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HALA GORANI TONIGHT
Barr Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy; Trump Claims Complete and Total Exoneration, Although Mueller Report Does Not Exonerate Him on Obstruction; Report Says No Evidence of Collusion Despite Multiple Offers from Russian Affiliated Individuals to Assist the Trump Campaign; Theresa May Does Not Have Enough Support for Third Vote on Brexit. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired March 25, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from London I'm Hala Gorani. Three major breaks in stories. The future of Brexit and the
fate of the British Prime Minister on the line as Theresa May admits there's not enough support for her deal.
Also, this hour, Donald Trump claims vindication. The American President reacted moments ago to Robert Mueller's report saying this cannot happen to
another President ever again.
The U.S. backs Israel in a big way. A presidential proclamation calls the Golan Heights is claimed as Israeli territory even as Benjamin Netanyahu
vowing retribution. We're live in Washington and Jerusalem.
We begin with Prime Minister Theresa May calls the moment of decision as she attempts to break the impasse in the UK. She spoke to parliament in
the building behind me and said as things stand, there is not enough support to hold a third vote on her deal. She added that discussions on
the matter will continue. MPs will now attempt to take control of the whole thing. The whole Brexit process with a series of other votes on
other options going forward. Having Parliament take control of the Brexit process would be an unwelcome precedent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UK: I continue to believe it's right to leave the EU with a deal on the 22nd of May. It's with great regret I've had to
conclude that as things stand there's not enough support in House to bring back the deal for a third meaningful vote. I continue to have discussions
with colleagues across the House to build support so we can bring the vote forward this week and guarantee Brexit. If we cannot, the government made
a commitment that we would work across the House to find majority on way forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: As usual, we're left asking what is that way forward for Brexit. In fact, what is strategy of the Prime Minister. Let's discuss these
latest developments. Carol, let me start with you. The Prime Minister acknowledging she doesn't have enough support for a third vote. It doesn't
mean she won't try.
CAROLE WALKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She'll try if she thinks she's got the numbers. At the moment, it's absolutely clear she hasn't. She had a
meeting with Arlene Foster of the DUP early on. They are crucial to this and could bring a lot of conservative MPs on board. They are still holding
out and saying that at the moment they are not going to support her withdrawal agreement. The key development tonight will come at 10:00 when
we'll see votes which --
GORANI: Five hours from now.
WALKER: It looks as though MPs will vote to seize control of the Parliamentary process to have a series of indicative vote, a series of
alternative approaches to Brexit that they will vote on Wednesday. The Prime Minister, as you've said, doesn't think that's a good idea. I think
the only thing that's left in her strategy is she is hoping that will be so confusing, they may decide there's no overall majority to any strategy that
she could then, later this week, somehow get enough numbers onto her deal.
GORANI: Bianca, in British law, March 29th is still Brexit day. They need to pass another law, right?
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Prime Minister addressed that in her speech. Technically the dates have be moved to April. In order for there
to be no confusion between EU and international law and British law, the Prime Minister needs to vote to change that date. In British law, there
will be confusion. The point remains, Britain will not be leaving on the 29th. They will be leaving on the short extension date.
GORANI: The most probable outcome?
WALKER: I think the vote to seize power completely from the government for a day, later this week on Wednesday, will succeed. That you will then get
MPs voting on a series of options.
GORANI: For our viewers, that means Parliament is now handling the Brexit strategy.
[13:05:01] WALKER: I think this underlines the Prime Minister's complete loss of control of this process. It will be literally out of her hands
while Parliament votes on a series of options. What ever the House decides under will not be binding. The Prime Minister said she would engage
constructively in whatever comes up. What would be interesting is MPs vote for a soft Brexit, a custom's union, a single market. A much closer
relationship to the European Union which contradicts government policy.
GORANI: Last one to you Bianca. Hundreds of thousands of people marched. Any impact behind me?
NOBILO: They were saying to me it's been discussed today in the House of lord's chamber along with revoking article 50, they think it needs to be
responded to. There's calls for other MPs to respond that as well. It's been mentioned several times. It's having an impact. In terms of a
tangible change on policy, not much right now. I think it makes the MPs that don't know what to do but are inclined to support a second referendum,
it does give them pause.
GORANI: Thanks very much.
To Washington where Donald Trump made some pretty stunning remarks as commented on social counsel Robert Mueller's final report. The U.S.
President spoke at the White House with Israel's Prime Minister by his side. He said a summary of Mueller's report totally exonerates him of
collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice. He says what happened to him can never happen to another President again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're glad it's over. It's a 100 percent the way it should have been. I wish it could have gone a lot
sooner, quicker. There's a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, bad things. I would say tremendous things against
our country. People that have done such harm to our country, we have gone through a period of really bad things happening, those people, will be
looked at. I've been looking at them for a long time. I'm saying why haven't they been looked at. They lied to Congress. Many of them, you
know who they are. They've done so many evil things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Abby joins us from the long House. What does he mean by people who have done treasonous things that will be looked at? What does that
ABBY PHILIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's a question a lot of us have for the President. We don't know what he's referring to there. Some
hints are in the past, in months, the President has talked about wanting to look at the real collusion in his words, which is on the other side. He's
talking about Democrats. He's talking about the Hillary Clinton campaign. You've heard President Trump's allies talk about this idea that the
surveillance of the Trump campaign that started out the Russia investigation was improper at the very beginning. I think we're seeing
both the President and some of his allies, including Senator Lindsey Graham wanting to go back to the very beginning of all of this and not look at
Russian interference in the election but look at Americans. Look at people in the Justice Department and the Obama administration who they believe
launched into an investigation that was improper. That according to the President was illegal and look into those people. Will the President
actually do that? We don't know. Will the Justice Department, which is supposed to launch these investigations in an independent fashion, will
they do that? We also don't know. I think that's one of the big questions for President Trump as we go forward, but again, it's not a new idea. He's
been talking about it for a long time. We thought this was something he talked about because this was an effort to undermine the Russia
investigation. It appears he might believe he has the upper hand. He believes he can turn the tables on the people who spent the last two years
[13:10:03] GORANI: What about the report itself? What we have seen or heard summarized is the condensed four-page summary by the Attorney
General. The report itself in itself, is it likely that Congress will see it, the public will see it any time soon?
PHILIP: It seems likely the public will see something. He wants to release as much as he can pursuant to regulations and lawyers out there
about grand jury service, anything that might be confidential in there that might break existing laws or regulations.
Also, President Trump's attorneys have raised the question of whether the President's written answers to Robert Mueller are confidential. They
represent some sort of Presidential privilege. When reporters asked President Trump if he want the report made public, he said he wouldn't mind
it. I wouldn't mind it but it's up to his Attorney General. Democrats are pushing for everything. It seems the answer might be in the middle. It
will be a more full picture of what Robert Mueller has been up to but perhaps with some of these pieces that are viewed as confidential or even
potentially damaging to President Trump which is a completely different standard.
GORANI: Abby, thanks very much. Our next guest believes Mueller meant to leave the decision of obstruction with Congress. Is the President right to
say he's been exonerated?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Partially, yes. I think on the collusion conspiracy angle, he's been pretty close to exonerated. To be clear, the
bar memo does not say the President did nothing wrong, period. What the memo says there's not enough evidence to charge criminal conspiracy,
criminal coordination with Russia. On that count, it's very good news. Pretty unambiguous good news for the President. The obstruction piece is
much more up for debate. Robert Mueller, essentially, took a pass on that. I'm surprised he did that. While he did opine on the legal conclusion on
the coordination, he did not opine on the legal conclusion on the obstruction. I have very high regard for Robert Mueller but the job of the
prosecutor. You look at a complex set of facts but you make a call one way or the other and the question is what happened after that.
GORANI: What will happen? You have other potential investigations on Capitol Hill, at the state level as well. What could we see there?
HONIG: I think the Attorney General, William Barr, took a lot of the steam out of where Mueller was going. Mueller left it open. The question is who
was he leaving it open for. Based on what we see in this memo is a much bigger memo, it seems clear that Mueller was leaving it for Congress. The
only thing Mueller has to report is his prosecution decisions. DOJ has this policy where you cannot indict a sitting President.
So, who's the only body or entity that can do anything about the President, Congress. William Barr said I'm taking over and I'm voting thumbs down on
obstruction of justice. I don't think that was his role to do.
GORANI: Thanks very much for joining us with more analysis there on the release of this four-page summary of this report that's been in the making
for a couple of years. Many Republicans are feeling vindicated while Democrats say it's too early to make any judgment until the full Mueller
report is released. John, is this a Democratic strategic mistake here having focused so heavily on conclusion and obstruction. They have been
hammering that message home for two years now. For this report that was attached so much anticipation, seems to conclude maybe something
questionable happened but not really. That will hurt them.
[13:15:00] JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there are a lot of disappointed Democrats pinning their hopes on the Mueller report.
But Muller went about things in a very professional manner despite being called a witch hunt by the President over 200 times. And delivered a
report within the confines of the special counsel statute.
And as Elie just explain, they said there was not enough evidence to proceed or give any credibility or credence to the claim of collusion or
criminal conspiracy. There have been over 30 charges brought. Six members of Trump inner circle and there's a lot of questions about contacts with
Russia. What we know is there were definitely Russian attempts to influence our election. They reached out to the Trump campaign but they
were not consummated.
GORANI: I am just asking politically speaking was this a mistake by the Democrats? Because fundamentally the Democrats have ignored things that
are facts. Separations at the border. The fact that President hasn't released his tax return. Things they can attack him on. They have spent
less time concerned with than a report whose conclusions they can't anticipate. Was it a mistake on their part?
AVLON: I hear what you're saying. This was a question that was very serious. It cut to the heart of the integrity of our elections. There are
over 15 ongoing investigations and court cases into other aspects of Trump's organization in life that are still ongoing. This Thursday there
will be a new House hearing in questions of Russian money in the Trump organization. This is this a victory for the President? Yes. Is it a
victory for America? Yes, because it would be terrible for us if our President was involved in collusion. The question of obstruction, however
which the AG made, benefits the President, that's going to demand a lot more scrutiny which is why we need to have the full report released.
GORANI: The Republicans are messaging the fact they are victorious and exonerated. The other thing that caught a lot of people's attention is
what the President said in the oval office. Treasonous things were done. Those people will be looked at. We can never let this happen to another
President again. Is the President there threatening to look at fellow Americans and their actions in the lead up during this investigation?
AVLON: That's sure what it sounds like. The President doesn't have those kind of powers but he has those kinds of instincts. When I heard the
President say we cannot let this happen again, I briefly thought he was talking about Russian attempts to influence our election, but no, he was
talking about himself. The real focus should be on making sure that foreign powers can't influence our elections. The President will try to
mover forward into investigate the investigators phase. Pumped up by partisan media. We'll see if the Department of Justice is willing to do
his bidding in that regards. It's outside Democratic norms but the President frequently strays against,0 those.
GORANI: Thanks for joining us.
More breaking news. Israel launches strikes on Gaza with a rocket that reached Israel.
The terrorist group's loss of territory does not mean the end. We're live inside Syria, coming up.
[13:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
GORANI: We're following breaking news out of Israel. Israel says it's begun strikes on Hamas targets inside of Gaza. It says it's in retaliation
for a rocket strike. Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington there where he received some support from the U.S. President. He's cutting short that
visit to Washington to return home. He just gave an update from the White House standing along side Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL: Yesterday as rocket was fired from Gaza deep inside Israel. It hit a home. It wounded 7 including two
small children. Miraculously no one was hurt. No one was killed. Israel will not tolerate there. I will not tolerate this. As we speak, as I told
you, Mr. President, just now, Israel is responding forcefully to this wanton aggression.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Mr. Netanyahu watched as the American President signed a proclamation formally recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
Oren was at the scene. He spoke with a man who lives inside the now destroyed home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT WOLF, LIVED IN HOME DESTROYED BY ROCKET: I heard the alarm, and the first thing I thought of was my youngest daughter. She was over in another
room. So, I went over to get her. I was just about in the middle. Just in the middle within of those bridges when there was a thump and an
explosion. I fell forward. I turned around and I had no house. What scared me is I knew they were running for the bomb shelter. I thought I
had lost everything. I lost my wife, my two grand daughters, my son, his wife. I thought I had lost everything. I found my wife. She was outside.
She had been cut. The house is gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They haven't given a specific name but say the rocket had 120-kilometer range. This is the farthest a rocket has
been fired. This is a rocket manufactured by Hamas and fired by Hamas. When asked was this intentionally or unintentionally, there was no comment.
It had not yet been assessment on what sparked this rocket. Because Israel holds them responsible for anything that comes out of Gaza, the response
has just begun. I suspect that response may continue well into the night. There's a question of how does it go from there, Hala.
GORANI: Right. He sees this as a help for him.
LIEBERMANN: Of course. I think that's the only way you can read this proclamation and the timing for this proclamation. Most of the world has
grown accustomed to this. The only need to make this proclamation now, it appears the Trump campaign is openly campaigning for Netanyahu to win. It
could be damaging to Netanyahu, two weeks from tomorrow on April 9th.
GORANI: Still to come, Brexit in a stalemate, still. It isn't just behind me here in Westminster. We looked at the other sides of the argument still
battling it out.
Russia chimes in on the Mueller Robert. We'll go live to Moscow for reaction.
GORANI: Let's bring you up to date with the latest we know on Brexit. Theresa May say as of right now there's not enough support for her Brexit
deal. Still, stalemate. It isn't just here many Westminster where people are sharply divided. People are split and among those for Brexit, there's
very little agreement on which type of Brexit they support. Some are desperate for another vote. You saw the massive crowds that turned up on
Saturday. Many are saying enough, time to leave, deal or no deal. They are fed up. I'll give you both sides of the argument but first let's bring
in a noted British author and philosophy and supporter of a people's vote. Were you at the march?
[13:30:00] A.C. GRAYLING, PHILOSOPHER AND AUTHOR: I was.
GORANI: Is the mood changing, in your opinion?
GRAYLING: I think the mood changed quite some time ago. Every march has grown in numbers. We have seen this extraordinary petition for revoking
article 52, which is now well on is way toward six million signatures. It's quite clear that the sentiment in the country has turned very sharply
GORANI: Some of the polling suggests there isn't yet, I'm talking polling that suggests there isn't another majority in favor of another referendum
GRAYLING: You and I read different versions of the polls. As the number stand and had stood for some time, it looks as though the remaining
majority is now about 56 percent against 44. People watching a second vote is over 60 percent. This is very important indeed --
[13:30:00] A.C. GRAYLING, MASTER, NEW COLLEGE OF THE HUMANITIES: -- now about 56 percent against the 44. But people wanting a second vote.
There's over 60 percent. And this is -- and very important indeed that our parliamentarian sort to be taking notice of this.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: I guess that was not the -- that doesn't matter. But I have seen some polling that suggest people want a
second people's vote.
Let me ask you what the question that people outside of the U.K. asked me when I travel, which is what happened in the U.K. that led to this
referendum, culminating in a -- in a Brexit vote, in the Brexit side winning. What happened?
GRAYLING: Well, there was a series of accidents, really. One is that this has been a long-term problem inside the Conservative Party. There's always
been a very hard wing on the right of the Conservative Party which has been very skeptical about the European Union and about our membership of it.
And in order to shut those people up, David Cameron said that if he won the next election, which he didn't expect to win, then would give them a
And then the referendum was held, those people who voted -- and by the way, it's terribly important to notice that of the electorate that was
enfranchise for that referendum, only 37 percent of the electoral voted to leave. And they had a wide variety of different reasons.
Some of them may very well had been anti the European Union. But a lot of them were angry with those parity measures in this country with the
conservative government. They wanted to get David Cameron, that kicking. And so the result has been a disaster, because this wasn't really a
referendum about the E.U.
GORANI: But the political class is saying, this is what the country voted for. It's not changeable. We can't ask the question again. This is
democracy in action. Period. We need to deliver on the people's will. Do they not have a point?
GRAYLING: I don't think so. I think they're being incredibly in transcendent. And throughout the year, they just simply not listening to
either the analysis of how it is that the referendum came out as it did, nor are they listening to the people now. And that I think is a very
Because when we look at the tumult inside the House of Commons on this, and the breakdown within the major political parties themselves, we're seeing
that this should be an opportunity. Go back to the people and try to get a much calmer report.
GORANI: Where is the political will? Jeremy Corbyn who's the leader of the opposition. I mean, technically with a party in power in such
disarray. It'd be a slam dunk for him. He is not pulling even ahead of the Tories.
GRAYLING: Well, this time, I'm afraid, it has something to do with Jeremy Corbyn himself --
GORANI: So you think he's the wrong leader for the Labour Party?
GRAYLING: Or most definitely yes. I mean, the great majority of members and supporters of the Labour Party are remainers and very, very much want
another to say. Corbyn himself has been, at the very best, ambivalent about it. And there is a great deal of anger within his own party because
GORANI: Yes. So what needs to happen now? Because the political will in this House, you know there was an amendment passed last week that didn't
garner enough support. It fell very far short of a majority to hold a second referendum.
So M.P.s in the building behind us here don't seem to have the political will to put it to the people again. And that fundamentally is where it
needs to happen.
GRAYLING: It does need to happen there. And the big opportunity for this is if there are going to be indicative votes on different options. The one
really important thing about what happens in the House of Commons voting is that the MPs vote in public. They can be seen by members of the public by
their own whips and by their own colleagues.
And this time, really what needs to happen is they should use a technique that they use for selecting -- select committee chairman, which is secret
ballots. Secret ballots and an alternative voting system. Because if they did that, we would see a very different result inside the House of Commons.
GORANI: So you're a philosopher. How would you describe what your country is going through right now?
GRAYLING: I think our country --
GORANI: Philosophically speaking.
GRAYLING: Yes. I mean, it's an interesting moment in the Chinese sense of, may you not live in interesting times. Because it shows something
about our constitutional arrangements here which in fact are in disarray.
GORANI: Is it an existential crisis though?
GRAYLING: I think it is. Yes, because whatever happens about this, we've really got to rethink the way we do our politics, who we are and where we
are. There's a great deal of nostalgia here for something that ended more than half a century ago which is the empire. We're not what we were and we
need to rethink our place in the world.
The astonishing thing is that people here have not accepted the fact that we have, until now, been one of the three leading nations in the E.U. and
the E.U. is a leading bloc in world affairs. And to throw that away is crazy.
GORANI: But it could happen almost by accident.
GRAYLING: Well, it is happening by the accident at the moment. That's the thing.
GORANI: I mean, the hard Brexit could happen by accident.
GRAYLING: Yes, it could. And we've got to transcend that break as fast as we can.
GORANI: When you say, lastly, there's some nostalgia for what Britain used to be, what does Britain need to accept that it is today?
GRAYLING: I think it needs to accept that it's a European nation. That it has an opportunity to take a lead in Europe and to really partner up.
We've been ambivalent partners to our European friends for the whole time that we've been in the E.U.
[13:35:00] Now is the time really to take a very deep breath and say, look, we are part of this, actually, rather great story. The E.U. It hasn't
flaw some problems, but it's also -- what a magnificent idealistic endeavor to create a realm, a soft power of realm which is dedicated to peace. This
is a big opportunity to be part of that. We should -- we should grasp it.
A.C. Grayling, thanks so much for joining us on CNN. Appreciate it.
Well, I was telling our viewers that there's still a big debate going on inside of the U.K. And I want to take our viewers to a place they may not
have heard of if they live outside this country.
Southend-on-Sea. Are you familiar with it?
GRAYLING: I have never been there, but I know of it, yes.
GORANI: OK. But it's strongly to leave the E.U. So probably most people there would be in disagreement with you. Anna Stewart is there. Take it
away, Anna. What are people telling you?
ANNA STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly calmer waters here in Southend-on-Sea than in Westminster. It's important to get out of
sight this sort of political bubble where you are, Hala, and see what people think up and down the country.
As you said, this area did vote to leave the E.U. by some 58 percent. However, when I asked people what they felt then, what they feel now, it
hasn't really changed there is. Most people they voted to remain as well.
But the one thing that unifies them is a sense of frustration. Almost anger, I would say, with how all the political discussions are going back
home. Take a listen to what they say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say to me the government don't know what they're up on about and whatever is the outcome, it's like you got no sign in
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That doesn't really follow that Brexit and all that. It just -- I just get fed up on the T.V. when you hear about it. That's
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are just so confused by the whole matter. I mean, our work in a company where Brexit is spoken about every single day.
And people hear the word Brexit now and they're like, oh, God, here we go again. It's like I'm tired. I just want it -- I just want it done. I
think that's what people think at the moment. You know, I think a lot of people, that I know, just feel, you know, let's just get it done now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is lingering and gone on forever and ever. And I think a lot of the general public are just kind of bit annoyed on this and
just want it to be over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: So as you heard it, generally, people just want it to be done with. They want Brexit to be over with. But much like politicians, they
can't actually agree on how to do that. Because some people want a no-deal Brexit. They just want out immediately, ideally, this week. Although, of
course, that's no longer going to happen.
Some people want a second referendum. They feel that people know more about Brexit now so they should vote on a different types and then some
people have literally no idea or no interest, frankly, on all the options out there. And I know we're discussing indicative votes about whether
people want Canada style Brexit, a Norway style Brexit.
Frankly, people here don't necessary differentiate to all the different options, but they want Brexit to be over with. Hala?
GORANI: All right. Anna Stewart, thanks very much.
Back now to the conclusion or the summary, we should say, of Robert Mueller's investigation. And we're now hearing directly from Russia. A
government spokesperson in Moscow says Mueller's Robert does not reveal anything new other than finding Donald Trump's campaign did not conspire
He adds, the West needs to stop blaming Russia for its own problems.
DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN PRESS SECRETARY (through translator): Accusations against Russia that keeping voce in terms of election interference, we
still deem baseless. Even the brief information presented in the summary letter is baseless. I want to remind you the words of one Chinese
philosopher who said it's very hard to find a black cat in a black room especially if it's not there. Centuries go by but the West still doesn't
GORANI: Let's go to Moscow for more on this. Fred Pleitgen joins me now. I'm sure the Russians consider this great news although intelligence
agencies in the U.S. have said repeatedly, they believe Russia has tried and is still trying to interfere in American elections.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're right. That's exactly what that summary said. And I would say the reactions that
we're seeing from Moscow, Hala, really are in three categories. On the one hand, you have full on gloating by some especially on a lot of outlets here
on Russian state run T.V. would essentially say that Russia itself was exonerated as well and who were heavily critical, of course, of the Mueller
investigation and, of course, also of congressional Democrats as well.
There were some shows on today that really took a lot of swipes that U.S. politicians, some lawmakers, as well, saying that there's conspiracy
theorists out there in American politics and that they won't be happy with these Mueller findings either.
Then you heard the sort of middle of the line take by, for instance, by the Russian government, by the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov who's saying, look, he
hasn't seen the report.
But on the one hand, generally, rips into anything that would suggest that Russia meddled in U.S. politics despite some of the evidence, of course,
that's been presented over the past two years.
Now, there are also some who are trying to be quite constructive in this as well. There's a senior lawmaker from the Russian Senate, Konstantin
Kosachev, wrote a long track on Facebook saying that he hoped that maybe there was some way to improve relations between the Russians and the United
[13:40:06] He says the Russians are ready for that, although he does acknowledge that there is a long way to go. So there is a flurry of
reactions going on. But generally, of course, the mood is very positive among Russian government officials after that Mueller Robert came out.
GORANI: And let me ask you something related to Venezuela. So two Russian planes reportedly arrived on -- at -- in Caracas, right? At Simon Bolivar
International Airport. What are these military planes doing in Caracas? These Russian military planes.
PLEITGEN: Well, there was some big -- yes, there was some questions about that. I think we're seeing one of those military planes on our screen
right now. That's Ilyushin Il-62 plane. That's essentially people carrier.
But you're absolutely right. There were some questions about whether or not Russia might be providing some military help to the Maduro government,
which of course, would be a big problem for the United States.
The Russians came out, not too long ago, and said in the form of a general that there was no mystery about these planes coming in that there's a long
standing, as they call it, military technical cooperation going on between the Venezuelan government and the Russians.
The Russians, of course, have sold a lot of weapons to Venezuela. They're even opening a weapons factory in Venezuela. And so the Russians there are
saying, basically, what's going on there, is part of that cooperation.
The numbers that we've sort of heard out is that there's 99 Russian military personnel that apparently came in on those flights. One of them
was a transport plane an Antonov 124. That apparently has departed again at Caracas again. And then you have that troop carrier.
But I'm not sure whether or not that's actually still on the ground there in Venezuela. But the Russians are saying, look, this is all in plain
sight, but this is something that's part of a normal cooperation, as they put it.
GORANI: All right. Interesting time to send two military planes there. Thanks very much, Fred Pleitgen in Moscow.
Still to come tonight, destruction, scars, the Syrian country side and the aftermath of the fight against ISIS. The terrorist group has lost its
final territory but the war is not yet over. And the despair and suffering of the Syrian people is not over either. We're live inside Eastern Syria.
GORANI: We have more breaking news this hour from the United States. Lawyer Michael Avenatti has been arrested and charged with extortion. He,
of course, represented adult film star, Stormy Daniels, in her lawsuit against U.S. President Donald Trump.
Let's go straight to Kara Scannell. What do we know, Kara?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sorry, Hala. So Michael Avenatti was arrested just a short while ago in Manhattan on charges that he had tried
to extort Nike. It's a multiple charge criminal complaint that was just unsealed.
According to the complaint, Avenatti went to Nike claiming that he had a client who had some damaging information on the company, including
allegations that someone at Nike had authorized the -- has authorized that their client had information that Nike employees had made payments to high
school students and then tried to conceal those payments.
[13:45:19] Now, also according to this complaint, Avenatti had said that it's worth more to him and exposure to blow the lid off this thing by
having a press conference on the eve of Nike's quarterly earnings conference call. And he said, but I'll go, take $10 billion off your
market cap. Avenatti said he wanted to be hired to conduct this internal investigation seeking 12 million retainer upfront and that a minimum
guarantee of $15 million in payment or up to $25 million.
So prosecutors unsealing those charges in New York today. But in Los Angeles, Michael Avenatti is facing other charges related to financial
crimes. Those were announced also today. The U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. is having a press conference and those charges in a short while.
So Michael Avenatti arrested in New York today facing charges of extortion and financial crimes by both the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan and
the U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. Hala.
GORANI: All right. Kara Scannell, thanks very much. Just a remarkable development there on Michael Avenatti. The U.S. president says he had some
reason to celebrate after that summary of the Mueller Robert came out and it's fair to say that he's probably, you know, not going to react with
great sadness of the news that Michael Avenatti is having some legal trouble of his own.
Thank you very much, Kara Scannell.
Now to the Middle East. Kurdish and U.S. forces, U.S.-backed forced, are celebrating a major victory in Syria. ISIS has lost its final territorial
Over the weekend, the SDF, the Syrian Democratic Forces announced that they defeated the terror group's self-declared caliphate. A victory years in
the making that has cost the lives of thousands of fighters.
Now, the coalition must determine what happens next to ISIS fighters on the ground.
As recently as Sunday, another group of ISIS holdout surrendered to the SDF. As ben Wedeman reports the last battle to liberate ISIS territory
dragged on much longer than anticipated.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They originally told us there's perhaps 1,500 civilians and maybe 500 jihadist
inside the town. What happened was thousands of people came out, every day. There were many foreigners among them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do I regret it, coming? You mean? Like, no, I don't.
WEDEMAN: The wives of ISIS fighters.
"God is testing us," this woman says. The unworthy will leave and the righteous will remain.
And it's been a pattern.
The morning began with the heavy exchange of machine gunfire followed by loud explosions. There will be fighting and then they'll allow the
civilians to come out. When they think they're all out, they'll have another offensive and then they'll hall it again. And we've done this
three times. So it's sort of a pattern that everybody thinks it's about to end, it's about to end, and it just goes on and on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ben, why did you hit the deck there?
WEDEMAN (on-camera): Because I know this -- we hear it all the time. These are just soldiers --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're clearing their weapon.
WEDEMAN: Clearing their weapons.
GORANI: Well, Ben Wedeman joins us now from Eastern Syria. Ben, I believe you've bene there for 50 days now. So you saw it to the end this story
with U.S. backed forces and Kurdish forces finally liberating that last enclave. What happens next, I guess? Because now, the territory is gone,
is taken from ISIS. The physical caliphate. What's the next chapter?
WEDEMAN: Well, actually, it was 52 days at this point, Hala, going on 53. What happens next is difficult to say. What we know is there are still
thousands of ISIS fighters on the loose and not only in this part of Syria but also in Iraq as well. And they have consistently been carrying out
terrorist attacks, hit and run, ambushes. Suicide bombings, car bombings in various parts of Syria and Iraq.
It seemed to have intensified since Saturday when victory was declared over the so-called physical caliphate. So that's a continuing problem that the
SDF, as well, as the Iraqi government, as well as the Kurdish regional government in Northern Iraq are going to have to deal with.
In addition to that, there's the question of what do you do with all the people now in custody? The thousands of ISIS fighters who have
surrendered. Those from Syria and Iraq, but also those from Western Europe and North American elsewhere whose governments, most of them, have made it
clear, they don't want them back.
[13:50:07] And on top of those challenges, then there's their families, what do you do with them? Tens of thousands of women and children wo lived
under the black banner of ISIS and Syria and Iraq who are now stranded living in what amounts to internment camps here in Syria.
And it's not clear what to do with them either. Release them, keep them forever. That's a little difficult as the solution. And finally, there's
the problem of what do you do with all the destruction that occurred as a result of this four, four and a half year war against ISIS.
Certainly, the autonomous government in this part of Syria doesn't necessarily have the wherewithal for the sort of reconstruction needed, let
alone, getting the economy moving again.
So lots of challenges. Everybody seems to be happy about the victory over ISIS.
But one doesn't hear much discussion about addressing all the problems that come -- now that the guns have, for the most part, gone silent. Hala.
GORANI: Yes. All the conditions that led to this group's gaining traction, ultimately longer term, possibly still there, I guess the
fundamental problem not necessarily resolved here.
But in terms of the fighters themselves on the ground, men and women who were on the frontlines of all of this. They've lost thousands and
thousands of fighters in all this, right? A big percentage of the fighting force against ISIS in that part of Syria has died in these battles.
WEDEMAN: Yes. According to one official with the SDF, as many as 11,000 of their fighters were killed in this very long and difficult battle. And
they assess another issue that's a lot of people. This is not a very populist part of Syria. And 11,000 men and women is a significant blow to
But there is -- there are attempts to compensate the families and whatnot. So, yes, many challenges here. And once sort of the flag waving and the
victory celebrations are over, it's going to be a lot of hard work to do. Hala.
GORANI: All right. Ben Wedeman, in Eastern Syria. Day 53. Thanks very much.
Still to come. British M.P.s are debating Brexit into the evening, yet again. We'll explain why votes, later this evening, could mean big changes
for the entire process.
GORANI: Well, there's been a lot of Brexit movement already today in the House of Commons. And there's a whole lot more to come. Lawmakers are
debating the government's next steps for Brexit. Later, they'll vote on three amendments. One of which could see them take complete control of the
process from the hands of the prime minister.
Carole Walker is here. So three amendments, which are they?
CAROLE WALKER, POLITICAL ANALYST: So there'll be three votes. At least potentially another one as well on the government's motion. The first one
is from the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. That basically just says that the government should allow time for the commons to consider
[13:55:02] But I think the more interesting one is the second one put down by a senior conservative (INAUDIBLE) it says that the House of Parliament,
ordinary M.P.s take control of the parliamentary, timetable on Wednesday for whole series of votes. Looking a whole series of different options on
And the third one just reinforces of vote that we've already seen a week or so ago, saying that the government should not allow no Brexit, so that if
there's no-deal in place, the government has to go and negotiate a further extension of Article 50.
GORANI: You and I were speaking earlier. And you told me you believe the amendment that would allow M.P.s to take over the process is likely to
WALKER: Absolutely. A similar motion failed by just two votes only a week ago. I think now looking at the chaos and paralysis, it is almost certain
that M.P.s will vote to seize control of the parliament three times. And that throws up some huge potential problems for the government because it
is quite likely the M.P.s could vote for something like a customs union, a single market membership much closer relationship with the European Union
that the government wants. Flatly contradicting the prime minister's red lines.
GORANI: Sorry to jump in, but just for our viewers who might not be familiar, is it in this system, is it possible for parliament to just take
it from the government and take the whole negotiating process from the government?
WALKER: Well, what the prime minister has said is that she won't be bound by what's decided but will engage constructively and which could mean just
about anything. What will be interesting and what has already been discussed is whether having seized control to do these votes that MPs could
then seize control to actually legislate, to actually pass a law forcing the government's hand.
I think at that stage if you've got parliament insisting that government did something that flatly contradicted its own policy, then you would be
into a general election. And that is something that a senior government minister has already acknowledged.
GORANI: OK. So right now, we're waiting for those amendments which ones passed, which ones don't.
Meantime, and have only a few seconds. Theresa May. Is she going to have to step down?
WALKER: I think she will be forced to stand down. The question is when, not if. She's given no indication that she's prepared to budge. But what
is absolutely clear is that her partner is determined that even if she gets through this, she won't be taking the government, won't be leading her
party through the next phase of negotiations sorting out the future trade relationships.
GORANI: Carole, you'll be with us throughout the evening. Thanks very much. That's going to do it for me, for now. Stay with CNN. "AMANPOUR"