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CNN NEWSROOM

U.S. Attorney General Reviews Mueller Russia Report; Hundreds of Passengers Airlifted from Stranded Cruise Ship; Interview with Per Fjeld, Joint Rescue Centre for Southern Norway, on Rescue Efforts aboard the Viking Sky; Plan in Works to Oust Theresa May; U.S. allies Celebrate ISIS' Territorial Defeat; The Cow and the Congressman. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired March 24, 2019 - 04:00   ET

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


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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Get ready this week for the battle over the Mueller report. Democrats prepare for a fight even before any of that report is released to Congress and the public.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Stranded at sea: 1,300 passengers and crew got stuck on their cruise ship in the middle of a storm off the coast of Norway. Imagine. We'll have the latest on the rescue operation.

HOWELL (voice-over): Also ahead this hour, the Brexit crisis. Huge crowds in London demand a second referendum to put the vote to the people to decide.

ALLEN: Still ahead here this hour, welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world coming to you live from Atlanta, GA. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell. NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast.

It took 675 days to complete and in just hours we could finally learn what Robert Mueller has concluded from his investigation into Russian election interference.

ALLEN: According to a Justice Department official, attorney general William Barr still intends to get the report's principal conclusions over to Congress by the end of the weekend. The weekend is running out. But for Democrats, that will hardly be enough.

HOWELL: They are demanding a full report and underlying evidence to be released to the public and they're threatening to launch subpoenas to make it happen. Our Pamela Brown starts us off.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the president spent the day on a Florida golf course, the attorney general spent the day reading a report that could define Donald Trump's presidency. Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were both in the office today, reviewing Mueller's findings. Barr telling lawmakers he could release the principal conclusions of the report to them as soon as this weekend.

Tonight as the wait for information continues, Justice Department officials say one thing is clear. There will be no more indictments related to the Russia probe. The White House seizing on that as a victory. President Trump attending the Republican fundraiser Friday, seated next to Lindsey Graham who went on the attack against the other candidate in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, saying, quote, "We're going to make sure both campaigns are looked at." Prompting chants of "lock her up" from other attendees.

The president came to Florida flanked with his legal team, bringing along his White House lawyer Emmet Flood who's responsible for the response to the Russia investigation. And just hours before the announcement that Mueller was finished --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no collusion, there was no obstruction. Everybody knows it. It's all a big hoax. I call it the witch hunt. It's all a big hoax.

BROWN: President Trump continued his attacks on the investigation, telling FOX Business Americans will not accept a negative review.

TRUMP: It's always interesting to me because a deputy that didn't get any votes appoints a man that didn't get any votes. He is going to write a report on me. People will not stand for it.

BROWN: Even though the president did call for the release of the report this week --

TRUMP: Let it come out. Let people see it. That's up to the attorney general.

BROWN: Barr has previously refused to commit to providing Congress with a full report and said that DOJ rules prevent him from sharing damaging information about individuals not charged with crimes.

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: All I can say right now is my goal and intent is to get as much information out as I can consistent with the regulation.

BROWN: But Democrats are demanding the report be made public in its entirety and have threatened a subpoena to get it.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: The American people have a right to the truth. The watch word is transparency. In conclusion, the president himself has called without qualification for the report to be made public. There is no reason on God's green earth why Attorney General Barr should do any less. BROWN: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders saying late Friday that the attorney general is in control of what happens next, tweeting, "The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr and we look forward to the process taking its course. The White House has not received or been briefed on the special counsel's report."

Now last check, the White House said that it had not been updated on anything about the report and the contents of it and it doesn't know what Bill Barr, the attorney general, will be providing to Congress. The question is, will Bill Barr share it with the White House before sharing it publicly. That is something the Democrats have said they do not want to happen. They do not want the attorney general to give the White House a sneak preview. So we will have to wait and see how this plays out over the next day or so -- back to you.

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ALLEN: Pamela Brown there for us.

As U.S. lawmakers await the main conclusions of the report --

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ALLEN: -- Democrats are urging the Justice Department to release the findings in full.

HOWELL: Here's what one Democrat said about William Barr's expected summary. Listen.

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REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, whatever he plans to reveal, I will just assert that the American public will stand for nothing less than the total report with the exception of the things that show how they, through the intelligence sources, gathered information.

But the American public will not be satisfied. Democrats or Republicans will not be satisfied and all the American public out there who has worked on -- listened to this for more than two years really wants to know what the details are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Let's talk more about it with Scott Lucas, a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham in England and the founder of "EA WorldView" and a frequent guest.

How are you?

SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: I'm doing fine, Natalie. Hope you're doing well.

ALLEN: Thank you. Good morning to you. Let's talk about the Mueller report. Finally it's here. President Trump has been uncharacteristically quiet since the report was released. It's too soon to say what the report will ultimately mean for Mr. Trump.

But surviving the investigation, without being subpoenaed for a sit- down interview with the special counsel team, that's a significant triumph for Trump and his legal team, would you agree?

LUCAS: No, I think you can turn this 180 degrees and say that Robert Mueller and his team felt they could connect the dots without having to sit down with Trump. We won't know until the report comes out. Indeed, we won't know anything. Let's break this down.

A senior Justice Department official tried to reassure Trump and -- that he and his family will not be indicted. That's what was said immediately after the Mueller report. No indictments.

Now the Trump camp comes out and says, oh, oh, that means no collusion. That means this was a waste of money. We win.

But it doesn't because Mueller's report is not a criminal investigation first and foremost. It's a counterintelligence investigation to gather evidence about the Russians and with whom they're in contact, including possibly Trump and his associates.

So since that initial flourish from the Trump camp, they've been very silent. Donald Trump was not on Twitter yesterday. And hands up if you can remember the last time that happened.

I think they are nervous now. I think everyone is nervous because two things. One is we don't know the extent of what is in the Mueller report about the evidence that he's accumulated over 22 months.

And we don't know which way Bill Barr goes whether he plays fair and lets the report come out or does let the White House have a shot at claiming executive privilege to try to minimize or bury the report.

ALLEN: Democrats want the full report released. Republicans accuse them of moving the goalposts because they know some of the material in that report cannot be released to the public.

Are the Republicans right?

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ALLEN: I know the answer you'll say to that.

LUCAS: This is politics. The House of Representatives two weeks ago by a unanimous vote, 432-0, that the Mueller report should be public. So I think Republicans were alongside Democrats in that vote, although it was nonbinding.

Now when the report drops, we get some Republicans are thinking, uh- oh, we're not sure if it will have anything damaging to Trump. And so that's why you get the idea that somehow Democrats are moving the goalposts. Goalposts are still in the exact place they were earlier this month.

ALLEN: Even once we learn what is in this report, Donald Trump's legal problems are far from over.

Do you think there's been too much emphasis placed on the Mueller investigation over other investigations?

LUCAS: Oh, there has, in terms of spinning it as in, this is the end, whether it absolves Trump or means more trouble for Trump. You have several investigations at federal and state level, especially in New York, investigations against the Trump Organization over its financial affairs, investigations against the Trump Foundation over its financial affairs.

Investigations which could involve Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and others and investigations which, according to Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, could be connected to alleged -- I stress alleged -- tax and income fraud by Donald Trump.

ALLEN: Well, finally, there were no collusion indictments that came out of this Mueller report relating to the Trump campaign. And so I want to ask you about that because during his presidency, there have been so many questions raised about Mr. Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin.

We know the Russians meddled in the presidential election. Donald Trump has continued to side with the Russian leader, saying, for once, instead of his own intelligence chief.

So it remains to be seen, not revealed in this report just what is that relationship there because the bottom line, the --

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ALLEN: -- Russians did, indeed, meddle in the election.

LUCAS: Well, again, let's knock this red Herring on the head. There have been indictments related to contacts with Russian officials. That's why Roger Stone is indicted because of connections that involve WikiLeaks and Russian operatives.

That is why Paul Manafort and Rick Gates both were indicted and, indeed, Manafort was convicted on matters that came out of the Mueller investigation. That's why Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos are all convicted or facing sentencing because of this.

The big thing you're saying here is that Robert Mueller did not indict the president or his family because Robert Mueller said -- or his team let it be known from the start of the investigation -- they'd not indict a sitting president. That's the start and end of it right now.

And the big start when that report drops and we see that Robert Mueller has put together, if the White House lets us see it.

ALLEN: Scott Lucas, we'll likely talk with you again as we learn more about this. Thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. HOWELL: Terrible story we've been following. Rescue helicopters have been working to pluck hundreds of passengers to safety after their cruise ship became stranded off the coast of Norway. The Viking Sky is slowly moving with three of its four engines working. They've lost power in treacherous waters.

ALLEN: You can imagine the relief they're moving. The passengers aboard the ship were nine days into their vacation when the seas turned violent. A pair of tugboats are attempting to pull the ship to safety.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN (voice-over): That's what it was like.

Can you imagine being on that ship in those seas?

Here's a look at what the passengers have been facing. Furniture being thrown around. Rooms, parts of the ceiling fell down.

HOWELL: According to the Norwegian Red Cross, at least 200 of the 1,300 passengers and crew on board have been airlifted but the process has been slow. Passengers are sleeping in corridors and waiting for their turn to leave.

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HOWELL: We're joined by -- on the phone by Per Fjeld, a representative from the Joint Rescue Centre for Southern Norway.

Per, good to have you with us. Let's get a sense of what's happening right now because we understand the rescue effort is underway at the same time the ship may still be moving, correct?

PER FJELD, JOINT RESCUE CENTRE OF SOUTHERN NORWAY: Yes, the ship is still moving and it's also now being transported under tug by two tugboats at the moment. The effort is to turn it in the direction so it can turn towards shore.

And parallel to that, the evacuation of persons on board is still ongoing via helicopter as has been the case throughout the mission.

HOWELL: And clearly you have a sense of how people are faring on that ship right now. These pictures that we've been showing our viewers here, the jostling of everything that's not secured to the floor, it's got to be terrifying for people.

What are you hearing about those people who are on board at this hour?

FJELD: We are not directly involved so much in that as those who are on the receiving end ashore in Norway but we've seen the same reports and we're trying to make this evacuation as efficient and safe as possible.

So far the crews of the helicopters have done a tremendous job and they are still going forward with this operation, which has been also challenged by rather rough weather, I must say.

HOWELL: And we heard from our meteorologist, that there may be a break in that weather but then there's another storm system that is likely on the way.

Can you give us any numbers of how many people have been airlifted so far?

Also how many people may still be on board that ship?

FJELD: Well, all in all, when this started, there were 1,373 people on board. We don't have the exact numbers of how many have been transported ashore but the figures should now be above 400.

HOWELL: OK. And talk to us about the process because again, the ship is moving. The rescue efforts continue by helicopter.

How many people can you airlift at once?

And how long do you think it will take to get people off the ship?

FJELD: Now there will be an ongoing evaluation as to whether or not the evacuation process will be going to at the same pace as now --

[04:15:00]

FJELD: -- keeping in mind that the ship will be planning to go under tug to shore. So that is something that has to be decided along the road.

We have to use one helicopter at the time hovering over the ship. And the rescue personnel goes down and picks up regularly one passenger each time, so it takes some time until the helicopter has been filled up with -- the capacity would be -- normally be somewhere in the vicinity between 15 and 23 passengers that they can take and then fly ashore.

HOWELL: My goodness. So what that translates to is this is going to be a very slow, methodical, surely, process to get people off the ship.

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FJELD: We have also to keep safety in mind here so that we can't really speed up this in order to do it safely.

HOWELL: No, of course, of course. Per Fjeld, we appreciate you giving us insight into what's happening on the ship. Thank you.

ALLEN: What a process. We can see the video of the helicopter approaching.

Can you imagine the pilots trying in those conditions to land the helicopter and wait for it to be boarded up with people?

I can't imagine what they're going through. (WEATHER REPORT)

ALLEN: Here's another story we're following.

Is Brexit finally?

The people tell their officials they've had enough. At least 1 million people in London taking it to the streets to demand a new vote on Brexit. That's coming up.

HOWELL: Plus, the hunt for this man, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Exclusive footage of some exclusive ISIS hideouts as CNN NEWSROOM live continues.

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ALLEN: Well, to say Brexit is heating up, that would be an understatement. The calls for a second vote on whether the U.K. should leave the E.U. are growing.

HOWELL: I don't mean to laugh, Natalie, But Brexit heating up, it's just been kind of simmering there for some time. It is still hot for sure. And you get a sense of what's happening on the streets of London. A million people taking to the streets on Saturday, demanding a revote.

That's after the prime minister of the nation convinced the E.U. to give Britain more time to get its act together. Our Hadas Gold filed this report from London.

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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 --

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GOLD: -- 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Hadas, thank you.

On top of the crowds in the streets there, nearly 5 million people have signed a petition, now calling on the government to cancel Brexit. And that number keeps growing.

ALLEN: At least, a couple times so far, so many people were signing the petition, it crashed the system. That's telling. It is now the biggest petition on the Parliament's website. The previous record held by another Brexit petition in 2016.

And there are signs Theresa May's premiership may be in jeopardy of crashing as well, with reports a plan is in the works to oust her.

HOWELL: "The Sunday Times" says 11 cabinet ministers plan a revolt. They plan to confront the prime minister on Monday and threaten a mass resignation if she doesn't resign.

ALLEN: Remember Ms. May recently survived a no-confidence vote. While forcing her out may be difficult, it is not impossible.

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DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Interestingly enough, the only path for that happening would be a vote of no confidence to be tabled by the opposition, 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Dominic Thomas there. Yes, we should know about that this week and we'll, of course, continue to watch the people in the streets of London.

Coming up here, what everyone wants to know -- what's in the report?

Washington is on edge and the ones who know aren't talking yet. We get a preview of the battle that's about to erupt in Washington as we continue.

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ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell.

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ALLEN: After two years of awaiting the end of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, Washington is now on edge standing by to learn, well, what's in it. U.S. attorney general William Barr spent Saturday in his office with the report.

A Justice Department official says attorney general William Barr still intends to get the report's principal conclusions over to Congress by the end of the weekend. Democrats, meantime, are threatening to use their subpoena power if the entire report, along with its evidence, is not released.

HOWELL: The U.S. president remains uncharacteristically silent on the matter but that does not mean he's been out of sight. Mr. Trump at his Florida resort surrounded by his attorneys. Sources say they may be encouraging him to lie low until they learn more about what's inside that report.

ALLEN: Joining me to talk about the Mueller report and what comes next, CNN legal analyst Areva Martin.

Always good to see you. Thanks for your time.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Hi, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. So the Mueller report is complete. The big question is, what's in it?

Democrats very much want to know. How far could they take the process to try and get the entire report released?

And what could prohibit that from happening?

MARTIN: Well, we've already heard Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer be very emphatic about their desire to not just get the principal conclusions, which is what attorney general William Barr has promised to provide to Congress over this weekend, but they say they want the entire report, including all the supporting documentation and evidence that goes with the report.

And they want it made public, not just to Congress but to the American people. They say they're prepared to subpoena Barr and other members of the special counsel's team, including the special counsel himself, to ensure that the information contained in the report and the supporting documentation is made public.

Now here are a couple of issues. What we have heard from reports is that the report is likely to contain information gleaned from grand jury investigations, grand jury testimony. It may also contain classified information and information that Donald Trump may assert executive privilege with respect to.

So we should anticipate a big fight between the Republicans and the Democrats as to what portion of the report can be made public, not just to the American people but what also will be provided to Congress.

ALLEN: Right. Mr. Barr has said he wants to be transparent but how transparent, the question is.

Does he have sole discretion on what is released in this report?

What do you think?

MARTIN: Well, there are some guidelines that dictate what should happen with respect to the report. It's important to note there are no prohibitions against making that entire report public.

[04:35:00]

MARTIN: Barr, when he was testifying before the Senate during his confirmation hearings, he was somewhat vague about how much information he would provide. He used frames like, we'll make the report available to the extent of the law. So it's not clear what his position is as it relates to how much information he will be providing.

ALLEN: Yes, meantime, President Trump staying uncharacteristically quiet, playing golf at his Florida resort. No doubt his aides are saying let's just sit back here until we look at this.

We know there are no more indictments coming from this investigation and that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

But what questions remain or what, if anything, was left undone that could be worrisome some to the Trump team?

MARTIN: It's not clear if the determination by Mueller is that crimes were committed but because of this Department of Justice regulation about not indicting a sitting president, that there was no indictment for Donald Trump.

We don't know if there was a determination by special counsel Mueller that Trump didn't engage in any criminal activity. Those are the big unknowns with respect to this report.

I think that's why the president and his team have been uncharacteristically, as you indicated, quiet because there could be some very damaging and damning evidence in this report.

And we can't forget about the other investigations and the other legal jeopardy the president and his children still face in districts outside of Washington, D.C., such as the Southern District of New York. We know there are active investigations as we speak that involve the president and his children.

ALLEN: Right. Well, one can understand why he is enjoying golf down in Florida after enduring two years of this. Many questions remain. We'll be finding out as the days tick on here. Areva Martin, always appreciate your insights. Thank you.

ALLEN: Thank you, Natalie.

HOWELL: ISIS has been defeated in Syria but its leader remains one of the world's most wanted terrorists. We report from Iraq on the hunt for Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM.

The U.S. president Donald Trump says that 100 percent of ISIS- controlled territory has now been liberated in Iraq and Syria.

ALLEN: A U.S.-backed forces in Syria announced the extremist territorial defeat on Saturday. They are celebrating victory and vowed to fight on against ISIS sleeper cells. Yes, we have to worry about that. The largely Kurdish-U.S. allies warn ISIS could go underground and remain an insurgent threat.

HOWELL: We also don't know what's become of its leader. CNN's Arwa Damon has this report on the hunt for Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reverberating through the streets of the old city during this Friday's sermon are words about the true meaning of freedom in Islam, but it was also on a Friday in July of 2014 when Mahmoud Dawoud, an imam, says his cellphone suddenly lost reception.

I saw masked men all over the neighborhood and on rooftops, he tells us. The cars came, it's the first time I see them, more than 200 with tinted windows.

And then, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi showed up, declared the caliphate, himself its leader and ordered all Muslims to obey him.

(on camera): And that's exactly where al Baghdadi gave his address.

(voice-over): Mahmoud says he knew in that moment that Iraq would be demolished. It's the only one of al Baghdadi's locations that is fully confirmed. Since then, despite being hunted by the best intelligence agencies, there has been little more than brief sightings, spotty intelligence and conflicting information.

Saddam Al-Jamal, a mid-level Syrian ISIS prisoner on death row in the Iraqi capital, says he never saw al Baghdadi but was close to those who did.

About a year and a half ago, he tells us, there were attempts by foreign fighters to overthrow Baghdadi, but he had them all killed.

The descent within is leadership ranks has even further shrunk the entourage around Baghdadi. This sprawling town of Shirgat is one of the areas where an intelligence source says Baghdadi moved through in 2015, holding meetings with senior commanders in safe houses.

(on camera): We've been talking to residents here, none of whom will appear on camera. But they were telling us that they saw ISIS' top military commander coming if and out of this house and numerous sources say this is where he was killed in 2015.

And then Iraqi intelligence source tells us that this house is one of the places where he would meet with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

There are also reports we could not confirm that Baghdadi was wounded in that same air strike. A senior Iraqi intelligence officer says that on at least three occasions, two in Iraq and one in Syria, they called in strikes that came close to taking him out.

For insight into how the ISIS leader may be moving around, we head from Shirgat to the edge of Baghdadi's former hideout, the foothills of the mountains. To the west of here lies a vast stretch of desert that leads into Syria.

Exclusive images obtained by CNN show what we are told are ISIS spotter hideouts masquerading as nomad tents. Photographs of the tunnels inside the mountains. How their entrance is hidden. Life inside the caves and a brief video where one fighter discusses his injury and they all crack jokes.

This is where ISIS is training its strike force and still carries out sporadic attacks.

(on camera): If you look at the landscape, this is actually a very good illustration of how ISIS is now being forced to move around. They take advantage of these gorges that exist throughout this entire area and in fact, at one point, they were actually able to while moving through these gorges come up and attempt to plant an IED right here on the road.

(voice-over): Out here, ISIS still rules the night. Coming down in small groups to murder, plant bombs and steal. The Iraqis believe they are closing in on Baghdadi, but he has eluded them more than once, disappearing into the shadows of these lawless lands -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: They lost land but the hunt for Baghdadi continues. And questions about ISIS remain. To talk about all of this, we have Fawaz Gerges, the author of "ISIS: A History," also the chair of contemporary Middle East studies at the London School of Economics.

Fawaz, a pleasure to have you. The U.S. president has made it clear, perhaps prematurely and --

[04:45:00]

HOWELL: -- before the final battles that took their land that ISIS has been defeated. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Here's ISIS right now. If you look, so there's ISIS and that's what we have right now. As of last night. You guys can have the map. Congratulations. Spread it around. I think it's about time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: But in a recent op-ed you posted to "The New York Times," you argue that the loss of land does not exactly promise the full defeat of ISIS. Give us a synopsis of how you see this.

FAWAZ GERGES, DIR. MIDDLE EAST CENTER, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, you know, George, first of all, President Trump, all he cares about is the electoral map in the United States, the domestic politics of the United States.

He really does not really understand, does not really care to understand basically the drivers behind the rise and expansion of ISIS. He does not realize that ISIS is a symptom of a severe crisis in the Arab and Islamic world. ISIS is a symptom of geostrategic rivalries in the Middle East, which

President Trump has been fueling for the past two years; that ISIS is also a symptom of intense and repeated foreign interventions, including the United States and Russia and other regional powers.

The question is not whether ISIS has been dealt a catastrophic military setback in Syria and Iraq; it has. The five-year-old caliphate has been shattered to a million pieces but the drivers are there.

You have tens of thousands of ISIS and Al Qaeda fighters still active, not only in Syria and Iraq but in the Sinai Peninsula, in Egypt, in Somalia, in the Philippines, in West Africa, in many places.

So ISIS -- not just ISIS, ISIS and Al Qaeda, the Al Qaeda that attacked the United States on 9/11 -- will most likely survive and fight another day and another -- and unless Middle Eastern states and Arab and Muslim states and the international communities of the United States tackle the real drivers that gave rise to ISIS, my fear -- and I hope I am wrong, George -- my fear is that ISIS will most likely rebound in the next one or two or three years.

HOWELL: You are talking about, Fawaz, those areas, those ungovernable spaces, like in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya and so on, also in parts of Saudi Arabia, where radicalized ideology, different ways of looking at Islam certainly are places where, you point out, the terror attacks of 9/11, people came from that part.

GERGES: You know, George, you just put your finger really on the pulse of three major points. The first point is that one of the lessons we have learned about ISIS and Al Qaeda, they are nourished in conflict zones. Wherever there's a conflict, wherever there is a void, Al Qaeda and ISIS and other sectarian militias exist.

Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and on and on and on. And this is why we need to tackle the conflict zone and help bring about diplomatic solutions. The United States should and must play a major role instead of pouring gasoline on the raging fire.

Point two, we have to deal with the ideology, you're right. You mentioned the ideology. Al Qaeda and ISIS offer a very powerful ideology, a contrarian, revolutionary ideology to the state system. And unless Arab and Muslim societies develop a counterideological narrative -- and this counterideological narrative has to do with transparency, with good governance, with inclusiveness and trying to resolve conflict, not just in Syria, the Arab-Israeli conflict.

What President Trump is doing, in fact, he has given Al Qaeda and ISIS and other radical groups justification to really have a big, popular base by deepening Palestinian sense of injustice and by also siding fully with the far right in Israel at the expense of international peace and security.

HOWELL: Fawaz Gerges joining us in our London bureau, thank you.

GERGES: Thank you. ALLEN: And we'll be right back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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ALLEN: Have you heard the one about the cow and the congressman?

Seriously. It's a thing.

HOWELL: It's a thing. California Republican Devin Nunes is suing Twitter and a parody account called @devincow for $250 million.

ALLEN: Well, it seems the cow now has more followers than the congressman. We sent Jeanne Moos to investigate this one.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After Republican congressman Devin Nunes lashed out at a parody cow account in his $250 million defamation lawsuit against Twitter, is it any wonder cows stuck out their tongues at him?

JIMMY KIMMEL, ABC HOST: He's literally suing an imaginary cow.

MOOS (voice-over): The parody account Devin Nunes' cow was created to mock Nunes, whose family runs a dairy farm.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: People were targeting me. There were anonymous accounts.

MOOS (voice-over): So he targeted the parody account.

MOOS: The lawsuit didn't just let the cow out of the barn. It caused a stampede.

MOOS (voice-over): A stampedes of cow humor being milked for insults.

"When a 'horse's ass' gets taken down by a happy --

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MOOS (voice-over): -- "cow."

There were pole dancing cows and Photoshopped cows. A cow jumped over Devin Nunes and "The Washington Post" declared "Nunes is having a cow."

KIMMEL: We can't have our livestock insulting our elected officials. Please don't follow @DevinCow. MOOS (voice-over): A campaign kicked off to have a cow account surpassed Nunes' own Twitter account in the number of followers. Devin Nunes' cow started with only 1,200. Within 24 hours or so, holy cow. This is no bull. The cow won, blowing through 400,000 followers and climbing.

Nunes' lawsuit against Twitter inspired Stephen Colbert to goad the congressman.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: That's why it's totally legal for us to make @DevinNunesSkin an actual account, where we can find such announcements such as "Still thin."

Devin, we look forward to your lawsuit.

MOOS (voice-over): Take it from Bart Simpson.

BART SIMPSON, "THE SIMPSONS": Don't have a cow, man.

MOOS (voice-over): Actually, it's too late for that advice. Nunes is already getting so much cow side eye, it would make anyone cower -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

I'm even dressed like a cow today.

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HOWELL: Jeanne, thank you.

No one picked the winning numbers in Saturday's Powerball jackpot in the U.S.

ALLEN: That means the grand prize has grown even bigger to $750 million for next Wednesday's drawing. The jackpot was last won the day after Christmas.

It is about time.

All right. We've got the day's top stories just ahead here.

HOWELL: Stay with us. More news after the break.