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U.K. Parliament Rejects May's E.U. Withdrawal Deal Again; Barr: Congress Will Have Mueller Report within Weeks; Trump Hits Back at Democrats after Mueller Report; U.S. Approves Saudis to Buy Nuclear Tech; Ukrainian Presidential Vote Set for Sunday. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired March 30, 2019 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00]

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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The third time held no charm for prime minister Theresa May, resulting in another failed vote on her Brexit deal.

So what happens next?

We check the remaining possibilities.

Plus, President Trump threatens to shut down the border with Mexico again. But this time, he added a deadline.

And the Trump administration okays the sharing of unclassified nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia.

These stories are all ahead here. Thank you for joining us. Coming to you live from Atlanta, I'm Natalie Allen, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

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ALLEN: It was the day that Britain should have been welcoming a new future but instead of the leaving the E.U., the Brexit plans lie in tatters after lawmakers rejected Theresa May's withdrawal agreement for a third time Friday.

The U.K. finally has just two weeks to find an alternative solution or risks crashing out of the E.U. on April 12th. Bianca Nobilo has the latest for us from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the day Britain they were supposed to leave the European Union Theresa May failed to pass her deal to secured Britain's Brexit from the E.U. This time her deal fell short by 58 votes on the historic margin of 230 in the first a trapped at 149 on the second attempt.

There's still nowhere near what they need to get her deal across the line. The government was unable to buy much support from Labour or Democratic Unionist Party to prop up Theresa May's government. The prime minister expressed her regret of the outcome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Once again, we have been unable to support leaving the European Union. The implications of the house's decision are grave. The legal default now is the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on the 12th of April, in just 14 days' time.

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NOBILO: The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, said it is time for the prime minister to go.

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JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, U.K. LABOUR PARTY: The house has been clear. This deal now has to change. There has to be an alternative found. And if the prime minister can't accept that, then she must go not at an indeterminate date in the future, but now, so that we can decide the future of this country through a general election.

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NOBILO: Some members of the prime minister's own party also share that sentiment. And want her to resign immediately. Speculation on who the future leader of the Conservative Party will be is already rife in Parliament and in the country's newspapers and whoever that person is will have huge impact on the future of Brexit.

And on the day that Britain was supposed to leave the E.U., there were protests from Leave campaign in the heart of Westminster. They were rowdy and boisterous and frustrated at politicians' lack of progress.

Amid all this uncertainty, a few things we know for sure. The government, the prime minister's position and Brexit all hang in the balance -- Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: European leaders are concerned and frustrated with the result of Friday's vote, European Council president Donald Tusk has called for an emergency summit on April 10th. And a spokesman for the European Commission said this.

"The E.U. will remain united. The benefits of the withdrawal agreement, including a transition period, will, in no circumstances, be replicated in a no deal scenario. Sectoral mini-deals are not an option."

A spokeswoman for the French president said, "The idea of a long extension involving U.K. participation in the European elections can only be considered if the alternative plan is credible, supported by a majority in the British Parliament and extension is not automatic."

Earlier I spoke with CNN European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas and asked him where this unprecedented political uncertainty goes from here.

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DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: The idea was defeated for the third time and the big prize she gets is to stay on as prime minister. Because she had announced if that the deal had passed, she would've been on the road to stepping down once the legislation had been passed.

So this is, in and of itself, an extraordinary development Where we stand is Theresa May emboldened by the result today, because she's gone from 230 defeat, to 149 to 58. And she's looking across trying to see where the votes are. And 34 are in the Conservative Party; all of the DUP voted against her so --

[03:05:00]

THOMAS: -- she has to think about where she goes with that. But it's a third time it's been presented; we don't even know where the Speaker of the House under any shape or form would allow it to go back again.

But the interesting crossroads we find ourselves at now is, on one hand, Theresa May pushing for her deal. Which only five members of the Labour Party supported today. So it has become an increasingly, purely departmental, party factional side.

And on Monday, this will be a lost on nobody happens, to be April Fool's Day. Those indicative votes will be discussed again. The interesting thing there, the two that receive the most attention, the most support, the second referendum and the customs union, were only supported by, in the case of the customs union, a handful of Conservatives.

So we end up in a situation where it's not impossible that Monday there is some kind of consensus around an indicative vote that is then returned to the prime minister for consideration but the likelihood is the indicative vote will not be something that the Conservative Party supports.

So we will end up with, on the table, either her withdrawal agreement juxtaposed against most likely some kind of a customs union, which either side of the political aisle do not want in any kind of shape or form. So we end up yet again at a crossroads with no real way out of the situation.

ALLEN: Right. So the U.K. is still looking at a lengthy delay or crashes out of Europe without a deal in two weeks, right?

THOMAS: You're absolutely right, all roads end in Brussels. Either they go to Brussels to ask for a very long extension, which essentially means Brexit being pushed into the who knows when and whatever happened, or to ask -- simply be faced with a question of a no deal or to revoke Article 50.

Let's not forget at the last time the E.U. Counsel met, they did agree to provide an extension to the U.K. But this was a difficult decision that the 27 came together. This time around, I'm not sure one is going to be able to count on unanimous support unless there is some greater clarity.

And the alternative, of course, is that Theresa May arrives with some sort of consensus around those two previous options we mentioned, the withdrawal agreement or something that comes out of the indicative votes. And that seems extremely unlikely.

ALLEN: If Theresa May were to step down, what happens next?

Who steps in, into the fray here, how does that work?

THOMAS: That's a really interesting question because as we know she's already survived two votes of no confidence. The Conservative Party are actually in a very difficult position when it comes to push her out. Because they've already used their joker card and they can only do it once a year.

But Jeremy Corbyn could, of course, put down another vote of confidence that might be able to build support. It's clear that the primary goal of the Labour Party is to achieve a general election.

But if Theresa May herself does not step down, it becomes difficult and what we did see, is in the announcement of her potentially stepping down in order to pass her withdrawal agreement., the Labour Party and the opposition folks got awfully concerned about the fact that an internal change of power would be problematic.

Most of the viable candidates, such as Boris Johnson and others, are Brexiteers. There are very few in there that the people would like to have brought to the seat of power, without going through a general election.

So all the candidates that are being looked at are members of Theresa May's cabinet and the majority of them are either Leave campaigners or hard-core Brexiteers. It would be difficult to imagine a moderate or a Remainer ending up in that seat.

And that's of great concern to folks in terms of moving forward as to how that legislation gets shaped and determined.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Our thanks to Dominic Thomas there for helping us understand and follow the developments.

We turn now to the United States. The attorney general says the full Mueller report will be released by mid-April. William Barr shared that information in a letter to Congress Friday but Democrats want the nearly 400-page report sooner. And they want it without redactions, for more about it, here is Laura Jarrett.

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LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, April is shaping up to be a busy month over here at the Justice Department, as attorney general Bill Barr informed lawmakers on Friday that he does plan to release Mueller's report on the Russia investigation mid-April, if not sooner.

The big question, just how much will actually be released?

Barr said both he and the special counsel are working together, scrubbing the report for grand jury information, as well as information --

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JARRETT: -- related to ongoing investigations.

But one issue Barr tried to take off the table was executive privilege, telling lawmakers that there are no plans to share the report with the White House ahead of time.

Meanwhile, Democrats on Capitol Hill are pressing full steam ahead, trying to see that full report, calling on Barr to work with them, to go to get a court order in order to see grand jury information; whereas the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, senator Lindsey Graham, saying he will accept Barr's offer to testify on May 1st -- Laura Jarrett, CNN, Washington.

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ALLEN: President Trump is threatening to shut down the entire southern U.S. border next week if Mexico doesn't stop sending undocumented immigrants to the U.S. If that happens, both countries will suffer a severe economic hit. However, Mr. Trump says his border protection agencies are just struggling to keep up.

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TRUMP: They set up these caravans. In many cases, they put their worst people in the caravan . They're not going to put their best in. They get rid of their problems. And they march up here. And they're coming into the country. We're not letting them in our country.

Our Border Patrol, the job they have done is incredible. The job that ICE is doing is incredible. And we have run out of space. We can't hold people anymore and Mexico can stop it so easily.

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ALLEN: The Department of Homeland Security is asking its employees to volunteer to work along the border. They will assist with transportation, food distribution and meddle assessments.

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ALLEN: Joining me now to talk about this is Brian Karem, a CNN political analyst.

Brian, good to see you.

BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, too.

ALLEN: Let's talk about the border. President Trump wants Mexico to help stem the tide there and his comments follow a period in which Homeland Security and border officials have said their resources have become strained.

Earlier this week one official said the breaking point has arrived.

So, I mean, has it?

Does the president have a point when he says there is a crisis at the border?

KAREM: First of all, I'd like to know what he means when he says he's going to shut down the border because that makes absolutely no sense. You are going to keep all traffic coming over, there's a lot of traffic that comes over that is retail and would hurt our economy if he shut that down.

(CROSSTALK)

KAREM: -- I want to define what that means. But he also doesn't understand the border. He's not the first president to misunderstand the border.

I started my career there; I just spent two months down there going back and forth talking with officials and interviewing people down there. And it's not a nearly the problem that the president makes it out to be. They talked about an escalation of numbers. That goes back to maybe 10 years. Back in the 1980s, when I first started covering the border, there were a lot more people coming through. So it used to be a much larger problem than it is now.

While it may have a bump or a goose in the numbers, you would have to see that for years sustained before it even approached the problems that we had in the 1980s. So he doesn't understand it, he doesn't get it accurately and the real problems on the border are a lack infrastructure, a lack of education, a lack of health care.

And that's what the people down there have needed. There's institutionalized poverty. That has been going on for generations. And he -- it's not just Donald Trump but he doesn't understand that the real problems on the Mexican-U.S. border, particularly in the Texas and the state of Texas is not what he claimed it to be. It's not nearly as dangerous as he says it is.

ALLEN: All right, we'll, of course, stay on the story but I want to get into something else. Just from a few hours ago -- let's talk about the Mueller report release is expected in mid-April to the public, let's take a look what the president tweeted recently.

He said this, "No matter what the Radical Left Democrats get, no matter what we give them, it will never be enough. Just watch, they will Harass & Complain & Resist (the theme of their movement). So maybe we should just take our victory and say NO, we've got a Country to run!" What does he mean by no?

KAREM: Your guess is as good as mine. That's what I want to know.

I was on the South Lawn, I asked the question, he answered the question. I said, would you be in favor of releasing the Mueller report and he said yes. And he said the only caveat is that he wanted the attorney general to have the final say.

Now the president actually could just say, hey, look, I want to release it. So we all thought he was using it as an excuse. He could say yes, I want to release it but doggone it, the AG won't let me do it. Now it looks like he's threatening not to do it. But we don't know, is he gaslighting us? Is he getting us to chase our own tail?

[03:15:00]

KAREM: With this president you can never be sure. The simple fact of the matter is it hasn't released. It will be heavily redacted we suspect before it is. And there may be substantial parts of that report that aren't released. And the real question is, what will be held back?

If it's information that's held back that isn't of a criminal nature but does show misfeasance or malfeasance on the president's part, will he get away with something?

Simply because it wasn't illegal. It may have been immoral, it may have been decadent, it may have been wrong. But if it wasn't illegal, are they going to release it?

And that's the question I think William Barr will have to hurdle over when he issues that report and sends it to the Congress.

ALLEN: We always appreciate your insights, Brian, thank you.

KAREM: Thank you.

ALLEN: The Trump administration is quietly trying to help Saudi Arabia become a nuclear state. But secrecy about the deal has some lawmakers asking if the administration is trying to bypass Congress. That's coming up here.

Plus, Ukrainians will vote for a new president on Sunday and there's a surprising candidate leading in the polls.

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ALLEN: A hectic scene in Algeria as protesters clashed with security forces in the nation's capital. Police used water cannon to disperse hundreds who filled the streets for the sixth straight day. Protesters are demanding that president Abdelaziz Bouteflika step

down, it is widely believed that he is incapacitated by illness. The nation's military chief also called for the president to resign.

Israel has been sending reinforcements to the Gaza border as Palestinians prepare for a large protest, since the demonstrations began a year ago some 200 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli border forces.

Saturday's demonstration marks the anniversary of the so-called Great March of Return. It is an ongoing campaign to highlight the loss of Palestinian territory to Israel over the past 70 years.

Parts of Venezuela are once again in darkness, the third power outage for the troubled nation this month. And it comes ahead of a planned protest this weekend, meantime the humanitarian crisis is showing signs of improvement after meeting with both Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido, the Red Cross says that it has permission to deliver aid.

Guaido is calling it a defeat for his rival, Maduro, who had prevented aid from coming in. But the Maduro government is saying that it is winning after both China and Russia sent aid to the country earlier in the week.

[03:20:00]

ALLEN: Despite "The Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi being killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. It is business as usual between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia.

We are now learning the administration has been approving the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology to the Saudis. We get more on this story from CNN's Alex Marquardt.

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ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It could mean sharing some of America's most closely guarded nuclear technology at one of the most strained and pivotal moments of a long alliance.

Saudi Arabia authorized by the Trump administration to receive American unclassified civil nuclear technology just five months after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed U.S. intelligence agencies believe the order came from crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry defended the authorizations for seven American companies to Congress on Thursday.

RICK PERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY: If the United States is not the partner with Saudi Arabia and they go to Russia and China for their civil nuclear technology, their civil nuclear partners, I can assure you that those two countries don't give a tinker's damn about non- proliferation.

MARQUARDT: The Trump administration's decision kept secret until now because the companies determined that the authorizations contain proprietary business information according to the Energy Department. Saudi Arabia has no nuclear weapons for now. They say that could change if arch-enemy Iran builds them.

But by law, the Saudis must agree to controls, to prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon. So far Saudi Arabia has not agreed to those conditions.

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: It appears that this is an end run around the law.

MARQUARDT: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo grilled about the authorizations on Capitol Hill.

SHERMAN: We treated Iran like an enemy. If Saudi Arabia is hell-bent on developing a nuclear program that is uncontrolled and designed to make them a nuclear state or a possible nuclear state, will we treat them as an enemy?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: We are working to ensure that the nuclear pilot they get is something we understand and doesn't present that risk.

MARQUARDT: In the wake of the horrific Khashoggi murder, the relationship between the Trump administration and the Saudis remains as strong as ever. Last month, White House senior advisor and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner took a quiet trip to the kingdom to meet with his friend MBS.

And just yesterday, Pompeo met with Saudi prince Khalid bin Salman, the brother of the crown prince who was the ambassador to the U.S. When embassy officials tried to convince Khashoggi, his friend told CNN that it would be safe to return to Saudi Arabia.

Secretary Rick Perry was also asked specifically whether those authorizations to sell that nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia were approved after October 2nd last year. That's the day that Jamal Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi hit team at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Perry responded that he didn't know, saying, quote, "We sign a lot of papers." -- Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Ukraine's presidential election is set for Sunday and new polls are showing that an unlikely candidate is becoming the favorite. The country remains caught up in a long-time military conflict with Russia. So nothing is as simple as it should be. Isa Soares has more.

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ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A comedian, a chocolate maker and a former prime minister, these are the three hopefuls in a field of 39 hopefuls on the ballot in Ukraine's presidential election.

Many observers believe that this is the man to beat, 41-year-old Volodymyr Zelensky may not be a politician but he does play Ukrainian president in a hit TV show, "Servant of the People."

Critics point to the danger of electing a president with no political experience; this is after all a country with an ongoing military conflict that has already claimed some 13,000 lives.

Separatist pro Russian areas in the east of the country overnight to face off against Ukrainian troops, five years after Moscow annexed Crimea. Zelensky has turned his long shot campaign into a real bid for the office by leaning into his lack of a political track record.

When asked what makes him unique...

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(through translator): This is a new face, I have never been in politics, I came from a clean business to television and movie business.

The people understand that I did not make promises before and excuses afterwards.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SOARES (voice-over): Incumbent Petro Poroshenko is hoping that relations with their larger neighbor will trump a desire for change when votes are cast on Sunday. Elected in 2014 after a populist revolt ousted his pro Russian predecessor, as president he is --

[03:25:00]

SOARES (voice-over): -- credited with overseeing the reorganization of the Ukrainian army and standing up to Moscow. He has been a frequent visitor to troops serving on the Eastern front line and he's regularly filmed wearing military fatigues. A Poroshenko ally praises the president's courage.

IRYNA GERASHCHENKO, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT (through translator): Poroshenko is the only one who visited Donbas more than 40 times. He's visited the firing line just 50 meters from the enemy's position. His security detail filled their boots with sweat.

Whenever President Poroshenko goes to Donbas, he likes to take a risk.

SOARES (voice-over): Like his two closest rivals Poroshenko says he wants Ukraine to join the European Union but a major hurdle to that ambition is Ukraine's widespread corruption. After four years in office, Transparency International writes, "Poroshenko's Ukraine at 120 out of 180 countries rated for clean government."

And anti corruption legislation introduced by Poroshenko was recently declared unconstitutional.

Fighting corruption and lowering the cost of living are cornerstones of Yulia Tymoshenko's campaign and she has credentials, having played a leading role in the Orange Revolution and then being elected as prime minister. She then served three years of a seven-year prison sentence in what was widely seen as a politically motivated prosecution before being released in 2014. Politically rehabilitated this as well Poroshenko ally now has the incumbent firmly in her sights.

YULIA TYMOSHENKO, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): Today and for the past 20 years the country unfortunately has been governed by a corrupt mafia, defying political strategies to fight against their serious and influential opponents. Therefore, for me, they have chosen the word populism. This is how Poroshenko's corrupt mafia is fighting against me personally.

SOARES (voice-over): Tymoshenko's base are often older voters, no doubt enthusiastic of her pledge to triple pensions if elected but the chances of anyone reaching the required 50 percent threshold in Sunday's vote are remote. Most likely the top two candidates will face off in a second round of voting on April 21st -- Isa Soares, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: That is CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you very much for watching. I'll be back with our top stories.