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CNN NEWSROOM

U.S. Immigration System at "Breaking Point"; Barr: Congress Will Have Mueller Report within Weeks; U.K. Parliament Rejects May's E.U. Withdrawal Deal Again; Interview with Matthew Doyle, Former Blair Political Director, on the Brexit Process; Algeria Protests; Democratic Candidates Raising Funds ahead of Deadline; Ukrainian Presidential Vote Set for Sunday; Pro-Brexit Protesters Take their Anger to the Streets. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired March 30, 2019 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Releasing the Mueller report: new details from the attorney general about when and how much of that report could be revealed.

Plus, shutting down the U.S. border: President Trump makes a threat, again saying he would act as soon as next week.

Also ahead this hour, defeat for the third time: Theresa May's Brexit plan gets voted down again, leaving the United Kingdom in political limbo.

Live from CNN in Atlanta, we welcome viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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

We could get our first look at the full Mueller report on Russian election interference in weeks. In a letter to Congress, the U.S. attorney general said it would be made public by mid-April, if not sooner. That report is nearly 400 pages long.

Here is the thing, how much will be revealed and how much will be redacted is still not known. House Democrats say it's not good enough. Kaitlan Collins starts us off.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump giving the all-clear...

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have nothing to hide.

COLLINS: -- voicing confidence in Bill Barr after the attorney general announced Congress will have Robert Mueller's redacted report within weeks.

TRUMP: I have great confidence in the attorney general. And if that's what he would like to do, I have nothing to hide. This was a hoax. This was a witch hunt.

COLLINS: Barr telling lawmakers the White House will not see the document before they do and that Trump is deferring to him on asserting executive privilege.

Despite calling the special counsel's investigation a witch hundred, Trump saved his harshest words for Mexico today.

TRUMP: I'm very upset with Mexico.

COLLINS: Repeating his threat to shut down the southern border, but this time with a deadline.

TRUMP: There's a very good likelihood that I will be closing the border next week. And that will be just fine with me.

COLLINS: Trump warned earlier today that if Mexico doesn't stop undocumented immigrants from crossing into the U.S., he will close it down and halt all trade.

TRUMP: And we will keep it closed for a long time. I'm not playing games.

COLLINS: The presidential threat coming days after the nation's top border official warned that a crush of asylum-seeking families has put immigration enforcement at its breaking point.

KEVIN MCALEENAN, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: This is an unfortunate step and very challenging for our law enforcement professionals to digest.

COLLINS: But also one day after Trump total crowd in Michigan that those fleeing violence and poverty are sometimes faking it.

TRUMP: They're all met by the lawyers and they say, say the following phrase. I am very afraid for my life. I am afraid for my life. OK. And then I look at the guy, he looks like he just got out of the ring, he's the heavyweight champion of the world. He's afraid for his -- it's a big fat con job, folks.

COLLINS: In his first rally since the end of this special counsel's 22-month investigation...

TRUMP: And after three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over.

COLLINS: -- as Trump took a victory lap around Democrats...

TRUMP: The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bullshit, partisan investigation, or whether they will apologize to the American people.

COLLINS: -- the president taking delight in going after the House Intelligence chairman in particular.

TRUMP: They're on artificial respirators right now. They're getting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, little pencil neck, Adam Schiff, got the smallest, thinnest neck I have ever seen.

COLLINS: Now the president has threatened to close down the border before. But he's never offered a timeline like he did today.

Right now there are still questions swirling around the White House about what this will do because, though the president today described it as a potentially profitable endeavor, it would, of course, affect businesses, factories, those communities down there on the border that cross over so frequently.

And right now the White House is not commenting on whether or not the president's threat also applies to air travel -- Kaitlin Collins, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[04:05:00]

HOWELL: You heard from the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He says the immigration system is at a breaking point. Let's look at the numbers.

Immigration officials say, Monday alone, they arrested 4,000 people trying to cross illegally into the United States.

In March, 40,000 children will come into the Customs and Border Protection custody. March will be the highest month for apprehensions and encounters since 2008. The results, he says, sets the potential for a tragic incident.

Let's get analysis from Natasha Lindstaedt. She is a professor of government at University of Essex.

Good to have you.

NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Thanks for having me on.

HOWELL: Border officials are saying their resources have become strained. The U.S. president threatening to shut down the southern border and he has this to say about what he calls a crisis.

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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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HOWELL: Natasha, the question here, is this a manufactured crisis as critics have been saying or a real problem that has been gradually building to now a breaking point?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, what Trump is saying and Republicans and his supporters, is there has been a jump in apprehensions. Democrats say this is a crisis of his own making as you mentioned, because actually Mexican immigration to the U.S. has gone down. If you look at the overall trend, immigration into the U.S. from the south decreased.

His policy seemed to be not really working in the right way. Under the Obama administration, they were able to start working on immigration reform and making it more of a comprehensive thing.

It's not just putting up borders and apprehending people but also looking at the root causes of immigration. So Mexican immigration has gone down but Central American countries are dealing with major crises. Homicide rates making people feel unsafe.

It would be better to tackle it from that front and look at the root problem rather than trying to erect borders with huge economic consequences both on the Mexican economy and on the U.S. economy.

HOWELL: I want to pivot to another topic we have discussed. The Mueller report is expected to be released by mid-April, if not sooner, likely to be heavily redacted. In the latest tweet from the president, reading the tea leaves with his thoughts, look at that tweet.

The problem, he says, is, "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!"

People are zeroing in on the capitalized no.

Is it no to harassment and releasing the Mueller report?

What do you make of it?

LINDSTAEDT: I think he's trying to take a strong stance after the Mueller report is released and caused a lot of stress over two years. He's been vocal in saying he's been exonerated and no collusion.

Republicans and Trump supporters have been really angry about this. They say this has been a complete witch hunt and they want to be defiant and strong in the fact they feel it was a waste of time and taxpayer money.

But the Democrats are concerned about Barr's report. They don't think it was very clear and all the evidence was put out there. There's concerns whatever comes out, if there's so much that is redacted, it may be covering a lot of information that the Democrats are suspicious about. Adam Schiff, who is the House Intelligence chair, made this clear in a

speech he gave, when Republicans were aggressively going after him to try to get him to resign. He was saying, I'm not OK with a lot of things that happened, that were clear, that Don Jr., his son, appeared to be exuberant in an email about getting --

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LINDSTAEDT: -- dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians; that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was creating back channels to meet with the Russians. And Trump, himself, said in the summer of 2016, Russia, why don't you go get Hillary Clinton's emails.

These things were in plain sight to everybody. There's a suspicion this Barr report wasn't telling the whole picture and may have been biased a little bit. They are hoping the whole thing will come out.

Trump, on the other hand, is saying, I don't care what comes out. There was no collusion. There's no proof of collusion. He feels pretty confident that it doesn't matter.

HOWELL: Adding to one thing you mentioned there, the report does not exonerate the president. That's important to underscore.

A greater question here, Natasha, will the partial release of this report -- who knows how much will be redacted.

Will the partial release make a difference here for Democrats?

LINDSTAEDT: No, I don't think it will make a difference for Democrats. I think that they want as much of it to come out as possible because of the suspicions that I mentioned. They feel that pretty strongly the Russians interfered with the U.S. election and there may have been some connection/cooperation with the Trump campaign based on how vocal they were about trying to work with the Russians and how clearly they wanted to work with the Russians and relieve the sanctions and so forth.

For the Democrats, there are all kinds of other investigations going on that actually have more serious implications for Trump politically and legally; most notably, the campaign finance fraud and his connection with Michael Cohen and basically telling him to pay hush money to someone who he had a relationship with and the fact that Cohen, himself, had been sentenced to prison for three years and Trump was named as an unindicted co-conspirator.

That's one of many investigations going on that will have more repercussions and political implications that the Democrats are going to want to pursue. This is more of an emotional thing. They feel something is fishy, something is wrong and they don't buy that there was really much ado about nothing here. That's why they are holding on to this.

HOWELL: Natasha, thank you so much.

LINDSTAEDT: Thanks for having me. HOWELL: A common phrase in the British Parliament has been, "And the nos have it." The prime minister's Brexit deal fails yet again.

Plus Palestinians mark a significant milestone in Gaza. An anniversary that has the Israeli military on heightened alert. Stay with us.

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[04:15:00]

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HOWELL: It was the day Britain should have started out on its own toward a new future. Instead of leaving the E.U., that country's Brexit plans are now murkier than ever, with the original deadline of March 29th come and gone on Friday.

Lawmakers rejected the prime minister's withdrawal agreement for the third time. Now the U.K.'s options are even more limited. Theresa May made that clear after the vote. Listen.

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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.

That is not enough time to agree, legislate for and ratify a deal and yet the house is clear it will not leave without a deal. So we have to agree on an alternative way forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Lawmakers are set to discuss alternative solutions on Monday. They voted on eight options this week and could not agree on a single one. The E.U. is set to hold an emergency council meeting April 10th, two days before the deadline on its way.

The frustration over Brexit filled out on the streets of London on Friday. At least five people were arrested during a Leave protest. Thousands of people came together to rally around the Houses of Parliament, calling on lawmakers to make Brexit happen with or without a deal. Let's go live to London. CNN producer Salma Abdelaziz is on the story.

Salma, the deadline is locked in for April 12th. The possibility of crashing out of the E.U. without a deal, even more likely now.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: That's right, George. This seemingly unending saga of Brexit continues. Yes, Brussels says a no deal is more likely than ever. But as with all things Brexit, it's not that simple.

All options are still on the table. Let's go over what could happen over the coming days.

Monday, Parliament will meet again to try to find an alternative Brexit option. You are right. Last week, they voted down all eight options on the table. But there were two that came close to succeeding, that is the customs union and a proposal for a second referendum.

It is possible that MPs could find a consensus around one of the two. Then is the complicated process of trying to carry that out. Who knows how that could happen and how that would take place. That's one scenario.

Another one, May said yesterday, she felt she was reaching the limits of the process in Parliament. There has been talk of a potential general election. So that's also a possibility.

A third thing to worry about, April 10th, as you said, is the date there's going to be an emergency summit in Brussels and the other E.U. 27 states already said they are not going to automatically grant an extension. A lengthy extension could add years to the process. They don't want to agree unless the U.K. --

[04:20:00]

ABDELAZIZ: -- has a clear path out. Again, that's not going to be easy to get, either, George. The only thing that is certain is uncertainty.

HOWELL: Briefly here, uncertainty, when it comes to business, never a good thing.

How is the business community dealing with so many questions?

ABDELAZIZ: That's a very good question, George. As you said, with the uncertainty, it's a concern. Businesses have gathered in front of Parliament during this two years. They've said MPs are not listening to us. It's not just businesses. Yesterday, we had opposing demonstrations. Those who said leave means leave. We said we are out on March 29th. It has come and gone and we are not out.

Those who say it's a mistake, give us a second referendum; we want to change our minds. All of this is very troubling for the economy. Yesterday, the pound did take a hit. George, unless we find a solution to Brexit, I think it will continue to be this way.

HOWELL: Salma Abdelaziz, following the story live in London, thanks for the reporting.

Let's parse through it with Matthew Doyle. He was the political director for the former British prime minister Tony Blair.

Good to have you with us. Talk to us about this.

MATTHEW DOYLE, FORMER BLAIR POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Thank you, George.

HOWELL: Ms. May's deal saw the third defeat but defeated by a smaller margin this time. Many people writing this deal off as dead. They have seen it before and don't like it.

What do you make of reports May is not phased by this, she is encouraged that more MP's signed on and she may push the deal to the bitter end?

DOYLE: Well, this is part of the problem of where Theresa May has got herself. Ultimately, this is, as far as she's concerned, the only show in town. So she has to keep going with this withdrawal agreement.

But even with the tactic that she tried on Friday of decoupling the withdrawal agreement from the more controversial future political framework, we saw that MPs were reluctant to give her the support she needs to get it through.

So on one level, she has stuck with the strategy she's got. On the other hand, it should be obvious this strategy is never going to work.

HOWELL: If she pushes her deal again, against other alternatives and if the deal fails, there are reports it could lead to a general election.

If that comes to pass, could that break the Brexit deadlock we have been seeing?

DOYLE: I'm not convinced a general election, re-electing a new Parliament, is the thing that fundamentally breaks this dynamic. The problem that is, at the heart of this, is, ultimately, interpreting to the satisfaction of a consensus across the range of views there are in Parliament, that there is a way in which we can deliver the mandate of the public vote in 2016 in a way that gives us a coherent plan to put to Brussels that has the support of Parliament.

It's not obvious to me that going back to the public for a general election is going to break the deadlock. I think the more likely way you will see lawmakers agree to go back to the public is having a referendum on the future options.

HOWELL: The likelihood of the U.K. turning back to the E.U. and asking for more time, that likelihood is much higher and, granted, that extension could be much longer. The key would require the U.K. to come up with their own plan and the E.U. may have attachments, conditions to it. The alternative is to crash out without a deal.

How do you see this playing out?

DOYLE: I think the one thing we can be sure of, as much as we can be sure of anything in this process, is there is great reluctance within the U.K. Parliament to allow Britain to crash out without a deal. Therefore, my hunch is, the most likely option is a longer extension.

You are right; that has complications. It has complications for what the European Union will ask for us and complications on what we do in return.

For example, we have to have elections for the European Parliament. But there are worse things in the world than having to have a set of elections. What is worse from my point of view and a lot of people's point of view is for Britain to crash out without a deal. That is the ultimate scenario that lawmakers are keenest to avoid.

HOWELL: Briefly here, I want to talk out a play through --

[04:25:00]

HOWELL: -- the extension. It opens the window for more debate and alternatives such as general election, a second referendum, even revoking Article 50, which calls Brexit off.

DOYLE: Right. I don't think you will see that last one, the revoking of Article 50, as much as I would like to see this process come to a halt.

But I think the only way this extension will work is if the prime minister, either through changing herself or through changing her strategy, rips up the red lines she's had to this point and other options, such as the customs union membership, which might be a consensus position and given a chance to fly.

HOWELL: Just 20 seconds here, maybe less than that, but if you were able to advise the prime minister, what would you tell her?

DOYLE: She's got to ditch her red lines. The only way she is going to find the numbers to get a deal in Parliament is reach across party lines and do so in a way that, for whatever reason, she's resisted to this point.

HOWELL: Matthew, we appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

DOYLE: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, Israel braces for unrest along the border of Gaza.

Can both sides keep the Palestinian protest peaceful?

Plus new shipments of aid could soon reach Venezuela. Details on a Red Cross effort meant to ease the humanitarian crisis there.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and

around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we are following this hour.

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HOWELL: The border fence between Israel and Gaza could become a flashpoint in the coming hours. We continue to monitor the situation there. Thousands of Palestinians are expected to join a protest. The demonstrations have been going on for a year.

Since they began, some 200 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops. But it comes at a sensitive time. Hamas has been holding talks with Israel and easing restrictions on those living in Gaza. It says they are in the final stages of the talks.

Unrest along the border could jeopardize that process. Our Michael Holmes is live on the border of Gaza and Israel with what is happening there right now -- Michael.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, George, we are at one of the main protest sites where, as you say, thousands of people have come down every week for a year now. That's what this demonstration is about. It's a one-year anniversary of those protests that have seen around 200 Palestinians killed; 6,000 wounded.

To paint a picture for you, this no man's land, about 300 meters to the Israeli side. We have seen hundreds of people gathering here. What's interesting, Hamas calling for this to be a peaceful demonstration.

Move down here, all the guys in the orange vests are Hamas. They are basically crowd control. They are actively keeping everyone back from going into that no man's land, which is where they normally go.

The closer they get to the fence, the greater the risk Israel is going to respond. We have already seen tear gas fired here. We were down here yesterday and there was more tear gas. It's a very small protest going on. Several people were actually shot. The closer they got to the fence, Israel says they are trying to protect its border and they will use whatever means they need to protect that border.

Hamas called this a million man march. It's unlikely they'll get anywhere near that number but they are expecting tens of thousands here and at other protest sites, along the border with Israel. Those talks you mentioned, crucial. Egypt is brokering the talks between Hamas and Israel.

There has been progress. Things are on the table as an offer from Israel. What Hamas is saying to its people is make this peaceful today and hopefully something will come of the talks. The problem is, emotions. We have seen people pushing back against Hamas guys doing crowd control, saying we have been here every week for a year now.

Why are you here now? But it is crucial for Hamas that this is a peaceful, not violent

demonstration. They want the talks to lead to an understanding going forward to relieve the conditions on everyone here in Gaza along the Gaza Strip.

The protests start officially in two hours. The crowds are already gathering. Hundreds of people are here already. Hamas is expecting there to be thousands. The problem is going to be whether these guys in the orange vests can control the situation and keep people back from the fence and the casualties. We won't see the bloodshed we have seen other times -- George.

HOWELL: You mentioned the gentlemen in the orange vests. I see someone pulled someone back as they tried to run past them. Certainly, this is a developing situation. We'll continue to stay in touch with you as you monitor and report. Thank you.

A chaotic scene in the capital of Algeria. Police used water cannon on protesters, clearing the streets as thousands of people marched. The demand (INAUDIBLE) leader agreed earlier this month to drop his re-election bid but he --

[04:35:00]

HOWELL: -- postponed the elections. The nation's military chief also called for him to step down.

In Venezuela, another power outage, the third this month left parts of the country in darkness and comes as the Red Cross announced they received permission to deliver supplies to thousands of people there. Our Paula Newton has this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is clearly very good news for the Venezuelan people and it represents a significant departure in policy for president Maduro.

The International Federation of the Red Cross has been trying to launch a nationwide humanitarian aid here. But Maduro says we are not beggars. We do not need international aid.

Now it seems there's been a change in policy and a source close to the negotiations told CNN that the Red Cross here met with Juan Guaido, the opposition leader, and Maduro. And both sides agreed this is a good way to get aid to Venezuelans.

Remember, in the last few weeks, Guaido tried to get that international aid from Colombia and Brazil. He was unsuccessful. Red Cross saying, as that aid is prepositioned on the borders, it's not entirely clear they will use that aid here in Venezuela. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANCESCO ROCCA, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE RED CROSS (through translator): Cucuta and Brazil are issues that were politicized and we're going to have a look at the aid to make sure that it complies with our rules, our protocols. Of course, we are ready to distribute medical aid that is in Cucuta and Brazil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: Of course the aid will be welcomed and needed by the Venezuelan people. It is, in fact, an acknowledgement by the Maduro government there is a humanitarian crisis here. But it puts the opposition in a sticky situation. They cannot take credit for having ushered in the aid here, even though it's what they were doing.

But the Maduro government calling on countries like China. The Chinese flew an airplane here today, also loaded with aid. And many suspect this will give a boost to the Maduro government and continue the political deadlock that's been going on here for months -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Caracas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Paula, thank you.

Ukrainians will vote for a new president on Sunday and now there's a surprising candidate leading in the polls. We'll have that ahead for you.

Plus, running for president takes ambition, drive, experience and, of course, money. How the Democratic candidates are filling their campaign war chests.

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VAUSE: On Sunday, Democrats who are running for U.S. president will have to report their campaign contributions for the first part of the year. This will be the first metric we get to see who has captured the hearts, minds and dollars of the all-important contributors. Our Jeff Zeleny has this.

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to put together the strongest grassroots movement in the history of American politics.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bernie Sanders and Beto O'Rourke.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I hope will be the largest grassroots effort this country has ever seen. ZELENY: Facing their first test of who's building the biggest grassroots army and raising the most money. After each race, about $6 million on their first day of the campaign, all Democratic candidates are now scrambling to meet the first fundraising deadline of the 2020 primary on Sunday. It's a frantic multimillion dollar dash.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Raising money. So this is a topic that we don't like to discuss, but you can't win an election without knowing how to raise money.

ZELENY: Suddenly, Kamala Harris is trying to lower expectations telling donors we know some of them will have outraised us. That's OK because I can guarantee we won't be at work.

As fundraising appeals pour in, flooding inboxes it's not only how much the candidates raised but how they raise it.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And today, this very day I'm not off doing a fundraiser behind closed doors with a bunch of millionaires. I'm here with you.

ZELENY: Elizabeth Warren swearing off high dollar fundraising events trying to match the enthusiasm Sanders, O'Rourke, Harris and now Pete Buttigieg are seeing in the opening round of the race.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), MAYOR OF SOUTH BEND, IND., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obviously there's a lot of fundraising that goes on but it's not just about getting the most dollars. Don't get me wrong. The more you can help the better.

ZELENY: The recent Buttigieg has been racing to capture the enthusiasm, including a stop in a high-rise apartment at the Trump International Hotel in tower in New York.

The first quarter fundraising period will offer the first true measure of how the candidates are catching on among big donors and those inspired to send in small contributions. This year, nearly all Democrats are limiting the kind of money they accept.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I will not take money from corporate packs. I will not take money from federal lobbyists. I will not take money from pharma executives.

ZELENY: Fundraising is also a metric to qualify for the Democratic debates. Candidates must have at least 65,000 unique donors from at least 20 states to reach the debate stage. John Delaney, who is funding his campaign, making this offer in hopes of making the cut.

JOHN DELANEY (D-MD.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People can donate a dollar, become involved in the campaign and we'll donate $2 to one of 11 charities they choose from.

ZELENY: Now qualifying for that first debate stage in June is critical to all candidates. A strong fundraising report or a weak one could change the order of candidates before then. But for now, a lot of donors we spoke to say they are simply watching this race play out. One donor told me this, "I like so many candidates, I may give money

to a bunch of them" -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Jeff, thanks.

Ukraine's presidential election is set for Sunday. A new poll shows an unlikely candidate is becoming a favorite. The country remains caught up in a long-running military conflict with Russia. So nothing is as simple as it should be, as our Isa Soares explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 --

[04:45:00]

SOARES (voice-over): -- 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...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(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 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.

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VAUSE: Marching to the beat of the Brexit drum, Leave supporters take to the streets of London to vent their anger at the government.

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HOWELL: The message Brexit supporters have for Parliament, leave means leave. Some marched from the northeast of England to deliver that message. Our Nick Glass caught up with marchers during their days-long journey.

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NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the day Britain was originally meant to leave Europe, in they swept, a swelling river of red, white and blue, into the capital along the Thames to Parliament.

The Brexiteers, marching with their feet, an orderly, noisy procession, driven by a collective fury that their vote to leave has yet to be implemented.

NIGEL FARAGE, FORMER UKIP LEADER: We are the real people of this country and we know, we know that referendum was the first of many great victories. We will get our country back. We will get our independence back. We will get our pride and self-respect back. We are going to win.

GLASS (voice-over): It all began in the wind and rain along England's northeast coast almost two weeks ago, a long, symbolic march, some 200 miles from Sunderland to London.

Nigel Farage set a brisk pace, in flak cap and blue trainers. But then for most of the trek, they were without him, heading south under blue skies and spring sunshine.

GLASS: How has it been?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ups and downs. Sore feet; a lot of guys had blisters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first few days, to be honest, it was tough. Because as you remember yourself, the gales were blowing down. Our feet did take it. But we're getting stronger and stronger. And it's been actually a wonderful experience.

GLASS: Why have you come?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm marching for democracy. I think it's very important. I spent 30 years in the armed forces fighting for democracy. And now I feel as though I'm being betrayed literally by our politicians in Westminster.

GLASS (voice-over): Until the final day, there were only every about 100 marchers along public roads. They couldn't really have managed with many more, the caravan of Union Jacks receding into the distance.

KEITH, LEAVE SUPPORTER: I'm ex-Navy. And I have not experienced camaraderie like this since I left the Navy.

SYLVIA, LEAVE SUPPORTER: Welcome. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Keith and his wife, Sylvia, both in their 70s, weren't up for walking but followed the march in their motorhome, tooting their horn much of the way. She came up with the slogan for the back of their vehicle.

SYLVIA: Parliament, the voice of treason.

GLASS: And that's what you think?

SYLVIA: That is what I think.

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KEITH: I am absolutely sick to death of the politicians. They get up on their hoistings. They say what they think you want to hear and then just go ahead and do whatever they want to do.

GLASS (voice-over): All along the route, the songs say pretty much the same -- Nick Glass, CNN, with the Leave Means Leave March.

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HOWELL: Nick, thank you.

While Brexit looms large, England's Bristol Museum is showcasing a not-so-subtle commentary on U.K. lawmakers. The work is titled "Devolved Parliament." It is from the anonymous street artist Banksy and it depicts politicians in the House of Commons as chimpanzees.

First shown in 2009, it is Banksy's largest work on canvas, according to the museum. Visitors didn't have to reach far to draw parallels to modern-day politics.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the imagery is quite frightening because what's happening now, politically, in this country, is frightening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like this truly represents how I feel the government looks like at the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's plenty of Banksys, absolutely it represents what we learned from the British Parliament today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could go back to 1800s, you can go into the future 200 years and this will still always be the tale that is told.

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HOWELL: Banksy's Instagram account also posted an image of the artwork with the caption, "I made this 10 years ago. Bristol Museum have just put it on display to mark Brexit Day. Laugh now but, one day, no one will be in charge," it says.

Thank you so much for being with us. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. More news after the break.