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The Brief with Bianca Nobilo
1700+ Health Workers In China Infected, Six Have Died; U.S. Urges Transparency From Chinese Officials; Manchester City Faces Two Years Out Of Champions League; Officials: Barr Orders Re-Examination Of Flynn Case; Barr: Not "Bullied" Or Influenced When Making Decisions; U.S. Justice Department Drops Probe Of Former FBI Deputy Director; White House Official: Trump Was Angered By McCabe News; U.S. Clinches "Reduction Of Violence" Deal With Taliban; Last Month Was Hottest January Ever Recorded; Fighting Closes In Around Civilians In Idlib; Bassam Barabandi: Syrians Will Suffer As Long As Assad Is In Power. Aired 5-5:30p ET
Aired February 14, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Happy Valentine's Day.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Tonight on "The Brief," as cases of coronavirus continue to rise new fears as healthcare workers treating the sick of
The new fighting in Syria is causing an immense refugee crisis. I'll speak with the man who used to work for the Syrian government.
Last month was the warmest January ever recorded and some unusual places are feeling the heat.
Live from London, I'm Bianca Nobilo very warm welcome to the show. We've heard a lot about the physical and emotional toll the coronavirus outbreak
is taking. Now, we're learning more about how it's affecting people at the front lines at the battle - doctors and nurses in China, particularly in
Hubei Province, the heart of the outbreak.
Officials say more than 1,700 medical workers have caught the virus and six have died. We'll talk more about that shortly. The coronavirus has killed
nearly 1,400 people. There are now more than 64,000 infections around the world, most of them in Mainland China, and new cases are now appearing in
Egypt just recorded its first infection and Japan announced seven new cases today. The World Health Organization says its team of international experts
will arrive in China this weekend to assess the situation on the ground. But, U.S. officials are worried China's government isn't sharing enough
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX AZAR, U.S. SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Some of the data issues might just be the chaos of a public health crisis. But it is very
important that the World Health Organization holds China to account for transparency and cooperation as they would any other country, including the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: As we mentioned earlier, health care workers in China are facing heightened risk. We are David Culver about that.
DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Bianca, the new numbers reflecting what CNN has been reporting for several weeks now.
Doctors and nurses within Wuhan and Hubei Province, the epicenter of this outbreak, telling us about their dire need for medical supplies, facemask
and hazmat suits, likely contributing to this new report of more than 1,700 medical workers contracting the novel coronavirus.
Now, early into this fight, Chinese state media also acknowledged the dangers for healthcare workers. One nurse even describing on state
broadcaster CCTV, how she had to reassure her own parents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIANG WEI, NURSE, JINYINTAN HOSPITAL (via translator): I always say it's OK, since we are well protected. Actually, I was just saying that to give
them peace of mind. We're actually afraid and worried. But as long as you are on duty, our own sense of mission will support us to do the job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CULVER (voice over): While Chinese officials and state media praised medical workers for their heroic efforts, CNN has spoken with some who feel
as though they've been sent into battle without armor. As a result, they say many of their colleagues have gone from treating patients to becoming
One Wuhan hospital nurse, who asked we not identify her, fearing repercussions for speaking with the media, told us by text. Right now it's
really a problem. Our hospital has more than 100 people who are quarantined at home. She's one of them. She says that chest can reveal that she had a
suspected case of the virus. That same nurse 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 the 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's 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 front line.
CULVER: Chinese health officials have essentially resorted to hazard pay for some of these medical workers, offering them up to what equates to U.S.
$42 a day as a subsidy. More importantly, though, the central government has mobilized to expedite supplies to the front lines. And we're hearing,
it's finally reaching where it needs to be. But the numbers reflect that for so many. It's arriving too late Bianca.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: Thanks to David Culver for his reporting.
The football world was rocked today when UEFA announced Manchester City's punishment for violating sponsorship rules. The club, one of Europe's
biggest, will be banned from the Champions League Tournament for two years. UEFA which runs European football also announced EUR 30 million fine.
Manchester City says it will appeal.
I'm joined now by Patrick Snell of CNN World Sport. Patrick. It's so good to see you as always. Could you explain what's taken place today, perhaps
for somebody with slightly better baseline knowledge of football that me.
PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Bianca, many thanks. Yes, I'll tell you what, this is really significant. Why? Because Manchester City are one of
the world's biggest clubs. They are lavishly backed by their Abu Dhabi ownership.
They're the reigning Premier League champions. And they're also a club obsessed with trying to win this tournament, the Champions League, or it's
frontrunner of the European Cup. They have a proud history to City, but they've never won this tournament.
So what's happened here? Basically accused by UEFA, European football's governing body of flouting those financial fair play rules. I do want to
get to a UEFA statement, because it is significant. Basically, UEFA is saying, the club committed serious breaches of the way for club licensing
and financial fair play regulations by overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the breakeven information submitted to UEFA between
2012 and '16.
The City response, we must report, this is really important, Bianca, quite simply. City saying that they're disappointed and they're strongly wording
the fact that they are not surprised, though, by the announcement. The subsequent flawed and consistently leaked UEFA process he oversaw - that's
the UEFA Chief Investigator - has meant that there was little doubt in the result that he would deliver.
The club has formally complained to the UEFA Disciplinary Body. A complaint which was validated by a CAS ruling - official club statement. And also
adding that this is a case initiated by UEFA, prosecuted by UEFA and judged by UEFA. City feel very strongly they do have a case here and they want
independent adjudication. They are fighting this all the way. They are appealing it, Bianca. They are taking it to the highest sports court in the
land, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
NOBILO: Thank you so much, Patrick. And we'll have much more on this view on World Sport at the bottom of the hour, so do stay tuned for that.
A development at the U.S. Justice Department could add to concerns there may be political motivation behind the treatment of some cases involving
allies of President Donald Trump.
Officials tell CNN, Attorney General William Barr has privately ordered a reexamination of Michael Flynn's case. He was Mr. Trump's first National
Security Advisor and a key figure in the Russia investigation. Flynn is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI back in 2017.
Barr says he's not bullied or influenced by anybody when he makes decisions. In an interview that went viral, he criticized Mr. Trump for
tweeting about ongoing criminal cases. But President didn't respond. A source tells CNN that he was already aware of Barr's general views for the
Mr. Trump did tweet that he has the legal right to intervene in a criminal case, but so far, he's chosen not to. Critics would argue that he did just
that when he tweeted that the sentencing recommendation for his friend, Roger Stone, was quite ridiculous. Hours after that tweet, the Justice
Department reduce the recommended prison time.
Another consequential development out of the U.S. Justice Department today, a long investigation into former FBI Director, Andrew McCabe was dropped
with no charges. Let's bring in CNN's Sara Murray.
Sara, good to see you. The President is obviously connected to all of these politically sensitive cases. But we're hearing that he was angered by the
decision not to charge McCabe. So what's really happening at the Department of Justice?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, tell you, it's been very busy at the Department of Justice. And you know, the President is
irritated. He's been wary of Andrew McCabe for quite some time, particularly because of McCabe's involvement in the early stages of the
But, I think, the broad picture of what you're seeing here, you know, critics would say it's political intervention that Bill Barr is essentially
doing whatever the President wants him to do and acting as his personal attorney rather than his Attorney General.
But I think a less nefarious read of that is essentially that President Trump and Bill Barr are really on the same page about a lot of these
things. That Barr really agrees with the President that Roger Stone doesn't deserve the kind of sentence that prosecutors asked for. You know, he may
have some reservations about this Flynn case. Even that is certainly raising concerns amongst them. Here's what Andrew McCabe had to say about
this whole situation today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: As the President's interest in pursuing his perceived political enemies continued over the last two years,
we were getting more and more concerned about where this would end up, because quite frankly, we are seeing things happen every day in this
country that many of us never ever thought we'd see here.
The pursuit of political enemies and the use of the criminal justice system and criminal investigations to exact some sort of revenge on those
political enemies is not something that should be happening in the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So that's Andrew McCabe talking about how he will not be facing charges. Obviously, this is a moment where Bill Barr did not get the
President what he wanted in this case. But people are still looking at what's going to happen to Michael Flynn, what's going to happen to Roger
stone, and there's certainly a lot of uneasiness and a lot of unhappiness at the Justice Department about what may happen.
NOBILO: Sara Murray, Good to see. Thanks.
MURRAY: Good to see you.
NOBILO: U.S. official say their new agreement with the Taliban will go into effect very soon. Just hours ago, officials said, they eye another deal to
reduce violence in Afghanistan for a week. The hope is that a temporary drop in fighting will eventually pave the way to a lasting peace.
The announcement came with the annual International Security Conference in Munich, Germany. But as Nick Paton Walsh reports, the new agreement is
still full of unknowns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Bianca, the key really is when does this week long reduction in violence actually begin? Now, we
heard from senior administration officials today that it has essentially been agreed to as part of a kind of peace deal between the United States
and the Taliban, echoing frankly, what was said by the U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, just yesterday.
What we haven't heard from the Afghan government, who are a key part of any peace process. We know the United States wants some kind of a deal. Donald
Trump has both said he wants to win, but also wants to bring troops home. We know the Taliban, frankly, feel they're winning on the ground. So any
kind of political accommodation that might see the Americans reduce their presence is a win for them.
The key and this are the Afghan government who have some specific details, we understand, about what they'd like to see in reduction of violence.
Could the Afghan army potentially still be given freedom of movement in certain areas around the country? And also too, if this reduction in
violence does, in fact occur, what circumstances will be used to measure it - and consider it a success?
Do ISIS potentially keep fighting, do fringe groups and Taliban fight on as well? And this is just the first stage. If we have this successful
reduction of violence, which the Americans said they frankly need to move forward, then we might see talks between the Afghan government and the
Taliban and then possibly too U.S. forces repositioning or withdrawing.
But, remember, there are two key dynamics here, Bianca, the fact that Taliban feel they're winning. The Americans have kind of said they want to
reduce their numbers. And in the middle here are the Afghan people experiencing ghastly casualties, frankly, and the government that
represents them that have been surprisingly silent in the buildings behind me here, Bianca.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: Thanks to Nick for his reporting. Nick Paton Walsh there, the Munich Security Conference.
This January was the hottest ever on Earth in 141 years of record keeping. And in Antarctica, the last several days of record high temperatures, a
glacier break and the dramatic decline in penguin colonies. CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is joining us.
Allison, so there have been record highs all over the world with Antarctica breaking records twice tis last week, can you give us the big picture of
what's going on, just the first month into 2020?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I think the key thing to note is that it yes, it may be happening in Antarctica, but it's also happening in
so many other places. It's not limited to just one. But, I think, the impressive thing to note with this Antarctica is that it's been multiple
times. So here's a look at what we know.
These two particular sites here, the Esperanza Base and Seymour Island both have the potential to break the previous record, which was 17.5 degrees in
Antarctica back on March 24, 2015. So just about five years ago.
Now, both of these numbers still have yet to be approved and accounted for by the World Meteorological Organization. But if they do validate these
numbers, they could break that previous record there.
In addition to not only hot temperatures, we're also focusing here on Pine Island Glacier right here. This is what we're talking about. You can see
the movement there of that ice, and then all of a sudden, you'll start to see this large chunk right here. This section breaks off.
For comparison, this is about the size of the City of Atlanta, Georgia. So it's a very large piece of ice that broke off. Now when we talk about
January, specifically, being the warmest month globally on record. It's a pretty substantial amount. You're talking 1.14 degrees Celsius, above that
climatological average period here. The previous had only been 1.12.
Now, some other things to note, we talked about it. It's not just one place that makes January so warm. It's multiple regions. In Europe, according to
NOAA, had their second warmest January on record, Asia having its second warmest January on record, Australia having its third warmest. Then you
flip to the other half of the world. You have Arctic sea ice that's been 5.3 percent below that climatological average and it's their eighth
smallest January sea ice on record.
Now not everybody, Bianca, was warm. Alaska had its coldest January since 2012. But the key thing to note there is that's one place out of so many
others that ended up being well above average for January.
NOBILO: Allison Chinchar, thank you.
When we come back life inside a war zone, a look at the humanitarian crisis in Northern Syria, that's in just a moment
NOBILO: Tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in Northern Syria as the fighting closes in on towns and villages in the Idlib Province. Idlib was
once a vibrant, thriving region. But nine years of war have left much of it in ruins. The regime still bonds civilians, women and children. You see
here some of the victims.
United Nations estimates more than 800,000 people have been displaced since December. A majority of them children. CNN's Arwa Damon talked to families
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are makeshift camps like this that you find throughout these rolling hills that are very
close to the border with Turkey, because this is where people think they might be able to find some sort of refuge.
800,000 people have been on the move since December. But when it comes to safety, there is nowhere inside Syria that is actually guaranteed. This is
a family who we met earlier. We've been speaking to them. They just arrived here last night and they say that they're not entirely sure that they're
going to come here. This is Fieza (ph). (Foreign Language)
The bombing is still very close to us here. It's very hard. There is no proper heating. I mean, look, the kids don't even have proper shoes,
warmth, the ground. She's been burning what she can here - coal, wood, at times, even rubber.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: Earlier today, the International Rescue Committee told CNN, this is the largest displacement at any point of the conflict, going back to 2011,
when President Bashar al-Assad's regime began violently suppressing protests.
Joining me now for today's "Debrief" is Bassam Barabandi, a former Syrian Diplomat and co-founder of People Demand Change. Very good to have you on
the program, sir. Thank you for joining us.
BASSAM BARABANDI, FORMER SYRIAN DIPLOMAT: Thank you for having me.
NOBILO: So you were in the diplomatic service of the Syrian government up until 2013. What was the breaking point for you and what was it like
working with the government of Bashar al-Assad?
BARABANDI: Look, when the revolution started, it was we - all the Syrian, I think, we had the hope that Bashar will move into a more formal, more
accepting the people's demands, more to be reformers. And we had really hope with him and his wife that they will do in that line.
Unfortunately, everybody knows now that he shows the bloody way, the brutal way. Iran was supporting him very, very, very well. We reached to the
point, me as a human, I cannot defend that regime. I cannot defend with the crisis. I don't want to be part of that machine - killing machine.
So simply I was in D.C. - I was posted in D.C. and I decided enough is enough and I left the embassy and I sit in D.C.
NOBILO: Your organization that you work for now monitors international aid in Syria. And I believe you speak to people in Syria every day. I also
don't know if you've heard any of that piece that we were just playing before with one of our correspondents Arwa Damon.
BARABANDI: You hear it every day, everywhere. Unfortunately, that tragic is everywhere. It's beyond imagination. Nobody was expecting to be that
massive. There's - the people they have no place to go. They cannot close into Turkey.
They cannot - and the funny thing or the tragedy thing at the same time, that these people they have the chance, if they want, to go to the regime
controlled area. This is what the Russian media tried to say to the world that we are here to save the people.
And you can see in your eyes that, in your reports that exactly that what happened is the opposite. That people say we don't want to live under
Bashar Assad, under Russia, Iranian control. There's no way for us to be safe or survive, and that part.
And they prefer to live the way that you report describe them, rather than living under Bashar. Because they know the regime. They will never change.
Its mentality, it's the way of dealing with their people, humiliating the people. They don't consider the Syrian as the people.
They consider Syria as a throne (ph), and he's the owner. And he has the right, as Bashar has said himself. He has the right to kill. There is no
any legal or institution or government even to exist over there. And what's happened is now in three - the last few weeks is very big evidence, how bad
the situation is and how difficult to reach to political solution in Syria, will be.
NOBILO: And we are seeing the refugee crisis, obviously, deepened by the clash of external influences and powers in the region. As somebody who used
to work in the diplomatic service, is it ever helpful for Syria to have foreign influence or has it only been damaging?
BARABANDI: Look, the starting point, I think the big mistake we had in Syria revolution, is arming the revolution. When the revolution started it
was very peaceful whether it covered all sector of life, all the ethnic group or religious group. The people were demanding something very basic
thing - human rights, democracy, transparency, jobs, this kind of stuff. And then the regime, as you know much better than others, how they react to
The biggest mistake was, number one, getting the weapons from the regional countries - number one. Two, Islamize. The revolution is become more
Islamist. Slogans that's the big disaster. Now we pay the price - big price - all the Syrian.
Then the Assad, because his regime is weak, his army is weak, he gets the Iranian to interfere. Today, we cannot say we have Syrian crisis. It's not
fair. It's more regional crisis. Its Russia, Iran, Turkey, Red State, Israeli they are just fighting each other's on the Syrian ground. And
literally the Syrian - all Syrian, including the people under regime controlled area, they have no say whatsoever over what's going on.
NOBILO: And Mr. Barabandi, what do you see - all that being said, what do you see as options for the future of Syria?
BARABANDI: Look what's going on it's much bigger than Syria. Russia when they interfered in Syria they interfered to present a model - counterattack
the U.S. model's interventions. So Russian always accuse United State whenever you go, you destroy. We will do our new model that approve we are
right, you are wrong, and that model was in Syria, unfortunately.
So they support the regime. They destroy as much as they can. They push the people to leave Syria. And now they reached to the point that they want
Syria to be under their control geographically, then they need to have political process through Geneva that fits their own narrative. And then
they need the international community to pay them for reconstruct what they had destroyed.
When the American ad EU said no, we will not pay for this amount of money. They just started the last version of attacking the civilian to push - to
threaten Europe, if you don't pay, we will send you another wave of refugees. So the problem is much bigger in Syria. The problem is Russian
want to prove that they have a new model. And they are blackmailing all the international community by this new wave.
If I - if my saying is correct, my words is correct, the idea is correct, I think we will not reach to anywhere, anytime soon, except if Russia
enforced to change its own behaviors. If these refugees reach to Turkey, I think Turkey itself will have bigger problem - much bigger than what we
have been seeing before.
I don't - you see this - as much as - not any more Syrian crisis, this is what I'm trying to say. Its international crisis--
NOBILO: It's far beyond that.
BARABANDI: And the international community, they have to deal with it, not from refugee perspective, because refugee is just another tool for the
Russian, their regime to blackmail the international community. If we don't solve the source of the problem itself, these refugees - it's trend - to
become a trend every six months as we will have another refugees and the U.S. say we don't have the money, we don't have that capability and so on
and so forth.
NOBILO: Bassam Barabandi, I really appreciate you coming on the program and sharing your insights as a former Syrian diplomat.
BARABANDI: Thank you.
NOBILO: Thank you.
BARABANDI: Thank you for having me. I appreciate your time.
NOBILO: When the "The Brief" returns from Oscar surprises to presidential power, it's been a busy week of news, we'll catch you up. "The Weekend
Brief" is straight ahead.
NOBILO: News stories have flown in fast this week. Let's catch you up. "Parasite" triumphed at the Oscars, winning four awards, including Best
Picture. The thriller is the first non-English language film to win the coveted prize.
Bernie Sanders clinched victory in the New Hampshire primary, edging out Pete Buttigieg. But Joe Biden's status as one of the front runners is in
doubt after he fell into fifth place.
The coronavirus death toll continues to soar worldwide and there's been a spike in confirmed cases. Fears are also growing for frontline medical
workers in China.
In Washington, four federal prosecutors withdrew from the Roger Stone case after their sentencing decision was disavowed by the Justice Department.
The walkout has led to further concerns over President Trump's influence in the DOJ.
In Syria, the Assad regime is directly fighting Turkish forces for the first time in nine years of war. Thousands are fleeing the fighting in
Northwest Syria, adding to a wave of refugees displaced by the conflict.
That's "The Brief." I am Bianca Nobilo. "World Sport" is up for you next.