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Three Ministers Resign To Join 29-Strong Tory Revolt On Brexit Indicative Votes As It Happened; Mueller Let AG's Office Decide On Obstruction Charges; Mueller Found No Crime, But Did Not Exonerate Trump; Attorney Avenatti Accused Of Extortion, Wire, And Bank Fraud. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired March 26, 2019 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to all of our viewers joining from all across the world. I'm Rosemary Church with the next two hours of CNN NEWSROOM. Let's get started.
A humiliating political loss for the British prime minister after almost two years of trying to push her Brexit plan, Theresa May has now lost control of her process to lawmakers.
Also ahead, we're live at the Israel-Gaza border with tensions rising and rocket launches and airstrikes.
And the legal and political fallout from Robert Mueller's long awaited report. Why the U.S. president is feeling vindicated and vindictive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country. And those people will certainly be looked at, I'll be looking at for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And we start in Britain. Theresa May is facing an unprecedented power grab from the British Parliament. On Monday lawmakers voted to strip away the prime minister's control of the Brexit agenda, with 30 members of her own party. That means they can drive their own agenda on Wednesday and put forward several nonbinding votes, including one on a new referendum. Here's opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, U.K. LABOUR PARTY: The government's approach to Brexit has now become a national embarrassment.
Every step of the way along this process the government has refused to reach out, refused to listen and refused to find a consensus that can represent the views of the whole of the country not just the Conservative Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And among the 30 Conservatives who are against Theresa May, three were government ministers who resigned. They include former business minister Richard Harrington, who announced he was stepping down on Twitter. For more on the Tory revolt, here's CNN's Bianca Nobilo.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lawmakers in the U.K. have voted to seize control of the Brexit process. MPs will now hold a series of what are called indicative votes on Wednesday while they had the opportunity to express their support for various different types of Brexit scenarios. The vote was won narrowly this evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BERCOW, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, UNITED KINGDOM: Ayes to the right, 327; the nos to the left, 300. So the ayes have it, the ayes have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: Immediately after the vote one of Theresa May's business ministers resigned over the government's handling of Brexit. Then the Brexit Secretary said that this decision by Parliament sets a dangerous constitutional precedent. The vote came after the Prime Minister addressed Parliament expressing her frustration and regret at the current impasse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: Mr. Speaker, I continue to believe that the right path forward is for the United Kingdom to leave the E.U.. as soon as possible with the deal now on the 22nd of May. But it is with great regret that I have had to conclude that as things stand, there is still not sufficient support in the House to bring back the deal for a third meaningful vote.
I continue -- I continue to have discussions with colleagues across the House to build support so that 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 a majority on a way forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: Another day, another dramatic defeat for the prime minister as a handling of Brexit and her authority are being openly questioned by colleagues -- Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.
CHURCH: CNN European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas joins us now.
Good to have you with us.
So, Dominic, in an unprecedented move, lawmakers seize control of Brexit from the prime minister Theresa May Monday night to find a majority for alternative Brexit options.
So which options will likely win the majority's vote?
DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, that's really the great question, it's been extraordinary; the government is unable to legislate. We've seen this in the defeats of the withdrawal agreement and the government's unwillingness to bring this vote to Parliament.
So the very Parliament Theresa May criticized last week is now getting back to work and has taken control and is going to explore a whole range of legislative and nonbinding amendments. And one could highly expect them to be looking at the question of the --
THOMAS: -- people's vote and possibly exploring the path to a general election but also looking at other models for the European Union.
The options that one would hope would make their way through would be a recommendation back to the prime minister to consider a second referendum or a people's vote or to look at some kind of deal at the center of the Houses of Parliament.
And this is the big dilemma, that Theresa May has put the concerns of her party well ahead of those of the good British people and the deal lies in the center. This is not something the far-right Brexiteers are going to be supporting.
So you can see the Parliament here exploring the range of options that have to do with something like the Norway agreement or a greater engagement with a customs union single market. Other words, something that maintains greater proxty to the European Union tahn the Brexiteers would like.
CHURCH: Could this move scare some Brexiteers and other to perhaps support Theresa May's Brexit deal?
THOMAS: That would be the win situation for Theresa May, I think at this juncture we've got all the way until April 12th, where Theresa May must present her deal to the Houses of Parliament or go back to the European Union and say that she has failed to do that, in which case she's in a difficult situation.
We still have a lot of time to go. Unfortunately, April 12th has become the new March 29th deadline. So in two weeks, we will know an awful lot can happen. At this particular juncture, the numbers are not there. The ERG, the far right wing of the Conservative Party, are not interested in her deal.
It maintains too great proximity to the European Union. And for the DUP to support her, the backstop is not resolved. Until we get further down the road, until possibly Parliament brings an option which might be between Theresa May's deal or a no Brexit, I think the ERG are going to continue to fight for their vision of Brexit.
And even though the Parliament today supported this indicative votes to take place on Wednesday -- and the margin was relatively small, 327 to 300 -- that's still 300 people that didn't support this and continues to provide this indication of how divided the Parliament is.
CHURCH: In the meantime, of course, three ministers resigned, one of them claiming the government was playing roulette with people's lives.
What do those resignations signal over the other 27 Conservatives, who voted against May?
THOMAS: Yes, it's so extraordinary here, Rosemary, it's the number of ways in which Theresa May's power has been reduced over the years, all the way back to losing the majority at that snap election, these historic defeats, government ministers that have been defying her for the past few weeks on votes. Her power is really at its absolute weakest.
And it is highly likely, as we move on through this process, the Parliament turns around and a vote of no confidence is tabled again. It seems almost impossible for her to hold on.
The question, of course, is who would replace her and the risky proposition for both sides of the political spectrum of a general election. But all of these options remain on the table now as we make our way through to the next deadline of April 12th.
CHURCH: It is anyone's guess what comes next, Dominic Thomas, thank you so much for joining us, appreciate it.
THOMAS: Thank you, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Now we turn to escalating tensions in the Middle East. Israel's military says it launched airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza after a rocket fired from the strip hit a home in Central Israel, wounding seven people on Monday. This comes despite a reported cease- fire between both sides, which the Palestinians said was brokered by Egypt.
A CNN team along the border said Israel intercepted several rockets some 45 minutes after the cease-fire was supposed to take place. Oren Liebermann joins us now from the Israel-Gaza border.
Good to see you, Oren. This cgr was supposed to be in effect when the airstrikes were launched.
What happened here? And what comes next?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, that cease-fire (INAUDIBLE) less than 12 hours ago at 10 o'clock local time. For 20- 30 minutes, it looked like it was holding. There were no airstrikes in Gaza; there were no rocket alerts coming as a result of rocket or mortar fire from Gaza.
But then about 45 minutes later, as we were standing very close to the Israel-Gaza border, we saw two Iron Dome air defense system interceptions basically above our heads, indicating rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. We had been warned from a well placed source, that the cease-fire, its restoration seemed tenuous --
LIEBERMANN: -- at best. He warned us it didn't look like it was truly going to hold and that turned out to be the case. Back to where this all started, 24 hours ago, militants in Gaza fired a rocket deep into Israel, the farthest a rocket has ever been fired since 2014.
As you pointed out it hit a home in Central Israel, woundibng seven. Israel carried out a wide range of airstrikes including against major Hamas targets, Hamas intelligence headquarters as well as the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, which hasn't been struck since the 2012 war, which gives you an idea how seriously and how forcefully Israel was responding.
Since then there has been a back and forth. The question is, Rosemary, where does this stand now?
There are cars moving, so it looks like it's sort of moving toward some sort of restoration of the cease-fire. But it's still very early to say that at this point. They're still security measures in place, schools are closed within the region. There are military across the area here, so we will see how this day develops.
As we get from Gaza and from the Israeli government in terms of how this proceeds.
CHURCH: Indeed and Hamas reportedly claims that the initial rocket you mentioned that fired deep into Israel was fired by mistake. But that's not the first time they've said that.
So are we talking about incompetence here or was it intentional?
LIEBERMANN: That's an excellent question, you're referring to two weeks ago or less than two weeks ago, when a rocket fired from Gaza into Israel by Hamas. And the Israelis said that rocket was fired unintentionally somehow.
There hasn't been an Israeli assessment on this one yet so it certainly leaves open the possibility that this was an unintentional or perhaps triggered by lightning, which we've actually seen before in the past. Or it was intentionally fired. Regardless, the range of the rocket
and the timing at first light meant Israel said this was a rocket manufactured by Hamas, blamed Hamas for it and that's what led us to today. That's what led us to the escalation we've seen with Israel's response, this very powerful rocket that went very far into Israel.
The question is how does this proceed throughout the day. We will be along the border monitoring developments.
CHURCH: We know you shall. Many thanks to our Oren Liebermann.
And we do apologize for some audio issues that we had here.
Let's take a very short break.
To release or not to release?
That is the question U.S. lawmakers are considering when it comes to the Mueller report. We will look at both sides of the argument.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you marry someone and then halfway in the marriage you realize this is not the guy, you try to get out. But if it's an abusive marriage, you get out, even in the West. Nothing in life is easy to walk away from.
CHURCH (voice-over): From one miserable existence to another, thousands of women and children who were part of ISIS whose home countries want nothing to do with them. A report from their current home, a giant displacement camp in the desert. We're back in just a moment.
CHURCH: The special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling may be over. But the squabbling is not. Case in point: Capitol Hill. Lawmakers in the Democratic-led House want the full report released. Six House committee chairmen have sent the letter to the attorney general demanding to see it by next Tuesday.
His fourpage summary is not detailed enough for them to do their jobs. Meanwhile, a very different move in the Senate, which is run by the Republicans, the majority leader Mitch McConnell brought a second effort by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to make the full report public. Here is why. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY.), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm going to object in order to allow the special counsel and the Justice Department to finish -- to finish -- their careful, professional review of a no doubt voluminous record, a record that likely contains sensitive, classified and legally protected material.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: All it says is it ought to be released. It is hard to understand why the majority leader wouldn't be for that resolution. None of his objections, none are in the words of the report.
In fact, the words of the report are very simple. It should, a sense of the Congress, that it should be released, not when, not in violation of the law, not in a hurried matter, just be released. So I'm sort of befuddled by the least of the majority leader's reasoning in this regard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: All right, let's move to the White House now, where the Trump administration is on the warpath.
Now that the Mueller report found no collusion, Mr. Trump is setting his sights on two of his favorite targets, the Democrats and the media. Jim Acosta reports from Washington.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Savoring what may be his biggest political victory since his election, President Trump welcomed special counsel Robert Mueller's findings of no collusion with the Kremlin, but he took some swipes at his critics.
TRUMP: I wish it could have gone a lot sooner, a lot quicker. There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country.
And, hopefully, the people that have done such harm to our country -- we have gone through a period of really bad things happening. Those people will certainly be looked at.
ACOSTA: The president sounded open to the idea of releasing the full Mueller report to the public, saying that's up to Attorney General William Barr.
TRUMP: Up to the attorney general, but it wouldn't bother me at all.
ACOSTA: And the president appeared to change his tune on the special counsel when asked about Mueller's handling of the Russia probe. QUESTION: Do you think Robert Mueller acted honorably?
This witch hunt.
ACOSTA: That's a departure from the president's cries of a witch- hunt, a talking point the Trump campaign turned into a coffee mug. Now Mr. Trump is attacking the investigation, while praising its findings.
TRUMP: This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody's going to be looking at the other side. So it's complete exoneration. No collusion. No obstruction.
ACOSTA: But that's not exactly true. As the attorney general's summary of the Mueller report says: "The special counsel states that while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
The White House is going one step further, blaming the media for the Mueller probe.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Democrats and the media perpetuated that lie day in and day out and breathlessly covered every single second of negative attention that they thought would be the one moment that would bring this president down.
ACOSTA: But it was President Trump who fired FBI director James Comey, leading to the appointment of the special counsel.
TRUMP: And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.
ACOSTA: And there were other moments that raised suspicions, from the firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn over his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable instances is what led the president to ask for General Flynn's resignation.
ACOSTA: To Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian attorney offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
TRUMP: I think, from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting.
ACOSTA: Which is why Democrats want to see the full Mueller report.
REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA: And what you notice is the attorney general in the four-page letter offers only partial quotes of very little evidence of what that evidence was. All of that leads me to say, we need to see the report.
TRUMP: It was a false narrative.
ACOSTA: One thing Mr. Trump's legal team is not willing to reveal, the president's written answers to the special counsel. For now, that's hands off.
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP ATTORNEY: It's not a simple just wave your hand and we release the document. I think that would be very inappropriate.
ACOSTA: The president told reporters he hasn't thought about whether to issue any pardons in the Russia investigation when the Mueller probe was underway. Any talk of pardoning figures in the investigation was slammed as potential obstruction by Democrats.
But now that Mueller has wrapped up, it does now seem to be once again a live option, though a source close to the White House told CNN it's too early to talk about that -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
CHURCH: So, let's talk more about all of this with Lisa Lerer. She is a national political reporter at "The New York Times" and a CNN political analyst. Thank you so much for joining us.
LISA LERER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks for having me.
CHURCH: So, President Trump is rejoicing understandably in the revelation that Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no one in the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in 2016. But the Democrats don't accept those findings.
This is what Democrat House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CALIF.), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Our investigation has always focused on counter intelligence issues. That is, is the president or anyone around him compromise in some way. That work has to go on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Now, of course this comes in the midst of calls for Schiff himself to resign. How did the Democrats pursue this without looking too political and as if they're overreaching with all of this?
LERER: Well, they're going to look political because this is a political battle. Of course, the White House and Republicans are seeing this as vindication. That's something the president has been saying for months, even years, which is that this is all a witch hunt. And he is not guilty of any kind of collusion with Russia. And it does seem like the initial report from the special counsel, or
rather from the Justice Department interpreting what the special counsel said does give them that cover.
Democrats on the other hand, are saying well, they would like to see the entire report. What came out was a four-page summary of the report made by the Justice Department by attorney general that President Trump appointed to that position.
So, they are really pushing hard to see this entire report and they're also pursuing a large -- a number of other inquiries into the president.
They've requested documents from 81 entities and people associated with the administration. So, certainly, the fight from their side is going to go on, frankly, probably until the election.
CHURCH: Right. And of course, as you said the Democrats are demanding the release of the full report of the Mueller probe. President Trump has said himself that's fine, as long as it's OK with the attorney general. That might be the stumbling block. So, will we see the full report released do you think?
LERER: I think there is a pretty small chance of that. You already saw in the four-page summary that Attorney General Barr laid out that there are certain things he cannot release.
Either because, you know, you don't want to play (Ph) it against people against, you know, people named in the special counsel investigation that were found to had done nothing wrong. There are also rules around what they can release from grand jury testimony.
So, it's almost entirely unlikely that the public will ever see the full report. But Democrats are certainly pushing for that. It's a good political line for them.
And I think it is likely that we may end up seeing more of this report. The question becomes how much? And that's where this political battle is going to go over the next few weeks.
CHURCH: Right. And of course, Mueller found that while his reports did not conclude that the president committed a crime in relation to obstruction of justice. It did not exonerate him, although the president is insisting it did.
CHURCH: Why would Mueller leave this open to interpretation? Especially now that we learned that Attorney General Bill Barr was made aware of this very point three weeks ago. So, he had time to digest this and come up with how he was going to summarize the outcome.
LERER: Well, of course we don't know, because we haven't heard anything from Mueller this entire investigation process over the past two years or so, he's remained entirely silent about the proceedings which of all happened, you know, decidedly behind closed doors.
And as we said before, we haven't seen the full report. But there are some -- there is some speculation that part of the reason maybe because the Justice Department has already ruled that it's impossible to, you know, pursue criminal proceedings against a sitting president.
So, to bring up an obstruction of justice charge especially against, you know, something that he, that the special counsel --
LERER: -- has cleared the president of doing, which is potentially colluding with Russia. The sense is that maybe that wasn't going to really go anywhere is what the speculation is and certainly that's the reason -- reasoning of the attorney general.
But honestly, we don't know and that's one of these unanswered questions that could be answered if the public and if, you know, Democrats on Capitol Hill and Republicans on Capitol Hill saw more of this special counsel report.
CHURCH: Right. And of course, we will watch to see whether the public have an appetite for the investigation on all of these aspects to continue on. We'll watch very closely.
Lisa Lerer, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.
CHURCH: At least 19 people have been killed by flash flooding in Iran; sudden, intense rain, a month's worth in just a few hours inundated the city of Shiraz and surrounding areas. It turned streets into rivers and swept away dozens of cars. Authorities say it happened so quickly, there was no time for a warning. More rain is expected Tuesday.
Venezuela's government claims the latest poutage is due to what he calls "an attack on the country's electrical system."
The blackout affected most of Caracas and about a dozen states. Service was restored within hours. The minister of communications for President Nicolas Maduro said the attack came from Juan Guaido's people.
In turn, Guaido, recognized as the country's interim president by a host of Western countries, blamed the government for the blackout.
Well, calls keep growing for a second Brexit referendum and so does anger over the British government's handling of the withdrawal. More on the Brexit chaos coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She says the Islamic State will be back.
CHURCH (voice-over): Governments don't know what to do yet with thousands of men and women and children that ISIS has left behind. CNN gets rare access to some of those whose lives are in an unusual limbo. We're back in just a moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone, to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church with the headlines this hour.
British lawmakers have voted to seize control of the Brexit process from Prime Minister Theresa May. 30 Conservatives voted against the Prime Minister Monday to help past the so-called Letwin amendment. That sets up and series of nonbinding Wednesday. Lawmakers could support a second referendum. Well, British lawmakers were advised to take taxis home next week of fears they would be attacked by an angry public.
It appears everyone is fed up with the government's handling of Brexit and politicians say they understand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I know that many members across this house are frustrated too and we all have difficult jobs to do. People on all sides of the debate held passionate views and I respect those differences. I hope we can all agree, we are now at the moment of decision, and in doing so we must confront the reality of the hard choices before us. Unless this house agrees to it, no deal will not happen.
No Brexit must not happen. And a slow breaks which extends article 50 beyond the 22nd of May. Forces the British people to take part in European elections. And gives up control of any of our orders, laws, money or trade is not a Brexit that will bring the British people together.
JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Despite the clearly expressed will of this house, we will still face the prospect of the disastrous no-deal Brexit. Large parts of our country continue to be ignored by this government. No wonder, so many people felt compelled to march on the streets or sign petitions over the weekend. It's easy to understand the frustration of this chaos, it exist in this house, in Brussels and across the country. The government has no plan. For them it's all about putting Conservative Party in the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And this is what Jeremy Corbyn is talking about. A huge London rally calling for a new referendum. Organizers say a million people turned out to call for a new public vote. Referendum supporters are also making their voice heard online. This petition on the Parliament Web site has more than 5-1/2 million signatures.
Well many parts of the U.K. that voted for Brexit having second thoughts. At the very least, they are fed up with the government's handling of Brexit. CNN's Anna Stewart has more from Eastern England.
ANNA STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: Brexit hasn't been smooth sailing. The political waters are particularly choppy in Westminster. If feels a little calmer in Southend-on-Sea. Although a similar sense of exasperations lingers. The area voted to leave the E.U. in the referendum. And many people can't understand why Brexit still hasn't happened nearly three years on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We talk about it every day. I got to absolute obsession now. And a lot of people I know do as well. We're absolutely frustrated (INAUDIBLE) and really why haven't leave it on Friday (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really followed Brexit in all that, it just -- I just get fed up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much the fact is just lingering and gone on forever and ever. Nothing a lot to the general, it's gone a bit (INAUDIBLE) and just want it to be over.
STEWART: When it comes to Brexit opinion is divided here. But one thing unifies people and that is a sense of frustration and even confusion as to what should happen next. There are plenty of options on the table but which would people like their M.P.s to vote for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. No, I don't know. I don't know what -- again, I'm not into -- I don't know what that means.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think many people do
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I don't know what means.
STEWART: It's late in the day to be debating Brexit. U.K. was originally supposed to leave the E.U. at the end of this week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were never told in the beginning what this comes out.
STEWART: More Parliamentary votes and more types of Brexit or even a second referendum may shed more light on what the country wants. Anna Stewart, CNN, Southend-on-Sea.
CHURCH: Well thousands of men and women and children, all of them foreigners are left in Limbo in Syria have been rejected by ISIS and stranded while home countries are reluctant to take them back. CNN got rare access to the so-called leftovers. Jomana Karadsheh has a few of their stories.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is not a refugee camp, Roj is where some of the women of the Caliphate and their children end up. For them, this is how ISIS is preferred to promise of the Utopian state ends. They've traded one miserable existence for another.
[02:35:01] ISIS' so-called brides like American Hoda Muthana and British-born Shamima Begum are now housed in these blue tents. We've been told that we cannot speak to any of the women here, there are about 2,000 women and children. These are ISIS family members. Certainly as we're walking around, you feel that on one really wants to talk to as the women need to be hiding in their tents. But at that the sprawl of Al Hol camp they do.
She says the Islamic state will be back. Only offense separates these defiant true believers from the tens of thousands of refugees whose lives were shattered by ISIS. Some of the women claim they were naive victims who were only chasing the dream of a true Islamic state. Oblivious, the reign of terror upon which that so called state was founded.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that people should realize that people here are not terrorist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This woman declined to give us her name but she's been identified by Irish media as Muslim convert Lisa Smith, a former member of the Irish military. She says she came to Syria and ISIS bride. Now she's a widow left alone with a two-year old daughter. But you might be prosecuted and go home might end up in jail. Are you ready for that?
LISA SMITH, IRISH ISIL BRIDE: I know they'd strip me of my passport and stuff and I wouldn't travel and I'd be watched kind of -- but prisons? I don't know. I'm already in prison.
KARADSHEH: And that may be the point, these prosecutions by home countries could be complicated by lack of evidence. Officials here worried that foreign ISIS members are being left for them to deal with. Is that responsible? The spokeswoman says, especially from countries that are part of the international coalition. The most of Kurdish Democratic Forces are now holding thousands of women and their children. People are asking this question, they're saying that, you all had the opportunity.
But we shouldn't have been here. Listen, when you marry someone and in -- halfway in the night you realize this is not the guy you try to get out. But if it's abusive marriage, do you get out? Even in the worst, nothing in life is easy to walk away from.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Some of the woman have been duped by ISIS but when those women joined and saw some of the events, why did they not try to escape, she tells us. They could've but they chose to remain under the control of ISIS. But perhaps the riskiest burden is the more than 1000 foreign fighters from 50 different countries now in SDF custody.
We were granted access to one of those detainees who agreed to speak to us. A Canadian recently captured during the battle for Baghouz. The Vancouver native like so many others, claims he wasn't a fighter but a humanitarian who joined the terror group to help the refugees.
So many people in the west don't want you back. People in this part of the world don't want you because you are a reminder of the heinous crimes that took place. What do you think should happen to you? You must have thought about this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I thought about it. I thought I would just like to even if they put me in prison at home, it's better than being in here.
KARADSHEH: There are signs of permanence pushing into the camps. School, satellite dishes and concrete foundations. And the warning from officials here will no longer the sites remained with packed with those indoctrinated with ISIS' toxic ideology. The more likely they become a time bomb for generation trap here paying for the wrongs of these parents. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Northern Syria.
CHURCH: Well, did he or didn't he? The Special Counsel stays on the fence when it comes to whether Donald Trump obstructed justice. We will get some legal insight into why. And the3 high profile lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels in her battle with the U.S. President now faces serious charges of his own. The allegations against Michael Avenatti, that's ahead.
[02:41:48] CHURCH: In Washington and across the United States anxiety surrounding the Mueller report was high. Now that it's conclusions of public, there is still some worry about what's next. Jake Tapper takes a look at what we did and didn't learn from that summary of the Mueller report.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: In the Mueller melee, former FBI Director Comey may have summed it up best. So many questions. We all want to know what the conclusions mean in Attorney General Barr's memo about Mueller's report. Let's start with four facts. First, it turns out this.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no collusion. No collusion. No collusion.
TAPPER: Was the truth all along and this is an incredibly important work. And Americans should be relieved that there's no evidence that the President or his team engaged in conspiracy with the Russians.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's a great thing for our country and it's a great thing for this administration.
TAPPER: But -- and this is our second point. This would also mean that this investigation by Mueller was not in fact.
TRUMP: A total witch-hunt, I've been saying it for a long time.
TAPPER: No, it wasn't a witch-hunt, it was a professional law enforcement investigation despite the many smears of Mueller and his team. Third, despite the White House's assertions otherwise.
SANDERS: There was no obstruction. So that makes it a complete and total exoneration.
TAPPER: Mueller did not call this a complete and total exoneration. Barr in fact quotes Mueller writing, "while this report does not include that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him when it comes to obstruction of justice." Barr concluded that the evidence developed is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction of justice offense.
And he will not pursue that charge. But Democrats on the Hill may well do so as a political matter. After all, and this is our fourth point, the Mueller report proves that Trump was wrong when he said.
TRUMP: It had nothing to do with the Russia and everyone knows it's a hoax. It's one of the greatest hoax as ever perpetrated on this country.
TAPPER: Mueller reached the same conclusion as American intelligence that Russia did interfere with the U.S. election. The President's mixed messages about Kremlin's guilt notwithstanding. Now let's turn the four questions that remain such as, if there was no conspiracy, why did the President and so many members around him tell so many lies about their contact with the Russians?
Flynn, Manafort, Papadopoulos all charged with lying. And the President for his part led the effort to mislead Americans about the Trump tower meeting. Second, there are questions we need to ask Democrats, some members of the media and former intelligence officials who leveled accusations that have not aged well.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I called his behavior treasonous which is to betray ones trust and to aid and abet the enemy.
TAPPER: Third, and there's the question of the Mueller report itself. Will the public ever see it?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The American people have a right to the truth, the watch word is transparency. TAPPER: Fourth, what about all those other investigations that
Mueller farmed out? Dozens of investigation and lawsuits still looming over the Trump family including probes into hush money payments. The inaugural committee finances, questionable security clearances. So bookmark that Comey tweet. So many questions remain. Jake Tapper, CNN, New York.
[02:45:06] CHURCH: So, let's talk more about the legal aspects of this with someone who's worked to the Justice Department, former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman, joins me now from San Diego. Great to have you with us.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER UNITED STATES DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL (via skype): Thanks for having me.
CHURCH: We are now learning that about three weeks ago, the special counsel team told Attorney General Bill Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that Robert Mueller would not reach a conclusion on whether President Trump obstructed justice. Now, that gave Bill Barr a head start, of course, on his analysis. And in the end, he concluded that the Justice Department could not make a prosecutable case against the president for obstruction.
What is your legal response to all of that? The timing, the fact that Bill Barr had all of this in advance, as well.
LITMAN: You know, it's hard to make a legal response because we don't really know the legal reasoning. I could make a sort of political response. It's surprising to hear that he had it three weeks ago. So, it seems that the conclusion or his decision rather to go forward and form his own legal judgment was pre-planned. And so, he had already thought about doing it over the weekend.
But the soul of legal reasoning, of course, are the facts in the law and his letter is perfectly cryptic about why he decided, A, in the first place, to step into the breach that Mueller had left and make the determination. And then, B, the basis for that determination was it some legal principle having to do with the executive power, was it some take on the evidence that Mueller apparently did not have because Mueller was not in a position to say that Trump had not obstructed justice.
It's a mystery and it's an important one because depending on what the reasons were, the whole exercise on his part could seem benign and proper, or it could seem somewhat sinister.
LITMAN: The sinister is too strong (INAUDIBLE), but somewhat worrisome.
CHURCH: So, President Trump, of course, is celebrating the fact that Mueller found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016. But Mr. Trump went further, saying it gave him complete and total exoneration.
We know that's not true. In fact, the Attorney General's four-page summary included a direct quote, a rare direct quote from Mueller himself, saying, "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
What do you make of that? No conclusion on whether a crime is committed, but not willing to go as far as exonerating the president. As a lawyer, what does that sentence signal to you and how much trouble will, at least, cause everybody going down the path?
LITMAN: Yes, I mean not only as a lawyer but specifically as a prosecutor. It really makes me scratch my head because that is a prosecutor's job. You put together the facts and the law and you reach a judgment. And if you're unable to reach a judgment, normally that means the judgment is that you don't prosecute.
So, again, it's so crucial to understand why Mueller was had chosen to say, "I just can't -- I can't get off the fence. I have to continue to straddle it." That there's something to do with the position of the president, something to do with executive power, we don't know.
If we just knew in the abstract that he simply hadn't reached the decision, it would be -- well, disappointing it's a strong word because Robert Mueller is was and tomorrow will be a hero but surprising, it's what prosecutors do, they ultimately come to a judgment, and yet, he didn't hear.
LITMAN: On your first point, it's exactly right. It's a very tepid kind of bill of health, isn't it? To say that we're not sure we could prove beyond the reasonable doubt that he broke the law, so we'll let him go. It normally wouldn't be a cause for celebration, but that's our president.
CHURCH: Right, of course. And, of course, this is what President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani said about that same Mueller quote, let's bring that up.
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He says, "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime."
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Right.
GIULIANI: So, no conclusion that he committed a crime. How can you -- how can you even -- how you engulf forward? This is all the processes --
CUOMO: So, what's the -- what's the part after that?
GIULIANI: It does not exonerate. CUOMO: Right.
GIULIANI: They don't have to exonerate him, you got to prove he's guilty. Even from impeachment. This is a cheap shot
CUOMO: That's absolutely true. I don't know why the A.G. that go then, I don't know why Mueller said it.
GIULIANI: This is a cheap shot.
CUOMO: He either makes a decision to prosecute or not.
GIULIANI: For a prosecutor, this is unprofessional.
[02:50:00] CHURCH: So, Giuliani thinks the second part of that Mueller quote on exoneration is a cheap shot, unprofessional, despite his own boss insisting the report gave him complete and total exoneration. What do you say to that?
LITMAN: Yes, strong words. First, there's an irony here because that kind of statement is exactly what the FBI director Jim Comey did in October of 2016, vis-a-vis Hillary Clinton and arguably contributed to Trump's election victory.
But basically, you know, even a broken clock is right twice a day, Giuliani -- it's right there's something very anomalous about saying, "Well, I can't prove a crime, but I can't not prove a crime." Normally, the absence of proof means you don't go forward.
But I just think, not understanding the context of what Mueller was had decided, it's basically impossible to judge. I think they're almost certainly are some kind of special circumstances set out in the report that explain his decision not to go forward. And it wasn't simply a well, I just can't decide as and as I might happen in other cases.
Giuliani is basically right, if you can't decide, you don't indict. Then, that's -- that is the end of the matter. But one suspects, it's not the end of the matter here that Mueller had some real reason other than the normal course of events for saying, "I can't make a judgment."
CHURCH: Harry Litman, we thank you for your legal analysis.
LITMAN: Thank you for having me.
CHURCH: Let's take a short break. Here, still to come, outspoken lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who has been a thorn in Donald Trump's side is now defending himself against some serious charges including trying to extort millions from a major company. We'll have the details when we come back.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, Michael Avenatti, first came to media attention representing a porn star in her legal battle with President Trump. But now, he's facing his own court fight on extortion, bank, and wire fraud charges. Nick Watt, has the details of two separate criminal cases.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: While his frequent nemesis, President Donald Trump gleefully celebrated his claimed vindication by Robert Mueller, in a near Shakespearean twist, Michael Avenatti was arrested in New York.
GEOFFREY BERMAN, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: The charges are based on Avenatti scheme to extract more than $20 million in payments from a public company.
WATT: Charges were actually filed in two totally unrelated cases in New York and California.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, FORMER LAWYER OF STORMY DANIELS: I am highly confident that when all of the evidence is laid bare in connection with these cases when it is all known when due process occurs that I will be fully exonerated and justice will be done.
WATT: California prosecutors say, their investigation began well before Avenatti lassoed the limelight.
NICK HANNA, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY FOR THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA: Agents has nothing to do with anything political, worth anything else. It's just the facts, in this case, speak for themselves.
STORMY DANIELS, PORNOGRAPHIC ACTRESS: Hi, everyone.
WATT: This Newport Beach-based lawyer first found fame repping Stormy Daniels in her legal tussles with President Trump. Avenatti cast himself as a resistance warrior, he even briefly flirted with a 2020 presidential run.
HANNA: But the allegations, in this case, describes something different. A corrupt lawyer who instead fights for his own selfish interests.
[02:55:08] WATT: According to charges filed this morning in New York, in meetings, and on the phone just last week, Avenatti tried to extort more than $20 million from Nike. I'm not effing around with this. Avenatti allegedly told Nike lawyers also suggesting that he held their balls in his hand.
This morning, shortly before his arrest, Avenatti had tweeted this. "Tomorrow at 11:00 a.m., we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by Nike.
BERMAN: A suit and tie doesn't mask the fact that at its core, this was an old-fashioned shakedown.
WATT: Nike issued a statement that reads in part, "Nike will not be extorted or hide information that is relevant. Nike firmly believes an ethical and fair play, both in business and sports and will continue to assist the prosecutors."
An unnamed co-conspirator is mentioned but not charged. Identified by a source is Attorney Mark Geragos who was a CNN contributor, but no longer is as of today. He didn't immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.
Here in California, Avenatti was also charged today, a charged with wire fraud and bank fraud for allegedly falsifying tax returns to secure $4.1 million in loans. And for allegedly delaying payment of $1.6 million he won for a client, using the cash for his own personal and business use. Stormy Daniels tweeting, "I am saddened but not shocked."
WATT: Apparently, an entirely total coincidence that Avenatti was arrested just after the Mueller probe into President Donald Trump released its findings. Prosecutors in Los Angeles today saying, "Listen, we began this probe way back in 2015. That is when this investigation began, there is nothing political to see here."
Now, Avenatti was released on $300,000 bail, and he's due back in the California court on April the first. Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.
CHURCH: Thanks for that, Nick. And thanks for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter, and I'll be back with another hour of news in just a moment. You're watching CNN, do stay with us.