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British Prime Minister Signs Letter to Trigger Brexit; Growing Calls for the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to Step Aside from Russia Probe; Top US Commander in Iraq Says Fair Chance that US Airstrike in Western Mosul Killed Civilians. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 29, 2017 - 02:00   ET


[02:00:28] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to a special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isha Sesay in Los Angeles.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Max Foster in London.

The point of no return. The Brexit clock will start ticking in just a few hours when British government is expected to officially kick off the negotiations to leave the European Union.

Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter to trigger Article 50. That means in two years the UK will no longer be part of the Union, deal or no deal.

Scotland will be watching the Brexit negotiations very close indeed. Scottish lawmakers voted in favor of a new independence referendum, but the UK says it won't negotiate it -- negotiate with Scotland until Brexit talks have been completed.

CNN Europe editor Nina Dos Santos joins us now. Also, our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, he's over there just down the road in Downing Street.

To you first, though, Nic, take us through the process of the day.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, there's going to be a Cabinet meeting here at Number 10 in about an hour's time, 8:00 a.m. That's quite early but this is, as so many people around the area, saying a very historic day. Following that at 12:00 Prime Minister May will be attending Prime Minister Question Time as she does every Wednesday at 12:00. That would generally take about half an hour.

Once that has concluded she's expected then to address the details of that letter, that around the about the same time Sir Tim Barrow, the British ambassador representative to the EU, will be handling to the European Council president Donald Tusk. That may or may not be photographed. We may or may not get to see that as it happens but as it happens in Brussels Theresa May will be laying out for the British public to hear precisely that opening phase, if you will, not of negotiation but the formal notification.

But it will, these pages, perhaps half dozen or so, will begin to lay out how she sees her vision and how she wants this to proceed. Perhaps no surprises there. She's laid this vision out several times. And then really it lays in the hands of the Europeans -- of the European Union. Donald Tusk expected to send that letter on around to the leaders of the other EU 27 nations and that will begin the process, Max.

FOSTER: OK. And Nina, this letter, half dozen pages, as Nic says, what are you looking for in there? Because it really does set the tone for the negotiations which are going to be epic over the next two years.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: That's right. If indeed they can get them done within the next two years because many trade lawyers are saying that in itself is a very ambitious target, Max.

We're looking for, on the one hand, some kind of olive branches from Theresa May when she issued a statement yesterday evening upon signing Article 50. Notification is going to be delivered in a few hours from now. There were a few conciliatory messages to Europe so that they could get the tone right here, that they could get these negotiations --


FOSTER: It must be constructive. But can it be when there's so much antagonism behind the scene?

DOS SANTOS: Well, first of all, it's going to have to be destructive to rip out all the legislation, the EU legislation, that's currently in habiting reams and reams of binders and bookshelves in the library of the House of Commons behind us. I mean, this great repeal bill that's going to come in to take back sovereignty of UK laws is going to have to incorporate 19,000 EU acts that are in that library in the House of Commons. That in itself is going to be a huge voting feast for MPs as well.

But even before then they've got to hammer out what kind of deal they want with Europe before actually pulling the plug and leaving the EU. And this is where I'm going to come to the EU negotiating position. We have some important figures that are involved in this. As you just heard there from Nic Theresa May made a phone call to many of them yesterday evening. It's a kind gesture.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the decision-making body of the EU, the EU Commission, he's made it very clear that he doesn't want any other EU state to be encouraged by the UK's leaving lest it unravel the whole European project.

Angela Merkel of Germany, also Michel Barnier, the EU's negotiator on behalf of the European Commission, they said that they want the UK to settle its bills before leaving and then leave before it can start to have negotiations to join some kind of customs union and what kind of relationship they want with the EU thereafter.

What Theresa May is really after is trying to get parallel negotiations, sort out a new relationship with Europe, at the same time as leading the existing relationship but getting it done in two years is going to be difficult.


[02:05:03] DOS SANTOS: And then she's also said she doesn't see why she should be on the hook for $60 billion plus as a divorce settlement.

FOSTER: Well, Nic, it's absolutely mind-boggling, isn't it? The process the UK and the EU have to go through. But she's also got this issue at home where she needs to bring the disparate parties, different views on this together, and that's what she is going to do when she comes into parliament initially, isn't it? She's going to say, all right, let's come together on this. Whichever way you voted in the referendum we're going into these negotiations as a one team.

ROBERTSON: It is a better future, we're going to a better future, better future for everyone, wherever you live in the United Kingdom, whether it's Northern Ireland, whether it's Scotland, whether it's Wales, whether it's in northeast of England and the northwest. This is going to be better for everyone.

The reason she's saying this is because the parts of Britain, Scotland voted 62 percent to remain part of the European Union. Northern Ireland voted 55 percent to remain part of the European Union. So there are parts of this country who don't want to be taken out of the European Union. Scotland's parliament yesterday voted 69-59 to move to hold a second independence referendum. The timing of that referendum is already a hugely contentious issue between Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, and Theresa May, never mind the fact that they want to hold it at all.

And then of course there are problems in Northern Ireland as well. The government there, the power-sharing government has collapsed. We've heard Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, already outlined his initial conditions, taking care of the EU nationals who live in Britain, he wants that dealt with quickly. He wants Britain, obviously, to pay its bills, settle its tab, if you will. That's -- that is sort of a red line of pre-condition but the third one was that whatever the Brexit agreement should be it should not damage the peace and stability of Northern Ireland.

So, you know, even from an EU negotiating position what happens around Britain is critical. So that message Theresa May will give in the House of Commons today will be one telling the people of this country that we're moving together, that she's acting in everyone's best interest but she's going to be fighting in many fronts, not just in Brussels. She'll be fighting the Scottish nationalists in Edinburgh, figuratively, of course, and certainly a move by nationalists and Republicans in the north of -- Northern Ireland as well to unite Ireland out of all of these matters.

FOSTER: OK, Nic, in Downing Street. The lights are on. Theresa May going into probably the most important day in her career. Certainly historic moment for London and for Europe.

Also, Nina, thank you very much, indeed. Like most relationships heading into divorce the UK and the EU have

had a pretty contentious past.

Nick Glass looks through their turbulent history, from the end of World War II and through many British governments.


NICK GLASS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Britain and the European Union, always a fractious rather ambivalent relationship. Never simply black and white. Although the idea did have an eloquent post-war champion.

WINSTON CHURCHILL, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We cannot aim at anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole and we look forward with confidence to the day when that union will be achieved.

GLASS: Britain could so easily have been founder member in '57, precisely 60 years ago along with the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the French and the Italians, but a suspicious Britain declined to join the club.

As Germany and France prospered economically, Adenauer, embraced by France's Charles de Gaulle, Britain had a sudden change of heart out of economic self issue but de Gaulle said no, vetoing the British application in 1963 and again in 1967 only after de Gaulle died did Britain finally gained membership in 1973.

The conservative prime minister Ed Heath signed with a golden pen. As a key musician he encouraged the newly formed European Youth Orchestra. But by 1975 Britain was already having second thoughts. The Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson called a referendum.

HAROLD WILSON, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The British people in clear and unmistakable terms have made historic decision that Britain shall remain a member of the European community.

GLASS: Note that word historic so persistently used in this prolonged saga. The conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously had her battles with Europe arguing that Britain was contributing too much to the EU budget. She successfully won a rebate in 1984.

MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is asking the community to have our own money back.

GLASS: The Maastricht Treaty in 1992 brought about greater integration among member states over justice, home and foreign affairs and security. But Britain went on to opt out of the common currency the euro so did David Cameron's fateful decision announced in 2013.

[02:10:09] DAVID CAMERON, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It will be an in-out referendum.

GLASS: And to Nigel Farage's triumph of leader of the UK Independence Party as the British voted out last summer.

NIGEL FARAGE, FORMER UK INDEPENDENCE PARTY LEADER: Let June 23rd go down in our history as our independence day.

GLASS: The basic question was and remains what has the EU done for Britain? Superficially changed our drinking habits. Our consumption of latte and cappuccino, and anything bubbly. It encouraged a flood of German cars, more importantly and divisively a flood of people. Over three million European nationals living and working in Britain.

With a narrow vote in favor of leaving, the referendum showed that Britain is profoundly fractured over Europe. Manifestly for better or worse it isn't quite the same country it was in 1973. And that raises a new question. What will Britain's place in the world be in the future?


FOSTER: Joining me now is the liberal Democrat member of parliament, Alistair Carmichael, and obviously you were one of those that desperately wanted the UK to stay within the European Union.


FOSTER: It's not a good day for you, is it? I just want to give you a line of the speech as we understand that we're going to get from Theresa May today. Now the decisions are being made to leave the EU it's time to come together. That's going to be the whole tone of her speech today. Is it possible for her to make it happen?

ALISTAIR CARMICHAEL, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Well, you know, if that was the path that she was following then I would say great because Britain is still very divided. It's a highly polarized politics we have now as a consequence of last June's decision. But, you know, she talks the language of unity but in fact she practices the politics of division.

FOSTER: Give me an example of that.

CARMICHAEL: Well, talking about taking us away from the single market, taking us away from the customs union, even being prepared to walk away from the EU with no deal at all. There is no mandate for that. That is just Theresa May's own determined interpretation of what she wants to achieve as a consequence of the vote last year.

That's why in the local Democrats we say actually once we know the shape of the deal, once we know what she has been able to achieve, at that point we know the destination. Last June we voted for a departure. We now really need to be given the opportunity to approve or not the destination --


FOSTER: You want a referendum on the deal.

CARMICHAEL: Referendum on the deal that she has --

FOSTER: But she's only got two years to negotiate and that's going to delay her, it's going to undermine her. She's going to have to spend six months dealing with that.

CARMICHAEL: You know, I wouldn't choose to stop from Europe. Of course there are challenges with every way ahead. But ultimately if you don't offer people the opportunity to approve what Theresa May has achieved in terms of that deal then people -- this country is going to remain divided because, you know, the mood amongst the 48 percent many of whom passionately wanted to remain in the EU was that, you know, this is not something that has been done proper properly. It was not a --


FOSTER: But if the referendum says no to her deal then there will be no deal and Britain falls back on World Trade Organization rules which is even worse than the situation presumably --


CARMICHAEL: Well, we -- that's (INAUDIBLE) because at the moment we don't know what the question would be because we don't know what the deal is. I think what's sensible is that to bring the two -- the first 52 and the 48 back together then you have to have the --


CARMICHAEL: Two sides of the EU referendum, otherwise you leave politics in this country divided and polarized.

FOSTER: There's no indication that she's going to do that. She said she won't have an election.

CARMICHAEL: She doesn't even want parliament to have a say.

FOSTER: So then what do you do when parliament went over -- she brings these laws into parliament you can now reject?

CARMICHAEL: Well, we -- we take these decisions one by one as they present themselves and it has been quite remarkable that, although as you say she talks the language of unity she keeps this very tightly controlled. The conservatives -- Theresa May is doing exactly the same thing that David Cameron did. She continues to try to manage what is a massive issue of the national party narrow interest. And she tries to manage it through the prism of the conservative party's own -- not all partisan interest.


CARMICHAEL: And that's why, you know, although it's to say she may talk unity, she practices division.

FOSTER: Have you got a sense of how many MPs in parliament are very much against her negotiating position effectively and will try to block her?

CARMICHAEL: There's more significant division within the Conservative Party than you would realize at the moment but in fact you are not going to see any of these divisions really come to the surface for as long as the Labour Party come out with lines saying that they are not going to stand in the way of Brexit that, you know, they will honor or respect the deal in a way in fact that frankly Theresa May and the conservatives don't seem prepared to do.

[02:15:15] FOSTER: OK. It's a big speech today.



CARMICHAEL: Well, I like to think I'm open minded but would be quite an achievement.

FOSTER: OK. Alistair Carmichael, thank you very much indeed.

All of Europe is watching intensely as the Brexit process plays out. Of course we'll have reactions from around the continent for you next.


FOSTER: Welcome back to you. Britain is about to do something no European nation has ever done before, and that's to trigger Article 50 to leave the European Union. The UK's EU representative will soon deliver letter to the bloc's president, formally beginning this exit process. Leaders across the UK preparing for this new reality.

In Edinburgh, Scotland's parliament voted in favor of a second referendum on independence from the UK. Last year Scots overwhelmingly voted to stay within the EU.

In Brussels, London mayor, Sadiq Khan, met with the European Commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, and called for EU assistance in Britain to be a protector. And the British Prime Minister Theresa May met with her counterpart from Qatari for talks on any trade deal after Brexit is completed. Mrs. May said Britain's future looks bright.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Tomorrow we begin the negotiations to secure a new deep and special partnership with the European Union. As we do so I am determined that we should also seize this historic opportunity to get out into the world and to shape an even bigger role for a global Britain. This means not just building new alliances but going even further in working with old friends who have stood alongside us for centuries.


FOSTER: Well, indeed it is a historic moment as the prime minister says there. Let's go to Brussels and speak to CNN's Erin McLaughlin because finally we're going to get a sense of what Brussels thinks of this as well in a formal way. But are we going to actually see this letter delivered today?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Max. Well, I believe we will according to a spokesperson for the UK permanent representative, we will see a still photograph of the letter as it's being handed to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk.

It's being described by the president of the European Commission as a sad moment for the EU, the delivery of the letter triggering Article 50 of the EU treaty being described as a tragedy and a failure.

[02:20:02] Nevertheless this is something that the EU says it is prepared for. They have a team of some 30 experts assembled in a building just behind me. The European Commission ready to begin the negotiating process. But it's a process that will take a while I'm told by one EU official that face-to-face negotiations won't begin until about mid-May because there's several steps that need to be completed before hand. First and foremost the EU needs to agree on guidelines.

We're expecting an announcement from Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, later this week issuing those draft guidelines for the capitals, the capitals, only to agree on the guidelines essentially constitutes the EU's official negotiating position, that is expected to be agreed upon at a summit at the end of April so there's still some steps along the way before those formal negotiations can begin.

But all eyes today on that letter from Theresa May. EU officials telling me they're going to be scouring it in great detail for any sort of points of divergence between what Prime Minister May has said in the past and what's included in this letter. They all right also going to be looking for any sort of statement about the importance of the European project.

One official telling me that any sort of declaration in that direction will be seen as a gesture of goodwill because goodwill is needed on both sides during these negotiations, once article 50 is triggered, as you know, Max, they'll have some two years to negotiate and that's really not a lot of time.

FOSTER: OK, Erin, in Brussels, thank you very much indeed.

Joining me now in London, conservative member of parliament, Bill Cash.

You started all this, didn't you?

BILL CASH, MEMBER OF BRITISH PARLIAMENT: Well, I suppose in a way, yes, I did, as the master of rebellion back in the 1990s that was about the European government. The treaties to create European government and I decided that it had to be opposed. The government were on favor of it. And I put down 150 amendments in my own name and set up a rebellion in Great (INAUDIBLE) Street just around the corner from here and we carried it through against the government 47 times.

FOSTER: But just describe the atmosphere around this at the time. Everyone thought you were mad, right? Britain leaving the European Union at that time was --you know, incomprehensible. CASH: Yes. Well, I understand that very well. In fact I wrote a

book at the time called "Against the Federal Europe," because I felt it was necessary to explain. And what I said was I don't think that the internal contradictions of this proposal for European government will work, military union won't work, and that actually what will happen is it will undermine our democracy.

FOSTER: Is that a fundamental position you have to being a member of the EU?

CASH: Absolutely it's about democracy. It's about who governs and --

FOSTER: How we're being here.

CASH: Absolutely right. And so we make our own decisions. Now doesn't mean they cooperate in Europe, we trade into Europe because both of those are important, but the key question is who governs the United Kingdom. It's the democratic question at the very heart of it.

FOSTER: But now we've got a situation where you've got two years of negotiations. We don't even know what the promise is going to be yet. We don't even how each -- how it's all going to be broken up. And people just cannot get their head around the process involved here and how it's going to be possible that, you know, it's very likely, isn't it, that we leave the EU without any deal actually and we just fall back on WTO rules?

CASH: I know the prime minister is absolutely determined that we will have a deal of some kind but it is possible that there won't a deal, but you know something, that depends on the EU as well. Their policy, their entire structure has failed. There is -- as I said back in 1990s that there we be and there is now massive unemployment, there is a very great recession in certain countries, countries like Greece, countries like Italy having massive arguments with Germany about stability and --


FOSTER: That's not but a complete failure.

CASH: Well -- there have been certain things that have benefited in terms of cooperation, and we've been part of that.

FOSTER: And the movement of people? It's been a great benefit for the UK.

CASH: In certain respects yes, in other respects no. The numbers have got out of control, but actually that is also the case but the fact is that it's about the manner in which you govern yourselves. People fought and died for this. We had two world wars that went on over the last century. The fact is that although they wanted peace, they wanted stability, actually what they have generated is terrific instability. The European Union is in a state of crisis. The member states, they trust one another, the member states and the European institutions trust one another, and above all else the democratic question leave the United Kingdom out of this for a moment, elsewhere in Europe there is -- they're basing their feet against the European Union.

FOSTER: Well, there are people in Europe that would definitely disagree with you.

CASH: Well, they would say that but actually look at the facts because that is what is happening in France and Italy and in other parts of the -- Greece and other parts of the EU.

[02:25:04] FOSTER: Well, I spoke to (INAUDIBLE), it comes from a very different point of view.

CASH: Indeed. Yes.

FOSTER: His view is, on this, you know, Britain may have voted to leave the European Union but they haven't voted on the deal that Theresa May is going to take to the European Union and there has to be a referendum on that.



CASH: Absolutely not. Because in the United Kingdom we pass an act parliament to give a referendum, it's not just a decree. The fact is that only the other day -- two weeks ago the withdraw bill itself was passed by a majority of 380 from the House of Commons.

FOSTER: So that's not all the approval you think --

CASH: No, it isn't. No, because the referendum itself was passed as was authorized by an act of parliament and that was produced an answer with a substantial majority in favor of leaving. So we've got two democratic cases, one in the House of Commons and one in the referendum and the people as a whole.

And I'm going to say this about virtues of the single market as they're portrayed I don't know whether people know but actually these are Office of National Statistics figures. The fact is that we run a deficit in goods and services in imports and exports with the 27 member states and $62 billion a year. Germany on the other hand runs -- with the same 27, the same criteria a surplus of $82 billion. The bottom line is it works for Germany, it doesn't work for us. And we've got massive opportunities and the rest of the world, common language, common legal systems, common democratic values, the bottom line this European Union has failed and in addition to that it's also being largely dominated by Germany's increased assertiveness.

There are many reasons. We have huge opportunities outside in the rest of the world we're going to maximize them and I have full confidence the prime minister will do a great job in the negotiations.

FOSTER: We'll hear from her in the coming hours.

Bill Cash, thank you very much indeed.

CASH: Yes. FOSTER: We will be reflecting all views around this subject over the

course of the day in our coverage here.

Time for a quick break. "STATE OF AMERICA" with Kate Bolduan is next for our viewers in Asia. The Brexit process will soon begin. Coming up we'll speak to the shadow Brexit secretary about the political upheaval just ahead.


[02:30:03] FOSTER: You're watching a special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster in London.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay in Los Angeles. The headlines this hour. The White House says President Trump's son-in-law was just doing his job when he met with the Russian banker in December. Jared Kushner has offered to answer questions from the Senate committee about the meeting. The banker is a close associate of Vladimir Putin and the bank is under US sanctions.

The top US command in Iraq says there's a fair chance the US airstrike in Western Mosul killed civilians. More than 100 bodies have been pulled from the rubble. The commander says ISIS was fighting from inside the building and may have used civilians as human shields.

The remnants of Australia's most powerful storm in years are still lashing the northeastern part of the country. Cyclone Debbie is now a tropical low, but authorities are still warning of heavy rain and strong winds. Debbie knocked out power to more than 68,000 homes and businesses.

FOSTER: Now, in just a few hours, the British government is expected to officially start a process that will shape the future of the UK and Europe.

Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter to trigger Article 50. That's the provision which will begin two years of negotiations to leave the European Union. The talks could be divisive. But earlier, Mrs. May spoke to EU leaders and Downing Street says they all agreed on the importance of entering the negotiations in a constructive spirit.

Joining me now here in London is Keir Starmer. He is Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Good morning.

She's going to come here as well and try to convince all of you guys that you need to work together now. Also, you voted and campaigned for Britain to stay within the European Union. But you all need to get on side now -

KEIR STARMER, SHADOW SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EXITING THE EUROPEAN UNION FOR THE LABOUR PARTY: Well, I did campaign to stay in the European Union. But I have accepted the results and we do need unity. I think the division in our country is really unhealthy and we do need to bring the country back together. The question is how do you do that. And this, I think, is about having a vision for the future and I hope I hear from the prime minister this morning a vision for the future that chimes with what the Labour Party wants.

FOSTER: What do you want to see in that letter?

STARMER: I want to see in that letter a commitment to a constructive partnership with the EU after we've left formal membership.

I think the big divide now will be between those that want to sever all links, want to get through the two years and then walk away completely and others that want to say, well, we can't be members, but we can be partners. That means good trading relationships. It means also collaboration on science, technology, medicine, all the brilliant work that's been going on over the years. And, of course, continued cooperation on issues such as security and counterterrorism.

So, we want to argue for a changed relationship with the EU, but one that allows us stay within the family of EU countries, albeit not a member, underpinned by the values of the rule of law, protection of human rights, et cetera.

So, I hope I hear that vision from the Prime Minister today. I hope that's what she's going to put in her letter because that would reassure our EU partners that we want to have a constructive way through this process that works for the EU and also works for the UK.

FOSTER: She's got such an epic process ahead of her, hasn't she? And she needs your support, the Labour Party support, in order to be empowered in those negotiations. You could quite easily undermine her by saying you haven't got the support back here in Parliament.

There's a lot of divisiveness in the EU as well amongst those leaders. They'd like to see that happen. So, how do you work together? What sort of conversations are going on?

STARMER: Well, these will be difficult negotiations. No doubt about that. We've got to make sure we get the best deal for Britain and that's in the national interest. There's party politics and we must hold the government to account, we should point out when they're not doing it the right way, where they're getting the wrong result, but there is the national interest which is getting the right deal for our country. So, we're focused on both of those things.

That's why, two days ago, I set out to test (ph), sort of encapsulating what we say she should get out of these discussions. That's why I am also working in Brussels and across the other 27 EU countries to get a proper sense of what their thinking is, what they want out of this because the tone of this and the way the negotiations go is going to be so important to getting the right result.

And the right result is not important for us politicians over the next year or two and what we can make of it. The right result is important for the next generation. FOSTER: The ball is effectively in the EU's court, isn't it, after today, which they're going to set the parameters of these negotiations. Have you had any sort of feedback about what restrictions they are going to put on Theresa May and her team?

STARMER: Well, Theresa May will issue her Article 50 notice today and then it will be for EU to respond to that. They've been saying to me they want enough detail in the letter that they are receiving today to allow them to respond in a meaningful way.

They are very concerned, as you'd understand, about EU systems in the UK and that they should be properly protected.

[02:35:08] FOSTER: Is she going to refer to that today? She said she's going to these negotiations to represent them as well.

STARMER: I hope she does because there's EU systems in this country and there's UK systems in the 27 EU countries and they are very anxious about their situation. We've been saying to Prime Minister you really should have sorted this out before today and I really think she should have -

FOSTER: Could we understand why she hasn't done that? Because she's got to protect the Brits in EU as well.

STARMER: I understand how she puts the argument, but I think she should unilaterally have said, the bit I can control, which is EU nationals in this country because we can make the law (INAUDIBLE) in good faith. It would have got the talks off to a good start.

But, now, we've got to Article 50. We pushed her on that, she didn't do it. Now, she's got to prioritize that because I think, if we can reach an agreement on that early on, I think that will settle many people who are anxious.

It will also just set the right tone for the rest of the negotiations. We need early issues on which we can agree, so that when we get to more difficult issues, we've already got some goodwill, good faith banked and the negotiations are running as they should.

FOSTER: What if we don't reach a deal? Because in order to extend the deadline, you need the unanimous agreement of everyone on the European Council, which is unlikely to happen. So, isn't it very likely that if we don't get everything covered in that two years, Britain will just fall out of EU.

STARMER: I think if we don't reach a deal, that's a real failure, and that's a failure of the Prime Minister. She's got good backing to go and start the negotiations. There is no reason why she can't negotiate a good deal.

In my discussions with those in the other 27 EU countries, they want the talks to be constructive. They're, obviously, anxious about what the deal should be. But I think no deal is the worst of all possible outcomes, not only for the economy, with huge tariffs going into some areas, but also the idea of severing our links with Europe will cause legal chaos and set the wrong version of our future.

We, in the Labour Party, do not want a future that sees us set apart from Europe, particularly given the global politics that are going on at the moment. So, no deal is the worst of all possible outcomes and that would represent a failure of the Prime Minister in the negotiations.

FOSTER: Keir Starmer, thank you very much.

STARMER: Thank you.

FOSTER: I'll let you go into the House. It's a very big day for everyone here, Isha. We're going to be watching every twist and turn as it unfolds.

SESAY: Yes. It's a very long road ahead. Max Foster, appreciate it. Thank you. We'll be back with you soon.

Now, though he is coming off a major legislative defeat, President Trump is not discouraged. His prognosis on healthcare coming up.

The fight against ISIS rages on in Western Mosul despite more than 100 civilian casualties. What the top US commander in Iraq is saying about the deadly air strike.

Plus, CNN's Arwa Damon takes us on a tour of the besieged city and explains why the people who still live there can't go anywhere.


[02:41:30] SESAY: Well, just days after a stinging defeat trying to repeal Obamacare, the US president insists there will be a deal on healthcare. The Republicans are beginning to talk openly about a plan B for healthcare. Donald Trump predicted an agreement at a White House reception for Republican and Democratic Senators and it startled some of them.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I know that we're all going to make a deal on healthcare. That's such an easy one. So, I have no doubt that that's going to happen very quickly. I think it will actually. I think it's going to happen because we've all been promising - Democrat, Republican - we've all been promising that to the American people. So, I think a lot of good things are going to happen.


SESAY: Although she's kept a low profile lately, Hillary Clinton had harsh words for the Republicans' plan to replace Obamacare. At a speech in San Francisco, Mr. Trump's former Democratic opponent underscored what was missing from the discussion on health benefits.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Recently, photos have been making the rounds on social media showing groups of men in Washington making decisions about women's health. We shake our heads and think, how could they not have invited any women to the table? And when this disastrous bill failed, it was a victory for all Americans.


SESAY: Meantime, the White House cannot escape questions, allegations and investigations of links between President Trump's associates and Russia. Among them, a December meeting between the president's son- in-law and key advisor Jared Kushner and the head of a Russian bank that's under US sanctions.

And there are growing calls for the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to step aside from the panel's Russia probe.

Jim Acosta has details.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Defiant in the face of questions, on Trump campaign contacts with the Russians, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was once again pouring it on.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection. At some point, April, you're going to have to take no for an answer with respect to whether or not there was collusion.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Pressure is mounting on both the White House and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who would not tell CNN's Manu Raju whether he plans to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

REP. DEVIN NUNES, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The investigation continues. We have had an investigation on Russia for many, many years.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Are you going to recuse yourself from the investigation, sir?

NUNES: Excuse me.

RAJU: Is that a no?

ACOSTA (voice-over): Nunes and the White House still won't answer some big questions, such as who cleared the chairman on to the White House grounds last week, one day before revealing new information about the possible incidental collection of communications by Mr. Trump and his associates, and who gave Nunes access to that piece of intelligence.

Not only are fellow Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee demanding that Nunes step aside -

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, look, at this point, there's really one thing that needs to happen to rescue this investigation and that is that Chairman Nunes needs to recuse himself.

ACOSTA: Even fellow Republicans are calling on Nunes to start providing answers.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think there needs to be a lot of explaining to do. I've been around for quite a while and I've never heard of any such thing. And, obviously, in a committee, like an intelligence committee, you've got to have bipartisanship. Otherwise, the committee loses credibility.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should Chairman Nunes reveal his source?

MCCAIN: Well, absolutely. I can't imagine why not.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Yet another controversy swirling around the Nunes committee investigation emerged just today as "The Washington Post" obtained a letter regarding former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by the president, and was scheduled to testify before the House intelligence panel.

[02:45:11] The letter from the Justice Department to Yates' lawyer, appeared to advise that Yates would need to consult with the White House before testifying, stating "she needs to consult with the White House. She need not obtain separate consent from the Department of Justice." But the White House insisted it would not stand in the way.

SPICER: I hope she testifies. I look forward to it. It was never - let's be honest, the hearing was actually never notified. If they chose to move forward, great! We have no problem with her testifying, plain and simple.

ACOSTA: Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


SESAY: Well, President Trump is prioritizing the economy over the environment. Mr. Trump has signed an executive order stopping the government attempt to curb carbon emissions. He's ordered review of his predecessor Barack Obama's clean power plan, revoke the ban on coal mining on federal land and urged federal agencies to identify any rules that hinder US energy independence as Trump says regulations put American jobs at risk.


TRUMP: My administration is putting an end to the war on coal. We're going to have clean coal. Really clean coal. With today's executive action, I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job killing regulations.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SESAY: President Trump also offered some rare public comment on Iraq Tuesday and his assessment was rather rosy.


TRUMP: I just had a call - long call from Gen. Mattis. And, John, I know, is very happy to hear that, but he knows better than anybody. We're doing very well in Iraq. Our soldiers are fighting and fighting like never before. And the results are very, very good. So, I just wanted to let everyone know.


SESAY: It's not clear what fighting Trump was referring to. The US combat mission in Iraq ended in 2010 and US troops are now mainly there to advise and assist Iraqi forces.

Well, the top US commander in Iraq says there's a fair chance that US airstrike in Western Mosul killed civilians. More than 100 bodies have been pulled from the rubble. Families have been burying their loved ones amid the investigation into claims of civilian casualties.

The US has sent experts to the site. The US commander says ISIS was fighting from inside the building and investigators suspect the terror group used civilians as human shields or lured the US deliberately.

Well, despite the civilian casualties, the fight for Western Mosul pushes on and the people who still live there are facing a miserable existence.

CNN's Arwa Damon traveled to that part of the city to get a look of at the damage.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The destruction here in Western Mosul appears to be significantly more vast and widespread than it was in the eastern side.

And you also see that there are a lot of these really narrow alleyways that winded deeper into the neighborhoods. And this is one of the main challenges that the security forces are facing.

You barely see any civilians, but you just see the traces of the life that was, of how bustling these particular areas would have normally been.

And part of the challenge when it comes to trying to protect the civilian population is that even though the Iraqi government did, yes, encourage people to stay put in their homes, even if they wanted to leave, they wouldn't have been able to because ISIS would not allow them to leave these neighborhoods. ISIS was holding everyone that lived across this entire city as human shields.

He is saying that ISIS, as the forces were coming through, really began to decrease its presence, so at least this family felt that they could stay. The other reason why they couldn't go, obviously, because it is very difficult for them to try to flee.

The day before this area was liberated, ISIS took her husband away. They had no food left and he went out to buy food to try to get them some food and ISIS took him away. She's still here because she is waiting for her husband, who is the little girl's uncle, to come back. So now she's just hoping that somehow he's going to return home.

The people here are trying to get information as to which route may or may not be safe and where there are possible sniper positions. The sounds of battle are still all around.

And just in being in this one small part of western Mosul, one begins to get a little bit of appreciation for the intensity of the battle, just how terrifying it must have been for those civilians that were stuck here amidst all of this and just how phenomenally massive the task of eventually rebuilding this city is going to be.

Arwa Damon, CNN; Mosul, Iraq.


[02:50:12] SESAY: Thanks to Arwa Damon there for that great reporting. Well, the bodies of two UN experts who went missing in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been found. The UN says US citizen Mike Sharp - seen here - and Swedish national Zaida Catalan were discovered on Monday. They had been missing since earlier this month.

The pair were investigating human rights violations in the region when they disappeared. The UN will launch an investigation.

Time for a quick break now. Next on CNN newsroom, how Brexit has affected the financial markets so far and what may lie ahead for investors. Stay with us.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri here for CNN Weather Watch. Another active day of thunderstorm is working their way out of parts of the United States, mainly around the south-central states of the US where we know almost 70 reports of severe weather coming in, and large number of them actually associated with tornadoes.

So, the third consecutive day we've seen a report of at least a tornado across parts of the US. You know the month of April, very quickly approaching. You notice the severe weather threat will scoot off towards the east over the next several days, towards the end of the week. Actually, could include parts of major metro Atlanta with some storms in the forecast there.

But notice the strongest threat - strongest storm certainly could be locked in around the Gulf Coast. That's what we're watching here. In fact, you can see the date stamp there and notice how the storms that fire off do want to stay closer to the water as we go in towards Thursday night. But forecast looks like this as we go in towards Wednesday. This is the high in Denver with some snow showers coming back. People often surprised to learn March is the snowiest month of the year in Denver. So, not a surprise to see some snow try to mix in as the temperature drops back closer to freezing into the overnight hours. Around 12 into the afternoon there.

Guatemala City going for 27. Kingston around 30. Cartagena comes in at around 32 degrees as well. Could see a few storms pop up in that region and plenty of thunderstorms where you expected into the tropics. Quito at 16, Lima looks to stay dry around 29 degrees and some showers expected later in the week.


FOSTER: Welcome back. I'm Max Foster in London. And in a few hours from now, the long-awaited Brexit negotiations will officially begin. The British Prime Minister Theresa May signed the letter on Tuesday, triggering Article 50. Once that is hand-delivered to the European Council President, the clock will start ticking for two years of talks to leave the European Union.

[02:55:00] Now, the Brexit vote wiped trillions of dollars from global markets, but a calm has followed the financial storm and CNN's Anna Stewart has more on that.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cold politicians and the markets. Many were sure the UK would vote to stay in the European Union. Then came the results.

NIGEL FARAGE, LEADER OF THE UK INDEPENDENCE PARTY: Let June the 23rd go down in our history as our Independence Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: British people have voted to leave the European Union.

STEWART (voice-over): Investors were shocked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The pound has been pummeled and the markets have also fallen sharply.

STEWART (voice-over): Sterling hit a 30-year low and the FTSE 100 dropped 8% as the market opens. The selloff wasn't limited to the UK. Within 24 hours, more than $2 trillion was wiped off global stock markets. The slump was short-lived. Markets rebounded at least until October.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The British pound is having a rocky few hours after tumbling to seven week lows.

STEWART (voice-over): With the Brexit timetable in place, Sterling stabilized. And the UK economy's resilience confounded forecasts.

MARK CARNEY, GOVERNOR, BANK OF ENGLAND: Since August, demand growth has been materially better than expected.

STEWART (voice-over): With at least two years of negotiations to go, you can expect more market highs and lows to come.

Anna Stewart, "CNN Money," London.


FOSTER: We're watching. We all are. From myself and Isha, thank you for watching. I'll be back with another hour of news as we count down to the triggering of Article 50.