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Trump Admin To Brief Lawmakers On Iran Threats; Pentagon Up Military Plans For Iran; Trump Order Effectively Bars Huawei Sales In U.S.; Military Leaders Suspend Talks with Protesters for 72 Hours; Trump Order Effectively Bars Huawei Sales in U.S.; Alabama Adopts Most Restrictive Abortion Law in U.S.; ; White House Rejects Democrats Requests for Documents; Former Militant Works to Discourage Radicalization; Plant-Based Burgers. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 16, 2019 - 01:00   ET



[01:00:00] NICK WATT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and thanks for joining us. I'm Nick Watt and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Ahead this hour, lots of tough talk but so far few details to back it up. U.S. lawmakers push the Trump Administration for specifics why exactly the hardline on Iran.

Plus, blast Donald Trump escalates tensions with China by targeting its biggest name in tech. Huawei is now effectively banned from doing business in the United States. And world leaders and tech executives team up to fight extremism online but the U.S. refuses to sign on.

Donald Trump might now be turning to Switzerland as a potential back- channel negotiator to ease growing tensions with Iran. Mr. Trump will meet in the coming days with the Swiss president who might help Mr. Trump who says he wants to talk to Tehran. The U.S. State Department meanwhile, citing an imminent threat from Iran and it's proxies ordering all non-emergency workers to leave Iraq from the embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil.

Many in Congress are demanding answers, details about those alleged threats from Iran that spurred the U.S. military buildup in the region. The Trump administration is scheduled to brief top lawmakers in the day ahead and more now on the Pentagon's planning from CNN's Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Updated military options for possible war against Iran include detailed destruction of the regime's massive missile inventory and air defenses before moving to attack nuclear sites. It would take months of buildup and more than 100,000 U.S. troops fighting from the air, land, and sea according to U.S. officials.

That option has been briefed to senior officials including John Bolton, the National Security Adviser, a longtime Iran hawk. But would President Trump who wants to reduce overseas troop levels take the U.S. to war against Iran? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have not planned for that. Hopefully, we're not going to have to plan for that.

STARR: The immediate focus gets Iran to back off from what the Pentagon believes is a plan to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region. But so far, the U.S. offering little to no public evidence.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: What makes me skeptical is the fact that a lot of the intelligence that has been revealed so far seems to be very normal. The red line would have to be either an actual attack or no kidding, actual information that they are about to commit an attack.

STARR: All this as a top British General, the Deputy Commander in Iraq publicly expressed his skepticism.

MAJ. GEN. CHRISTOPHER GHIKA, BRITISH ARMY: Am I concerned about the danger, no not really.

STARR: In an extraordinary statement the U.S. pushed back saying the general's views run counter to the identified credible threats. Iran supreme leader insists his country does not want war.

AL KHAMENEI, SUPREME LEADER, IRAN: There won't be any war with the help of God. We don't seek war.

STARR: U.S. officials are adamant that the threat is very real. Some U.S. diplomats have now been ordered out of Iraq but still no word on what might have caused damage, five to ten-foot holes in the holes of four tankers in the Gulf. Barbara Starr, CNN the Pentagon.


WATT: And as for that blast British general we heard from in Barbara Starr's report, the British government seems to be backtracking on his dismissal of increased threats from Iran. U.S. officials say the British government knows he was wrong and they acknowledge the heightened threat level.

Samantha Vinograd is a CNN National Security Analyst. She joins me now from New York. Now, Sam, the State Department announced Wednesday they're going to pull all non-essential diplomatic staff out of Baghdad and Senator Bob Menendez had something to say about that. Let's just take a listen.


SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): There are only two reasons for ordering their departure. We have credible intelligence that our people are at risk or in preparation for military action in Iran.


WATT: So which do you think it is? Is the really credible intelligence of threats or is the U.S. preparing for war or both? SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I actually don't think the options are mutually exclusive. It is entirely possible that there is increased threat reporting against our personnel in Iraq and that the United States is seriously considering military action in Iran or enhanced military action against Iranian proxies in Iraq and in the region.

[01:05:13] But there's a pretty simple way to answer this question with respect to Congress. The intelligence chiefs and military planners can go and brief the United States Congress. They actually have a legal responsibility to do so with respect to what this increased threat reporting is against our assets in Iraq.

I serve for a year in Iraq. I saw the Iranian threat front and center. I ducked and covered from Iranian rockets and lost colleagues. This threat is very real and has increased and decreased at various points throughout our history in the Iraq theater.

So what needs to happen right now is their Intel chiefs and our military planners need to go to the Hill and explain what's happening. And there are plans reportedly to send the Secretary of State but he's non-intelligence chief any longer and he's not a Defense Department professional either.

WATT: That was going to be my next question. I mean, we have heard that there is going to be some kind of briefing Thursday in Washington for Intel Committee people and Chiefs, but my question was going to be do you think we're going to get any more clarity out of that?

VINOGRAD: I think it really depends who goes. Secretary of State Pompeo should be representing the diplomatic track in the interests of Department of State personnel that were either deployed in Iraq, are leaving Iraq, and/or staying there because they're considered essential staff.

But we have a Director of National Intelligence, we have a Defense Intelligence Agency in the United States which really looks at intelligence related to our military assets deployed overseas. These intelligence professionals should go and brief members of Congress on the threat.

And perhaps if Secretary of State Pompeo wants to be there I think that makes sense. But him going by himself, to me as a former member of the national security team, does not check the box with respect to keeping Congress fully and currently informed on threat assessments.

WATT: And in terms of what's actually going on within the administration, I mean President Trump said on Wednesday there are no divisions within the administration on our policy towards the Middle East. But president Trump is essentially a neo-isolationist and John Bolton is in his ear, and John Bolton is perhaps the most hawkish man in America. How can there not be a division between those two essentially ideologies?

VINOGRAD: Well, to state the obvious, when President Trump says something, you kind of have to assume the opposite is true. So if he said there aren't divisions, it's probably likely that there are. But you know, it is not unusual for there to be divisions within the national security team when it comes to something as dramatic as potential military action in a theater.

I was at the National Security Council when the Syria war started and I can tell you there are a lot of divisions with respect to what we should do and whether we should use military force on the ground in Syria. I wish that we had. It is entirely possible that the Secretary of State is the chief diplomat of the United States does not want to use military force and that he is open to some kind of diplomatic track with Iran.

But John Bolton's job as National Security Adviser is to present all those different views to the president and recommendations from each cabinet member on what to do to counter this alleged increased threat and then for the president to make a decision. John Bolton as national security adviser should not be censoring

options from the president. Various National Security Advisors have weighed in with their own recommendation when asked. I've seen National Security Advisors doing it both ways.

So the real question is, is Bolton in some way censoring the content that reaches the president. Is he whispering in his ear and saying that a military option with Iran is the only way to go, or someone like Secretary of State Pompeo who really has been in the lead on this issue, the one who's speaking with the president in saying that maybe it is time to open up some kind of diplomatic contact with the Iranians to try to de-escalate the situation.

WATT: I mean, Trump did tweet on Wednesday. He said, I'm sure that Iran will want to talk soon. But earlier in the week we heard from Ayatollah Khamenei who said we will not talk about the nuclear deal. Such negotiations are poison. Is he going to cave? Will they talk?

VINOGRAD: Having worked on the back-channel negotiations with Iran through the Omanis when they first started, both sides are going to say a lot of things publicly while there is potential -- the possibility or even the possibility that back-channel negotiations are happening right now.

The Iranian regime has egg on its face based upon the fact that they gave something up. They gave up their nuclear program as part of the Iran deal, sanctions were lifted, and then the United States violated that. They have their own domestic politics and hardliners to deal with when it comes to resuming any potential negotiations with the United States.

On the other hand, President Trump assumes that everybody wants to talk to him. At this point, it is unclear to me that the Iranians view the United States as a credible interlocutor. So in addition to the domestic pressure, there's really no -- there's really no likelihood that they trust that even if they sit down with President Trump that he's going to keep his word because he breaks it so often.

So he's hoping perhaps that they talk because things are rising so quickly and escalating so quickly, but I don't know that diplomacy is on the table from the Iranian perspective at this point.

WATT: Sam Vinograd, thank you very much for your insights.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

WATT: Meanwhile, amid the escalating trade war with China, President Trump is now taking aim at China's leading networking company, Huawei. He signed an executive order barring U.S. companies from buying telecom gear from companies that pose a national security threat. He didn't actually name Huawei.

But for more on this, Sherisse Pham joins us now from Hong Kong. Sherisse, this is just another salvo in the trade war?

SHERISSE PHAM, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: This is another salvo in the trade war and it is a development that is not going to go down well in Beijing. Huawei is a national tech champion. It is the world's largest telecommunications company, and the number two or number three smartphone maker depending on which quarter you look at.

This is a company, one of the very few Chinese tech companies, Chinese companies of altogether of tech or otherwise, that is a truly global, international company. And this executive order coming down really kind of puts a dent in their -- in their brand -- important the context though, that Huawei has effectively been banned in the United States since 2012, ever since a U.S. congressional report said that Huawei equipment could pose a national security risk, allegations that hallway has repeatedly denied.

And Huawei responded to the executive order today saying that this is not in the interest of U.S. consumers or U.S. businesses and will only harm and delay the deployment of 5G in the United States. Because let's not forget that trade war is rooted in technology. The Trump administration doesn't China leading the technologies of the future and Trump himself has identified one of those technologies as 5G. Huawei is a leader when it comes to 5G.

But the fear of course in the United States is that the Chinese Communist Party could compel Huawei to use its equipment to spy on other nations. Now our own CNN's Matt Rivers asked founder Ren Zhengfei about this in an interview back in March. Have a listen to what he had to say.


REN ZHENGFEI, FOUNDER, HUAWEI (through translator): I'd rather shut down the company. In our 30-year history, we have never received such requests. If there are future requests, I'm making it clear today, I'll firmly reject them.


PHAM: So he said that he would never accept a request from Beijing to spy on other nations. Of course, the criticism is that they -- you know, Washington says that if Beijing asked Huawei for access to its equipment, the company couldn't say no. So we're looking ahead to Beijing this afternoon to see what their

response is going to be to this latest development. We got a little bit of hint of it yesterday when official was asked about it and he called the U.S. actions distrustful and abusive and really kind of indicated that retaliation could be coming, Nick.

WATT: I mean, Huawei has offered the U.S. and other Western countries, they've offered to sign what they call I think like a no- spy agreement. I mean would that be worth the paper is written on?

PHAM: It's really hard to prove a negative though, right. So if you could sign this agreement saying we are not going to spy on other countries, but again, there is a law in place in China that if Beijing needs to access technology, or equipment, or products from Chinese companies in the interest of national security, it is within their rights to do that, and those companies would have to obey or they'd be going against the law.

Huawei has said that it would be suicide for them to follow orders from Beijing to spy on other nations. But of course the counter- argument for that is it would be suicide for Huawei to disobey an order from Beijing.

WATT: Sherisse, thank you very much for your time. Meanwhile, tech companies and governments team up to fight the spread of extremism online. But one major world power opted out of the initiative.

And Alabama's governor has signed into law the most restrictive anti- abortion law in the U.S. Later this hour, our people on both sides of this most controversial issue are reacting.


WATT: Thousands of Brazilians marched on Wednesday against cuts to education. The government has said it's freezing nearly a quarter of discretionary spending on universities and this is the first national protest since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January.

He calls it a partisan ploy, calling the protestors, useful idiots. Mr. Bolsonaro has been losing support as Brazil's struggles with a weak economy and rising unemployment.

In Sudan, talks aimed at moving the country towards civilian rule have been suspended for 72 hours. The head of Sudan's Transitional Military Council says talks with opposition leaders are on hold until there is, "an appropriate climate for completing an agreement."

The country has been scarred by turmoil since the military ousted long-time President Omar al-Bashir last month. On Wednesday, at least 14 people were injured in Khartoum after Sudanese soldiers stormed barricades and opened fire at the site of a sitting demonstration, this, according to the Sudan Doctors Committee.

And more than two dozen world and business leaders have pledged to do more to rid the internet of violent extremist content. America's biggest tech firms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter joined the initiative, but the U.S. government stayed away. Nina dos Santos reports from Paris.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Big tech and big government putting on a united front against extremism online. In a summit dubbed the Christchurch call, French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, welcomed heads of state and Silicon Valley to Paris, and pledged the commitment from 26 parties to try and curb the viral spread of violent content.

JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: The Christchurch call to action, an action plan for change, is a global response to a tragedy that occurred on the shores of my country, but was ultimately felt around the world. It ultimately commits us all to build a more humane internet.

DOS SANTOS: Part of the effort will come from countries reinforcing existing laws, with Canada, the U.K., Ireland and others, signing up to the pledge.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): For the first time, countries from all over the world were present, and secondly, it is an appeal which brings together not just governments and social and tech companies, but also the civil society. And we expect tangible results.

[01:20:01] DOS SANTOS: The White House declined to join the call. But U.S. tech titans did throw their weight behind it, from Facebook to Google, and Amazon to YouTube, committing to identifying offensive material sooner and making sure isn't amplified by algorithms.

The summit was organized in the wake of the mass shooting of 51 people in Christchurch, which was live-streamed and shared millions of times thereafter.

Facebook, whose checks and balances struggled to cope with the spread of the video, issued a separate statement, announcing a new one strike policy for those who misuse the live streaming tool. The Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, who met Macron alone, last week, was absent.

NICK CLEGG, VICE PRESIDENT FOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS, FACEBOOK: So, I think we all recognize in this -- in this meeting that this is not something that any company can do on its own. It's not something the industry, as a whole, can do on its own.

DOS SANTOS: This was a high-profile gathering, but many will question what was actually achieved. The recommendations have broadened nonbinding, and some have been heard before.

It will take more than a day (INAUDIBLE) to clean up the dark corners of the internet, starting to work together is, at least, a first step towards fixing its flaws.

Nina dos Santos, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WATT: Joining me now from San Francisco, California, is TechCrunch Editor-at-large, Josh Constine, Josh, we've just heard Nina there, used the words broad and nonbinding, is there any meat here, any teeth? Is this actually going to make any difference?

JOSH CONSTINE, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, TECHCRUNCH (via Skype): Unfortunately, this is not a real regulation, this is just a request for governments in companies around the world to stand up and pledge that they will do more.

And that's why it's so disappointing that the U.S. refused to sign on, because it wasn't meaning they would have to commit to anything, it was just a show of support, and still, Donald Trump decided against it.

WATT: I mean, I'm going to read you now. There was a tweet that came out from the White House today, if I can read my bad handwriting. It reads, the Trump administration is fighting for free speech online. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias has caused you to be censored of silenced online, we want to hear about it.

I mean, is that -- if you are a Jihadi who has been thrown off Facebook, you know, called the White House switchboard, I don't know what to make of that, do you?

CONSTINE: This is really just another play by Donald Trump to rile up his base and cast doubt on the real truth that is actually sometimes purveyed by social media. He wants to make his followers believe that he can save them from the consequences of misuse and abuse on these platforms.

And if somebody harasses somebody else, they shouldn't say oh, it's political bias, they got my content taken down. It was them, being a terrible human being.

WATT: I mean, is there -- let's just go back to what these people who met in Paris are trying to achieve. I mean, is there anything that can realistically be done? I mean, listen, we're talking about multiple jurisdictions, obviously, across the world, the internet, very difficult to police. Is there anything that we can really, meaningfully, do to cut down on this kind of content?

CONSTINE: The problem is with human nature, not with these algorithms. What we need to do is predict the way that they will be misused and safeguard against them without presuming the guilt of people who are using these platforms. Otherwise, we will stray into censorship.

But the way that these platforms are being used by terrorists, don't amount to free speech, they amount to abuse of the public. And that's why these things should not be conflated. We need to understand that the terrorists can be prevented from misusing these platforms without hindering the average person's ability to speak freely.

And these are private companies, and they are not, in any way, forced to abide by free speech laws. They are doing what they think is best for their service, in a lot of cases, that means not allowing hate.

WATT: And, I think it was Facebook that was saying, that if you abuse some of their core laws, you'll be banned for 30 days. I mean, is that really much of a deterrent?

CONSTINE: Well, they are not saying it specifically 30 days, or what the exact threshold that gets someone with this ban is, because they don't want people to just come up, just up to the line, and tow that line of problematic content.

But, I do think that this will ensure that somebody who was been obviously misusing social media, can't take advantage of the most powerful medium for live broadcasting, in order to share their messages of hate. That's not going to stop somebody from starting a new account and misusing live broadcasting, but it's a good start.

WATT: A good start. Tell me, there's going to be a good ending somewhere? I mean, are you hopeful, optimistic?

[01:25:03] CONSTINE: Unfortunately, I'm rarely that optimistic about when you combine the anonymity of the internet with the tendency of human nature to seek that attention. We are creatures of vanity, even the worst of us, and so when we give someone the platform to share, if they have hate in their heart, that is what they're going to share.

And so, instead, I think these social networks need to be thinking about not what is best for their bottomless growth, but what is best for the safety of their platform, as a whole, without impeding unfair speech.

WATT: And, perhaps, what's best for the world, Josh, thank you very much for your time.

CONSTINE: My pleasure.

WATT: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, a new abortion battle. Alabama's governor just signed America's toughest abortion measure into law, many are outraged.


WATT: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Nick Watt, with the headlines this hour. President Donald Trump is perhaps now looking to Switzerland to help ease tensions with Iran. Mr. Trump will meet with the Swiss president in the coming days, a possible back channel negotiator. The U.S. has announced the military build-up in the Middle East to counter what it calls, imminent threats, from Iran.

And President Trump signed an Executive Order that basically bars U.S. telecommunications companies from buying equipment made by China's, Huawei. Washington believes Huawei's equipment could be used by the Chinese to spy. The move comes during the escalating U.S.-China trade war.

And Alabama Governor, Kay Ivey, has signed into law, a bill that bans abortions in almost all cases in her state, even for victims of rape and incest. Critics are calling this an appalling attack on women's rights. CNN's Dianne Gallagher has the reaction from both sides of this controversial issue.


SEN. LINDA COLEMAN-MADISON (D-AL): You don't control this, you don't own this!

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Democratic lawmakers outraged.

SEN. VIVIAN FIGURES (D-AL): You know there is no law in this country, on the books, that says what a man can or cannot do with his body.

GALLAGHER: An abortion rights advocates calling for a nationwide response today, the nation's most restrictive abortion law, all hose in favor, Republican men.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Life is precious. Life is a gift of our creator.

COLEMAN-MADISON: Now you are in my womb. I want you out.


GALLAGHER: The law effectively bans abortion, by making it a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for performing the procedure.

The law does include very limited exceptions such as serious health risks to the mother. Democrats attempted to add an amendment to exempt victims of rape and incest but that failed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you get raped and have to have that child based on an Alabama law? Just because we want to legislate morality.

GALLAGHER: This fight now potentially setting up a Supreme Court showdown. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have already said they plan to challenge this in court which supporters of the law admit mid is kind of the point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will never get a Heartbeat Bill to be constitutional until Roe versus Wade is decided in reverse. And so, I think everybody understood that.

GALLAGHER: Alabama is one of 16 states to introduce or pass restrictive abortion legislations, sometimes called Heartbeat Bills this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are now back on the bill

GALLAGHER: According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. For Republicans, those numbers are flipped with 59 percent saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a plan by the Republican Party, make no mistake, to overturn Roe v Wade. GALLAGHER: 2020 Democratic candidates quick to condemn the Alabama

law on Twitter and the campaign trail calling it dangerous and unconstitutional.

Now Alabama Governor Kay Ivey released a statement when she announced that she had signed this into the law, and in it she acknowledges that there is already a law very similar to this on the books in Alabama and that it is unenforceable because of Roe v. Wade.

She says that we have to respect the authority of the Supreme Court, but she says -- and this is the key line here -- that the sponsors of this bill believe that it is time, once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur.

Again, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have already said they planned to challenge this in court. Even though she signed it into law today This cannot take effect until six months from this moment and it will likely be in court long before that day.

Diane Gallagher, CNN -- Montgomery, Alabama.


NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR: CNN legal analyst Areva Martin joins us now from Los Angeles. Areva -- let's jus get this straight. So if this bill becomes law let's take a horrific hypothetical -- if a 13-year- old girl in Alabama was raised by her uncle under this law should have to carry that baby to term and give birth -- right?


This law is so restrictive that it doesn't even provide for young girls or any age women that might be raped. It doesn't provide exceptions for incest. The only exception is if there is some, you know, possible harm to the mother with respect to carrying the child.

And I think what's so appalling to so many is that the governor made it clear this wasn't about ending abortion or implementing this law in the state of Alabama. This was about taking this fight to the United States Supreme Court. That is the strategy of these Alabama male lawmakers, just as it is the strategy of lawmakers in many states, in many southern states and also in many Midwestern states. There is an all out attack on women's reproductive rights, but also, a very deliberately legal strategy to pass these laws in order for them to be challenged to get to the Supreme Court to have the Supreme Court overturn Roe v Wade.

WATT: Yes. I mean Areva, the governor of Alabama is blatant, I mean I will read a bit of her statement. She says many Americans, myself included, disagree when Roe versus Wade was handed down in 1973. The sponsors of this bill believe that it is time once again for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur.

Now, of course, Areva, the Supreme Court -- President Trump has nominated two justices. It's now five -- four, conservative. What is going to happen? What would happen when this lands on their desk?

MARTIN: Well, that's a good questions, Nick. You know, the issue is going to probably come down to Chief Justice Roberts. He is going to be the deciding vote. And what we know about Chief Justice Roberts is that he believes in precedents. He has made it very clear that he is not going to do something that, I think, is going to be a jolt to the American legal system.

So, I'm not so confident that the strategy, this very deliberate strategy that the southern lawmakers and some of the Midwest have is going to work out in the way that they have planned.

[01:35:01] But we do know that Donald Trump, when he ran for president, he made it very clear that a big part of his platform was overturning Roe v Wade, appointing conservative judges to the federal court so that they could be in position to take on this fight. And we have seen these Democratic hopefuls, you know, running for president, everyone from Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Elizabeth Warren -- make it very clear that this is not something that women and Democrats and progressives around this country are going to take sitting down. There is going to be massive protests.

We are already seeing that happening as we speak, and we should expect to see even more. Women and men and progressive coming forth and fighting for the rights of women to make decisions and to control their own reproductive health.

WATT: Areva, you have a strange colleague who agrees with you, that this might not work in the Supreme Court. That's televangelist Pat Robertson. Let's take a listen to what he had to say about this.


PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST: I think Alabama has gone too far. They have passed a law that would give a 99 year prison sentence to people who commit abortion. There is no exceptions for rape or incest. It's an extreme law, and they want to challenge Roe versus Wade, but my humble opinion is that this is not the case we want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose.


WATT: So, he just thinks this is the wrong bill to bring to the Supreme Court.

MARTIN: Yes, Nick, you are right. I'm not often in agreement with Pat Robertson but I do agree with him that this is complete overreach to say that a physician, you know, individuals who have dedicated their lives to saving lives, that they will face not misdemeanor charges but felony charges that could land them in prison for life for administering, as we saw that doctor speaking to Anderson Cooper say something that is very safe. A very safe, surgical procedure.

It's a complete overreach and I tend to agree with Pat Robertson that this is the wrong case. This is not the case where these Republican lawmakers want to, I think, stake their whole, you know, strategy and plan to deny women the right over their reproductive, you know, health. I think the case is not going to, you know, have the intended outcome.

WATT: And is this, I mean we have alluded to this a little bit earlier, but is this going to be one of the defining issues of the 2020 presidential campaign?

MARTIN: You know, it's interesting, Nick. I was reading some reports that says the American people, the whole issue of abortion -- it's been decided. There is not a majority of Americans that believe that Roe v Wade should be overturned.

So, Americans are concerned about health care. They are concerned about tax breaks for the middle-class. They're concerned about pay raise for teachers.

The abortion issue has already been litigated, so I'm not so certain to get it. The Republicans, the strategy of trying to overturn Roe -- I don't think the American people go to bed at night thinking about Roe v Wade, because Roe v Wade has been settled law for now, you know 40 years. I think it's a mistake on their part, and I don't think it's going to be successful in terms of Trump's you know, reelection campaign or senators or other elected officials who, you know, are trying to make this a seminal issue or a primary issue for the 2020 campaign.

WATT: Areva -- thanks, as always.

MARTIN: Thanks -- Nick.

WATT: Congressional Democrats are fuming over White House refusal to turn over requested documents. The House Judiciary Committee following up in the Mueller report is investigating possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by the administration.

On Wednesday, a White House attorney formerly rejected the committee's requests for documents from dozens of individuals.

CNN's Jim Acosta has the latest from the White House.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: As the President praised the nation's law enforcement community at the Capitol his White House counsel all but told House Democrats to get lost in their investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice in the Russia probe.

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, White House counsel Pat Cipollone said Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation should be enough. Adding, congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation. Not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized do over of exhaustive law enforcement investigation conducted by the Department of Justice.

Nadler fired back to CNN.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: This is the White House claiming that the President is king. This is the White House saying that the Justice Department says they can't hold the President accountable can he can indict a president and now they're saying neither can congress. The President is totally unaccountable and above the law.

[08:39:54] ACOSTA: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also sounded defiant when asked whether the IRS will ever hand over the President's long-secret tax returns to lawmakers.

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The Democrats are trying to weaponize the IRS and it's a very, very dangerous issue which is why we are taking this issue very seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you -- sir.

ACOSTA: Aides to the President say he is eager to cut deals with Congress as Mr. Trump is expected to reveal his new immigration plan on Thursday.

The President is set to call for a new merit system for legal immigrants coming into the U.S. that rewards the wealthier and well- educated while building a wall on the border and creating a new process to expedite claims for asylum seekers.

But the plan at the moment does not address the fate of the millions of undocumented people in the U.S. including the young so-called dreamers in the DACA program as well as the thousands of family separations carried out by the administration.

The proposals is a renewed push for a merit based system that the White House immigration hardliner Stephen Miller promoted nearly two years ago.

Aren't you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country? If you're telling them, you have to speak English. Can't people learn how to speak English when they get here?

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: Well, first of all, right now, it's a requirement that to be naturalized you had speak English. So the notion that speaking English wouldn't be a part of the immigration system would be actually very ahistorical.

Ten years, 20 years, 30 years from now we want to have an immigration system that takes care of the people who are coming here and people who are already living here by having standards.

ACOSTA: GOP officials told CNN that Republican senators briefed on the proposal by the President's son-in-law Jared Kushner wee quote, "underwhelmed" by the prime. But the White House is anxious to hit the reset button on the issue even as the President is previewing his plan with heated rhetoric.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To end deadly sanctuary cities; to stop the visa lottery program where they take lottery systems and a country will put you into a lottery. And then deposit you into the United States. I don't think most countries are giving us their finest.

ACOSTA: The President is expected to roll out his immigration plan at the White House on Thursday. Senior administration officials acknowledged this proposal may not really go anywhere as it will certainly run into a wall of opposition among Democrats in congress.

As one official said, the White House is hoping to unite Republicans on immigration even as some GOP lawmakers are questioning the President's approach to the issue.

Jim Acosta, CNN -- the White House.


WATT: And next on CNN NEWSROOM a man who once aspired to join al Qaeda now discouraging others from making that mistake.


WATT: A British broadcaster has canceled a daytime talk show after a guest died a week after appearing on the program. The "Jeremy Kyle Show" was known for its tabloid style and rowdy confrontation between feuding couples and friends. British lawmakers now plan to open an investigation into reality television in the wake of the guests death and the deaths of two contestants on another show to see whether shows like this need more regulation of their formats.

All this week CNN has been bringing you stories of people striving to make the world a better place. In today's installment of "Champions for Change", a former Islamic militant now using his experience to discourage other young men from becoming terrorists.

CNN's Jim Sciutto has our report.


ASSAD (ph): With my father's death, I took that very, very badly.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY APPLICANTS : Assad (ph) is a kid who was one step away from hopping on a flight to Syria to fight.

ASSAD: The only goal at that time, without my dad, was to get to him quicker.

SCIUTTO: To die?


SCIUTTO: He wanted to be a martyr. He wanted to be a suicide bomber.

ASSAD: I possibly would have just ended my life and killed a lot of innocent -- innocent people. For what? And, you know, I would have been -- my book would have been closed, basically. HANIF QADIR, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, ACTIVE CHANGE FOUNDATION: He was just

in this vicious whirlpool of grievance.

SCIUTTO: I first met Hanif more than ten years ago in London.

SCIUTTO: Former militant Hanif Qadir told us, rich or poor, educated or not, extremism doesn't discriminate.

QADIR: Everybody's vulnerable one of them.

SCIUTTO: Hanif is a "Champion for Change" because he's trying to fight terrorism before it happens, long before it happens, before young kids, young Muslims, make the choice to become a terrorist.


QADIR: Hey, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Long time.


SCIUTTO: How you been?

QADIR: A very long time.

SCIUTTO: Good to see you.

QADIR: And you -- and you, my friend, and you.

SCIUTTO: Do you have a sense of how many young people you helped during that time?

QADIR: We made a huge amount of difference over the years. And we -- we grew from a very small organization to delivering into 11, 12 different parts of the country and abroad in Pakistan. We've helped people understand that they've got a stake in society and in life, to do things differently.

ASSAD: I won't be able to describe how much -- how grateful I am towards him.

QADIR: It took us a bit of time, but it was just about having the conversation with this guy about what would your father have wanted you to do? Did your father really want you to go on this journey, or did your father want you to take care of the affairs of the family, help your mom, help your brother and sisters and be a decent, law abiding citizen and a God fearing individual.

ASSAD: I mean now I'm working every day, six days a week, providing for my family, which I would -- I wouldn't -- I wouldn't do none of these things before.

SCIUTTO: When he talked to you about going to Syria, you listened. You trusted him.


SCIUTTO: This is personal for you because --

QADIR: Of course it is.

SCIUTTO: You had your own experience.


SCIUTTO: When he was a young man, he left the U.K. to go to Pakistan to join al Qaeda. It sounds incredible to say that. But when he got there, he saw the violence that they were planning, that they were carrying out. He saw it up close. He saw it personal. And he decided, that's not Islam in his view. He didn't want any part of it.

QADIR: It was an experience of taking things personally about the way that the war on terror was -- was conducted in Afghanistan, especially where innocent women and children were being killed. And I dwelled on that.

For some reason, those kids reminded my own children and I wanted to be the one to help them. But I also wanted to prevent that. So I traveled abroad to join al Qaeda. But then seeing the same thing happen to those children by members of al Qaeda, using them as suicide bombers, also was something that I was not going to tolerate, was not going to take.

SCIUTTO: Does that give you credibility as you're counselling young men that they know that you've been there?

QADIR: Absolutely. I talk to them and I'm taking them through a journey they're going on without them even opening their mouths. And that's, for them, it's like, how the hell does he know this?

And it's still relevant today when I talk to people who are thinking of going to Syria or thinking of going to Palestine and fighting the Israelis or thinking they're going to Iraq or to Pakistan. I say, look, this is what you're feeling, this is what you're going through. And I know -- and I know this.

[09:50:15] SCIUTTO: The loudest voices are the extremist voices.

QADIR: Absolutely. Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: When I met him ten years ago, his center was just buzzing with activity. He had hundreds of kids coming there over the weekend.

It's a shame to see it empty now. The last time I was here, it was buzzing.

QADIR: Yes, yes, yes.

SCIUTTO: You know?

QADIR: It's depressing when you come in. SCIUTTO: Now, today, he's lost the funding, the support that he used

to get from the British government. It became a political issue in the U.K.

[01:50:03] And he warns, he's worried that a lot of the kids that he would have stopped going down this path, that they don't have the support network anymore.

QADIR: The challenge will not get any easier, especially with the perception that ISIS is gone and al Qaeda is gone. This is -- this is just as fake as --

SCIUTTO: It's not gone.

QADIR: They're not gone. They're reemerging.

SCIUTTO: Tell me about "I Want Out."

QADIR: This is the campaign that I'm pinning all my hopes on, to tell you the truth. Working with a lot of young people, extremist networks and, you know, thinking about getting involved in terrorism or gang violence.

And when you really speak to them and it's like -- you know, and you get to know them, then you say, I want out.

Just give me a chance. Just, I want out. You know, understand me. People can change and we need to give them the opportunity to change.

SCIUTTO: He is not deterred. He's going to stick with it. He's told me repeatedly, "I'm going to keep fighting".

QADIR: The day you start to look at these young people as if they were your own, that's when you will always step forward. I'm not going to let this go without the biggest fight of my life.


WATT: And we'll keep sharing these inspiring stories all week and tune in on Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. in Hong Kong for an hour "CHAMPION FOR CHANGE" special. We will be back in a moment.


WATT: The city of light shining just little bit brighter. Paris celebrating the 130th birthday of the Eiffel Tower. The spectacular laser light show playing out across the structure facade every evening this week.

The tower for the 1889 was the tallest building in the world when it was built in the 1889 World Fair. Now about seven million tours visit the Paris landmark every year.

And the art world is celebrating two record hammer drops. First the most money paid for a work by a living artist. The very much alive Jeff Koons is 64, created his stainless sculpture "Rabbit" in 1986. The whimsical piece just sold at Christie's for more than 91 million dollars.

And a nearly 130-year old work by the French Master Claude Monet just commanded the highest price ever for an impressionist's artwork. $110 million dollars after just eight minutes of bidding at Sotheby's in New York.

Beware, there's some the wordplay ahead. Here it goes. Plant-based burgers have found a recipe for success. And investors want a bite of the action.

CNN's Clare Sebastian gets a taste of this meatless revolution.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The unmistakable sizzle of meat on the grill. The real meat and the Beyond Meat.

NICK BUCCIERO, BAREBURGER: We have our Beyond Burger over here. And we have are beef burger over here. Once you dress them up it's impossible to tell the difference.

SEBASTIAN: At this Bare Burger) restaurant in Manhattan, burgers made some plant protein make up a meaty portion of the sales.

[01:55:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The response has been great. It's been so great in fact that or our menu is now 50 percent vegan.

SEBASTIAN: For first timers it takes a little getting it used to.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And very good for you. But it doesn't taste like a real burger at all.

SEBASTIAN: Investors though had no trouble taking their first bite. Beyond Meat's beefy IPO scored 160 percent on its first day of trading on May 2nd. The best IPO jump of a major U.S. company since the financial crisis.

Analysts believe it's part of a veggie revolution that is just getting started.

ALEXA HOWARD, EQUITE ANALYST, BERNSTEIN & CO: If it follows the same path that the plant-based beverage market followed, you'd see it growing from roughly $13 billion, $14 billion today up to potentially over $ 40 billion over the next decade.

SEBASTIAN: While Beyond Meat is not yet profitable it's revenues are up more than 130 percent in each of the past three years. And it's expanding into new products categories like meatless sausage.

ETHAN BROWN, CEO, BEYOND MEAT: It's not just vegans and vegetarians that are interested in this. In fact 93 percent of the people that are putting the Beyond Burger in their cart at the nation's largest grocer are also putting in (INAUDIBLE) in their cart. It's a tremendous sign that we are able to grow the business.

SEBASTIAN: Thank you very much. Now the Beyond Burger does have some competition mainly from this one which is the Impossible Burger from Impossible Foods.

That's already on the menu at Burger King which is rolling out the Impossible Whopper. MacDonald is also selling a meatless burger in Germany made by Nestle and Tyson Food is one of the world's biggest meat producers is also set to launch the fake meat.

SEBASTIAN: They both smell like meat. After my first bite well, it felt like eating a burger, just a little less beefy. I quite like them.

I quite like them. They're not exactly like meat but they are something interesting. And I do think this might be a taste of things to come.

Clare Sebastian, CNN -- New York.


WATT: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Nick Watt. The news continues on CNN right after this.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. And welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church with your next two hours of CNN NEWSROOM. Let's get started.

[02:00:08] U.S. lawmakers and allies --