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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Downing Street Sue Gray Report; Ukraine UNSC Meeting; Italian Re- elects President. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired January 31, 2022 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London.

Tonight, British civil servant Sue Gray releases an update on her highly anticipated Downing Street party-gate report -- as the London police

receive new evidence for their own investigation.

Then, the U.N. Security Council meets about Ukraine as the West tries to put more diplomatic pressure on Russia. We're live in Kyiv.

And what's old is new again. Italy re-elects what should have been its departing president. We break down why, ahead.

London police say they've now received hundreds of photographs and documents from the U.K.'s cabinet office as they investigate the Downing

Street party-gate scandal. The new evidence came even as civil servant Sue Gray released her much anticipated interim report on the controversy that's

engulfing prime minister Boris Johnson. The report addresses multiple gatherings at 10 Downing Street and the cabinet office during lockdown.

It's unveiled what's being described as a culture of excessive drinking and found a serious, quote, failure of leadership by Mr. Johnson's government.

As we reported extensively, the parties in question all happened while the rest of the country was observing tough COVID restrictions.

Hours after the report came out, Prime Minister Johnson faced MPs in parliament and said he's sorry.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It isn't enough to say sorry. This is a moment when we must look at ourselves in the mirror and we must learn.

And while the metropolitan police must yet complete their investigation, and that means there are no details of specific events in Sue Gray's

report, I, of course, accept Sue Gray's general findings in full, and above all her recommendation that we must learn from these events and act now.


NOBILO: The Sue Gray report was almost two months in the making and follows a drip feed of media reports. The opposition leader Keir Starmer

has repeatedly called out the government's double standards in what he's called a betrayal of the British people.

Today, he had strong words about the public's trust in their leader.


KEIR STARMER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Prime Minister, the British public aren't fools. They never believed a word of it. They think the prime

minster should do the decent thing and resign.

Of course, he won't, because he is a man without shame. And just as he's done throughout his life, he's damaged everyone and everything around him

along the way.


NOBILO: Even with the Sue Gray report, we don't know everything about the gatherings. Many details were left out because the police still

investigated. It could take as long as a year to find out those results.

Alastair Campbell was director of Communications for former Prime Minister Tony Blair and is a prolific author, strategist, and consultant. And he

joins me now live from London.

Alastair, good to see you. Last time we were talking I think it was the last Tory leadership crisis. So, great to have you on the program.


NOBILO: If this met report takes around a year to be published or to be finalized, rather, can we really wait that long for resolution on this

issue that's paralyzing government and U.K. politics?

CAMPBELL: That's the first I've heard that anybody's expecting this to take a year. I think that what happened today was utterly damning for Boris

Johnson. And even though he thinks he's got through today, I think his leadership is pretty much over.

What you saw today was confirmation of the fact that he misled the House of Commons. Now, Boris Johnson, his whole life he has contaminated pretty much

everything he touches. But misleading the House of Commons, even though he's done it before, on this one, because it has cut through to the public

because so many millions of people did actually do the right thing, obeyed the rules, the lockdown laws.

And Johnson having gone from one excuse, one denial, one piece of obfuscation to the next, I think today was this day where there was

literally nowhere else to go with this. So, yes, he's bought hymn a little more time by saying the police have to investigate, but he's already been

to rights (ph), I'm afraid. And even if -- even if he's not the person who come out of his worst in terms of criminal investigations, he's on his

watch, it's in Downing Street. And most importantly, he lied in parliament about events inside Downing Street during lockdown.

So I think he's done for, and these conservative MPs, this is the tragedy at the moment. They're the only people who could decide to get him out, and

some of them clearly want to and said so publicly. Others are biding their time and making political calculations.

But I and the country is disgusted, and I think the world is just looking on at Britain and thinking, what the hell has happened to this country?


NOBILO: I spoke to a member of the 22 committee earlier who says that the meeting the prime minster had with back benches was broadly supportive of

the prime minster, so I do wonder if it's possible that he gets through this, or to what you were just saying, Alastair, what will be the straw

that breaks the camel's back? Because obviously with Boris Johnson, scandal and rule breaking are prized in. So what will be the final thing that he

does which will tip them over the edge and make the letters reach that threshold?

CAMPBELL: Well, I don't know. And, you know, I despair at the state of our -- of the party of government. I literally do despair of it. You see these

people -- we've probably got the worst prime minster we've ever had, the worst cabinet eve ever had.

Some of the MPs who come out speaking in favor of Boris Johnson, you can't believe this is the parliament we have. So, I don't know is the honest

answer. But I think that if we are to reestablish ourselves as a serious country with serious politics then they've got to get a grip of this. And I

think that our system has always depended on the idea that when push comes to shove for all the kind of rough and tumble of politics and the fact that

people campaign very hard and very push hard, sometimes right at the edges, that ultimately people trust each other to be decent and honorable, and

what we're seeing with Boris Johnson, he's somebody who's utterly incapable of being decent and honorable.

Today was a classic example. One minute he's saying sorry and hanging his head, and the next minute, he's making ridiculous accusations against the

leader of the Labor Party, about Jimmy Savile. I mean, it's -- he's a disgrace. And I just -- I just feel ashamed to be British when he's

representing our country. I really do. I think it's a shameful disgusting figure.

NOBILO: I don't know how well you know the prime minster. You could tell us. You have been a keen observer of him over the years.

Do you think he thinks he can get through this because we do know from his books and from all the biographies of him that he does have a sense of

self-belief which is quite something?

CAMPBELL: It is, and I think he probably does. I think that, you know, one of the things about Boris Johnson -- I think he -- it's almost like he

loves getting into difficult situations. It shows that he can get out of them.

He's not motivated by the -- you know, what the good public service, he's not motivated by what's happening in Afghanistan, what's happening in

Ukraine. That's not what gets him motivated. What gets him motivated is himself and the situation he's in.

You know -- and okay, Dominic Cummings, his former right-hand man may not be the most reliable of sources, but there's something -- he did an

interview with the "New York Times" over the weekend essentially saying that Johnston sees himself not as a prime minster but as a king. It's how

he thinks of himself.

I've got known him for a long time. Not well, but I've known him. We were both journalists together. When I worked in Downing Street he was a

journalist, and then London mayor. I mean, I have watched him.

I've got to admit, I don't see the appeal. I don't see it on any level. I accept that some people do, otherwise he wouldn't have won the referendum

and wouldn't have become prime minister.

But I do think we've either got as a country to understand the particular challenges the world faces at the moment, politics and being prime minister

is incredibly serious, or we just give up and say, let's just elect a comedian. And I honestly do despair watching what's happening at the


The situation today on Ukraine -- on the one hand, he stands up there and says he's putting together the coalition to take on Vladimir Putin. Biden

and Macron must listen to that and say, what planet is he on? He had to cancel a call with Putin because he was dealing with the aftermath of this

report, going off to charm his MPs.

And he's very charming and he's very funny and he can do all that stuff. But I honestly think these conservative MPs, if they keep clinging on to

him the way they are, I think they're all done for. Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, the sooner the better.

NOBILO: Yeah, it's unquestionably going a lot of damage to the (INAUDIBLE) brand.

Alistair Campbell, thanks so much for joining us this evening. I appreciate it.

CAMPBELL: Thank you. Bye.

NOBILO: Prime Minister Johnson is also tackling another crisis further from home. As we were just talking about, he is set to travel to Ukraine on

Tuesday to help try to de-escalate the most dangerous standoff between the West and Russia in decades. The U.N. Security Council discussed Russia's

massive troop buildup around Ukraine today and the threat of a possible invasion. The U.S. ambassador says Russia's aggression strikes at the very

heart of the U.N. charter, urging the world to act before it's too late.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: If Russia further invades Ukraine, none of us will be able to say we didn't see it coming.

and the consequences will be horrific, which is why this meeting is so important today.


What would it mean for the world if former empires had license to start reclaiming former territory by force? This would set us down a dangerous



NOBILO: Russia's ambassador insists Moscow has no plans to invade, saying there is no proof of that whatsoever. He accused the West of, quote,

brainwashing Ukrainians with the constant talk of war.


VASSILY NEBENZIA, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N. (through translator): They themselves are whipping up tensions and rhetoric and are provoking

escalation. The discussions about a threat of war is provocative in and of itself. You are almost calling for this. You want it to happen. You're

waiting for it to happen as if you want to make your words become a reality.


NOBILO: But Britain's deputy ambassador urged the council to remember history when listening to Russia claimed that its troops posed no threat.


JAMES KARIUKI, BRITISH DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO U.N: In 2008, Russia told this council that it was sending peacekeepers into Georgia. In

reality, it was invading an independent democratic country.

In 2014, Russia denied to this council the presence of its forces in Crimea. In reality, its soldiers were annexing part of an independent

Democratic Ukraine.


NOBILO: Our Matthew Chance is in Kyiv.

Matthew, we'll get to the U.N. Security meeting in just a moment, but first, just in to CNN, we're hearing that Ukrainian police arrested a group

that were planning violent protest near the presidential palace. What more do you know about that?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's what the interior ministry security forces have been saying, this was a protest

planned for today, actually, and the arrests were made yesterday. Protests that would have involved thousands of people outside the presidential

office here in Kyiv. There was going to be apparently provocations of the police to provoke them into violence to try to spark off some instability

in the capital.

But what's more, the authorities say there were other similar planned protests being organized in other cities around the country as well. And so

it seems to have been something of a nationwide plot, at least that's how it was characterized by the Ukrainian interior minister.

Well, within the past few hours, CNN has learned that one of the organizers, the main organizer of these protests, you know, has been said

to have strong links with Russian-backed rebels in the east of the country. Now, I have to caveat that by saying that, look, the Ukrainians are

constantly saying that Russia is behind various subversive acts to destabilize the country, whether it's criminality or political unrest.

And, you know, in this instance, they haven't got any direct evidence of Russian involvement, but they do have what they say are these strong links

of the organizer to Russia-backed rebels in the east. They're carrying out interrogations now. They say they're looking for more evidence.

But the suspicion in this country is this was an attempt by Russia to destabilize the political situation in the country. The interior ministry -

- I've spoken to a senior official tonight. The deputy minister, in fact. He said, look, Russia is constantly trying to do that. But if this was

Russia, then it was the most serious attempt by far they've seen by an outside country to stabilize Ukraine.

NOBILO: And, Matthew, back to the U.N. Security Council meeting today. That, of course, was a potential diplomatic opportunity or a way for the

west to try to temper down some of Russia's maximalist demands.

Did it -- did it move the dial at all?

CHANCE: It's not clear the diplomatic effort is going to produce any results. It's probably not going to -- the U.N. Security Council, where, of

course, Russia has a veto.

And the Ukrainians, from their point of view, they have been positive in recent days about a possibility of a diplomatic solution. They've engaged,

of course, directly with Russia in negotiations about cease-fire and things like that in the Donbas, which is the area of Ukraine, which is run by

Russian-backed rebels. And there's some optimism in Ukrainian officials. In fact, the diplomacy between the Russia and United States still has some

distance to run as well.

But in terms of that U.N. debate, the Ukrainians not changing their position, basically saying they favor a diplomatic solution.

Take a listen to what the ambassador had to say.



SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Ukraine will not bow to threats aimed at weakening Ukraine, undermining its economic and

financial stability, and inciting public frustration. This will not happen, and the Kremlin must remember that Ukraine is ready to defend itself.

At the same time, we support the need to keep diplomatic channels with Russia open.


CHANCE: They want to keep diplomatic channels open, but they say they are ready to defend themselves. But I think what we are seeing here is a real

difference of opinion between what the Ukrainians believe is the nature of the threat -- they don't think it's imminent at all and, of course, what

the United Nations -- what the United States says is a very real, very imminent threat of conflict coming from the Russian side.

NOBILO: Matthew Chance in Kyiv. Good to talk to you. Thank you.

After the break, it was a busy weekend for European politics. We'll explain the possible consequences of Portugal and Italy's elections.


NOBILO: It was a busy weekend for European politics. Portugal's socialist party has secured an absolute majority in a parliamentary snap election.

That gives Prime Minister Antonio Costa a third consecutive term. The election was called in the November when Acosta failed to pass a budget

bill. The result came as a surprise after recent opinion polls suggested that the socialist had lost most of their advantage.

Meantime in Italy, the current Sergio Mattarella has agreed to serve a second term after lawmakers failed to choose a compromised replacement.

Prior to the election, Mr. Mattarella made it clear he was not seeking re- election, but after seven failed rounds of voting, the 80-year-old lead party leader agreed to keep the post, saying he feels a sense of


For a better understanding of the outcome of both of these elections, CNN's Vasco Cotovio joins me now.

Vasco, let's start with Portugal, your native land, of course. Were these the results that we expected and what does it mean for the country?

VASCO COTOVIO, CNN PRODUCER: Well, we certainly didn't expect this. The best case scenario for the socialist party going into this election was

maybe a small majority and having to align themselves with one or two parties either on the center or left. Now, this gives the prime minster

free reign to spend the billions of dollars that are coming in from foreign aid for the European union from the reconstruction post pandemic.

He has said that he wants to negotiate with other parties outside of his own, but the Portuguese are very skeptical of outright majorities like this

one. Usually they lead to isolationist governments that don't tend to reach out to other parties.

Costa promised something different. He said absolute majority does not mean absolute power. And he vowed to reach out to other parties with exception

of the far right party, which has become the third largest political force in parliament.


NOBILO: And now, let's go to Italy. Sergio Mattarella, who did not intend to resume his position, is he going to be a temporary person in that post,

or is this more of a long-term thing?

COTOVIO: Well, if I was him, I'd certainly hope so. He is 80 years old, as we mentioned. He did not want to do this anymore. He wanted to proceed with

his life, carry on, do other projects. And he only stayed on because he was asked to.

One politician actually said, we begged him to stay, because he's this unifying figure in Italian politics. So, he stayed on under the idea that

he would carry on for a few more years but then stepping a side and letting someone else take his place. One of the scenarios being put forward in

Italy is that potentially in the general election of 2023, when there's a different government, potentially one with renewed support, a renewed

mandate, that they are able to put forward a candidate that has more support from the parties in power, potentially Mario Draghi, the current

prime minister can take the role and Mattarella can finally be allowed to retire.

NOBILO: Vasco Cotovio, thank you very much for joining us, and on set, too. Very exciting.

Let's take a look at the other key stories making international impact today.

Mali has given France's ambassador 72 hours to get out of the country. Mali's new military junta is expelling the ambassador because France's

foreign minister said Mali's military is, quote, out of control. Relations between the two countries have deteriorated rapidly since the military

refused to hold elections.

Rwanda has reopened a keyboarder crossing with Uganda that's been closed for three years. Officials from both sides hailed the resumption of trade

that slowed to a crawl amid allegations of espionage and meddling on both sides.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has tested positive for COVID-19, but he says that he's feeling fine and will continue to work

remotely this week. The prime minster's family is now isolating at an undisclosed location even as a massive anti-vaccine protest by truckers

continues for its third day in Ottawa.

And still to come tonight, controversy swirls around podcast host Joe Rogan. I'll bring you the latest on Spotify's response to claims of COVID

misinformation, and we'll discuss if it's enough.


NOBILO: Joe Rogan has stirred up controversy for enabling guests to spread misinformation on his Spotify show, "The Joe Rogan Experience". So, now,

the streaming service says it will add a content advisory to any episodes that include a discussion of COVID-19.

This come after musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell removed their music from Spotify in protest. Take a listen to what Rogan said on Instagram.


JOE ROGAN, HJOST, "THE JOE ROGAN EXPERIENCE": If there's anything that I've done that I could do better is have more experts with differing

opinions right after I have to controversial ones. My pledge to you is that I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial



NOBILO: Joining me now with the latest is Oliver Darcy in New York.

Oliver, welcome to the program. Good to have you on THE BRIEF.

There's obviously been a lot of conversation about the responsibility of social media platforms regarding monitoring COVID misinformation, but a lot

less for content distribution platforms like Spotify. So, what responsibility was Spotify have for this third party content?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REOPRTER: Yeah, Bianca. I think Spotify knows it does have some responsibility when it comes to policing its

platform for COVID misinformation, and we know that because they have said publicly that they did remove about 20,000 or so episodes related to --

because of COVID misinformation.


So they have removed things in the past because of COVID misinformation. The question is what they do with regards to Joe Rogan. And so, I think

it's important for people to keep in mind how popular he is and how much money Spotify is paying the host his podcast exclusively.

That's about $100 million according to a report that they have paid him, and his podcast is not even -- it's the number one podcast in the world.

It's by far outranking anything else.

And so when it comes to that kind of platform, I think you're seeing critics say, you know, you have this big platform. You shouldn't be giving

it and handing it over to anti-vaxxers, and you need to be more responsible with how you use it.

NOBILO: And this prompted -- well, this was prompted after several musicians said on the platform that they'd remove their music.

And James Blunt even jokingly said that he'd release more music if the platform don't remove Rogan -- very sweet and self-deprecating.

Do you think Spotify's new guidelines are going to be enough to satisfy those who spoke out? Joe Rogan sounded quite conciliatory as well, like he

really going to make an effort.

DARCY: Yeah, I'm not really sure it's going quell critics very much, because it's not really a huge step. It's a very tiny baby step. They said

they're going to put a content advisory on podcasts that talk about COVID and basically redirect people to a COVID health hub with authoritative

sources. Not really a giant step, and Rogan himself said he's going to balance out these contrarian voices as people spouting anti-vaccine

rhetoric with more authoritative voices at the end. Maybe have one interview with one of these people and then have another with a

authoritative person reflecting the public health opinion.

I'm not really sure that's quell critics, because it sort of represents a false equivalence between the two, between someone machine who's, you know,

voicing things way outside the public health consensus and then having someone come on and say, vaccines, you know, you should take one because

it's going to protect your health and public health. I'm not really sure that's going to be been enough to quell critics, but, you know, we'll see.

NOBILO: Yeah, the false equivalency is a very good point.

Oliver Darcy, great to have you on the show. Thanks so much.

DARCY: Thank you.

NOBILO: And thank you all for watching. We'll see you again tomorrow. Good-bye.