Return to Transcripts main page


Netanyahu Vows to Annex West Bank Settlements; Trump Tries to Link Democrats to Anti-Semitism; European Leaders Grow Weary of Brexit Drama; Trump Reverses Himself on Mueller Report; Mexico Wrestles with Immigrant Influx. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired April 7, 2019 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A pledge just ahead of elections: Israel's prime minister vows to annex West Bank settlements.

Deadly flooding leaves thousands in Iran without homes and there's still more rain ahead.

Plus as Mexico struggles with the influx of migrants, some think the answer may lie with President Trump and his policy on immigration.

Live from the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It's good to have you with us.


VANIER: So Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will extend its sovereignty over West Bank settlements if he is reelected prime minister. He made this announcement ahead of the elections in what looks like a bid to shore up rightwing support. The chief Palestinian negotiator slammed this move but said it wasn't a surprise.

Here's how Mr. Netanyahu justified the potential annexation on Saturday.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (voice-over): In my opinion, each block of the Israeli area is under Israeli control. We, the Israeli government, have responsibility of these areas. I won't move these blocks to the Palestinian Authority.


VANIER: With the final preelection polls already published, we can't tell what impact the settlement announcement may have on the election. Netanyahu is facing his toughest political challenge in years and it's coming from his former military chief of staff, Benny Gantz.

CNN's Michael Holmes has more from Jerusalem. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The consensus of the final preelection polls on Friday put Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party back in the head to head lead. Just a handful of seats ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud.

Depending on the poll, anywhere from 1-5 seats ahead. That as we know, Israeli elections are all about coalitions. Whether it's Netanyahu's Likud or Gantz's Blue and White, given the chance to try to form a government, they will have to court smaller parties to come on board to get them to the magic number of 61 seats needed to govern.

That's where things will get interesting. After the polls close Tuesday night here in Israel, if the head to head result between Likud and Blue and White is close, Netanyahu will likely be the one invited by the president to try to form a government, make that coalition.

That's because at the moment, Netanyahu is considered to have the edge when it comes to parties who will likely come into a coalition with the Likud Party.

Now for Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party to be invited to try to form the government, they will need to beat Likud by probably at least half a dozen seats or more. The polls right now aren't showing that likely but the polls have been wrong before.

And crucially, analysts say there are still between 5 percent and 10 percent of voters who are undecided, more than enough to swing the election. The last days before Tuesday's election critical to both main parties, trying to woo undecided voters and try to get some of them to switch from smaller parties to theirs -- Michael Holmes, CNN, Jerusalem.


VANIER: And "CONNECT THE WORLD" with Becky Anderson will be live from Jerusalem to cover the elections starting this Sunday. So tune in to watch our coverage.

The U.S. president is one of Mr. Netanyahu's biggest champions. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights recently.

At an event of Jewish Republicans on Saturday, Mr. Trump played up his support of Israel and tried to paint Democrats and criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The incredible bond between the United States and Israel has never been stronger than it is right now. Democrats have even allowed the terrible scourge of anti-Semitism to take root in their party and in their country. They have allowed that. House Democrats recently blocked legislation to done front the appoint

anti-Semitic movement. Republicans believe we must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism.


VANIER: Turning now to Libya, where clashes between competing factions have intensified near Tripoli. We're getting reports that the internationally-recognized government has launched airstrikes on forces led by a renegade --


VANIER: -- general Khalifa Haftar. The U.N.-backed prime minister says he's pushing back against a coup attempt from his rival.


FAYEZ AL-SARRAJ, U.N.-BACKED LIBYAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We've extended our hand to peace but the attack that took place from the forces of Haftar and his declaration of war on cities and our capital and his declaration of coup d'etat to the presidential council will be met with strength and power.


VANIER: Despite the recent fighting, the U.N.'s Libyan envoy says the national peace conference will go ahead as planned later this month. Global powers continue to urge restraint from all sides.

Anti-government protesters in Sudan are camping outside the president's compound, holding a sit-in to send a clear message to the country's long-time leader. They want Omar al-Bashir to resign and face the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Over the weekend, crowds of protesters were reportedly the largest since the movement began in December. But the government is cracking down on the demonstrations.

State media report that a man died during Saturday's protests and protest groups accuse the government of committing violence against them. So these demonstrations have not only grown in size, they've also become more dangerous. CNN's Nima Elbagir goes undercover inside to take us inside the uprising, risking imprisonment to film the government's brutal crackdown on protesters. Take a listen.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The national security (INAUDIBLE) demonstration. They're going from house to house. We (INAUDIBLE) safe house. We don't know how long we're going to have to wait here to try to figure out how to get us out of here. (INAUDIBLE) we have to go inside.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VANIER: Join us and watch Nima Elbagir's exclusive report starting at 12:00 am Monday in New York, 5:00 am here in London, this is only on CNN.

Iran's supreme leader wants Iraq to demand American troops leave the country as soon as possible. The ayatollah spoke to Iraq's prime minister and said the U.S. does not support democracy there. Iran and the U.S. have been competing for influence in Iraq ever since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.

That's not the only tension brewing between Iran and the U.S. An Iranian lawmaker is threatening to classify the U.S. military as a terrorist organization. This is pushback because the Trump administration is expected to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard corps as a terror group as early as next week.

The State Department accuses the Revolutionary Guard of infiltrating war-torn Syria to threaten Israel and other countries.

Staying in Iran, flooding from the heaviest rainfall in decades is forcing the mass evacuation of six cities in the country's southwestern province. The government is deploying more mobile medical units to the area, as aid agencies struggle to cope with the scale of this disaster.

The rains began three weeks ago and they've hit the country hard. At least 70 people have been killed; 85,000 are in shelters, one-third of the country's roads are damaged.



VANIER: Like the U.S., Mexico is trying to figure out how to handle an influx of migrants. Some think the answer is copying a certain leader to the north. We'll explain all about that when we come back.

Plus, Theresa May heads back to Brussels to beg for more time on Brexit. But the response from one European leader could be adieu.




VANIER: A stunning admission from the British prime minister as she stares down the possibility of a no-deal Brexit next Friday. Theresa May has now acknowledged publicly that the only way to avoid crashing out of the European Union is with the Labour Party's help. Such a confession would have been unthinkable even a short time ago.

In a statement, the prime minister says it's the political reality facing the U.K. after Parliament, including many Conservative MPs rejected her Brexit plan three times. She heads to Brussels on Wednesday, asking for an extension of the April 12th deadline, with no guarantees she'll get it.

Some European leaders have grown weary of British indecision and are ready to see the U.K. leave, deal or no deal. As France's foreign minister put it, Europe can't wait forever. We get more from CNN's Melissa Bell.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last time they all met in Brussels in March to hear Theresa May, the sense of European gallantry seemed intact even as the union's patience appeared to grow thin.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): The British politicians appear incapable of delivering what the people voted for.

BELL (voice-over): So what will Emmanuel Macron's strategy be when Theresa May comes back to Brussels next week to ask for yet another extension?

ALEXIS POULIN, POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a British crisis, not a European crisis. And I think Emmanuel Macron has been positioning himself from the start as the next strongman of Europe, the leader of Europe. Merkel is not there. Juncker is leaving after the elections.

So he will --


POULIN: -- be the one discussing the aftermath of Brexit. So he wants it to be clear. He wants it to be on the table and he wants to show a strong, united front from the continent towards Britain.

BELL (voice-over): Ahead of next week's summit, Macron invited the Irish prime minister to Paris on Tuesday. They agreed that an extension to Article 50 might be necessary but that it should be short.

And on that, Emmanuel Macron has been tough but consistent and even a little repetitive.

MACRON (through translator): If the British need more time, we will examine a request for an extension. We can discuss and agree on extension if it is a technical extension. The European Union cannot forever be hostage to the resolution of a political crisis in the United Kingdom.

BELL (voice-over): The fear of contagion elsewhere in Europe has been there ever since Britain voted to leave. Marine Le Pen, who launched her party's campaign for the European elections in January, currently leads the French polls going into a decisive vote that will pit populist Eurosceptics against pro-European liberals.

Macron's former Europe minister, who once joked that her cat was named Brexit because he could never decide whether he wanted to be in or out, is now leading the campaign for the European Parliament. It got off to a shaky start on Saturday.

The following day, she repeated the French government's line, that it is now time for Britain to get out.

NATHALIE LOISEAU, FORMER EUROPEAN AFFAIRS MINISTER (through translator): I will tell you one thing, I'm personally hostile to a new referendum now because I think this would be a denial of democracy. I think Britain must leave but it's for them to decide how to do that.

BELL (voice-over): At first Macron had lamented what he had described as the lies told to the people by Brexiteers. But more recently, his message has been more blunt. The divorce needs to be finalized and fast in order that Europe can once again look ahead ambitiously -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


VANIER: Venezuela's embattled president says he wants another shot at talks with his opposition. Nicolas Maduro called on regional leaders to broker the talks, saying he's expressing political maturity.

An earlier attempt at dialogue previously broke down in February. His comments followed another weekend of dueling rallies across the country. National assembly leader Juan Guaido addressed his supporters as he launched a new initiative aimed at ousting Mr. Maduro.


JUAN GUAIDO, INTERIM PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): This regime already lost. This regime is already defeated. Victory is ours. But it will only be complete, it will only be fair when we have achieved not only the cessations of the usurpation but when we have achieved what matters to our people, the entry of humanitarian aid.


VANIER: The rallies come as the country continues to struggle with recurring blackouts and food shortages.

If Donald Trump's goal is to dominate the daily news cycle, mission accomplished. The U.S. president pretty much has a lock on how to do this and keep himself at the center of attention.

One way to do this is make bold, even outrageous sometimes statements and then reverse himself a short time later. It keeps journalists running in circles after all. Here are three recent examples. First, his threat to close the border with Mexico.


TRUMP: There's a very good likelihood I'll be closing the border next week.

I'm telling you right now, we'll close the damn border.

We're going to give them a one-year warning and if the drugs don't stop or largely stop, we're going to put tariffs on Mexico.


VANIER: He also suddenly revived an old issue he had already lost, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.


TRUMP: So we're going to get rid of ObamaCare. And I said it the other day. The Republican Party will become the party of great health care. I will be asking that this be my first vote. Immediately after the election we are going to regain the House because of health care and other things.


VANIER: And there's also this. When the president put out this tweet in favor of releasing the Mueller report to the public, many wondered if he really meant it. Now we know he didn't. Listen to this.

TRUMP: I will tell you anything we give them will never be enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the --

TRUMP: We could give them, it's a 400-page report, right?

We could give them 800 pages and it wouldn't be enough. They'll always come back it's not enough, it's not enough.



VANIER: Josh Rogin is in Washington; he joins us now. He's a columnist at "The Washington Post" and a CNN political analyst.

Josh, even by this president's standards, he has contradicted himself a lot --


VANIER: -- recently on important things, too. What's going on?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what you're seeing is the conflict between Trump's campaign instincts and his responsibilities for governing. The last time President Trump ran, he didn't actually have to be in charge of the government at the same time. And so he could say pretty much anything and make promises and set up policies without much a fear of any consequence.

And now he's facing a Congress that's divided. He's facing a government that's not necessarily on the same page with him and his political advisers at the White House are telling him what are the bounds of what he can actually accomplish. But he's not asking them before he says a lot of this stuff.

So his instincts are to start campaigning now. And when you see a lot of these statements, that's what he's doing. Afterwards, his staff will go, well, actually, those campaign promises don't match the reality of what you can accomplish. And that's when he's forced to backtrack.

VANIER: I wonder if he has somehow found the Holy Grail of politics, where he can say pretty much anything and then not have to pay a political price for it.

ROGIN: Well, I mean, he's desensitized all of us to these kinds of drastic swings in policy, even in attitudes, even in the claims that he makes. So there's a built-in sort of understanding that the president is going to do these kinds of things and they have less of an effect, both good and bad.

They're not as effective for what he wants to get done and it's also not as damaging when it's pointed out that he's making a lot of false statements or changing his mind all the time. That sort of corrupts our ability to have a good-faith, honest debate about a lot of these issues and it also confuses the ability of the Democratic challengers who are trying to respond to Trump, what they should say and what they should do and what policies they should push because they can't understand what the president's doing.

I guess the president thinks that's a good strategy for him. In a world of chaos, President Trump is more comfortable than most of his opponents. But we really won't know if it's a winning strategy until November 2020.

VANIER: But here's what I ask myself. And humor my theory here. Yes, Trump flip-flops on a lot of things. Yes, he lies on things. Yes, he misleads on many things and does it on a daily basis but he's also remarkably consistent on a certain number of things that constitute his political spine, like anti-immigration, tougher trade deals, deregulation, those are things that are consistent with him.

And you know, you know, that's part of the Trump brand. And when you think of Trump as a politician, what he stands for, those are consistent. And he can afford to flip-flop on the rest, because people have him down and know what he stands for on the rest.

ROGIN: I think that's exactly right and I think that backs up what I was saying before, that President Trump is always campaigning. And those things that you mentioned, immigration, et cetera, are the things that he campaigned on, the things that speak to his base.

Now the tendency for him is of course that he's trying to get things done in Washington but perhaps, in 2019, with a Democratic-led House of Representatives, he's concluded that's not really possible.

So you're right; on the campaign side, speaking to his base, he's amazingly consistent, not just since he's been running for president but about 30 years, especially on trade, how we should treat our allies and adversaries. So that, again, works politically,; just doesn't work in terms of

policy. That's why we're in the situation we're in now. Trump's base is confident that he's sticking by the things that makes them happy.

But the rest of the system is grappling with this unsolvable problem of how to mesh all of those things with the actual work of running a government and what you get is basically policy paralysis and political confusion.


VANIER: Josh Rogin there.

As the U.S. deals with an influx of immigrants from the south, Mexico is trying to come to grips with its own migrant situation. And some think the answer lies in copying the approach of a certain leader to their north. CNN's Paula Newton explains.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was once part of the caravan but Maya Lopez Garcia says she now thanks God and Mexico for letting her stay right here.

"We're fine here," she says. "That's why we're not thinking of going to the United States. We'll stay here."

Granted a temporary visa, Maya makes a living making tortillas. She says she escaped poverty and violence in Guatemala and is now counting on Mexico for her future. Tens of thousands would like to join her. Mexico's borders, both the north and south, are overwhelmed with migrants, mostly from Central America, who've already been waiting months just for a chance at a new life in the United States.

"So if we end up with a chance to stay here in Mexico, we'll take it," says Carlos Gomez from Honduras, "and work hard to make a living."

And this is where things are starting to get complicated for new Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez --


NEWTON: -- Obrador. He had promised a more humanitarian policy for migrants and that's being challenged now, not just by President Trump but more Mexicans, too.

Even people like Aaron Mendez, who helps run a migrant shelter near the Texas border.

"I think one of the solutions is to change the immigration strategy," he says, "which now lets in all the undocumented migrants."

That echoes the thoughts of so-called Mexican Trumpistas, who may not even like Trump but believe he has a point when it comes to immigration.


NEWTON (voice-over): On a popular national radio station, Radio Formula, the head of the migration agency was put on the spot this week about how Mexico will cope with all the new migrants. He admitted his government is granting fewer humanitarian visas. Tere Vale is a Radio Formula journalist and host, she's says it is obvious the migrant influx is unsustainable.

TERE VALE, RADIO FORMULA HOST (through translator): Now we see something like never before in Mexico, a president who is very docile when facing pressure from the United States. Mexico is between the sword and the wall.

NEWTON (voice-over): And President Trump claims his ultimatums are the reason Mexico is now apprehending more migrants on its southern border. Mexican government counters that it has a long-term plan.

LUZ MARIA DE LA MORA, MEXICAN UNDERSECRETARY FOR FOREIGN TRADE: So Mexico is being put under a lot of pressure from both ends. We're being squeezed, exactly. And I think it's -- I mean, it's unfair to say that we are not trying to part of the solution, because I think that this administration has done a lot of the things that can be done to help this humanitarian crisis.

NEWTON (voice-over): Mexico says it plans to make history of the caravans, with economic development in Southern Mexico and Central America. To do it, though, it will need much help and patience, not just from the Trump administration but Mexicans themselves -- Paula Newton, CNN, Mexico City.


VANIER: A grim anniversary: 25 years ago, Rwanda endured one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. Hutu extremists targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a genocidal rampage. Despite advanced warnings, politicians around the world did little more than wring their hands.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in just 100 days. As the world remembers the horrific killings, survivors of the genocide have been sharing their stories. One man says he found peace after marrying the daughter of the man who killed his family. Here's the couple reflecting on their remarkable story.


JOHN GIRANEZA, SURVIVOR (through translator): I prayed for a wife to come and help me, because I was crippled. But the woman I found was the woman whose father had killed my family. I approached her but didn't know whether she would accept me.

MAILEJANNE UWIMANA, SURVIVOR (through translator): When we got married, everyone was angry at us. Both our families would not speak to us but they would come to check if I was alive. They wanted to see if I was fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VANIER: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.