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Impeachment Inquiry; Dems Gather in a Key State; California Wildfires; Protests in Chile, Lebanon and Iraq; Rugby World Cup. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired November 2, 2019 - 04:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): On the defensive: CNN learns that the White House has a new strategy when it comes to the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump.

Taking the stage: Democrats who want to be the next president gather in Iowa while one candidate says he's bowing out of the race.

Plus, moment of ignition: cameras capture the spark that started a major wildfire in California.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We're coming to you live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen. NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: Thank you again for joining us.

Our top story, the White House now thinks it is possible U.S. president Donald Trump will be impeached and then tried in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans hold a slim majority.

CNN has learned administration lawyers are building a defense with the help of two Republican congressmen. Jim Jordan in the middle and Mark Meadows to the left, are among the few Republicans who have attended the closed door depositions.

Meanwhile, the president is shoring up support among Senate Republicans and his base. At a rally Friday in Mississippi, he warned supporters that a vast, deep state conspiracy was trying to drive him from office.


TRUMP: The deranged impeachment witch hunt. This is one I never thought I'd be involved in. The word impeachment, to me it's a dirty word, not a good word. Totally phony deal. They know it, everybody knows it.


ALLEN: The impeachment inquiry has not been all bad for the president. His campaign claims it's been great for fund-raising. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has that story.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Those in favor, please say aye.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the heels of a House vote that could lead to his impeachment, President Trump is taking the defense strategy into his own hands.


COLLINS: Telling "The Washington Examiner" he's considering reading the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president as a fireside chat on live television.

His own aides have testified that they were alarmed by that call. Asked if he was being serious, press secretary Stephanie Grisham declined to offer any specifics.

GRISHAM: Sure. Absolutely.


GRISHAM: I don't have any timing.

COLLINS: Trump believes reading the call aloud will show people he acted appropriately. And as Democrats move to the next phase of impeachment, his campaign is fund-raising off it, bringing in $3 million online as the House of Representatives voted Thursday.

Trump says he believes this will backfire on Democrats. But a new poll from ABC and "The Washington Post" reveals Americans are sharply divided; 49 percent say he should be impeached and removed from office, while 47 percent say he shouldn't.

Despite those numbers, the White House says impeachment appears inevitable.

GRISHAM: We are prepared for an impeachment to happen, yes.

COLLINS: Exasperating his Republican allies, the president says his one-man war room doesn't need any help, telling "The Examiner," "I already have good people."

He's hired no new communications aides since Democrats launched their probe. And it's been 235 days since the last press briefing.

GRISHAM: Whenever it's time. I think, right now, we're doing just fine.

COLLINS: The stall in strategy is coming as House Democrats are preparing to take their investigation public and Speaker Pelosi is defending her decision to move forward.

PELOSI: We have no choice. We took an oath to protect and defend our democracy. And that is what he has made an assault on. And if the Republicans have a higher loyalty to the president than they do to their oath of office, that's their problem.

COLLINS: Pelosi said during that interview she wanted to stress that Democrats have not made a decision about whether or not they are going to impeach the president, something that officials back here at the White House say they believe is a foregone conclusion.

But essentially right now they are figuring out what they are going to do once they see if Democrats are going to bring these hearings into the public and really, when? -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


ALLEN: At least four administration officials are scheduled to testify about Ukraine on Monday. Whether they actually show up for the closed door depositions is another matter.


ALLEN: U.S. Energy secretary Rick Perry had been asked to give a deposition on Wednesday but he has declined. A statement from the Energy Department said Perry might be willing to appear at a public hearing at a later date. Perry is planning to step down from his cabinet post at the end of the year.

Let's talk about these developments with Thomas Gift. He lectures on political science at University College London.

Good to see you. Thanks for being with us.


ALLEN: Good morning to you.

Well, Trump's communication chief said of the one-person war room that he's established that he is the War Room.

Is that a good thing to let Mr. Trump be in charge of the White House fight against impeachment?

GIFT: Well, I think that this is typical Trump bravado. This is a War Room of one and Trump has, you know, from the very beginning said that he really likes to communicate directly with the American people. His weapon really here is his Twitter account.

He's also talked about the possibility of having a fireside chat, where he would read the transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian president aloud to the American people. He basically thinks that by circumventing the media and going directly to the American people he's more likely to make a compelling case.

ALLEN: Well, a fireside chat, that sounds so calm and soothing. Not this president's typical modus operandi. But he wants to own his own story. That's how he's run his presidency.

But as evidence grows that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine, how can he defend that phone call, Thomas?

GIFT: I think he's going to do two things. One, he's going to double down on the strategy that he's taken to this point, to say this is a perfect phone call, there's nothing wrong with it and critics can say all they want but I'm right about this. He will continue to use that familiar refrain.

Then second, I think that he will continue to hammer on about process. He's going to complain that the procedures that are in place for this impeachment inquiry are unfair, that this is a partisan witch hunt, this is presidential harassment, that he's not being given due process and so on.

I think to some extent this has been an effective tactic for Republicans so far. And it may be one reason why Democrats ultimately decided to launch this formal inquiry through a House resolution.

ALLEN: Right. And he raised $3 million on Thursday, the day the House voted on the impeachment resolution.

If Senate Republicans hold with him, will he play an impeachment in the House, if it comes to that, to his advantage somehow?

GIFT: Well, I think he certainly will try. As you said, this has certainly been good for fundraising. I think what you could expect, if Republicans stand behind him in the Senate, is something that looks very similar to what happened coming out of the Mueller report, certainly not an exoneration.

But he's going to call it an exoneration and say that he was totally vindicated and that this is just more evidence of a partisan operation that is out to get him. This is typical Trump language, certainly nothing new.

And I think it's been to some extent successful so far in terms of mobilizing his base, maybe not necessarily so in terms of getting swing voters. But I think he's going to hammer this strategy to continue going forward.

ALLEN: Well, let's look at the latest impeachment poll of voters. It shows Americans neck and neck.

Should Trump be impeached and removed?

Yes, 49 percent. No, 47 percent.

What does that tell you, those numbers?

GIFT: Well, it shows that the American people are deeply divided. We have seen growing support for impeachment since the inquiry began.

We have also seen interestingly some drops in the approval numbers of Donald Trump among Republicans. Back in July it was about 87 percent. It's dropped now down to around 74 percent. So it does suggest that maybe there are some cracks in the Republican base.

But he certainly still has this very staunch base of support. I would also say that the poll numbers look even more contentious in a lot of the battleground states. And so this is going to be the big question about who's going to win the political battle here, Democrats or Republicans going into 2020.

ALLEN: Yep, the swing states, where it's all at yet again. Thomas Gift, we really appreciate your insights. Thank you for joining us.

GIFT: Thanks.

ALLEN: Have a good one.

The impeachment inquiry giving plenty of ammunition to Democrats vying to unseat President Trump. Many gather in a key state as their numbers dwindle by one. We look at who's out, who leads the pack and who's enjoying a bit of a surge.


ALLEN: That's coming next.

Plus, wildfires in California are still going strong and now we're learning more about what sparked them.





ALLEN: Welcome back. In the race for the White House, a once little- known candidate finds himself neck and neck among top tier Democrats. I'm talking about Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. With his surging popularity, he is trying to position himself as the most electable candidate and the best to take on president Donald Trump.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if talking about hope and belonging sounds optimistic to you for a time like this, fine, call it optimistic. But do not call it naive because I believe these things not based on my age but based on my experience.

The purpose of the presidency is not the glorification of the president. It is the unification of the American people.


ALLEN: He made those remarks at a dinner in Iowa, an event that helped propel Barack Obama ahead of Hillary Clinton in 2008.


ALLEN: While many of the other 2020 candidates also spoke at the same dinner, it's Buttigieg that's getting compared with former president Barack Obama. Jeff Zeleny was there.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Change that America can believe in them.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: At this point in that presidential campaign, this 46-year-old senator from Illinois was still an underdog. Well behind Hillary Clinton but slowly starting to catch fire. This year the youngest candidate in the race is also on the move.

BUTTIGIEG: Are you ready to leap behind the reality show in Washington and change the channel to something we can all be proud of?

ZELENY: It's too soon to know if Pete Buttigieg will follow the rise of Barack Obama, but he is turning some of the same heads in Iowa like Terri and John Hale.

So does he remind you of Senator Obama?

TERRI HALE, IOWA VOTER: Absolutely. It is the intelligence, it is that cool composure. It's the ability to be presidential.

JOHN HALE, IOWA VOTER: He is catching on. The more people see him, the more people that support him.

ZELENY: It was 12 years ago when Obama's long shot candidacy turned a corner here, dazzling thousands of Democrats at the state party fall gala. This time the Hales are among many Obama admirers now on the Buttigieg bandwagon.

J. HALE: Pete and Obama both have a certain amount of pragmatism to them.

ZELENY: At a recent rally, Terri Hale introduced the South Bend mayor.

T. HALE: Right now, more Pete Buttigieg.

ZELENY: And she said, she felt like she did in 2007.

T. HALE: The energy and the excitement and the positivity and the hope, that's what I feel at events for Pete and I have not felt that since Barack Obama.

ZELENY: Buttigieg was also watching that race closely, volunteering for Obama in the final days of the Iowa contest.

BUTTIGIEG: It's what's going on on the ground and what kind of relationships you're forming, that serve you well when the caucus day actually rolls around. ZELENY: No two campaigns or candidates are the same, yet both men represent a fresh face and are calling for change.

BUTTIGIEG: I believe that we need a new generation of leadership to step forward.

OBAMA: Same old Washington textbook campaigns just won't do in this election.

ZELENY: The Buttigieg campaign is embracing the comparisons, trying to use the $23 million cash on hand and momentum in the polls to build a modern-day Obama-like operation.

Tommy Vietor, part of the Obama's original Iowa team says the burden is now on Buttigieg to meet these expectations.

TOMMY VIETOR, IOWA PRESS SECRETARY, OBAMA 2008 CAMPAIGN: Barack Obama came up as a grassroots organizer. And I think that made the whole campaign sort of make sense and flow from him, like it still remains to be seen if that's going to deliver on caucus day.


ALLEN: Two new polls in the first two states that vote for the Democratic nominee have solidified Buttigieg's status as a top candidate. Leading the pack in both polls is Elizabeth Warren, with Bernie Sanders close behind and Joe Biden, the man who once comfortably enjoyed the top spot, is slipping in support, though very much still a top-tier candidate.

From London, I'm joined by Inge Kjemtrup, chair of the U.K. Chapter of Democrats Abroad.

Inge, thanks for coming on. Good morning.


ALLEN: Well, let's begin right there with what we just said about that poll. Warren is on top followed by Bernie Sanders, then Buttigieg, then Biden. Let's talk more about Buttigieg who is surging and quite popular in Iowa.

What is it about him that obviously resonates with voters?

Because he offered a very optimistic vision of a post-Trump America there in Iowa.

KJEMTRUP: I have to say I'm generally optimistic of all the top four, of all the candidates we have because they're all -- you know, they're all roughly on the same page with issues like health care, with issues about changing the economy. Actually addressing climate change, as well.

Buttigieg has a slightly different spin, they all do and it's actually fantastic. I think some people find it nervewracking that we have so many candidates at this point. But I think we'll see things winnowing down. And that's actually a good thing.

That makes us stronger that we've had this and managed to temper our policies and ideas with these things. It's really pretty exciting.

ALLEN: Well, Biden, though, he had a less than exciting run in Iowa. He did not get a rousing response. Let's listen to what he said about Donald Trump and Russia.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Number one is that Vladimir Putin doesn't want me to be president. And number two, Donald Trump doesn't want me to be the nominee. Spent a lot of money to make sure I'm not.


BIDEN: I'm flattered. I'm flattered. Folks, look, we have got to, we have got to beat this man.


ALLEN: He takes on Trump directly for sure. But something isn't working for Joe Biden.

Why is he lagging behind somewhat?

KJEMTRUP: Well, you know, running -- the run-up to Iowa is kind of a thing where people are tested in terms of the finances, how much support they get, where they are in the polls, if they resonate with the voters.

And you see people resonating more, even though, as I said, there's a lot of commonalities with what people believe. And we're going to see this changing. You know that yesterday, of course, Beto O'Rourke went out of the race. People are going to start making that decision.

So by the time we get to the Iowa caucus in February and certainly by the time of Super Tuesday in March, something we will be having here in the U.K. and around the world, then we're going to have a much smaller field.

ALLEN: Yes. Let's look at Beto O'Rourke and what he said when he dropped out on Friday, then talk about it.


BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to clearly see at this point it we do not have the means to pursue this campaign successfully. And my service will not be as a candidate nor as a nominee of this party for the presidency.


ALLEN: Surely a disappointing moment for him.

Why are other candidates in the single digits in the polls staying in, Inge?

KJEMTRUP: Well, I think there's always that hope of a last-minute surge. A hope that you can be one of the people in Iowa at that dinner we saw earlier who really sparks people's imagination. I mean, most of the candidates have a good team in Iowa and after that it's New Hampshire.

If you can make your mark there, as Obama did in 2008, then that will help; although I do have to point out that after Obama did well in Iowa, he lost to Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. So this is going to be very much an up and down thing.

But I do think we're going to see this winnowing process as people say, you know, do I have the ability to stay in this race, do I have a message that will resonate?

And yes, I think we're going to see this happening in the run-up to February.

ALLEN: Well, Elizabeth Warren is polling very well. Some Democrats, though, worry her programs are too ambitious. There it is right there.

Are you concerned she goes too far to the Left? Strongly agree, 49 percent; somewhat agree, 51 percent. Let's listen to her talking about coming on strong with bold ideas. Here she is.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a time of crisis and media pundits, Washington insiders. Even some people in our own party don't want to admit it.

They think that running some vague campaign that nibbles around the edges is somehow safe. But if the most we can promise is business as usual after Donald Trump, then Democrats will lose.


ALLEN: All right. She's not nibbling around the edges, is she?

Do you agree with her statement?

It does seem like some Democrats are worried.

KJEMTRUP: I actually don't think Democrats are worried. I think they're feeling to use the British expression spoiled for choice. And part of the reason is that we have people who are grappling with the real issues.

You know, we've got someone in the White House who's basically a climate change denier. We've got someone in the White House who isn't actually looking at people's daily working situations. You know, people who are working multiple jobs, people who are waiting around for factories and things to come back. People like Elizabeth Warren, people like Joe Biden, people like

Bernie Sanders are actually addressing those things. So it's kind of real. What I feel about what the Democratic candidates are doing is that it's real, it's a reality check.

ALLEN: We appreciate your insights. We will probably have an opportunity to speak again. Thank you so much, Inge Kjemtrup.

KJEMTRUP: Thank you very much.

ALLEN: We'll have much more on Warren's signature plan, Medicare for all, in the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.

Firefighters are pulling out all the stops to battle the fires raging in California. They hope a little help from the weather could make the job easier. We'll get the latest.

Plus, he helped take down ISIS, leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. More on the military dog who's getting a hero's welcome at the White House.





ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen with your headlines.


ALLEN: At least 1 dozen wildfires continue to burn in California and at least three of them, the two Pleasant fires, oddly named, and the Forest fire, all in the northern part of the state, were caused by power lines.

Take a look at this. This is the start of the Maria wildfire, captured on camera. That fire began overnight and burned through nearly 9,000 acres; that's 35 square kilometers.


ALLEN: Some 1,300 firefighters are still battling those flames. Our Nick Watt is in Santa Paula, California.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That fire's coming right up on him.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Maria Fire scorching 5,000 acres in just a few terrifying hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they've got a lot of fire down here. So, this truck's going to have to go right through this wall of fire. Hats off to these firefighters for doing what they do because it is a dangerous job especially in these wild land fires.

WATT: Thousands evacuated, their homes in danger, 500 firefighters, and some civilians, doing whatever they could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They let the water go over there.

WATT: There is now an end in sight.

ASSISTANT CHIEF JOHN MCNEIL, VENTURA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Based on the location, it's eventually going to run out of fuel.

WATT: Still no cause for this blaze, but that 46th fire that popped up yesterday, burning three homes, police now telling us that was sparked by a vehicle fire after a police chase, but the underlying issue with all of the dozen or more fires burning across California, low humidity, dry brush and those high, hot, seasonal Santa Ana winds.

The forecast does look good. The winds have dropped and there are no more Santa Ana wind events in the immediate forecast, so fingers crossed no more destruction here in southern California. Well, at least until the next time -- Nick Watt, CNN, Santa Paula, California.


ALLEN: All right. Some hope for that area of California.


ALLEN: Well, coming up here, mass protests in Lebanon force banks to close their doors for weeks. Now they're being reopened. We'll tell you what it means for Lebanon's struggling economy.

And will there be a change in government there?

Plus, excitement building in Japan and around the world. The Rugby World Cup is here. The final starts in just more than 20 minutes. We're live outside the stadium right after this break.





ALLEN: You're looking at the latest protests to grip Chile's capital and, as usual, police firing water cannon at civilians to break up the crowd of anti-government protesters. Protests have paralyzed Santiago for nearly two weeks.

Mass protests are also raising across Iraq and the unrest is growing in both size and frequency, as you can see here in Baghdad. Demonstrators held the largest rally since they began one month ago.

Thousands poured onto the streets, protesting corruption and unemployment. Clashes between demonstrators and security forces erupted again, adding to many people being injured. Since October 1st, at least 264 people have been killed, some 12,000 wounded.

And right here, these are live images coming to us from Hong Kong. Protesters are holding what they call an emergency demonstration in the city's center. Police earlier fired tear gas and have demanded they leave the unauthorized rally. It is the latest in five straight months of unrest in the Asian financial hub.

And, of course, Hong Kong has helped spark these protests around the world. Lebanon is another country that's experiencing large and often paralyzing protests, as we've seen in other parts of the world. Demonstrators there have filled the streets, voicing their anger over the economy and corruption.

But unlike other protests around the world, the unrest in Lebanon could produce something unique. It could entirely change the way the government is set up. We'll have more on that in a moment.


ALLEN: First, Ben Wedeman brings us the latest on the country's economic struggle.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lebanon's banks reopened for the first time Friday after being closed for two weeks. There were more customers than usual but there was no apparent panic, no run on the banks.

The central bank did not place any currency limits but left it up to individual banks to set limits on withdrawals and transfers. It wasn't the Black Friday that some feared; the Lebanese lira (sic) did not fall dramatically against the dollar.

WEDEMAN: Yet the fundamentals of the Lebanese economy remain very shaky. It has the world's third highest debt to GDP ratio, half of government revenues go to pay interest on loans and the country is heavily dependent on imports.

Speaking for the first time since the resignation of prime minister Saad Hariri, Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah said that the new government should regain the trust of the people through accountability and transparency.

So Hezbollah supporters were accused of attacking protesters; now Lebanon's squabbling politicians are in talks on the formation of a new government. There is no clear idea, however, when that might actually happen -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.


ALLEN: You heard Ben there mention the resignation of the prime minister. After that an announcement by the president, Michel Aoun, he says he wants to see an end to the sectarian based system in favor of civil state system.

Constitutional reform in 1989, near the end of Lebanon's civil war, divided the 128-seat parliament equally between Christians and Muslims. Under a 1943 agreement, the head of state, the president, is a Maronite Christian. The prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, Mr. Hariri and the parliament speaker, a Shiite Muslim.

These charts tell you why we may not be seeing the protests end anytime soon. In terms of its population, Lebanon is a young country. This age pyramid shows the largest age groups being in the mid-20s to mid-30s for both men and women.

The median age in Lebanon is 31 -- that's older than several countries including India but younger than many others including China, the U.K. and Germany.

For more on this, we're joined from Beirut by Maha Yahya, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. Her research focuses on citizenship, pluralism and social justice in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings.

Thank you so much for talking with us. First up, the prime minister has resigned saying my call to all the Lebanese is to prioritize the interest of Lebanon, the safety of Lebanon, the protection of civil peace and the prevention of economic collapse before everything else.

Is his stepping away a move unlikely to calm tensions between protesters and bring about some of these changes that he wants to see?

MAHA YAHYA, CARNEGIE MIDDLE EAST CENTER: Thank you for having me with you. His move came about as a result of pressure from the street by protesters and the fact that his key allies or key partners in government were not budging on the -- any changes in the cabinet to just at least give some concessions to the protests.

So he found himself basically caught between a rock and a hard place.

Will this trigger the broad-ranging changes that people are looking for?

I sincerely doubt it. The political parties in Lebanon, the political/sectarian parties in Lebanon, have a real stranglehold on the system. They are embedded in most state institutions.

I mean, they've been using state institutions to, you know, guarantee their own sustainability. So it will be very difficult to at this point in time, for this system to entirely change. This is I think where the protests need to continue.

ALLEN: Right. And those protests are due to economic stagnation, corruption, the failure of government to provide basic services. I remember covering the garbage pileup from just about three years ago. Garbage wasn't being picked up and apparently that problem has also polluted the Mediterranean, too.

How bad are things for the average person? There's the garbage, by the way. We're seeing it.

YAHYA: And the garbage problem three years down the road still has not -- four years down the road, excuse me, still has not been resolved fully.


YAHYA: It is bad. It is bad. This doesn't come out of the blue. It's been building for some time. People are seeing their savings disappear, they're seeing their pensions disappear as the threat to destabilize the currency is increasing.

Just in the last week, basic -- the cost of basic goods increased between 52 percent to 30 percent. Unemployment is quite high. Lots of university graduate students, they come out and have no jobs. They graduate and have no jobs.

The prospect of finding jobs outside of Lebanon, the joke always was that Lebanon's best export is its human resources. Today in this global atmosphere, that prospect is no longer really there. The Gulf is downsizing in terms of its -- they're not accepting -- they don't have that many job opportunities as in the past.

Europe, with everything else going on there, on the economic front but also xenophobia, they don't want people coming from this region. So there's a real crisis. This is a young generation that finds itself highly educated with no prospects in terms of employment but also realizing that this system has done nothing for them.

This is a sectarian system that is, frankly, one that propagates an equal opportunity abuse; i.e., the political elite gain from the system. But everybody else loses. Whether you're Sunni, Shia, Maronite, orthodox Jews, everybody is losing.


YAHYA: That's kind of this --

ALLEN: Right. Yes, I want to ask you about that. The divide -- dividing a government along sectarian lines. Do you think there will be a concerted effort to change that system?

YAHYA: I think that this has started, there is a realization amongst the political elite that something fundamentally has changed in the country. I think we've seen -- and we're still grappling with the implications -- but we're really seeing a fundamental societal change in how people think about how they want to be governed.

This national awakening, a realization that this sectarian system is not protecting anybody, actually it's propagating the misery of Lebanese.

How this is going to build up, it will take a long time. It's not going to happen overnight. I don't see the new cabinet, once it's formed -- I mean, we may end up in a stalemate but that will propagate an economic collapse. Or even if a new cabinet is formed, I don't see them holding early elections as demanded by protesters.

There may be steps taken to begin the process of ending the sectarian power-sharing but this will take a very long time.

ALLEN: Right.

YAHYA: Basically we're asking the political elite to commit collective suicide because they depend on this to justify their existence.

ALLEN: Right. And you don't see the political elite in many countries doing that, do you?

YAHYA: Absolutely not.

ALLEN: I want to ask you, the militant group, Hezbollah, is one of the country's most popular political parties.

How could a change in the government system affect that party?

Could it or any other group dominate the political landscape?

YAHYA: Not necessarily. Hezbollah also relies on these identity politics. So the threat to all the other political parties by ending the sectarian system is also a threat to them. It's an existential crisis for all of them.

The way they could come to dominate is if they decide that this power- sharing, they're not able to reach an agreement. And Hezbollah's reactions until now have been driven by this perception of, A, they don't know how to handle dissent. The party doesn't really operate. Its military and religious doctrines, these are the two main pillars of the party.

So they don't really know how to handle dissent within their own community. They've been trying to depict these demonstrations as some sort of a challenge to their legitimacy, which they weren't. They were really about the socio-economic conditions, the mismanagement of the country on the political and economic fronts.

Now they've come back and said, no, these protests are legitimate. The only they can dominate the country is if there is sedation, if they take the decision that, OK, we're going to turn the tables on everyone, use force and appoint a prime minister that is closely aligned with us and to hell with everybody else.

Then that spells really -- I mean, the potential for the country to slide once more into a civil conflict.

ALLEN: We will cross our fingers for Lebanon.


ALLEN: They deserve better and this is such a challenge. Thank you so much for joining us and your expertise, Maha Yahya, from the Carnegie Middle East Center. Thank you for joining us. YAHYA: Thank you for having me.

ALLEN: A look at the protests in Lebanon and Iraq and their respective governments is one of your top stories online.

Also trending, Russia's sovereign Internet and efforts by the Kremlin to build a digital iron curtain around its networks. But Brexit is the number one story at the moment. We look at how British prime minister Boris Johnson could lose more than just the upcoming election. Find all of these stories at CNN NEWSROOM will be right back.





It is almost time for a new Rugby World Cup champion. It's England versus South Africa. In just a few minutes they will start fighting it out in Japan. England is trying for their second title. South Africa for their third. The teams last faced off in 2007. No matter who you're rooting for, it looks like it will be one exciting match.


ALLEN: Christina Macfarlane joins me on the phone from Yokohama. Our correspondent with the best assignment in the world right now.

Christina, it's been six weeks of tournament and now the crowning moment.

How is it looking?

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have to say we feel lucky to be here at the Yokohama Stadium. We are now under 10 minutes to go until kickoff here. And I've been watching the players on both sides warming up on the pitch, going through their drills. This is the moment they have waited for their entire lives.

They've worked their entire lives toward. As you said, India has not won a World Cup -- the only World Cup coming 16 years ago. South Africa has not lifted the trophy since 2007, when they lost against each other. And South Africa came away with the second title.

As we go in this game, we'll see two of the biggest and most physical teams in world rugby go head to head. The coach said this week that he has been prepping his team for four years for this very moment. For England, this represents a moment for redemption for going out early in the stages of the 2015 World Cup on home soil.

Their side is the youngest side ever in professional era to compete in the Rugby World Cup final, they are the favorites here after absolutely demolishing the All Blacks in the semifinals, stomping them out of the competition. As for South Africa, this is going to be an emotional night. The captain could be the first black captain of the Springboks to lift the Ellis trophy. Incredibly lucky to get to watch it play.

ALLEN: But I could imagine that the folks there in Tokyo can't wait for this one. We know we'll get to talk with you in the next hour to see how it is going. England taking on South Africa. Thank you, we'll talk with you again.

Thank you for watching this hour. I'm Natalie Allen. I'll have another hour of NEWSROOM right after this.