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Cruise Ship Passengers Disembark After Being Stranded at Sea Over Virus Fears; Chinese Authorities Revealed More Than 1,700 Medical Workers Have Become Infected with the Virus and Six Have Died; Attorney General William Barr Says President Trump's Tweets About the DOJ Cases Make it Impossible For Him to Do His Job; Prime Minister Boris Johnson Unexpectedly Reshuffles Cabinet; According to NOAA, January 2020 is the Warmest January on Record; France to Limit Access to Mont Blanc to Fight Overcrowding; Sudan Agrees to $30 Million Settlement in USS Cole Bombing; U.S. Government Slaps Huawei with New Racketeering Charges; Family With Small Children Endures 14-Day Quarantine; Senate Moves To Limit Trump's Iran War Powers; Town Had No Significant Rainfall In Three Years. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired February 14, 2020 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers around the world. I am Natalie Allen. Next here on "CNN Newsroom," the coronavirus outbreak is taking a toll on health care workers in China. Doctors and nurses are becoming patients themselves. What that means for everyone else?

Also, cooked up kids on the quarantine ship in Japan, we hear how one family is getting by.

Plus, current Trump administration officials almost never speak out publicly against the president, but the attorney general just criticized Mr. Trump's tweets. We will tell you why Bill Barr probably won't be in trouble for it.

Thank you again for joining us. Passengers aboard the cruise ship Westerdam are finally back on land after being stranded at sea for two weeks. Despite no novel coronavirus cases ever being found on the ship, the Westerdam was denied entry to multiple Asian ports until Cambodia agreed to accept it.

Meantime, the virus's death toll has risen to nearly 1,400 people. The total confirmed cases now top 64,000. And one of the top U.S. health experts warns the new disease is probably here to stay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We have had a very aggressive approach to try to do early case identification and then isolation and contact tracing. That has abled us to contain at this point. But I think this virus is probably with us beyond the season, beyond this year.

I think eventually the virus will find a foothold and we will get community-based transmission. You can start to think of it in the sense like seasonal flu. The only difference is we don't understand this virus. At least for seasonal flu, we pretty much understand how it acts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Just a few minutes ago, Chinese authorities revealed that more than 1,700 medical workers have become infected with the virus. Six of them have died. CNN's David Culver has more on the serious risks facing those on the frontlines of this crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China has likened it to a military operation, a nation's battle against the deadly novel coronavirus. It has placed health care workers, doctors, and nurses on the frontlines. Early on in the fight against the epidemic, Chinese state media aired emotional interviews like this one, one of the nurses explaining how she had to reassure her own parents.

JIANG WEI, INTENSIVE CARE NURSE (through translator): I always say it is OK since we are well protected. Actually, I was just saying that to give them peace of mind. We are actually afraid and worried. As long as we are on duty, our own sense of mission will support us to do the job.

CULVER (voice-over): While Chinese officials and state media praise the medical workers for their heroic efforts CNN has spoken with some who feel as though they have been sent into battle without armor. As a result, they say many of their colleagues have gone from treating patients to becoming one.

One Wuhan hospital nurse, who asked we not identify her, fearing repercussions for speaking with the media, told us by text, right now, it is really a problem. Our hospital has more than 100 people who are quarantined at home.

She is one of them. She says her chest scan revealed that she had a suspected case of the virus. That same nurse is describing to CNN the shortage of medical supplies, often being posted on China's social media site Weibo.

These images posted on state-run people's daily Weibo account show medical personnel in a Wuhan hospital so desperate that they resorted to creating protective gear out of plastic trash bags. It's something Chinese health officials have publicly acknowledged. And even while they have ramped up production of supplies, some feel it is arriving too late.

And this nurse posted that she contracted the virus and is now a patient at the same hospital where she works. "The inpatient floor I live on is basically filled with colleagues from my hospital," she posted, adding, "I'm afraid the virus inside my body will come out and infect these colleagues who are still standing fast on the frontline."

IVAN HUNG, INFECTIOUS DISEASE DOCTOR, HONG KONG UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: It is. It is a battle.

CULVER (voice-over): We video-chatted with Dr. Ivan Hung, an infectious disease doctor at Hong Kong University Hospital. He warns it is not the health care workers working directly with the confirmed coronavirus patients who are most at risk, but rather --

[02:04:57]

HUNG: Those who are in the general ward or in the emergency areas where they triage these patients, where they are not -- perhaps not aware that they are actually carrying the virus.

CULVER (voice-over): That is precisely what happened to Dr. Li Wenliang, the 34-year-old Wuhan ophthalmologists who contracted the virus in mid-January, just two weeks after trying to sound the alarm of that mysterious SARS-like illness. Local police reprimanded him. Li spoke with CNN briefly by phone on January 31st, struggling to communicate. You could hear the hospital machines pulsing in the background.

LI WENLIANG, OPHTHALMOLOGIST WITH CORONAVIRUS: I can barely breathe.

CULVER (voice-over): He died a week later. Li's death and the fight so many health care workers are now enduring are reminders of the dangers facing those tasked to stop the spread.

David Culver, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: CNN's Steven Jiang joins us now from Beijing with the latest. Certainly that report there by David Culver illustrates the risk these frontline workers are battling every day, Steven.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That's right, Natalie. The number you mentioned in your introduction, more than 1,700 doctors and nurses infected with six of them dead, very alarming, but probably not surprising given the severity of this outbreak at the epicenter and the initial response by local officials, as David mentioned, trying to silence whistleblowers, most of them doctors, including Dr. Li, as he mentioned, who passed away exactly a week ago.

Now, the thing is the trend is not looking very promising because even to this day, after the government dispatched more than 20,000 medical workers from the rest of the country to Wuhan, to Hubei, local officials say they are still facing a severe shortage of medical supplies, personnel and facilities, meaning we are still talking about a group of medical workers on the frontline overworked, unprotected, and dealing with a continuous influx of patients in a very much overwhelmed local hospital system. So, this is a very worrisome trend. But also remember, it could get worse. Back in 2003 at the peak of the SARS epidemic, nearly 20 percent of all infections were medical workers. Natalie?

ALLEN: Just another angle of the story that shows how tragic and how dangerous. All right, Steven Jiang for us in Beijing there, thank you.

We want to turn now to U.S. politics, to some rare public criticism of Donald Trump from a sitting member of his own cabinet. Attorney General William Barr rebuked the president Thursday for his tweets and public comments on the Justice Department judges and legal cases. It all revolves around longtime Trump advisor and convicted felon Roger Stone.

The president tweeted that a recommended seven to nine-year prison sentence for Stone was too harsh. Barr stepped in and scaled back the recommendation, but he says he was not influenced by the president's comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have made a decision that I thought was fair and reasonable in this particular case. And once the tweet occurred, the question is, well, now what do I do? Do you go forward with what you think is the right decision? Or do you pull back because of the tweet? That just sort of illustrates how disruptive these tweets can be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're saying you don't have a problem with tweets?

BARR: Yes. Well, I have a problem with some of the tweets. I am happy to say that in fact, the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case. However, to have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges for whom we have cases make it impossible for me to do my job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein joins me now from Los Angeles. Ron, good to see you.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here.

ALLEN: First up, what do you make of this? Now we have the attorney general, very loyal to Mr. Trump, saying the president's tweets make it impossible for him to do his job. What is behind this?

BROWNSTEIN: It is really hard to parse out this episode because the words and the actions don't really align. On one hand, you have the attorney general saying that the president is sort of compromising the independence of the Justice Department by, you know, sending these public declarations of discontent.

On the other hand, in his actions, he is reorienting the Justice Department exactly the way the president wanted. He acknowledged in this very same interview that he chose to push down the recommendation on the Roger Stone sentencing.

[02:10:05]

BROWNSTEIN: He is authorizing investigations into the beginning of the investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016. So, I find this very kind of -- very strange episode in which it certainly seems as though he is looking to assert his independence in effect to give himself more freedom to follow the White House design.

ALLEN: Mm-hmm. It's interesting that you said a strange episode. It seems like it is always strange when it circles Roger Stone, doesn't it?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I mean, I remember writing a profile in the 1980s as a young reporter in Washington for Black, Manafort, and Stone. Charlie Black is the only one of those three who stayed out of trouble in the Trump era. Look, I mean, a big part of this, Natalie, you have to look at not only the signals of the attorney general, but what are the signals that the Republicans in the Senate are sending you.

After they acquitted Trump on the impeachment charge, all but Mitt Romney voting to do so, they have repeatedly refused to question him, attacking the prosecutors, questioning the sentencing recommendations, and all of these ways. I tweeted the other day that Republicans seem to be constructing a stoplight on Pennsylvania Avenue permanently set to green.

I mean, they are sending the president a pretty unmistakable signal that they are going to be unwilling to hold him to account or constrain him in any way as he moves on all of these different fronts, from firing Vindman to questioning the Stone sentencing recommendation to then criticizing the prosecutors equipped, that they are not going to be constraining him as he moves to kind of assert his executive authority and respond to all of those critics during impeachment.

ALLEN: Right, you got to wonder at this point what could restrain President Trump. I want to go --

BROWNSTEIN: Functionally, one thing we have learned is that one party alone cannot uphold the norms of democracy. Republicans are gonna say there is nothing you can do that will cause us to impose consequences on you. There is effectively no constraint other than the courts, and we will see how that works out.

ALLEN: What does this mean to the future of the attorney general and his role?

BROWNSTEIN: I think he is doing what the president wants, you know. As I said, in many ways, I think this criticism was designed to give himself more independence, an image of independence that would allow him in fact to be more in harness with the White House.

So from the president's point of view, it might be annoying to hear this, but I am sure that you recognize that the larger goal is that Barr is trying to insulate himself from the very pointed criticism that he is subverting the traditional independence of the Justice Department. As I say, the actions speak louder than words. And on that front, it is hard to avoid that conclusion.

ALLEN: I want to move to another topic involving former President Obama. The New York Times is reporting that the prosecutor assigned to look into the origins of the Russia investigation appears to be hunting for ways to accuse intelligence officials with the Obama administration of hiding or manipulating evidence. What do you think is going on here?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, that goes to my earlier point. I mean, you know, Bill Barr is executing what the president wants. This is just kind of the serpent eating its tail, kind of the endless story here and how that the -- we will see what the evidence supports ultimately. So far, there's been no evidence of that sort.

It is the president continuing to weaponize -- I think it is a fair word -- the justice system. He's openly calling the Justice Department to investigate FBI officials. Barr has authorized this investigation. I mean, this is just kind of an endless process of using executive power to strike at any institution or individual he believes is threatening him.

It is very revealing that all of this on the same day that he is meeting with the governor of New York, trying and is using the authority over some of the entry exit provisions, streamline exit entry provisions through customs to try to pressure New York to stop some of the ways in which they are posing his administration.

That is what we are seeing across the board, the attempt to leverage executive power to advance his political agenda. And Republicans in Congress who wants -- who would be open arms with a Democrat would do anything like this, essentially flashing the green light at him on every front.

ALLEN: It'll be interesting to see how the executive privilege plays out on the campaign trail this year. Ron Brownstein, always appreciate your insight. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: A shocking shakeup in the British cabinet, why Boris Johnson's finance minister is resigning, and how that move will impact the upcoming budget. We will get into that next.

[02:15:00]

ALLEN: Plus, why Sudan is paying a multi-million dollar settlement for the suicide attack on the USS Cole two decades ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Welcome back. A surprise shakeup in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's cabinet. UK finance minister Sajid Javid has resigned after he was told he had to replace his team of political advisers. Javid will be replaced by Rishi Sunak, a conservative MP. CNN's Phil Black has more about it from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The expectation, this was supposed to be a boring mid to low level ministerial reshuffle, when suddenly it wasn't. It was also expected that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, essentially Britain's finance minister, Sajid Javid, would be safe and allowed to keep his job. But by the end of his meeting with Boris Johnson, he had resigned.

It has been widely reported in UK media that Javid was told he could keep this position but -- and you would have to stomach a big but -- a big concession, he would have to sack his team of ministerial advisers and instead work with a new team that would be shared with the prime minister's office in 10 Downing Street.

This restructuring is being seen as a power grab, a move to centralize influence over economic policy in the prime minister's office and thus stripping the chancellor of considerable autonomy. To accept this, it would've meant stomaching huge political humiliation and of course abandoning his team. Sajid Javid chose to resign.

We don't know just how the prime minister thought Javid would react, but he had a replacement ready to roll out. Within moments, he had announced that the new Chancellor of the Exchequer is Rishi Sunak, a 39-year-old already rising start of the Conservative Party, someone with a business background who already had a job in treasury.

He now takes a big step into what is traditionally the second biggest job in British government. It will now fall to him in just four weeks to deliver the country's first post-Brexit budget. But, the new structure of his office with the PM's people deeply involved overseeing the whole process. Well, that means it is not the chancellor who will be having the final say on what that budget looks and feels like, importantly, how revenue is raised, and of course, where it is spent.

Phil Black, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[02:20:00]

ALLEN: If you felt like this past January was warmer than usual, well, you would be correct. According to a report released by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, January 2020 was the hottest January in more than a century. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us with more about it. Many people probably felt that it wasn't the usual start of a new year, Derek.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Yeah, without a doubt, Natalie. It is a disturbing trend that is being confirmed by many climate monitoring organizations across the world, NOAA being one of them, Copernicus coming out of Europe as well. But skeptics across the world, skeptics to climate change will say, hey, what about the natural cycles of the planet like El Nino? Well, January 2020 temperatures were achieved without the influence of an El Nino, which naturally helps warm the planet.

We got to look at what humans are doing to contribute to this warming, adding greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, heat trapping greenhouse gases, by the way, for instance, deforestation across the tropics, all adding to this trend in our warming planet.

Now, this is interesting from NOAA, that January 2020 was actually the 421st consecutive month where temperatures were about the 20th century average. What it did is it actually warmed greater than the January 2016 record by 0.02 degrees Celsius. So it set us on a trajectory to places within the top five warmest years on record, which by the way have all occurred within the past five years.

Year 2019 was the previous second warmest year on record, 2016 was the warmest year. That is what we had influence from El Nino. But this year, again, we achieve those temperatures without that natural warming. This has been confirmed by climate monitoring organizations like Copernicus. They found January 2020 was 1.4 degrees Celsius, above preindustrial averages. And if you look closely into Europe, they had the warmest January on record, 3.1 degrees Celsius above average.

Lots of people will say, hey, it's cold in my neck of the woods, what about this cold arctic blast that is sailing in across places like Alaska, perhaps the Midwest into the plains and the great lakes of the United States? I have got to remind our viewers, I have got to remind Natalie, both of you, and I as well, that there is a big difference between weather and climate.

Remember, weather occurs on a short span of time. Climate is weather averaged over long periods of time. We are talking 30 plus years. So to put an analogy out there, Natalie, whether it is like your mood or my mood today on this very day, but climate for our viewers out there, is like your personality over the span of your lifetime.

ALLEN: Very important distinction. All right, we will see what the next month brings, won't we?

VAN DAM: Yeah.

ALLEN: Derek, thank you. Here is another one for you. Rising temperatures are taking their toll on France's landscapes. One of its most famous glaciers is shrinking. President Emmanuel Macron is taking steps to protect it. Our Cyril Vanier has more about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Francis's highest mountain, a high profile visit by the French president to a natural wonder under threat.

In the heart of the Alps, Emmanuel Macron walks through a massive glacier that has been admired for centuries. Now, it is disappearing rapidly.

OLIVIER GREBER, PRESIDENT, CHAMONIX GUIDE COMPANY (through translator): This lake did not used to be there. Before, the glacier extended almost down to the village. Now, little by little, you can see more and more rocky debris instead.

VANIER (voice-over): The (INAUDIBLE) or "Sea of Ice" has shrunk by eight to 10 meters each year, receding two kilometers since 1850. Researchers believe that by the end of the 21st century, 80 percent of the glacier could be lost forever.

This will be the fight of the century, Macron vows after his visit, announcing protections from (INAUDIBLE), including a protected zone, tighter restrictions, and higher fines for littering. He also unveiled a new national biodiversity agency and other broader measures to combat the climate crisis.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): Acceleration of the glacier shrinking also proves of the facts that were not always anticipated, including by us, consequences of past actions and the urgency for us to act today.

VANIER (voice-over): In France, global warming reveals itself in more than a dying glacier. Some vineyards have had to change their time honored techniques as hotter temperatures alter the flavors of the country's famed wines. Seasonal businesses have to consider a warmer future. At least one ski resort was forced to temporarily close when the lack of snow left slopes bare.

[02:24:56]

VANIER (voice-over): It followed France's warmest winters months in the century, matching a trend of rising temperatures across Europe, where age-old natural wonders may struggle to survive.

Cyril Vanier, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Sudan says it is trying to normalize relations with the United States by agreeing to pay $30 million to the victims of the USS Cole bombing and their families. Sudan says talks are also ongoing for settlement in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people back in 1998. But as our Nima Elbagir explains, Sudan is still not admitting to any role in the attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A tragedy far from home that would sow the seeds for the September 11th attacks on U.S. soil. More than 200 American Tanzanian and Kenyan lives lost in a 1998 twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.

Two years later, 17 American servicemen murdered in the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. The U.S. blamed Osama bin Laden, but they said he had help from his then host nation of Sudan.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a constant reminder that people wear a uniform, make sacrifices.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Acknowledgment for the families of the American victims, at least. Sudan Justice Minister Nasr al-Din Abdel Bari said Sudan had agreed to pay victims' families $30 million. "As part of our efforts to remove Sudan's name from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terror List on February 7th an agreement was signed with the families of the victims of the 2000 USS Cole attack."

"We entered into this agreement out of a keeness to settle the historic allegations of terrorism created by the former regime."

Last year, we reported on Sydney regime's brutal crackdown on pro- democracy demonstrators. Winning a settlement for American families has been a key priority for the Trump administration. Even as the litany of torture and death grew, we discovered the U.S. was continuing normalization talks with now deposed dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

For victims' families, this means closure. For Sudan, this is the beginning of the journey back in from the cold.

In the aftermath of the country's historic revolution, Sudan is desperately in need of a fresh start. The hope is that the settlements and renewed U.S. support will pave the way for much-needed debt relief and a brighter future for the country and its people.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: The United States is renewing a temporary license with the Chinese technology giant Huawei. It allows U.S. companies to do business with the company. But that comes as Huawei was slapped with three new charges in U.S. federal court, including racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets.

On top of that, the U.S. says Huawei was helping Iran spy on its citizens during anti-government protests in 2009. Huawei claims prosecutors repacked old charges that never led to significant penalties.

Quarantined a board of crowded crew ship confined to a small room with active children, can you imagine? Twenty-three hours a day, we tell you how one young family is coping, coming up.

Plus, the U.S. Senate defies President Trump, limiting his power to rage war with Iran, but it may not make much difference to the White House. More about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:30:00]

ALLEN: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories. China is now reporting that at least six medical workers have died from the novel coronavirus within 1,700 of them have become infected. The overall death toll has now risen to nearly 1,400 people with 64,000 confirmed cases including almost 600 outside of China.

Passengers are finally getting off the cruise ship Westerdam in Cambodia after two weeks stranded at sea. No one on board had the novel coronavirus, yet the Westerdam was denied entry to multiple ports. The cruise line is giving the passengers full refunds and paying their airfares home.

In Japan, quarantine is set to end on Wednesday for the Diamond Princess cruise ship. More than 200 cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed among the passengers and crew. CNN's Will Ripley spoke with one father whose family is seen during the quarantine one hour at a time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what a cruise is supposed to be like. The parents with young children on the Diamond Princess. This only happens for about an hour every few days. All those other hours are spent like this. Waiting for the daily delivery of fresh toys, coloring books, crayons, colorful beads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have this bracelet, and also this one.

RIPLEY: Arts and crafts can keep the kids busy for hours. Every morning, local jet skiers try to boost morale. Every evening, bunk beds become trampolines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being trapped in this cabin makes you think and realize, oh, we should appreciate like the little, little moments, a little details of life.

RIPLEY: Harvey is a young dad who asked us not to use his last name. He's on the quarantine cruise ship with his entire family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's 11 of us and then there's five kids.

RIPLEY: The youngest three, the oldest, eight.

What do you tell your children about why you guys are sitting there for this long?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We say there's like this invisible monster called the coronavirus and they can't go outside.

RIPLEY: That invisible monster may have the parents more spooked than their kids. Nobody in Harvey's family is showing any symptoms of novel coronavirus. He thinks they should all be tested anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The numbers are kind of strange to me. I'm also worried because even though I trust my own health, I don't want to be like an invisible carrier.

RIPLEY: The Japanese government has only tested a few hundred people out of more than 3,000 on the Diamond Princess. Many are asking why not test everyone at once. Japan can only process around 300 test kits per day, the nation expects to more than triple its capacity by early next week, one day before the end of the quarantine. The question many are asking, is it too little too late?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are worried that we might be carrying, then it will affect our daily life when we go back. That's one of the major concern that we don't want to carrying it, and then we don't want to spread it in the community.

RIPLEY: Harvey worries what could happen when they go back home to Hong Kong. Could he and his children be stigmatized? Could they pass the virus to their neighbors, family, and friends? Peace of mind, he says, can only come if everyone on board is tested. And if those tests come back negative. Will Ripley, CNN Yokohama, Japan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[02:35:01]

ALLEN: Tensions between the U.S. and Iran may have cooled for now, but Congress wants to make sure President Trump doesn't take things too far in the future. CNN Manu Raju reports on this from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, in a rebuke the President Trump, the Senate by a bipartisan vote approved a measure that would essentially limit his ability to wage war against Iran. It would actually call on Him to come to Congress and get approval for moving forward if President Trump decided, in fact, to extend with military operations into Iran.

This came in the aftermath of the killing that was authorized by President Trump of the top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. His move here prompted a lot of concerns among Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill because they wanted some more consultation. Particularly the Democrats were concerned but there were some Republicans as well.

And today's vote was significant because it was approved by 55 to 45 votes in the Senate. Eight Republicans broke ranks and joined with the Democrats in deciding to call for the President to come to Congress, if you were decide to move forward on any military action. Now, the next steps are like this. The United States House will then take up the measure was passed by the Senate. It will be approved by the House.

But the President has signaled that he plans to veto this measure. And that -- and he will be doing that because he is arguing that it would tie his hands. It would make the U.S. less safe. So he's going to veto This measure is going to come back to the House and Senate, and neither of those chambers have enough support to override the President's veto.

So essentially, the President will not be constrained at the end of the day to move forward with military operations in Iran. But nevertheless, there is concerned on Capitol Hill from both sides. And that was expressed in that vote today. The president needs legal authority to move forward. He disagrees with that. But nevertheless, this debate will undoubtedly continue and intensify it were moved to -- the U.S. were to move to a military conflict with Iran. Manu Raju, CNN Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: The U.S. Attorney General may have rebuked President Trump over his tweets, but the former White House Chief of Staff has plenty to say too. We'll hear John Kelly's criticism coming next. Also, years of drought help create conditions fueling Australia's devastating bushfires. We take you to one town that had not had significant rainfall in three years.

[02:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Donald Trump has been on a tear in the week-plus since his impeachment trial acquittal by the U.S. Senate. He's fired witnesses who testified against him and has spoken out on behalf of his longtime ally and convicted felon Roger Stone. We reported earlier on pushback from Attorney General William Barr, but he's not the only one with criticism for the president. Our Jake Tapper has this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has largely remained quiet since leaving the Trump administration. But now the retired Marine General is going farther than he ever has before seemingly distressed at how President Trump in the White House have been attacking key impeachment witness Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

At Drew University in New Jersey, President Trump's former White House Chief of Staff retired Marine General John Kelly told the crowd that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was just following his training. The Atlantic magazine and the New Jersey Daily Record newspaper reporting the Kelly extolled Lieutenant Colonel Vindman who the President fired last week and had ignominiously escorted off White House grounds.

The Atlantic reporting that Kelly described as having seen something "questionable in the call." Vindman notifying his superiors and complying and telling the truth when subpoenaed by Congress. Said Kelly, "He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave. He went and told his boss what he just heard. Adding, we teach them don't follow an illegal order. And if you're ever given one, you'll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order. And then tell your boss."

On talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, Kelly said, "He will never give his nuclear weapons up. I never did think Kim would do anything other than play us for a while, and he did that fairly effectively.

As Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security before he was chief of staff, Kelly was once in charge of executing the President's hardline immigration policies. But Wednesday he said illegal border crossings are not as bad as the president says they are, and that a wall does not need to be built from, sea to shining sea. Kelly criticized how Trump talks about undocumented immigrants.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people.

TAPPER: "They're not all rapists and they're not all murderers, Kelly said. And it's wrong to characterize them that way. I disagreed with the president a number of times." Kelly also criticized the commander in chief for intervening in the Navy decision to discipline Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, acquitted of war crime charges but convicted for illegally posing in a picture with a dead ISIS fighter's corpse.

The President's intervention prompted the resignation of the Secretary of the Navy. "The idea that the commander in chief intervene there, in my opinion, was it exactly the wrong thing to do. Kelly said. Had I been there, I think I could have prevented it.

TRUMP: General Kelly is doing a fantastic job.

TAPPER: Last October, Kelly suggested he served as a guardrail against the President's worst instincts, having warned the President about picking and obsequious chief of staff as his successor.

GEN. JOHN KELLY (RET.), FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, WHITE HOUSE: So whatever you do, don't hire a yes man, someone that's going to tell you -- won't tell you the truth. Don't do that. Because if you do, I believe you'll be impeached.

HAYES: The White House today pushed back on Kelly.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I was in the room with him when he actually backed the President on many of the things that he's now saying, you know, weren't great. I thought it was a little disingenuous.

TAPPER: Their one point of potential agreement, disappointment in Kelly but for very different reasons. "I'm disappointed in myself for leaving Kelly said, but it was a killer. I mean, no joke." A source close to General Kelly disputes White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham's suggestion that she was ever in the room when anything of importance was being discussed.

For his part, the President has been attacking both Vindman and General Kelly. Jake Tapper CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: After a month of a bushfire season for the record books, parts of Australia are finally getting a break. Thanks to a week of torrential rain, fire authorities in New South Wales say all the bush fires and their region are now contained. But the rain has created other problems. Storms have caused flooding, damaging winds, and forced evacuations in several towns. Despite the recent downpours, parts of Australia are still in a

drought and have been for years. And it's those drought conditions that help fuel the deadly bush fires. CNN's Andrew Stevens takes us to one town that before the recent storms had not seen significant rain in three years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's 8:00 at the Royal Hotel in Murrurundi and the mercury is hovering at 42 degrees Celsius. The locals are gathering at one of their favorite watering holes in a town where there is no water. What was it like living here in a town with no water?

[02:45:14]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You drink beer.

STEVENS: The laconic humor of the Australian bush though doesn't hide the fact that the drought here is deadly serious. The river in this town of 1,000 people four hours northwest of Sydney hasn't run for more than two years. Away from the sleepy main street, public spaces and backyards becoming dust bowls. This is what keeps Murrurundi alive now, trucking water in men.

Matt Burn drives 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week delivering the precious commodity and he says he'll keep doing it until the drought breaks. Behind me is the original reservoir which is now just too low to pump. So the town is relying on this small pond here. Now without these trucks constantly resupplying, this pond would be used up in just about three days leaving the town completely without water.

It's not just outback Australia, sheep and cattle country within an hour of Sydney is also bone dry. James Galbraith and his father built farmland that's been in the family since the 1800s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is as bad as it ever got.

STEVENS: This was the farm two years ago before the drought took hold, and what it looks like now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not just dry on the surface is dry throughout the way down. I'm so what we're saying is yes, sort of trees are suffering as well as the pastures. So for us as farmers were just sort of holding on.

STEVENS: James has been forced to sell nearly all his stock and now works four days a week on another farm to make ends meet. Southeast Australia, the most help populated part of the country is in the grip of one of the worst droughts in living memory. The rains haven't come for nearly three years. Australia has enjoyed many cycles of drought. But this time, it's different. More and more Australians are blaming climate change, not the natural cycle for the crippling water shortages.

SCOTT MORRISON, PRIME MINISTER, AUSTRALIA: I've always acknowledged the link has the (INAUDIBLE) between the broader issues of global climate change and what that means for the world's weather and the dryness of conditions in many places.

TIM FLANNERY, CLIMATE SCIENTIST: The overwhelming majority of Australians see climate change as the real problem, see climate change as a man my problem and say that something should be done about it.

STEVENS: So Professor Frank Jotzo is Director of the Center for Climate and Energy Policy at the Australian National University. The problem he says, is breaking Australia's economic dependence on fossil fuels. They account for 25 percent of total exports and provide 80 percent of their country's electricity. It's a stark challenge to conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison who once stood before parliament and declared this is called. Don't be afraid.

Morrison's hard line on protecting fossil fuel industries has been sharply criticized nationally and internationally. But he maintained only last week Australia has the right balance between the economy and the environment.

Is Scott Morrison in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry?

FLANNERY: The prime minister and his party are paying very strong emphasis to the interests of the fossil fuel industry, and in particular, the Australian coal industry.

STEVENS: With an area the size of West Virginia already scorched and the fires still burning, the stark reality of Australia's vulnerability to global warming has never been clearer. Andrew Stevens, CNN, Canberra, Australia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Well, through the years, U.S. political campaigns have seen their share of dirty tricks. But one bit of alleged meddling in the 2020 race has many Democrats seeing red. Primary voting rules in South Carolina could allow registered Republicans to play spoiler in the -- for the next Democratic presidential candidate. CNN's Lauren Fox explains.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Conservatives in South Carolina pushing for Republican voters to disrupt the upcoming Democratic primary.

CHRISTOPHER SULLIVAN, CONSERVATIVE DEFENSE FUND: You know, I guess you could call it meddling.

FOX: One grassroots organizer Christopher Sullivan, calling it "operation chaos," a nod to Rush Limbaugh's 2008 effort to encourage Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries and keep Hillary Clinton in the race longer to hurt Barack Obama.

SULLIVAN: I would love to see the Democrat whoever wins the South Carolina Democratic primary for everybody else to accuse him of having stolen the election because he was actually elected with Republican support and therefore prolong the chaos and disruption. [02:50:07]

FOX: It's also the latest obstacle for Joe Biden, who needs a victory in South Carolina to bolster his campaign.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our votes count too.

KAREN MARTIN, CONSERVATIVE ORGANIZER: Biden was expected to win South Carolina. We wanted to disrupt what was expected.

FOX: South Carolina has an open primary, allowing eligible voters to cast ballots in either party's primary. Conservatives have complained for years it's resulted in Democrats boosting moderate Republicans in this state. With South Carolina's Republican presidential primary canceled this year, conservative leader Karen Martin said she saw an opportunity to finally give Democrats a dose of their own medicine.

MARTIN: We thought, what would happen if we made a grassroots statewide effort to crossover and vote for one candidate in the Democratic primary,

FOX: Martin is pushing for voters to back one candidate, Bernie Sanders. Others say they're leaving it up to the voters.

MARTIN: Just for the sake of optics, it would be great to be able to contrast the ideology of an avowed socialist against capitalist.

FOX: The campaigns have caught the attention of Biden's team, including surrogate and state senator Marlon Kimpson. He says Republicans in the state fear Joe Biden in a one on one matchup with Trump.

SEN. MARLON KIMPSON (D-SC): They are trying to interfere with this election to choose the weakest candidate because they know without cheating, Donald Trump will not be reelected.

FOX: Now, it's not clear how many Republican voters are going to participate and come out for the Democratic Party or if they'll be able to have an impact in this process. But the South Carolina Republican Party is arguing they are not endorsing this effort writing, "We do not like Democrats meddling in our primaries, and we certainly do not encourage the same thing from Republican voters."

Now, the South Carolina Democrats, they're arguing the turnout is going to be so high, their base is so energized, that Republicans can't meddle in their primary. For CNN, Lauren Fox.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Speaking of the election, President Trump has been telling some tall tales about the stature of a democratic rival. We'll have that story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Well, there's been a war of words between U.S. President Trump and Democratic rival Mike Bloomberg. The topic, height. CNN's Jeanne Moos looked at how both men measure up.

[02:55:06]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is nothing mini about the height war.

TRUMP: Little Michael will fail.

MOOS: In matter of minutes, President Trump called Michael Bloomberg Mini Mike. He said he reminds him of a tiny version of Jeb "low energy" Bush, suggested no boxes please, as in no box for Bloomberg to stand on at debate. Reporters read the tweetstorm from their phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mini Mike is a five foot four inch mass of dead energy.

MOOS: Never mind that Mike Bloomberg is actually around five-seven. The White House even shared a photoshopped image of Bloomberg made to look extra petite. But there was nothing petite about Bloomberg's response. "A Carnival barking and clown, Bloomberg said people call the president.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald, where I come from, we measure your height from your neck up.

MOOS: We measure your height from your neck up. Is Bloomberg compelling brains? On a more cerebral note, the Bloomberg campaign tweeted a quote from Gladiator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time for honoring yourself will soon be an end.

MOOS: President Trump has been dishonoring his opponents this way for ages.

TRUMP: Little Rocket Man.

Little Marco. Little Marco.

Don't worry about it, Little Marco.

MOOS: But when he called Senator Joe Manchin, Munchkin.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I guess he's confused on that because I am a little bigger than him. He's got me about 30 pounds on weight.

MOOS: Ever since Sean Hannity played word association with the president --

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS: Michael Bloomberg.

TRUMP: Very little. I just think of little.

MOOS: Partisans on both sides have been churning out meme shrinking the other guy or his hands. The Washington Post noted since 1952, when the age of television began, 12 of the 17 presidential contests have been one by the taller person.

TRUMP: There is nobody I'd rather run against that little Michael.

MOOS: But as one anchor noted --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mike Bloomberg, same height as Vladimir Putin.

MOOS: And you don't hear President Trump calling him little Vlad. Jeanne Moos, CNN.

TRUMP: Little Michael.

BLOOMBERG: We measure your height from your neck up.

MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: There will be more of that to come, won't there this year? Thanks for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen. I'll be right back with more news. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)