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CNN NEWSROOM

U.K. Parliament to Vote on Part of May's Brexit Deal; Trump Budget Would Have Cut Special Olympics Funding; Revisiting Tragedy and Courage of Grenfell Tower Fire; Russia Says Military Specialists Will Stay in Venezuela; Chicago Bills Jussie Smollett $130,00 for Investigation; Man United Appoint Solskjaer on 3-Year Deal; Football Clubs Represented in Esports Event. Aired 12a-1a ET

Aired March 29, 2019 - 00:00   ET

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


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Independence delayed. For Brexiteers, today was meant to be the beginning of a glorious era, putting the great back into Great Britain. Instead, Parliament will spend the day arguing over a withdrawal agreement which is universally disliked.

The collusion delusion is no more, so says Donald Trump. Back in form and back on the stump, hitting out at Democrats and calling B.S. on all their investigations.

And from Russia without a lot of love, telling the Trump administration, they are there to stay in Venezuela whether they like it or not.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause. Great to have you with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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VAUSE: It's the Brexit day that just wasn't. Instead of leaving the E.U. this Friday, prime minister Theresa May is once again trying to push her deal through Parliament. Lawmakers will vote on just the withdrawal section that includes the controversial Irish backstop. If the deal passes, the Brexit will be delayed until May 22nd. If it fails a third time, the U.K. risks crashing out of the E.U. by April 12th.

May had more support for her deal this time around because she agreed to step down but only if her withdrawal agreement is approved.

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VAUSE: CNN's European Affairs commentator Dominic Thomas joins us now with more on this.

So Dominic, we hear from the key minority party, the DUP, they're standing firm. They're tweeting we will be voting against through withdrawal agreement because our concerns remain. We will continue to do what we can -- get the best deal for Northern Ireland. There's no support either from the main opposition party Labour, opposed to Mays offer to hold this watered-down vote if you like just on the withdrawal agreement separate from the political declaration it comes with.

And Peter Wishart from the Scottish Nationalist Party put it this way.

PETE WISHART, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, UNITED KINGDOM: There seems Mr. Speaker that even offered myself as a sacrifice to the Brexiteers yet this week was not good enough for them. And will send the Scottish Parliament to be so elegantly from the First Minister. This is a Prime Minister that threw herself on the sword and missed.

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VAUSE: Or perhaps trees away threw herself into a volcano as the sacrifice to the Brexit gods but the volcanoes spatter out.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Unbelievable John.

I mean, the very fact that a Prime Minister is finally going to get to put her deal to Parliament and if she actually succeeds in getting the votes, she will have to step down right. I mean, we just have to sort of you know, absorb this and really kind of understand just how ridiculous this whole process gas gotten us thus far.

So absolutely -- so, of course, we will find out tomorrow. But in terms of the strategy which was to eventually find a way to try and enlist more people, she has no majority so the DUP won't go along with it and those people she was hoping to reach out to in the Labour Party have actually been terrified, scared away by the prospect of her stepping down should the deal go through and therefore paving away for an internal conservative party nomination of a future candidate which can very will be a Brexiteer.

And so they will be voting against a deal and I think even some of the ones that were thinking of going to vote for her will hold back on their -- on their particular vote. So it looks as if the strategy has dramatically backfired.

VAUSE: We say that a lot. There is a reporter in the Economists who comes with this headline. Theresa May has united Britain. Everyone hates her Brexit deal. You know, which sort of explains why the vote on Friday is as much as the third vote on her plan but more like a vote 2.5 you know, so there's half of it because basically what we're seeing now is trying to win more time when there is not a lot of time to be had.

THOMAS: Yes. I mean, time yet again you know, running out just as it was in the whole process leading up to March 29th. So yes, she finds herself now literally you know under the gun because in the extension negotiated with the European Union she must bring this withdrawal agreement by this Friday to the Houses of Parliament for what we're going to call a meaningful vote. But ultimately one part of it is missing and the political declaration. This is legally at the very best sketchy although the political declaration is, of course, mentioned in the -- in the withdrawal agreement. So yes, it is inconclusive and the big question will remain as to what we are going to do with that section part which is the complicated part that needs to be ratified by Parliament.

And so we shall see.

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THOMAS: It will be yet again a whole set of unexpected outcomes undoubtedly by the end of tomorrow.

VAUSE: Yes. They are just winging it at the stage it seems. So we have the vote on Friday, then by Monday possibly another round of indicative votes which brought this tweet. The E.U. Commission takes role of the indicative votes in the House of Commons last night. This is part of an ongoing political protest in the U.K. which we fully respect. We counted eight nos last night. Now we need a yes on the way forward. Just one, yes.

Realistically the way forward you know, beyond Friday and Monday, it seems to be a binary choice right now. A no deal exit in two weeks or really, really, really long delay, possibly years delay.

THOMAS: Right. I mean, this is it. I mean, if anything, we will hope to get some kind of closure on at least this stage of it. Of course, if a deal goes through, we rundown the clock to the 22nd of May. There will be a leadership change. Theresa May will be there until they select a new candidate.

It is unlikely that it is actually going to happen. So as you just mentioned, we are looking essentially at a no deal and remain you know, convinced that Parliament will not support that and that they will find a way around that. And that leaves us really short of having a general election of going down the road for an extension. And I think everyone knows that the more that comes around the least likely it is that we actually ever end up with any kind of Brexit.

VAUSE: Dominic, we're out of time. But it kind of brings us back to the wisdom of a young Neil Sedaka all the way back to 1966. Listen to this.

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VAUSE: I guess they can all make up and it could all be over before we know it but I don't think so. Dominic, thank you for playing along.

THOMAS: Thanks for that cheerful song.

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VAUSE: Donald Trump back in his element rallying his base with claims about special counsel Mueller's report and digging into the late Senator John McCain. And he praised the Mueller investigation for finding no collusion with Russia and once again he falsely claimed the probe exonerated him of obstruction of justice.

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TRUMP: The collusion delusion is over. The special counsel completed its report and found no collusion and no obstruction.

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VAUSE: Jessica Levinson now, professor of law at Loyola Law School and she is with us from Los Angeles.

He's back. You know, he's back and there was one line from President Trump at that rally which really seemed to stand out. Here it is. Listen to this.

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TRUMP: And this group of major losers did not just ruthlessly attack me, my family and everyone who questioned their lies. They tried to divide our country to poison the national debate and to tear up the fabric of our great democracy.

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VAUSE: So who is he talking about? It sounds like that's exactly what you know, Donald Trump and his supporters are doing in the last two years.

JESSICA LEVINSON, PROFESSOR, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Yes. I was going to say the Department of irony is absolutely dead at this point. I mean it is so interesting to see the changing narrative when it comes to Mueller investigation. Because as we know for the last two years Mueller has been crooked, he's been biased, he's been on a witch hunt. And now that Mueller has not, of course, exonerated the president but instead apparently found that at least for conspiracy there's none evidence to charge him, now Mueller's outstanding, now we should all trust the Mueller report and it's very interesting to see how quickly we have changed this story.

VAUSE: Yes, very quickly indeed. The President also had some advice for Democrats. This is what he said.

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TRUMP: The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous (BLEEP) partisan investigations --

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TRUMP: -- or whether they will apologize to the American people and join us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: OK. You know, he's right in a sense that there is a choice here for the Democrats you know, continue on with the Russia stuff or you know, go in another direction. They did not sweep the House back in 2018 in the midterms by talking about Russia or collusion. They won the House by talking about health care.

LEVINSON: Well, that's right. So I think even before the Mueller report didn't come out, before the Barr report came out, frankly, Democrats were risking a sort of investigation fatigue. And now I think that Bob -- excuse me, that Attorney General Bill Barr has essentially been able to dominate the narrative and say that the president has been exonerated-not exonerated but that nothing has come of the investigation.

The fact that I think for the American public the headline is Trump wins, nothing comes out of the Mueller investigation, it really is additional evidence for the Democrats to say we need to talk to the voters about how we're going to make their daily life better.

So I think that people care about the Mueller investigation but people go home and they want to make sure they have health care, that they can educate their kids, that they want to know what their taxes are going to be. And these are all the things that the Democrats have to continue to focus on for 2020.

VAUSE: Yes. But it's you know, as you say as important you know, to stress that the President is basing these misleading claims of total exoneration on the Attorney General's four-page summary of the Mueller report which is actually more than 300 pages long according to Justice Department official and a second source with knowledge of the matter.

So knowing it's more than 300 pages long, it doesn't say anything about what's in the report but it does raise some questions as to why the Attorney General would quote a total of 42 words from the Mueller report out of more than 300 pages.

LEVINSON: Yes. At lightning speed, I have never been able to summarize 300 pages that quickly before. So I would say that there's a couple of things to me that are troublesome let's say about the Barr report and the first is the shortness.

The fact that there is not only you said few words that are quoted but there aren't any complete sentences that are quoted. The other thing that I think is let's say -- let's charitably say strange is the fact that Robert Mueller didn't come to a conclusion on obstruction of justice and then the Attorney General says so it was for me to decide.

It could just as easily be for Congress to decide. It could be a political decision that Robert Mueller intended but instead what the Attorney General did is he used all these very interesting legal arguments to narrow, narrow, narrow the definition of obstruction of justice to the point where he was able to say there's not enough evidence here. And so I think I think --

VAUSE: Go on.

LEVINSON: No, I think that when we're looking at the four-page letter and then we're asking ourselves well what is behind it, I mean there -- I believe there is a reason that we haven't seen the full report and that Mitch McConnell, the leader of the U.S. Senate has twice voted to block the release of that report. I'm not at all convinced we're ever going to see the full Mueller report.

VAUSE: Yes, I'm with you. I think it's very, very unlikely. And one of those incomplete sentences in the Barr summary is a line which the president and his supporters have seized on.

"The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." The bracketed capital T on the word "The" means that's not the beginning of the sentence. But it's the end part of a sentence. We don't know the bit before it. So at this point, Donald Trump seems to be hanging his future on a fragmented sentence.

LEVINSON: Well, yes. But that's the fragment and sentence that frankly we're all going to read and remember for a long time. And so, I think that the Attorney General Bill Barr has been very smart about. Again, he's the one who's just dominating all the coverage because he's the only one who's put out any information. Now as you said, even that sentence, to hinge your whole political hopes on that sentence, it's not that great. What it just says is there may not be enough evidence or we conclude there's not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there's conspiracy.

It doesn't mean there is no evidence, it means we just don't know either way. And I mean this is one of the great mysteries in life. It used to be whose deep throat and I feel like now, it is what comes before that.

VAUSE: The bracketed T.

LEVINSON: Before that segment, before that not capital T, exactly.

VAUSE: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) up with the President's budget. And it is his -- it is his budget. It's written there right on the front page. It says, President's Budget. For the past three days, the education secretary nested was has been defending a total cut at all funding to the Special Olympics, Betsy DeVos. You know, the money which actually funds the school education program. Here she is.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned about the supporters of the Special --

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Olympics that are upset with the decision to remove their funding?

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VAUSE: Well, Ms. DeVos defending (INAUDIBLE) not just say anything at all. On Thursday, the president through her under a school bus.

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TRUMP: I just told my people, I want to fund the Special Olympics. And I just authorized a funding of the Special Olympics. I have overwritten my people, we're funding the Special Olympics.

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VAUSE: OK. So this is where it gets interesting. The accountability group OpenTheBooks.com found in September 2018. The last month of the fiscal year. The U.S. government spent more than $4 million on lobster tail and crab, almost $8 million on iPhones and iPads and close to $10 million on gym equipment in one month.

Congress was never going to approve the President's budget. For budgets at declarations of values. And for this administration, lobster and crab and iPhones and all the rest of it are more valued than the Special Olympics. Why would they do that?

LEVINSON: Well, I mean, look, this is terrible optics. I would say, this administration is not alone in spending money on food and electronics. But what this administration I think does stand alone in is it's really rather draconian cuts to those people who are often most in need.

And we've seen a number of times the president kind of go full force on proposals where I think the people he's really speaking to and this comes after our first question, it's the people who come to his rallies, it's his base. It's not the swing voters. And I think for that group, he's saying, you know, we're going to have

a budget that focuses on national defense, that focuses on immigration control. And what I think he's lost is that the Special Olympics is popular in a bipartisan fashion. And this is really not the hill you want to die on, its cutting funding for -- you know, a very worthy cause.

And I mean, think of all of the things that we've done, all the decisions we've made that have really hurt those most in need, this is something that American public really understands easily. Funding for the Special Olympics.

VAUSE: Yes.

LEVINSON: People understand five trips to Mar-a-Lago would have paid for it. And I think that's why he had to backtrack.

VAUSE: Yes. Jessica, thank you. Good to see you.

LEVINSON: Thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: In Donald Trump's view, Puerto Rico, it's ramping up again over how much money the U.S. is actually spending to help the island recover from Hurricane Maria.

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TRUMP: Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any human being and the people of Puerto Rico understand it but you do have a mayor of San Juan that doesn't know what she is doing and they have to spend the money wisely.

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VAUSE: The president says he does not want U.S. taxpayers -- like the ones in Puerto Rico -- to pick up the tab for years of financial mismanagement by the government there. In an exclusive interview with CNN, the governor of Puerto Rico had a clear message for Donald Trump.

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JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Does it feel that way sometimes, that you're dealing with a bully?

RICARDO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO: If the bully gets close, I'll punch the bully in the mouth.

ACOSTA: Just like that?

ROSSELLO: Just like that. I don't -- don't -- it would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.

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VAUSE: This has been a delicate dance with the governor as he continues to push for more funding for recovery efforts on the island.

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ACOSTA: Do you think the president of the United States treats the people of Puerto Rico as citizens?

ROSSELLO: Treats us as second class citizens. That's for sure. My consideration is I just want to have the opportunity to explain to him why the data and information that he is getting is wrong.

I don't think getting into a kicking and screaming match with the president does any good. I don't think anybody can beat the president on a kicking and screaming match. I think that what I am aiming to do is making sure that reason prevails, that empathy prevails, that equality prevails and that we can have a discussion.

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VAUSE: And this CNN exclusive: when President Trump toured the hurricane zone back in 2017, sources say he was totally consumed by his feud at the time with his now good friend Kim Jong-un. At least three people say he pointed to the briefcase, known as the nuclear football, threatening to use it.

Now to another CNN exclusive, the Pentagon scouting sites to build new sections of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Defense Department engineers and other experts will make the assessments over the next few weeks. The construction could start by late May. President Trump's national emergency declaration, the Pentagon has freed up billions of dollars to pay for new sections of the border barriers.

A short break; when we come back, a nation shocked, a community --

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VAUSE: -- scarred, the Grenfell tragedy left a lasting mark on London. Up next, what it was like for a firefighter who saved people from the burning tower.

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VAUSE: Cancer-causing chemicals and other harmful toxins have been found close to the Grenfell Tower, the site of the devastating apartment fire in London. Residents are being advised to seek a medical checkup; 72 people died in the blaze on June 19th, 2017. Hundreds of others were rescued. CNN's Hala Gorani went back to Grenfell with a firefighter who risked his life to save others.

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HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): The fire at Grenfell Tower was the biggest loss of life in London since World War II.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.

GORANI (voice-over): Nightmarish scenes of a high-rise building ablaze. Still haunting almost two years on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are babies in that block.

GORANI (voice-over): Yet among all the stories of tragedy, there are those of immense individual bravery.

ALDO DIANA, RETIRED FIREFIGHTER: And it wasn't until about three streets away that you actually saw the smoke and the glow of the tower.

GORANI (voice-over): Firefighter Aldo Diana, no retired, says he helped nine people escape the tower that night. As they approach the burning block, his colleagues are audibly stunned at the size of the blaze.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a towering inferno.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is that possible? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's jumped up all the way along the flats, look.

GORANI (on-camera): So you were at the base of the tower, at that point with all the equipment you needed to go into this inferno of a fire.

DIANA: Yes, with what we needed.

GORANI (voice-over): At that point, just as you're about to go in, what goes through your mind?

DIANA: What goes through my head was just, you know, let's just do this. Let's just get inside.

GORANI (voice-over): Eager to get inside, it wasn't long before Aldo and his partner came across their first casualty.

DIANA: Once you go further up, it was just thick black -- thick black smoke. The first guy we came to was on the sixth floor. Sixth, seventh floor. He was just collapsed. And it was between me and Dane (ph). We just thought the best thing to do is to get this fellow out of the way. So we lifted him up.

GORANI (on-camera): There's no visibility at this point, right?

DIANA: No. As I say, you just can't see your hand in front of your face. It's --

GORANI (voice-over): So, how are you navigating in pitch darkness like that?

DIANA: We were shown plans of flats. Thus you knew -- you knew there were six flats on each floor.

GORANI (voice-over): For Aldo, one exchange from that night stands out in particular. A girl whose family who had been separated in the confusion.

DIANA: There was just a young girl saying that, you know, her -- my mom and my dad are still inside. And it was just at that time that you sort of reassure them, grab them and make sure they are getting out.

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GORANI (voice-over): As the toxic smoke filled the inside of the tower, on the outside flames spread rapidly across the cladding. Since Grenfell, the London Fire Service has faced criticism for telling people to stay in their apartments. But Aldo says that procedure is usually the safest.

DIANA: But that stay put for me in the 26 years I've served has always worked. Sadly, in a building that's covered in flammable material is not going to work.

GORANI (voice-over): By the time dawn broke, Aldo and his colleagues were still searching the tower.

GORANI (on-camera): And what was that like when you went into apartments then?

DIANA: Just complete devastation. It was quite eerie because when you looked onto the floor, you could see all the rubble and the smoldering fires and the devastation inside. But the strange thing was is when you looked out through the burned-out windows, you saw beautiful green trees, the motorways, cars gone on the motorway, just birds singing. So it was a quite surreal sort of experience.

GORANI (voice-over): Some of the most memorable images of Grenfell were of the firefighters sprawled out, exhausted from their rescue efforts.

DIANA: So here on this grass area was guys coming out taking off their tunics and some of their fire gear collecting new cylinders for their breathing sets. Grabbing some water.

GORANI (voice-over): What were you saying to each other that morning, the firefighters?

DIANA: We were just -- we were just hoping that we get the chance to get back in again and make sure that we did our job as best as we can. We just wanted to note that if we were called upon, to be ready to go back in again.

GORANI (voice-over): It's that instinct to run into rather than away from a burning building that makes all those stories so remarkable. While the memories of those who couldn't be saved, all 72 of them will never fade.

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VAUSE: Just steps from the mosque where dozens of people were shot and killed two weeks ago, New Zealanders paused to take stock of the tragedy and to remember the victims.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the mass killing may have shaken New Zealand to its soul but the country would never surrender to hate.

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JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: Racism exists but it is not welcome here. An assault on the freedom of any one of us who practices their faith or religion is not welcome here. Violence and extremism in all its forms is not welcome here.

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VAUSE: The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison attended the service.

Still ahead here, a day after the U.S. president demanded Russian forces leave Venezuela, come the Kremlin reply, not a chance.

Could this be the moment that Trump stands up to Putin?

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JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause with an update of our top news stories this hour.

[00:30:29 In just a few hours, British lawmakers are set to vote on the withdrawal section of Theresa May's Brexit deal that comes after Parliament rejected eight alternatives earlier this week. The E.U. says the deal needs to be passed by Friday to get a Brexit extended deadline until May 22.

Donald Trump rallies supporters for the first time since Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report -- well, the summary of that report -- cleared him of colluding with Russia during the 2016 campaign. He told supporters (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Democrats should apologize for defrauding the American people with a ridiculous investigation.

High-profile journalist and vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte has been arrested again. Maria Ressa, a "TIME" magazine person of the year in 2018, told CNN she was taken into custody at Manila's airport. The CEO of Upstart Media Company was later charged with violating legislation related to securities fraud.

Venezuela's government has banned national assembly leader and self- declared interim president, Juan Guaido, from political office for 15 years. This is the latest attempt by the Maduro government to silence one of its most vocal and influential critics. Guaido is recognized by at least 50 countries as Venezuela's legitimate head of state. The sitting president, Nicolas Maduro, may be feeling a little more emboldened, now that Russian military has his back. Moscow making no attempt to hide the presence of Russian specialists, now on the ground in Venezuela. And the Kremlin brushing off demands by the U.S. president for those specialists to leave.

For a U.S. president who's rarely criticized Vladimir Putin and has supported Russia on matters both big and small, the gruff, brief, almost angry words from Donald Trump on Wednesday, demanding Russian forces leave Venezuela were jarring.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia has to get out. What's your next question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you going to get them out, Mr. President?

TRUMP: We'll see. We'll see, we'll see. All options are open. All -- just so you understand, all options are open.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: A day later came the Kremlin response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): As for the United States, they are present in many parts of the world; and no one tells them where to be and where not to be. That is why we would like to count on mutual respect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: In other words, forget it. Did the U.S. President draw a red line on Venezuela, and did Moscow just happily cross it? CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd joins us now from New York. During the Obama administration, Samantha served on the National Security Council.

So Samantha, good to see you.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You, too.

VAUSE: OK. Is this the moment when Donald Trump actually finally stands up to Vladimir Putin? Because the presence of Russian troops seems to be a big vote of confidence in Maduro by Putin and a big setback by Juan Guaido.

VINOGRAD: Well, I do want to add that President Trump seemingly has harsher words for Russian interference in Venezuela than he does for Russia interference in U.S. elections, which is quite striking for those of us here in the United States.

But I don't think that anyone in Moscow, in Caracas, or anywhere else around the world takes President Trump seriously at this point. He's saying that Russia needs to get out of Venezuela. He said similar things about Russia in Syria, for example, and guess what? We're now the ones that are leaving Syria, and Russia is opening the door and watching us as we depart and cheering.

So at this point, it is more likely that the United States retrenches from any commitment in Venezuela than it is that we do something to try to force Russian forces to leave Venezuela and to abandon their support for Maduro.

VAUSE: Yes, because Putin isn't holding back that support from Maduro. "The Washington Post" reports, "Over the past two years, Russia has provided wheat, arms, credit and cash to the flailing government in Caracas. Estimates of Russia's total investment vary from 20 billion to $25 billion. Russia now controls almost half of the country's U.S.-based oil subsidiary, Citgo, which has been a major source of government revenue. The Venezuelan military uses Russia equipment almost exclusively."

So, so much for the Monroe Doctrine. What other long-term consequences here, if the Russian troops are still there a year from now?

VINOGRAD: Well, I do want to add that Russia is funneling the support to Venezuela while dealing with their own economic head winds and sluggish growth. The result of energy markets and their own economic mismanagement. But the issue here is that U.S. sanctions are designed to put economic pressure on Maduro and to really change the set of choices that the security forces are making, whether to stay with him, because he pays them and gives them handouts, or to change course and go with Guaido and the opposition.

If Russia keeps backstopping the Maduro regime financially, if they keep paying, for example, for repairs to the electrical grid, if they keep paying for things that Maduro needs to keep his coterie of advisers and security forces happy, that really diminishes the effects of U.S. sanctions.

And so what I think it means is that these sanctions, if they're going to work, are going to take a lot longer than if Russia wasn't playing this game. And the fact that those forces are on the ground in Venezuela really means that the chances that anybody launches a military incursion into Venezuela are much lower.

I don't think the United States had any grounds to launch a military attack in Venezuela. We had no legal basis to do so. But now the motion that we would be confronting Russian forces, I would imagine, would change the calculus of any secretary of defense.

VAUSE: Yes. Everything's not on the table, in other words, now that the Russians are there. Earlier this week, we saw Donald Trump meeting with Guaido's wife at the White House. It was meant to be a sign of U.S. support, you know, for the opposition, for the self- declared president. Could it also be a sign that the United States doesn't have a lot of cards left to play?

VINOGRAD: I think it is. Presidents don't typically meet with the wives of opposition leaders. This was somewhat unusual in that respect.

And the other issue is if President Trump has really used his time -- and I'll be diplomatic here -- very differently from previous presidents. When I worked for President Obama, we went through a series of analytic steps to determine who the president should meet with, because his time is so valuable.

President Trump has really met with anyone, any time, from Kim Jong-un to Vladimir Putin to the entire cast of "FOX and Friends" by TV every morning; and really indicated that he values his own time and presidential meetings differently than his own predecessors. Because of that, he was trying to give a vote of support to Juan Guaido by meeting with his wife, but candidly, I think it fell a bit flat.

VAUSE: OK. At this point, Guaido needs to do something. He's still trying to regain the momentum he had just a few weeks ago. Could the second nationwide power outage play to his advantage here? Look at this. This is the moment when the lights went out. It really is striking. So isn't this failing powder grid a symbol of everything that is wrong with the Maduro regime?

VINOGRAD: It certainly is. But the Maduro regime had failed to uphold the social contract it has with the Venezuelan people for years now. These latest blackouts are just the latest indication of that.

And as we know from open source reporting, Maduro is saying that he is going to have rolling blackouts. He's going to start fixing the grid, and he's going to keep coming up with these fantastical explanations for what happened.

And we have to assume that Russia is going to give him money to try to repair the grid so that he can ration out power, and Maduro is going to keep spewing propaganda about what actually happened to the power grid without admitting that the power grid is down because of years of under investment and economic mismanagement.

So unless there's a way to change the narrative and to make the actual truth resonate with the people that matter in this case, which are the security and military forces in Venezuela, I don't know how much these rolling blackouts are going to impact his power base.

VAUSE: Yes. And it does almost seem like that moment has kind of passed for Guaido. So that's why he needs to do something to recapture that, if he can.

OK, Sam. Good to see you. Thanks so much.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

VAUSE: The Jussie Smollett saga continues. The U.S. president weighs in. The mayor of Chicago tells him to butt out, and Smollett has just been handed a bill for the cost of a false police report. Details in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Well, new developments in the legal drama surrounding "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett. The city of Chicago has sent him a bill for $130,000, the cost of police work which was done during the investigation.

All charges against him have been dropped, but city officials still say he staged a hate crime and submitted a false police report. And the U.S. president has slammed the way this case has been handled.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[00:40:02] TRUMP: I think the case in Chicago is an absolute embarrassment to our country, and I have asked that it be -- that they look at it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: CNN's Sara Sidner has been following developments and has late details from Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is demanding that the "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett pay up. The city sending a letter to his attorney, demanding more than $130,000 to help pay for the Smollett investigation.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, CHICAGO: Given that he doesn't feel any sense of contrition and remorse, my recommendation is when he writes the check, in the memo section, he can put the word "I'm accountable for the hoax."

SIDNER: All 16 felony charges have been dropped against Smollett, who arrived back in L.A. He has maintained his innocence, saying he was the victim of a homophobic and racially-motivated attack in Chicago in January.

His attorney responding to the mayor, saying, "It is the mayor and the police chief who owe Jussie, owe him an apology for dragging an innocent man's character through the mud. Jussie had paid enough."

As questions mount over the decision to dismiss the charges against Smollett, media outlets went to court today to request sealed documents in the case not be destroyed if the case is expunged. The presiding judge responding, "The county does not physically destroy case documents."

And then this twist.

NATALIE SPEARS, MEDIA ATTORNEY: Based on what defense council represented to us outside of court that Mr. Smollett will not be filing a petition for expungement.

SIDNER: Smollett's attorneys confirm they are not going to file to expunge his case, a case that has now gotten the attention of President Trump.

TRUMP: I think that case is an absolute embarrassment to our country, and somebody has to, at least, take a very good, hard look at it.

SIDNER: This morning, the president suddenly announced a federal review of Smollett's case, via Twitter, saying, "FBI and DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago. It is an embarrassment to our nation."

So far, the FBI nor Department of Justice has said whether they will look into the case. Smollett's attorney is maintaining the case was handled properly.

TINA GLANDIAN, ATTORNEY FOR JUSSIE SMOLLETT: We have nothing to be concerned about, because there was nothing on our end to request this, to do anything improper; and to my knowledge, nothing improper was done.

SIDNER: State's attorney Kim Foxx, who is also facing scrutiny for her decision to recuse herself from the case, has defended her office's decision but said the sealing of the entire case was a mistake she was trying to rectify.

KIM FOXX, COOK COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: We did not advocate, do not believe that the court file should be sealed. We believe in transparency, even on difficult situations. We'll answer the questions. We did not ask for that file to be sealed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So let's unseal it.

FOXX: I believe that's in the process now.

SIDNER: But tonight, CNN has learned Foxx's office will not be able to unseal the charges. Her office spokesman telling CNN, "In accordance with state law, all information contained in Smollett's criminal case court file, including police records, has been sealed by order of the circuit court. The Cook County state's attorney's office has no authority to unseal court records."

SIDNER (on camera): By the way, if Smollett were to ask for the case to be expunged, it would mean that the court would have to unseal the case documents. By not asking for an expungement, it means that those documents stay out of the public's view.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, first, with a selfless act by a 71-year-old grandmother which has caught the attention of Zimbabwe's richest man.

Plaxedes Dilon carried clothing and other relief supplies for kilometers to help survivors of Cyclone Idai, which hit southern Africa two weeks ago. She walked to Zimbabwe's capital, Harere, because she could not afford a ride from her neighborhood.

Strive Masiyiwa calls it a remarkable act of compassion, says he'll build her a new home because of his admiration he has for all those who help in a crisis.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. WORLD SPORT is up next. You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PATRICK SNELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hi, there. Thank you for joining us. Welcome to WORLD SPORT.

Today, Manchester United's legions of fans worldwide may just want to feast their eyes on these two images. Two images almost 20 years to the month apart, telling two very different stories.

On the right of the screen there, as a United player, Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's troubling injury-time goal breaking Bayern Munich hearts in the 1999 Champions League final in Barcelona.

And now fast forward to March the 28th, 2019, as Solskjaer is confirmed as the Red Devils' fourth full-time manager since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013. A three-year deal. Think he's rather happy about it all? Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER, MANAGER, MANCHESTER UNITED: When people get a new job, and they say it's the dream job they've had, they've always dreamt about or played for that club or managed this club, that's more true to -- to me than to anyone. This has been my, of course, ultimate dream all the time. Maybe a naive dream, but I've always had that dream in my mind to have -- to have this responsibility for this huge fantastic family of a football club.

And I'm so honored and privileged to be given this fantastic responsibility to -- to lead us forward. Because it's about putting a smile on people's faces. Whether you do it by winning games or you go and speak to them or you have meetings, it's about creating an environment that everyone wants to be part of, working in, feeling that they can be their best self. I just want to be the best Ole. That's the only promise I can -- I can give.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNELL: All right. Let's talk big picture here. Bear in mind, United are not just a massive global brand; they're also the most successful club in English football.

Under Ferguson -- Alex Ferguson, that is -- they won the Premier League 13 times. But since Fergie retired, nothing in terms of league titles, at least. Other managers have come and gone: Moyes, van Gaal, Mourinho. None of them lasting even three years. None of them coming even remotely close to winning the title.

Well, since Mourinho was fired in December, a real transformation at Old Trafford. Solskjaer coming in, the club at pains to stress only until the end of the season, though. But just look at the impact.

Fourteen wins from 19, a winner record close to 74 percent. And the so-called miracle Round of 16 victory against PSG in Paris, as well, at the Parc des Princes.

Now, the vast majority of United fans absolutely adore Solskjaer, and now Ed Woodward -- he's the Red Devils executive vice chairman -- has given them the news they wanted, in a statement revealing, in part, "Ole brings a wealth of experience, both as a player and as a coach, coupled with a desire to give young players that chance and a deep understanding of the culture of the club. This all means he is the right person to take Manchester United forward."

And that's the crux of the matter here, I feel. Solskjaer is weaved into the very fabric of Manchester United's history. The club's attack-minded heritage. This is not just a revered former player who scored well over 100 goals for the club but someone more than capable of showing that common touch, as well. Stories like bringing the club's training center staff chocolate from his native Norway. A man who also appears to have even adopted the Mancunian accent, while it seems, all the while extending his influence over former teammates, including the club's all-time leader goal scorer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE ROONEY, MANCHESTER UNITED'S ALL-TIME LEADING GOAL SCORER: I pass advice on which Ole Gunnar gives to me, I pass on to some of the younger players now. And I remember, I was a young lad. I was on the bench, and I sat next to Ole Gunnar. And he said to me, 'Just keep watching the strikers and the defenders. Watch them, watch their movements, and keep visualizing what runs you can make when you come on and to sign up, get behind them and score." And every time I'm on the bench I always do that. And it's a bit of advice he gave me years ago, which I pass on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNELL: It's great insight, isn't it? Rooney on Solskjaer.

Did you know Ole Gunnar also has a song the fans belt out at each and every game in his honor? "Ole's at the Wheel," to the tune of the Stone Roses' "Waterfall." Supporters at Old Trafford on Thursday already more than excited, seemingly, about their club's new era.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So during Mourinho days, it's been a bit of a toxic period. Then, when Ole was brought in, you brought back the feel-good factor; and you could see with the fans, everyone's been genuinely happy. You can even see with the players playing more positively and playing more attacking football, as well. So he has brought a good breath of fresh air to the club, and we're all delighted as United fans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I really feel excited, because I mean, it just brought us back to the great moments, you know, whereby we are used to winning, you know. And then the players, definitely, they are also willing to work with him, and he knows inside and outside of the clubhouse well. So definitely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well-deserved. And if it does go wrong, it goes wrong. We're all praying it doesn't. He's giving it a go. The board's picked the right man this time, with so (ph) United in the heart and in the DNA. It's in his DNA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNELL: United's next game, by the way, at home to Watford in the Premier League.

All right. Now to the issue of just where will Solskjaer actually be living. Well, the Norwegian already has a home near Manchester. That was bought during his playing days at the club. But here's where it gets all a little interesting.

It's currently rented out to a player from United's great rivals, Liverpool. Not just only player, either. Only the Reds' stand-out performer this season, the defender Virgil van Dijk. Earlier this season, Solskjaer, with Liverpool appearing to then be edging ever closer to the Premier League title, jokingly -- we think -- hinting he may actually have to evict van Dijk as a result.

But during his press conference on Thursday, the new United manager giving van Dijk some very welcome news, saying he hasn't yet asked him to move out, as they have a contract in place, after all.

Watch this space. Here's a question for you, then. What happens when the beautiful game actually comes face to face with the future? This, the new face of football, as we invite you to meet the players who are letting their fingers do the talking.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SNELL: Hello. Welcome back.

As we turn the spotlight now onto England's Premier League, though, perhaps not as you know it. The league is combining with Esports and all that entails. So we can tell you, it's not their feet that do the talking. In this case, it's their fingers.

They're the players in the inaugural ePremier League grand final, now on Thursday. All 20 Premier League clubs were actually represented by a gamer in a competitive FIFA tournament.

Ahead of the event, we've actually been catching up with the Arsenal player, Tass, who's a lifelong gunner and already an international e- sports star.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[00:55:06] TASSAL "TASS" RUSHAN, FAZE CLAN & ARSENAL FIFA PLAYER: My mom sometimes tells me the story. One of my birthdays, very young, we went and played football; and we made two teams. And then we came back to my place, and we played like a FIFA tournament. We obviously only had controllers on the normal Xbox.

I was winning like every game. I don't know how many I played, how many of my friends. Maybe there was, like, 12 that came over. And I remember, my mum came in and I was still sitting playing, and she assumed that I wasn't sharing. So she, like, shouted at me and said. "You need to learn how to share." Because she didn't know there was, like, a tournament going on.

I was like, "Winner stays on." So that's my earliest memory of playing with school friends.

The first on live feed I played was in 2008. There were, like, these online lobbies, where you could only get into the lobby if you were of a certain skill rated.

There was a certain lobby where, literally, there's like a handful of people that were in it. And I remember playing the people in that lobby, and I was winning the majority of games. And at that point, I realized, like, if there is a pathway -- I still didn't know there was a pathway -- if there is a pathway, like, I'm pretty OK at FIFA.

Competing at the top level in FIFA, I'm one of the last O.G.s of my era, I would say. So my first event was 2012. As of right now in FIFA '19, I can only thing of on, like, one hand, literally five people or less, even, that are still competing at the supreme type level since from around back then. It makes me feel a bit old, thinking about it, but I'm quite proud

that I've been able to, year after year after year, always be at the top level. Some years, better than others, like, in terms of my personal best years. But always being at the very top and always reaching the majority of tournaments and majors. Longevity, just like in real football, longevity is something I pride quite a lot.

This tournament, I'll tell you, is very unique tournament. So in terms of even in-game, the players were allowed and not allowed to use makes a very unique situation that we're not used to. So that already adds an element that we're going to have to see what happens.

We're all representing a football club. And as someone sitting here now, to think I'm representing the club, personally, that I've loved since a kid, I assume the only way to represent them was to be amazing at football. So to be able to represent them in a different light, it's still football, technically, but it's just a pressure that -- because you don't want to let them down, or you don't want to make them look bad or whatever. That's like the pressure, really. Other than that, it's a FIFA tournament, and we'll see what happens.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNELL: We certainly will. And we're following it every step of the way.

Thank you so much for joining us. For the entire team here in Atlanta, we thank you for watching us. Do stay with CNN. Bye.

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