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CNN NEWSROOM

Netanyahu Vows to Annex West Bank Settlements; Trump Tries to Link Democrats to Anti-Semitism; Violent Clashes Continue in Libya near Tripoli; Maduro Supporters Rally after Latest U.S. sanctions; Suspicious Fires Burn Down Black Louisiana Churches; Deadly Iran Floods Force Mass Evacuations; "SNL" Alum Returns to Tackle Allegations against Biden. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired April 7, 2019 - 04:00   ET

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


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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Israel's prime minister makes a promise ahead of Tuesday's vote in an election which the U.S. president has chimed in on, supporting Benjamin Netanyahu.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Worrying new reports from Libya as clashes intensify near Tripoli. Residents there stocking up on food and fuel.

HOWELL (voice-over): And Brexit could actually be good for somebody. Deal or no deal, one British town is hoping to become the U.K.'s first free port open to all traders.

ALLEN (voice-over): Welcome to CNN.

HOWELL (voice-over): NEWSROOM starts now.

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HOWELL: 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. Election Day in Israel. It is just two days away now. And that nation's prime minister is making a last-minute promise in his bid for re-election.

ALLEN: And it is a race in which U.S. president Donald Trump and his support for Netanyahu could be key. The White House has recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and its sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Now Netanyahu says he will extend Israel's sovereignty to West Bank settlements if he is re-elected.

HOWELL: His pledge Saturday seen as a bid to pull in more right-wing voters. It's been met with outrage by Palestinians who consider the settlements illegal. Netanyahu is facing a major political challenge from his former military chief of staff, Benny Gantz. Mr. Trump weighed in on Saturday at an event for Jewish Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I stood with prime minister Netanyahu. Benjamin Netanyahu.

How's the race going, by the way?

How is it?

Who's going to win the race?

Tell me, I don't know. Well, it's going to be close. I think it's going to be close. Two good people. The incredible bond between the United States and Israel has never been stronger than it is right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Let's get the latest on this election just two days away now from Michael Holmes, live in Jerusalem.

Hello to you, Michael. We just heard right there the support of President Trump, an unpopular president in the U.S. but very much in support of Netanyahu and Israel.

What effect is his support, do you think, having on this election?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, of course, Natalie. We're in the final stretch now, 48 hours from now the polls will be open. Israelis deciding their next prime minister, whether it's going to be the rightwing Netanyahu coalition or the newcomer Gantz and his Blue and White Party.

Those comments by Netanyahu on the settlements widely seen here as a pitch by a worried Benjamin Netanyahu. The polls are very close. He's trying to pull votes from the smaller right-wing parties by pledging annexation. Let's listen to what he said.

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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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Mr. Netanyahu does need a coalition to govern, of course, but he needs to perform well head-to-head with his chief opponent, Benny Gantz. That's for the president to then decide to give him, Netanyahu, a chance to form a government first. That's why he's appealing to the supporters of other parties to come over to his Likud Party.

In many ways, it's a bit of a gamble. By pulling votes from potential coalition partners, he could send some of those parties under the threshold that's required to get seats in the Knesset so he could gain some seats but lose as well as coalition parties lose support that they would provide to him. It's complicated here as always.

In terms of the U.S. president, well, his support has been notable here, especially when it comes to the Golan Heights. But it's always sort of local issues and security that sway the electorate here.

ALLEN: Do you get a sense there is some Netanyahu fatigue?

He's been leader for quite some time.

What about the allegations of scandal surrounding his government?

HOLMES: Yes, 13 years prime minister. If he wins this one, by mid- year, he'll be Israel's longest serving prime minister. He does face a --

[04:05:00]

HOLMES: -- that possibility of an indictment, a number of corruption investigations he's facing. When it comes to Netanyahu fatigue, Benny Gantz says that. It's one of his chief messages, in fact. He says Netanyahu works only for himself, that he's tired. He's up to his neck in investigations and he used the phrase, "It is time for him to go" a lot. He said all of those things.

Now I guess it's now time to see which message is going to resonate most with undecided voters. That's a crucial bloc. Perhaps 10 percent of the electorate haven't figured out who they're going to vote for.

Who can pull those voters as well as take support from some of those smaller parties to form a coalition government.

ALLEN: All right, Michael Holmes covering it for us. Thank you.

We turn now to more about Mr. Trump's support of Israel. He's portrayed himself as the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House.

HOWELL: You heard him a moment ago on stage Saturday, speaking to a crowd of Jewish Republican supporters in Las Vegas. Our Boris Sanchez was there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump spent a good deal of his speech to the Republican Jewish coalition on Saturday talking about Israel. Trump touting his record talking about recognizing the sovereignty over the Golan Heights, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and also about his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, saying if Jared couldn't get Middle East peace, then no one can.

Trump also spent a portion of his speech attacking Democrats, going after representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar and at one point bashing the former administration and President Barack Obama over the Iran nuclear deal.

But a large part of the speech was dedicated to immigration. Listen to what he said about asylum seekers trying to enter the United States.

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TRUMP: The asylum program is a scam. Some of the roughest people you've ever seen, people that look like they should be fighting for the UFC. They read a little page given by lawyers that are all over the place. They tell them what to say. You look at this guy, you say, wow. That's a tough cookie. I am very fearful for my life. I am very worried that I will be accosted if I am sent back home. No, no. He'll do the accosting.

Asylum, oh, give him asylum. He's afraid. He's afraid. We don't love the fact that he's got tattoos on his face. That's not a good sign. We don't love the fact that he's carrying the flag of Honduras or Guatemala or El Salvador only to say he's petrified to be in his country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: He also talked about shutting down the border with Mexico even though he backpedaled on that earlier in the week and said he could enact 25 percent tariffs on auto parts moving through Mexico into the United States.

Lastly the president talked about health care. Remember this week President Trump and his surrogates talked about potentially proposing to Congress another way to repeal and replace ObamaCare following two previous failed attempts. President Trump at one point relented during the week, suggesting he would have to wait until after the 2020 election to pursue that goal.

Keep in mind, the House Democrats are in the majority there so it would be nearly impossible for the president to pass a repeal and replace of ObamaCare with the way that things stand now -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president in Las Vegas, Nevada.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Boris Sanchez with a snapshot there of U.S. politics.

Let's now talk more about it with Kate Andrews, associate director at the Institute of Economic Affairs, joining us live from our London bureau.

Good to have you with us.

KATE ANDREWS, INSTITUTE OF ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Hi, George.

HOWELL: The backdrop for Mr. Trump this weekend cannot be lost on the fact there's a major election playing out in Israel this week. Mr. Trump spending a great deal of time on stage talking about that nation, talking about his controversial decisions there, his son-in- law, Jared Kushner, Kushner's approach towards Middle East peace.

How much of this was telegraphing of his support to Benjamin Netanyahu for voters there who will have to decide in that election?

ANDREWS: Well, let's not forget that Netanyahu is probably one of Trump's only real allies throughout the world when it comes to personal relationships. That's not to say that the U.S. does not have many, many allies throughout the world.

But the president has spent a lot of time bashing many of those allies, ranging from Canada to the European Union to Angela Merkel in Germany. And so, personally, that relationship between Netanyahu and Donald Trump is --

[04:10:00]

ANDREWS: -- probably one of his strongest. So it's not surprising to see the president go to bat for him.

I would suspect, for those hoping to support Netanyahu, those on the center right in Israel going to the elections, the president's comments are probably meaningful. They share many opinions and policy proposals when it comes to their foreign policy related to Israel. So you could see why those comments could be beneficial.

We might not see that in the States or Britain directly. But I would suspect that the president in doing that does think he's playing a helpful hand in that election.

HOWELL: Also speaking to that U.S. audience as well, Mr. Trump speaking to voters here on stage at the Republican Jewish Coalition, painting Democrats with an attack we've seen quite often from other Trump surrogates. Here's the president. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Democrats have even allowed the terrible scourge of anti- Semitism to take root in their party and in their country. They have allowed that. They have allowed that. House Democrats recently blocked legislation to confront the anti-Semitic movement to boycott and sanction Israel. Nobody could believe it, right?

You couldn't believe it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: It is an interesting message coming from this president, who suggested false equivalency between neo-Nazis white supremacists marching on Charlottesville, Virginia, and protesters there who oppose them there, saying there were good people on both sides.

Do attacks like these work for Republicans at narrowing that gap with Jewish voters who typically side with Democrats?

ANDREWS: Well, that's what Donald Trump thinks he is tapping into. He thinks he can bring some of those voters onto the Republican side. It's a lot of political posturing from the president.

But are we surprised?

The reality is the moderates in the Democratic Party who still very much hold the reins of the party -- Nancy Pelosi in the House, Chuck Schumer in the Senate -- are much more supportive of Israel and certainly I don't think that we've seen any kind of anti-Semitism coming from those wings of the party which still control the party.

To suggest that the Democratic Party is an anti-Semitic one is a huge overexaggeration. But -- and I do think we really need to be honest about the fact that, as far left politics come in to mainstream movements, this is the true of far right politics as well with the neo-Nazi comments -- it does begin to creep in.

And we have seen some uncomfortable comments from junior congresswomen about not specifically Israel but actually about Jewish people that have bordered on anti-Semitism. It's happening a lot in the U.K. here as Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party has moved to the left, they have essentially, you know, without actually saying come in with open arms, they have invited further extremist views in the party.

Often that comes with anti-Semitism. So I think it is certainly wrong to say the Democratic Party is operating as an anti-Semitic party. That is really an outrageous comment. We need to be very honest very quickly about the kinds of views that can come in as parties lurch further to the right and left. We need to tackle them because from anti-Semitism to neo-Nazism, it is fundamentally unacceptable.

HOWELL: An interesting take on that. Basically a symptom, you're saying, of polarity playing out in the U.S. parties. Let's talk more about that. We heard from the former president, Barack Obama. He was warning of the dangers in progressives becoming too rigid, seeking ideological purity in their positions, essentially saying tearing candidates down who don't support far-left views.

Do you see this as a danger for Democrats headed into 2020?

ANDREWS: I see it as a danger for Democrats. There have been criticisms of Kamala Harris, for example, for taking a photo with Netanyahu in the past. And I think those kinds of arguments and tearing parties down from within to try to make them more radical, it theoretically could be a winning strategy politically.

But in the long term, it's not going to be a winning strategy for America. I think we've already seen this happen slightly in the Republican Party. Donald Trump has taken the Republican Party down a much more populist line.

Those comments you played before when he was speaking about asylum seekers, mocking them for saying that they were scared or oppressed, these are really disgusting comments that have become mainstream, I think, because we have seen that populist uprising of the Republican Party.

We're seeing it on the Left now as well. It's all good and well to be principled and to bring in new ideas into politics that are sometimes considered radical. We need to debate these issues. That's the whole point of a free society. Then voters get to decide what path they want to go down.

But to try to demonize -- [04:15:00]

ANDREWS: -- moderates and remove the center from politics means we're going to go down some radical paths. Usually that kind of public policy does not work for all Americans.

HOWELL: It will be interesting to see what can get done when, as you say, the middle is being eroded. Kate Andrews, we appreciate your time and perspective.

ANDREWS: Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, intense fighting in Libya as competing factions vie for power. What's behind the latest warfare.

HOWELL: Plus another round of rallies in Venezuela as the opposition reveals a new campaign to oust the current president. We'll tell you what that's all about. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: Welcome back.

In Libya, clashes between competing factions have reportedly intensified near the capital city in Tripoli even as global powers urge restraint there.

ALLEN: We're getting reports that the U.N.-backed government has launched airstrikes on rival forces led by the renegade general Khalifa Haftar. The U.N.-supported prime minister says he's pushing back against a coup.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 --

[04:20:00]

AL-SARRAJ (through translator): -- his declaration of coup d'etat to the presidential council will be met with strength and power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Despite the recent fighting, the U.N.'s Libyan envoy says a national peace conference will go ahead as planned later this month.

ALLEN: Let's get the latest now from Salma Abdelaziz. She's been following these developments. She joins me live from London with more.

It looks like it's getting worse before it gets better there in Libya.

What's the latest?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: That's right. We are seeing, of course, reports of more clashes, more intensification between these two fighting factions on the outskirts of the city. There are claims and counterclaims on Haftar's side they're saying they're making gains in the south when it comes to the recognized government.

They say it's difficult to get a clear picture of what's happening on the ground. What is clear is all these calls by the international community to slow down, to de-escalate these tensions, are simply not working. We're seeing the opposite on the ground.

Haftar has been talking for two years about wanting to take Tripoli. When this first happened a few days ago, people were wondering if he was simply just posturing, grandstanding. But as time goes on, it becomes clear this is a very real and very dangerous attempt, Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes. And help us understand the support that he has, those who are standing with him in this push.

ABDELAZIZ: That's right. To kind of look at this more holistically, you can see the general has been preparing for years, if you will, to try to take this. That's what analysts will tell you.

In the last few years he's consolidated power in the east. He's bought the loyalty of various militias. He's come out as a strongman and, most importantly, he has courted support from other countries -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia, even France at times.

He is a U.S. citizen. He can speak their language, if you will, in a way. And he's been able to convince many people abroad outside Libya that he is the one who's going to be fighting terrorism, fighting a wave of extremist Islam in the country.

And this is the result of two years of that consolidation of power. We're seeing that now happening and playing out on the ground as he makes the ultimate play for the control of the entire country, Natalie.

ALLEN: And of course, it's unfortunate for the citizens there of Libya, who've lived amid chaos since Gadhafi was deposed and killed many years ago. We'll continue to follow. Thank you.

HOWELL: In Sudan, anti-government protesters are calling for the president of that country to step down after three decades of power. Opposition activists say that Omar al-Bashir is guilty of war crimes. Demonstrators reached the presidential compound Saturday and are camped out to make their demands.

Meantime, the government is cracking down on the demonstrations. State media reports that a man died during Saturday's protests. But pro-democracy groups say dozens of people have died since the protests started.

ALLEN: Now we turn to Venezuela. The embattled president there renewing calls for dialogue with his opposition. Nicolas Maduro called on regional leaders to broker the talks, saying he's expressing political maturity.

HOWELL: His comments follow another weekend of dueling rallies. Our David McKenzie has the details from Caracas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There were dueling rallies in different parts of Caracas on Saturday. The opposition leader, Juan Guaido, calling on thousands of people to continue their momentum to get rid of Maduro and his regime.

Juan Guaido called for public sector protests on Monday and for people to continue getting out on the streets to get their voices heard. He says the momentum is with them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCKENZIE: But there was also a large contingent of pro-regime supporters in the center of the city. They were bused in, many of them, given food and water. But there is passion with their supporters. Maduro has refused to vacate his position. A senior administration official in the U.S. saying all options are still on the table for Venezuela, including the military one. They have increased sanctions on Venezuela. The latest sanctions are hitting Venezuelan oil vessels that travel from here to Cuba, according to the U.S. --

[04:25:00]

MCKENZIE: -- government. But here on the streets, opposition members are telling me that they are getting ready for a long, drawn- out fight to get Maduro out -- David McKenzie, CNN, Caracas, Venezuela.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: A grim anniversary: 25 years ago, Rwanda endured one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

ALLEN: And the nation is now coming together to remember the genocide of 1994 when Hutu extremists targeted ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a deadly rampage; 800,000 people were killed, most of them hacked to death in just 100 days.

Rwandans and international leaders will take part today in a wreath laying, a march, the lighting of a flame and vigil.

As the world remembers the horrific killing, survivors of the genocide have been sharing their stories.

HOWELL: One man says that he found peace after marrying the daughter of the man who killed his family.

Here's the couple reflecting on their remarkable story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

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ALLEN: Next hour, I'll interview a survivor of the genocide, who travels the world now, talking about forgiveness. She's got quite the remarkable story. Stay with us for that.

HOWELL: Absolutely.

Still ahead here, U.S. authorities say they've arrested a man for threatening to kill a Muslim lawmaker. What the suspect allegedly told Ilhan Omar's office -- ahead for you.

ALLEN: Plus three churches consumed by fire under what officials call suspicious circumstances. We'll explain more on CNN NEWSROOM.

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ALLEN: Welcome back. If you are just joining us this hour, here are our top stories at CNN NEWSROOM.

HOWELL: Thanks for being with us.

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ALLEN: U.S. president Trump discussed the Israeli elections Saturday in Las Vegas. He also tried to paint Democrats as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

HOWELL: He singled out one in particular, the Muslim congresswoman, Ilhan Omar. She sparked controversy for her comments about ties between pro-Israel lobbyists and U.S. lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And a special thanks to Representative Omar of Minnesota. Oh. Oh. Oh. I forgot. She doesn't like Israel. Forgot. I'm so sorry. Oh. No, she doesn't like Israel, does she?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The president's comments there came just days after a man was arrested for threatening to kill Omar.

ALLEN: Yet you heard his sarcasm when referring to her, his mockery. Court records show the threats were made during a phone call to her office in Washington last month. The suspect allegedly threatened to kill Omar because of her faith. CNN's Polo Sandoval has more on this story from New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, one of two Muslim women who were first to legislate in Congress, her staff and her Washington, D.C., office reporting they first received that threatening call on March 21st.

A voice on the other line, according to federal prosecutors, identified himself as Patrick Carlineo Jr. He asked the representative's staff, quote, "Do you work for the Muslim Brotherhood? Why are you working for her?"

He then proceeded to call Representative Omar a terrorist and threatened to kill her. According to that charging document, he also states his name, actually then spells it out and even left contact information, likely assisting federal authorities in tracking him down.

Eventually he was found in his home in Western New York, according to court records, on March 29th. He was interviewed by federal agents in which he described himself as a, quote, "patriot," someone who loves the president and hated who he believes are radical Muslims in the government.

Carlineo is expected to be back in court on Wednesday for another hearing. CNN has reached out to not only his lawyer but also somebody who we believe is a friend of his. But we have yet to hear back -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: We turn now to the state of Louisiana. Three black churches have burned down under what officials have called suspicious circumstances. HOWELL: No injuries or deaths were caused by these fires. All of the fires occurred within 10 days in the same rural area. The FBI is helping local authorities to investigate there, as our Kaylee Hartung explains.

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KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All three of these churches burned in the middle of the night, so, thankfully, no one was injured. But there are more similarities than just the timing of these three churches burning to the ground in the last 10 days.

It's led authorities to believe it's more than a coincidence. Each of these three churches in Louisiana, very active in their community over more than the last 100 years. Each of these church buildings, they were located on or near rural highways in the area.

Authorities have not yet been able to say that they can conclusively connect all three fires but they say they found suspicious elements at each that they say will be thoroughly probed.

The state fire marshal in Louisiana cautioning, any arson investigation can take months because you're dealing with a very complicated and unconventional crime scene. All of your --

[04:35:00]

HARTUNG: -- evidence has burned. In the case of each of these three climate change, not much more than rubble remains. So investigators have a lot of work ahead of them.

That being said, the sheriff in this area says he hears the communities' pleas for this crime to be solved. And he says some progress has been made.

Given that we're talking about three churches with African American congregation, it has been recognized this could be racially motivated but authorities have not yet come to that conclusion.

And the pastors for these churches are saying they don't want to inject race unnecessarily into the conversation. One reverend says he doesn't know who is doing this and he doesn't know why but he doesn't want to be the one responsible for injecting race into this conversation.

Meantime, all three churches finding alternate locations for their Sunday services. One reverend, Harry Richard, saying this is the message he wants his congregation to hear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY RICHARD, PASTOR, GREATER UNION BAPTIST CHURCH: God's grace is undeserved merit. I know we don't deserve this but He gives us something better than this. And that's undeserved grace. I thank God for grace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARTUNG: Authorities say they're allocating more manpower, authorizing overtime to ensure people in this community are safe and protected when they go to church this Sunday -- Kaylee Hartung, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: It will be interesting to see what people have to say when they go to church.

ALLEN: We'll hopefully have a follow-up later.

HOWELL: Still ahead on NEWSROOM, Brexit in the United Kingdom, an ambitious plan to forge new jobs from abandoned steel mills, once or if Brexit happens.

ALLEN: Also, we'll look at the most extensive flooding in decades, forcing mass evacuations. This is Iran. Derek Van Dam will have the latest on that coming up.

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ALLEN: Welcome back.

A stunning admission from the British prime minister as she staring down the possibility of a no deal Brexit next Friday. Theresa May has now acknowledged publicly the only way to avoid crashing out of the European Union is with the Labour Party's help.

HOWELL: Such a confessions would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. But the prime minister said in her statement it is the political reality facing the U.K. after her own party has rejected her Brexit deal three times.

She now heads to Brussels on Wednesday to seek an extension to the April 12th deadline but has no assurances she will get it.

Deal or no deal, Brexit can't come soon enough for some parts of the U.K.

ALLEN: A once thriving steel industry in Northeast England believes Brexit is the only way to revive its sagging fortunes. CNN's Hadas Gold went there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It stretches 1,600 acres, double the size of Central Park. The carcass of a steel plant that as a local saying goes, helped build the world and powered the economy of Northeast England for decades.

It's steel holding up global landmarks like the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

GOLD (on camera): When this plant abruptly closed in 2015, more than 2,000 people lost what were well-paid and secure jobs. It's laid dormant ever since.

MAYOR BEN HOUCHEN, TEESSIDE, ENGLAND: Such a huge wrench for a community that has been based in steelmaking for more than a hundred years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOLD (voice over): Thirty two-year-old Mayor Ben Houchen was born and raised here. Two years ago, he was elected to the newly created role, overseeing a cluster of cities in a region known as Teesside.

GOLD (on camera): What was it like growing up here?

HOUCHEN: It was an amazing place. It still is an amazing place, but we just need to reinvent ourselves.

GOLD (voice over): A reinvention he believes starts with Brexit. Only by breaking up with Brussels, Houchen said can U.K. government act on his proposal, turning the old plant site side and its surroundings into a special tax free zone called a free port.

HOUCHEN: Having a free port based here would mean potentially zero tariffs, zero duties.

GOLD: Wouldn't it be easier to attract manufacturers if the U.K. just stayed in a customs union?

HOUCHEN: Well, ultimately, 70 percent of people in the local area voted to leave the European Union. And I think one of the reasons was because the government wasn't able to intervene, for example, to save the local steel works.

GOLD (voice over): Houchen said turning Teesside into a free report could generate tens of thousands of new jobs in a region that desperately needs them. Unemployment in some areas of the Tees Valley is more than double the national average.

FRANKIE WALES, FOUNDER, REDCAR AMATEUR BOXING CLUB: They can't possibly take anything else from here because everything is gone.

GOLD (voice over): Frankie Wales worked in the steel plant for 15 years. He now runs an amateur boxing gym in the Teesside town of Redcar. For years he's watched as men of working age were knocked down by factory closures, with the steel works delivering the final blow.

WALES: It's quite disheartening to see 55 or 60- year-old men who know they are never going to work again. We've been trained to be the finest steelmakers in the world who now make lattes and coffee.

GOLD (voice over): A gym rat turned town ambassador, Wales leads initiatives to get young men here in Redcar off the street and into fruitful employment.

GOLD (on camera): Having heard of this free port idea that Mayor Ben has, what is your take on that?

WALES: It is an opportunity that is going to bring 10,000 jobs, a thousand jobs, a hundred jobs. That's better than no jobs at all.

MEREDITH CROWLEY, ECONOMIST, CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY: The jobs won't arrive on the level at which some of the politicians who support the idea are hoping.

GOLD (voice over): Economists like Cambridge's Meredith Crowley say it's unlikely a free port will help Teesside overcome the negative the effects of Brexit.

CROWLEY: Where you see big job growth would be in a country like China, where you have very, very low skilled workers earning very, very low wages.

So they're opening a free port that will create a lot of employment opportunities. But British workers don't have that. They're much more skilled.

GOLD (voice over): The U.K. government projected Brexit could shrink the northeast economy by as much as 16%. But Houchen is pushing ahead. He said more than 100 foreign firms have expressed interest in the free port site, a consortium of oil companies including BP and Shell how proposed building a clean energy plant.

GOLD (on camera): Do you ever think you're promising too much?

HOUCHEN: Look, the plan that we have, yes, it is ambitious. Yes, it's hopeful. But the proof is in the pudding and there is evidence of it starting to come to fruition.

GOLD (voice over): They say that Teesside built the world. The factory town now hoping Brexit will bring the world back to them -- Hadas Gold, CNN, Teesside.

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ALLEN: Iran's supreme leader wants Iraq to demand that American troops leave the country as soon as possible. Ayatollah Khamenei spoke with Iraq's prime minister Saturday and said the United States does not support democracy in Iraq.

HOWELL: Iran and the U.S. have been competing for influence in Iraq ever since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that toppled the dictator there, Saddam Hussein. But Iran's immediate concern is the catastrophic flooding that has already killed at least 70 people there.

ALLEN: Yes, the video is kind of unreal. The heaviest rainfall in decades has forced the mass evacuation of six cities in Iran's southwestern province. Here's CNN's Rick Fulbaugh (ph) with more.

[04:45:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK FULBAUGH (PH), CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly three weeks of heavy rains have turned some towns into rivers in Iran. The government says dozens of people have died so far from flooding and tens of thousands of others have been displaced.

With forecasters calling for more rain on the way, officials aren't taking any chances and are evacuating entire communities near the oil- rich border with Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABDOLREZA RAHMANI FAZLI, IRANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): In Iran, 400,000 people from here are exposed to the floods. We must not accept any risks and make sure, God willing, that no incidents happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FULBAUGH (PH): Authorities have deployed mobile medical units and they're urging people living near dams and rivers to go to emergency shelters. Rescue workers say they're worried about the scale of the flooding, which has submerged thousands of roads and destroyed more than 80 bridges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): For as long as people need us, we will stay here until bridges are reestablished, hospitals are operational.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FULBAUGH (PH): Iraq has also closed a border crossing with Iran for travelers and trade until further notice. Earlier this week, Iran said U.S. sanctions were slowing down aid supplies from getting to affected areas.

The U.S. says it is standing by to help and blamed Iran's government, saying it had mismanaged its urban planning and emergency preparedness -- Rick Fulbaugh (ph), CNN.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ALLEN: Well, in this high-tech age, America has a leader who says he knows more about technology than anybody. Up next, how modern life has President Trump steamed.

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[04:50:00]

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HOWELL: The comedy sketch show "Saturday Night Live" here in the United States is taking on the former Vice President Joe Biden.

ALLEN: President Trump getting a pass this week after allegations, of course, that the real-life Biden made women feel uncomfortable with the way he reached out to them. The show sent fake Joe Biden to a sensitivity trainer and things didn't go as planned. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON SUDEIKIS, ACTOR, "JOE BIDEN": Really great to meet you, Gwen. It really is. I appreciate you coming here.

(CROSSTALK)

"Biden": One second, I'm just connecting. One second. Sorry for the interruption.

Really, truly, thank you.

Now what were you saying?

KATE MCKINNON, ACTOR, "GWEN": Yes. So this is exactly the kind of thing that I'm here to prevent.

"BIDEN": OK, OK.

Oh, wait, I think nose to nose is going to be OK. Because, look. I did the 23andMe thing like Lizzie -- what's her name?

You know, Lizzie, Warren, right?

Yes. And it turns out that I'm 1 percent Eskimo so I'm allowed to do the kisses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: "SNL" there.

ALLEN: Doing what they do.

We live in a high-tech age, of course. Sometimes it seems America's president doesn't have time for all that newfangled stuff.

HOWELL: Our Jeanne Moos has this story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to windmills, President Trump loves to imitate them...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never heard a windmill before but I'm pretty sure it doesn't sound like a cat in a dryer. MOOS (voice-over): -- President Trump --

[04:55:00]

MOOS (voice-over): -- -- insists on tilting at windmills, Donald Quixote someone called him. But attacking without the benefit of scientific facts...

TRUMP: And they say the noise causes cancer, you tell me that one, OK?

MOOS: -- and this is a president who claims...

TRUMP: I know more about technology than anybody. Nobody knows more about technology than me. I'm a professional in technology.

MOOS: -- a professional that prefers Sharpie on pages, whose desk that appears to be a no computer zone, a guy who struggled to get the speaker phone to the Speaker.

TRUMP: Enrique, you can hook him up. A lot of people waiting.

Hello?

Do you want to put that on this phone, please?

Hello?

MOOS: He tweeted recently that airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT.

Then there's the new electromagnetic system that catapults planes off the U.S.S. Gerald Ford.

TRUMP: It used to be steam, steam. Old fashioned.

MOOS: When President Trump visited the ship he said sailors told him they fixed the steam catapult with a wrench.

TRUMP: If the electronics wrecks, sir, we have to send for Albert Einstein.

MOOS: You know, you think the president would be a fan of wind power, one of those tried and true technologies rooted in the past, like some of his other favorites.

TRUMP: They say it's medieval a wall, it is medieval. So, is the wheel. Wheels and walls work, you know, there's something you can't beat.

MOOS: And yet, he keeps beating up on windmills, maybe the president has just had it with wind -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Today's top stories are just ahead.

HOWELL: Stay with us.