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Trump Officials Brief Lawmakers On Iran Strategy; Iran's Strategy Faces Partisan Divide; P.M. May Announces New Brexit Deal For 4th Vote; Police In Jakarta Use Tear Gas To Disperse Protestors; More Democrats Calling For Trump's Impeachment; Abortion Rights Supporters Rally Across The U.S. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 22, 2019 - 01:00   ET

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


[01:00:00] ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and thanks so much for joining us, I'm Anna Coren and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Hong Kong. Ahead this hour, dangerous games. Iran lashes out at the U.S. military buildup in the Gulf. The concern growing on both sides that an accident could start a war.

Plus, for the fourth time be the charm. Theresa May makes a last- ditch attempt at getting a Brexit deal through Parliament. And sea levels are rising maybe even faster than first predicted. How scientists warned some of the world's biggest cities could be underwater by the end of the century.

The White House has been putting out mixed messages and vague warnings about Iran. Now the administration is sharing its strategy with U.S. lawmakers. The Secretary of State and Acting Defense Secretary we're on Capitol Hill Tuesday. They tried to justify recent military moves in the Middle East but say the U.S. does not want war. For more on the closed briefings, here's CNN's Alex Marquardt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT: These two briefings to both the House and the Senate were long awaited to get some clarity into what the Trump administration is seeing in terms of its intelligence on Iran and what Iran may be planning.

All members were invited into these classified briefings that were given by the Secretaries of State and Defense as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said that the actions taken so far by the U.S. including moving naval ships into the Persian Gulf are working as a deterrence and have prevented attacks against Americans. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, UNITED STATES: We have deterred attacks based on our re-posturing of assets, deterred attacks against American forces. Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation. We do not want the situation to escalate. This is about deterrence not about war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Deterrence was the name of the game. Lawmakers in both parties saying that Iran does pose a threat, that the administration is not looking to go to war but they were divided largely along party lines on how effective the briefing was.

Republicans like Lindsey Graham saying that the threat from Iran was clear and that administration methods have been effective while Democrats like Connecticut's Chris Murphy called it a path to blind escalation. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It was a very good briefing. They explained to us how the Iranian threat streams were different than in the past, that the attack on the ships and the pipeline was coordinated and directed by the Iranian government, the Ayatollah.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): The Iranians are no closer to talking than ever before that they do not seem to be backing down from a standpoint of military provocation. And thus you have to ask whether our strategy is working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: What is less clear is where we go from here. What are the administration's end goals? Is it regime change? Is it stopping more attacks? Is it getting Iranians back to the negotiating table? What is very clear right now is that the situation is quite fragile and that the wrong move could prove to be very dangerous. Alex Marquardt, CNN Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Iran's Foreign Minister is warning the U.S. against escalation. He also says the White House leaving the nuclear deal is a major blow to future negotiations. He spoke more intentions in an exclusive interview with CNN's Fred Pleitgen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, FOREIGN MINISTER, IRAN: We are not willing to talk to people who have broken their promises. Now having all these military assets in a small waterway is in and of itself prone to accident particularly when you have people who are interested in accidents. So extreme prudence is required and we believe that the United States is playing a very, very dangerous game.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: I spoke earlier about U.S. Iran tensions with CNN Global Affairs Analyst Max Boot.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: After hearing the evidence, U.S. lawmakers are very much at odds over whether Iran poses an imminent threat to U.S. interests. How would you describe the current threat level?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's very hard to say. I mean, I think the real threat right now is a threat of miscalculation because the Trump administration is engaging in so much saber rattling. And you know, even in the normal times, U.S. and Iranian forces are really on a hair-trigger alert.

I mean, I remember being out on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in 2017 and they're always out there in a state of near war with the Iranian. So it doesn't take much to set it off. And you know there's all these leaks from the administration about sending troops to fight Iran, leaks about Iran supposedly placing missiles on boats. You know, this thing can easily get out of control just because of the perceptions of a threat on both sides, whatever the realities are.

[01:05:18] COREN: Do you believe the Trump administration is exaggerating intelligence to lay the groundwork for war with Iran?

BOOT: Well, I don't know because I don't have access to that intelligence. But I will tell you this is one of those situations where the fact that President Trump is a congenital liar works against them. This is somebody a president who has recorded 10,000 falsehoods over the course of his presidency and he's advised by people like John Bolton who are falsified intelligence in the past to justify U.S. war in Iraq.

So it's not possible to put any kind of faith or credence in what they say. You have to say show me the evidence.

COREN: Well, does this feel like another Iraq which has -- which has been suggested by some lawmakers?

BOOT: It's not certainly a very real possibility. I mean, I think if in fact, war were to break out between the U.S. and Iran, it could even be worse than Iraq because Iran is a much bigger country, it's got a population of about 83 million people as opposed to Iraq which was a country of about 33 million people in 2003 and Iran has a lot of capabilities, missiles, submarines, drones, proxies across the Middle East so it would be a very dangerous conflict.

I think the big difference between Iraq and Iran is that in 2003 you had a president in George Bush who was pretty eager after 9/11 for war, whereas right now you have a president who is basically a neo- isolationist. Trump is somebody who talks a big game, who likes to bully and swagger, but ultimately at the end of the day, I don't think he really wants a war.

So I think the real danger here is that John Bolton and other advisers could basically provoke a conflict with Iran. You could have shooting begin for some reason. You know, you could have a shoal and in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad or some other provocation, and then you could see that action-reaction cycle spin of control or Trump would be forced to react and some of the hardliners liked Bolton would get the war on Iran that they have long advocated.

COREN: You mentioned that division within the Trump administration. Pompeo and Bolton both longtime advocates of a regime change in Iran, and then we heard from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham earlier, he interpreted the evidence that he heard as a game changer. I mean, that's quite a statement and troubling as to what it implies.

BOOT: Well, again, like I said, I wouldn't trust Donald Trump and John Bolton. I sure wouldn't trust Lindsey Graham either because he basically has become a Donald Trump parrot. I mean, he just says whatever he thinks that Donald Trump wants to hear.

And the fact that some of the Democratic lawmakers who have seen the same evidence that Lindsey Graham have -- has seen have said that they don't find it nearly as conclusive and in fact you can interpret it in a very different way that the Iranians were arming up because they thought that the U.S. was going to attack them.

So you know I think with a lot of intelligence, it's usually pretty ambiguous that's how you choose to interpret it. And again, it's hard to have much faith in the interpretation put out by the Trump administration given their a long record of mendacity.

COREN: Max, you mentioned that you believe Trump doesn't want a war, many other experts agree, but that he does want a deal and he thinks he can strike the same sort of deal that he has with North Korea. But does that seem possible in the current climate and you would also have to assume that Iran is a very different animal to North Korea.

BOOT: Well, it's a long shot because -- I mean, let's remember, he has not actually struck a deal with North Korea. I mean, what he was doing was very transparent. He was blustering with fire and fury and then he was opening his outstretched orange the Kim Jong-un. But neither approaches actually produced the deal and I'm skeptical that there's a deal to be had.

And if there is a deal to be had, I doubt that it would be much better than the nuclear accord that the Obama administration negotiated because you know, Secretary Pompeo put out this list of 12 demands that are so wide-reaching, so sweeping including having Iran cut off all of its proxies across the region which have been a cornerstone of Iranian foreign policy since 1980.

I just don't see much chance that the Iranians are actually going to do that because it would basically amount to a change of regime and Trump has not put enough pressure on them to achieve those kinds of results.

COREN: Max Boot, great to get your analysis. Thanks so much for joining us.

BOOT: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Well, Britain's Prime Minister may face another confidence vote as the Brexit battle drags on. The Sun reports Senior Tory Backbenchers will push for a rule change to force a vote in the coming hours. This follows Theresa May's announcement of what she called a new Brexit deal on Tuesday.

In an effort to get it passed on a fourth vote in Parliament, she's offering the chance of a second referendum and a temporary customs union with the E.U.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: Only by voting for the withdrawal agreement bill at second reading can MPs provide the vehicle Parliament needs to determine how we leave the E.U. So if MPs vote against the second reading of this bill, they are voting to stop Brexit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: For more on this, CNN's European Affairs Commentator Dominic Thomas joins us now from Los Angeles. Dominic, tell us what is so new about Theresa May's new deal?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, what's new really the only thing is that things are really worse than they were before. It's just a mere repackaging filled with all kinds of ambiguity and uncertainty with words like alternative arrangement and temporary and so on, and also bringing up the question of the second referendum.

The irony of this, of course, is that a deal on Brexit lies as she moves to the center. But as she moves towards the center she alienates members of her party, a party that is already dramatically weakened. And while this is happening then, it becomes even more interesting for the opposition to not compromise because of course what they've been looking for in strategizing throughout all of this is the prospect of a general election.

And they can see the Conservative Party embroiled in these battles and as they saw in the local elections and as they're about to see this weekend in the European elections, the Conservative Party is being blamed for what is going on. And we see members of her party now trying to wrestle the steering wheel away from her in order to take control of this process.

COREN: Yes. You mentioned that second referendum it's now suddenly on the table after Theresa May resisted it for so long. Why now?

THOMAS: Well, I mean, she feels that this is an opportunity to try and appeal across the aisle to the opposition. This is something that they very much want. Of course, what so extraordinarily vague about this as we don't know what the actual wording of that referendum would be. And if the withdrawal agreement actually did go through, of course, there's very little likelihood of this happening, it would be almost unconscionable for the Brexiters or for members of the party to support this.

So it's clearly a brunch that she's handing over to the Labour Party. Perhaps if anything to show that if she is trying to establish some kind of compromise and deal with them to perhaps shift some of the blame if this doesn't happen on to the Labour Party. But beyond that, it's very hard to see how that would work in any way for her.

COREN: Dominic, MPs have rejected May's Brexit deal three times. What makes you think that with these new compromises, this new wording, they will pass it on the fourth attempt?

THOMAS: Well, there's no reason why they -- why they would. In fact, you could argue it might even suffer a neither greater historic defeat than the -- than the first one that she experienced. It's clear that this party has been dramatically weakened. The Conservative Party saw how they were decimated in the -- in the local elections. Their polling way behind in the E.U. elections coming up this weekend so there's no reason for it to go through.

And what's so extraordinary is it's been a few weeks now since we've been talking about Brexit. She hasn't come back or been able to strike any kind of deal and her position just weakens as every day goes on. There is no way that this would pass.

And the threats that she's been putting out there that this might be your last chance or that we might end up with a No Deal, those didn't work before and they're not going to work at this particular stage and it's looking increasingly likely that she will be ousted in the -- in the days to come or that a vote of no-confidence will take place.

COREN: Dominic, as you mentioned, the reaction from those key conservative members and Labour is certainly not encouraging towards this new plan. If it is rejected, what happens next?

THOMAS: Well, if it makes it that far, I think at that particular point she's lost any kind of capacity to claim that she's the right person to be continuing on with these -- with these negotiations so either she resigns or calls for a general election for which she would need a two-thirds support in Parliament, but she would have to step away or simply the opposition will table a version of no-confidence.

And it was defeated previously but on this occasion would be you know, very hard to see the support not coming from across the aisle for this. So there would be no way for her to continue in that. And in fact, this weekend with the E.U. elections, what's going to be interesting with that is of course that traditionally the U.K. you know, voters have never really come out for these elections.

You've always ended up with, sort of, 30 percent or so, in the 40 years that they've been voting. And actually, it's going to be very interesting to see because it's a single issue election, it's all about Brexit and the British people have not have the chance to weigh in on this since 2019.

[01:15:15] They would deny the people's vote. They haven't been given a second referendum. This is their chance to go to the poll and it's going to be interesting to see how each side of the Brexit occasion is mobilized around this particular question.

And the outcome of that, in some ways, could map the path ahead for how both the conservative party and the various opposition parties go about strategizing their positions on Brexit, as they go into the withdrawal agreement vote of just a few days later, or even possibly into a general election, so it's a very important moment.

COREN: Dominic Thomas, thank you for putting that all into context for us.

THOMAS: Thank you.

COREN: Democrats and the U.S. Congress have an important meeting in the hours ahead. Up next, what's prompting more cause for impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, plus, the war in Yemen has left millions of people starving, but the country's biggest crop isn't food, our exclusive report ahead, on CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COREN: Welcome back. In central Jakarta, people remain on the streets outside the Election Supervisory Agency building, following a night of chaos. Police used tear gas to dispose demonstrators who are gathered to protest election results.

Well, this, after an official announcement that President Joko Widodo was elected to a second term, by a comfortable margin. His opponent says he believes there was widespread cheating and he's vowing to challenge the results.

To U.S. politics now, growing number of Democrats are demanding impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. Well, that's being fueled, in large part, by a strategy of stonewalling by the White House, as Congress investigates possible obstruction of justice by the President. CNN's Manu Raju reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One of President Trump's closest confidants, now, served with a subpoena. Hope Hicks, the President's long-time adviser and former Communications Director, compelled to provide records and testimony to the House Judiciary Committee next month, about potential obstruction of justice at the White House.

Also, the Democratic-led committee serving the subpoena to any Annie Donaldson, a former top aide in the White House counsel's office who served as Chief of Staff to Don McGahn. But the White House has resisted on all fronts, and has said that former top officials cannot be compelled to testify about their conversations with the President.

[01:20:10] And that, has prompted more Democrats to say their only recourse is impeachment.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Nobody runs for Congress with the idea that I want to go there and start impeachment, but, I think that's what it comes to.

RAJU: Tonight, there's a growing rift in the Democratic caucus to launch an impeachment inquiry. The pressure, building across the caucus, from veteran members --

REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): The impeachment process is going to be inevitable. It's just a question of when, not if.

RAJU: -- to freshmen.

Do you think it's time to move forward an impeachment inquiry?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I do. I personally do. You can't be scared with elections. We need to uphold the rule of law.

RAJU: And even some skeptics are softening their opposition.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You know, I think the case gets stronger the more they stonewall the Congress.

RAJU: Are you there yet?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): I'm getting there. I think what the President has done is put us in a position where we cannot get any information to do the oversight that we need to do.

RAJU: But the most important person, still, not convinced.

TEXT: Madam Speaker, are you under increased pressure to impeach the President from your caucus?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No.

RAJU: That's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who believes her caucus should methodically pursue their investigations while focusing on an economic agenda. And in private meetings Monday night, Pelosi argued the strategy is getting results, pointing to a court ruling that could force Trump accounting firm to turn over financial records to the House Oversight Committee, many of her allies agree.

RAJU: You don't think it makes sense to open an impeachment inquiry right now?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): The question is, why would we open an impeachment inquiry if we are winning?

RAJU: But today, Democrats did not get what they wanted, after Don McGahn was a no-show at the House Judiciary Committee hearing after the President directed him not to comply with the subpoena.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): We will not allow the President to prevent the American people from hearing from this witness. We will not allow the President to stop this investigation.

RAJU: Now, the House Judiciary Committee has served subpoenas to two other former White House officials, as Hope Hicks, the former communications director, someone who has been very close to President Trump, for years, as well as Annie Donaldson, who is a former Chief of Staff to Don McGahn in the White House Counsel's Office. The Democrats want testimony and records by June.

They are saying that they want this information as part of their probe into obstruction of justice but, expect the White House to push back, and if the White House does, in fact, fight these subpoenas, that will only add to the calls here in Capitol Hill, among the Democrats for impeachment proceedings to begin.

And that will prompt Nancy Pelosi, again, to deal with the restlessness within her caucus, something that she will have to deal with on Wednesday, behind closed doors, as she meets with the full house Democratic caucus about their investigations and expect talk of impeachment to come up.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Ryan Lizza is a CNN Senior Political Analyst and the Chief Political correspondent for Esquire. He joins us from Washington, Ryan, great to have you with us.

House Judiciary Committee is obviously intensifying its investigation into the President, issuing those subpoenas for Hope Hicks, as well as Annie Donaldson, both considered critical witnesses to the committee's investigation. How damning would their testimony be?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think, especially the, you know -- Don McGahn, who -- his Chief of Staff, her testimony would be pretty important because she, in the Mueller report, shows up as a very aggressive note taker, right?

So, Annie Donaldson is a prosecutor's dream, because she documented what happened in that office, and because the office where she was the Chief of Staff, the White House counsel's office was so central to the obstruction of justice charges.

Her recollections, her testimony, to the Special Counsel, and her notes, really form an enormous amount of the factual record. And just to take a step back, what the Democrats are trying to do, is they are trying to bring to life the Mueller report, right?

Most Americans -- let's be honest, most politicians on Capitol Hill haven't read this report and a lot of the initial descriptions of the report were colored by the Trump administration and by the Attorney General.

And so, Democrats have this job of letting the American people know how serious they believe the obstruction of justice charges are, in the second half of that report. And they need these firsthand witnesses to get up on the Hill, raise their right hand, and tell the story of what these allegations are.

[01:25:06] COREN: Well, these subpoenas came the same day that Don McGahn, who you mentioned, failed to show --

LIZZA: Yes.

COREN: -- the House Judiciary Committee hearing, the Chairman, Jerry Nadler, obviously, quite outright, he said, we will hold this President accountable one way or another. Do you think that this is a sign that they are beginning to move towards an impeachment inquiry which, obviously, many Democrats are calling for?

LIZZA: Yes, I mean, two things have happened in the last week, one is, the escalating confrontation between the House, which is controlled by Democrats, and the administration, which is just thwarting across the board almost all of their requests.

And that leads to the second thing, which is the, sort of, quiet but very, very frustrated wing of the Democratic Party who believes that they should move forward with impeachment proceedings started to get very vocal.

There was a big blow up on Capitol Hill in a private meeting among Democrats yesterday, where some pro impeachment Democrats confronted Democratic leaders who think that Democratic leadership has been too slow to embrace even the possibility of impeachment.

And the Democratic Party is pretty much split on this issue between people who believe it's their constitutional responsibility to, at the very least, start impeachment hearings, you know, see where the evidence leads. And other Democrats who take a little bit more of a political calculation and say, it doesn't matter. The Senate is controlled by Republicans.

They're never going, you know -- in our system, obviously, the House, essentially indicts, and then the Senate holds a trial. The House is controlled by Democrats. The Senate is controlled by Republicans. Lots of House Democrats say what's the point?

COREN: And an impeachment inquiry would obviously have a lot more power. Ryan --

LIZZA: Absolutely.

COREN: Obviously, this growing chorus within her party, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is resisting those calls for an impeachment inquiry. Why is she doing that?

LIZZA: It's a great question. She's been, you know, look, if Nancy Pelosi is, you know, she is no -- she is no conservative, right? She is a pretty liberal Democrat, represents one of the most liberal districts in the country. But she's also has pretty canny political instincts. And I think she really looks at impeachment almost purely as a political device.

And she went through the impeachment of Bill Clinton, thought that the Republicans were, you know -- it was a frivolous exercise that never had a chance of removing Bill Clinton in 1998, and shouldn't have been pursued because of that. And I think she just looks at the math and says, the Senate is never going to remove this President, so what's the point?

We have an election in 2020. We have two remedies available for us. This is, I think, Pelosi's thinking. You can do this foolish mission of trying to impeach and remove him, or you can focus all of your political energy on defeating his re-election campaign. And I think that that, you know, her political calculation is that the latter is the -- is the smarter move for Democrats, other Democrats say no. That's an abdication of their constitutional responsibility, and it's setting a bad precedent.

COREN: Ryan Lizza, great to speak with you.

LIZZA: Thanks for having me.

COREN: Thank you so much for joining us.

Well, the one witness Democrats really want to hear from is Special Counsel Robert Mueller, himself. But sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, Mueller's team is reluctant for him to testify before Congress, especially in public.

Mueller kept a low profile throughout his two-year investigation, and his team has signaled that he does not want to appear political. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee say they will subpoena Mueller if necessary.

Abortion rights supporters rallied across the United States on Tuesday, in a show of opposition to laws attempting to restrict the medical procedure. More than 50 organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, participated nationwide. CNN's Jessica Dean has more from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Today, a group of protestors gathering outside the Supreme Court as more and more of these restrictive bans on abortion are being passed throughout the country. They gathered here, one of many protests, all across the United States, to speak out in support of abortion rights.

There were women, men, young, old, they were all here to make their voices heard, and while that was planned, and the many other protests across the country were planned today, what happened, organically, here in Washington, D.C., is that we began to see a number of 2020 presidential candidates.

They stopped by, some people, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, just talking to the crowd, interacting with people, others, like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, were speaking to the crowd.

[01:29:54]

But all of them here to show their support for this movement. And all of them acknowledging that as we head into 2020 this is going to be a big issue. So you can certainly expect to hear more of this and likely to see many more protests in the days to come.

Jessica Dean, CNN -- Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COREN: Time for a short break, when we come back our exclusive report from inside Yemen where starving people spend their money on a popular drug instead of food to make it through the war-ravaged days (ph).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COREN: Welcome back.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong.

The headlines the hour.

Iran foreign minister says the U.S. is playing a quote, "very dangerous game". He spoke to CNN in an exclusive interview. This as the U.S. has sent extra warships to the Middle East. Trump officials briefed U.S. lawmakers Tuesday about the President's strategy. They say they shared recent intelligence about Iranian threats.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced what she calls a new Brexit deal. In it, she offers the chance for a second referendum on the issue and a temporary customs union with the E.U. The "Sun" reports some conservatives will make a bid for a confidence vote in Mrs. May later on Wednesday.

Democrats in the U.S. House have issued two more subpoenas including one for former White House communications director Hope Hicks. They are investigating possible obstruction of justice by Donald Trump. Former White House counsel Don McGahn defied a subpoena to testify on Tuesday.

We are turning now to Yemen, where in the midst of famine and starvation millions of people are spending their money on a traditional drug called qat (ph). Freshly-picked leaves produce a high similar to amphetamines.

CNN's Sam Kiley got rare access inside Yemen where much of the farmland is devoted to growing the drug when the nation really needs food.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, they chew it here, they chew it there, they chew it pretty much everywhere. Yemeni studies show that up to 90 percent of men and 70 percent of women are daily users of qat. It has an effect similar to amphetamines. And amid dire predictions of famine in Yemen, it's the nation's biggest crop.

This is Sanaa's qat market.

[01:35:01] (on camera): 4,000, 10,000, 15,000, 25,000.

(voice-over): That's $5 for the cheapest bag of qat. (on camera): You could feed a family for a whole day for the price of

your cheapest qat. Do you think that it makes sense for Yemen that has no food, for everybody to be chewing?

It doesn't make sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A simple family can spend less than $5 to eat.

KILEY: So is it surprising then that Yemen is having a problem with hunger?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not problem. It is a disaster. It is a disaster.

KILEY (voice-over): Yemen is torn by war. The north is under siege. 12 million Yemenis will be fed by the U.N.'s World Food Programme this year.

Houthi rebel ministers are aware of the problem.

(on camera): Well it's very simple, most of your land is given over to growing drugs, not food.

HUSSEIN AL-EZZI, HOUTHI DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I agree with you. This is a bad habit that we should get rid of. This is indisputable.

We have government programs to combat growing qat. We remove qat trees and plant coffee bean trees instead.

KILEY (voice-over): Yemen's mountain farms and terraces have been taken over by qat. It's so important to Yemenis that it's delivered the day it's picked throughout the country, driven at breakneck speeds to consumers.

Up to a third of all agriculture is dedicated to the plant, which consumes a third of all water for farming.

(on camera): 25 years ago this whole valley was planted with wheat. But the farmers say that that's just one crop a year. Now they get four crops a year from this narcotic. And in times of war a cash crop is what really counts.

MOUNIR AL-RUBAI, FARMER (through translator): We only make a profit from qat. Other crops don't cover our home expenses. This is the only crop that would cover our daily and annual expenses.

KILEY (voice-over): Yemen's agricultural ministry estimates that Yemenis spend 12 billion a year on the drug. That's about three times the amount the U.N. says it needs in aid for Yemen. These figures speak for themselves.

Sam Kiley, CNN -- Sanaa.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COREN: Well, aid agencies for Yemen is on the brink of a new cholera surge. On tomorrow's show, Sam Kiley visits a clinic and a town hundreds of kilometers from Yemen's the front line. Refugees fleeing war have brought cholera with them and it's spreading. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KILEY (on camera): When did you first see that she was getting sick?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Around four days ago.

KILEY: Four days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It started with diarrhea, then it got worse.

KILEY: One of the catastrophic side effects of this war has been that people from outside the city have been forced into beautiful, ancient towns like this, Hajah (ph). But as a consequence of that the systems are overloaded the clean water systems.

And these women have been telling me that they have been drinking from the river in the town, the same river that sewage flows into. That will guarantee a cholera epidemic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: Watch Sam Kiley's full report on CNN NEWSROOM, 6:00 a.m. in London, 1:00 p.m. here in Hong Kong.

It's been several years since the ebola virus swept through Africa, killing thousands of people. But the fight against the disease is not over, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Details now from CNN's Robyn Curnow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If the fight against ebola and the Democratic Republic of Congo wasn't tough enough, health officials say violence inside the country is helping to further spread the virus. The World Health Organization says there have been over a hundred attacks on treatment centers and medical staff since the beginning of the year.

TEDROS ADHANON GHEBREYESUS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION DIRECTOR GENERAL: We are fighting insecurity. we are fighting violence. Every attack makes it harder to reach communities. Every attack gives the virus an advantage.

CURNOW: Since the outbreak began in August last year, more than 1,100 people have died, making it the second largest ebola outbreak in history.

Initially, there were high hopes of containing the virus, especially after an effective vaccine was distributed in the country. But experts say politics may have added to the tensions. The country wrapped up in national election a few months ago with a government coming under fire for suspending the vote in some ebola- stricken areas that were also opposition stronghold.

Eastern Congo is also an area where many militias operate. But just who is coordinating the attacks against aid workers is unclear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the tools to do the job. We have surveillance. We have the vaccine. And we have a very strong team on the ground. What's really, really set us back has been just a hugely intense bouts of violence insecurity.

[01:09:59] CURNOW: Officials say the outbreak is now spreading at the fastest rate since its inception last year. And unless medical personnel can safely get to the affected areas, the death toll could dramatically rise. And no one wants a repeat of the outbreak that ravaged west Africa just a few years ago where over 11,000 people died.

Robyn Curnow, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Next on CNN NEWSROOM, new warnings about melting ice and how rising sea levels could change the lives of millions forever.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COREN: Beijing is ready to continue its trade talks with the U.S., according to a top Chinese diplomat. Trade discussions have stalled since the last round ended in a stalemate and both countries increased tariffs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUI TIANKAI, CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: China remains ready to continue our talks with our American colleagues to reach a conclusion. Our door is still open.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: Meantime the Dow jumped nearly 200 points Tuesday after the U.S. announced it was easing trade restrictions on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei for 90 days at least.

Samuel Burke explains why the U.S. changed course.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: You can look at this through two very, very different lenses. On the one hand you may believe that this is truly about American national security so these 90 extra days are just to help American companies like Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm which may have been caught off guard adjust to this huge change in the rules that they will have to abide by. Or you believe that this is all about the trade war -- U.S.-China tensions -- and this is the Trump administration saying, this is how far we may be willing to go but we're going to give you 90 days and we are hoping that you're going to come back to the negotiating table, President Xi.

This has precedent because there was a time that they were putting pressure on ZTE, almost bringing that company in China to its knees only to reverse course, come back to the negotiating table and help keep that company alive.

Or maybe both are true. There is national security concerns here and there is also the want, the desire to bring China back to the negotiating table.

At the end of the day we may not have seen the end of this. Right now we saw a lot of movement from Google and what they might have to do. But we didn't see a lot of movement from other companies. Microsoft may not be allowed to sell some of their software to Huawei.

[01:44:58] And other companies that are much smaller, we haven't seen what their decisions and the ramifications for small communities in rural American would be.

So there is still plenty left on the table and plenty of question marks hanging over Huawei and the United States' move to try and make life that much harder for Huawei.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: Samuel Burke, reporting there.

Well now to a new study that paints a bleak picture of climate change and its consequences. It warns 187 million people could be affected.

Natasha Chen reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is Wall Street's famous bull statue. This is what Climate Central predicts the same spot would look like if the earth warmed up by four degrees Celsius, or about seven degrees Fahrenheit.

Now a new study by international researchers predict an even worse scenario -- a possibility of global temperatures rising nine degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a low possibility but it could happen. And yes, our study suggests that there is a real risk.

CHEN: Because ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting faster than we thought and if emissions continue unchecked, nearly 700,000 square miles around the world, more than three times the size of California would be lost to the city. Up to 187 million people would have to move inland and we would lose critical areas of food production.

One of the coauthors of the studies says we can still prevent this but there is little time left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of climate scientists say the same thing. You know, We have quite a narrow window of opportunity to avoid some of the worst consequences.

CHEN: While some politicians stake their campaigns on this very issue --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 100 percent clean electricity. Millions of new jobs.

CHEN: Combatting climate change around the world is still fraught with political infighting.

It's also very important that policies will not just be words on paper but also will become actions.

CHEN: In Washington -- I'm Natasha Chen, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Ben Strauss is the CEO and chief scientist at Climate Central. He joins us now from Princeton, New Jersey. Ben -- great to have you with us.

The findings of this report are terrifying to say the least. And so much worse than what scientists initially thought. Do you think that this is now the wake up call that the world needs?

BEN STRAUSS, CEO, CLIMATE CENTRAL: Well, I have to be clear that the worst-case scenario here is not something we think is likely but absolutely is plausible and it is devastating. Every time I look at Greenland or Antarctica, we keep on uncovering new surprises so this study, unfortunately to me really isn't a surprise.

COREN: Why do you say that the worst case scenario isn't likely?

STRAUSS: Well we don't think it is likely, the current state of the science, we don't think this worst-case scenario is the most likely scenario but it is absolutely possible.

So this study was a survey of leading experts in the field and at the margin, scientists feel there is about a 5 percent chance that we could have this two plus meter sea level rise.

Now if you were getting --

(CROSSTALKING)

COREN: -- is just staggering.

STRAUSS: Yes. I mean if you were getting on an airplane and someone told you there was a one in 20 chance that it would crash, would you get on that airplane? No.

So even though it's not the most likely outcome, we currently believe, it nonetheless would spell disaster for most of the world's great coastal cities. And I think it is something we absolutely have to take very seriously and prepare for now.

COREN: But there are still so many climate change skeptics out there. So while there obviously is a part of society that is very concerned about climate change, there are other people and other world leaders who just don't buy it.

STRAUSS: Yes. It is quite tragic. It does not surprise me, because this really is an unprecedented sort of change in human history. It is hard to wrap your mind around. Our whole culture is filled with creation mythology around floods, Noah's flood, right. Humans were wicked and the flood rose.

Well there are lots of stories of angry gods causing floods. This time it's us who are causing the flood. And it's really hard to wrap your mind around that.

COREN: These scientists that have been surveyed talk about the accelerated melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, that are a huge worry. But it's also the glaciers and the ice caps and the thermal expansion of the sea. Tell us about the implications for the planet.

STRAUSS: Yes. There are many factors that combine to cause our sea levels to be rising. They are already accelerating. And the biggest mysteries and the biggest dangers are Greenland and Antarctica.

[01:50:02] One thing that is really not much appreciated is that the elevation data we use to understand the threats to coastal cities worldwide are extremely poor. Elevation data used by the World Bank, by researchers, by many authorities are based on satellite data that can't tell the difference between rooftop and the bare earth.

And colleagues and I have developed a new data set using machine learning, that eliminates that error. We haven't released it yet. But I can tell you looking at the maps of cities around the world with sea level rise projected in this study, all of Shanghai is below sea level. All of Bangkok. All of Osaka. All of Manila. All of Jakarta. It is city after city after city. The coastal megacities of Asia, almost universally are -- would be in severe existential danger where the sea level rises thus high. according to our dana.

COREN: Ben -- the authors of this study say there is still time to avoid dire scenario, the worst-case scenarios. But what needs to be done and is there the political will?

STRAUSS: What we need to be done to foreclose this possibility is to end climate pollution as quickly as we possibly can. Within the next couple of decades. It's absolutely technologically possible.

I won't pretend to be an expert on political will. I'm an expert in sea level rise and its impact. But this is an emergency, it's something we will need to take very seriously and invest a massive effort in, if we are going to reduce or eliminate the possibility.

COREN: An emergency that needs to be addressed right now. Ben Strauss -- many thanks.

STRAUSS: Thank you.

Breaking free from forced labor can leave victims lost and confused. Just ahead how a group in Australia is helping people adjust to life after modern day slavery.

[01:52:06] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COREN: Forty million people around the world are currently living in slavery. It takes many forms -- from human trafficking to forced labor. The CNN Freedom Project is dedicated to ending modern day slavery and today we highlight a school in Australia that's helping people to adjust to a new life of freedom.

CNN's Anna Stewart reports.

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ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sandra came to Australia (INAUDIBLE) in 2006 to work as a housekeeper. A week after she arrived, she says the family she was working for took her passport. Despite their initial promises of a wage and help obtaining permanent residency, Sandra says she was forced to work for them unpaid for three years.

The issue of forced labor is at the forefront of Australia's fight to end modern day slavery.

[01:54:59] SANDRA: I was doing all the housework -- like washing, cooking, ironing, looking after the two dogs, and a little bit of gardening, and even massaging the lady of the house. When I was asking for money, they would just shout at me.

STEWART: Years later, after a suspected tip-off from someone who knew the family she says the Department of Immigration arrived at her door and were able to get her out.

Once freed, she changed her name to Sandra to (INAUDIBLE). Soon after, she met Sally Erwin who started the Freedom Hub, with an on- site cafe to raise funds and awareness. The freedom hub primarily runs a survivor school for people affected by slavery in Australia.

SALLY ERWIN, THE FREEDOM HUB: There's a long, long wait, four to five year-wait for a court case to come around, and what I was seeing was that these women are being in bedrooms -- too scared to go out. There was no after care.

All right. So this is the class that we did with a lot of courses, everything from personal care right through to language skills, computer classes, the Australian culture. I mean yes, the really basic ones, we just had to bet a bust to the speech and you know, buy an ice cream (ph). And bit by bit, they start to build their confidence so that they feel that they can go out themselves. They start going out together as a group.

STEWART: In 2019, Australia's his first Modern Slavery Act has come into effect. Australian businesses with a revenue of more than $100 million dollars are required to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains and how they have addressed those risks.

ERWIN: What I love about it in Australia is that it will actually raise awareness. So I think the main impact will be that people will have more a lot more identification of victims.

STEWART: Today Sandra stands as a beacon of hope. What can be achieved in Australia's mission to end slavery.

SANDRA: (INAUDIBLE) I have a full-time job, I have my own life, I have freedom. I can drive. And I'm living on my own, I have so many family and friends. I'm happy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: CNN's Anna Stewart reporting there. Find out more about our mission to end modern day slavery at CNN.com/freedom.

Well, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Thanks so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren, live from Hong Kong.

The news continues here on CNN with the lovely Rosemary Church right after this.

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