message of tolerance at the service, as the reverend called on Americans to reject hatred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're called, whenever we overhear or oversee hateful slurs against other people. Perhaps, we need the holy courage to call them out. That's just not us.

[01:35:01] ACOSTA: But the President will soon find himself in the company of a like-minded foreign leader when Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visits the White House on Tuesday.

Bolsonaro has been described as the Trump of the tropics, once saying immigrants coming to Brazil are the quote, "scum of the earth".

Jim Acosta, CNN -- the White House.


HOWELL: Any time now, the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report to the U.S. Attorney General is expected. It could happen again any day now. And White House lawyers want to see it before it is submitted to lawmakers.

And if word goes public, Mueller has been investigating whether President Trump's campaign colluded with Russia. Sources say the attorneys want a chance to claim executive privilege over information collected from documents and interviews with White House officials.

But such a move could set up a political and legal battle. Democrats, would almost certainly sue over the Presidential claim. Let's talk more about all of this now with CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Ron joining us this hour from Los Angeles. Good to have you with us -- Ron.


HOWELL: On the heels of the report from the Special Counsel due out any day now. Let's take a look at where the President stands right now in the polls. Here is the snapshot, 42 percent approval rating for President Trump. That's up 2 percent from a month ago. 51 percent disapproval -- the lowest number since the start of his presidency.

And a new CNN poll showing that 71 percent of people polled say he economy is in great shape. The highest number since February of 2001. So Ron -- that's the snapshot with that information. And the Democrats gearing up obviously for 2020.

The Mueller report due out any day, where does President Trump stand right now?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, his approval really has been incredibly stable with -- between 37, 38 percent, 36 sometimes on the low end. And really no higher than 45 at the high end.

He's the first president in the history of modern polling to never reach 50 percent at any point during this first two years. And this poll today I think is actually a pretty good reflection of his situation because on the one hand we do see a tremendous amount of satisfaction with the economy. 71 percent saying the economy is in good shape and you can never count out an incumbent when economic satisfaction is that high.

On the other hand, the polls also a pretty clear indication of what I like to call the Trump gap which is the gap between the people who are satisfied with the economy and those who are satisfied with the performance of the President.

I mean his approval rating is 29 percentage points below the share of people who say the economy is good. That's an extraordinary divergence and if you look at some of the key groups in the electorate that really move towards the Democrats in the November election last year college educated white voters were really at the top of the economic pyramid in the United States.

80 percent of them say the economy is in good shape. Only half that -- 40 percent, say that they approve of his performance as President. And that's the price he pays and that's how he avoid himself as President. And that is precisely the price he pays for the way he has comported himself as President.

Those are voters who are saying things are basically going well in the country economically. But yet, the way that Trump has -- his values, his language, his demeanor everything about the way he has approached the presidency still leads to disapproving and that is the risk that he faces is in 2020. HOWELL: All right. So you talk about that divide -- Ron are the

people who seem satisfied with Mr. Trump, and also those who are not satisfied with him.

Those who see him as a divider, notably straddling the line on issues of hate specifically on the issue of white nationalism as we heard earlier in the show and in the wake of the new attacks that took place in New Zealand. The President's people are defending him.



CONWAY: He has denounced bigotry many times. And I wouldn't be working here if I believed otherwise.

MULVANEY: You've seen the President stand up for religious liberty, individual liberty. This president is not a white supremacist. I'm not sure how many times we have to say that.


HOWELL: Ron -- their reactions seem clear, straightforward. But when the President speaks about the same topic, he does seem to offer, you could say shades of gray.

BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely. Look, I mean the President has been -- you know, I think it's a mistake to say that the President is kind of impulsive or off the cuff especially when he talks about race. He is very precise in what he does say and what he doesn't say.

And consistently throughout his career on the national stage he has refused to truly condemn and isolate white nationalists. I mean if you recall -- what is it -- four years ago, three years ago, this month on CNN Jake Tapper he would not condemn David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi just before southern primary's voted in Charlottesville.

He talked about very fine people on both sides, it included neo-Nazi, chanting Jews will not replace us. And then, of course, again in New Zealand, he minimized the threat of white nationalism.

[01:40:04] I don't think that's because he believes that white nationalists are a significant portion of the country or of his coalition. But his coalition is centered on voters who are the most uneasy about demographic and cultural change. Some are between 60 and 65 percent of Republicans say that Islam is more -- is incompatible with American values since it's more prone to violence. And the President has been unwilling to draw a line between those views and the more radicalized expressions of that that lead to violence, and any kind of attack.

It is pretty clear by now, that he's very deliberately not reading that out of in essence a diverse intolerant society.

HOWELL: Ron -- the President has taken issue with any suggestion that his rhetoric could have any connection to hateful acts as we saw in New Zealand tweeting this. "The media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand. They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So ridiculously," he said.

But here's the question, the attacker in New Zealand, he did mentioned his appreciation for President Trump in his lunatic rambling manifesto. Can Mr. Trump truly pass the buck here when it comes to his own words.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, as you say lunatic rambling manifesto. You can only go so far with that. But there's no question that the President has used, continued to use language that by now he unequivocally knows excites and animates these extremist voices.

I mean he talks about immigrants as invaders. He talks about immigration as an invasion knowing that for many on the farthest fringes of the right in these white supremacists and nationalist organizations, they view that as evidence that they are gaining ground on society.

They have the ostensible leader of the free world echoing and using the same kind of language that they use to talk about these changes in society. Unquestionably I think it's energizing for them.

And whether he meant deliberately to do that or not, I think there is always a wink and a nod. But even if there wasn't he knows now that it is having that effect and yet he persists in using that language. And that is a choice.

HOWELL: Ron -- we appreciate your time today. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

HOWELL: Another Hollywood executive's career has been derailed by accusations of an improper relationship in his past. The head of Warner Media's movie and TV studio stepped down from one of the industry's top jobs on Monday. Warner Media is the parent company of this network.

CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter has more on this.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Hey guys -- this is a big change in Hollywood as the head of one of the industry's biggest movie and TV studios is suddenly stepping down.

Kevin Tsujihara is the chair and CEO of Warner Media Entertainment, that includes the sprawling Warner Brothers Studio. He was recently promoted into an even bigger job overseeing more of the Warner Media portfolio. And of course, that was part of a broader reorganization of the media company which also owns CNN.

But days after he was promoted, the "Hollywood Reporter" the big entertainment magazine in L.A. published a detailed story, about allegations that Tsujihara had an improper relationship with an actress a number of years ago. The allegation was that he offered to help find her roles in Hollywood, get her auditions for jobs in exchange for sexual a relationship.

Now Tsujihara at the time through a lawyer said that he never directly was involved in getting her any auditions. He did in a memo to colleagues, say he had mad mistakes in his personal life and that he was sorry for those.

Warner Media announced an investigation, and now less than two weeks later he's leaving his job as the head of the studio.

Here's part of the statement from John Stankey who is the CEO of Warner Media. He said that "It is in the best interest of Warner Media, Warner Brothers, our employees and our partners for Kevin to step down as chairman and CEO of Warner Brothers. Kevin has contributed greatly to the studio's success over the past 25 years and for that we thank him." But Stankey went on to say that Kevin acknowledges that his mistakes are inconsistent with the company's leadership expectations and could impact the company's ability to execute going forward.

So that's the explanation from the head of the company. Tsujihara explaining in a similar way in a memo saying he and Stankey had spoken over the past week and they both concluded it was in the best interest of the movie studio for Tsujihara to step aside.

Now there is no immediate word on his successor, but right now this is a time of great change, dramatic change in the television and movie industry.

Later this week the Disney and Fox Studios are coming together, merging. That deal will finally be completed there this week. So it is a time of turbulence and dramatic change in Hollywood.

Brian Stelter, CNN -- New York.


HOWELL: Brian -- thank you.

Still ahead it has been five years since Russia used its muscle to annex Crimea. Ahead we look at the status of President Putin's territorial grab and if anything could be done about it at this point.


HOWELL: Envoys loyal to Juan Guaido have taken control of Venezuela's diplomatic headquarters in the United States and they're pressing to oust the embattled President Nicolas Maduro, who has cut off diplomatic ties with Washington.

Guaido is the president of the Venezuelan assembly, has been recognized as his country's rightful leader by more than 50 nations including the United States.

Five years ago the Russian President Vladimir Putin, launched Russia's controversial annexation of Crimea. It was one of his boldest and most aggressive moves. He marked the anniversary with a rally.

And as our Fred Pleitgen reports the Russian President seems as defiant as ever.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Vladimir Putin leading a chant at a rally in Crimea which Russia invaded and annexed from Ukraine exactly five years ago. Putin asserting that it's what people there wanted.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): You who for decades have been outside the Russian state kept in your hearts and carried through the years this love for the motherland, for Russia.

PLEITGEN: The Kremlin has long said it will never give Crimea back despite U.S. and European sanctions targeting Moscow for the aggressive takeover. And while the Trump administration claims it's being tough on Russia, Moscow clearly doesn't feel the heat.

The Russians often stating, they believe President Trump is still keen to improve relations with Moscow but that his adversaries in Congress, and the Mueller probe are undermining his efforts.

In a radio interview, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, essentially repeating the Kremlin's line.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think it's very hard, to make progress in a better bilateral relationship with Russia when anything that is done is used as evidence by the Presidents political opponents to show some evidence of Russian collusion. The political atmosphere in Washington makes it very difficult. There's no question about it.

PLEITGEN: A main focus of the Mueller investigation, possible ties between then Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian oligarch and Putin ally Oleg Digipaks. Manafort allegedly offering Deripaska private briefings from the campaign.

In an interview with NBC, Deripaska denying the allegations.

OLEG DERIPASKA, RUSSIAN OLIGARCH: I haven't seen Manafort since 2010 or 2011. The only purpose for me, for my people to have any interest in this, you know, dealing future was to get money back which was borrowed from my (INAUDIBLE).

PLEITGEN: Russia continues to claim it did not interfere in the 2016 election.

[01:49:57] And basking in the chants of his supporters, Vladimir Putin said the annexation of Crimea shows a new, more powerful Russia will look to enforce its interest.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN -- Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, the husband of a top White House adviser is sounding the alarm not about the President's politics but about his state of mind.


HOWELL: A Donald Trump critic and husband of one of his top advisers is making his strongest comments yet about the U.S. President essentially asking this question -- is Mr. Trump mentally fit to be the leader of the free world?

CNN's Brian Todd has this report.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George Conway is a staunch conservative, but he's never been afraid to consistently and openly express disdain for President Trump and his administration. All the more notable, because he's also married to one of the Presidents top advisers, and possibly his most staunch defender, Kellyanne Conway.

But now George Conway is moving beyond mere insults. In a series of new tweets, Conway now says he believes President Trump's mental health is spiraling downward. Saying quote, "All Americans should be thinking seriously now about it saying the President's condition is getting worse." His wife was asked on Monday if she agrees with his tweets.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: No I don't share those concerns and I was getting at all, I have four kids AND I was getting out of the House this morning before I got here and talked the President about substance. So I may not be up to speed on all of them.

TODD: George Conway appeared to be talking substance, too, in an attempt to bolster his argument. He posted screen grabs from the definitive diagnostic manual used by psychiatrists, detailing the definitions of certain mental conditions.

One is narcissistic personality disorder. Among the criteria -- the person has a grandiose sense of self importance, exaggerates achievements and talent and requires excessive admiration.

Conway also posted criteria for anti-social personality disorder including deceitfulness as indicated by repeated lying, impulsivity.

Forensic psychiatrist and progressive activist Lisa Van Susteren believes Conway is on to something.

LISA VAN SUSTEREN, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: I haven't personality examined the President obviously but I think most of us can see on television and have seen it in reports and in written material that the President does embody many of these characteristics.

TRUMP: Actually be higher than 40.

TODD: The President has as repeatedly not only defended his mental health, but bragged about it.

TRUMP: I'm very consistent. I'm a very stable genius.

Psychiatrist Daniel Lieberman says it's not fair for George Conway to make an amateur diagnosis of the President from afar.

Daniel Lieberman, psychiatrist: There are a couple of problems with an untrained clinician trying to make a diagnosis. First of all it's not going to be valid without proper training. A lay person can't just matchup the criteria.

the second is even for a physician that can't make diagnoses from across the room. But George Conway has never held back from diagnosing what he believes is wrong with Trump or his administration. After years of tweets and op-eds, questioning Mr. Trump's competence -- Conway unloaded back in November on the Yahoo podcast skullduggery.

"It's like the administration is like a (INAUDIBLE) in a dumpster fire.

TODD: The President has taken Conway's barbs in stride. You mean Mr. Kellyanne Conway? He's just trying to get publicity for himself.

TODD: But now as George Conway's criticism's of President Trump become more serious, Van Susteren says his tweets raised an important question.

VAN SUSTEREN: Certainly the question arises in my mind is this good cop, bad cup; is he hearing something from his wife. Is she is telling him something. Is this pillow talk.

I obviously have no idea but that is a question that comes to mind.

TODD: We reached out to the White House on that question of whether KellyAnne Conway said anything to her husband about the president's mental conditions.

They refused to comment on that or any other aspect of our story. We also reached out to George Conway to ask him why he sent that series of tweets and whether his wife had said anything to him about the President's mental health.

He never got back to us.

Brian Todd, CNN -- Washington.


HOWELL: Brian -- thank you.

They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and if that is truly the case the newly announced U.S. presidential candidate should be enjoying all the attention that he's getting.

Our Jeanne Moos has this.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're squealing for Beto -- it doesn't quite sound like your run of the mill presidential candidate.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In our future, we will be more screwed.

MOOS: For Beto or for worse, he seems to be making an impression and one way we know that is he's already become an impression. I love the United States. And I love running.

MOOS: Jimmy Fallon couldn't keep his hands off those ever moving arms.

O'ROURKE: However great or however small --

MOOS: Though Jimmy's version of Beto had him donating blood, before announcing his run for the presidency. I was born to do this. I'm likely to your friends -- hot dad and the energy of a golden retriever.

Remember how quick Tallon was who imitate Donald Trump, the candidate.

TRUMP: Wow. I was fantastic.

MOOS: Even with the real Trump there's a mirror Image. I'd like to greet (INAUDIBLE) just to get back with a pumpkin space late.

Kate McKinnon has spiced up her Elizabeth Warren impression on SNL.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beto O'Rourke was -- there's a reason he's got a nice face and good skin. He ain't done anything. Baby don't know.

MOOS: With Beto bouncing into the race, even reporters can't resist channeling him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beto O'Rourke conducts an orchestra with his hands while he speaks.

But so far, Beto has rolled up his sleeves and continued to come out swinging.

O'ROURKE: I would argue and I know that this is contentious among some, not everyone will agree.

An impersonator and others with a bone to pick about his gesticulating haven't yet forced him to adopt a policy of arms control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could trust me. There is not a dishonest bone in my body. Actually there aren't any bones in my body.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN -- New York.


HOWELL: Jeanne Moos with the win on arms control. Thank you so much for being with us to CNN NEWROOM.

I'm George Howell at the CNN CENTER in ATLANTA:

The news continues next with Rosemary Church. Stay with us.