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U.S.-Backed Troops Take Last Remaining ISIS-Controlled Territory; Mueller Probe Finished, Report Given to Attorney General; Zimbabwe Searches for Survivors; Boeing 737 MAX 8 Marketed as Requiring Little Training. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 23, 2019 - 05:00   ET

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


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We are following two major stories here on CNN. Robert Mueller submitted his report. We may learn more about that in the coming weeks.

Of course, we are also following the news out of Eastern Syria. ISIS has been defeated.

Welcome to viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

First our story out of Syria. U.S.-backed forces declaring victory over ISIS. The so-called caliphate is no more. The Syrian Democratic Forces say they fully liberated the town of Baghouz, the terror group's final stronghold. Earlier, they marked their victory by flying their flag over the now cleared village. This hours after battling ISIS fighters outside the town.

CNN is covering the story. Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Baghouz and we have Jomana Karadsheh in Irbil and Arwa Damon in Istanbul.

Ben, several weeks and on this day, you were there to report and see first-hand ISIS losing its final grip in the region.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, George. We actually got inside that encampment, which we have been watching being shelled and hit by airstrikes for weeks now.

What we saw was an expansive junkyard of wrecked cars and tattered tents, tents within which people dug ditches. We saw several dead bodies, males in this case. This came after a night of heavy airstrikes on the edge of that encampment and that continued throughout the night and into the morning, when we saw this announcement from the spokesman, Mustafa Bali, from the Syrian Democratic Forces, saying the battle had ended in victory and ISIS had been 100 percent eliminated. We went into the camp. Actually as we were going in there was still

gunfire. We saw a sniper on a rooftop trying to target the hillside which was the final place where ISIS jihadis had hid out.

We don't know the fate of the jihadis and their families. We were told there were families with them. No sign of them this morning.

What is clear, because we were walking around the encampment, there was no gunfire. We didn't have to put on flak jackets or helmets. It is fairly clear that victory, final victory over ISIS, as a territorial entity, has been achieved -- George.

HOWELL: Ben Wedeman, again, thank you for the reporting.

We were looking at images a moment ago. You see the tents. You see the cars left behind. Keep in mind, many people left that small territory, many of these people now heading into camps, many of them women and children.

Of course, Ben, you have been there.

But, Jomana Karadsheh, you have seen some of the camps. Tell us what you have seen for the people there now.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, in the past few weeks, as this battle for Baghouz intensified, we saw tens of thousands of civilians, mostly -- many of them the wives and children of ISIS fighters -- who have poured out of Baghouz. They were taken to camps in northeastern Syria.

The main camp there, Al-Hol, has been dubbed the Camp of Death because of the number of children, most of them infants, who have died on their way during the arduous journey to the camp or upon arrival, more than 100, according to aid agencies. The situation at that camp that we visited over the past couple weeks, George, a couple of times, it is quite a dire humanitarian situation there.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, local authorities on the ground and aid agencies are really struggling to cope with the camp. They are way over capacity, overstretched when it comes to providing services to those who arrived. We are talking about more than 70,000 people, mostly women and children, the vast majority Iraqi refugees and also displaced Syrians living under the control of ISIS. Again, there are also thousands of foreign women --

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KARADSHEH: -- and their children are kept in a camp in an area known as the mujahidin annex. These are the immigrants, the foreign women. We visited that area. Officials there, while they are so grateful for the international coalition and support they have received when it comes to the battle and fight and war against ISIS, right now, officials were telling us that they still need the support.

What comes next is a more critical phase two, which is as critical, I must say. They need the support of the international community to deal with these foreigners, whether it is the tens of thousands of women and children that they have been left with, who seem to have been rejected by their countries, or the more than 1,000 foreign fighters, who are crammed in SDF facilities coming from more than 50 different countries.

So while the battle is over, George, what comes next is as critical.

HOWELL: Jomana, an important point.

Arwa, this plays into the question I have for you.

If we have the map, can we show it, that shows how big and expansive the territory was at one point?

You get a sense many years ago this group, this caliphate, was much bigger. Perhaps the size of Great Britain, Arwa. Now the size of the territory has certainly been reduced to nothing. Here is the thing. The threat still remains, the threat of radicalization, the threat of ISIS still spreading its ideology.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It most certainly does, George. There are threats that exist on multiple levels. First and foremost, ISIS may have been territorially defeated but there are vast areas in Syria and Iraq, where it continues to operate in small groups. Basically going back to its roots.

It capitalizes on the terrain where, in both countries, there is no real security presence. It continues to terrorize the populations there. Then, of course, you have the reality that ISIS still exists in the digital space.

Many analysts who have been following ISIS and its evolution will tell you this is a forward-thinking entity. From the day the so-called caliphate was declared in 2014, ISIS was preparing itself for its territorial defeat. It has sleeper cells across the globe. It has vast financial resources outside of both Iraq and Syria that it can tap into when the time is right.

This is an entity that existed as Al Qaeda in Iraq back in 2004 and then morphed into the Islamic State after Iraq was declared defeated by the U.S. military prior to their premature withdrawal back in 2011 and 2012. Then it managed to go to ground for years, capitalizing on grievances of the Sunni population and grievances of populations worldwide, to emerge as the ISIS that was able to then capture that vast swath of territory.

So to think that somehow since it has been territorially defeated that now the fight is over, that would be a great, great mistake.

HOWELL: Arwa Damon live for us in Istanbul, Turkey. Jomana Karadsheh following the story in Irbil, Iraq. Thank you for the reporting, along with Ben Wedeman. We had Ben earlier there, to mark the defeat of ISIS in Eastern Syria. We'll stay in touch with you all.

(MUSIC PLAYING) HOWELL: The other big story we're following this day. The special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election meddling is now finished and in the hands of the U.S. attorney general.

Minutes after the news broke, the first lawsuit was filed to make it public. It is not clear what is in the document or when or if the public will see it.

There will be no more indictments coming from Mueller's team. That does not include federal prosecutors in Virginia, D.C., New York or elsewhere.

Also, remember, according to Justice Department rules, a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Also attorney general William Barr says he may give Congress what he calls the special counsel's principal conclusions as soon as the weekend. We will continue to follow that and the Justice Department officials say the Mueller report is "comprehensive." White House reaction can be summed up in two words. We won. That's according to a campaign adviser.

Mr. Trump spent Friday night having dinner with friends and family at his resort in Florida. He was seen chatting with Emmet Flood, the White House lawyer responsible for the response to the Russia probe. Abby --

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HOWELL: -- Phillip has this report.

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ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: After two years, special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is now over. For the White House, they are expecting that the big news and the big headline out of all of this is that there will be no further indictments in the Mueller investigation.

For a president who has been repeating "no collusion" and no obstruction for many, many months, White House aides believe it is a vindication for President Trump and for his view of the investigation all along.

That being said, White House aides and President Trump do not know more about what is in the report than the general public does at this moment. They were informed about 30 minutes before it was made public that the Mueller investigation was finished. But they were not given any kind of sneak peek about what the investigation actually found.

Now over the next several days, the Justice Department could very well begin the process of briefing members of Congress about the principal findings of the investigation. That may mean the findings will be leaked to the public.

If it does, the president will be in Florida at his Mar-a-lago resort. He hasn't said anything publicly yet and it is possible that he might weigh in on social media at any moment.

But while he is down there, he is surrounded by top members of his legal team and top members of his communications team. He is also surrounded by his friends and informal advisers, helping him shape his view on how to proceed, especially as Democrats are ramping up their calls for the entire Mueller report to be made public.

We also know the president's advisers do want to be able to weigh in on whether there's any privileged information in there. So the battle over what will be publicly released and what the public might know about the report is only just beginning -- Abby Phillip, CNN, the White House.

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HOWELL: Abby, thank you.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are anxious to read the Mueller report. They want you to be able to read it, too. They are taking steps to ensure that happens and it becomes public. Our Manu Raju explains.

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MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats on Capitol Hill are bracing for a fight and issuing a rather stern warning to the Justice Department saying they underlying evidence in the report that Bob Mueller has submitted to the attorney general must be delivered to Congress and must be delivered to the public.

They say nothing short of that will suffice. Democrats are saying if they don't get that information to Capitol Hill, if the public doesn't see this information, they will subpoena this. So this could be days and weeks and perhaps months of a very contentious battle between Democrats and the Justice Department.

And, of course, it's ultimately up to Bill Barr, the attorney general, how much he plans to release. But he does not go far as Democrats would like. Expect that fight here to intensify in the days ahead.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, immediately after the news, that Bill Barr was reading this report, took to the mikes in New York and made very clear that everything is going to be released, including all the evidence that led Bob Mueller to decide who to prosecute and who not to prosecute.

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SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Now that special counsel Mueller has submitted his report to the attorney general, it's imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress. Attorney General Barr must not give President Trump, his lawyers or his staff any sneak preview of special counsel Mueller's findings or evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: Republicans so far have said they're happy this investigation is over. The Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said that he's happy that after a long time it's finally done. He's anxious to hear more about this, as other Republicans are, including Lindsey Graham, whose chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Those team members are expected to give briefed in the days ahead. Bill Barr made that pretty clear in his letter that he said as soon as this weekend perhaps the principal conclusions could be read out to the key chairmen and ranking members of the Judiciary Committees. Other leaders will probably be briefed as well.

But Bob Mueller also could be called to testify on Capitol Hill. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that he wants Mueller to testify before his committee and Jerry Nadler may want to bring, the Judiciary Committee chairman, in Barr to testify before his committee.

What Mueller's report will do for House Democrats is essentially set the stage for months of further investigations, only seeing attacks from the White House, this is all part of the Democratic witch hunt.

But nevertheless, the news that this report is done, only the beginning of the fight here on Capitol Hill -- Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

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HOWELL: The beginning of the busy weekend. Let's start all this with CNN legal analyst Areva Martin, joining us from Los Angeles --

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HOWELL: -- and Amy Pope, an associate fellow at Chatham House and former White House deputy Homeland Security adviser.

Good to have you with us there in London.

Areva, from what we know so far, no new indictments. The report has been delivered.

Is it too soon for the White House and the president to claim a win over collusion?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it is, George, although the White House has taken the position this is a win and he is vindicated. We know the president has been calling the investigation a witch hunt and making derogatory statements about it.

Until we see what is contained in the report, I think it is too early for the president to start celebrating. It may be that special counsel Robert Mueller did find that President Trump engaged in criminal conduct but because of the Justice Department guidance about not indicting a sitting president, there was no indictment against the president. We don't know. It could be the opposite. The investigation could

have yielded a result the president did not involve in criminal conduct but engage in conduct although there may be a finding that he was engaged in conduct that doesn't rise to the level of a crime but was troubling as it relates to Russia and its interference with the 2016 election and even with respect to obstruction.

So I think until we get that report and have an opportunity to not only review the report but the supporting documentation and supporting evidence, I do think it is too early for the president to claim victory.

HOWELL: That is the legal end of collusion.

Now to the political with you, Amy, the single point of collusion. The president seems to have the wind to his back heading into 2020.

What impact do you think this has on that election for the U.S. president and Republicans and Democrats?

AMY POPE, CHATHAM HOUSE: Look, this is really just the beginning. Congress has made very clear that it has been waiting for the Mueller report before really it digs in on the oversight investigations. We should now expect the House in particular -- we know there are a number of committees, Jerry Nadler leading the effort, who will pull apart the report.

Unlike Robert Mueller, they are not limited by a particular scope. They are looking for high crimes and misdemeanors. This is really the starting off point for the House and oversight process in general. The president is going to be battling this for the next two years.

HOWELL: Look, we can't overstate this enough, this is just the beginning, right?

We still don't know what is actually in that report. More to come here soon, possibly in the coming days or weeks.

Areva, you can already sense the legal arguments and challenges coming. One lawsuit has already been filed. Democrats want to see as much of the report made public as possible. The White House want their eyes on it first before that happens.

MARTIN: Yes. It is ironic, George. The president said he wanted the report to be made public as well. We don't know if he will continue to state that position. We do know the report is likely to contain information, gleaned from statements from the grand jury. It may also contain classified information as well as information the White House says is subject to executive privilege.

So the fight over what will be released to Congress and ultimately to the public is just beginning. We should expect both sides to dig in and the Congress taking the position that everything, including the supporting documentation, should be revealed.

And I think ultimately the White House will take the position that a lot of this information is not subject to public review.

HOWELL: All right.

Amy, last question to you with regard to investigations, the path forward for Democrats. Do you see them moving the goalposts now?

More probes?

And could that backfire?

POPE: I don't think they are necessarily moving the goal post. They are clear all of the issues are on the table, obstruction, abuse of executive power. There are a number of issues they can explore here. The report is just the starting point for them.

Of course, it can backfire. The Republicans made that point very, very clearly in the Ken Starr investigation, where they impeached President Clinton for lying in a civil deposition. In the end we know that didn't work out so well for the Republicans.

So I expect the Democrats will take their lesson from that. They will be very focused on issues of concern to the American people. They are not going to waste political capital by chasing down issues that don't seem to rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

HOWELL: Amy Pope and Areva Martin, thank you both for your perspective today.

MARTIN: Thanks, George. It has been more than a week since tropical cyclone Idai hit Mozambique. We get an update on the relief efforts there --

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HOWELL: -- from the disaster zone.

And we look at ISIS, now that it has been defeated in Syria. That happens next.

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HOWELL: It's been more than a week now since cyclone Idai ripped through southeastern Africa. The death toll continues to rise there. It will likely rise higher than official estimates.

Aid groups and authorities on the ground are working to find survivors and trying to get much-needed food and medicine and water to people who need it most. Mozambique bore the brunt of the damage. Aid workers say the devastation is much worse than feared. They warn humanitarian needs will only increase in the weeks to come.

Our Farai Sevenzo reports from the hard-hit city of Beira. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Days after the cyclone, people are still stranded. A mammoth rescue operation is underway in Mozambique. After a week, cyclone Idai's scars are everywhere, from the trees that used to line Beira's avenues to Beira's poor beach neighborhoods, to Beira's schools.

As you can see here at a secondary school here in Beira, people are trying to salvage what they can. The worst thing is the continuous rain, which is still falling seven days after cyclone Idai hit Mozambique.

What this does is, those bodies of water, the massive inland oceans, will continue to rise and this will not make it easy for rescuers. It will exacerbate the situation.

Buzi can now be seen from outer space, so large has the flooding there been since the Buzi River burst its banks. It was an area of 200,000 people. Flying over, CNN saw regular arrivals from Buzi, taking boats to escape the rising waters of home.

Abiash Felipe had just arrived from the village of Chikezamene (ph) in flooded Buzi. He was there when the cyclone came.

ABIASH FELIPE, IDAI SURVIVOR (from captions): It broke everything. There's nothing left there, even water to drink. There's nothing there.

SEVENZO: I asked him what he had eaten that day.

FELIPE (from captions): Since morning, nothing.

SEVENZO: I asked him if there will be disease out there.

FELIPE (from captions): Of course, cholera itself. Some of them are using the water to relieve themselves. Then others use it to wash, to cook and even to drink.

What else will happen?

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SEVENZO: As you were talking, Abiash, Dora Jake (ph) asked us to ask him if he had seen her children.

FELIPE (from captions): All your children are alive but your houses are all gone.

SEVENZO (voice-over): -- Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Beira, Mozambique.

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HOWELL: Farai, thank you.

Following the latest on Thursday's ferry tragedy in Northern Iraq, the death toll has risen to 102 people. Families are demanding justice as the overcrowded tourist boat capsized in the Tigris River near Mosul. Relatives came together to see if their family members were among the dead. Police say they are still searching for at least 60 people.

You heard the U.S. president say this many, many times and you will probably hear him say it again. You can probably say it along with him, in fact.

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TRUMP: There was no collusion. No obstruction. Everybody knows it. It is all a big hoax. I call it the witch hunt. We will see what happens. I know that the attorney general highly respected, ultimately, will make a decision.

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HOWELL: The president has claimed that for many, many months. When we come back, the claims and evidence and what the Russia probe has already shown and where we go from here.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. Here are the headlines we're following.

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ISIS waged a bloody campaign to control cities, towns and villages and to bend people to its twisted ideology. Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman has a look at what ISIS stood for and what it did and what happens next.

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WEDEMAN (voice-over): Terror, mass murder, genocide, slavery: in its brief and bloody life, the so-called Islamic State carried out atrocities that stretched around the globe. Its victims, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. From Syria and Iraq to attacks that were either masterminded or inspired in France, Belgium, Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt, Britain, the United States and elsewhere, it left a trail of death and destruction in its wake.

What made ISIS unique was its maniacal penchant for publicity. In murder, there was no shame. Its unrestrained brutality a weapon to terrify its foes and attract followers from near and far.

It boasted its barbarity with high-production value videos, the beheadings of American journalist James Foley and others, the burning alive in a cage of Jordanian air force pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh, the murder of more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers in the Speicher camp outside Tikrit.

It took equally perverse pleasure and pride in the wanton destruction of archeological treasures and religion shrines. Its persecution of minorities who fell under its sway, Yazidis, Christians and others, knew no bounds.

Anyone or anything that didn't conform with its twisted vision was killed, destroyed or obliterated. And at the head of this monstrosity was Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, who declared himself khalifa or caliph in July 2014.

At its peak, ISIS controlled an area the size of Britain, stretching from Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad, with 10 million people under its rule. Its ambitions, boundless.

Baghdadi promised his followers, "You will conquer Rome and own the world."

It was, however, not to be. Within three years, ISIS was driven from Mosul and its de facto capital, Raqqah. The war against the group left both cities in ruins, killed thousands of civilians and drove millions from their homes.

ISIS as a territorial entity in Iraq and Syria no longer exists. But as an idea, the Islamic State is far from vanquished.

Among those who surrendered we heard vows that ISIS would someday return with a vengeance, many of the men and the women and children still carry with them ISIS' poisonous ideology, now tinged with bitterness and resentment for their final humiliating surrender.

And beyond this small corner of Eastern Syria, groups pledging allegiance to ISIS still-controlled territory in Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, Libya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, the Philippines and elsewhere and its message still drives so-called lone wolves to carry out terror attacks. But the caliphate, the Islamic State, as a refuge for madmen and murderers, is no more -- for --

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WEDEMAN: -- now -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Eastern Syria.

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HOWELL: After 22 months of anticipation and intense speculation, special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe is finally finished. That announcement came Friday from the Justice Department. It is not yet known what is in the report or when it will be made public. Some time this weekend, U.S. attorney general William Barr said he will give Congress the special counsel's principal conclusions.

Apart from what we don't know about the findings, we do know how we got here. Our Jason Carroll has that.

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TRUMP: Two years we have gone through this nonsense. No collusion with Russia. You know that. No obstruction.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even before Robert Mueller's appointment, it was clear what Donald Trump thought of the Russia investigation and those responsible for it.

TRUMP: It has been a witch hunt.

CARROLL (voice-over): January of 2017: classified documents are presented to president-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower by then FBI director James Comey. The documents include allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising information about Trump.

From that explosive beginning came an early setback for the new administration as questions are raised about attorney general Jeff Sessions and contacts he had with a Russia official during the 2016 presidential campaign.

JEFF SESSIONS (R), FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not have communications with the Russians.

CARROLL (voice-over): Turns out Sessions had communicated with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.

SESSIONS: It is good to be with you.

CARROLL (voice-over): March, 2017. Sessions recused himself from overseeing the investigation.

SESSIONS: I said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation.

CARROLL (voice-over): May 9th, 2017, a startling development.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A bombshell at the White House.

CARROLL (voice-over): Trump fired FBI director James Comey, the man charged with overseeing the investigation. What's more, Trump told NBC News he was considering the Russia investigation when he was deciding whether to fire Comey.

TRUMP: I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

CARROLL (voice-over): May 17th, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein announces the appointment of Robert Mueller as the special counsel. With each passing month, the investigation moved closer to Trump associates.

October 2017, Paul Manafort and his business partner and former deputy Trump campaign chairman Rick Gates are indicted on charges of conspiracy and money laundering. Gates later pleaded guilty to two counts and became a cooperating witness in the investigation. Manafort was tried, convicted and sentenced to a total of 7.5 years in

prison.

Trouble for Donald Trump reached his inner circle.

GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Donald Trump as the next President of the United States of America.

CARROLL (voice-over): December of 2017. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI regarding his conversations with Kislyak. Flynn also agrees to cooperate with the Mueller probe.

TRUMP: I feel badly for General Flynn. I feel badly. He has led a strong life and I feel badly.

CARROLL (voice-over): February of 2018. Mueller indicts 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for interfering with the election through social media.

April of 2018, a dramatic turn. Acting on a referral from Mueller, two prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, FBI agents raided the home, hotel room and office of Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight criminal counts, including campaign finance violations.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: And acted loyal to a man when I should not have.

CARROLL (voice-over): November 7th, the day after the midterm elections; after months of publicly attacking him, Trump fires Jeff Sessions. Sessions' chief of staff, Matthew Whittaker, who had been critical of the Mueller probe, took his place.

MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have usually been the only one that said there is no evidence of obstruction of justice or collusion.

CARROLL (voice-over): As the Trump investigation appeared to be winding down earlier this year, long-time Trump associate Roger Stone is indicted. In January, the FBI raided Stone's Florida home. The special counsel alleges Stone coordinated with senior Trump campaign officials and sought stolen emails from WikiLeaks that could damage Trump's opponents. Stone still awaits his fate on the charges he faces and has proclaimed his innocence.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Justice Department is telling us that attorney general William Barr --

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PEREZ: -- has now received the report from special counsel Robert Mueller.

CARROLL (voice-over): It is up to Trump's new attorney general William Barr to decide how much of the report will be made public -- Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Jason, thank you.

More bad news for Boeing. An Indonesian airline has canceled the order of its 737 MAX 8 planes as the investigation into two deadly crashes of the jets reveals startling information.

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HOWELL: Now to the latest on the investigation of Boeing. Evidence is surfacing that Boeing marketed the 737 MAX 8 airplanes as being similar to the previous versions of the jet despite the addition of a stability system. That system appears to be at the center of investigations into the deadly Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.

Pilots at two American carriers say that, when they switched to the MAX 737, they were given a short, self-administered online course but it didn't mention the new system. The Federal Aviation Administration says that pilots were trained to handle issues with the system even if it wasn't named.

In the meantime, Indonesia airline Neruda has canceled almost $5 billion of an order for those jets.

CNN anchor Richard Quest is now following the story for us, live in London.

Richard, there are certainly a lot of questions about Boeing and its approach to rolling out the plane.

RICHARD QUEST, CNNMONEY EDITOR AT LARGE: Indeed. And I have just been talking to the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines. The airline is coming under strong criticism --

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QUEST: -- for not training the pilots and the simulator -- this is what pilots use to train; it's a full-motion simulator -- and the airline is being criticized for not using the simulator to train pilots about the new MCAS system.

But as the chief executive has just told me, the first time they knew about MCAS was after the Lion Air crash. The simulator they have for the aircraft doesn't replicate the fault. And Ethiopian Airlines has done everything possible required by the authorities.

HOWELL: Richard --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TEWOLDE GEBREMARIAM, ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES: This is very unfair criticism, baseless and based on false information and we are given a very strong response to those who are (INAUDIBLE) without any source of evidence or false information.

As far as the training is concerned, Richard, as I told you, we have gone according to the global standard. We have gone according to the (INAUDIBLE) recommendation and FAA approved one.

We are not expected to speculate or to imagine something which doesn't exist at all. And as far as the Lion Air accident is concerned, both FAA and Boeing came out; FAA, in the case of FAA (INAUDIBLE) and in the case of Boeing, it is a briefing.

So we have cooperated fullest context of the AD (ph) in our training and working manuals. And every pilot is aware of them. If there is an accident after the Lion Air and after the briefing and after incorporation of the AD (ph), it must have been something which yet to be investigated, yet to be known and then an appropriate corrective measure has to be taken on the airplane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: That last bit is the important bit because he has just literally said exactly what the situation is. There was the Lion Air, there was the Boeing briefing, there was the FAA directive. And yet Ethiopian still happened, even the pilots were aware of it.

They could not have trained on the sim because it would not have made any difference anyway. They knew about what was wrong. The accident still happened.

And so, George, not surprisingly, the chief executive told me that he has lost confidence in the plane and it will take the strongest efforts by Boeing to restore that confidence. Otherwise, he will cancel the order.

HOWELL: Interesting, Richard; you are seeing companies no longer using the plane, nations grounding that plane. A lot of questions coming from these crashes. Richard Quest for us, thank you.

More than 2 million survivors of natural disasters in the United States could be at risk of identity theft. Inspectors say FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, shared their private information with a federal contractor which was helping them to find temporary housing. The information included bank transit number and addresses.

The agency says that it started to correct the error but a permanent fix may not be finished until June.

Australia is being battered by not one but two different cyclones. We will look at the damage already done and where they might strike next.

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HOWELL: Also to tell you about the two mosques in last Friday's mass shooting in New Zealand. They have been handed back to the community now. That is how police describe the reopening of the Al Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch.

You'll remember 50 people were killed last Friday when a gunman opened fire on these two places of worship. As the mosques opened their doors, Christchurch residents took part in a march for love. And across New Zealand, women wore headscarves as a show of support.

Thank you for being with us for CNN NEWSROOM. Our special coverage continues with a report by special counsel Robert Mueller and CNN's "NEW DAY" is next.

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HOWELL: We are following two breaking stories this day. I'm George Howell in Atlanta. In a moment, we will get more on the defeat of the ISIS caliphate in Syria. But first, the release of the special counsel Robert Mueller's report. "NEW DAY" starts right now.