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Trump Holds Campaign-Style Rally in Florida; Iraqi Forces Launch Offensive to Retake Western Mosul; Russia to Announce Ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine Monday; U.S. Deploys Carrier Striker Group to South China Sea; Four North Korean Suspects Sought in Kim Jong-Nam's Death; Charlotte's Loss is New Orleans Gain in All-Star Game, Aired 4-5a ET

Aired February 19, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: On the campaign trail, but the election is over. Still, the U.S. president leaves Washington behind for friendlier crowds. We'll tell you about the rally that he held in Florida with diehard supporters.

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR: Also ahead, Iraqi troops have begun the operation to retake western Mosul from ISIS. We'll have a live report on the developing story out of the Middle East.

HOWELL: Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

KINKADE: And hello. I'm Lynda Kinkade. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

HOWELL: And we begin this hour, it is 4:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. Good to have you with us.

KINKADE: Well, U.S. President Donald Trump marked his first month in office by returning to a format that helped get him elected. A free- wheeling campaign-style rally on Saturday before thousands of cheering supporters in Melbourne, Florida.

HOWELL: Mr. Trump's remarks hit on many of his most popular themes, populist themes, in fact, slamming international trade deals, defending his controversial travel ban, and a bitter denunciation of the media. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want to speak to you without the filter of the fake news. They've become a big part of the problem. They are part of the corrupt system. They have their own agenda, and their agenda is not your agenda. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said nothing can be believed which is seen in a newspaper.


HOWELL: But indeed our agenda is just to cover the news.

KINKADE: We're going to get more now from CNN's Athena Jones in Melbourne, Florida.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This rally was like a flashback to campaign 2016. And in many ways it was an extension of that campaign. It was paid for by the campaign. The White House described it as a campaign rally.

Asked before he got off of Air Force One upon arrival why he was doing a campaign event so early in his presidency, the president told reporters, life is a campaign. Making our country great again is a campaign.

What was interesting here was that here you had the president repeating a lot of the same rhetoric we've heard on the campaign trail. A lot of the same arguments we heard just a few days ago at that epic press conference on Thursday in the East Room, laying out some of what he views as his administration's great accomplishments in his view in the first month. He talked about the five-year ban on lobbying. He also complained once again about this travel ban and talked about the need to keep America safe.

We've been talking a lot about how it's not unusual to see a president go out on the road early in his presidency to sell something, to sell a specific policy. We have been talking how President Trump wasn't pushing one specific policy, like, for instance, the stimulus package back in 2009, when President Obama first took office. But he did ostensibly try to sell one thing today. He tried to urge Democrats on Capitol Hill to cooperate with Republicans to pass his agenda. Take a listen.

TRUMP: It's also time for the Senate Democrats to take responsibility for Obamacare and to work with us to replace it with new reforms that reverse this nationwide health care tragedy. It is a tragedy. It's unaffordable. It doesn't work. And I said to the Republicans, I said, you want to do something great politically? Don't do anything. Sit back for two years, let it explode. The Democrats will come and beg for us to do something. But we can't do that to the American people. We have to fix it. And we will.

We need members of both parties to join hands and work with us to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to build new roads and bridges and airports and tunnels and highways and railways all across our great nation.

JONES: So there he was urging bipartisan cooperation to get the things done that he wants to get done. I should note that Democrats on Capitol Hill have indicated they are interested in working with Republicans on an infrastructure package.

One more area where he called on Democrats to cooperate with Republicans was to approve his nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge Neil Gorsuch. So he did end up trying to sell something when it comes to policy here during this speech. But still this was very much something that he was looking forward to doing. He said early on in the speech that he wanted to get around the media filter to talk directly to the people.

And it was clear that this crowd really ate it up. These are people who had been standing in line for hours. Very, very interesting and campaign-like event here.


HOWELL: That was CNN's Athena Jones reporting there for us.

The first lady of the United States, Melania Trump, has not often been seen publicly since her husband became president. But on Saturday she stepped up to the presidential podium in a knee-high red dress that was met with rousing approval.

KINKADE: The first lady led the crowd in prayer and then spoke about what she and her husband hoped to accomplish during her husband's presidency.


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: It is my honor and pleasure to stand here before you as the first lady of the United States. The America we envision is one that works for all Americans, and where all Americans can work and succeed, a nation committed to a greater civility and unity between people from all sides of the political divide.

I will always stay true to myself and be truthful to you no matter what the opposition is saying about me.


KINKADE: Well, President Trump also invited one of his supporters to join him on stage and take the microphone at the Florida rally. Gene Huber wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt hugged the president and spoke briefly. He told the crowd he and other supporters why Mr. Trump won the election and he said the president is keeping the promises he made during the campaign.

Huber later spoke with CNN's Pamela Brown.


GENE HUBER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I will just say, President Trump, I want to thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to come on stage like that.

Mr. President, I've been with you for two years. You've probably heard this. Every single second, every day, I'm with you. I've got a 6 foot cardboard box of President Trump in my house. And I'd salute that every single day. And I pray and tell him, Mr. President, I pray for your safety today. And I'm not lying. I do that every single day to the president, but he's cardboard.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Let me ask you. You said you've been with him from the very beginning.


BROWN: What is it about his message that has resonated with you, Gene?

HUBER: You know, it's just -- it's just the way he speaks that's truth, you know. It comes from the heart. That's the most important thing. It comes from his heart and he speaks the truth. That's what we believe and us -- our movement believes. I mean just look at what just started. Look at it. Look at what President Trump says. There's never been a movement like this ever, ever. And I've never been into politics in my life up until President Trump came down the elevator and he taught me everything. He taught me everything.


HOWELL: Some people very excited to see the president. That gentleman salutes a cardboard Donald Trump. Though not everyone happy about President Trump's rally. Protesters gathered outside the hangar where Mr. Trump was addressing supporters. One of them also spoke to CNN. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we view our democracy as under attack. You know we have a president who doesn't stand for the values that this country was founded on. You know, we have kids in our schools who are afraid to show up in the morning because they're afraid of the government that 48 percent of this country elected, and the power that he has and the power that the Republican controlled Congress has is less than the power that we collectively have and the only way to prove that is by coming out and showing up.

I think this went very well. I mean, if you look, what is this, like a half mile of people lined up, 10, 15 people deep. But we made our point. That we are not going to lay down and take this. We're going to stand and we're going to demand that every single person in this country be protected and equal under the law.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did not. I'm 18 now. I was 17. But I did knock on doors for Hillary Clinton. I went to rallies. I did my part so hopefully next time, you know, will be good.


HOWELL: But yes, you know, what was clear during the campaign, again clear at this particular rally after the president -- now president holding a campaign rally that there are two different Americas, one that supports the president and one that is very much against the president, so we see that play out again.

KINKADE: Both very passionate on those sides. Political analyst Ellis Henican joins us now from New York for

analysis on all of this. Well, the U.S. president, of course, hates tough questions. He hates dissent. So he would have felt right at home there at that campaign rally among his core supporters. The question is, what did it achieve?

ELLIS HENICAN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it revved up the crowd. You know, he has found in the first month of governing that, boy, it's pretty hard, you know, to actually get stuff. He's being criticized very energetically. There are protests greeting him when he travels about. The Senate and the Congress maybe are not quite as cooperative as he'd hoped. Some of his own appointees having trouble settling in. But you know what? There is nothing like standing in front of a huge crowd just roaring its approval. And it turns out that Donald Trump likes that and he's also pretty good at that.

[04:10:05] HOWELL: You know, the president saying that this was his opportunity to get around the media filter as he described it to talk directly to the people who put him in office. Time and time again, though, President Trump has cited things that are not true. He calls them fact but in fact they are not at true. In this rally he mentioned something about an incident in Sweden. There was no incident in Sweden. Let's listen in.


TRUMP: You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.


HOWELL: Ellis, it is noteworthy to point out there was talk of Sweden on another network. FOX News here in the United States, a segment on allegations of violence committed by refugees in Sweden. But, again, here we are with alternative facts. What can be done given that the president will scream fake news in many cases but he himself seems to make up news as he goes along?

HENICAN: Well, it's a big question for those of us who work in the media, George. I think the only answer is that we ought to do our job, which is just keep reporting it, keep checking the facts. Keep saying, hold on a second. There was no terror attack in Sweden despite what the president just said. And you know, I think old- fashioned journalism may be ultimately our savior here.

KINKADE: Ellis, according to the latest opinion polls Donald Trump has the lowest approval rating of any new president ever. Monday is a public holiday in the U.S. It's called President's Day. But this year it's being called "Not My President's Day" by protesters who are planning to rally right across the country. Where were these people on Election Day?

HENICAN: You know, it's a question a lot of Democrats are asking. I mean, first of all, many of them did show up. You know, sometimes you can still feel passionate even when you lose an election. But, you know, I mean, that's what happens when you don't get enough people out to the polls. The other side was more energized, had a clearer message, I think, and we do have a -- kind of a weird system here. Our electoral college in choosing a president. So Donald Trump as you guys have reported many times got about three million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. Here he stands before us as our president. I guess we all need to get used to it.

HOWELL: Ellis, the president criticized Ninth Circuit judges. He called them so unfair for suspending his travel ban. But he told the crowd that his administration would be doing something in a couple of days, again Trump on stage blaming the judges, obviously taking punches at the media, describing them as dishonest, describing the media as the enemy.

His base obviously loves this. But how does this strategy play in the long term to gain more support of Americans given that his approval rating right now is right around 40 percent?

HENICAN: Yes, what a great question. You're absolutely right. I think unless he comes up with some new strategy to broaden that support, to go beyond that core base, it's very hard to imagine how he'll ever really be able to build a large coalition. And you know, if you just keep focusing on the folks that brought you there, eventually they, too, some of them at least, begin to peel away.

So boy, I loved Melania's words in that introduction about appealing to all people and creating this new civil tone. Maybe she can talk to her husband about that a little bit.

KINKADE: Maybe she will.

HOWELL: Maybe she will.

HENICAN: Yes. Good luck with that, right?

HOWELL: Ellis, thank you so much for being with us.

HENICAN: Good to see you guys.

KINKADE: Thanks.

HOWELL: Other stories that we're following, we mentioned this, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says that it will release new guidance on President Trump's immigration and border security executive orders. Details are contained in several memos from Homeland Security and Secretary John Kelly. The guidelines would make it more difficult to seek asylum in the United States. It would also allow for substantially more undocumented immigrants to be detained and for more of them to be deported quickly with limited court proceedings. The guidance is not final and could be revised before it's officially issued.

The extremist Muslim cleric convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing has died. Prison officials in North Carol say Omar Abdel- Rahman also known as the Blind Sheikh died Saturday morning. He was 78 years old. He was serving a life sentence for his role in the New York attack. That attack that killed six people and wounded more than 1,000 others.

KINKADE: A prominent figure in the U.S. abortion movement has passed away. Norma McCorvey was the anonymous Jane Roe plaintiff in the historic "Roe v. Wade" Supreme Court decision that legalized the right to an abortion.

[04:15:05] She later changed her stance becoming active in anti- abortion causes. McCorvey died of heart failure on Saturday at the age of 69.

HOWELL: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. And still ahead, the battle for Mosul. It has intensified. We have the very latest on the operation to reclaim that city from ISIS. Ahead.

KINKADE: Also ahead a new twist in the death of Kim Jong-un's estranged brother. Who police are searching for now in this international murder mystery. Stay with us.



HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. The battle for Mosul, it is intensifying. Iraqi forces have launched an operation to regain control of that western city from ISIS. They have already recaptured all of the eastern part of the city.

KINKADE: Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the operation a new dawn and chapter for the city's liberation. Mr. al-Abadi met with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at a security conference in Munich on Saturday. The two discussed counterterrorism and the fight against ISIS.

Well, let's go straight to our Ben Wedeman who's following developments from Istanbul. Good to have you with us, Ben.

[04:20:02] Just explain how significant this battle is. Is it the final phase to drive out ISIS from Iraq?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are still a variety of phases to go but certainly it is a critical one when it comes to retaking a city that ISIS took over in June of 2014. Now the announcement of the beginning of this phase of the offensive to retake Mosul came from Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi prime minister, on television this morning at 7:00 from Baghdad. This is what he had to say.


HAIDER AL-ABADI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (Through Translator): We are announcing the start of a new phase of "We are Coming, Nineveh" operations to liberate the right side of Mosul city as we had liberated other areas. We call on our brave troops to start the push to liberate the rest of

the city and to liberate people from the oppression and terrorism of Daesh.


WEDEMAN: Now it's been clear for the last few days that this operation was coming. There was intensified Iraqi Air Force and coalition air force bombardment of ISIS targets in western Mosul as well as an intensification of artillery bombardment as well. And also overnight the Iraqi Air Force dropped millions of leaflets over the western part of the city calling upon those who were duped by ISIS to lay down their arms and surrender and warning civilians to stay inside their homes as this operation progresses, and to put white flags outside to indicate there are civilians inside.

And it's the civilians that's a real cause of concern in this operation. They're anywhere between 650,000 and 800,000 civilians in the western part of the city. They're already in dire circumstances given that there's a shortage of food. They only have a few hours of electricity a day. There's a shortage also of medicine, of safe drinking water as well, and now, of course, they are in the crossfire as this battle progresses.

Now we understand from the Iraqi military that Iraqi forces are approaching the western side of the city from four axes from the south and the southwest. Their first target is to regain control of Mosul's airport and the Haslani military base nearby.

But this will, Lynda, be a very long difficult and bloody operation.

KINKADE: All right. Ben Wedeman, we'll have to leave it there for now. But no doubt we will talk to you about it again very soon. Thank you.

Well, Russia say as new cease-fire is set to begin Monday in eastern Ukraine.

HOWELL: The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made that announcement on Saturday, this after meeting in Munich with top diplomats from France, from Germany and Ukraine. The truce follows a violent flare-up in the conflict between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops.

News of the cease-fire came the very same day the U.S. vice president Mike Pence met with the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. Pence had this to say about U.S. ties with Russia. Let's listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And know this, the United States will continue to hold Russia accountable even as we search for new common ground which, as you know, President Trump believes can be found.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: For more on the developments in Ukraine, our senior CNN correspondent Ivan Watson is live in Moscow this hour.

Ivan, good to have you with us. Let's talk about this particular cease-fire, will this actually hold or might this be like others that have come before it?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we'll just have to see. It was just about a week and a half ago that we were reporting about another cease-fire after a really deadly flare-up and fighting that had killed scores of combatants as well as civilians, but the timing of it is very, very interesting because as the cease-fire was being announced the Kremlin here was putting out an executive order that was announcing that the Russian government would temporarily recognize the identification cards and documents of residents living in the two separatist breakaway regions in east Ukraine where this war has been raging for years now between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists.

And the reaction from the Ukrainian government was swift condemnation, accusations coming from the Foreign Ministry, from the president that this effectively throws out the Minsk Accord, the peace process that the Ukrainians have been engaged in with European backing with the Russian government, and that this is the beginning of an official recognition by Moscow of the separatist regions. We haven't heard yet a response from the Russian government to that accusation.

[04:25:05] But if you want to kind of read the tea leaves here, we're looking at a tweet coming from a prominent lawmaker here in Moscow, Aleksey Pushkov, who the translation says, quote, "With the recognition of passports from Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics," those are the two breakaway regions in the east Ukraine, "Moscow lets everybody know that pressure on the Ukrainian question, the speech by Vice President Pence in Munich won't give any results."

So he's interpreting this as a response to the tough words that the new U.S. vice president and presumably the new U.S. secretary of Defense have had against Russia over the Ukrainian issue over the course of the past week -- George.

HOWELL: Is this a Russia that is testing its limits with the new president, new administration in the United States, also with NATO reassessing, really, you know, where it stands, how strongly its allies will hold ground in situations like this?

WATSON: Perhaps. I mean, certainly we've heard from the Russian Foreign minister who is addressing this International Security Conference in Munich on Saturday that he declared that the post-Cold War world order was over. Basically the system that's kind of been in place ever since the end of the Soviet Union with the U.S. as kind of hegemon, a unipolar world if you have it, he was declaring that over. And it could be interpreted that this move perhaps is a way to test a respond, certainly to some of the criticism that Moscow has come under from the new Trump administration, from certain officials in the new Trump administration in recent days -- George.

HOWELL: Ivan Watson live in Moscow. Ivan, thanks for the reporting.

KINKADE: Well, still to come, the U.S. sends an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea.

HOWELL: We'll show you how China is reacting.

Live from Atlanta to viewers across the United States and around world, this is CNN NEWSROOM.


[04:30:36] KINKADE: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kinkade.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The operation to retake western Mosul from ISIS has started after forces recaptured all of the eastern part of that city. Iraq's prime minister calls it a new dawn and a new chapter in the liberation of Mosul. That city is the last major ISIS stronghold in Iraq.

KINKADE: In the past hour U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has made a somber visit to the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. It was one of the first concentration camp set up by the Nazis in Germany. Thousands of Jews and other prisoners were held there and killed during World War II.

HOWELL: Several memos from U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly reveals sweeping new guidelines on President Trump's immigration and border security executive orders. They are not yet final but they would make it more difficult to seek asylum in the United States. They would also allow for unsubstantially more undocumented immigrants to be detained and for them to be deported faster with limited court proceedings.

KINKADE: U.S. President Donald Trump stood before a cheering crowd on Saturday clearly grateful to be in front of friendly supporters after a rocky first month in the White House. He told the Melbourne, Florida, audience that news accounts of chaos in his administration are not true. He insisted the White House is running, and I quote, "so smoothly."

Well, China is not happy about a U.S. deployment to the South China Sea. The U.S. Navy said Saturday a carrier strike group began routine operations in the area.

HOWELL: It includes this ship that you see here, the aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson. China said Wednesday that it is aware of the activity. It urged the U.S. not to challenge its, quote, "sovereignty and security in the area."

The operation comes amid growing tensions between the United States and China over territory and trade.

John Defterios is our CNN Money Emerging Markets editor. He is currently in Beijing and covering the story for us.

John, let's first talk about the U.S. commitment there.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN MONEY EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Yes. In fact, George, the U.S. is sending, shall we say, stronger signals when it comes to Asia. At least strategically and in particular when it comes to the geopolitical flashpoint of the South China Sea. You noted the USS Vinson is taking the lead in these exercises, demonstrating the capabilities that the U.S. has and continues to want to demonstrate here in Asia.

Now we know that indeed this area has been a geopolitical flashpoint. In fact, it's considered one of the top worries when it comes to security for this new administration.

Rear Admiral James Kirby said that the U.S. looks forward to demonstrating its capabilities in the region. And, in fact, and this is a quote again, that he wants to build on stronger relations with allies and friends.

Now I think in that context, George, it's worth noting, what was considered a very successful bilateral meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, again, the U.S. suggesting that it will remain backing Japan in this region because it has a territorial dispute, as you know, with Beijing.

Now what happens going forward here. We know that the U.S. has recognized Beijing's "One China" policy. When it comes to the South China Sea which handles some $5 trillion in annual trade, it's considered not only strategically important to the regional allies like Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, but also for the U.S. as well, which has backed off on a regional trade pack with Asia but is showing strategically, it wants to remain engaged when it comes to these seas.

HOWELL: Just to push further on that, and you rightly point out that around the same time that the president met with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the United States did officially recognize through Mr. Trump the "One China" policy. But given what has happened here, what has been the reaction if any that you've heard there in Beijing to the situation?

DEFTERIOS: Well, George, not surprisingly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been steadfast when it comes to any territorial issues around the South China Sea. We did reach out to the ministry today, not surprisingly, not giving a response because it is a Sunday. But the issue did come up at a press briefing, the daily press briefing of the ministry on Friday, a day before the exercises started.

[04:35:08] China has suggested it opposes any country's attempt to undermine its sovereignty and security in the freedom of navigation, the right for navigation and, in fact, flyover for airplanes as well, and China sees this as a regional concern, a regional effort that should be handled with its partners and without the intervention of the United States. Again where it does get tricky here as you suggested here, Donald

Trump, although he had original overtures to Taiwan in his first days in office when he actually had a call with Xi Jinping on February 10th, that the same day that he had the bilateral meeting with Shinzo Abe of Japan, he did recognize the "One China" policy.

Again there's also an economic tinge to bring up here, George, as well. And what I'm suggesting is that Washington in particular, President Trump has highlighted again the value of the Chinese currency, the Renmimbi. He sees it as undervalued right now and the bilateral trade deficit that the U.S. has with Beijing remains stubbornly high. So these are all very complex issues and highlighted today with the military exercises which took place by the U.S. Navy here starting in the last 24 hours.

HOWELL: 5:35 p.m. in Beijing. Our CNN Money Emerging Markets editor John Defterios live. John, thank you so much for the reporting.

China says that it will suspend all coal imports from North Korea starting on Sunday. The country's Commerce Ministry says that the ban will remain in effect until the end of the year. China announced last April that it would ban the imports to comply with U.N. sanctions connected to Pyongyang's nuclear program. Exceptions were allowed for the people's well-being. Even with the restrictions North Korea was still China's fourth largest supplier of coal last year.

Now following the story of the death of the half brother of the North Korean leader, it is getting more mysterious. Police in Malaysia are now looking for an additional four North Korean suspects. Officials say they fled Malaysia the same day that Kim Jong-nam was killed at the Kuala Lumpur airport.

KINKADE: Well, police have already four suspects in custody. One of them says she thought she was on TV -- a TV prank show and that she was paid to spray a liquid on his face.

Our Saima Mohsin joins us now from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Saima, four people in custody and the police looking for another four.

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Lynda. The more complicated this gets, the clearer somehow the murder mystery becomes, too, at the same time. Four suspects who apparently left the same day of the attack on the airport, but the police would not say where they went to. Now this is in a press conference today by the inspector general of police there in Kuala Lumpur.

Now he said that the four suspects are North Korean men, all holding civilian passports. Now that passport is because many often is they were holding diplomatic passports. Were they government officials? They said, we won't be drawn into politics, but these are definitely North Korean men. But these were not the only people named in the details given. There were also three others what he described as persons of interest who they want to interview to assist with the investigation. About seven new people that they described as wanted men, all of them males -- Lynda. KINKADE: All right. Several more people they are hunting. Saima

Mohsin, thank you. We will talk to you very soon. Thank you.

Well, yesterday we brought you the story of a boy who reportedly lost his legs in an airstrike in northwestern Syria. Well, today we can tell you that the 10-year-old is in Turkey receiving treatment.

HOWELL: He got a visit from a young Syrian activist. Bana Alabed exposed the atrocities in Aleppo through the world by using Twitter. In this video that you see she calls for people for the help for children still living in the midst of the brutal Syrian civil war.

KINKADE: Our thoughts are with him and his family.

HOWELL: Indeed.

KINKADE: Well, five people have died in a severe storm in California. The rain has destroyed roads and forced some to evacuate.

HOWELL: Still ahead, we'll tell you where that storm is headed next.

Plus, the best of the showcase showcasing their talents in New Orleans at the NBA All-Star weekend. We'll bring you some of the pre-game highlights. Stay with us.


[04:42:47]HOWELL: I want to tell you about the situation in southern California. At least five people have died there due to a severe storm. The fierce weather system has caused massive flooding, washing away some roads. Thousands of people have lost power. Some families have been forced to evacuate.

KINKADE: And one woman in Los Angeles was rescued after her car fell into a sinkhole. Now parts of northern California are preparing for potential flooding.

HOWELL: And if you keep watching this video, look at that. She's just coming out. That's just incredible.

For the latest on this storm's progress, let's bring in our meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Just really very intense storm.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That was a dramatic video that came to us from one of our affiliates. Really gripping to watch that woman being saved from a 20-foot sinkhole.

You know, we talk about thousands of people being without electricity because of the storm. The latest number, 60,000. This is in southern California alone. So this is a big storm.


[04:46:54] VAN DAM: So, guys, a very active weather pattern across the United States to say the least but it looks like it's winding down in southern California. Northern part of the state, though, and into Texas. That's the big part.

HOWELL: When you think back, though, you know, a couple years back, the situation there so different right now.

VAN DAM: Yes. It was dire. But a little bit too much too quick here.


HOWELL: Yes, you're right. Thank you, Derek.

VAN DAM: All right.

KINKADE: Thanks, Derek.

HOWELL: Still ahead, NBA All-Star weekend.

KINKADE: Who are the big loser? Will be the team that once had the game in its grasp? Stay with us.



[04:51:12] KINKADE: Welcome back. The campaign-style event before a friendly audience gave the president -- President Trump, I'm talking about -- a chance to reclaim his narrative about his agenda.

HOWELL: His first weeks in office were beset by missteps including the disastrous rollout of the travel ban and the firing of National Security adviser Michael Flynn.

KINKADE: The crowd of several thousand was receptive to President Trump's defiant populist message blaming a hostile press for his troubles in Washington.


TRUMP: We are not going to let the fake news tell us what to do, how to live, or what to believe. We are free and independent people, and we will make our own choices.

You want a government that keeps its promises. A great spirit of optimism and sweeping. And you see it. It's sweeping all across the country. Look at what's happening to stock market. Look at what's happening to every poll when it comes to optimism in our country.

It's sweeping across the country.


KINKADE: Meantime, the two oldest sons of President Trump inaugurated a golf course in Dubai. It's the first project with the Trump brand to be launched since their father became president. Trump said he has put his businesses in a trust run his sons Donald Jr. and Eric. HOWELL: But some experts say that is not enough to avoid any

potential conflicts of interest. Mr. Trump also still hasn't released his tax returns.

KINKADE: Well, the best basketball players in the world is set to put on a show at the NBA All-Star Game Sunday night, but there's more to the all-star weekend than the game.

HOWELL: That's right. Always a fan favorite. Saturday night's slam dunk contest. Look at that. Flynn Robinson, the third of the Indiana Pacers, and Derek Jones of the Phoenix Suns battled it out. Both players scored a perfect 50 on several attempts. That's cool. And Robinson walked off with the coveted trophy.

KINKADE: The all-star weekend was, of course, originally was supposed to be in Charlotte, North Carolina.


KINKADE: It was moved due to New Orleans for that controversial state law.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher has the report.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Charlotte the streets aren't exactly bare this weekend, but the plan was for uptown to be booming, which is exactly how to describe the scene in New Orleans right now. Thousands of NBA fans and celebrities reveling in the 2017 All-Star weekend.

CARLOS DECTON, CHARLOTTE RESIDENT: Dunk contest, three-point contest, stuff like that.

GALLAGHER: The one that was supposed to be in Charlotte. That is until the NBA yanked it after state lawmakers passed the so-called bathroom bill or HB-2 last year.

DECTON: It's rough. It's rough. I was really looking forward to the All-Star game being here.

GALLAGHER: In the words of North Carolina's new governor, "This could have been a different weekend."

JULIUS ROYALS, CHARLOTTE RESIDENT: It would have been awesome just to be in the atmosphere of the city that hosts an All-Star game.

GALLAGHER: Charlotte City Council estimated the All-Star game would bring in approximately $100 million, most of that from visitor spending. But because of HB-2 which requires all people to use public restrooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates and excludes the LGBT community from a statewide non-discrimination policy brought down it's unfortunately business as usual this weekend.

JEFF WAKEM, BUSINESS OWNER: I'm not a politician. I'm a businessman. And so for me I kind of take my personal beliefs on all this stuff out of it. And it's for me just dollars and cents.

GALLAGHER: Jeff Wakem owns the restaurant Essex not far from the Spectrum Center where the game was supposed to be played.

WAKEM: My guess is we would probably have quadrupled our sales.

GALLAGHER: In a state where basketball is nearly a religion for many it's frustrating.

DYLAN HARRISON, CHARLOTTE RESIDENT: I was really excited to have it here and to get Kemba Walker voted into the All-Star game. But now that it's moved away I honestly couldn't care less about it.

[04:55:04] GALLAGHER: But others say that while they were excited about the All-Star weekend, it is not worth compromising their values.

JEFF MUCKLER, CHARLOTTE RESIDENT: You've got to stick by what you believe in. Are you going to compromise your kid's safety? Are you going to put a dollar value on that? I don't put a dollar value on that. Politicians will. The mayor may.

GALLAGHER: And they have. Hundreds of millions are said to have been lost through businesses refusing to expand or relocate to North Carolina. Performers canceling concerts, the NCAA pulling seven championship events from the state, and the North Carolina Sports Association sent a letter out that says unless HB-2 is repealed the NCAA could remove all events through 2022.

DECTON: I hope they come to a resolution. I hear they're trying to turn it around, maybe.

GALLAGHER: While several bills that would repeal HB-2 have been introduced, none have passed the Republican-controlled legislature.

As far as the All-Star game is concerned, this weekend belongs to the Big Easy. But the NBA says that if the law changes, Charlotte could be hosting its own big party in 2019.


HOWELL: All right. I also want to tell you about a story that we're following in Florida. Florida's Kennedy Space Center. A dramatic launch. Countdown, it came down to the last few seconds only to reach a disappointing conclusion.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dragon, verify. Dragon is aborted.


KINKADE: Definitely not the words you want to hear during a rocket launch. SpaceX scrubbing the planned launch because of a technical issue. The rocket was to carry a spacecraft packed with more than two tons of cargo and science experiments to the International Space Station. But SpaceX will try again on Sunday. HOWELL: Try again for sure.

Thanks for being with us. I'm George Howell.

KINKADE: And I'm Lynda Kinkade. Another hour of CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment. Stay with us.