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Trump Accuses Social Media Companies of Collusion; Trump Touts Strong Relationship with Brazil's President; Prime Minister To Announce Gun Law Plan Soon; Prime Minister Praised For Response To Terror Attack; Theresa May Seeks Brexit Delay As E.U. Stands Firm; Mozambique Reeling From The Death And Destruction; 1.7. Million People In Path Of Killer Storm. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 20, 2019 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: -- so the Prime Minister, her next move is to try and beg for more time. But the European Union is warning that any extension to the Brexit deadline may not be so clear cut. And Donald Trump meets his ideological soul mate from the southern hemisphere. The Trump of the Tropics bringing his anti-immigrant and anti-media views to the White House.

Father-and-son, refugees from Syria, the first victims to be buried after last week's mosque attack in New Zealand. Hundreds of mourners attended the service on Wednesday as heavily armed police stood guard. 30 of the 50 shooting victims have been identified and their bodies will be released for burial.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was back in Christchurch visiting a school where two of the victims attended. She also met with first responders and she says she'll present her plan for a gun law reform in the coming days.


JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: We have a large number of loopholes in our laws. Now, many New Zealanders would be astounded to know that you can access military-style semi-automatics in the way that you can here. There are a range of things that need to be fixed. And I guess if I was to say New Zealand was a blueprint for anything in some ways, it's a blueprint of what not to do.


VAUSE: New Zealand's Police Commissioner has credited first responders with preventing even more death and more violence.


MIKE BUSH, COMMISSIONER, NEW ZEALAND POLICE: We strongly believe we stopped them on the way to a further attack. So lives were saved by our staff, courageous in their intervention.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Ivan Watson live in Christchurch this hour, he joins us now. So Ivan, let's (INAUDIBLE) here for a moment, because you know, what we understand is just a handful of gun owners have actually given up their semi-automatics, among them John Hart. He tweeted this.

Until today, I was one of the New Zealanders who owned a semi- automatic rifle. On the farm they are useful -- they are a useful tool in some circumstances. But my convenience does not outweigh the risk of misuse. We don't need these in our country. We must -- we have to make sure it never happens again.

Right now, how much support is there for gun reform you know, across the country? It would seem when it comes to the timing, the government may have a kind of a limited window of opportunity here.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I haven't met a single person that I spoke to here in Christchurch who is opposed to the proposals in theory that the Prime Minister has put forward to make changes. We don't, of course, know exactly what they'll be. We also know that the authorities have urged people like the farmer that you mentioned to come forward and voluntarily surrender their weapons.

This is a country with a huge agricultural sector, large rural areas, so there are a lot of firearms here. It is a way of life for certain people here. But there he is from what I can gather just an enormous discussed at the atrocity that was committed here in Christchurch on Friday. An atrocity that the Prime Minister was talking about again today and talking about moments of silence to be observed across the country on Friday. Take a listen.


ARDERN: There is a desire to show support to the Muslim community as they return to mosques particularly on Friday. There is also a desire amongst New Zealanders to mark the week that has passed since the terrorist attack. To acknowledge this, there will be a two-minute silence on Friday. We will also broadcast nationally via TBN CID and Radio New Zealand the call to prayer.


WATSON: Among the two people buried this morning were a Syrian refugee named Khalid Mustafa who got asylum here in New Zealand as well as his 15-year-old son Hamza. Two of 50 people killed in Friday's terrorist attacks.

VAUSE: Yes. OK. In the middle of this is sort of diplomatic rally if you like which is growing between other the President Turkey on the one hand and New Zealand and Australia. Erdogan is causing some upset because he used video of last week's mass shooting sort of part of a campaign rally. He's warning New Zealanders and Australians heading to Turkey, in particular, Gallipoli if they had bad intentions, you know, they'll be sent home at a coffin with the death penalty reinstated for the government there. But we also have this little problem for Wellington. You know,

they're lying to Ankara has been you know, the New Zealanders are the victims here. The gunman was in Australian. You know, this is potentially sort of diplomatically difficult for the New Zealanders.

WATSON: It is. And what we have here is a tragedy that takes place here that has strange links to Turkey because the key suspect traveled multiple times to Turkey. And in his hate-filled manifesto, he wrote a lot about Turkey and Erdogan.

Erdogan is running for his party's reelection in elections that are hard-fought at the end of the month. The economy's not doing great in Turkey and he seems to be making use of the tragedy here to rally up his own support base. So he's been running footage from the gunmen, the suspected terrorists live video stream which has been criminalized here in New Zealand to the objection of the New Zealand authorities.

[01:05:28] And he's even taken to making digging up history about the Battle of Gallipoli during World War I which is venerated for generations not only in Turkey which inherited the Ottoman Empire that followed that but also in Australia and New Zealand which sent Anzac troops to fight in Gallipoli. All of these countries had been very respectful of each other in the past but Erdogan speaking near Gallipoli talked about if Australians and New Zealanders come with hostility that they'd be sent back n coffins much like their grandfathers.

That has been denounced by the Australian Government which has summoned the Turkish Ambassador to complain directly about this. The Prime Minister Ardern was asked about this and she said that she is sending her foreign minister to Turkey to explain this and set this right face-to-face.

It's astounding that there could be a diplomatic rupture or dispute coming so soon after this colossal loss of life that you can see here people are very much respecting and grieving for one of the lines that the Turkish president repeats over and over again is that this atrocity is not being covered in Western countries and that they are turning a blind eye to Islamophobia which is certainly not what we see here in New Zealand.

VAUSE: Yes. Anyway, Ivan, thank you. Ivan Watson live for us in Christchurch. Bryce Edwards is a political scientist at Victoria University of Wellington, and he joins us now for more on this. Brice, I want to talk about the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, because in the hours after the shooting, we saw the worst example of victim blaming. It came from an Australian Senator. In New Zealand, and the Prime Minister, we have seen the complete opposite with statements like this one. Listen to this.


ARDERN: What I am focused on is the response of the Muslim community in New Zealand. And as I say, it has been completely counter to some of the other rhetoric that has -- that has been used internationally. And they are -- they are my concern, my focus. They're the group that we need to be wrapping all of our support around. And are the ones that are only demonstrating I think utter compassion for one another and gratitude from the support of New Zealanders.


VAUSE: So how is that approach helped what is essentially a very small country deal with a tragedy on this scale?

BRYCE EDWARDS, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, VICTORIA UNIVERSITY OF WELLINGTON: I think that's an extraordinarily successful way to deal with it. The Prime Minister really has emphasized unity and she hasn't gone along with this game -- this blame -- pointing the finger at different people which is really attractive in this sort of scenario because people do want to know what's gone wrong and who's to blame and they want to now find out if anyone with those positions, the media have done something wrong.

She's not getting into that. She's more emphasizing unity and not wanting really the terrorists to get his way because that's why he wanted. He wanted to kind of so division. He wanted chaos. He wanted no the left and right to turn on each other. And Ardern has kept on emphasizing that this is not New Zealand. And what she means by that is New Zealanders is -- aren't not represented by this terrorists and that's a very strong message.

VAUSE: Especially because he was an Australian. I mean, this is the thing which is so astounding for so many people, you know, being an Australian who lived in New Zealand for a while. I know that for the many key reasons just mind-boggling, difficult to comprehend. But Ardern's approach you know has been noticed, being praised around the world. You know, she's written up in the New York Times' positive op- ed. Here's some of it.

Ms. Ardern is emerging as the definitive, progressive antithesis to the crowded field of right-wing strong men like President Trump. Viktor Orban of Hungary and Narendra Modi of India whose careers thrive on illiberal, anti-Muslim rhetoric.

In The Guardian, here's part of another op ed. Dwight Eisenhower once said the supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Ardern embodies this meaning what she says, saying what she means, unafraid and unbowed.

And on the other side of this, you mentioned this equally important is her refusal to name the gunman. And here she's explaining why. Listen to this.


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

(END VIDEO CLIP) [01:10:17] VAUSE: And if you look at other terrorist attacks with mass shootings around the world, this sort of being part of this strategy which has been employed at times never really the whole of it like we are seeing now. It's almost shaping up as a how-to manual for dealing with these kind of events.

EDWARDS: Oh that's right. And I think society here in New Zealand is going along with the Prime Minister's urging not to use this person's name. There's not being any photos published of his image and really they're trying to blank it down so that people don't know in any way give him the notoriety, the infamy that he wants.

So I think Jacinda Ardern really is leading the way. And I don't think she's put a foot wrong. No one has been able to criticize anything she's done so far. And people would if she did something wrong but she hasn't. So really, she's giving huge credits here in New Zealand. There's no one that's really suggesting that no, she should be doing anything more or less. So no, she's getting a lot of support here.

And internationally, I think you're right in terms of her becoming almost the anti-Trump. She's kind of proposing a very different type of world leader. One that has a lot of emotional intelligence and this like you say a bit of softness, empathy, but on the other hand a lot of strongness as well. She's not being seen as weak.

VAUSE: Very quickly, New Zealanders and Australians can support a fake a mile away. Politicians pretends to be you know, have empathy and sympathy for a victim and it's all just for the cameras. They don't last about five minutes which is why they've you know, this sort of comforter in chief role has never set particularly well with prime ministers you know of both countries.

Ardern, on the other hand, it seems to come incredibly naturally. I know whether it's because she's a mom or because she's just more intuitive or whether she's just you know better at this, a better person, but it does seem to be a much more of a natural instinct than she has compared to you know, previous leaders of both countries.

EDWARDS: Yes. She is a very different leader. You have to remember she's only 38. And it's only recently that she became the leader of her own party and then their Prime Minister. And so she's kind of in this extraordinary role. I mean, she does have an upbringing of -- in the Mormon Church so she kind of has an idea of faith herself and very strong emotional intelligence. So I think that sit her up very well for dealing with this crisis which she seems to be passing as it is.

VAUSE: Yes. You know, these are moments when you know, leaders sort of you know, make their name for themselves and you know essentially its make-or-break I guess if you like. It's very important for them and for the country as well to continue to move forward. Bryce, thank you so much for being with us and we wish all the best.

EDWARDS: Cheers.

VAUSE: Just nine days to go until Brexit, no plan in place though from the U.K. and only now does Downing Street actually acknowledge what has been plainly obvious for weeks. This is a crisis. As Bianca Nobilo reports, the British Prime Minister with (INAUDIBLE) is now begging Brussels for a delay.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bianca Nobilo outside the Houses of Parliament. British Prime Minister Theresa May will ask the E.U. formally for an extension of the Brexit negotiations. Article 50, the mechanism by which the U.K. leaves the E.U. was meant to expire on the 29th of March.

That's still the date set in British law for Brexit to happen. But since Parliament instructed the Prime Minister to avoid a No Deal scenario and asked for an extension, she now has to do that. In a motion that she laid down to the House of Commons last week, she said that if she was able to pass her deal she asked for a short technical extension.

But if she wasn't able to pass her deal, she has to go to the E.U. and ask for a much longer extension. And most significantly have a clear reason for doing so.

Now that the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has intervened once again in the Brexit debate and said that the Prime Minister cannot bring her deal back for a third vote without making substantial changes the chances, the chances that Theresa May can pass a deal by her deadline and therefore asked for a shorter extension are now greatly reduced.

VAUSE: OK, Bianca, thank you for that. CNN European Affairs Commentator Dominic Thomas joins us now live from Los Angeles. Dominic, nine days still left to do nothing. No need to panic. Surely you know, Parliament could hold a few more non-binding aspirational votes to allow children to ride unicorns to school every day perhaps. You know, at this point even the Germans are laughing at this man-made disaster. Look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dear viewers, once again we have a very memorable Brexit week behind us. An endless rain-check. All Europe is asking itself in the meantime, when will they get down to business, these indecisive Brits? It's unbelievable. The House of Commons takes three days. Are we still getting over the picture?

The House of Commons takes three days to say yet again that it doesn't want Theresa May's deal with the E.U., but that it also doesn't want no-deal. Just for once, what do you want?


[01:15:18] VAUSE: Yes, and that's the point. What do they want? You know, they said it is total lack of leadership from the very beginning when it comes to Theresa May, trying to bridge that -- you know, huge gap between those who want out and those who want to leave the E.U. DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes, and as you get together, everything that's happened over the past three years. We've had a general election, Theresa May has survived two votes of no confidence.

The parliament, and then this is, of course, been the subject and great material for Yuma throughout the European Union, where everybody is watching this. Had voted to reject the prime minister's deal, already on two occasions, the second referendum, and no-deal. Jeremy Corbyn's plan and the least just keeps going on.

The two things at the parliament has voted on over the three years is first of all to trigger Article 50, and that must not be forgotten in this conversation. And also to ask for an extension. And the interesting thing about it, of course, is that this is not just the Conservative Party issue.

The official position of the Labour Party is to work with them and to try and have a Brexit model. They just want Jeremy Corbyn's model, and not hers. And so, for the European Union at this particular juncture, they're asking themselves a question, "Why should we grant you an extension? What would this be for?"

And as French President Emmanuel Macron pointed out today, and this is extremely relevant, what is the implication of us granting you an extension going to be for the European Union as an institution?

And that is something that the E.U. 27 are going to take very seriously when the council meets this coming Thursday.

VAUSE: And right now, it seems, you know, they kind of can't even agree on whether it would be a short delay or a long delay. Theresa May spokesperson told reporters that she is determined to find a way to deliver on the will of the British people as quickly as possible.

The will of the people is to find a way through that allows Britain to leave with a deal. May's spokesperson added that the prime minister does not think a general election would be in the national interest.

A general election at this point wouldn't be a Theresa May's interest, either. But, you know, a general election or maybe a second referendum might be the only way of breaking these deadlocks and back to the voters to clean up the mess.

THOMAS: Well, she certainly, and we can't repeat this enough. This felt entitled enough to use the parliamentary system to constantly attempt to bring something to a vote until she gets the answer that she wants.

And so, it's very hard to look at that without seeing the now -- the tremendous hypocrisy for those who are looking to try and obtain a second vote. The basically fact remains, that the European Union, I think, has lost confidence in Theresa May's capacity to really understand this particular situation, because she keeps trying to bring a deal which the parliament is not interested in supporting. But having said that, the parliament is not interested in there being a no-deal either. And so, this is the sort of issue that has been troubling the European Union as time has gone on is, what is the purpose of having this go down the road? And what are the implications for the E.U.?

In 2014, when the last -- the E.U. parliamentary elections were held, one-third of the representatives that came from the U.K., were from Nigel Farage's UKIP Party.

The E.U. is already concerned about the rise of the far-right in the upcoming election, and the implication this is going to have. The last thing it would want back to your question is for the E.U. May 23rd election to be kind of use as the second referendum on Brexit.


THOMAS: And for a whole -- you know, slew of many Nigel Farage's, you know, arriving in Brussels and Strasbourg, having been elected. That's something that is profoundly disturbing to the E.U. as an institution.

VAUSE: Back and imagine. Let's just finish up with this, because right at the moment, when little heads or needed, clear minds and great intellect are in demand, Donald Trump Jr. writes an open letter to The Telegraph newspaper. It reads in part, "It appears that democracy in the U.K. is all but dead."

And he writes saying that "The Brexit delay is an example of how the establishment elites try to subvert the will of the people when they're given the chance. In a way, you could say that Brexit and my father's election are one and the same. A vote to uproot the establishment for the sake of individual freedom and independence, only to see the establishment try to silence their voices and overturned their mandates."

I mean, if there is a common threat between the Brexit vote and the 2016 elections and its Russian hacking, you know with who's involved in both. But, you know, the broader point here about a similar motivation for voters, in -- you know, in the U.K. and then, the U.S., that's true.

But the establishment he is referring to could also be the rule of law. And in Britain, it seems just more about -- you know, incompetence and conspiracy. Right?

[01:19:51] THOMAS: Well, it is. And I think that's one of the reasons why the Speaker has felt the need to intervene just to try and restore some kind of credibility to the House that has been used and abused by these parliamentarians. Let's not forget that when Theresa May talks about the fact that the British people voted for that to be a withdrawal agreement and deal with the European Union, that's not actually accurate.

The ballot simply asked you wish to remain or leave the European Union. It didn't talk about an Irish backstop, it didn't talk about proximity with the customs union, and so on, and so forth. It talked about regaining sovereignty and extricating oneself from the European Union.

In many ways, it has much closer to, to the model of a no-deal, which is getting out and getting back control over the laws, the money, and the borders, and so on. So, here, both here, Donald Trump Jr. who's not very helpful and President Trump himself has not been helpful to the process.

And particularly, when he's intervened and reminded Theresa May that -- you know, he should have followed her, his instructions and ways of dealing and the possibility of the free trade agreement with the United States remains in question, and so on.

So, I think we have a combination here of the kind of crisis of leadership which seems to be absolutely for which there is no obvious solution. And at the same time, a problem within the constitutional operations of the Parliament that is not allowing for any real clear line or side to emerge from this. It's the true definition of a crisis.

And one cannot emphasize sufficiently the irony of the fact that it is to the European Union that they are now going for guidance in order to get them out of this particular process. And the -- all the power is with Brussels right now.

VAUSE: Yes, as far as the referendum campaign is concerned, the best description I hope was it was basically a lie painted on the side of a bus.

THOMAS: Right.

VAUSE: Dominic, we'll live it there. Thank you.

THOMAS: We will. We'll be back.

VAUSE: I'm sure. It never ends. Next up on CNN NEWSROOM. We'll head to Malawi among the areas devastated by Cyclone Idai, and now struggling in the aftermath to recover.


[01:24:28] VAUSE: In Mozambique, at least, 200 people are dead after Cyclone Idai swept the region last week. And that number is expected to significantly rise. Many survivors are still clinging to rooftops waiting for rescue.

Thousands have been left isolated by the storm. And concern is growing for 500,000 residents of Beira. 90 percent of that area was destroyed. Some describe what's left as an inland ocean.

And relief groups worry that there's an increased risk of malaria, as well as cholera. All areas hard hit by the storm at Malawi and parts of Zimbabwe. And joining us via Skype is Hazel Nyathi, the national director for World Vision in Malawi. So, Hazel, thank you for taking the time to be with us. From what you have seen and just -- travel around -- you know that -- you're part of the world there. What have you seen over the last couple of days? How much damage and destruction has been caused by the cyclone, and how people coping right now?

HAZEL NYATHI, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, WORLD VISION MALAWI (via skype): Thank you for having me. It's pretty a sad situation here in Malawi as well. We have over 840,000 people affected following this heavy rains and flooding that followed thereon. Of which 93,000 of these have been completely displaced from their homes. And over 170 camps have been set up to accommodate those that have lost completely everything.

This is a very, very sad situation because the southern part of the country as you know constitutes the over 3.3 million people who were already food and secure in this part of the earth.

VAUSE: I'd like you to listen part of a damage assessment from the director of emergencies for the World Food Programme. Here it is.


MARGOT VAN DER VELDEN, DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCIES, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: We confronted with severe flooding and cyclone affects 600,000 people affected, possibly even going up to 1.7 and more million people affected by cyclone and flooding.

Communication completely broken, infrastructure severely damaged, particularly, in the city of Beira. But also, all the roads to Beira have been cut off.


VAUSE: So, this area at Beira, do we now much help is actually managed to reach the region? How much is actually getting in if anything at all?

NYATHI: At the moment, I can't even get through to my colleagues in Beira, the communication has been devastated. Here in Malawi, people are desperate for food, desperate for shelter, they are also desperate for clean water. They're at the risk of waterborne diseases. It's a very desperate situation and threatened it.

VAUSE: There's also the risk to -- I mean, you know, this isn't just you sort of -- you know, you have the central disaster which comes and causes also damage. But then, you have a situation where children then at risk of what being kidnapped, and you know, being sold into slavery or is it the sex trade, I mean.

You know, this is another layer of a sort of risk which these people are now confronting, especially the kids.

NYATHI: Exactly, we have over 349,000 children actually affected by this flooding. And issues of child safety, a key issue for us. Especially, in World Vision, we have actually set up our safe spaces and child-friendly centers to sort of try to ensure that children are protected as much as possible.

This is a context where we have to really focus on children safety. And it's key and high on the agenda. But we have limited resources as well to set up this support that is required for both the immediate needs, the relief needs that they need. And also to make sure that the parents are able to get on their feet and find for their families so that they don't resort to some of these harmful practices.

VAUSE: Yes. Hazel, it's obviously a sad desperate situation. And it's going to get a lot worse I guess in the coming days before it gets better. So, we wish you luck and we hope you get the help that you need. Thank you.

NYATHI: Thank you so much. You can reach us on Thank you.

VAUSE: Thank you, Hazel. Let's go to Pedram Javaheri now, meteorologist, with more on the -- you know, the weather situation. So, what we are looking at here? I mean, you -- cyclone has been through, but what's in the days ahead?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: You know, a lot more info. That's the concern here, John. Because we're in the heart of the wet season across this region. This is, in fact, the monsoonal trough that is typically set up across this region.

So, we're getting heavy rainfall each and every single day that prompted into the afternoon hours. You include some of that daytime heating. You get the instability, and you have yourself a recipe here for heavy rainfall.

So, the flooding had already been an issue across this region. But, of course, on a much lesser skill. But just by virtue of being the wet season, and when you take a look, additional thunderstorms possible. The heaviest rainfall, fortunately, looks to be north of Beira, so, that's an area we're watching here for northern Mozambique to see the most significant rains. But, of course, when you have some 90 percent of the city there devastated by this particular storm, any rainfall is going to be problematic.

And look at this, the wet season climatologically laid out head and shoulders above the rest in the months of February and March when it comes to how much rainfall they typically see already this time of year.

And then you bring in the most powerful tropical system in about 11 years' time, it makes it a catastrophic scenario. And take a look at the perspective here. Fourth deadliest tropical cyclone on record for the entire continent and into the southern hemisphere.

And now, of course, estimates on the ground with what folks are reporting there, say this could potentially make its way to the very top of this list which would be a devastating scenario and could be the deadliest tropical system on our planet since Super Typhoon Haiyan, like some 7,000 lives just a few years ago. But notice this. We know the storm surge at landfall was around four meters, high tide when the storm moved the shore at around 1:00 in the morning on Friday. So, really the worst case scenario and folks often ask is this something unusual? Well, you know not too unusual but certainly not something we see of this magnitude very often.


Two to three times per decade is what we see typically with tropical systems that impact this region of Mozambique, and into areas of eastern Africa.

Notice to the south we do have tropical cyclone Trevor, Veronica sitting back there towards western Australia. Both of these storms have everything it takes to intensify. It is the heart of the topic season here and in fact, water temperatures, John, in the Gulf of (INAUDIBLE) sitting at 32 degrees Celsius, or 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

So if you can wrap your head around the intense amount of heat this storm has to work with, that is also another storm worth noting.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. It seems to be a lot of storms worth noting in the last couple of months.

Pedram -- thank you.

JAVAHERI: Thanks -- John.

VAUSE: Well, we'll take a short break. When we come back seeing one and seeing two at the White House. President Donald Trump meeting his Brazilian counterpart. They've a lot in common. Donald Trump really likes the guys.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

New Zealand's prime minister plans to announce gun reform control in the coming days at a news conference following her meeting with first responders. Jacinda Ardern said there are many loopholes which still need to fixed. The funeral has been held for two of the 50 victims of the mass shooting.

British prime minister appealing to the European Union for a Brexit delay with its deadline now nine days away. But an increasingly impatient E.U. says it wants a concrete plan from Theresa May and the British Parliament before agreeing to any extension of the deadline.

Mozambique and Malawi are coming to grips with the death and destruction caused by Cyclone Idai. Officials say at least 200 people in Mozambique had been killed by the storm. But that number is expected to clime. Some inland areas remain under water, and completely cut off from help. Well, he rolled out a new conspiracy theory about social media bias against conservative. He then disrespected the memory of war hero and Senator John McCain. And for good measure, attacked the main stream media.

Yes. it was all just part of Donald Trump's very special day, all the while, the so-called Trump of the Tropics stood by his side.

CNN's Jim Acosta has details now from the White House.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Latching onto a new conspiracy theory President Trump accused the world's biggest social media companies of engaging in what he described as collusion to attack conservatives.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is collusion, with respect to that, because something has to be going on. Something is happening with those groups of folks that are running Facebook and Google and Twitter. And I do think we have to get to the bottom of it.

[01:35:00] ACOSTA: The President said he supported an effort by California Republican Congressman Devin Nunes to sue Twitter, accusing the tech giant of having a political agenda complaining of anonymous parody (ph) accounts that have mocked him.

Standing with Brazil's leader, Jair Bolsonaro who has been dubbed the Trump of the Tropics and uses the (INAUDIBLE) fake news himself. President used the opportunity to once again slam the American press.

TRUMP: If you look at the networks, if you look at the news, you look at the newscast, I call it fake news. I'm very proud to hear the President use the term Fake News.

But you look at what's happening with the networks, you look at what's happening with different shows and it's hard to believe we win.

It's a very, very dangerous situation. Sop I think I agree; I think something has to be looked at very closely.

TRUMP: The President made the complaint despite having a powerful social media presence that's supported by conservative news outlets. Just today Mr. Trump tweeted to his nearly 60 million followers, "The Fake News media has never been more dishonest or corrupt than it is right now. Fake news is the absolutely enemy of the people and our country itself.

Bolsonaro was asked why the conservative Web site, the "Daily Caller" whether Democrats in the U.S. are supporting socialist causes.

JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT: We will respect whatever the ballots tell us on 2020 but I do believe Donald Trump is going to be reelected fully. ACOSTA: Earlier in the day, the President defended his recent tweet storm attacking John McCain. Saying he'll never forget the late Senator's vote against repealing Obama care.

I think that's disgraceful. Plus there are other things, I was never a fan of John McCain, and I never will be.

Thank you very much everybody. Thank you.

ACOSTA: The President also weighed in on the husband of White House counselor, Kelly Anne Conway, George Conway who has questioned whether Mr. Trump is mentally ill, tweeting "total loser".

On his tweets about the President, George Conway told the "Washington Post", "The mendacity, the incompetence -- it's just maddening to watch. The tweeting is just a way to get it out of the way. So I can get it off my chest and move on with my life that day. That's basically it. Frankly, it's so I don't end up screaming at her about it."

The President made it clear he's ready for the 2020 election teeing off on Democratic calls to expand the Supreme Court.

TRUMP: No, I wouldn't entertain that. The only reason is that they're doing that is they want to try and catch up. So if they can't catch up through the ballot box by winning an election, they want to try doing it in a different way.

ACOSTA: The President also weighed in on the crisis in Venezuela repeating that all options are on the table. Mr. Trump did tell Bolsonaro that he is making Brazil a major non NATO ally of the U.S., but both leaders were really in sync not just on Venezuela but on a whole range of topics.

The Brazilian President was all but fawning over Mr. Trump as he used the term fake news. The attacks on the press were just the latest sign that the President's rhetoric aimed at news media here in the U.S. is spreading across the globe. When Bolsonaro use the term "fake news", President Trump smiled.

Jim Acosta, CNN -- the White House.


VAUSE: CNN's legal analyst, and White House correspondent for the "New York Times" Michael Shear is with us now from Washington.

Michael -- Good to see you.

MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you too. Happy to be here.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, for the most part, the U.S. President has seemed more determined to destroy old alliances as opposed to forming new once; also Justin Trudeau of Canada; France's Emmanuel Macron -- chancellor Angela Merkel, You know this but here it is here is the secret. Here is the secret to a good relationship with the U.S. president. And it's pretty simple.

You just have to be a boot licking fawning, sycophant -- right.

SHEAR: Well, or a Twitter-loving, autocrat who sort of insults people and, you know, sort of gets elected into office on the power of a similar kind of campaign that Donald Trump did.

And there is an element of President Trump looking in the mirror, and the person he sees back is the kind of leader that he wants to be friendly with. And so that's why the leaders that you talked about before, the sort of traditional allies of the United States -- Britain, France, Canada. Germany, especially Germany -- Angela Merkel -- like those -- those aren't people that he sees reflected in his own sort of style or approach to governing and so he -- has a harder try and forming any sort of bond with them.

Bolsonaro is somebody who, you know, sort of seems like him. And I think that's what where the bond is.

VAUSE: with Bolsonaro. Donald Trump looked in the mirror and he liked what he saw. And once you're on Donald Trump's good sight, it seems the sky is the limit, even the possibility of the U.S. President pushing for full NATO membership for Brazil.

Here's Donald Trump. Listen to this.


TRUMP: We're looking at it very strongly. We're very inclined to do that. The relationship that we have right now with Brazil has never been better. I think there was a lot of hostility with other presidents. There's zero hostility with me.

And we were going -- we're going to look at that very, very strongly in terms of whether it's NATO or it's something having to do with alliance. But we have a great alliance with Brazil better than we've ever had before.


[01:40:05] VAUSE: But right there on the first page of the NATO Website it says membership is open to any other European state in a position to further the principles of this treat and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area..

Brazil is till a part of South America -- right?

SHEAR: I think it is and probably will be for the foreseeable future. I mean look. I think that the interesting thing that I caught both in the clip that you just played where he sort of caught himself at the end and said or maybe some other kind of alliance.

And then I think later in the press conference he also talked about -- he sort of inserted a phrase when he was talking about this. Well, we will have to have conversations with other people. And I think both of those were moments that it struck me -- he sort of was thinking back probably to advise just moments before, whispering in his ear saying remember Mr. President like this doesn't just happen like this.

You don't just wave a wand and bring somebody in to NATO whose not even part of Europe. So, you know -- I mean it's his sort of bumbling way in a sense of expressing a kind of solidarity with his new partner that he really likes. But it's not a very serious proposal. And I think, you know, three months from now. Six months from now, a year from now,

But it's not a very serious proposal. And I think and I think, you know, three months from now, six months from now, a year from now -- either we will have forgotten about it or if we haven't it won't have advanced very far.

VAUSE: Right. Ok. Well Bolsonaro, you know, he's taken a lot of his legal strategies straight from the Trump playbook. On Tuesday he tweeted this controversial video with unsupported claims that some mysterious group is trying to assess -- this is you know, I just want to a long line of controversial tweets by Brazil's new president.

But here's a headline from back in January from a story on Bolsonaro in the "New Republic". "Jair Bolsonaro is not the New Trump. He's worse. The story concludes with this paragraph.

The President of military rule in Brazil makes him more dangerous than his United States counterpart. In 1999, Bolsonaro declared that if he ever became president, he'd admittedly launch a coup and declare himself a dictator.

Twenty years later, he's in power. Time will tell what kind of strongman he will be. And I think, if you look at, you know, around the world, the elections that we've had and these leaders who are coming to the fore, leaders rife of best scenario. Winning elected office.

This seems to be the, you know, the real world impact until it's delayed by a year or two of the Trump presidency and this tactic of, you know, discrediting the media and traditional institutions and, you know, the sort of this implicit or not so, you know, implicit support of these strong men and a disregard for the rule of law.

SHEAR: Look -- and I think this what -- when you talk to people who are -- who express real concern about he impact that Donald Trump is having on the world, it isn't so much that they worry that the United States, its institutions are going to be fundamentally undermined. I mean they are undermined in little ways every day

But you know, there's a real faith that in this country, the institutions of democracy are so well established after over 200 years. And that they're pretty solid that they can withstand Donald Trump but the problem is when Donald Trump's, actions inspire somebody like Bolsonaro or others who are in countries where those institutions -- the free press, the court systems, you know, the police you know kind of Democratic rule vis a vis instead of military rule when those things are fragile, you know, what President Trump is doing is giving them a green light to use the tactics that he's using but to much great effect potentially. You know, to an effect that we're, you know, it actually undermines

and support even though we froze democracy. Where as in this country I think the general sense is that, you know, we're going to win.

Whatever critics -- when you know, he doesn't like the asylum courts to exist because why should immigrants have court like nobody really thinks that the court system is going to go away in this country. But in other countries it could.

VAUSE: Yes. Michael -- as always, thanks so much. Good to see you.

SHEAR: Yes, Happy to.

VAUSE: Next up here on CNN NEWSROOM, five years since annexing Crimea and it seems the Kremlin still has some big plans over the Peninsula but do those plans pose a threat to NATO and the U.S.?


VAUSE: It's been five years this week since Moscow's illegal annexation of Crimea. Russia's Vladimir Putin marked the day unveiling a new power plant and promising to upgrade the regions' infrastructure. But NATO and the U.S. are closely watching a Russian military buildup in the region as well, with new navy ships, missiles and war planes.

We have more details now from CNN's Fred Pleitgen reporting from Moscow.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: New signs the kremlin might be moving nuclear capable forces to its bases right on NATO's doorstep. Just as Russia celebrates five years since the annexation of Crimea, Moscow confirming it recently flew two U-22 m3 bombers over the black sea. Two black sea. Lawmakers complaining the planes are now based there.

The head of the Parliament's defense committee stating quote, "The deployment of U.S. missile defense in Romania was a serious challenge. In response to which the Russian defense ministry decided to deploy squadrons of long-range TU-22M3 missile carrying bombers in Crimea. This step radically changed the balance of forces in the region."

To lawmakers and Russian official press agencies later reversed course and denied that TU22M3 bombers or the nuclear capable Iskander M medium range missile system were ever deployed to Crimea.

But the National Security Council has shown its concern tweeting quote, "Russia's annexation of Crimea continues to pose a threat to our regional allies. Tensions had been the rise between Russia and the U.S. and its allies in the Black Sea Region. In November Russia drawing a wide spread condemnation after its nuclear capable missile system and the rest of the crews of several Ukrainian naval ship and impounded the vessel. The U.S. has increasingly sent a warship to the Black Sea to reassure it's Allies. This week NATO ripped into Moscow's increased military activity in Crimea.

An alliance spokesman saying guote, "We condemn Russia's ongoing and wide-ranging military buildup in Crimea and are concerned by Russia's efforts and stated plans for further military build up in the Black Sea region.

And the Russians say they will not back down from their plans to further fortify and expand their military hardware and installation in the black sea despite American pressure.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN -- Moscow.


VAUSE: Well Dutch officials says terror may have been the motive between a deadly shooting on a tram in Utrecht. A Turkish born man is the main suspect, he says previous run-ins with police including an illegal weapons conviction in 2014.

Another suspect is also being arrested. Three people were killed, five others wounded in the shooting. Prosecutors say other motives such as personal vendetta, I guess he ruled out.

And we're learning more about a North Korean resistance group apparently seeking to topple Kim Jong-un's regime. It's believed they raided North Korea's embassy in Spain last month. The (INAUDIBLE) staff (ph) were attacked and several items including computers were taken from the building.

[01:50:07] CNN's Brian Todd has more on the attack and the groups motives.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a raid stunning in its audacity, an operation launched against one of Kim Jong-un's most important foreign embassies. All done in broad daylight.

According to Spanish media reports, a group of assailants infiltrated North Korea's embassy in Madrid late last month. The perpetrators reportedly wore masks, restrained embassy staff members, stole several items including computers, then got away in luxury vehicles.

BRUCE KLINGNER, FORMER CIA KOREA ANALYST: To barge into an embassy and to overpower the people there and then to hold them hostage and some reporting that they beat them, they put hoods over their heads, it's incredibly brazen. A

TODD: A source familiar with the incident tells CNN a mysterious North Korean dissident group called Cheollima Civil Defense is believed to be behind the attack.

GREG SCARLATOU, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: This is the only group we've known to be militants, action oriented, clearly against the Kim regime, and clearly keen on bringing down the Kim regime by any means available.

TODD: The "Washington Post" was first to report the involvement of the Cheollima civil defense in the embassy raid in Madrid. In 2017, that group posted this video.

KIM HAN SO: My name is Kim Han-so from North Korea, part of the Kim family. My father has been killed two days ago.

TODD: This is the son of Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un's half brother who was killed in a VX nerve gas attack at the Kuala Airport. A hit with South Korean and Malaysian officials accused Kim Jong-un of ordering. But which Kim's regime, denied.

When it first posted the video, Cheollima Civil Defense said Kim Jong- nam son and his family were transmitting from a secret location and feared for their lives.

KIM: We hope they (INAUDIBLE) this kid's panacea. This organization somehow spirited out of the cow they've been harboring them or protecting them.

TODD: Back in Madrid, Spanish authorities confirmed to CNN, an investigation is underway. But they are not giving any other information.

The raid took place on February 22nd in Hanoi, just days before President Trump's the second summit with Kim Jong-un in Hanoi with President Trump. Experts say given that, it's doubtful the U.S. would have risked being involved.

U.S. intelligence is not commenting on what happened in Spain, or on this shadowy group. Still, analysts say if Cheollima civil defense was behind the raid, and if they did steal computers, what they took could be valuable to U.S. intelligence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The North Korean embassy in Madrid has been identified by experts as a hub of illicit activity, running contraband, running arms, selling arms to hot conflict areas all over the world and also procuring luxury goods aim to keep Kim Jong-un's elites content and happy.

TODD: Another reason why western intelligence might benefit from information on computers taken in that raid? A top North Korean official named Kim Yok Chol (ph). Now, Kim Jong-un's point man in nuclear negotiations with the United States, was until recently, posted to that North Korean embassy in Madrid.

The Cheollima Civil Defense group has just posted a statement on its Web site neither confirming nor denying any involvement in that raid on the North Korean embassy in Madrid. The group has just some media and others to keep the identity of this members secret if anyone leans those names.

Analysts say there's no doubt that Kim Jong-un's regime has its operatives tracking members of this group all over the world likely trying to kill them.


VAUSE: Next up on CNN NEWSROOM, from two a little loony, gifts fit for American President from foreign dignitaries.


VAUSE: It's that age-old problem. What do you get the leader of the free world?

I'm told that this guy is a billionaire or so he says. We haven't seen his tax returns. He doesn't actually really read books him and (INAUDIBLE). But you can't just show up empty handed, can you.

Here's Jeanne Moos with the few of these lane and moonie dips fit for a U.S. President.



TRUMP: So this is an honor to give that to you.

MOOS: A Soccer Jersey just what a pair of president needs. But there have been way more exciting presidential gifts. Like the pair of Komodo Dragons Indonesia presented to President George H.W. Bush. The President regifted the lizards to the Cincinnatiti Zoo.

Most things weren't more than $390 bucks. Send up a at the national archives. President Reagan received 372 belt buckles and a bunch of saddles including this ornate one from Algeria's president.

Britain's Prime Minister and President Obama once got memorably whipped at ping pong so David Cameron gave Obama a ping pong table.

And remember soccer ball President Putin gave President Trump.

TRUMP: We'll go to my son Barron. We have no question. Melania -- here you go.

MOOS: A reporter at the summit noted, I just saw a U.S. Secret Service agent with a soccer ball through a security scanner but they didn't try that with the Komodo Dragons.

Even if it's just bowl of shamrocks from the Irish Prime Minister a president has to look pleased if not bowled over. Artists tend to send one of a kind items like this Barbara Bush, a portrait of Reagan made out of 10,000 jelly beans and a portrait of JFK carved into a peach pit.

President Clinton received a figure of himself playing the sax but when Azerbaijan's leader gave the Clinton's their portraits on a rug, this may well have been the look on Bill's face, faced with this gift.

Just peachy. Jeanne Moos, CNN -- New York.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. The news continues right here on CNN after a short break.