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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Publicly Urges China to Investigate Biden; Former Envoy Volker Urge Ukraine Not to Interfere in U.S. Politics; U.K. Prime Minister: We Will Never Conduct Checks at Irish Border; At Least 34 Killed in Demonstrations in Iraq; Foreign Leaders Forced into Front- Row Circus Seat Next to Trump. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 4, 2019 - 00:00   ET

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


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm John Vause. This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Studio 7 at CNN world headquarters.

[00:00:56]

Ahead this hour, is it possible for a president to self-impeach? Donald Trump does it again, this time calling on China to investigate the Bidens, and CNN learns Trump discussed his Democratic opponent with the Chinese president.

The Boris Johnson's Brexit plan winning support in Parliament, rejected by Brussels. Can he come up with a compromise before the end of the month. And the body count rises across Iraq as violent demonstrations sweep the country.

We begin this hour with a White House in crisis, and a president who appears to be openly defying his oath of office by publicly asking other foreign governors, including adversaries, to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden.

On Thursday, Donald Trump stood on the White House lawn and urged the communist government of China to look into the former vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mister President, what did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after the phone call?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I would think that, if they were honest about it, they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens. It's a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens. And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And two sources have told CNN that President Trump discussed Biden and another Democratic opponent, Senator Elizabeth Warren, during a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping in June. And just like the record of Trump's conversation with the president of

Ukraine, all details of the call with Xi, removed to a highly-secured electronic system.

Two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN that Vice President Mike Pence was briefed a day after the July call with Ukraine's leader. It's not clear if Pence was told about the president's request for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. On Thursday, though, Pence made it perfectly clear that he is backing the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We focused entirely, in my meeting with President Zelensky of Ukraine, on the issues that President Trump had raised as a concern, namely, the lack of support for European partners for Ukraine and real issues of corruption in Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Elie Honig is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He's now a CNN legal analyst, and we're lucky that he is with us this hour from New York.

Elie, thanks for sticking around. We appreciate it.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No problem, John. I'm glad to be with you.

VAUSE: OK. We just heard from the president, and what sounded to many like an attempt at self-impeachment, but here's the latest reporting from CNN's Jim Acosta.

According to a source close to the White House, he's going for broke, one person who spoke with Trump said about the president's view of how he's handling the Biden's conspiracy theory. He doesn't see it as a violation of the law. The source added, Trump had theorized his opponents would be doing the same thing to him.

The president doesn't see it as a violation of law. OK, so what law may he have broken?

HONIG: So he really is going for broke here, and it's really a risky strategy. I do think the president has broken several federal laws here in the United States, potentially including bribery, which essentially means some sort of illicit or illegal exchange, this for that; extortion, which is sort of the flip side of that, meaning if you don't do this thing, I will hurt you in some way; and we have a specific federal law here that makes it a crime to solicit, to ask for some sort of campaign help, contribution, thing of value from a foreign national.

So I think all three of those crimes are at play. But one really important thing to keep in mind is, you do not need to have a crime in order to impeach. The House of Representatives has the right to impeach for any abuse of power or abuse of office. And I think when the president walks out on the White House Lawn and talks about, and openly encourages another country, not an ally, to do the same thing he's already accused of, then he's really pushing things.

VAUSE: OK. Well, the president was back on Twitter just a few hours ago, again, defending his actions. He tweeted, "As the President of the United States, I have an absolute right, perhaps even a duty, to investigate or have investigated CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting other Countries to help us out!"

[00:05:15]

Keep that in mind, though. I want you to listen to these statement, though, we've heard from Donald Trump over the last, I guess -- going back to the campaign. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We had a great conversation. The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son. Creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.

If somebody called from a country -- Norway -- we have information on your opponent, I think I'd want to hear it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Do you want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP: It's not an interference. They have information, I think I'd take it.

Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: OK. So the tweet seems almost, you know, reasonable. His statements are sort of reality.

HONIG: That's exactly right. The president, what he says in his tweet is more or less correct. The president does very broad power to conduct foreign policy, to encourage countries to root out corruption.

The problem is his actual actions and his actual specific rhetoric, and if you look at the phone call on, the July 25th phone call that sort of started this all between Donald Trump and President Zelensky, the only case he talks about, there's two cases, the Joe Biden investigation, and the Hillary Clinton investigation.

It would be another thing altogether if, in that call, President Trump was saying, look, you have a very broad corruption problem, and I'm concerned about that. But the only case in all of Ukraine that President Trump has ever talked about, are the two cases that happened to touch on his political opponents. So I think it's sort of hard to say he's this generalized corruption

crusader, when all he really cares about is getting dirt on his political enemies.

VAUSE: Trump is also, you know, making the point that he has nothing to hide and he's repeatedly calling on China during that White House news conference, or dust-up (ph) or whatever you call it, to investigate the Bidens. Here's part of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with -- with Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: CNN has learned that the president did discuss Joe Biden with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.

We hope you stay with us, because we want to check in with David Culver, who's in Beijing, for details on all that. So David, what do we know about the conversation that Trump had with Xi about Joe Biden and, I guess, Elizabeth Warren, as well?

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. And that clip you played there from the president, initially all the focus was on Ukraine. Suddenly, it shifts today to China. And I can tell you the officials here are trying to figure out how exactly to respond in the midst of what is a national holiday celebration, National Day, that has started October 1st and continued now.

So with regards to that phone call, according to two folks who are familiar with that discussion, they tell CNN that that happened on June 18, that on that call, President Trump brought up the political prospects of the former vice president, Joe Biden, and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

And in that second phone call, these sources also tell CNN that he mentioned he would remain quiet when it comes to the unrest in Hong Kong, what has been, really, a thorn in the side of the Chinese government here for several weeks now, eighteen in all.

And so with that coming forth, we've heard now from Senator Elizabeth Warren via Twitter that that is essentially selling out the Hong Kong people. She's criticizes that greatly, saying that she wants to see the full transcript of this release.

John, put it in greater context, though. That was June 18. Eleven days later, President Trump meets with President Xi in Osaka. They have meetings there. Then we have over several weeks, a back and forth when it comes to trade discussions, sometimes seemingly positive, other times looking rather negative.

Recently, President Trump has been mostly positive when it comes to his rhetoric on China, even on October 1, a day that marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of communist China, tweeting his congratulations to President Xi, John.

VAUSE: OK, David, we appreciate the update with all that.

Elie, want to go back to you. You just heard what David -- the details we have on this conversation. What does it say to you, if anything?

HONIG: Yes, it shows a pattern, right? It's very similar to what we see with the Ukraine.

Now, the Chinese exchange happened the prior month, but the basics are the same. Both times what the president is looking for is dirt on his political rivals. The China incident involves Elizabeth Warren, as well. And both times, he's essentially bargaining with -- with the chips of American foreign policy.

In the China exchange, it's backing down on criticizing the protesters and the protests going on in China. And with Ukraine, it's this foreign aid. It's hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid.

So look, twice is a pattern, and we've seen the president speaking fairly openly, surprisingly openly, about this. It's got to be one of two things. Either he just doesn't realize that this is wrong, which to me is a huge problem, if he's under that misimpression.

Or, as we discussed earlier, perhaps he's doubling down here. Perhaps he's just saying, if I act like nothing's wrong, people will think there's nothing wrong, and I can get past this. But that's an awfully risky strategy.

VAUSE: Elie, we're out of time, but I'll finish on a tweet from Hillary Clinton from Thursday: "Someone should inform the president that impeachable offenses committed on national television still count." You know, it's good advice at this point.

Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

HONIG: Thanks. Any time.

VAUSE: Well, on Capitol Hill, members of the House questioned the former U.S. envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker. Sources tell CNN he testified that he'd urged the Ukrainian leaders not to interfere in U.S. politics. That was after President Trump's July phone call.

"The Washington Post" reports that Volker says he warned the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, that claims against Joe Biden from former Ukrainian prosecutors were not credible.

Meantime, "The Wall Street Journal" said Donald Trump recalled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, after complaints from Giuliani that she was anti Trump.

Ron Brownstein is CNN's senior political analyst and a senior editor for "The Atlantic," and he is with us from Los Angeles.

Ron, good to see you. Now, it seems Donald Trump has decided that the defense, the best

defense here for a U.S. president, basically, he's going to double down, you know, on the calls for an investigation into Joe Biden. We heard it over and over again on the White House lawn. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They should investigate the Bidens, because that is the company that's newly formed, and all these companies, if you look at -- and by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So explain the strategy of a U.S. president facing impeachment for abusing the power of the office, for gaining -- for personal gain, by asking a foreign government to gather dirt on a political opponent, and the best response here is to publicly engage in the abuse of power of the office of the presidency by asking another foreign government to investigate his political rival?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think the answer is in the way the Republican Party has enabled and excused him for three years.

First of all, I think after today, I don't know about you, but I think it is still inconceivable that the House will not impeach Donald Trump, both because of what he said publicly and the transcript, and what we have seen in the text messages that were released today, some of them only in the last couple of hours from Kurt Volker and others, showing the concern of career diplomats and, also, clear indication that Zelensky was not getting a meeting at the White House, unless he agreed to the investigation the president wanted.

I think the House may be a foregone conclusion at this point after today. The reason I think the president is doing this is because he wants to normalize it, and the reason I think he believes he can do that is that so many things already that would have been utterly unacceptable before he has found he was able to kind of, you know, very fine people, and go back and separating children at the border. He has been able to kind of uphold the Republican Party along, and it is maintain a posture of really accepting whatever he does. As I say, every time he breaks a window, they sweep up with glass.

He is pushing it, and I think it will be an extraordinary moment for the Republican Party in the next few weeks once, I think, the House does the inevitable after today and votes to impeach him.

VAUSE: It's clear over the last couple of days that there does not seem to be any sort of coordinated strategy coming from the White House. "The New York Times" is reporting for now the White House has no organized response to impeachment. A little guidance "for surrogates to spread a consistent message even if it had developed one and minimal coordination between the president's legal advisors and his political ones."

You know, but to your point, this chaotic approach, for Trump, it was in response to Mueller's Russia report. Why won't it work again?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, right. I actually think it is chaotic, but I don't think there is no strategy. I think it's the same strategy we've seen from him at every moment of stress and crisis of his presidency, which is to put enormous fuel into convincing his base that he is the victim of a kind of, you know, concerted conspiracy that is really meant to silence them. That is his core message.

And he's gone, you know, pretty deep into those waters already with words like "coup," and "treason," and "spy." You know, all of these -- I can't even imagine what is coming next in the next few weeks.

But it's all basically designed to cause his base to view this as, you know, conspiracy by Democrats in the deep state, not to focus on the substance. And through that, to put more pressure on Republicans to stand with him. And that is going to be a critical variable here. You've heard Republican senators even today, saying something I thought would be unimaginable, that you know, what's the big deal about asking foreign government, while foreign policy, to dig up dirt or manufacture dirt on your opponent?

[00:15:12]

I mean, it's extraordinary what we are seeing here. And I don't think you can understate and how much this is deviating to party and destroying what had previously been norms in American politics.

VAUSE: There will be the denial, then of course we did it. And then everybody would have done it. Who wouldn't have done it? Yes.

You know, we heard a lot from the U.S. envoy to Congress today, anyway, as he was testifying, the former envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. And he claimed the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was fired by Trump on the advice of Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, because Giuliani said that the ambassador was anti-Trump. There's a lot of people concerned about this within the State Department.

But listen to what the president had to say about the ambassador during that brief news appearance on the White House lawn, and about, you know, what was exactly the problem with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Here it is.

We don't have the soundbite there from Donald Trump, basically saying there were a lot of things that weren't good about her. She wasn't good. She just wasn't good.

You know, from what we know, though, at this point, with all the evidence that we have, there does seem to be, you know, a very clear picture of how all of this played out.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, absolutely. And I think the texts that have come out today -- I'm surprised how many of them have come out just on the first day of testimony -- really paint the picture of very explicit indications, as the whistle-blower said.

The whistle-blower in the complaint said it was common knowledge, essentially, in the international security bureaucracy, that Ukraine and Zelensky was not going to get anything they want -- a meeting with the president, the aid -- until they agreed to do the investigation that he was demanding.

We have texts tonight supporting that argument, in which Volker, among others, is making that clear to advisors to the Ukrainian government.

And, you know, again, step one step back. We are withholding aid from a government that is facing a Russian, essentially, invasion and inspired insurrection. So there is that entire angle. And you know, are we ever going to see the transcripts of what he has said to Putin about all this? We could be in for all sorts of legal battles over access to those other transcripts.

But I do believe that, based on the rough transcript we have already have, the texts that have been released today, and the president's own comments, it is very hard to imagine there will not be 218 Democratic votes to impeach him.

VAUSE: And if you follow what the president has been saying closely, so far, Hunter Biden has walked away with $105 billion from Ukraine, another billion dollars from China, for a total of $2.5 billion.

None of this is true. None of it is true. But that's never been a brake on Donald Trump, who continues to try and make this non-existent scandal bigger and bigger by the day, and here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I think Biden is going down. And I think his whole situation, because now you may very well find that there are many other countries that they scammed, just like they scammed China and Ukraine. And basically, who are they really scamming? The USA. And it's not good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So despite hammering away at this, day in and day out, hour after hour after hours, ramping it up, you know, this make-believe wrongdoing, what impact is it having on the Democratic race, if any?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I have been struck, in some of the polling that there is -- both in two different polls roughly, low forties plurality saying there's something here to look into on Biden, despite you know, so many media accounts indicating that there was no connection between what Biden was urging in Ukraine and his son's position.

Look I mean, you know, the son getting a position on the board of a natural gas company in Ukraine while his father is vice president, that is -- you know, that doesn't look too good. But, you know, think about Ivanka Trump getting copyrights in China.

The real issue is whether the vice president himself there's no indication the vice president himself did anything wrong. And so far, there's absolutely no indication of that. In fact, of course, as you, I'm sure, have discussed many times on

this show, he was pushing a prosecutor to be dismissed because he was not bringing corruption cases, not because he was investigating too aggressively.

You know, the question to me is, whether we are in a position where the inconceivable is happening, and Republicans are -- elected Republicans are not standing up and saying it is wrong for the president to use American foreign policy to try to leverage and pressure foreign governments to intervene in the American election by investigating or producing dirt on an opponent. And if they do not send that clear signal to Republican voters, are we going to see an erosion in the early polling that says most Americans think that is wrong?

I mean, this is just an extraordinary moment, because it suggests that there is no bottom to what Republicans elected officials will accept from Trump, as long as he offers them the prospect of 278 Electoral College votes and the opportunity to cut taxes, cut regulations, and appoint judges. It's a real kind of look in the mirror a moment not only for them, but for American democracy.

[00:20:14]

VAUSE: Yes. And we keep having these moments as we get further and further along into this administration's first term.

Ron, as always, thank you so much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Well, Boris Johnson's alternative to the Irish backstop seems to be a no-go in Brussels. The E.U. reportedly has given him a week to fix it or risk a Brexit delay. More on that when we come back.

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VAUSE: Initially, E.U. officials were polite and welcoming of Boris Johnson's Brexit withdrawal plan, including an alternative to the so- called Irish backstop. But the criticism came quickly, calling it problematic and unconvincing. Brussels has reportedly given the British prime minister a week to work up a better deal or face a Brexit delay beyond the October 31 deadline.

None of that, though, seemed to bother the prime minister as he address Parliament on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There will be no need for checks or any infrastructure at or near the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Indeed, I've already given a guarantee that the U.K. government will never conduct checks at the border, and we believe that the E.U. should do the same. So there is absolute clarity on that point. JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Mr. Speaker, these plans are simply unworkable. Mr. Speaker, what we have before us is not a serious proposal to break the deadlock. Instead, these proposals are nothing more than a cynical attempt by the prime minister to shift the blame for his failure to deliver. We can only conclude -- we can only conclude his political advisor was telling the truth when he called the negotiations with the E.U. a sham.

LEO VARADKAR, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: The proposals that have been put forward by the U.K. are certainly welcome in the sense that we now have written proposals that we can engage on. But they do fall short in a number of aspects.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And here's a broad outline of Johnson's proposal. Northern Ireland would remain under the E.U. single market trade rules but not part of its customs union. Checks on cross-border trade would be done electronically away from the border to avoid any physical barrier. And every four years, Northern Ireland would decide if it wants to remain in the E.U. single market.

[00:25:12]

The European Commission hasn't rejected Boris Johnson's plan outright, but the mood in Brussels is definitely pessimistic. After speaking with the Irish prime minister, the commission president, Donald Tusk, tweeted, "We remain open but unconvinced."

Let's bring in CNN European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas. He is in Los Angeles.

So Dominic, the twists and turns of the Brexit monster. Where Theresa May, the former prime minister, you know, she had her exit deal all agreed to and supported by the E.U., and solidly rejected by Parliament not once, not twice but three times.

Boris Johnson's proposal has support in Parliament, but Brussels y forget it.

You know, it is striking that during Parliament, conservatives were cheering for the prime minister breaking the deadline, making a deal, and Johnson's done neither one of those.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes, none of those. And I mean, it's very difficult to gauge, really, from all the screaming and shouting in Parliament, you know, what the support is for for, who's screaming against and how that would actually translate into any kind of real meaningful vote on the floor of the House.

But I think you're absolutely right. Having said that, there are deals that could potentially win the support of the House that would be unacceptable to Brussels, and vice versa, here. And I think that what we end up seeing here is the Parliament, you know, yet again, you know, divided on these particular questions. And it's hard to tell, you know, what would ultimately break the -- break the deadlock here. You know?

VAUSE: In Parliament we heard from Boris Johnson, and when he was addressing the House, it seemed like he was sort of putting the responsibility back onto the European Union to come up with some kind of compromise. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: If our European neighbors chooses not to show a corresponding willingness to reach a deal, then we shall have to leave on October the 31st without an agreement. And -- and we are ready to do so. But that outcome would be a failure of statecraft, for which all parties would be held responsible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So this is where it becomes a little muddy, because Parliament passed a law preventing a no-deal Brexit. If they don't have a deal, they have to have an extension. There are legal challenges to that bill starting on Friday. But assuming it stands, how does Johnson get around it?

THOMAS: Well, I mean, look, he absolutely doesn't, John. You know, I mean, we know that if there's any kind of deal to be made in Parliament, it has to move towards the middle. There needs to be consensus around the question of the single market, the customs union.

In other words, the closer you remain to the European Union, the more chance you have getting support, that we know that those are absolutely red lines for the Brexiteers. Most of them are sitting in his cabinet right now, and were appointed precisely because they agreed and approved to potentially support a no-deal.

Boris Johnson wants a general election. The further he goes down the road threatening. He's already talked again about the fact that he's looking to prorogue Parliament again. This will absolutely inflame people, even though the reasons and the arguments may be slightly different.

But ultimately, he's letting the clock run down, hoping that the Parliament will provide him with an opportunity to go to a -- to go to a general election. And I don't think that there's any way we see Boris Johnson going to Brussels asking for an extension. He just won't do it.

VAUSE: He may not be forced to go to Brussels to ask for an extension, but listen, let's assume that that's where this is heading. So, you know, the deadline is extended and they have this general election. There seems to be almost no possibility of a general election between now and October 31.

THOMAS: No. No, absolutely not.

VAUSE: That means he basically faces Nigel Farage and the -- and the, you know, crazy Brexit Party. He could inflict some serious damage on the Tories. THOMAS: Well, he knows that if he ends up with a general election, he

cannot get -- there's no path to victory without getting the support of the Brexit Party, Right? Either through some kind of alliance or by getting there.

And I think that that is precisely why that, when you get Boris Johnson on -- in discussing issues, on discussing plans and so on and so forth, there's nothing there, because this is an emotional issue that's working on anger, working on fear and so on.

And this is why you see him, you know, with this inflammatory rhetoric, the Surrender Bill, and so on and so forth. What you might argue this kind of populist appeal to the Farage supporters, to show them that he is unambiguously the person that will go about delivering this.

And I think that throughout this process, we can keep talking about the fact of what will make it through Parliament, what will not. You know, the first agreement is voted down, second, third and so on and so forth.

That we're getting to the point now where it is clear that if you go back to 2016, the Brexit vote was a particular referendum. The British public has evolved on this. And I think that, until these parties go back to the British people with a very clear Brexit position. We know what it is for the Lib Dems: revoke and remain.

That for Boris Johnson to go back and say, I believe in Brexit, I will be prepared to deliver a no-deal. If I get a majority, will you support it?

And we also know that the Labour Party position is ambiguous on this. In other words, we need to find and get to a point where there's some kind of break in this.

[00:30:08]

I think you're absolutely right. There's no guarantee what the outcome of a general election would be and where we go, but this appeal to the Brexit Party and this and this inflammatory rhetoric is the only path forward for Boris Johnson here.

VAUSE: Yes. The Labour Party position on all this is one of the big problems, as well, in trying to work out where all this is heading.

Dominic, we're out of time but thank you. Good to see you.

THOMAS: Yes. Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Well, the violent protests in Iraq continue, and the death toll also continues to rise. We'll tell you the response from the government to this wave of unrest in just a moment. You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause with an update now on our top news this hour.

Donald Trump publicly calling on China to investigate Joe Biden. Sources tell CNN he also discussed his political rival during a phone call in June with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. The record of that call was moved to the same highly-secured server as the now infamous call with Ukraine's leader.

European media reporting Boris Johnson has been given a week to make his latest Brexit proposal acceptable to the European Union or risk a delay beyond October 31. Brussels has been cool to the prime minister's alternative to the Irish backstop, saying it falls short and is problematic.

CNN has learned that working-level talks between the U.S. and Pyongyang are due to take place in the Swedish capital in the coming hours.

A source says North Koreans, quote, "sense an opportunity," because Donald Trump is under fire at home.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council will likely hold a closed-door session Friday after Pyongyang says it has successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

The death toll from Iraq's largest protests in decades continues to rise. At least 34 people have been killed, more than 1,500 hurt. Curfews have been imposed and communications restricted, but now the government appears to be easing up. Sixty percent of the Internet connection has been restored, and it says it will offer a basic wage plan for the poor.

But as CNN's Michael Holmes reports, the demonstrators are not backing down.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands of Iraqis demonstrate against a government less than a year old, public anger and frustration visceral and the government response the deadly.

Iraqi police using live ammunition, tear gas, and water cannon, trying to disperse protesting that most recently kicked off Tuesday. As clashes bled into a third day, the government imposed a pre-dawn curfew and shut down Internet access across much of the country to limit protestor ability to coordinate. It did little to quell the deadly and growing civil unrest.

[00:35:16]

(on camera): To give you an idea of how this has spread, the protests initially began in the capital, Baghdad. But from there, they spread to provinces and cities all across the south of the country, including the oil-rich Shia-dominated area of Basra, critical to the economy. Now, by Thursday morning, the government had imposed an indefinite curfew on Baghdad, Hilla, Najaf and Nasiriyah.

(voice-over): In some of the largest protests seen in decades, demonstrators point to corruption by the ruling establishment, economic mismanagement, and a deteriorating quality of life during a time of relative peace.

In the two years since the defeat of the Islamic state in Iraq, the country has enjoyed some measure of security, but sporadic uprisings are often harshly put down by the government. They're generally not partisan issues. Instead, bread-and-butter issues: jobs, corruption, electricity supplies, clean water, the most basic of services in a country with vast oil wealth.

In the years since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, governments have been elected and come and gone, promising much; in reality, changing little. Rising poverty and unemployment turning into public outrage that cuts across sectarian lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are calling for our rights. this is all we want. We want an occupation and a job that would bring good to us.

HOLMES: The U.S. invasion in 2003 caused massive disruption to infrastructure in areas like electricity, water, and sewage. Sectarian violence and years of ISIS made things worse.

Through it all, protestors say, a culture of corruption has endured, thrived even. False promises of change leaving Iraq's beleaguered citizens in the crosshairs of their own government.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, in Paris, sources tell CNN police are holding the wife of the man who killed four of his colleagues at police headquarters with a knife.

The attacker, a longtime employee of the police department, was shot and killed.

There's no word on why his wife was taken into custody. Investigators say they're looking for a motive.

It comes one day after police went on strike across France over increasing violence towards officers.

We already knew the guerrilla artist Banksy is extremely bankable, but when you pair his satirical paintings with Britain's political turmoil, you can nab some extraordinary pieces. We'll explain in a moment.

Also, the U.S. president loves to heckle the press, as well as his political opponents. That's making things awkward for those foreign leaders who drop by the White House every now and then. Like that guy. That's ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:40:03]

VAUSE: At least Brexit has been good for the British artist Banksy. He smashed his own record with the auction of a painting which mocks the House of Commons.

The enormous oil on canvas shows chimpanzees running the so-called mother of Parliament. Sotheby's says it sold in just 13 minutes for more than $12 million, six times more than his previous top-selling work of art.

When the Bristol Museum displayed the 10-year-old artwork back in March, just before the first missed Brexit deadline, Banksy tweeted, "Laugh now, but one day no one will be in charge."

Well, pity the world leader who becomes the unwilling participant in America's political circus. Finland's president is the latest to share the awkward spotlight with an angry President Trump.

Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the moment President Trump finished the Finish president's knee.

TRUMP: Finland is a happy country.

MOOS: Talk about a knee-jerk reaction. We knew this world leader was in for a doozy of a visit, a visit overshadowed by impeachment.

TRUMP: Quid pro quo.

He's a low-life.

Shifty Schiff, who should resign.

MOOS: President Sauli Niinisto seemed resigned --

TRUMP: Listen to this one, President.

MOOS: -- even amused at what a Finnish newspaper later called the "circus Trump."

TRUMP: Look at all the press that you attract. Will you look at this?

SAULI NIINISTO, FINNISH PRESIDENT: They are not after me.

MOOS: What was the Finnish president thinking? "Beam me up, Scotty." "Me trying to get the check, my dad yelling at a waitress."

TRUMP: The enemy of the people.

There were those that think I'm a very stable genius.

MOOS: Imagine President Niinisto's postcard home: "Greetings from the White House! Home of the stable genius."

(on camera): Some viewers even took to Twitter to say sorry.

"Dear Finland, I apologize on behalf of sane Americans."

Any leader who meets with President Trump these days can expect to be sucked into the impeachment whirlpool. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison became a character witness.

TRUMP: I've had conversations with many leaders. They're always appropriate. I think Scott can tell you that. Always appropriate.

MOOS: Finland's president never expected his joint press conference to feel like a scene out of "Taxi Driver."

TRUMP: Are you talking to me?

ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: Are you talking to me?

MOOS: And when a reporter talked to President Trump too much --

TRUMP: We have the president of Finland. Ask him a question. Ask this gentleman a question. Don't be rude.

MOOS: When the reporter did ask the Finnish president a question, President Trump cut in.

NIINISTO: I think the question is for me.

MOOS: Imagine being the one translating this encounter.

TRUMP: You know, there's an expression, he couldn't carry blank strap. I won't say it, because it was so terrible to say.

MOOS: How do you say "jockstrap" in Finnish?

ROBOTIC VOICE: Alasuojus.

MOOS: Now we're finished.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Jeanne, I'm sorry. I've never done that before. Jeanne Moos there reporting.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. WORLD SPORT is next. I got my own name wrong there.

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[00:44:55] (WORLD SPORT)

[00:57:30]

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