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U.S. and Turkey Agrees to a Ceasefire in Syria; Mulvaney Admits Quid Pro Quo, Then Backtracks; The Next Fight in the Brexit Battle. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired October 18, 2019 - 02:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A ceasefire in Syria, or is it? That depends upon who you ask.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also ahead this hour, quid pro quo. The White House chief of staff admits it, and then tries to walk back his statement.

HOWELL: And Boris Johnson's new Brexit agreement, getting it through the British parliament. Well, that might be an uphill battle.

ALLEN: Hello. Welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. "CNN Newsroom" starts now.

ALLEN: Thank you again for joining us. The guns supposedly are quiet right now in Northern Syria where Syrian Kurds have faced a sudden onslaught from Turkish forces crossing the border.

HOWELL: That's right. For the past week, it seems like the one that you see here. They have been happening. It has been the norm ever since Turkey launched a major offensive to push the Kurds further south.

ALLEN: On Thursday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced what he called a ceasefire, but what Turkey describes as a pause. The purpose? To give the Kurds who have been loyal U.S. allies against ISIS five days to retreat before there is a bloodbath.


MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Thanks to the strong leadership of President Donald Trump and the strong relationship between President Erdogan and Turkey, and the United States of America. Today, the United States and Turkey have agreed to a ceasefire in Syria.


ALLEN: While the statements from the U.S. make a good headline, the reality on the ground is far more murkier and more dangerous.

HOWELL: Indeed. We get that part of the story now from CNN's senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An announcement that's big on fanfare, but excruciatingly large on the brilliant important details. In short, Vice President Mike Pence announced there will be "a safe zone" from which in the next 120 hours, Syrian Kurdish forces will be withdrawn and it will go 20 miles deep into Syrian territory.

Unfortunately, he did not say how wide along the border it would go. Now, there is a part of that border territory that is pretty much already controlled by pro--Turkish forces, so a lot of big deal towards the Syrian Kurds to withdraw from it.

But if you listen to Turkish statements, that safe zone could continue all the way to the Iraqi border from the Euphrates River, which is a vast amount of territory in which there are huge population centers for Syrian Kurds which they are simply not going leave in the next five days. The forces there won't leave.

Mike Pence said one of them, city of Kobane, which the Syrian Kurds fought ISIS in great brutal awful months fighting in the rubble, is the place where Mike Pence said there will be no military action against. So, it is confusing to how this is going to function territorially. And remember, the ceasefire, it seems, is restricted to this "safe zone." There could be fighting outside of it.

But the thing you really have to look at in all of this is the timing. There is 120-hour window. It is a moment from which the ceasefire technically will begin, the announcement of Vice President Pence, the moment in which there's a key meeting in which America is not invited.

That's where Turkish President Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet in Sochi, where most people thought really the actual diplomacy, the actual peace negotiation, the actual dividing of territory would really occur.

So what we have here, the Americans stepping in trying to -- I'm being generous here -- clean up the mess of Donald Trump, who two Sundays ago in a phone call with President Erdogan said we would withdraw American troops from key areas, particularly the key areas inside the safe zone and enable the Turkish advance to begin.

He's talked back and forth in the weeks in between that, but is now in a situation where his vice president seems to suggest a diplomatic solution is forthcoming. But we don't know how it is going to work. There has been celebratory gunfire and the de facto Syrian Kurdish capital of Qamishli, it came out saying this is a major loss. It is then keeping Qamishli.

Potentially there will be Turkish people who see this as a huge game for them. There are some senior U.S. officials who believe in fact this endorses the Turkish plan to annex a chunk of Syria.

The important point about ceasefire announcement and diplomatic process is they have to big on details. And the key details here are missing. Vice President Pence in his press conference simply didn't open himself up to being questioned on those details.

So we don't know really how it is going to work in the five days ahead. We don't know what might happen outside of this not quite defined ceasefire zone.


PATON WALSH: There could still be intense clashes. That is entirely possible. We also simply don't know what comes out of the important meeting between Turkey and Russia in Sochi.

But still, there is a possibility that the violence may decrease. There is a possibility, like many thought, that the Syrian regime and the Russians will come in in some way, creating a buffer between the Syrian Kurds and Turkish forces.

Remember, this is a civil war inside Syria. This had many manifestations. Each time you think it is going to come down, suddenly, a new series of vectors of energies come in and revitalize it and cause it to flare up all over again.

It's happening one more time now. The U.S. is pulling out, and Russia, Turkey and the Syrian regime are now managing the fate of the Syrian Kurds between them.


ALLEN: As we mentioned, the U.S. may call this a ceasefire, but Turkey does not. In fact, the Turkish foreign minister made a point of saying publicly, it is not a ceasefire. That is a quote. Here's how President Trump described it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an amazing outcome. This was something that they've been trying to get for 10 years. You would have lost millions and millions of lives. They could not get it without a little rough love, as I called it.

The Kurds are very happy. Turkey is very happy. The United States is very happy. And you know what? Civilization is very happy. It's a great thing for civilization.


ALLEN: Well, not everyone is happy. Some Republicans in Congress have serious misgivings. Listen to U.S. Senator Mitt Romney.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): The announcement today is being portrayed as a victory. It is far from a victory. The ceasefire does not change the fact that America has abandoned an ally. Are we so weak and so inept diplomatically, that Turkey force the hand of the United States of America? Turkey?


HOWELL: Back in Washington, President Trump's defence of the impeachment inquiry took some serious hits on Thursday. First, there is the testimony that the president's personal attorney was directing foreign policy in Ukraine, and then a stunning admission from the acting White House chief of staff. Our Alex Marquardt picks up the story.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A blockbuster press conference at the White House today. Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney undercutting the president's repeated denials there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): Mulvaney admitting that money was held up until the president got assurances, including looking into whether the DNC had a server in Ukraine, a conspiracy theory driven by the president, which has been debunked. As per allegations that the president held back military aid for political reasons, Mulvaney did not mince words.

MULVANEY: I have news for everybody. Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Mulvaney also made no excuses for revelations that it was the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who was the gatekeeper on Ukraine policy, which the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, testified too today on Capitol Hill, saying that he and his fellow diplomatic envoy to Ukraine, did not have a choice between pursuing a traditional policy to strengthen ties or work with Giuliani.

I did not understand until much later, Sondland told lawmakers, that Mr. Giuliani's agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son, or to involve Ukrainians directly or indirectly in the president's 2020 reelection campaign.

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): It's very clear that Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani are running a shadow foreign policy. This policy was basically to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Sondland, who is a longtime Republican donor who gave money to Trump's inauguration, became a target for the impeachment inquiry when his text messages with the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine came to light. Ambassador Bill Taylor writing to Sondland, "I think it is crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign." Sondland responding, "The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quos of any kind."

Buy Sondland was repeating to Taylor what the president had just told him on the phone. No quid pro quo. Today, Sondland claimed "withholding foreign aid in order to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong. I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings."

(On camera): And we are hearing about some backlash at the White House in response to Mick Mulvaney's comments. A source is telling CNN that the president's legal team was not involved and is baffled. The source is saying that it was not helpful that the acting chief of staff essentially admitted to quid pro quo with Ukraine, and that people at the White House are stunned.


MARQUARDT (on camera): Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: All right. To make sense of all of these developments or to try to, CNN legal analyst and Tulane University law professor Ross Garber joins me now. Mr. Garber, thanks for coming in.


ALLEN: All right. Let's go over what we've heard from this White House regarding Ukraine in one day. No quid pro quo. Yes, quid pro quo. No, no quid pro quo. All in a day. Let's listen to the exchange with acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he -- to withhold funding to Ukraine.

MULVANEY: The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's be clear. What you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the democratic server happened as well.

MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy.


ALLEN: OK. How could the White House muddy the waters here so clearly on a critical central issue? What do you make of it?

GARBER: Yeah. I think they honestly just weren't prepared to deal with this. You know, there has been a lot of talk here about, you know, why the White House doesn't have what is referred to usually as a war room? Which you normally want to do is segregate sort of the defensive operations, deal with the investigation seriously, have lawyers dedicated to that, make sure that everything is coordinated.

This White House, though, hasn't done that. And, you know, the notion is in part because they want to send a message that they don't think they have to have it, because they've done nothing wrong.

Today, I think, proved that they do have to have it. It did not seem like the chief of staff to the White House was prepared for some reason for these questions which were going to come up.

You know, he holds press availability. These issues are going to come up. You are exactly right. They are critical to the impeachment inquiry and potentially critical to a criminal and counterintelligence investigation involving the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

ALLEN: Right. He retracted the quid pro quo and said it was media misinterpretation later. It's hard to fathom that there could be a flip flop for the White House on this issue in one day.

But as you said, they have not -- they have stated they do not need a war room, but it seems like something is awry here. It goes to show the ongoing chaos, in this White House, even at such a critical time. It does not really make sense, does it?

GARBER: It doesn't make sense. I made a career representing public officials and their offices, and this doesn't make sense. Anybody who works in this White House who deals with any of these issues related to Ukraine has to know that at some point they may be sitting down and talking to FBI agents, they may be sitting down and talking to congressional investigators.

This is really serious stuff, and you don't play games with it. Everything here is going to be scrutinized in hindsight. They just have to take it more seriously. And be better prepared to deal with the stuff and get their story straight. And by that, I mean figure out what the truth is and make sure they articulate the truth.

ALLEN: Right, because it will just continue to give more fuel to those on the other side who are investigating the president. Here is Adam Schiff's latest thought on where the inquiry stands and the evidence he says that is mounting. Let's listen to him.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Things have just gone from very, very bad to much, much worse. The idea that vital military assistance would be withheld for such a patently political reason, for the reason of serving the president's reelection campaign, is a phenomenal breach of the president's duty to defend our national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALLEN: If that is indeed what happened, is that an impeachable offense? Does it show that President Trump abused his office?

GARBER: So, as you know, we have never actually removed the president through the impeachment process. So the notion of impeachable offense is not well defined. The Constitution says it is treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors.

What Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is getting at there is that this looks, he says, something like bribery. What he's trying to do is say there is a quid pro quo, an exchange of things, to benefit the president either personally or through his political campaign. That is the case he's trying to make.

The White House, for their part, has taken, I think, two somewhat different positions. One is that there was no quid pro quo.


GARBER: The ambassador to the European Union was on Capitol Hill today. He had famously said that there was no quid pro quo. The chief of staff to the White House, as you just showed, initially suggested there was a quid pro quo, later said there is not.

But I think the other point the White House has been trying to make is even if there was a quid pro quo, it wasn't to benefit the president personally.

ALLEN: Right.

GARBER: That these were policy decisions.

ALLEN: Well, witnesses continue to testify in this inquiry. What else are you looking to hear in this process?

GARBER: So, witnesses are continuing to testify. There are couple of things that are going to be important. One is the process point. So, witnesses are testifying, but so far the administration has not produced documents, e-mails, text messages, other information that the House has demanded.

And so one question is going to be what, if anything, the House does about that. Do they try to file lawsuits to get that information? I tend to think they're probably not going to do that. The other is a factual question -- and it is the one we sort of just alluded to -- which is what information is going to come out about what actually was going on here.

Was this an effort to benefit the president personally? Was it an effort to benefit the president through his political efforts, or was there some policy, objective here? However misguided was there a policy objective. There was a policy objective. And again, however misguided, that is not an impeachable offense.

You really need something that benefited the president personally, potentially politically. But I think that is what we are looking for here.

ALLEN: All right. We will continue to stay on the story. Perhaps we'll talk with you again. Ross Garber for us. Thanks so much.


HOWELL: We are turning now to our top story. The vice president of the U.S., Mike Pence, announced Thursday what he calls a ceasefire. Turkey describes it as a pause in fighting in Northern Syria. The U.S. president saying that the U.S., the Kurds, the Turks are all happy, he says.

But the reality on the ground is what we are watching. Take a look at this. We are seeing plumes of smoke rising from the city of Ras al- Ayn. This is in the northeast of the country, right on the border with Turkey. You're looking at this image right there, 9:17 there in the morning.

A reporter describes here shelling and gunfire there. The purpose of this agreement is to give the Kurds, who have been a loyal U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS, to defeat against ISIS, give them five days to retreat from territory.

However, you heard our Nick Paton Walsh mentioned that the ceasefire safe zone was not comprehensively defined by the United States, so it's unclear if Ras al-Ayn is within that zone or perhaps not included in it. We will continue to monitor this. Stay with CNN as we continue to follow reality as it plays out there on the ground.

ALLEN: Absolutely. All right, another story that we are following. Ethics watchdogs are on guard over this announcement. The Trump administration announcing a plan for the next the G7 summit that many experts say is unconstitutional because of where the administration wants to hold it.

HOWELL: Plus, the stakes are high. The numbers are tied. Boris Johnson hopes to sell his new Brexit plan to lawmakers, and a vote in Parliament is just one day away. Will he get over the hump? Our preview is next.




ALLEN: All right, we are inching closer to the Brexit deadline. We have this for you. Boris Johnson is facing what could be the political fight of his life after doing what was thought to be nearly impossible.

HOWELL: That's right. He sealed a new Brexit deal with the European Union at a crucial summit that took place in Brussels. But that could be a walk in the park compared to what he has to do, getting it through Parliament.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: And I hope very much now, speaking of elected representatives, that my fellow MPs in Westminster do now come together to get Brexit done, to get this excellent deal over the line, and deliver Brexit without any more delay so that we can focus on the priorities of the British people.


ALLEN: All right, let's talk about it with CNN's Melissa Bell. She's live this hour in Brussels. I just detected a little bit of getting is there in Boris Johnson's voice, Melissa. Quite a breakthrough for him. There was not much optimism coming from Brussels just a few days ago. Now, this. How is this deal being received?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Let's be clear, Natalie. No one thought he can do it. And more specifically, no one thought he could do it without the support of the DUP, the Democratic Unionist Party, northern Irish party that has been a loose alliance in British Parliament with the conservatives for the last few months. And yet, he did.

He came here with clear opposition from the DUP which leaves hanging, of course, that question of how he can do it on Saturday. But there was definitely a fair amount of excitement in his voice. He decided to spring in his step because getting this far has seemed so improbable.

From the point of view of the European Union, there is a huge sense of relief because this has been a long three years of ups and downs, negotiations that seemed often fruitless, were very often seemed to go nowhere.

Finally, from the point of view of the E.U. and the message that has been absolutely clear, this is it, a final deal that puts in place these lightly convoluted arrangements for Northern Ireland, but avoids that backstop that had proved so difficult for conservatives in particular to accept and the DUP as well because it had essentially created this difference between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.

It prevented the United Kingdom through the backstop from engaging in trade deals as it would once it left after Brexit. I think for many people that had been the whole point of Brexit, that it could start functioning on its own. And the fact that there was a delay in that had proved unpalatable and unacceptable.

He got rid of that backstop, replaced it with something, frankly more complicated to understand, never mind to explain, but that seems to have gotten the consent of all the parties around the tables here in Europe as well. So this part of it is over.

Now the big question is how he can do it. Now, what he told European leaders -- Emmanuel Macron told this to journalists -- is that Boris Johnson believes he can do it and it does seem possible. Not probable at this stage, Natalie, but possible. Because at his last final deal just couple of weeks before the 31st of October deadline, he presented to MPs there may be some who voted differently than they did in the past, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. So many people want to see this get pushed through. We will wait and see. Melissa Bell is breaking it down for us there from Brussels. Melissa, thanks so much.

HOWELL: That's the reporting. Let's put it into perspective now with Thom Brooks. Tom is a professor of law and government at Durham University, also the dean of a Durham Law School. It is good to have you with us.

THOM BROOKS, DEAN, DURHAM LAW SCHOOL: Thank you very much. It's good to be back.

HOWELL: Thom, look, without a doubt, this is a milestone for Boris Johnson, agreeing to a new Brexit deal with the E.U.


HOWELL: But now comes the hard part, right, getting it across Parliament, securing the 320 votes needed to meet that October 31st deadline. Johnson reportedly may be close, not quite there. Talk to us about the math, Thom. How do you see this getting over the hurdle?

BROOKS: The math is actually pretty difficult. It's been made pretty difficult by Boris Johnson as he is in a minority government. He does not control the majority for the Tory, his party, to win MP votes in Parliament. They entered into an agreement with the northern Irish party, the DUP.

The DUP has said that they will not back the deal. That causes Boris Johnson very significant problem. In addition to that, Boris did expel 21 members of his party who were rebelling on a previous vote relating to the failure to support him on Brexit. He's down by quite a lot. Then all is (ph) backbenchers.

He has a number of his own party members who are more keen on no deal than any deal. So it is quite a battle to get his side on side. I think it is possible, not probable, that he may well get a vote in favor of proceeding to pass legislation or consider legislation necessary to get a deal passed. But getting all the legislation through in time seems, I think, pretty impossible.

HOWELL: All right. You know the devils in the details. Let's talk about the specifics there. There is enough political will on both sides to drop the issue of the backstop. The DUP said that cannot work, that Northern Ireland must remain part of the U.K. Customs Union, not as the deal suggests to remain in the E.U. Customs Union, but be administered by the U.K. What do you make of this aspect of the deal?

BROOKS: This is a very controversial aspect of the deal. I can't see it being much less controversial than the backstop. The issue of the backstop was always that Northern Ireland was to be treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom. The DUP, which is a unionist party that supports Northern Ireland's full union membership with the United Kingdom and not a nationalist united island, the worry is that this would lead to a unified Ireland, unified in all but name, because it would be still be virtually in the E.U. potentially for many, many, many years to come, if not forever. So that has not changed.

What is interesting to me is of course Boris's new deal as it is often portrayed is actually what the E.U. first proposed to Britain as a way of keeping an open border Northern Ireland. Theresa May rejected and Boris Johnson, as foreign secretary, rejected, and rejected again at the DUP conference last year, saying no conservative leader could possibly contemplate a possible breakup of the union by having the border in the Irish Sea.

So I think it will be an area of a lot of debate still. As much as he has removed the other aspects of the backstop, he still has this issue, and I think it will be very complicated. Remember one very quick point, it means that goods can go back and forth freely in the island of Ireland.

But things that come from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland that might go to Scotland, Wales or England, there might still be E.U. officials in the U.K. doing check that can overrule U.K. officials. That's one of the little legal aspects to this. I think that will also draw attention from critics.

HOWELL: Confusing. We will see where this goes, Thom Brooks.

BROOKS: Definitely need a law professor to help out.

ALLEN: Exactly.

HOWELL: Thom, thank you so much.

ALLEN: I like how we put that. A niggly wiggle.


HOWELL: The best legal term I've heard.


ALLEN: I like that one. All right, next here, a potential ethics breach by the Trump White House. Next, how the administration is defending its choice of location for the next G7 summit. Hint, it's got the name Trump on it.

HOWELL: OK. Violence flaring up again in Barcelona days after Catalan independence leaders sentenced to jail. Still ahead, why some think another independence referendum is the answer. Stand by.


[02:32:14] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And I'm Natalie Allen. Let's update you on our top stories this hour. Turkey has agreed to a five-day pause of its military offensive against Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria. But live pictures from along the borders show smoke rising, and Reuters news services reporting the sound and shelling and gunfire. It is not clear if this area is supposed to be covered by the pause in fighting.

HOWELL: Meantime, stateside, the question here, is it quid pro quo? Yes or no? Well, the acting White Chief of Staff admits the U.S. withheld military aid to Ukraine to force a political investigation into President Trump that he wanted rather. The investigation that the president wanted, that's the heart of the impeachment inquiry. Mick Mulvaney later backtracked saying that there was no quid pro quo.

ALLEN: Mexican security forces captured the son of notorious drug lord El Chapo in Sinaloa State. But Reuters news agencies says they had to release him to protect lives after security forces were outgunned during the fight with cartel members.

HOWELL: The White House has announced that President Trump will host next year's G7 Summit and guess where, his own resort in Dorval, Florida.

ALLEN: That's raising a lot of questions. Officials say the president will not personally profit from it but critics warn it is an ethics violation and may even violate the constitution. Our Brian Todd look into it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: -- of a lot of people to the custody.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a historical first, the President of the United States using his office to bring a contract for a major event to one of his own properties. In announcing that the Trump National Doral Golf Club near Miami will host next year's G7 Summit. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said it's not a contact of conflict of interest.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: There's limitations in other places we thought of the 12 places that we looked at and you recognize the names of them if we told you what they were, that this why by far and the way the best choice.


TODD: But watchdogs says the White House claim that the president's not breaking ethics rules as laughable. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY NOBLE, FINANCIAL AND POLITICAL ETHICS EXPERT: Just a general principle that you're not supposed to profit off of government work. You are not supposed to make any private profit. This is the second reason which is the president cannot profit from foreign nationals. And this is the very definition of it.


TODD: Trump's been promoting Doral as a possible site for the G7 at least since August.


TRUMP: With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings, we call them bungalows. They each hold from 50 to 70, very luxurious rooms with magnificent views. We have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants. Each country can have their own villa, or their own bungalow.



TODD: Among those endorsing Doral, Trump said at the time were secret service officials. Anthony Chapa, a former assistant secret service director who plan security for inaugurations, says securing such an enormous location is a serious challenge for the secret service.


ANTHONY CHAPA, FORMER SECRET SERVICE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, some of the unique problems in a place like that is access. You know, who has access, how do you control access, how close can people come to the event?


TODD: And questions keep coming back to whether the president is trying to save a struggling Trump brand. This spring, financial records obtained by the Washington Post showed net operating income at Doral which Trump bought in 2012 and restored fell by 69 percent from 2015 to 2017 when Trump became president. One of several indications that his presidency may have taken the shine off his goal covered portfolio.


MARC FISHER, CO-AUTHOR, TRUMP REVEALED: Whether it's his golf course, his resorts or his showcase building in New York's 5th Avenue, in each case we see that there's been impact where people do not want to do business in a place with -- that carries the name of someone who they vehemently disagree with.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: Still the dignitaries keep coming. More than 110 officials

from nearly 60 foreign governments have been spotted to Trump hotels, golf courses and other property since 2017 according to the New York Times. But Mulvaney and Trump have both denied that the president will make a profit from hosting the G7 at Doral.


TRUMP: I'm not going make any money. I don't want to make money. I don't care about making money.


TODD: Ethics and security experts says it is possible that Trump won't make a profit from hosting the G7 at Doral since in order to security event, guest already there may be asked to leave and others may be asked to stay away. But they say it's also possible that Trump will profit from it. If upgrades to Doral are made for the G7 and the government is built for them. Brian Todd, CNN Washington.

HOWELL: All right, Brian. Thank you very much. Well, the world's second biggest economy, it is feeling the pain from the trade tensions with the United States. China's growth has dropped to its lowest in nearly three decades. The gross domestic product grew six percent in the third quarter. That's the weakest quarterly rate since 1992. Let's go live now to Hong Kong. Our David Culver on the story.

And David, tell us more about how this is being taken across China. This seems to be a significant downturn.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is no question. And it is a cooling economy in China. But George, it's also interesting to look at how Chinese state media is reporting this. They are using this more as an average over the past three quarters. So they're saying 6.2 percent growth over the first three quarters of this past year. Showing more of a positive spin. They go on to point out in their minds, it shows stability, inconsistency within the Chinese economy.

And they say when it's compared to China's past, it shows a medium to high speed growth rate. But when you compare it to world economies, they say this is still high speed growth. So that's they're take on this. But it also comes amidst the backdrop of the trade deals so to speak, that's at least how President Trump has described. This is phase one substantial trade deal with China. China of course calling it substantial progress, not using the word deal.

But in that, some economist that I've spoken over the past 48 hours stressed that it could mean more trouble for China going forward. And they believe that the trade deal that's come to fruition more recently, doesn't necessarily show a benefit for China in that -- it simply keeps it up at the status quo with regards to the tariffs. They're sat at 25 percent, they're not going to that 30 percent but it doesn't necessarily reduce it making it easier for them going forward.

And what's more is they're going to be spending according to President Trump, some $40 to $50 billion and agricultural products coming out of the U.S. You can see the financial benefit for the U.S. and for farmers and arguably the political benefit for President Trump. China though does need that agricultural import especially when it comes to pork. I mean, here they've been dealing with the pork crisis in this region, the African swine disease decimated about third of the pork supply.

So, they're going to see some benefit there but ultimately the question remains is if this growth or really the stagnant growth that they're experiencing right now will sustain over the next quarter and months to comes, really, George.

HOWELL: All right, David Culver giving us the perception there across China with this. Figuring that those numbers are accurate of course. David, thank you so much.


ALLEN: All right. The British royals arrived in style taking a fancy rickshaw to an event in Pakistan but another ride on their tour took a scary turn. We'll show that in a minute.

HOWELL: And in Barcelona, protesters turn out again and here is no end in sight for their anger. What's stoking all the outrage?



ALLEN: A firefighters put out a fire in the streets of Barcelona, Spain. Thousands of protesters set fires in the city's tours district, pelting police with eggs and water bottles and blocking highways. It was the fourth straight night of demonstrations and there are more planned for the day ahead. The latest unrest in Barcelona began Monday, when nine Catalan independence politicians were sentenced for a failed attempt to split from Spain two years ago.

But some believe another independence referendum could help end the turmoil. Even though it is not likely Spain's government will go for it. Our Isa Soares has more about it.


ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Defying in Catalan in the face of police chanting the streets will always be ours. Foreshadowing what was to come. Anger and frustration one side, met with force, and rubber bullets. This has been the daily scene in Barcelona every day this week. Ever since the Spanish supreme court in Madrid handed heavy prison sentences to nine Catalan politicians for their role in an independence movement, two years ago.

Protesters here say those politicians are political prisoners and accused Madrid of persecution. An allegation the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sanchez denies. Today is the confirmation of a collapse of a political project. The failed in its attempt to gain internal support. And international recognition he says. Sanchez says he wants to start a fresh dialogue with Catalonia. Meanwhile, Catalan regional president Joaquim Torra says certain conditions have to be met.

JOAQUIM TORRA, PRESIDENT, GOVERNMENT OF CATALAN: We call for an end to repression for the release of the political prisoners, for the exiles to be free to return home.

SOARES: Some movement leaders insisting the current situation can only be sold by new vote on Catalan independence. But Madrid is unlikely to support this. They refused to endorse the last one. Despite opposition from the central government, local politicians went ahead with the referendum on October the 1st of 2017. Catalans returned a resounding call for a split. But holding the vote was far from easy.


This has been a contentious referendum and a very chaotic day for those people who are wanting to vote in the very early hours in the morning. The rain, they saw Guardia Civil -- that state police move in trying to block them from voting and really dragging some people from those polling stations. Authority telling CNN, more than 800 people have been injured.

Weeks of protests and stood until Madrid moved in and seize control of Catalonia. Nearly all the politicians who led the independence movement were arrested, charged with rebellion, acquitted, and later, convicted of sedition.

The man who led them avoided that fate. Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont fled and sought exile in Brussels. Hoping to convince European politicians to support his quest for Catalan independence.

From there, he too criticized the sentences handed to his former Cabinet.

CARLES PUIGDEMONT, FORMER REGIONAL PRESIDENT, CATALAN: No propaganda strategy in the world could mask so much shameful injustice.

SOARES: With both sides entrenched in their position, a peaceful outcome seems a distant future. Making lights like these are likely scenario across Catalonia.

Isa Soares, CNN.


HOWELL: Isa, thank you very much. The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Israel this hour for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

ALLEN: And with Turkeys military pause in northern Syria and simmering tensions with Iran, the two should have a full agenda.

There is much to talk about in this meeting. Let's go to David McKenzie, joining us now. David, especially when it comes to Iran's behavior in the region.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. Iran's behavior, but also the behavior of the U.S. in recent days that incursion of Turkey into the territory controlled by the Kurds has made Israel very nervous both in terms of their support over the years for Kurds. But, especially because it could give Iran a greater influence in Syria and certainly, by fact of that, a greater influence in the region.

There's also nervousness and you can see it in the press here in Israel and amongst former officials we have spoken to about a general withdrawal of the U.S. from the Middle East, and influence of the U.S. waning in this region.

Of course, Israel and the U.S. are staunch allies and any sense that the U.S. is getting out of this area will be very nerve-wracking for Israelis. So, this is an important meeting of the prime minister and the secretary of state. We expect potentially brief comments afterwards. And it is most likely that the secretary of state will try and reassure Israel that the U.S. still has very much got their back. Natalie?

ALLEN: Right. And David, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu also be looking for assurances for support from the Trump administration, given the political climate in Israel.

MCKENZIE: Well, they just had the second very tightly ford election here in Israel. And Netanyahu has been unable to form a government, at least, at this point. His deadline is fast approaching where it might be handed to his political opponent to attempt that.

So, yes, we -- there was an expectation that privately particularly there might be some reassurances from Pompeo towards the prime minister about the political support they give for him. But there has also been a sense that President Trump who has been very closely aligned with the prime minister here is hedging his bets somewhat, just recently after the election wasn't conclusive.

The second election Trump did say that it was a friendship with Israel, not mentioning Netanyahu by name. It was striking in the -- this year during this political campaign that Netanyahu put up these large billboard showing him and Trump shaking hands.

The allusion was clear that Trump and Netanyahu were closely aligned. That is less clear now with the political troubles and a possible indictment of Netanyahu on corruption charges with which he denies.

There will be a sense that, at least, from the perspective of the Israeli prime minister, he's hoping for some strong backing most likely in private from the secretary of state.

ALLEN: All right. We'll wait and see. Thank you so much for breaking it down for us, David McKenzie, there in Tel Aviv. Thanks, David.

HOWELL: There have been countless designs that have shaped our modern life. Think of the simplicity of the Apple iPhone, for instance.

ALLEN: And the complexity of rockets that took astronauts to the moon. Well, one man is taking this philosophy of modern design to Africa. Here is that story.



RAVI NAIDOO, FOUNDER, DESIGN INDABA: The last 25 years with Design Indaba has been both looking at corralling the best talents of across the world to inspire the next generation of Africans. But then, as well, to convert this inspiration with Africans into product, and into platforms, and into projects.

And so, it's been a think tank and a do tank. And it's triggered over 200 projects from expansive things, like Africa's first museum of contemporary African art, through to new modalities for low-cost housing.

We were commissioned by IKEA to corral together at sets of designers from across Africa. It's been sold out, it has been fiercely successful. So, Design Indaba has become this amazing space where we give creative people their head, and we give them the opportunity, and very often through commissions to be able to put stuff out into the public domain, just to act as a catalyst.

Very few of these things we've got any commercial intent from. But it's mostly a whack on the side of the head that says, Africa, how about this?

There are lots of design fairs around the world that tends to be quite mercantile. And there are other spaces where designs use as a space for R&D; for experimentation, for looking at social issues. And I think I subscribe to that church as opposed to design just being a handmaiden to consumption.

And the question is that how can we use design and the toolkit around design not just to serve brands, but to look towards solving problems of the day.

Clean water is a design challenge. Better housing is a design challenge. And I find increasingly the widest scope for what design is. One of the biggest spheres and areas that design is growing into is designed for social impact, and helping, fundamentally, in improving the quality of life. So, there's a huge scope for creativity, design, and innovation.

In 1999, we were responding to a statistic that said there were both phones in Manhattan than all of Africa. He posts a photo to 2019, then here's Africa at the vanguard of 5G.

And in South Africa, we involved in a project called Rain which has just launched Africa's first 5G network, and I think the sixth in the world. I think this gives you a lot of confidence and a lot of heart in terms of what technology allows Africa to do is to leapfrog, and maybe miss a few developmental steps and go all the way to the bleeding edge.


HOWELL: All right, we end this hour on a bumpy note you could say, Prince William and Kate, wrapping up their first visit to Pakistan. They encountered some severe weather. We'll tell you about that. Stay with us.


HOWELL: We're returning to our top story. These live images of the Syrian city of Ras al-Ain. This is in the northeast part of that country. You see there plumes of smoke rising from buildings there.

The vice president of the U.S., Mike Pence announced on Thursday what he called a ceasefire in northern Syria. Turkey though describes it as a pause in their fighting. The U.S. president, saying the Kurds, Turks, and everyone all happy, but the reality on the ground looking from the sign of the smoke could suggest otherwise.

Reuters reports -- reporter rather, describes hearing shelling and gunfire there. The purpose of the agreement is to give the Kurds who had been a loyal ally to the United States in the fight against ISIS to give them five days to retreat.

However, you heard our Nick Paton Walsh earlier in the newscast, mentioned that the ceasefire safe zone was not comprehensively defined by the U.S. So, it's still unclear if Ras al-Ain is within that zone or perhaps it's not included. We'll continue to follow developments there.


ALLEN: We will indeed. But right now, we want to focus on Prince William and Kate winding down their visit to Pakistan. The first by a British royal in more than a decade. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are highlighting education and the impact of climate change in the country.

On Thursday, they visited children at a cancer hospital in Lahore, previously visited by William's mother, Diana.

HOWELL: But the couple had a rough ride back to the capital city of Islamabad. This when their British Royal Air Force plane had to abandon its landing twice because of severe storms.

The normally 26-minute flight had turned into a two-hour ordeal. Our Max Foster was among the 40 media members on that bumpy flight. Listen.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): We knew there was a storm over Islamabad. And then, we saw lightning, and there was some turbulence. And I think the pilot was trying to find his way through it, basically. But each time he attempted, there were some really sort of loud movements on the aircraft and a lot of people -- the nervous flyers very uncomfortable indeed. And then, he would -- the pilot would go back up and then try again to find a pass through. But he was trying a few times, don't know how many exactly. And it didn't work. And eventually, he said, we just had to go back to Lahore.

But, yes, I think if a lot of people were very concerned, but they were the nervous flies, anyway. I think they -- you know, everyone and the staff felt very in control of the situation.

There were people quite ill, you know, people that felt very sick. And there were points were very much felt like being on the roller coasters. He's doing like that so (INAUDIBLE) you get pretty ill afterwards. Thankfully, everyone including the royal were OK.

ALLEN: We feel for everyone on that flight.

HOWELL: Absolutely.

ALLEN: Glad it worked out there. Well, after they landed, the duke, a former air ambulance pilot joked that he had been the one flying the plane.

A little light-hearted moment. I'm sure they needed that.

HOWELL: I'm sure you enjoy that, yes.

Thank you so much for being with us for NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen, we'll be right back with our top stories, another hour of news. Stay with us.