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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Trump: Democrats Peddling "Rumors" And "Disinformation"; Washington Post: U.S. Officials Warn Sanders That Russia Trying To Help His Presidential Campaign; Infections In South Korea Nearly Double In 24 Hours; Epidemic Takes Toll On Auto Sales, Markets; Iran Elections: Voters Head To The Polls To Elect New Parliament; U.S. And Taliban Enter Week of "Reduction in Violence"; Prime Minister Of Lesotho A No-Show at Court; Outrage in Mexico Over Violence Against Women; U.S. Fines Wells Fargo $3 Billion In Fake Accounts Scandal. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired February 21, 2020 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Have a fantastic weekend. I will see you Sunday morning.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Tonight on "The Brief," more details about Russia's election interference in the United States and now report stating

that they are trying to help another candidate.

Coronavirus cases in South Korea jump after an infected person went to a religious gathering.

And we'll discuss anger and protests in Mexico after the killings of a woman and a young girl.

From London I'm Bianca Nobilo. Very warm welcome to the show. We begin with a warning that U.S. President Donald Trump didn't want anyone to hear.

Multiple reports say that he's furious, intelligence officials briefed some house lawmakers last week, alerting them that Russia is interfering in U.S.

elections yet again.

A source tells CNN the briefers were unambiguous that the Kremlin wants Mr. Trump reelected in 2020. They saying Russia's efforts include hacking,

weaponizing social media and attacking U.S. election infrastructure. Just minutes ago, the President ignored the source of that warning, claiming

it's all a democratic hoax instead.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They said, you know, they're trying to start a rumor. It's disinformation. That's the only thing they're

good at. They're not good at anything else. They get nothing done. Do nothing Democrats. That Putin wants to make sure I get elected. Listen to

this. So doesn't he want to see who the Democrats going to be? Wouldn't you rather have let's say, Bernie, wouldn't you rather have Bernie, who

honeymooned in Moscow?


NOBILO: Well, "The Washington Post" just reported the U.S. officials have been briefed that Bernie Sanders - telling - have briefed Bernie Sanders,

telling him that Russia is trying to help his presidential campaign as well.

Sanders responded by saying "I didn't care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president. My message to Putin is clear. Stay out of American elections.

And as President, I will make sure that you do." Alex Marquardt is live in Washington. Alex, what do we know about this report that Russians are

trying to help the Sanders campaign and why might they want to?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, what we're hearing now - this is coming from "The Washington Post" is that Russia is

intervening to help the Bernie Sanders campaign that they have been told that by U.S. officials, according to this report in "The Post."

They have also reported that President Trump as well as lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also been briefed on this by U.S. officials. Now it's

unclear what the form of this help from Russia for the Bernie Sanders campaign has taken.

But of course, Bianca. as you know, this comes at the same time that intelligence officials have just brief lawmakers on Capitol Hill, that

Russians have also shown a preference for President Trump. In the 2020 race.

Now, we should note that this is not the first time that the Russians have shown a preference for both men. Back in 2016 in the Democratic primary

Russians were also working to help the Bernie Sanders campaign. But once Hillary Clinton was the nominee they were working to help President Trump

win the election, which of course he did.

The objective here. when you talk to intelligence officials here in the United States, this is not about helping one man or the other win, this is

about helping advance their interests. Their interests in United States, when it comes to Russia, is chaos and Division and frankly, there are no

more polarizing figures, politicians in this 2020 presidential race and President Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders. Bianca.

NOBILO: Alex Marquardt, thank you. Good to see. And reminder that next the next key contest Democratic presidential candidates is only hours away.

Early voting in the Nevada caucuses has been going on for days now. Several polls have shown strong support for Senator Bernie Sanders coming off his

narrow victory in New Hampshire. Tune in Saturday for special coverage of the Nevada caucuses that begins at 2:00 pm. Eastern or 7:00 pm here in


The World Health Organization says the window of opportunity to contain the coronavirus epidemic is getting smaller. There are now more than 76,000

infections and 2,200 deaths, most of them in Mainland China. But W.H.O. is concerned about how the virus is spreading among people who have no direct

connection to China. That's what we're seeing in Iran and on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, and in South Korea, with the amount

of infections nearly doubled in just 24 hours.

Our Paula Hancock shows us where the new cases are coming from.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): South Korea's massive spike in novel coronavirus cases can be linked to one religious group. Officials

say one member attended services in this building in the southern City of Daegu while infected.

Well over half of the country's cases now traced back to the Shincheonji group. Government officials have shut down religious services to stop the


HANCOCKS (on camera): Health officials say that they're trying to get in touch with every single member of this congregation. They say there's over

1,000, to try and stem this spike, but they admit that they are having difficulties. On Friday, they said that they are still trying to get hold

of 57 people.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): A five minutes' drive away is a U.S. military base. U.S. forces Korea are restricting access on and off the base, non-essential

travel to the city has been prohibited.


COLONEL EDWARD J. BALLANCO, U.S. ARMY GARRISION DAEGU COMMANDER: The nice thing is, because we can be secluded from the general population, people

are more safe on our base than they are off the base.

HANCOCKS (on camera): I mean, what's morale like? How is everyone feeling on base being shut in there?

BALLANCO: People are nervous. They're spooked. You know if somebody is sick near them, they're very nervous.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Three South Korean military personnel have been confirmed to have the virus elsewhere in the country, but all have links

back to Daegu. The mayor has asked everyone to wear a mask and stay indoors if they can.

HANCOCKS (on camera): So this is the city center of Daegu this is where all the shops, the restaurants, the bars are and I've been here before in a

weekend and it has been packed. This is early Friday evening. And there are very few people here, which shows that people are either staying at home or

making sure they are not in a crowd.

Are you worried?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me and my mother and parents, friends are worried, very worried. It's dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): Its very shocking, because it's spreading from just one small group of people.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): The government has designated Daegua and neighboring Cheongdo special care zones, meaning more doctors and funds will be

provided. With the focus shifting now from trying to prevent the virus entering the country to stemming the spread that's within.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Daegu South Korea.


NOBILO: The coronavirus outbreak is hitting automakers hard. Nissan is being forced to delay the reopening of plants in China closed to the

epicenter of the outbreak as it watches profits plummet. A Chinese industry group says passenger car sells their plans 92 percent through the first

half of February, and investors obviously don't like the uncertainty. The Dow, S&P and NASDAQ all closed in the red on Friday and recorded a weekly


Millions of people in Iran headed out to vote in parliamentary elections on Friday. It comes as the country's health ministry confirmed 18 coronavirus

cases and four deaths. Polling stations were open until midnight after authorities extended voting hours to accommodate the crowds.

There were concerns that fears over the virus spreading could affect turnout. Casting the first ballot of the day, Iran's Supreme Leader urged

people that voting in the countries was in the country's national interest. I spoke with CNN's Fred Pleitgen and asked him what this election could

mean for the future of Iran and for the country on the international stage.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Bianca, well, there are a lot of people who are calling this election, a

pivotal election because it certainly could sway things more towards conservative forces here in this country.

It's one of the things that we've seen in the run up to the election is that the conservatives seem to have a little more momentum than the

moderates leading up to this. So, a lot of it has to do with the fact that the popularity of Hassan Rouhani, the President has gone down, has shrank

over the past couple of years, the past couple of months, especially due to the very harsh policies of the Trump administration, because of the maximum

sanctions policy of the Trump administration a lot of people are very angry.

A lot of people that we've been talking to in polling places say that's one of the reasons why they came out, is because of this maximum pressure

policy and because they want to confront the United States as they put it with their vote.

Now, of course, we know that Hassan Rouhani was someone who was trying to keep the nuclear agreement, for instance, alive. It was the agreement that

his administration brokered between the United States and various other countries and it's hanging on by a thread. Its conservatives here in this

country, were very critical of that nuclear agreement, and some of them have called for that nuclear agreement to go away.

Now, it's unclear whether or not that would actually happen because of course, the main authority here in this country you remains Iran's supreme

leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But the parliament certainly also can set certain things and move policy in a certain direction.

For instance, the Speaker of Parliament becomes a very conservative figure, then that that can have an effect and lead Iran to maybe not have a more

confrontational role in the world, but certainly have a more confrontational goal towards the United States. Bianca.


NOBILO: Thanks. Thanks Fred Pleitgen there for us in Tehran.

Just hours ago, the U.S. and Taliban began a planned week of reduced violence across Afghanistan, aiming to sign the agreement at the end of it.

If that happens, other Afghan parties, including the government will begin their own talks with the Taliban.

The U.S. is eventually aiming for a full peace deal and the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. Earlier I asked CNN's Nic Robertson, how is

the reduction in violence supposed to be measured? And what does it tell us about a potential wider peace deal.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, Bianca that really is one of the key questions here for the Afghan government. And as

recently as just a few days ago, they were wondering exactly this, how is this to be implemented? How is it to be monitored? And what happens if the

Taliban transgress.

Remembering, of course, that the Afghan government wasn't part of the U.S. - Taliban talk, so that's - you know, that puts, if you will, the Afghan

government at a little bit of a disadvantage. They have questions that that are quite specific and quite varied. You know, what happens if the Taliban

set up a checkpoint that's a few hundred meters from an Afghan Government checkpoint? How should that be handled? How should it be an interpreted?


But what they feel at the moment is and the Afghan government will have a hand in monitoring this reduction in violence, that's what they understand

at the moment. That there will be a sort of a matrix applied and they'll watch it over the coming three days. And if the Taliban transgress, then

they are expecting that there would be a response of some kind.

But this does get to you know, the second part of your question, as what does this mean going forward? And the fact that this reduction in violence,

the monitoring, and the control of it, if you will, hasn't been sort of really specifically hashed out, at least for the Afghan government

satisfaction does give a big area of ambiguity.

And that's that ambiguity and concern is enhanced for the Afghan government, if you will, by the fact that what they're seeing and what some

Western officials who monitor Taliban communications tell me as well, is what they're saying is they don't see and they haven't seen the Taliban

over the last weeks or even months, telling their forces to expect this reduction in violence.

So there's a real concern that the, the Taliban will take this and try to sort of milk it for a propaganda advantage, and maybe even try to take

advantage militarily. So I think the best way to analyze this at the moment is with a large dose of caution. There is an opportunity here, there are a

myriad, many more pitfalls along the way, Bianca


NOBILO: Thanks to Nic Robertson.

The Prime Minister of the Lesotho was a no show for his court date on Friday. But he was expected to be charged with the murder of his ex-wife.

She was killed in 2017. The Prime Minister's current wife has already been charged and is out on bail. CNN's David McKenzie has more.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A very public wedding for the Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and First Lady

Maesaiah made possible by a very sorted crime.

Just days before his inauguration in 2017, the Prime Minister's estranged wife, Lipolelo was gunned down outside her home, clearing the way for

Maesaiah. Now after spending weeks on the run, the current First Lady charged with murdering the former First Lady and attempting to murder her

friend, she's here to plead. The scandal forcing the 80 year old Prime Minister out.

THOMAS THABANE, LESOTHO PRIME MINISTER: I wish to, with all humility, announce that I effectively retire as Prime Minister.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Thabane faces and even bigger threat. He was supposed to be in court Friday facing the same murder charges.

MCKENZIE (on camera): Why do you think the Prime Minister didn't arrive today? We're hearing that he said--

MCKENZIE (voice-over): He was a no-show. Thabane's office claiming that he rushed to South Africa for a medical emergency, he denies any part in the

crime. A closed aid though to the Prime Minister told us that on the eve of his hearing, he was in fact healthy and ready to fight.

The police chief says his phone was used to call a person at the scene of the murder.

MCKENZIE (on camera): Do you think you have a strong case?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do have a strong case against him.

MCKENZIE (on camera): You've attached his phone to the scene of the crime. What else do you have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Other evidence which is admissible and relevant.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): This impoverished mountain kingdom is ruled by a tiny sliver of wealth and power and many Lesotho--


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Were too nervous to talk to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know anything.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): And unsure if justice will be served.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's pretty absurd for him at that level to do that and think the people are just going to do nothing about it.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Police and prosecutors are confident that they will get their woman and their man. Thabane's office says he will appear in

court once his medical treatment is complete. They just have to get into court first. David McKenzie, CNN, Maseru Lesotho.

NOBILO: Deliberations are set to resume Monday morning in Harvey Weinstein trial. After the judge dismissed the jury for the day. Jurors indicated

that they couldn't reach a unanimous verdict on two of the most serious sexual assault counts which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. The

judge told the jury to continue to deliberate.

Much more to come on "The Brief." when we return anger and frustration in Mexico where protesters say the government is doing a little brutal

violence against women.




NOBILO: There's anger on the streets of Mexico and protests against the disturbing trend of violence against women. One report found that femicide,

the killing of a woman or girl, because of her gender has increased 60 percent in Mexico City in the past year. Much of the anger is directed at

the president.

Protesters through red paint at the presidential palace last week, complaining the government is not doing enough. Two tragic events have

sparked the protests. 25 year old Ingrid Escamilla was murdered by her husband. Who stabbed, skinned and disemboweled her. A local newspaper

published gruesome photos of the crime, fueling yet more outrage.

And then there's seven year old Fatima Anton who was kidnapped from her school and tortured to death. Two people have been arrested in that case.

Paulina Villegas covers Mexico for "The New York Times," and has written extensively about the recent protests and anger. And she joins me for

today's debrief. Paulina, thank you for joining us. Good to have you on the program.


NOBILO: Let's begin with trying to understand what the motives are here behind the femicides that we're seeing in Mexico. Could you expand on that

for us?

VILLEGAS: Yes, I think it's very important to say that femicide, the murder of a woman because of her gender is many times the last step of the last

part of the chain of different types and forms of violence against women.

What we've been seeing in the past few days and weeks with the outcry and outpour of outrage, because of these two brutal cases have been, of course

based and focused on femicides themselves, but also against other types of violence. We're talking about sexual harassment. We're talking about

domestic abuse, gender inequality and, again, it's all encapsulated in the violence against the woman, and especially, of course, the rising numbers

of femicides.

Now, when we ask about what is causing the rising number of deaths against women, there were very various factors to consider. We also have to talk

and we must say that Mexico's going through an epidemic of violence and unprecedented levels of violence of murders, and of course, its also

affected women. So it's important to take into account all of this and seeing that there is a deep social demand to stop this and find solutions.

NOBILO: Clearly, there is and we can see evidence of that in the protest, all of us can see some visuals from them on their screens. But that being

said, as you mentioned, that there is a surge of violence that we're seeing in the country, but also there must be a cultural context which is

contributing to femicide in particular. So what are the factors? What are the norms, the traditional aspects of society? What else here is

contributing to this problem in particular?


VILLEGAS: Yes, as you will say, there is a specific cultural context in which the femicide and the violence is happening. We can't forget that this

is a country with culturally entrenched machismo and attitudes and beliefs and ideas behind that misogyny, sexism, all this fuels into the machismo

and the violence that sometimes ends up in the killing and the murder of a woman.

But you see it, as I was mentioning, in in many other ways, again, in police sexual abuse, sexual harassment at the workplace, at universities,

and the context in which this has happened for decades and years, is and has been of acceptance. People - women and men, of course, enabling this

permitting this, allowing this to happen and seeing it in a normalized way.

And this has been changing lately. What we're seeing, I think, is a shift in paradigm a younger generation of women out in the streets saying this is

not normal. This should not be happening. We're not going to let this happening anymore and that's why, you know, their more confrontational

stance and the sharper demands to the government of concrete, more effective mobile here and actions and solutions.

NOBILO: So what can be done because taking that cultural context into account, it doesn't sound like something which is necessarily going to be

not solved, but even much improved by a top down approach, because it's so much more than that. But what can Congress, what can the President do to

try and ameliorate this unspeakably violent issue?

VILLEGAS: I think many, many things can be done. And it has to come, the response and the actions from all sectors of society, which I think is what

we're seeing this few days - in the past few days and months and a couple of years actually, which is so interesting.

There is a government, institutional response, which of course has to do with policy, with listening and taking to the consideration of the feminist

collectives, the organization, the women's rights groups that have been fighting and working on this issues for decades and that has to be

incorporated in policy of course.

And when we talk about society, there has to be and I think it is happening, this is reckoning moment of acknowledgement that this is severe.

That is a very serious problem. Again, it's not new. This has been happening for four decades. But once you understand, no matter where you

come from, no matter what your background, that this is happening and this is an issue that affects us all. That's when change happen - changes


And I think that's, again, what we're seeing right now. Other and more and more people joining, endorsing, supporting the cause, and we can see it in

the national strike that's been called for the 9th of March, business companies, different political forces joining and weighing in and saying

this - this is the moment for all of us to join forces and take concrete actions.

NOBILO: Paulina Villegas thank you very much for joining us. We'll continue to monitor your reporting. We appreciate you joining the show.

VILLEGAS: Thank you so much.

NOBILO: The U.S. government has hit Wells Fargo with a $3 billion fine for its fake account scandal. The settlement resolves the bank's criminal and

civil liabilities in the scandal, but it does not remove threat of prosecution against current and former employees. As part of the deal,

Wells Fargo admitted to falsifying bank records and misusing customer's personal information.

When "The Brief" returns, from China to Las Vegas to war torn Syria, it's been another week of nonstop news. We will bring you right up to date with

our "Week in Brief."



NOBILO: It's been another nonstop week of news. Let's bring up to date with all that happened. Coronavirus dominated the headlines once again as

authorities around the world tried to contain the spread. More than 76,000 people have now been infected globally, with 2200 deaths.

In the U.S., the Democratic primary race went into overdrive and a 78 year old new kid on the block Mike Bloomberg was in the firing line during

Wednesday's debate. And ahead of November's vote. U.S. intelligence officials told lawmakers that Russia is interfering to get Donald Trump

reelected drawing the eerie of the President.

Roger Stone, longtime confidant of President Trump was sentenced to 40 months in jail for lying to Congress and witness tampering.

In Syria and other brutal offensive in Idlib is creating a humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands of people flee the lost opposition held

area in the country.

And in Germany, nine people were killed in a xenophobic terror attack. Angela Merkel said the gum appeared to have acted out of right-wing

extremist racist motives.

And next time you see me I'll be in a snazzy new CNN studio. So I'll be rehearsing with the team next week, You can be sure I don't bring you too

many more bloopers. You will be in the capable hands of Cyril Vanier. Until then, have a great week.