Return to Transcripts main page

The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Trump Thanks Justice Department For Intervening In Stone Case; Barr To Testify Before House Committee Next Month; Sen. Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire Primary; Pete Buttigieg Surges To Second In New Hampshire; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, A Surprising Third In New Hampshire; Coronavirus Outbreak: At Least 1,115 Deaths And More Than 45,000 Reported Cases; Mobile World Congress Canceled Over Virus Fears; Formula 1 Postpones Chinese Grand Prix Due To Virus; U.S. Military Kills Syrian Solider In Gunfire Exchange; Former Italian Interior Minister Salvini Faces Investigation After Senate Vote; Pope Rejects Proposal To Allow Married Priests In Amazon. Aired 5- 5:30p ET

Aired February 12, 2020 - 17:00   ET



CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Tonight on THE BRIEF, it's been one week since U.S. President Donald Trump was acquitted, and now some

Democrats are calling for a new investigation to begin.

Senator Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic primary in New Hampshire. But Democrats are no closer to having a clear frontrunner. And CNN meets people

in China who have survived the deadly coronavirus.

Live from London, I'm Cyril Vanier in for Bianca tonight. Welcome to the show. U.S. President Donald Trump is under fire today for apparently

attempting to influence the criminal sentencing of one of his longtime allies. But the concerns don't stop at the White House door. Critics say

there's a crisis that the U.S. Justice Department itself.

All of this began in the early hours of Tuesday with Mr. Trump tweeting that prosecutor's recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for his

friend Roger Stone was ridiculous. Stone was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering in a trial directly linked to Robert Mueller's Russia


Well, within hours, the Justice Department, headed by Attorney General Bill Barr took the extraordinary step of reducing its own prosecutor's

recommended sentence. Four prosecutors have since resigned over this. Here's President Trump a short time ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this this horrible thing. And I didn't speak to them,

by the way, just so you understand. They saw the horribleness of a nine- year sentence for doing nothing.


VANIER: Congressional Democrats just announced that Attorney General Barr will testify before House committee next month in order to address concerns

about his leadership and Mr. Trump's purported influence over the justice system.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Bill Barr is demonstrating that he is not the Attorney General for the people of the United States. He swore allegiance

to the Constitution, not to one President. And I suspect it's a tough day for a lot of career prosecutors and the U.S. Department of Justice. This is

a critical moment for rule of law in our country.


VANIER: It is unclear whether the President directly ordered the Justice Department to withdraw its sentencing recommendations in the Roger Stone

case. One thing is crystal clear, though, ever since the end of his impeachment trial, Mr. Trump has been open about his desire to protect

friends and punish perceived enemies. Here is Kaitlan Collins.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the week since he was acquitted, President Trump has embarked on a payback campaign

that is targeted witnesses and caused upheaval at the Justice Department.

TRUMP: They treated Roger Stone very badly.

COLLINS (voice over): White House officials insist Trump didn't ask the Justice Department to reduce Roger Stone's recommended prison sentence.

Though, he publicly thanked them today. The President criticized the four prosecutors who, citing federal sentencing guidelines, said Stone should

serve seven into nine years in prison before later being overruled by senior officials.

TRUMP: They ought to go back to school and learn, because I'll tell you what, the way they treated people, nobody should be treated like that.

COLLINS (voice over): As Trump has continued to dangle a pardon for Stone.

TRUMP: I don't want to say that yet.

COLLINS (voice over): The White House also abruptly pulled the nomination for a top Treasury job for the former U.S. attorney who headed the office

that prosecuted Stone.

CNN has now learned it was Trump who made the ultimate decision to pull Jessie Liu's nomination two days before her scheduled confirmation hearing,

and that decision was directly tied to her former job.

Trump hasn't stopped there. After impeachment witness Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman was fired and escorted off White House grounds last week, the

President is now suggesting he should face disciplinary action.

TRUMP: And that's going to be up to the military, we'll have to say. But if you look at what happened, I mean, they're going to certainly - I would

imagine, take a look at that.

COLLINS (voice over): The army says there's no investigation into Vindman. Vindman is not likely the last career official to leave the National

Security Council, dozens more are expected to be transferred out in the coming days in what the National Security Adviser is describing as a


ROBERT O'BRIEN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think we're down to around 115 to 120 staffers or will be by the end of this week.


VANIER: Kaitlan Collins is standing by live in Washington. So Kaitlan, if the President is indeed rewarding his friends and going after enemies, is

there more to come?

COLLINS: That's the big question. And, of course, it is who is the President going to target? Because right now these officials that were

expecting to leave NSC are mainly career officials that they're downsizing over the - of course, it comes in the wake of firing the two Vindman

brothers, one, who didn't even testify before Congress and never spoke publicly over this.

But, of course, another indication there is only more to come, and it may be figures that we are not assuming off the top of our head, is the pulling

of that nomination of Jessie Liu to be the top Treasury official after she headed the U.S. Attorney's office. She is someone who people seemingly were

not expecting to be part of this purge that you're seeing the President partake in and could be an indication that there may be more people to go.

VANIER: All right, Kaitlan Collins reporting live from the White House. Thank you very much. There's a lot more to discuss about this, including

what it means long-term for the Justice Department. So in about 15 minutes, we'll be joined by a former U.S. attorney who says the DOJ his reputation

is on life support.

Now, the first primary of the 2020 U.S. presidential election may have really shaken up the race. Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary

with just under 26 percent. He had been favored to win that state. He said his campaign is a fight to protect America's middle class.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In this point in the campaign, we are taking on billionaires and we're taking on

candidates funded by billionaires.


SANDERS: But we are going to win, because we have the agenda that speaks to the needs of working people throughout this country.


VANIER: Sanders's victory wasn't as easy as expected. Pete Buttigieg surged after his strong performance last week in Iowa. And he came in a close

second, he took a shot at Sanders by saying that there's a path to victory that doesn't involve radical changes in America.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks to you a campaign that some said shouldn't be here at all, has shown that we are here to stay.


BUTTIGIEG: In this election season, we have been told by some that you must either be for revolution or you are for the status quo. But where does that

leave the rest of us? Most Americans don't see where they fit in that polarized vision, and we can't defeat the most divisive president in modern

American history by tearing down anybody who doesn't agree with us 100 percent of the time.


VANIER: And the biggest surprise of the primary was the strong third place finish for Amy Klobuchar. She took almost 20 percent and announced herself

as a viable contender for the moderate votes in the Democratic Party.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It ain't over man, we're just getting started.



VANIER: Klobuchar's success came at the expense of Joe Biden who tumbled to fifth place and wasn't even in New Hampshire on primary night, instead

opting to campaign in South Carolina. Well, the race now moves on to Nevada, which has a primary in 10 days then South Carolina, which Joe Biden

is counting on at the end of the month.

CNN Washington Correspondent, Ryan Nobles joins us now to break that down. Ryan, you know, the thing about primary season is that it takes twists and

turns and it looks very, very different based on what state you're in, the demographics, the political personality of that state. So tell us about

what's to come.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're right about that, Cyril. I mean, one of the things that a lot of the Democratic political

pundits have been critical of is the fact that Iowa, New Hampshire go first in this process. They call the field to a certain extent, and they are not

representative of the Democratic Party.

These are two predominantly white states, and the Democratic Party is becoming more and more demographically diverse. So by moving to Nevada and

South Carolina, the next two states, on the map, you have some geographic diversity. This is the first southern state that will participate in this

process in South Carolina.

In Nevada you have all sorts of different cultures that will be a part of this process, including Latino voters and African-American voters. So

that's where Joe Biden is hoping to maybe have a shift in this conversation, because he has a lot of strong support with African-American

voters. And he believes that they're waiting around, waiting for him to participate in this South Carolina primary to essentially give him a second

life in this presidential contest.

VANIER: All right. The idea is things could look very, very different at the end of the month, we'll see whether that is true especially for the

Biden campaign. Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

NOBLES: Thank you.

VANIER: The World Health Organization says that coronavirus outbreak could still go in any direction, even as there is a small note of hope. As you

can see, the amount of new infections out of China has been dropping in the past few days.

Earlier the country reported the lowest daily number of new cases in two weeks. But the WHO says that the leveling off needs to be interpreted with

quote, "extreme caution." That is because more cases are popping up outside China, the latest in Singapore and in the U.K.

More than 45,000 people now have been diagnosed worldwide and 1,100 people have died. And there's also the cruise ship docked in Japan where 175

people, including a Japanese quarantine officer, have caught the virus.

Crew members on board the Diamond Princess are especially at risk. They're living in tight quarters and interacting every day with possibly infected

passengers. As fear continues to spread, the WHO says it's important not to put blame on anyone who has been infected.


DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Outbreaks can bring out the best and the worst in people. The stigmatizing

individuals or entire nations does nothing but harm the response. Instead of directing all our energy against the outbreak, the stigma diverts our

attention and turns people against each other.


VANIER: China is trying to turn the world's focus on people who survived the virus. David Culver speaks to some of them.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With the rising death toll and a growing number of confirmed cases, these are the images

most often associated with a novel coronavirus.

The firsthand account confirm the deadly virus can be beaten. Chinese state media has shifted much of its coverage to these images. They appear to show

patients who survived the illness - flowers in hand as they leave the hospital. Their faces blurred as even Chinese state media acknowledges the

stigma of social seeded with those infected, even after they've reportedly recovered.


CULVER: We connected with two patients who were not part of that state media photo op. They, likewise, asked that we not reveal their identities.

But CNN did review their medical records, showing that they had been diagnosed and since recovered from the coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I fetched my result. It was positive. So, I've been confirmed.

CULVER (voice over): This 21-year-old college student who asked we call him Tiger Yie (ph) says he was attending language courses at a school in early

January near the Wuhan seafood market, believed to be ground zero of the virus.

Yie, started feeling sore and sick to his stomach in mid-January. Initially, he tried treating it with cold medicine. But with each passing

day, it got worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dad realized maybe it was something wrong has happened. So, my dad urged me get back home immediately.

CULVER (voice over): He then started running a fever and decided to go to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a real mess. Its lot of people - lot of nurse and doctors in the fever clinic.

CULVER: Yie, eventually found a less crowded hospital willing to test him. His positive diagnosis gave him quick access to antiviral drugs, which he

says, proved effective. Within a week, he said, he was already feeling better.

Video chatting with us from a nearby city, this 31-year-old one engineer describes his initial diagnosis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): I was scared and fearful having contracted this disease.

CULVER (voice over): He said getting tested took days because of scares hospital testing resources. When his case was finally confirmed that he was

admitted for treatment. He felt confident that he could battle through the illness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): I think for the young and the strong, the disease is more like a heavy cold, only that it is highly contagious,

so it causes panic.

CULVER (voice over): The road to recovery varies for each person. For some it's easier than others. Both men we spoke with said they've finished their

treatments, but no flower bouquet sendoff back home, as they are currently in government monitor to hotel quarantines, getting tested regularly to

make sure the illness does not return. David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


VANIER: And more fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. One of the tech industry's biggest annual events has been called off because of it.

Organizers say circumstances make it impossible to go ahead with the Mobile World Congress.

The event was scheduled for later this month in Barcelona, Spain. The cancellation comes after more than a dozen major tech companies said they

were concerned about employees potentially being exposed to the coronavirus. A conference typically draws more than 100,000 attendees from

all over the world.

Another cancellation or suspension, I should say, it's affecting the sports world. Formula 1 announced, Wednesday, that the Chinese Grand Prix is

postponed due to the outbreak. The race was scheduled for mid-April, that's more than two months away in Shanghai. But with the delay, there is now a

four week break in the Formula 1 calendar. Organizers say that they are assessing rescheduling the race.

The U.S. military says it killed a Syrian soldier in a gunfight, Wednesday, in Northern Syria. The incident happened when Syrian forces tried to

prevent the American lead coalition from passing through the area.

Video shows rocks being thrown at the coalition before an exchange of gunfire. Adding to the tension in the region, Turkey deployed these tanks

and military vehicles today, after several of its soldiers were killed by Syrian regime artillery fire earlier this week. Turkey's President is

threatening to attack Syrian forces if any more Turkish soldiers are hurt.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (via translator): If there's the smallest injury to our soldiers on the observation posts or other places, I

am declaring from here, that we will hit the regime forces everywhere from today, regardless of the lines of the Sochi agreement or Idlib


VANIER: The Syrian government calls those threats hollow and again said, any Turkish forces in Syria are a blatant violation of international law.

Now to Italy where lawmakers have cleared the way for an investigation into the former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. Italian Senate voted to lift

his parliamentary immunity today, potentially allowing a trial on charges of aggravated kidnapping.


This goes back to last year when Salvini did not allow rescued migrants to disembark on Italy's coast, forcing them to stay on a boat for almost a

week. Salvini says he welcomes this investigation.

Still to come on THE BRIEF more on Donald Trump and the Justice Department. I will be speaking with someone who says that U.S. President is a threat to

the Department's future. Stay with us.


VANIER: Back to our top story now. U.S. President Donald Trump is thanking the Justice Department for intervening in a criminal case involving his

longtime ally Roger Stone. The Department headed by Attorney General William Barr, shown here on the right, reduced its own prosecutors'

recommended prison sentence to stone after Mr. Trump complained that it was ridiculous.

A Former U.S. Attorney wrote an opinion piece in "The Washington Post" saying, "The Justice Department's reputation is on life support." That

attorney, Harry Litman joins us now.


VANIER: Explain to me the argument. Why do you say the Justice Department's reputations on life support?

LITMAN: Sure. And by the way, it's not just me, you have a chorus of federal prosecutors today, not normally a hysterical bunch, really sounding

a serious alarm. Look, it's unprecedented for an assistant U.S. Attorney, a line prosecutor to submit something to the court and then have the boot of

the political actors, you know, in the building, override it. That's for starters.

But to do it, in the behest of or even to anticipate the political preference of the President of the United States, who's on a general Reign

of Terror since the impeachment trial, to reward his friends and punish his enemies, is the antithesis of doing justice without fear or favor. It is

absolutely going against the bone of what the Department is about.

VANIER: But so, let's examine that, because the DOJ says this wasn't political. Their version is that they looked at the sentencing requirements

crafted by their own four prosecutors, and then they said that's too harsh. Seven to nine years in jail for lying to Congress and obstructing a witness

is too harsh.

LITMAN: But it isn't, it's precisely by the book. It's the exact recommendation that the guidelines require. But in any event, the time to

do that in the supervisory structure would have been before.

Once an Assistant United States Attorney, checking with supervisors makes the recommendation to the court, it's completely emasculating and

unprecedented to then override him the next day. So it's a dubious kind of explanation. And, of course, it dovetails precisely with what the President

is saying about his friends and enemies. So it's extremely troubling.

VANIER: I want to just follow the AG's argument for argument's sake here.


LITMAN: Yes, sure.

VANIER: Is there anything else that could explain why the sentencing requirement would be reversed only hours after actually it's been put out?

LITMAN: All right, so two points. On the substance they're saying, maybe the witness intimidation piece here is overdone because the intimidated

witness, Randy Credico says he wasn't intimidated - maybe. So that's the argument now.

But, of course, as anyone with experience in the Department knows, the time you consider that is previously. So it's completely - anomalous is too weak

a word. Completely unprecedented for it to happen after. And that's why you saw this very unusual sign of protest from four prosecutors actually

resigning. That's sort of the biggest crisis the Department has faced, probably since the Saturday night massacre.

They've advanced an argument, Cyril. But it doesn't make any sense that that argument would be considered just after the actual recommendation is

filed, and just consistent with what the President is tweeting. Even if there's no communication, in some ways it's worse, what you would have is a

political leadership anticipating the political desires of the President and acting to execute them unbidden.

VANIER: Has anything illegal been done, either at the White House or the Justice Department?

LITMAN: So I don't think in this case. I think it actually was illegal to have outed the whistleblower, that's a whole different point that's been

argued. And we do have a flurry of activity, not just Stone, but Flynn, and also the consideration of the Giuliani dirt. I don't think any of it is

illegal. But that's sort of beside the point. The question is, is it political? Is it the derogation of the oath to do impartial justice --

VANIER: But Mr. Harry, let me jump in, because that's the that's the crux of this conversation. This is a President who doesn't care about what's

right, about what pundits will say. He cares about what he can get away with and what serves his policies or his political interests. So if this


LITMAN: Well, that's exactly right.

VANIER: If he can do it and he can get away with it, he's going to do it.

LITMAN: That's exactly right. And we've known he's unhinged in that way - exactly that way for a long time. It's a whole another point for the

Department of Justice which swears to do impartial justice without fear or favor, to be actually executing that that specific agenda.

So, I have to disagree with you. It's not a question of whether he can get away with it. We've seen him get away with everything for three years. It's

a question of whether the Department of Justice has been corrupted in the same way.

VANIER: And it somehow seems like Donald Trump may have found a hack to the system here, because he doesn't even need to pick up his phone and speak to

his appointee Bill Barr. If he tweets it, and Bill Barr decide - if he tweets his preferred outcome in a given case, right, that's being tried or

being sentenced. And Bill Barr decides to then take it upon himself to influence the outcome in a way that will please the President, you know,

what do you bring against the President in case like that?

LITMAN: Well, that's right. Look, it's a tragedy of the first order if he does. And here he says it was even before the tweet and everybody knew that

this was Stone's friend. If Bill Barr is doing that, you know, unbidden than the Department of Justice, as my colleague Jennifer Rogers, of CNN has

said, is broken.

So, yes, I mean, it's almost worse than then having found his, as he was always saying, his Roy Cohn. It's almost as if he's found his John

Mitchell. That is the attorney general who will look to execute his political agenda. The precise thing that the Department of Justice should

never do, even without orders from the President. It's a really, really harrowing and dark day. And as I say, you have prosecutors across the aisle

from every era, absolutely stunned and appalled.

VANIER: Harry Litman, thank you very much. And you know what?--

LITMAN: Thank you, sir.

VANIER: I'm old enough to remember a time when Republicans were saying that this President would be chastened by his impeachment and he would have

learned his lesson, I will say no more. I'll leave it at that. Harry Litman, thank you very much.

LITMAN: Thank you, sir.

VANIER: When THE BRIEF returns, the Pope has put forward his plans for helping Catholics in the Amazon. But it's the one thing he didn't propose

that has people talking.



VANIER: So you may remember that a few months ago, the Vatican convened a special gathering on the spiritual needs of Catholics in the Amazon. At the

time, the Pope called for bold proposals to help them. But in a papal document today, he ignored the boldest one, allowing married priests, and

that is sure to disappoint liberal supporters and delight conservatives.

This issue caused a fierce debate when it was included in October and it caused high level Catholics, including Francis his predecessor Benedict to

write in support of celibacy. Francis has been Pope for seven years and has been vocal on a plethora of issues from climate change to the plight of

migrants. On this issue, though, he hasn't denounced the idea. He has simply ignored it. And that is THE BRIEF for today. I'm Cyril Vanier.

"WORLD SPORT" is up next.