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Republicans Says No to Immigration Deal; President Biden Reassure Supporters in Nevada; Trash Left by Heavy Storm in California; U.S. Strike Targets in Syria; Inferno Engulfed Chile; Protesters Reacts to Namibia's President's Decision; New Namibian Interim Vice President Sworn In; Fans Disappointed of Lionel Messi Staying in Bench; Taylor Swift Broke Another Record. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired February 05, 2024 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States, and all around the world and streaming us on CNN Max. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, one step forward on immigration, two steps back. The House speaker says a bipartisan Senate compromise on border security will be dead on arrival in the Republican controlled chamber.

President Joe Biden says U.S. strikes on Iran-backed rebels have been successful and could continue. What's next in the U.S. response to rising tensions in the Middle East? We'll discuss.

And California grapples with extreme weather as heavy rain and strong winds bring power outages and potentially deadly flooding.

UNKNOWN: Live from Atlanta, this is CNN Newsroom with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Good to have you with us. And we begin this hour in Washington, where U.S. senators unveiled the details of a highly anticipated border bill on Sunday. It could dramatically change U.S. immigration law for the first time in decades.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will take the first procedural step today. But House Speaker Mike Johnson says it will be dead on arrival, tweeting, quote, "I've seen enough. This bill is even worse than we expected."

The $118 billion bipartisan package would empower the U.S. to significantly restrict illegal migrant crossings at the southern border. It also includes critical aid for Ukraine and Israel. U.S. President Joe Biden says he strongly supports the deal.

More now from CNN's Priscilla Alvarez who's following Joe Biden on the campaign trail.


brought his general election argument to Nevada on Sunday as he tried to draw a connection between his administration's accomplishments and what voters are feeling in the state. Of course, it's an important state as the president stares down November, one that he only narrowly won in 2020 and especially important as polls show a close contest nationally between President Biden and his Republican opponent.

Of course, all of this happening as news broke of a deal that was struck in the Senate that would address the U.S.-Mexico border. Only minutes before the White House releasing a statement saying the following, quote, "for too long, going back decades, the immigration system has been broken. It's time to fix it." It goes on to say, "now we've reached an agreement on a bipartisan national security deal that includes the toughest and fairest set of border reforms in decades. I strongly support it."

Now, of course, White House officials had been involved in these ongoing talks to make major border policy changes. They include in this deal, for example, a new emergency authority that would give the president the ability to shut down the border if certain metrics are met while also expediting the asylum process.

Now all of this is still up for debate and the Senate leader Chuck Schumer plans to set up a floor vote this week but already House Speaker Mike Johnson is coming out against it. Saying that even if it were to reach the House it would already be dead on arrival. Meaning that the future of this deal is still very much up in the air.

Priscilla Alvarez, traveling with the President, CNN.


CHURCH: And we are looking ahead to Nevada's state-run Democratic primary on Tuesday. U.S. President Joe Biden is in the state rallying supporters by touting his economic accomplishments in office, saying he is someone who can get things done in contrast to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In 2020, I ran because I thought everything this country stood for, everything we believed in, everything that made America, America was at risk. I think people thought that maybe I was being hyperbolic about that. I'd say, they'd say, Joe, what do you mean our democracy is at risk? What do you mean we're in the battle for the soul of America?

Well, they may not understand, but the people understood it. They don't say that anymore. Just think back to the mess Donald Trump left this country in. The pandemic was raging. The economy is reeling. Look how far we've come because of you.


CHURCH: Trump will not be on Nevada's state-run Republican primary on Tuesday, so that vote will be non-binding. The state's Republican Party, which is controlled by Trump loyalists, has opted to award its delegates two days later through caucuses instead.


His Republican opponent, Nikki Haley, who won't be on Nevada's Thursday caucus, will not be eligible to be awarded any delegates. She is speaking to supporters in South Carolina, explaining why she is a much more qualified candidate than Trump. Take a listen.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump lost in '18. He lost in 2020. He lost in 2022. How many times do we have to lose before we realize there's something wrong with that picture? You got to acknowledge the fact he can't win a general election. So, you can vote for him all day long and he can come out of this primary, but he won't win a general.


CHURCH: Natasha Lindstaedt, professor of government at the University of Essex joins me now from Colchester in England. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So, the bipartisan border bill was released Sunday evening. President Joe Biden saying it will make America safer and that doing nothing is not an option, but Republicans are set to reject it at the direction of Donald Trump. House Speaker Mike Johnson insisting the bill is dead on arrival even before seeing the text.

Why are conservatives doing this after complaining that the Biden administration isn't doing enough to prevent chaos at the southern U.S. border?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, for Republicans, immigration is one of the most important issues that will help them do well in the election with other Republicans and other conservatives. If you go see any kind of right-wing media, Fox News, et cetera, you see that they're focusing on immigration and that it's out of control and that there are all kinds of people coming into the country and all kinds of issues with immigration. And they can't have this issue be resolved.

If this issue is resolved, that doesn't bring that rallying cry of bringing people to the polls that Republicans need for this election. I mean, we found that in the 2022 midterms, Fox News was focusing constantly on this caravan of immigrants that were supposedly coming up from Latin America and bringing diseases and all kinds of other issues and problems. And then as soon as the midterms were over, they never focused on the caravan again.

So, for Republicans, they feel that if they resolve this issue, that's going to take away one of the biggest things that galvanizes Republicans and those that are fearful of the immigration issue to vote for Republicans on election day.

CHURCH: So, who will the voters likely blame if Republicans block this bill? And do American voters take notice of who's responsible for killing off massive reforms like this?

LINDSTAEDT: I think if you were just to look at Republican voters themselves, they may feel like they are in agreement with Mike Johnson, that the bill is not tough enough. They may be feeling that only 20 billion for the border security is not enough and giving much more to Ukraine is too much.

So they may be in line with what the Republican narratives are saying. Now, for the Democrats, immigration is not the biggest issue. They're focusing on other things, and they're going to continue to be angered by the way the Republicans are behaving, particularly in the House on issues that are important to everyday Americans and the fact that they're basically paralyzing Congress so that it isn't doing anything.

Now, the big question is how does this play with independents? And it's really hard to know. We do know that for independent voters, the most important issue is really the economy and not immigration, but immigration is important to some of them.

So, they may feel that this is a ploy by Republicans and it's not really helpful, or they may be in line with the Republican viewpoint that it's not strong enough.

CHURCH: And a new NBC poll shows Donald Trump leading President Biden by a wide margin on the issue of border security, 57 percent to 22 percent, despite Trump threatening to block this border security bill that would apparently fix most problems at the border.

And the same NBC poll also shows Trump narrowly beating the president in a hypothetical rematch, 47 to 42 percent despite the economy improving and solutions being offered to solve border security as we've just discussed.

So why can't Democrats get their messaging right on these achievements that appear to be going unnoticed and what more do they need to be doing?

LINDSTAEDT: And they definitely need to be improving their ground game and to be selling the message better. As you mentioned the economy is actually doing much better. Inflation has cooled. They added 353,000 jobs in January. Unemployment is at 3.7 percent, under 4 percent for two years in a row. Stock market is doing well, growth is at 4.2 percent, but they don't seem to be able to communicate this because there's still issues when people go to the grocery store to buy groceries.


It's still too expensive and it's difficult to buy or sell a house. But we are seeing signs that the polls are improving. Surveys are improving for Biden on this front. Thirty-five percent think the economy is doing well now. Now that may not sound great, but that's a big improvement from a few months ago when it was only 28 percent.

So, the trend is moving upwards. And we're also seeing Biden focus on other issues that might be important, particularly to the democratic base, such as reproductive rights. And they're focusing on ads that look at the harsh abortion laws in the state of Texas, for example.

But these are going to have to do a lot to get out Several demographics that have really soured on him, particularly Hispanics, and this is key in the southwest of course, African American voters and young people. He's not doing as well with young people. And though they may not end up voting for Trump, they're not going to come to the polls.

So, the Democrats really have an uphill battle ahead, but the trends are moving in the positive direction for them.

CHURCH: And on the other side of the political equation, we see Nikki Haley is still working out there very hard in actual fact and she's up there against Donald Trump. Nobody else seems to want her in the race except the donors that are supporting her. How much longer can she keep plugging away do you think?

LINDSTAEDT: Really great question. I wonder if she will have to quit her campaign after South Carolina, that's her home state. That's a state that normally you would think she would win but she's down by 35 points in the polls there.

She may want to carry on because you never know what's going to happen with Trump. Will something happen that means that he will no longer be running? I mean, I think that's unlikely, but you really never know. He has all these different court battles coming up.

It may be that it's just personal that she likes getting under his skin and she seems to be able to do so because she feels that if she keeps staying in the race, that leads him to lash out. He may lash out in ways that alienates some of the female voters or more moderate voters of the Republican Party.

But I would expect that she would drop out soon after South Carolina. She claims that she won't, so we'll have to see what happens.

CHURCH: Yes. She seems to be enjoying herself for sure. Natasha Lindstaedt, thank you so much. I appreciate your analysis.

LINDSTAEDT: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: In the U.S., hundreds of thousands of people are without power after a storm lashed California with heavy rain and strong winds. Some cities are reissuing evacuation orders for low-lying areas, and at least one regional airport says it's shut down because its airfield is flooded.

Meantime, California's governor has declared a state of emergency in nearly 15 percent of its counties, and the National Weather Service says flash flood warnings are in effect for parts of Los Angeles and its surrounding areas. Local media tells CNN several neighborhoods north of San Francisco are

submerged in at least two to three feet of water and officials are urging residents not to travel unless they're trying to get out of harm's way.

Well joining us now is CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis with the very latest. Karen, what are you seeing right now?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Rosemary, I cannot understate just how powerful and impactful this will be across a broad swath of California over the next 24 to 48 hours. And I want to read this as I show you some images, this out of Marin County, California, that's along the North Bay, where downed trees, downed power lines, have had water rescues, have had hurricane force winds at times earlier in the day.

This is an image just to the south of San Luis Obispo, about 25 miles, where a gentleman, his car, is swamped. And Cal Fire has offered him a ladder to get away from that vehicle, which is clearly going to be swept away by these flood waters.

This came out, this that I'm about to read, a flash flood warning just about 30 minutes ago and they're saying that flash flood warning out for the Santa Monica Hills, Hollywood Hills, the cities of Malibu and Beverly Hills, southwestern portions of California until 9 a.m. local time. Between five and eight inches of rainfall has already occurred. Life threatening flash flooding and landslides will be produced by heavy rainfall.

This is a particularly dangerous situation. It certainly is because we only see a hand few -- a handful of days out of the year where we see an excessive rainfall risk that is the high level. And that is this area around Los Angeles and Long Beach. We go throughout the day.

Well, this high risk, where we could see as much as 10 inches of rainfall, one of those cities could be Pasadena, that could produce substantial flooding. This puts a lot of people in danger.

The area that right now is under that flash flood warning that I just told you about, more than five million people included in that.


You can imagine that the first responders across this region are really battling and staying alert as to what's going to happen over the next 24 to 48 hours, because this is so dangerous, this being that atmospheric river that is going to inundate California, produce heavy rainfall in these low-lying areas.

The mountains are looking at higher than normal snow levels, but you're going to see between two and four feet of snowfall before it's all said and done.

I'll be back at the top of the next hour, and we'll continue to update on this very, very dangerous situation. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes. And we appreciate that. Karen Maginnis joining us there.

Well, the Pentagon has released new video of the U.S. strikes against Houthis in Yemen. We will have that. Plus, what President Biden is saying about the strikes, next on CNN Newsroom.

Plus, we're still waiting for the final results from El Salvador's election, but the top presidential candidate supporters are already celebrating. We'll tell you why.



CHURCH: Two U.S. defense officials tell CNN the U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq over the weekend destroyed or damaged 84 of 85 targets. They also say a preliminary battle damage assessment indicates no Iranians were killed.

The strikes were retaliation for a drone attack in Jordan that killed three American soldiers.

U.S. Central Command released this new video of the weekend strikes in Yemen. The U.S. and U.K. struck 36 targets that they say were involved in attacks on international shipping.

Reporters traveling with U.S. President Joe Biden asked if the airstrikes against Iran-backed groups in the Middle East are disrupting their operations.


UNKNOWN: Are the strikes working, Mr. President?

UNKNOWN: Are the strikes working?

UNKNOWN: Are the air strikes working?



CHURCH: Journalist Elliott Gotkine joins us live with more on the situation. Good morning to you, Elliott.

So, with so much going on, what is the U.S. secretary of state expected to focus on and his travels there?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Rosemary, he's got four broad objectives as part of this trip. His fifth to the region since the Hamas terrorist attacks of October the 7th. One of them is to try to ensure there is no escalation of the war, which is still very much focused on Israel and inside the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas.

But as we've been seeing, has been heating up around the region, and in particular on the northern border between Israel and southern Lebanon, where Iran's most powerful proxy, Hezbollah, has been exchanging fire with Israel pretty much since the off.

In fact, over the weekend, Israel is saying that it's hit more than 3,400 Hezbollah targets since October the 7th, and also more than 50 targets inside Syria, the 3,400 being in Lebanon. So, there are concerns that could still boil over into a full-blown war and obviously concerns in the rest of the region too. And that's why he's taking in all of these countries, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Israel and the West Bank as part of this trip.

But as far as the Israel Hamas war in the Gaza Strip is concerned, his main objectives are to try to push along this idea, this framework deal that was thrashed out in Paris last week, which would see round about a six-week pause in fighting in exchange for a number of hostages who have now been in captivity after being abducted in that Hamas attack of October the 7th for over 120 days to try to facilitate this framework agreement.

We'd see those hostages released in exchange for about three times the number of Palestinian prisoners along with this six-week pause and then have other phases that would see more hostages released for more Palestinian prisoners including IDF soldiers being freed, and also the bodies that Hamas is holding too.

And those -- and that hostage issue is the key to the other main issues that are on Secretary of State Antony Blinken's agenda, namely to get more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and to get that humanitarian truce at least, or some kind of ceasefire in place inside the Gaza Strip.

It's a very tall order, and he's got his work cut out if he wants to return to the United States with anything of substance, because of course there are concerns that the escalation isn't really within his power to stop, and certainly we seem to be at an impasse.

As far as this hostage deal is concerned, with Hamas insisting that Israel not only ceasefire but that it withdraw completely from the Gaza Strip before it will entertain a hostage deal. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that they will not release thousands of terrorists, in his words, or do a deal at any cost.

So that seems to be a bit of an impasse as well. But Secretary Blinken is in the region. He will be hoping to at least achieve some things, and to that end, at least there can perhaps be some optimism, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Elliott Gotkine, many thanks.

Dalia Dassa Kaye joins us now. She is a senior fellow at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, tension is building in the Middle East with the U.S. strikes on Syria and Iraq over the weekend in retaliation for the deadly attack on a U.S. base in Jordan. And this as the U.S. led coalition strikes continue on Houthi targets in Yemen. in response to the Iran-backed militants attacking ships in the Red Sea.

So, what is your assessment of the U.S. retaliatory strikes? Will they escalate this war or contain it?

KAYE: Well, I think it's somewhere in between. It's clear that the U.S. response was attempted to be calibrated to show that there would be a response to attacks on U.S. forces, especially in this case with American deaths. But there is a desire to avoid wider escalation and a direct conflict with Iran. So the attacks remain within Iraq and Syria, not within Iran itself.


So, I think there is this attempt to be calibrated at control, but of course the unpredictability of these exchanges is increasing. So it is still quite a dangerous situation.

CHURCH: And U.S. officials are vowing further action against Iran- backed militants using a multi-tiered response. What might that action look like, do you think?

KAYE: It's hard to know. I think the assumption is that there will be cyber activities, the type of activities we may not see as publicly. But we can expect a little bit more of the same.

Let's remember that even earlier this month, before the deaths of Americans, the U.S. was already attacking high level targets in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. killed a major militia head in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, which created a lot of friction with the Iraqi government.

So, I think these responses will have to up the game a little beyond that. So, I'm assuming they will try to target some pretty essential militia heads. But again, I think there's going to be an attempt to strike a balance and not lead to kind of a wider conflict, especially getting Iran into direct conflict with the United States.

But again, it's very, very hard to contain and keep this calibrated and that is the constant worry. The U.S. is now engaged in two fronts directly and that is not something it had intended to do when this horrible war started over four months ago now.

CHURCH: Yes, and Iran is saying itself that it will respond but doesn't want a war with the U.S. So, what is Iran trying to achieve here and how much control does it actually have over these militias?

KAYE: That's the question everyone keeps asking again and again. And there's not a perfect answer. It's clear that Iran funds and supplies arms and training to this wide array of militia groups. But its relationship with each of them is quite different. Its main goal is to disrupt and deter and keep the fight against Iran itself. The regime is ultimate goal is survival.

But it is playing a very dangerous game. It's been very disruptive. And there are a few militias, especially the Houthis, but others, who are engaging in very unpredictable behavior. It's not clear Iran has full operational control over all of these types of exchanges. And so, it's very easy to see how this could get out of hand and how this could escalate, even if unintended.

CHURCH: And Iran says these U.S. strikes make it hard to find a political solution. Could the strikes become an obstacle perhaps to reaching a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas? Or might they offer an incentive to bring that war to an end?

KAYE: Well, I think ultimately the end to the war will happen through diplomacy, not through these military exchanges. And this type of tit for tat, to be honest, was happening even before the Gaza war. Certainly, every day this war continues, it heightens the risk for further escalation.

But ultimately, and this is why presumably Secretary Blinken is in the region yet again, working very actively with regional partners to try to at least put a temporary pause to this war. The U.S. is still not backing a permanent ceasefire, which is what most of the region would like to see.

But really, to end this war, there's going to have to be some diplomatic solution. The only release of hostages to date happened through diplomacy at the end of November. It cannot happen soon enough. This war is so devastating, even if we can keep it contained and controlled and not see it an all-out regional war. It has already been extremely costly, of course, in Gaza itself, but the wider region is already absolutely in turmoil.

And so, I think, you know, there is a desire to try to lower the temperature and get some kind of ceasefire and release of hostages as soon as possible.

CHURCH: Dalia Dassa Kaye, thank you so much for being with us. I appreciate it.

KAYE: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well dozens of people were killed and several others injured in Israeli airstrikes across Gaza in the past 48 hours.

This video obtained by CNN shows the destruction at a mosque in central Gaza on Sunday. A doctor says at least 14 people were killed there. It comes after another Israeli strike killed at least 17 people in Rafah on Saturday.

The Israel Defense Forces say they raided the southern Gaza offices of a Hamas military leader. Brother of a key Hamas leader, Israel claims is the mastermind of the October 7 attacks. The IDF says the raid targeted a compound which served as a facility for Hamas to train terrorists for the attacks.


Well, meantime, Jordan and the Netherlands say they airdropped aid to a Gaza hospital on Sunday. The Royal Jordanian Air Force worked with the Dutch Air Force to successfully deliver medical supplies to a Jordanian field hospital in northern Gaza. The Jordanian Armed Forces say the aid was delivered using GPS-guided parachutes. Ukraine's president says his country needs a leadership reset.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has admitted to an Italian media outlet that he is looking beyond just changes in military command as he considers replacing a series of state leaders.

The president stressed he had quote, "something serious in mind" but did not elaborate on who may be out of a job. For now, Zelenskyy is deciding on whether to dismiss his army chief following a failed counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine.

Well, still to come, deadly wildfires sweep through Chile. We will have the details on the dangerous conditions firefighters and the public are facing.

Plus, Namibia has sworn in a new leader after the death of its president. We will have a live report after the break.


CHURCH: You're looking at video filmed by firefighters driving through flames in central Chile as that nation battles devastating wildfires. At least 112 people have died and a state of emergency has been declared. Tens of thousands of acres have burned. Pope Francis is calling on people to pray for the dead and injured.

Listen to this heartbreaking story from a man who's looking for his family.



UNKNOWN (through translator): This advanced very quickly. The issue of the fire advanced very quickly. I came here with my brother at 1.30 a.m., and I discovered two bodies. One was my mother, and the other was her partner. A third body is missing.

I'm making a public call if anyone has any information on Anastasia Elizabeth Orellano Diaz (Ph). She's 14 years old. At 1.30 a.m., as I mentioned, I tried arriving as soon as possible because my mother wasn't answering. So, I came here and found those two bodies, and one is missing. My sister is missing.


CHURCH: There are currently 161 active fires burning across Chile.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has details.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Residents run for their lives in Chile. Firefighters wave them forward, away from the ferocious flames burning behind them. Witnesses say it was a terrifying night. UNKNOWN (through translator): There was smoke. The sky turned black.

Everything was dark. The wind felt like a hurricane. It was like being in hell.

OPPMANN: Daylight didn't bring much relief. Neighborhoods were still smoldering when some residents returned to find their homes gutted, workshops ruined, and some people reported seeing bodies lying in the streets.

UNKNOWN (through translator): Look, there's nothing left of my house. Nothing, as you can see. The neighbor across the street could not leave. He burned to death because he did not want to leave to abandon his house.

OPPMANN: Many of those who did evacuate were trapped in traffic jams on highways with burning ashes raining down on their vehicles. Chilean officials say it's one of the deadliest wildfires on record in the country. And many of the fires are still active with tens of thousands of hectares of land burned in the south and central parts of the country.

Chilean President, Gabriel Boric, has declared a state of emergency and deployed additional military units to help battle the flames. A curfew is also in place in some towns to allow authorities to focus on battling the blazes and to bring in emergency supplies.

But the losses are just beginning to be counted. A popular botanical garden has been raised and some residents say many areas near it have yet to be reached by emergency services.

UNKNOWN (through translator): So far, no one has come. We're alone here in the middle of nowhere. You can see how the house has been abandoned, totally disintegrated. We need them to come and remove the bodies of our relatives. That's all we ask.

OPPMANN: Authorities say extremely hot temperatures are complicating conditions to fight the fires. At least one person has been detained so far in connection with the blazes, who officials say was doing welding work when a fire accidentally broke out and spread to nearby grasslands.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN.


CHURCH: Votes from El Salvador's election are being counted, but preliminary results show the country's strongman president is taking a commanding lead. Nayib Bukele announced himself the winner hours ago. He has faced little organized opposition in the race and he has extremely high approval ratings due in part to his crackdown on violence and criminal gangs.

Human rights groups accuse his government of having detained and tortured innocent people. Bukele defends his record comparing the mass arrest to chemotherapy to cure the quote "cancer of the gangs" and is responding to critics who say he's anti-democratic. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAYIB BUKELE, SALVADORAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): They say that Salvadorans are oppressed, that Salvadorans don't want the emergency measures, that Salvadorans are afraid of the government. Let God tell the journalists to accompany us on this night of total freedom and total security here in the safest country of the Western Hemisphere. Don't be scared of me. I'm just a politician and official. Believe in the Salvadoran people.


CHURCH: Police and protesters clashed in Senegal on Sunday, a day after the country's president announced he would postpone a vote for his replacement.

Pro-democracy demonstrators set up barricades in the capital city, Dakar. The police responded with tear gas. Elections were scheduled to take place February 25th. But President Macky Sall has put that on hold, saying a conflict over the candidate list must be cleared up first. Opposition groups call it a quote, "institutional coup." Protesters say they fear democracy is at stake.


UNKNOWN (through translator): We are only defending ourselves. He meddles with the Constitution. He meddles with the newspapers. He meddles with the population. He does everything he can to put us in a difficult position. I say it and I repeat it once again. We are not fighting for a simple cause. We are fighting for freedom.



CHURCH: In the coming hours, lawmakers will debate whether to hold the election in August and whether to keep Mr. Sall in power until then.

In Namibia, former Vice President Nangolo Mbumba -- Mbumba has been sworn in as the country's new leader just hours after President Hage Geingob died while receiving treatment for cancer. Mbumba appealed to the nation to remain calm and collected as some paid tribute to the late president.


KOTOKENI SHIMBINDJA, LOCAL NAMIBIAN RESIDENT: He believed in equality, he believed in peace, he believed in all these qualities. (Inaudible) I just think that I remember him for all these great things that he has done and also serving our country, liberating it and he played a very major role to liberate Namibia and the whole Africa in general.


CHURCH: And joining us now is CNN's Larry Madowo in Nairobi. So, Larry, good to see you. We are seeing two very different stories play out in Africa, one with

a peaceful transition of power, another with a lack of transition altogether. So, what is the latest on both stories?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Rosemary. A significant weekend for democracy on the continent, starting with the developments out of Senegal where President Macky Sall shocked the nation by postponing the elections. I'll get to that in a second, but first, Namibia rightfully earning a lot of international praise this morning for a peaceful transition, just hours after Dr. Hage Geingob died while receiving treatment for cancer in Windhoek in the capital.

His deputy sworn in, Nangolo Mbumba as the interim president of Namibia, and he says he will not be running in the election in November. He intends to only serve out the rest of the term of the late Dr. Hage Geingob. He says his dream was just to be a school principal, and he's achieved way more than that.

So, a sign of stability, but also a sign of maturity of the democracy of that Southern African nation. And his vice president now will be the ruling party candidate in the November election. So, she's on track to be the southern African nation's first female president if all goes according to the plan and according to the Constitution so far.

But that is contrasted with Senegal, where President Macky Sall made this shock decision on Saturday. There's some background to this. The constitutional council recently excluded a number of prominent opposition candidates from being on the ballot, and some, at least one opposition party, had asked for the election to be postponed. But many see this as a constitutional coup.

They think President Macky Sall does not have that authority to postpone the election. And that's why you saw these protests on the streets, people who are upset about that decision, and reports of at least one opposition candidate being arrested out of that.

One media outlet had its signal cut off, signs of a true -- signs of true democratic backsliding in one of the most stable democracies in West Africa. Here was President Macky Sall announcing his decision.


MACKY SALL, SENEGAL'S PRESIDENT (through translator): For my part, my solemn undertaking not to stand in the presidential election remains unchanged. I will initiate an open national dialogue to create the conditions for free, transparent and inclusive elections in a Senegal that is at peace and reconciled.


MADOWO: In a few minutes we should be hearing from the National Assembly, they're beginning to discuss whether they can hold elections in August and if President Sall can continue in charge until then. But so far, great concern from the African Union, from the economic community of West African states, from the E.U., from the U.S. saying there should be national dialogue and a new date should be set as soon as possible, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Our thanks to Larry Madowo for that report. I appreciate it.

After the break, outrage in Hong Kong after football superstar Lionel Messi stays on the bench during a friendly match. That story and more after the break.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. The PGA Tour has canceled the final round of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am Tournament in California because of extreme weather there. They declared 30-year-old Wyndham Clark the winner of the shortened tournament. Clark shot a course record 60 to move into the lead on Saturday. It's his third career tour win. The final round of play had been originally postponed until Monday but because of the ongoing severe weather PGA officials canceled out of an abundance of caution.

Hong Kong's top sport official says the government made repeated requests for Lionel Messi to play in Sunday's match but he never entered the game and this was the reaction.

Fans booed when the superstar failed to take the pitch during the match between his inter-Miami team and a group of local standouts. The Hong Kong government said the events organizer, Tatler, owes fans an explanation. Tatler expressed extreme disappointment but denied any pregame knowledge that the World Cup champion would not play. Inter- Miami's coach said Messi and another player sat out with injuries.

And CNN's Kristie Lu Stout was there at the match.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Hong Kong, no show on the pitch for the Argentine football superstar, Lionel Messi, and the fans here are disappointed. What was initially cheers in the stands here at Hong Kong Stadium turned into jeers, boos, and even chants of where is Messi and refund, refund, refund.

Some 40,000 fans here in Hong Kong clamored for the opportunity to see Lionel Messi play with his team, Inter-Miami, for a pre- season friendly against a Hong Kong squad. This was inter-Miami's first ever international tour. Its co-owner David Beckham also here adding to the football star power.

But when Lionel Messi failed to get up from the bench, the mood inside the stadium soured and the fans have been leaving utterly crushed and disappointed.

Joining me now is a super fan here in Hong Kong of Lionel Messi, Christo Lionel (Ph). A lot of people disappointed tonight. How are you feeling?

UNKNOWN: Disappointed just like everyone is. Yes, very disappointed. I really wanted to see him play even for five minutes. So.

LU STOUT: Really disappointed. You named your son after Lionel Messi. You paid for the ticket. How much did you pay for your ticket?

UNKNOWN: Like $2,200.


UNKNOWN: Yes, Hong Kong dollars.

LU STOUT: That's about $300 U.S. dollars. Right?

UNKNOWN: Yes. Yes. Very disappointed. And most people are. It's really, it started, the disappointment started from yesterday, I think, with the training session, because that was not cheap either.



UNKNOWN: That was a hundred bucks. So then today, you know, we really, like, we saw the signs, right? He wasn't on the -- on the -- on the substitute list actually, and he was dressed in full tracksuit. So yes, we were, we were praying for good, but we're expecting the worse, I think a little bit.

LU STOUT: Your prayers weren't answered, Christo. I'm so sorry. Thank you for joining us.

UNKNOWN: Thank you.

LU STOUT: Now the Hong Kong government, they were really hoping that an event like this would turn Hong Kong into a hub for mega events to help drive tourism and help to reboot the economy. But for all the fans that showed up tonight, it was never about the economy. It was always about the beautiful game. It was about football. It was about seeing their hero, Lionel Messi, on the pitch. But that was a dream that was ultimately denied.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


CHURCH: FIFA says the 2026 World Cup final will be held at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The five-and-a-half-week tournament will play out in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, kicking off in Mexico City on June 11th of 2026.

For the first time in its history, this World Cup will feature 48 countries, up from the usual 32 that participate.

And still to come, surprise announcements, special performances and historic moments. The unexpected highlights from the Grammy Awards when we return.


CHURCH: The biggest night in music lived up to its name with the biggest show of the year on Sunday. The 66 Grammy Awards honored the best music of the last year with performances from artists at the top of their game.

The crowd gave a standing ovation to Tracy Chapman for a rare public performance. She and country artist Luke Holmes performed her hit "Fast Car" which he famously covered last year.

But the big winner of the night was Taylor Swift who one album of the year for the fourth time, "The Midnights." She is the only artist to win the category that many times, surpassing Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Frank Sinatra.

And that wasn't the only good news for Taylor Swift fans. During her acceptance speech for her 13th Grammy, she announced her 11th album. The Tortured Poets Department will be released April 19th. It was available for pre-order online when Swift posted the album cover on social media after her speech.

The new album follows years of massive success from her last original album, Midnight's, new recordings of her old work and a record- breaking world tour.

And rapper Killer Mike was arrested Sunday night after winning three Grammy Awards. The performer, whose legal name is Michael Render, was arrested near the site of the award ceremony for an altercation that took place elsewhere and was booked on a misdemeanor battery charge. That is according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Later Sunday they said he was quote, "in the process of being released." His Grammy Awards were for best rap album, best rap performance and best rap song.

And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Have yourselves a wonderful day. CNN Newsroom continues next with Max Foster.