Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

President Trump Overturns Decades' Worth Policy; All Sides Waits for the Mueller Report; ISIS Fights to Death for Their Caliphate; White House Bracing For Release Of Mueller Report; President Trump, Time To Recognize Israel's Sovereignty In Golan; Indonesian Airline Cancels $4.9 Billion Boeing Order; New Zealand Remembers, Pausing To Reflect On The Mosque Attacks Victims; Gimme Thanks, All The Thanks. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 22, 2019 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The White House, Washington, and the world waiting for this man, Robert Mueller, to submit his final report. When will it happen?

Plus, the U.S. president overturns decades of international policy with a tweet and hand the Israeli prime minister a major victory just weeks before a crucial election.

Also, ahead this hour, E.U. leaders reach a deal on Theresa May's request for a Brexit delay. But it comes with conditions.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN Newsroom starts right now.

Around the world, good day to you. All across Washington people usually in the know are trying to read the signs. When will Robert Mueller drop his report? They look to the clues.

Does it mean anything that the special counsel drove into a parking lot at his office wearing a baseball cap or that his team of 16 prosecutors has now dwindled to 10 or that the grand jury has not been seen now for weeks?

Few people really know when Mueller will release his report or what will be in that report. And those that do know, they're not saying a word. But one thing is clear. The White House is bracing for the report to be released very soon.

Our Abby Phillip is in Washington with this report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No collusion. No collusion. I have no idea when it's going to be released.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House on edge today as they await the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report. Behind the scenes, aides have been preparing for a number of scenarios while they remain in the dark about what exactly Mueller will reveal.

One White House official telling CNN today, "We're tea leaf reading like everyone else." But Emmet Flood, the White House lawyer charged with dealing with the Russia probe, has held meetings in recent weeks to determine how they might respond.

Their response will be based on what Attorney General Bill Barr decides to disclose to Congress about Mueller's conclusions and what, if anything, implicates the president in wrongdoing.

But as the wait has dragged on the president this week has ramped up his attacks. Apparently seeking to undermine public confidence in the report before it's released.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: But it's sort of interesting that a man out of the blue just writes a report. I got 63 million votes. And now somebody just writes a report? I think it's ridiculous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Meantime, the White House today also rejected a request from congressional Democrats to obtain documents tied to President Trump's communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: In a letter to three Democratic committee chairmen, the White House counsel claiming presidential communications with foreign leaders is protected and confidential, saying, "While we respectfully seek to accommodate appropriate oversight requests, we are unaware of any precedent supporting such sweeping requests."

As soon as the Mueller report is finished, the White House is bracing for a flurry of media attention as well as attacks from Democrats. And some aides are also bracing for something else, a sense of relief that this two-year investigation is finally over.

And the president's advisers are happy about one part of this, that if it ends at this moment it would have meant that the president did not sit down for an in-person interview with the special counsel.

But of course, Democrats on Capitol Hill are expected to pick up right where Robert Mueller leaves off.

Abby Phillip, CNN, the White House.

HOWELL: Abby, thank you. The top Democrat on the House oversight committee is accusing Trump administration officials including son-in- law Jared Kushner of using private e-mail and message apps to conduct government business. If true, this would be a major security breach.

The chairman of the House oversight committee, Elijah Cummings sent a letter to the White House demanding information. It details potential violations of the law by Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Saying, "Mr. Kushner has been using WhatsApp as part of his crucial -- or rather his official duties in the White House."

It also says Abbe Lowell, Kushner's attorney, also confirmed that Ms. Trump continues to receive official e-mails on her personal e-mail account and she does not forward the e-mails to her official account.

Let's talk about all of this now with Richard Johnson. Richard, a lecturer in U.S. politics and international relations at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom joining this hour from Lancaster. Good to have you.

RICHARD JOHNSON, LECTURER IN U.S. POLITICS AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, LANCASTER UNIVERSITY: Good morning.

HOWELL: Let's start with this row over personal e-mail use. Representative Elijah Cummings saying that officials are using personal e-mail for work.

[03:05:00] Also, Jared Kushner accused of using an encrypted app to talk to foreign leaders. Where do you see this going from here, because it's reminiscent of the whole Hillary Clinton firestorm over her private server.

JOHNSON: You're right. It does bring back memories of the 2016 presidential election. What's at issue here is the Presidential Records Act, originally passed in 1978 but brought up into the 21st century in 2014 to include requirements about e-mails.

And one of the expectations about amendment to the act was that people who are doing government business must do so on government e-mails and if they don't then those messages need to be forwarded in a timely manner.

And I think what's at issue here with Ivanka Trump is the supposition that she's both conducting government business off of government e- mails and also failing to forward them on.

And then added into the mix, these WhatsApp messages which some people have said that could go all the way to Jared Kushner contacting Mohammad bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.

So, you know, those are, you know, those would be violations of the law on the face of it, and you know, when the law is violated it should be taken seriously. So, I think it's reasonable for the Democrats to look into this.

HOWELL: Richard, the Mueller report could drop any day now, and the White House is on high alert as they get the first look. They could even apply executive privilege in some areas. How great of an advantage do they see that as they get to see it before anyone else?

JOHNSON: I think it could be a significant advantage but maybe not a durable one. What I mean by that is in the 1990s there was clarification that the attorney general would be able to screen special counsel reports.

Just to make sure that you know, there wasn't anything that would have been damaging to American national security but there would be an understanding that if it wasn't something that would be damaging for the country's safety then those findings would be released.

Now, the Democrats, the key thing is the Democrats have taken control of the House and therefore have that all-important subpoena power. So now the question is, does the attorney general want to get in a fight with Democrats over handing over documents and then using the subpoena power or does he want to just pre-empt that and start on a kind of good faith basis? I think that remains to be seen.

HOWELL: And of course, Democrats will be fighting to make as much of that report public as possible. Democrats also firing back after the White House rejected a request for documents related to President Trump's communications with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

JOHNSON: Yes. You know, I think what we're seeing now is we're seeing the consequences of the 2018 midterm elections. And I think that, you know, whatever else the Democrats try to do legislatively, I think that's going to be fairly limited.

But I think where they can really cause some political damage to the White House and, you know, exercise a degree of accountability that might not have been there before is by using these powers of investigation, subpoena, in a proactive way. And we'll see -- we're seeing that state down the line.

HOWELL: And finally, Richard, Mr. Trump's continues fixation on the late Senator John McCain. Never seen anything like this before. What are your thoughts on it?

JOHNSON: No. And I think this shows is not only is there a personal issue here and the president's engagement with people he doesn't like, he's very unrelenting, unforgiving, even those who have passed away.

But also, I think it signals the president's triumph as he sees it over the Republican Party and the future direction of the Republican Party. I think that whatever other legacies President Trump may bring, perhaps one of the most consequential is reshaping the Republican Party in his image rather than the image of figures that it was once associated with such as Senator John McCain.

HOWELL: Richard, we appreciate your time today. Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

HOWELL: U.S. policy in the Middle East has always been carefully crafted and nuanced for decades. Then came Twitter, though. Then came the U.S. president.

Mr. Trump moving to undo a great deal of diplomacy with a single tweet. He wrote this. "After 52 years, it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the state of Israel and the regional stability."

Israel seized the territory from Syria in 1967, in the 1967 war, and annexed it more than a decade later. It had been regarded as disputed land ever since.

Our Oren Liebermann has more on this story from Jerusalem.

[03:09:56] OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Donald Trump upended decades of U.S. policy and now for the first time in recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 six-day war and it's been considered occupied territory ever since. Israel annexed the Golan more than a decade later, a move no country had ever recognized until now.

Trump said after 52 years it was to recognize it as officially part of Israel. The move comes just a few weeks before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a tough re-election campaign and the U.S. recognition is certain to give him a boost.

No one, not Trump, Netanyahu, or U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, made mention of the election but it seems apparent that the Trump administration is openly campaigning for Netanyahu.

Earlier today Pompeo visited the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem with Netanyahu. When Trump visited a couple years ago, when Vice President Mike Pence visited, that was done alone because of the sensitivity of the site between Israelis and Palestinians.

Well, no more. Pompeo went to the wall with Netanyahu which lends even more credence to the idea that Trump is pushing for Netanyahu to win. And this could be just getting started.

Netanyahu heads to Washington this weekend for AIPAC, the American Israeli lobby conference. He'll be staying at the Blair House as an official guest of the White House and he'll meet with Trump in what will basically be a campaign stop for Netanyahu.

Now, Turkey and the Palestinian authority have already condemned the White House move saying it will further destabilize the region and could lead to more violence. Lebanon and Syria will also certainly condemn the move.

And that's worth noting because Pompeo flies from Israel to Lebanon for meetings with officials there who are not going to look favorably at Trump's move.

Oren Lieberman, CNN, Jerusalem.

HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with Samantha Vinograd. Samantha, a CNN national security analyst joining us this hour in New York. Samantha, good to have you with us.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks for having me.

HOWELL: So, the president's decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, it's certain to draw the ire of Syria and Lebanon who argue that such a move would serve to destabilize that region. What are your thoughts about the regional and international impact of this decision?

VINOGRAD: I take a step back and think about what motivated the timing of this decision. I worked on national security for President Obama including decisions related to Israel and various territories that Israel currently controls.

And when we look at the timing of this, Secretary Pompeo is in the Middle East. He gave a press briefing hours before the president made this policy announcement by tweet. There are two things that really strike me.

One is President Trump knows that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is a close ally, is up for re-election in just a few weeks at this point, and President Trump is deeply popular in Israel.

So, it's very obvious that him making this kind of announcement would help Netanyahu. And the other factor that we really have to consider here is political motivations here at home in the United States.

President Trump and the Republican Party have really been painting Democrats as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic for the past several weeks. And so, by making this kind of -- by making this Twitter statement and this announcement on a very serious policy issue he could be trying to garner more support from Republicans and get Democrats to really say that they're against this.

In terms of implications finally, this will certainly draw ire from Syria, Lebanon, and even Russia because Russia is Syria's protectorate. But I am even more concerned about the precedent this sets about international law.

There is a U.N. Security Council resolution governing the inadmissibility of acquiring territory through wars. It's UNSC 242. And the president is completely disregarding them.

HOWELL: I want to delve deeper into two points. First it is noteworthy, you talk about the timing around an election in Israel and when asked whether Mr. Trump thinks that his decision will have a positive impact for Benjamin Netanyahu, here's his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I wouldn't even know about that. I wouldn't even about that. I have no idea. I hear he's doing OK. I don't know if he's doing great right now but I hear he's doing OK.

But I would imagine the other side, whoever is against him, is also in favor of what I just did. Every president has said do that. I'm the one that gets it done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: All right. So, Mr. Trump there speaking. But what is the impact for Benjamin Netanyahu here, again, who is in a tough election? He seemed to enthusiastically embrace this news from President Trump.

VINOGRAD: Well, I just have to shake my head a little bit because where do you even start with that quote from an analytic perspective? First, several presidents before President Trump have not promised to do this.

In fact, many of them have respected the fact that the U.N. Security Council resolution has actually been quite the opposite and has said that this territory should not just be annexed by Israel and should be part of a negotiated settlement with Syria.

Number two, if President Trump really doesn't know that Prime Minister Netanyahu is up for re-election in just a few weeks and he doesn't know that Prime Minister Netanyahu is under pressure, then someone get this president an intelligence briefing book or suggest that he read a newspaper.

[03:15:02] This is a commonly known fact and ostensibly having seen classified intelligence in the United States the upcoming election would be something President Trump would be briefed on regularly.

And finally, especially because he's meeting Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington early next week.

HOWELL: Mr. Netanyahu, as you point out, headed to Washington to meet with President Trump to be part also of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC as it's better known here in the States.

Strong campaign optics for Benjamin Netanyahu. But again, delving deeper, what does it mean for President Trump given his support here in the U.S.?

VINOGRAD: Well, I actually helped prepare President Obama for an AIPAC speeches, an AIPAC speech. I actually have spoken at AIPAC myself. So, I'm quite familiar with the audiences that are there.

And the benefits of speaking to such a large group of people that are focused on not just Israel but Israel's situation with respect to other countries in the Middle East, Prime Minister Netanyahu coming to AIPAC shortly before an election and having President Trump meet with him on the margins of that meeting, that's going to be a huge political boost. And we, as we just discussed, he certainly needs that. He is facing

diminishing support at home and we don't yet know exactly when the Israeli attorney general is planning to indict Prime Minister Netanyahu. That was something that broke a few weeks ago.

So, at this point, coming to the United States, having praise showered on him by President Trump, and being able to tell Israeli voters, well, we got the United States to move their embassy to Jerusalem, we got the United States to cut off aid to Palestinian refugees that they've said is being misused by terrorist groups.

And finally, the United States just said that we should annex the Golan Heights without any negotiated settlement. Those are all part of a pre-election gift bag that President Trump is giving to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

And so, to an extent, he is interfering in Israeli politics to try, it looks like at least, get support for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

HOWELL: Sam Vinograd, thank you again for your time.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

HOWELL: NATO says that two of its service members have been killed in Afghanistan, the latest casualties in the 17-year war. The names of those killed in action are being withheld until their loved ones have been notified. Details remain sketchy at this point. The NATO statement didn't say who the soldiers were fighting.

A three-week lifeline, Theresa May gets some breathing room to get her deal passed in parliament, but will an extension really help here?

CNN is live in Brussels and London following the story. Plus this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand mourns with you. We are one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: New Zealand pausing to remember the victims of the mosque attacks that happened just one week ago.

[03:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: ISIS is on the verge of losing its last stronghold in Syria. U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces launched an assault on the final sliver of territory that the militants still control.

Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is following this story in Eastern Syria. Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, George. Well, there was intense overnight bombardment of that slim sliver of land just along the Euphrates.

What we heard was what sounded like AC-130 specter gunships, which are used for attacking personnel as opposed to vehicles or buildings.

We understand from a spokesman from the Syrian Democratic Forces that there are perhaps a few hundred Jihadis left along the Euphrates and that some of them have made it clear they have no intention to surrender, that they plan to fight to the death.

But we do know there are also civilians or family members of those ISIS Jihadis still inside, being used by their own family members essentially as human shields.

Over the last 48 hours, several hundred of the people who were inside that enclave have surrendered to the Syrian Democratic Forces. But as far as the timing on when this final battle could finally end is frankly very unclear. George?

HOWELL: Ben, that's an interesting point. So, for those family members who may be being used as human shields by their own family members, as you say, what happens to those civilians, those people who do try to leave that sliver of territory?

WEDEMAN: Well, what happens is normally somebody from the inside, from the ISIS-controlled territory, will communicate by hand signals or shouting to the positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces to let them know there are people who want to leave.

And then the Syrian Democratic Forces will have personnel there where they come out to frisk them. Because there have been several instances of suicide bombers going out among those who are giving themselves up. These are people apparently opposed to any sort of surrender.

So, it's a very delicate process. Once they've reached safe ground, their fingerprints are checked. Their names are recorded. Their pictures of their faces are taken. And they are loaded onto trailer trucks normally used for transporting livestock.

And then they go on this live journey. That sometimes can take overnight simply because of the logistical complications and they end up in one of two major camps that have been set up for those who are leaving the ISIS-controlled areas.

Now in those camps those who have a clean affiliation with ISIS are kept in a separate part. And they are not free to move around. They cannot leave the camp because of the concerns that they might pose to security.

[03:25:01] And as far as how long they will be kept, it's not at all clear. The men are sent to different locations, essentially prisons where investigations, interrogations continue. There have been some cases where ISIS Jihadis have been handed over to Iraq, to other countries.

But many, for instance, the United Kingdom, has made it clear it does not want Jihadis back who were carrying U.K. citizenship. So, it's a burden and a dilemma for the authorities in this part of

Syria who would like these people to leave and go back to their home countries but they won't take them. George?

HOWELL: Ben Wedeman following the story in Eastern Syria. Ben, thank you.

The Pentagon has a message for Moscow to tone down the language. It's been a little more than five years now since Russia annexed Crimea, and now its defense officials say the U.S. is trying to stoke tensions by flying a warplane near the Russian border. But America's top military officer has strong words for the Kremlin.

Our Barbara Starr has this report from the Pentagon.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: A U.S. B-52 bomber caught on a Russian aircraft camera over the Baltic Sea. Moscow claims a Russian fighter jet forced the Americans to back off, something adamantly denied by the U.S. Air Force, which said the Russian aircraft did not chase the B-52 away.

It's all part of the new front line between Moscow and Washington over superpower dominance.

The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff says Russia is working on new missiles, ships, and aircraft aimed at making it harder for the U.S. to defend Europe. A plan he says that is so far succeeding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, UNITED STATES JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: There is absolutely no question it will be more difficult for us to project power in Europe today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: General Joseph Dunford says the U.S. can still defend Europe and the Pentagon is funding new U.S. weapons to push back. But he has an unusually blunt warning about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DUNFORD: We're talking about Putin putting together information operations, cyber operations, economic coercion, political influence, unconventional military operations to advance his objectives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Dunford also pinning the 2016 election interference on Putin, something President Trump has not done even as the U.S. intelligence community believes it.

DUNFORD: Putin is doing things. You know, he did things in the United States in the context of the 2016 elections to try to undermine our democracy. I'd make an assumption that there's very little that Russia does that Putin is not aware of. (END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: And on the China front, General Dunford expressing growing concern about American high-tech companies doing business with Beijing. His worry is their technology will go directly to the Chinese military if they do business with the government there.

He singled out Google for a lot of his concern. And we are now learning that next week General Dunford plans to meet with Google executives here in Washington at the company's request.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on Newsroom, Brexit delayed. The E.U. gives Theresa May two weeks, a two-week lifeline which could extend Brexit if parliament can approve a Brexit deal. Will that happen? Who knows? Stay with us.

[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You are watching "CNN Newsroom" live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The White House is bracing for the Mueller report to be released, and behind the scenes, aides have been preparing for a number of different scenarios, but they remain in the dark about what will be in that report. One White House official telling CNN quote, we're tea leaf reading like everyone else is.

Bucking decades of U.S. policy, President Donald Trump says it's time to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights. Israel seized the territory from Syria in the 1967 war and annexed it in 1981. The move comes less than three weeks before the Israeli election.

Indonesia's airline Garuda has canceled it's nearly $5 billion order for 49 Boeing Max 8 jets. It says passengers have lost all confidence to fly in that plane. Two Max 8's, as you'll remember, crashed five months apart. "The New York Times" reports they lacked two safety features that were sold as extras.

It's all up to the U.K. parliament yet again. The European Union has thrown Theresa May one last lifeline and agreed to a Brexit extension, but it comes with strings attached this time. If British lawmakers approve the Prime Minister's divorce bill, the U.K. leaves the E.U. on May 22nd, but if it once again fails, parliament then and the U.K. has until April 12th to figure out what happens next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL: Well, what this means in practice is until that date all options will remain open. And the cliff edge date will be delayed. The U.K. government will still have a choice of a deal, no deal, a long extension or revoking article 50. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: And you will remember, article 50 is the clause to leave the E.U., and revoking it would essentially prevent Brexit. Miss May says that she has no intention of stopping Brexit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, BRITISH: I hope we can all agree, we are now at the moment of decision, and I will make every effort to ensure that we are able to leave with a deal and move our country forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Our correspondents are covering all aspects of this story. CNN's diplomatic -- international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson is outside number 10. And our Melissa Bell is live in Brussels.

Nic, first to you. Who is under more pressure here? Is the Prime Minister to see if the speaker will even allow her deal to be put to the floor for a vote, or is it the British parliament to either reject or embrace the only deal that is on the table?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, the last time the British parliament got a vote on the deal it rejected it by 149 votes, and the speaker has said that unless it substantially changes the withdrawal agreement that Theresa May would bring in front of the parliament, then she can't bring it again without substantial changes.

[03:35:04] It's not clear what those changes would be. It is clear that Theresa May would likely make the case that what she's been told by Brussels now in some way reshapes or redefines it. Even though the European Union has made very, very clear last night that there will be no changing to that withdrawal agreement that was agreed back in November last year.

So, it does seem to leave Theresa May in a very difficult position. She did say, you know, when talking about all the options being on the table, that Donald Tusk talking about that, that she was not inclined to allow the British people to vote in another European election, because she said just three years ago they voted to leave the European Union. So that wouldn't be right. So, she is really indicating again her deadline will be April the 12th unless, of course, her vote passes, in which case it will be June -- it would be May the 22nd.

So the position that she is putting herself in feels very much like the position we were in last week. The conditions of what she is expecting parliament to vote on does feel very much like last week. She is under a lot of pressure. On Wednesday this week, she was heavily criticized for essentially standing up in parliament and saying it's up to the MPs now, I've done everything I can, it's the MPs that need to vote. She seemed to dial that back a little bit and saying that she understands that MPs are under pressure as well. Someone criticize that potentially putting them in danger by sort of

overstressing that they are in a way to blame for this, you know, for not supporting her withdrawal agreement. And I think the other thing we can sort of see what Theresa May is saying here is, she is leaving open that possibility of reaching out across the House in parliament. She gave an indication of that last night. And undoubtedly when meeting for 90 minutes with the European Union leaders, she will have heard that message coming from them, because it's what they've been telling her for many, many months now.

HOWELL: Nic, stand by. Let's bring in our colleague, Melissa Bell. And Melissa, the message from Brussels there, it is quite clear, accept the deal, get a little more time, reject it, get a little less time, and it is decision time.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is decision time. And that ball, George, very much back in Westminster's court. You really sense the frustration. And we heard a great deal about it. Nic just referred there to that 90-minute presentation she gave European leaders. And at the end of that, what we were hearing from inside the room was that there was a sense that really the question of what if her deal does not get through Westminster, had not been adequately addressed?

She simply didn't seem to have an answer to that, which is at which point European leaders sort of took things into their own hands. She had been coming to ask for a delay on her terms, a calendar that she had come up with. They came back to her and said that is not OK.

Of course the big problem for Europeans would have been the United Kingdom still inside the E.U. when that European parliamentary election campaign begins on the 23rd of May. The question then institutionally, politically for the E.U. would have become quite complicated.

So, they redefined that kind of saying, look, your cutoff date is the 22nd of May. After that really we need you out in order that the E.U. can be preserved. And this is something that a number of European leaders and I think the French president in particular has been very hard-liner about.

Of course it is important to help the United Kingdom organize as orderly a transition as possible, but there is of course an important and urgent need to protect the rest of the E.U. from the sort of contagion they see creeping in, the sort of chaos spreading further than it has already.

And we've sensed that from Emmanuel Macron, he left the meeting yesterday expressing that frustration that so many E.U. leaders had made clear. We expect him to arrive just behind me in the next few minutes, Gorge, here on the red carpet for those meetings to continue. He told the press as he left that essentially the British had been incapable of organizing, of delivering to their people what the people had voted for.

HOWELL: Melissa Bell, thank you so much, and Nic Robertson as well. We'll stay in touch with you both as we figure out where the Brexit ball bounces next.

Now to New Zealand, a very solemn day. The country taking a moment to pause, remembering the victims of the deadly mosque attacks, which happened one week ago. Crowds of all faiths came together in a park near one of the mosques for the Muslim call to prayer. And then this as well, so many people, yet what you hear, nothing, the silence there.

[03:40:00] Several moments of silence. The Imam of one of the targeted mosques saying that he saw hatred and rage in the eyes of one of the terrorists who killed and murdered 50 innocent people, adding instead of tearing the nation apart the attack proved the country is unbreakable. And he had a message for the people of New Zealand. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAMAL FOUDA, IMAM, MASJID AL NOOR MOSQUE: Thank you for your tears. Thank you for your Haqqa. Thank you for your flowers. Thank you for your love and compassion. To our Prime Minister, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: And now let's bring in our Ivan Watson. Ivan has been covering this story for us in Christchurch and joins us now with the latest there. Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right, George. The people of New Zealand united in this show of unity and grief after the deadliest terrorist attack in New Zealand's modern history. And what we saw at this memorial and these prayers that were conducted here in Christchurch in the park was pretty remark remarkable because the imam, the cleric who we just saw, his name is Gamal Fouda. And he was -- the Imam who was giving a sermon just seven days ago in the Al Noor mosque here in Christchurch when the suspected terrorist walked in and began shooting worshippers one by one.

And here seven days later he was addressing a crowd of thousands of people, including the Prime Minister of the country, and thanking New Zealanders for the support they've shown for the Muslim minority in this country that was so savagely targeted. Let's listen to another excerpt from his sermon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOUDA: We have shown that New Zealand is unbreakable. And that the world can see in us an example of love and unity. We are brokenhearted, but we are not broken. We are alive. We are together. We are determined to not let anyone divide us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: And in another remarkable show of the unity here, many, many women here in New Zealand wore head scarves. One of the hashtags that was trending here was quote, was hashtag head scarf for harmony. I think I've even seen reports that the television news anchors, women, were wearing head scarves on the air.

Just another sign of how many New Zealanders perceived this attack on two mosque in Christchurch as an attack on the entire country. Now, after the memorial here at a cemetery in Christchurch, mourners brought out one coffin after another as dozens of victims were buried. The youngest today a 3-year-old boy named Rajad Ibrahim, the oldest today, 77-year-old Musa Awale. New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, she says that in the wake of the attack last Friday this country has been forever changed. George?

HOWELL: Ivan Watson live for us in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ivan, thank you. We'll be right back after this.

[03:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Following this term bomb cyclone. You'll remember that from last week. It's when a storm rapidly intensifies. And you know what? You're going to hear it again as a new storm is taking aim at the northeastern United States and could be the next bomb cyclone. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam is in the International Weather Center with more on that. Derek.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right, George. Well, there's a marked difference between last week's bomb cyclone and this week's bomb cyclone. Namely, that last week's formed in the central part of the country and impacted a large area. Now today's storm that is deepening quickly is off the East Coast, and that means the majority of the impacts will actually be felt off the coastline.

Now that doesn't mean we're not going to feel it today if you're in the major East Coast cities from Boston to New York, Philadelphia and D.C, but this is going to be a rainmaker for the most part. You don't have to travel that far outside of that I-95 corridor northward into upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire. That is where we'll feel heavy winter impact.

In fact a winter weather advisory and winter storm warning in place for that area. Maybe 6 to 12 inches of snowfall possible across that region, but notice the shades of blue right along the Atlantic coastline. That is why we're going to keep the precipitation in the liquid variety, because temperatures frankly are just too warm.

Now, another part of the storm is the amount of wind that is going to be associated with it. When we have a bomb cyclone taking place, it drops a certain amount of pressure, millibars, 24 millibars in 24 hours. And that creates a lot of wind in the atmosphere and they could gust over 30 miles per hour through the course of the day today. And that could cause some travel delays along some of those major East Coast cities as well.

Temperatures 41 for Chicago, 49 for the Big Apple, 65 for Atlanta, the nation's capital at 54. And I've got to talk about this. Because there's another storm system developing just east of the Rockies. Not a bomb cyclone, but this one is going to exacerbate the flood problem that is ongoing across the Mississippi River Valley. In fact, it's going to bring more rainfall. You compound that on to the melting snowpack that's in place across the region and the deep frozen ground underneath, there's a simply nowhere for this water to run. That's why we have such an enormous flood threat across the Misuari River into the Mississippi River region. The flood threat extends into Michigan as well.

That is going to continue through the course of today, right through the end of the week and unfortunately there's a lot of signs, Gorge, that the flood potential could impact the nation's heartland right through the month of May.

HOWELL: Wow. All right. Derek, thank you.

VAN DAM: All right.

HOWELL: So, when it comes to thank yous, they're nice to get, nice to have, but sometimes there's just no way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hallmark has a very limited offering of "thank you for the funeral" cards.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The U.S. President, though, can't let it go when there's no thank you.

[03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: It's not hard to find a best-seller on thank you, because who doesn't like to be told thank you. You'll remember the former U.S. President Barack Obama would say "thanks Obama." His successor Donald Trump also a big fan of gratitude, but on some interesting topics like the Senator John McCain's funeral and oil prices and even more. Our Jeanne Moos has this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's a sound bite with a little too much bite. That jaw dropper about John McCain.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted. I don't care about this. I didn't get thank you. That is OK.

MOOS: McCain's sense of humor was such that he'd probably appreciate the late night roasting President Trump got.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently, McCain is just one of many dead people who never thanked Trump. I never heard from Lincoln.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hallmark has a very limited offering of "thank you for the funeral" cards. MOOS: How about thank you for those oil prices? The president once

tweeted "so great that oil prices are falling. Thank you, president T." or "thanks for approving that oil pipeline."

[03:55:04] TRUMP: Can you imagine the boss of whatever the hell company it is, who never actually called me to say thank you, but that is OK.

MOOS: Actually, he did say thanks in person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President.

MOOS: And how about those college students the president helped extricate from China after they were caught shoplifting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think the three UCLA basketball players will say thank you President Trump?

MOOS: But you know who does say thanks? Most cabinet members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't thank you enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to thank you.

MOOS: And people in commercials for Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for fixing our economy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, President Trump. For letting us say Merry Christmas again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need you to call the number on your screen and deliver a thank you to President Trump.

MOOS: You'd think thanksgiving would be the president's favorite holiday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine thanksgiving at the Trump House. "Let's go around the table and all say what we're thankful to me for." I'll start.

MOOS: President Trump was actually asked at thanksgiving what he is most thankful for.

TRUMP: For having a great family and for having made a tremendous difference in this country. I've made a tremendous difference in the country.

MOOS: He is made gratitude great again. Jeanne Moos, CNN.

TRUMP: I didn't get thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And press one to tell President Trump thank you.

MOOS: New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I approve this message.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Thank you for being with us for this hour of "CNN Newsroom." I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. "Early Start" is next for viewers here in the United States. And for our viewers around the world, my colleague Max Foster is live in London with the continuation of "Newsroom." Have a great day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END