Return to Transcripts main page


Hundreds of Passengers Airlifted from Stranded Cruise Ship; Plan in Works to Oust Theresa May; U.S. Allies Celebrate ISIS' Territorial Defeat; U.S. Attorney General Reviews Mueller Russia Report. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired March 24, 2019 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Stranded: the daring rescue mission to evacuate 1,000 passengers off a cruise ship off the coast of Norway.

Anti-Brexit protesters filled the streets of London demanding a new referendum amid reports of a plot to oust Theresa May.

And ISIS loses its last piece of land in Syria but the group isn't finished yet.

We're live from the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.


VANIER: At this hour, the Viking Sky cruise ship is moving slowly off the waters off Norway. An engine failure stranded it and its 1,300 passengers and crew for most of Saturday.

Now we have just learned that three of the ship's four engines are now working and it's moving towards the shore with the help of two tugboats. This while rescue operations continue.

You can see how rough the seas have been. Let's look at some footage here. Officials say eight people suffered minor injuries. According to the Red Cross, more than 200 people have been rescued. Those left on the ship are dealing with things like this.

Getting people off the Viking Sky is slow. People are sleeping in corridors, waiting for their turn to get off the boat. Salma Abdelaziz is following the story from London.

What's the latest?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: We know as of this hour, as you said, that that cruise ship is now being tugged ashore, after three or four engines started working. Now this is a holiday turned into a nightmare for some 1,300 passengers. A rescue operation was underway that took some 300 people from that ship to shore; however, that helicopter ride was absolutely jarring for those on board.

At first they endured high winds and waves as he ship shook, furniture moved around. And then they why airlifted. And even that ride was horrifying. The rest who are on board are around 900-1,000 people, according to local media, are slowly but surely moving to shore.

For everyone still on board, there is a question, how is their health, how is their safety?

There's still so much happen in the coming hours.

VANIER: Salma, thank you very much.


VANIER: And a bit earlier, I spoke with Lieutenant --


VANIER: -- commander Matthew Kroll of the U.S. Coast Guard. He is a helicopter pilot and was not involved in this rescue operation but he did give insights into the type of rescue going on right now in Norway.


LT. COMMANDER MATTHEW KROLL, U.S. COAST GUARD: Each rescue case is unique and comes with its own sets of challenges. In previous cases when I've had to evacuate or do a rescue from a cruise ship, one of the big things you're looking at is wind.

When you're hovering a helicopter it's almost trying to balance on top of a ball. You're trying to balance all the forces in one spot. In the middle of the ocean, there's nothing against that wind unless it hits the cruise ship. It sends a drastic updraft on one side and an equal downdraft on the other side.

So you're trying to balance, is it the safest thing to get them off the ship or keep them on the ship?

That's one of the things to consider. We're professionals at this and can find the best location to get people off but it is a very risky operation to be hoisted by helicopter. So we want to make sure that's the right choice when we're trying to get someone off a cruise ship like that.

VANIER: How dangerous is it for the passengers?

Because we're talking about airlifting a thousand people here.

KROLL: Helicopters can only take a small number of people off at a team. You're talking two to three people in one helicopter versus 10 to 15 in a different helicopter. So it's going to be a long adventure just to get people off, no matter how many helicopters you have.

A mass rescue like this is going to take some time. And you just want to make sure that we're making the right decisions and not rushing. It sounds like, if people are safe where they are, that's usually what we do, is try to keep people safe until conditions worsen.

But, again, you always want to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. It's never too early to take precautions and get people to safety.


VANIER: Calls for a second vote on whether Britain should leave the E.U. are growing. By one count, 1 million people took to the streets of London Saturday demanding a revote. That's after the prime minister convinced the European Union to give Britain more time to get its act together. Our Hadas Gold reports.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two days after the official Brexit date was delayed, the streets of Central London were packed with protesters on Saturday, demanding a second referendum.

Organizers of what's called the People's Vote March claimed that 1 million people turned out, packing the streets, marching from Hyde Park to Parliament Square. Police haven't commented on that number.

But the streets were full of protesters with children, dogs, with lots of signs. They ended in Parliament Square where speakers, including the mayor of London rallied, saying that Brexit was sold to them on a bill of lies and there should be a referendum to vote on whether Theresa May's exit deal is the way they want to leave the European Union or whether they want to stay in the European Union.

Organizers say it's the biggest march they've had so far. The last time they did it was in the fall, they said they had had 700,000 people then. This time they had 1 million.

THOMAS COE, PEOPLE'S VOTE: I think there's been a real growth in belief there can be a revote, that there can be a referendum at the end of the process. I think when we started our campaign in April of last year, people gave us very, very low chances.

But the way things have developed, the way people have seen this Brexit chaos unfold and the U.K. getting this terrible deal essentially, people are realizing that actually, regardless of what Brexit is offered at the end of the day, it will be worse that E.U. membership.

I think people are realizing more and more that, actually, they should have a say and if Parliament can't decide, send it back to the people.

GOLD: But Theresa May has said over and over again while she is in power there will not be a second referendum. We'll see if she will try to bring her Brexit deal forth once again. This will be the third attempt she will have to get that Brexit deal through or whether we will see Parliament wrest control and take a possible vote on a second referendum that the people who showed up for this protest so desperately want -- Hadas Gold, CNN, London.


VANIER: And in addition to the crowds in the streets, nearly 5 million people have signed a petition calling on the government to cancel Brexit. There are also talks that plans are in the works to oust Theresa May. "The Sunday Times" says 11 cabinet ministers want her to --


VANIER: -- step down. They plan to confront the prime minister on Monday and threaten a mass resignation if she doesn't agree to go.

CNN European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas joins me for some perspective, much needed, on Brexit.

Theresa May's job now is to get her Brexit deal approved, the same one that's already been shot down twice by Parliament in historic fashion.

How is that going to work?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, everything at the moment looks as if it's not going to work. And there's increasing speculation that this withdrawal agreement may not even be brought to the Houses of Parliament next week because, if it is, it will face a, most likely, another substantial defeat.

And since the meeting at the E.U. Council the other day provided strict guidelines, should that be the case, in other words, would have to go back again to the European Union to talk about the future.

She may want to hold on to the April 12th deadline and see what she can do between now and then rather than face an immediate revolt, should the withdrawal agreement not go through.

VANIER: Holding on.

How does she do that, though?

The British newspapers are reporting that there is at the very least a desire, according to some reports, an attempt, an effort to oust her before that deadline.

So how, first of all, how exactly would cabinet ministers, as being reported, get her out of her job?

THOMAS: Well, this is a really interesting question, because ultimately, it's going to be very difficult for them to do that because, back in December, the Conservative Party held a vote of no confidence, which Theresa May was able to survive.

And so, within her party, that gives her a 12-month period during which they cannot go back and ask for a vote of no confidence. Now, of course, mass resignations would trigger that. Interestingly enough, the only path for that happening would be a vote of no confidence to be tabled by Jeremy Corbyn, who sits on the other side of the aisle.

And it is likely that this time around he would gain the support of the House should that happen. So the interesting thing for her really is, of course, if she brings the deal to Parliament and loses it, she most likely will face a vote of no confidence. If she doesn't bring it, it would be confirmation that there is no support for her deal.

And ultimately, the outcome could be the same. At this juncture, Theresa May really is facing the end of her prime ministership.

VANIER: And Downing Street has sent that message, that threat, I should say, to its own cabinet ministers and its own party, hold on. Try to push me out and there could be general elections.

THOMAS: Right. That is a tremendous concern. I would argue that is a greater concern than the other threats she has made, such as the threat of a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all.

All of this is a very strategic calculation for all sides of the political spectrum. One could argue that the thing they fear the most is ultimately Jeremy Corbyn coming to the leadership.

And because there's so much uncertainty around this process from where people will vote and so on, that the Conservative Party may still want to sort of be at the helm and this would be taking a tremendous risk.

But, of course, the E.U. Commission has left all options open at this particular stage. If they do go back from a no-Brexit to revoking Article 50, to going back to a people's vote as well.

VANIER: It's really hard to see, at this point, everything is gridlocked. You have a parliament that does not want Theresa May's Brexit deal but also doesn't want a no-deal. You have a party that wants the prime minister out and doesn't want the general election and risk of further defeat in an election. How, where can it possibly go from there?

And I'm sorry to do the crystal ball thing to you but where can it go from here?

VANIER: Well, I think we are arriving at a point now where we have been waiting since Article 50 was triggered, for this important date of March 29th. We know the E.U. has extended that if the vote does not make its way through Parliament. So the ball is being kicked down the road all the way to April 12th. That's it at this point.

So something has to happen at this particular stage. Either the withdrawal agreement passes, in which case we move into a period of post-Brexit legislation, just to get this through, or there're going to have to be some significant changes. And the interesting thing is since the referendum, it has been Parliament and political leaders that have been in charge of this process and the irony is that they have said, to go back to the people would be to violate the terms of the referendum.

Yet, what we are seeing at this particular juncture, because the process is coming to an end, is the people being increasingly vocal, as we saw today because of those mass demonstrations in the U.K., that the people are out there signing petitions and taking to the streets to let political leaders know --


THOMAS: -- that it is time for them to have a say in this particular process once again.

VANIER: Dominic Thomas, thank you so much for shedding some light, what light we could shed, on this today. Thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: U.S. allies are celebrating their victory over ISIS in Syria but warn the terror group remains a threat. We'll have a live report from the region coming up.

Plus U.S. lawmakers sound off on the conclusion of the Russian meddling report, while the White House remains uncharacteristically quiet about the whole thing. We'll tell you what's behind his silent response.




VANIER: It has been more than a week since a tropical cyclone devastated southeastern Africa. Aid agencies say the death toll stands at just over 600. But it could go much higher than that, as thousands of people remain missing.

Relief aid is just beginning to arrive in the badly hit remote areas of Eastern Zimbabwe, as army personnel, volunteers and aid organizations airlift food and medical supplies into the region.

In Mozambique, one witness says he saw as many as 400 bodies washed up in one place. The immediate concerns in the aftermath of the storm are more flooding, cholera and starvation.

And severe weather is wreaking havoc in Australia as well. Tropical cyclone Veronica is battering the west coast with severe winds and heavy rains. It's a category 3 storm with wind gusts up to 220 kilometers per hour. Meteorologists warn it could also bring significant storm surge and flooding.

In the neighboring northern territory, ex-cyclone Trevor has been downgraded to a tropical low after making landfall Saturday. A flood watch is now in effect due to heavy rainfall there.

U.S. president Donald Trump says 100 percent of ISIS-controlled territory has been liberated in Iraq and Syria. U.S. allies announced on Saturday they had seized the terror group's final piece of Syrian territory. The largely Kurdish forces are also vowing to fight on against ISIS sleeper cells, which they say remain a threat.

They're raising their flags above the last ISIS Syrian enclave, the town of Baghouz. They also erected a plaque. It read in part, "It is here where the so-called ISIS terror group was destroyed."

Jomana Karadsheh is in Irbil for us.

As much as we want to believe it, the ISIS terror group isn't destroyed, so to speak.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I think no one is under any illusion that this is the end of ISIS as a terror group. We have seen this in the past. We see it --


KARADSHEH: -- in Iraq. People celebrated the end of Al Qaeda in Iraq only to see ISIS, the more vicious version of Al Qaeda in Iraq. And right now this is considered to be a great achievement. If you look at what ISIS was just a few years ago, the amount of territory it used to control in Iraq and Syria, more than 10 million people who lived under the rule of ISIS and now to be pushed out of every single inch of territory once controlled in those areas.

But at the same time, the phase that comes next could be more dangerous, could be more challenging for the forces on the ground. ISIS still has thousands of fighters who've melted, who've gone underground amongst the population here.

So the concern is that we're going to be seeing this -- more of this guerrilla insurgent group that will be carrying out devastating attacks. So you have these forces now pretty much facing an invisible enemy after facing an enemy that controlled territory.

And one SDF commander that I spoke to recently in Syria told us they are very worried that there will be a resurgence, they're pretty sure there will be some sort of resurgence, this isn't the end of ISIS and they're concerned it will be an even more vengeful group -- Cyril.

VANIER: You are recently back from northeastern Syria and working on a topic of the utmost importance. You got a chance to speak with foreign detainees; that's to say foreign jihadists and their wives. Tell us what you learned.

KARADSHEH: Well, you know, Cyril, in the last few weeks, as this battle intensified, we saw tens of thousands who came out from that last enclave that ISIS was holding. And amongst them were thousands of women and children. And they've ended up in these camps, refugee camps in northeastern Syria.

And we visited a couple of those camps. The largest one, the population is more than 70,000 people. That is the size of a small town pretty much. And there it is a very complex camp. You have complex dynamics.

On the one hand, you have thousands of Syrian refugees, Iraqi refugees, who've ended up in the camp. And they're living side by side with the same foreigners, these women that they blame for shattering their lives, for destroying their countries.

And you have these foreign women and their children fenced off in an area, in an annex where they're keeping those immigrant women. And we spent some time in there and it's quite surreal, I have to say.

You meet women from almost every corner of this Earth. You have their children who are practically stateless. And you meet some that are still those defiant true believers, saying ISIS will be back. And you also meet so many others who say basically they regret what they have done.

They say they were naive victims, they fell for ISIS' propaganda and the majority say they want to go back home. They want their countries to take them back.

But at the same time they really do not know what is going on in the outside world. They're unaware of the debate taking place in the West. The SDF told us that they really want their countries to take them back, because they cannot deal with the burden of the thousands of foreigners that they have to care for now.

But also they're concerned about the threat of keeping them in these camps that they've described as this ticking time bomb. You have radicalized women, indoctrinated children, who have known nothing but ISIS rule. And they say this not just a problem for the Syrian Kurds but the international community

VANIER: These are problems they don't know how to deal with. You keep them, it's a problem. You send them back, it's a problem. I can't wait to see your full report on this. Thank you very much.


VANIER: U.S. lawmakers are still waiting to receive conclusions of the special counsel's report on Russian election interference. The U.S. attorney general is reviewing the report and plans to submit his principal conclusions to Congress this weekend. Evan Perez has more on the highly anticipated findings.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Attorney general Bill Barr spent more than nine hours at the Justice Department reviewing the findings from Robert Mueller's investigation. Barr spent the day working with deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and a small group of aides. So far they're among the few people who have seen the conclusions from the 22-month Trump Russia investigation.

Officials say that Barr is still pushing to send to members of Congress sometime this weekend what he calls the principal conclusions from the Mueller report.

[03:25:00] PEREZ: What exactly Barr's report to Congress will look like, we still don't know. Officials tell us to expect a summary that distills the main takeaways from what Mueller produced.

Justice Department officials say to expect that whatever Barr sends to Congress he will also share with the public. In the weeks since Barr took office, one of the things he was wrestling with was exactly how much detail he can release from Mueller's report.

The more detail Mueller included in his report about evidence that didn't lead to charges, the more complicated for Barr as he tried to prepare his summary. Barr's report to Congress is eagerly awaited by lawmakers and the president, who's been uncharacteristically quiet since Mueller finished his investigation on Friday -- Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: They're usually thoughtful, often impractical and sometimes just plain silly. Here's Jeanne Moos with presidential gifts, past and present.



TRUMP: So, that's an honor to give that to you.

MOOS: A soccer jersey, just what a pair of presidents need.

But there have been way more exciting presidential gifts, like the pair of Komodo dragons Indonesia presented to President George W. Bush. The president regifted the lizards to the Cincinnati Zoo.

Most things worth more than $390 bucks, up 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 the soccer ball President Putin gave president Trump?

TRUMP: It will go to my son, Barron. We have no question, in fact, Melania, here you go.

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

Even if it's a bowl of shamrocks from the Irish prime minister, a president has to look pleased if not bulled over. Artists tend to send one of a kind items look like this Barbara Bush chair, 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 picture of himself playing the sax. When Azerbaijan's leader gave the Clintons 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.


VANIER: Thank you so much for watching, I'm Cyril Vanier, stay with CNN.