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Brexit Divorce; Devastating Toll in Mosul; FIFA Suspends Lionel Messi; Peruvian Plane Catches Fire; French President Candidate Wife Under Investigation; Questions Over Ties to Russia Plagues White House; Climate Change Order; Hillary Clinton Makes Highly Political Speech; Cyclone Debbie; Death Toll in Peru. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 29, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome. I'm Max Foster at the Houses of Parliament in London. We are just hours away from when the British government will file divorce papers from the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter to trigger Article 50. That means Brexit negotiations will officially begin. It's a point of no return. The UK will leave the EU within two years or at the end of two years, deal or no deal.

Mrs. May says this is the moment for the UK to come together. But Scotland has a different idea. Scottish lawmakers voted in favor of a new referendum on independence. But the UK says it won't negotiate with Scotland until Brexit talks have been completed. Nicky Morgan joins us now. She is a conservative MP, the former Secretary of State for Education, and former Minister for Women and Equalities. Thank you for joining us.


FOSTER: A very good moment here in parliament. What are you hoping to hear from the prime minister?

MORGAN: It is a big moment. It's just the start of a process in terms of the negotiations, but I think to have got here from the 23rd of June results is something quite remarkable. I think we're hoping for the prime minister to set out today again the broad premises of what we hope to achieve, the fact that she does want there to be a deal, an ongoing partnership to achieve. The fact that she does want there to be a vote, 16 million people did not vote for this.

FOSTER: That's the point, isn't it? How does she convince them? You?

MORGAN: I think it is about tone. I think it is about respecting people's differences and acknowledging that when people like me ask questions in the house of commons, that's not because we don't understand the results of the referendum.

FOSTER: It's not that you're trying to block it.

MORGAN: Exactly. I think the time for that has passed, and we now need to talk about the terms of the deal. I think it's about the prime minister, the ministers keeping the House of Commons up to date with negotiations, really keeping people informed, able to contribute on behalf of our constituents, but also recognizing -- I mean the big question is going to be about having a deal at the end of this process and some early things that can be clarified like the rights of EU citizens living here and Brits living abroad in the EU will go a long way I think to settling people's nerves, what is this going to mean to them?

FOSTER: Is it about that or is it about the new relationship that Britain has to also form with the EU and negotiate in parallel to this divorce process?

MORGAN: One of the big questions at the start will be whether we can negotiate in parallel, both the exit agreement but also, as you say, the new trading relationship. That's something I think the British government is right in wanting to progress because two years actually is not a long time to negotiate such big agreements.

But it is an ongoing partnership, that trading deal, lots of businesses in my constituency rely very heavily on selling their goods into the EU market but also I represent a big university. Lots of academics and students coming from overseas to city there. Keeping that going, keeping that in focus is really important.

FOSTER: You mentioned the EU nationals' base here in the UK. It's been a huge issue in the UK about their rights post-Brexit. I was speaking to someone earlier from the opposition labor party, and you can see the division setting in because he's saying we know that Theresa May is going to come out and say she's going to represent those EU nationals in those negotiations but she should be making the promise now that she can stay. That would create good will going into the negotiations. So already there's tension.

MORGAN: Well, there's going to be tension. This is a huge moment for the British people. It's going to define our relationships with Europe and the rest of the world for generations to come. Yes, those 3 million absolutely want clarity. Many of us have said, why can we not say we want them to say, but I understand it's something the prime minister...

FOSTER: It's part of the negotiation, isn't it? What about the Brits in the EU?

MORGAN: Well, I think everybody wants to preserve the rights. I haven't heard from talking to European counterparts, I haven't heard a single person say, actually, we want your nationals to go home to Britain, and we want our EU nationals to come back to us. But part of the new deal is going to be a new immigration policy. But of course a lot of younger people also did not vote for this to happen.

So I think you're right to say that the prime minister today at least talk about the future because for those of us who are -- you know, I'm 44. In a way, my working life has been shaped already by this. But for the next generation, for students and younger, they feel very passionately about this.

FOSTER: They're angry with our generation because they wanted to stay in, a lot of them, according to the polls.

MORGAN: Yes, they did. And I think that today talking about their future, how we can preserve some of the programs that they currently enjoy to study abroad, to travel abroad, but also for their future working lives is really important.

FOSTER: It's interesting. I was speaking to some people outside London, and I was saying I'm covering this story today. They actually said to me, I thought we'd already left the EU. People in the UK aren't fully informed on this despite the fact we talk about it all the time.

[03:05:00] MORGAN: You are right. And I think we are talking about it here in Westminster and in London an awful lot of the time. I think an awful lot of people think, yes, they've had the vote. That's another part of it about keeping parliament (inaudible) keep constituents...


FOSTER: ... felt yet, right?

MORGAN: Well, I think a lot of people say it would be fine. You say that. But actually, the devaluation of the pound is having an impact.


MORGAN: It's having an impact on businesses, but it's also having an impact on the number of citizens from overseas who are coming to work here.


MORGAN: Many did not return after Christmas, which is causing headaches for bosses.

FOSTER: Nicky Morgan, really appreciate your time. Thank you.

MORGAN: Thank you.

FOSTER: I'll let you get back into the house. Thank you very much for coming down. Now, Theresa May is meeting with her cabinet at 10 Downing Street this hour. At noon, she'll travel to parliament here to confirm that the Brexit process has begun. Earlier, she issued a statement about the historic event saying, it is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in the country.

For, as we face the opportunities ahead of us on this momentous journey, our shared values, interests, and ambitions can and must bring us together. Let's turn to Nic Robertson at 10 Downing Street. So, a very big day for her. Just take us through the choreography of the next few hours.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Max, it begins and is already under way with a cabinet meeting. We've seen Boris Johnson going in. Perhaps one of the last cabinet ministers to go into number 10 there. Philip Hammond, the counselor, went in. Amber Rudd was also one of the last to arrive. But over the last 20 minutes, a whole stream of ministers have gone in.

This cabinet meeting will take up some time this morning. It's earlier often than many cabinet meetings are. At noon, Theresa May or just before will leave number 10, her official residence, travel a few hundred yards to Westminster, go into the House of Commons, and at noon begin as she always does on a Wednesday answering prime minister's questions. Quite a rambunctious affair, perhaps a little more subdued is what we can expect today.

But at 12:30, she will begin to explain what she has written in the letter triggering Article 50, a letter that will at the same time be being handed over by Britain's ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, being handed over to the EU (inaudible) to the European Council president, Donald Tusk.

He is expected to make some comments not long after that. But as Theresa May reads out, she will say some of the things you have just been talking about, Max. That what she wants to deliver here is something that is going to be good for everyone in Britain, is a good way forward. This will help unite the country.

Everyone in the country should unite behind the government's efforts in this Brexit negotiation. So by about 1:00, 1:30 UK time, it will have happened. Article 50 will be triggered, and then the two-year process, a lengthy, tortuous and likely heated at times process will begin, Max.

FOSTER: In terms of her challenge going into parliament, we were speaking to Nicky Morgan. She's in Theresa May's own party, and she's got issues with the process going ahead. It's going to be incredibly hard for her, isn't it, to get that sort of support from parliament, which she needs to go into negotiation process in Brussels.

ROBERTSON: It's hard to escape, you know, and you've been hearing it from your guests this morning. Hard to escape a conservative leader getting away from the fact that David Cameron, in essence, called this referendum to help unite his party. And the sense that going forward, there are always going to be hard-liners in the party who are always going to want more, if you will, of a hard line Brexit, who are always going to want to cut everything with the European Union and walk away.

Theresa May, of course, was a remainer. She very clearly at the party conference October last year said that those sort of internationalists, if you will, people of (inaudible) -- she really sort of got back to the core of what, you know, some in her party feel is the sort of more base in the party, the more base support, if you will, and throughout the regions of Britain, and less what some of her MPs actually believe in.

So these divisions are deep. She's not going to be able to bridge them in the Brexit process, but she is going to try and keep the majority of them on board with her. Of course it's a battle not just within her party but of course across the whole of Britain, 62 percent of people in Scotland voted to remain part of the European Union, 55 percent of people in northern Ireland also voted to remain part of the European Union, Max.

FOSTER: Okay. Nic, thank you. Brexit proceedings sure to impact global markets. The sun is coming up here, Nina, and the markets are opening as well. I mean there's not going to be any great shock in this announcement today, but it will define the tone of the markets in the years to come.

[03:10:00] NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of this has been priced into these stock markets. The FTSE 100 is actually up significantly since that decision to leave the EU, as per that EU referendum. At the moment, it's up around a third of 1 percent in just the first 10 minutes of trading or so. British pound actually softening a little bit against the U.S. dollar and against the Euro, which is the key currency to look at from here.

But if you look at economically how the British economy is placed, it's going into these negotiating in a rather good position actually, Max, because it's one of the strongest economies not just inside the EU but in the G7. We're talking about an economy that's growing at about 2, 2.5 percent unemployment is that in 11-year low (ph).

The real question is, what does the UK manage to make up the difference with if it can't trade with those other countries, if really we know we're going to be leaving the single market. But if they can't find something that will prevent the UK economy from being hit with tariffs in goods and services, that's a big question, that's when the economy...

FOSTER: As you say, one of its great negotiating positions as well because the likes of Germany and France don't want to lose the trade they've got with the UK either.

DOS SANTOS: That's right. But we have to remember here that the bigger economies are, very often the harder they bargain. If you take a look at the four biggest economies in the EU, not counting the UK, they're far less exposed to UK trade. So their goods and services that go to the UK are far less dependent on the UK as a market than the UK is dependent on them. The UK takes in about 54 percent of the UK's exports go to the EU.

So it's very dependent upon that particular market. Only around about 21 percent of the UK's goods and services go to Asia, which is the next biggest candidate. So if Theresa May is talking about how in the future she wants a global Britain that is looking beyond the east borders, the big question is if the trade negotiations don't go well, what do they make the difference up with?

So that's why it's imperative things have to get off on a good start. We know that Theresa May has made phone calls last night to all the important people, Angela Merkel of Germany. Remember that Germany also does a big trade with the UK in cars. The UK buys a huge amount, 810,000. It makes 1.6 million vehicles that also ship to the EU. Those are going to be the things, the mutual interests that we'll have to work around. People like Jean-Claude Juncker (ph) of the European Commission, they are going to be concerned that the UK could be setting a bad example.

FOSTER: More political for him, right?

DOS SANTOS: They get a deal that works too well for it. It could encourage other people to leave.

FOSTER: Nina, thank you very much indeed. With the Brexit process set to begin, we'll hear also from Oliva (ph), who thinks other countries should follow suit. And what's left of Mosul? The devastating toll on the Iraqi City from the battle against ISIS ahead.


[03:15:00] DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. I'm Don Riddell with your CNN world sport headlines. FIFA have suspended Lionel Messi for Argentina's next four world cup qualifying games and it could have a major impact on their chances of making it to Russia in 2018. Messi got the ban at end of last week's qualifier against Chili after approaching the assistant referee and exchanging some words.

We don't know for sure what was said, but it must have been pretty bad. And speaking of pretty bad, that is an apt description for what occurred without Messi for Argentina in Tuesday as qualifier in Bolivia. His country were beaten 2-0 against the Bolivian side who are a lowly ninth out of 10 teams in the qualifying group.

Another team struggling is the Netherlands. While it was only a friendly, the Dutch lost yet again as they took to the field for the first time since the recent sacking of Coach Danny Blind, though they took the lead home to Italy, the Italians still turned the game around winning 2-1.

And in another friendly game in Paris, France against Spain at the Stade de France was a very busy one for the video replay team. Antoine Griezmann (inaudible) for the French but the ref was overruled and it was disallowed for offside.

Spain then took the lead with a penalty before Gerard Deulofeu found the back of the net. The ref disallowed that one but then he was overruled again so the goal was awarded. That is a quick look at your sports headlines. I'm Don Riddell.

FOSTER: The reality of Brexit has some British nationals scrambling to hold on to EU citizenship. The French Embassy in London says applications for passports are up 40 percent since the Brexit votes. Many people don't want to lose the union's membership of the freedom of movements and the rights associated with that.


MELANIE GOODFELLOW, BRITISH NATIONAL: I've always felt I'm proud to be British, and then I don't know. In the last few months, I've just been sort of -- it's made me question what it means to be British and made me question the country I belong to.

LUCY BECQUART, BRITISH NATIONAL: I feel very attached to Europe. I also speak French. I speak a little bit of Italian. I speak a little bit of German. So I feel very much European as well as British. And for those reasons, I would very much like to apply for the French passport in order to remain part of that community.


FOSTER: Well, my next guest says Brits are better off without the EU. Daniel Kawczynski joins me now, He's a conservative member of parliament, and you weren't always against the EU, were you? But you flipped at some point.

DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Well, I consider myself to be a moderate in a Conservative Party. My attitude to the European Union was one of ambivalence. But when Mr. Cameron came back after a year and a half of negotiating with our European partners, when he brought back a fig leaf which did not match...

FOSTER: This is his new relationship he negotiated before the referendum.

KAWCZYNSKI: Which he was trying to sell as a massive monumental change in our relationship and in the reform process of the European Union. When he brought back what I perceived to be a complete fig leaf and something which was unsellable to my constituents, I was pushed into the Brexit camp because I felt that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Don't forget, we entered the EEC in January 1972 when I was born. So 45 years, we've had this ever-changing relationship within the European Union, the EEC, then the EC, now the EU, and I felt that the time had come that we had to pull out.

FOSTER: An interesting case study, if I can call you that, in terms of a lot of people not in the Conservative Party in this country are really frustrated by this whole process because they feel it only happened because the Conservative Party was split over these European lines.

And you represent someone that's kind of between those lines effectively. And, you know, try to appease you was the process that led to Britain leaving the European Union, why we're here today.

KAWCZYNSKI: Well, it was a very difficult job for the prime minister to keep everybody on board, and there were splits within all major political parties on this issue. But, you know, for me, I'm the first Polish-born British member of parliament. So I came over from Poland in 1978. and I've spent the last few weeks talking to many Polish politicians to say actually this is going to help bilateral relations.

This concept of the European Union, the supranational state which was invented 60 years ago was fine for that period. But now, we're moving into a different era where we're going back to the ability for each country to be able to tailor-make its relationship with other countries and be able to get back to diplomacy in terms of engaging on a bilateral basis. We don't need the bureaucrats

[03:20:00] in Brussels to tell us how to engage with other countries. We can do it for ourselves and not just Poland, but also countries like Turkey. I sit on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. We've just published this week an extensive report on Turkey, and I think that our relationship in the United Kingdom with Turkey has been smothered by the sweaty blankets of the European Union's negotiations over Turkish entry into the European Union.

FOSTER: So your advice to Turkey is don't pursue membership in the EU. Your advice Poland would be to leave the EU?

KAWCZYNSKI: Well, my advise to Turkey is to enter into a strategic economic alliance with the United Kingdom and other countries like Norway and Switzerland and others who will ultimately create an alternative to the European Union, one which is based purely on what we always wanted, which is based on economics and trade. But retaining the sovereignty for each parliament and sovereignty for each nation state.

FOSTER: And those powers are coming back to the building behind us, and that's going to start today. Daniel, thank you very much indeed...

KAWCZYNSKI: Thank you.

FOSTER: ... for joining us. We've got some other news here as well. The top U.S. commander in Iraq says there's a fair chance a U.S. air strike killed civilians in western Mosul. Families have been burying their loved ones. An Iraqi official says more than 100 bodies have been pulled from the rubble. The U.N. condemns the massive loss of civilian life.


RUPERT COLVILLE, SPOKESPERSON FOR THE U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Bodies continue to be found in buildings where civilians were reportedly held by ISIL as human shields and were subsequently killed by air strikes conducted by Iraqi security forces and the international coalition forces as well as by improvised explosive devices allegedly planted in the same buildings by ISIL. Numerous other civilians have been killed by shelling and have been gunned down by ISIL snipers as they tried to flee.

FOSTER: The U.S. commander says the type of munition used in a strike should not have resulted in the entire building's collapse. The U.S. and Iraq are investigating.


FOSTER: 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 a look at all 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 wind deeper into the neighborhoods. This is one of the main challenges of the security forces are facing. You barely see any civilians, but you do 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's 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's 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 fruit, try to get them some food and ISIS took him away.

She's still here because she's 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 amid all of this and just how phenomenally massive the task of eventually rebuilding this city is going to be. Arwa Damon, CNN, Mosul, Iraq.


FOSTER: Scary moment for passengers aboard a Peruvian airlines flight traveling from Lima. Officials say the commercial plane was forced to make an emergency landing at an airport in the Andes after it caught on fire. No major injuries reported. Authorities are investigating what started the fire.

[03:25:00] The wife of French presidential candidate Francois Fillon is under formal investigation. A judicial source tells CNN that prosecutors are looking into allegations that include concealment and embezzlement of public funds. The investigation (inaudible) wife and children to work that they didn't do. The presidential candidate has apologized for the scandal but refuses to quit the presidential race.

The UK will formally begin Brexit proceedings in just a few hours from now, but one part of the UK is trying to make sure it doesn't leave the EU at all.

Plus, intrigue and controversy mounts over Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia, and it seems the White House is getting fed up with fielding those questions. (START VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection.



FOSTER: In just a few hours, the clock will start ticking on Brexit negotiations. The British government is set to hand-deliver this letter triggering Article 50. That will start a two-year period for talks between the UK and the EU, and by around this time in 2019, the two will split with or without a deal. Meanwhile, Scotland is adding another wrinkle to these talks.

Scottish lawmakers voted in favor of a new independence referendum. The UK is refusing to negotiate with Scotland until it gets the Brexit deal sorted out first. Iain Duncan Smith is a former leader of the Conservative Party. He currently serves as a member of parliament and a great campaigner for Britain to leave the European Union, so this is a big day for you.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH, FORMER LEADER OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY: Yeah, it's a big day publicly, but most of us that campaigned for this are now looking at what's going to happen during the course of discussions.

[03:30:00] What kind of things are important.

FOSTER: What specifically?

SMITH: I think what we're seeing now already is, you know, we've had the (inaudible) finance minister of Germany (inaudible) all saying, hang on a second. This has to be an arrangement. We have to have a decent arrangement with the UK. They're just too important to us not to. And the city financial services, you know, we absolutely need the city to survive and not just survive but to thrive.

So already you're seeing influential people are saying all that talk about, you know, we're going to have a Mexican standoff, that's rubbish. We need to get through that two years and have a deal that has no tariffs and access to services. That's the base of what we both need. So now I think we're on a reasonable position.

FOSTER: You're speaking to something which is a bit concerned here in London that now that this letter goes to Brussels, the ball is in Brussels' court, they're going to do everything they can to punish Britain for leaving the EU and sending the message to other EU countries that it's not a good idea.

SMITH: I don't agree with that at all because if you are an exponent of the deeper integration of the European Union, that has little or nothing to do with the marketplace. For them, this is a political objective. The truth is the UK has never shared this objective, and we've become somewhat semi-detached in many senses. So I actually take a different view, and I think many in Europe now take this view. We may end up with a much better relationship now that it's clear that we are not


FOSTER: Negotiations on that. Why won't she do that? Do you think this a good idea?

SMITH: First of all, I feel slightly sorry for labor. They've got to say something, but it's pretty irrelevant what they're saying because...


SMITH: The key issue here is with regards to foreign nationals, European Union nationals. I have no doubt at all in my mind that European Union nationals, France, Germany, et cetera, who are here resident in the UK will continue to remain absolutely resident...

FOSTER: Why not say that now?

SMITH: Because she can't say because what we want also is UK nationals -- I have a sister who lives in Italy, has lived all her working life in Italy. I want to ensure that when we leave, people like her are also balanced. I think by the way that is going to be a priority. It was said yesterday I think by Donald Tusk.

[03:35:00] The first thing we're going to do is sort this out. I think that's right. I think the balance will be very simple. By a certain date, which we'll have to agree, all those who are resident already in those countries will happily remain. Nobody wants to see some exodus. Far from it, although we're going to take back control of our migration.

We're not ending migration. We're talking about controlled migration. So those with skills and those with things to bring to the UK economy, as they always have done, will be welcome here. What we just don't want is an awful lot of unskilled, low-cost labor that has driven some of the wages and the lifestyles of people and income scale downwards.

FOSTER: Iain Duncan Smith, thank you very much. We go live to Brussels now with Erin McLaughlin. What's the process of events you expect to unfold there today, Erin?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Max, later today we expect the permanent representative of the United Kingdom to deliver a letter in person to the president of the European Council, announcing the United Kingdom's intention to trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty, and that letter, I'm told by an EU official, will be scoured in detail. EU officials will be looking for any points of divergence between what the contents of that letter and what British Prime Minister Theresa May has said in the past.

They're also going to be looking for any sort of declaration recognizing, acknowledging the importance of the European project. An EU official telling me that would be seen as an important gesture of goodwill, and goodwill on both sides really what is needed going forward, especially when you consider that this process according to the EU Treaty should take two years. That's really not a lot of time for negotiations to take place, for them to negotiate not only a Brexit, not only the exit from the European Union but also the future relationship.

An EU official telling me that this process is insanely complicated. Now, we know that Prime Minister May last night made a series of phone calls to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. She also called the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, as well as the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, today tweeting out that it was a good and constructive conversation. Max?

FOSTER: We're talking with Iain Duncan Smith about the antagonism that many people expect to unfold in Brussels, this idea that the European Union will punish the UK but it doesn't want others to follow the same route. I mean the people you speak to there, do you think there will be lots of negativity about the UK or do you think it will be constructive as Theresa May has called for?

MCLAUGHLIN: EU officials I've been speaking to here say that, look, this is going to be a painful process for the EU and for the UK. But it's in the interest of both parties to mitigate that pain. And what we're hearing from the chief negotiator for the European Union, Michel Barnier, is that they want a clear and orderly Brexit process.

There's an order to this. They want the divorce -- the so-called divorce to be done first. And that divorce consists of settling the uncertainties. That includes the rights of 4.5 million citizens living in the UK and the EU, the status of which are now in question because of the Brexit process.

They also want to settle the budget, the European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker basically saying that he wants to see some 50 million euros, $60 million paid toward the EU budget from the UK, something that's going to be politically difficult for Theresa May. They also want to see the question the northern Ireland situation handled, all of that before any sort of discussion could begin about the future relationship. Max?

FOSTER: Erin, thank you very much. An idea there of just how complex this process is. Now, the U.S. President follows through on a promise on environmental regulations. Coming up, we'll have details on his executive order. Plus the House Intelligence Committee chairman insists his Russia investigation is moving forward. Why critics think he's working the White House or working with the White House.


FOSTER: Now with the stroke of a pen, U.S. President Donald Trump began the process of reversing climate change regulations brought in by the Obama administration. Mr. Trump signed an executive order that he says will put American businesses and jobs first. Experts say court challenges are expected, but President Trump says he's making good on his promise to put coal miners back to work. (APPLAUSE)


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I'm talking bold action to follow through on that promise. 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 regulation.


FOSTER: Mr. Trump's executive order takes aim at six specific Obama era policies. First, the waters of the U.S. rule. It had put the Environmental Protection Agency in charge of protecting streams and wetlands from pollution. Mr. Trump calls the rule very destructive and horrible. He also considers the 2013 climate action plan as harmful. That plan focused on cutting carbon pollution and proactive efforts to combat climate change.

Obama execution order that instructed the federal government to prepare for the impact of climate change has now been tossed out. The clean power plan, which limits carbon pollution from power plants, is now under review. And Mr. Obama's moratorium on the federal coal program is rescinded. President Trump also plans to disregard a 2016 memo that considers climate change as a growing threat to national security.

The republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is under pressure meanwhile to step aside from the panel's probe into Russia's relationship with the Trump campaign. Despite growing questions from both sides of the aisle, Devin Nunes remains defiant. CNN's Manu Raju has a report for you on that.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: A meltdown in one of Capitol Hill's main investigations into Russian ties to the Trump campaign. The House Intelligence Committee locked in a partisan feud over republican chairman, Devin Nunes, with democrats saying he should step aside after canceling a public hearing and privately briefing the president on surveillance information he obtained from a source on White House grounds.

But Nunes is defiant, refusing to step aside, insisting he did nothing wrong by briefing President Trump about communications picked up incidentally about the Trump transition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to stay as chairman and run this investigation?

DEVIN NUNES, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR CALIFORNIA'S 22ND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Well, why would I not? You guys need to go ask them why they're -- you know, why these things are being said.

[03:45:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can this investigation continue as you as chairman?

NUNES: Why would it not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because there's...

NUNES: Aren't I briefing you guys continuously and keeping you up to speed?

RAJU: House Speaker Paul Ryan was terse when asked if Nunes should recuse himself and if he knew who the congressman's source is.


RAJU: Democrats see a White House pulling the strings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He seems to be working with the White House to obstruct this investigation.

RAJU: With the house panel canceling public and private meetings this week, the Senate Intelligence Committee is quietly pressing ahead. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says this panel can do the job, rejecting calls for an independent commission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have confidence in the House Intelligence Committee?

MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I don't have any observations to make about the house effort.

RAJU: But even some senate republicans are raising questions about Nunes. Senator Lindsey Graham questions his ability to lead an investigation in if the house intelligence chairman doesn't share information with committee democrats.

LINDSEY GRAHAM, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM SOUTH CAROLINA: The problem that he's created is he's going off on a lark by himself, sort of an Inspector Clouseau investigation here, trying to find some unmasking information about collection incidental with the Trump campaign and some foreign agent outside of Russia.

RAJU: Meanwhile, today's new controversy casts a shadow over the investigation. Did the White House seek to prevent former justice official, Sally Yates, from testifying before the panel because of her assertions that former Trump national security adviser, Michael Flynn, may have been vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians. The White House flatly denied seeking to block her testimony, but when pressed, Nunes would not discuss the administration's role.

NUNES: Look, you guys are just speculating. I'm sorry. Whenever there's time, we'll do a press...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But did they ask you to cancel the hearing today?

NUNES: Come on, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is that not a -- why did you cancel the hearing?

NUNES: Nothing has been canceled.

RAJU: Now, a Nunes spokesman says that actually the committee and the chairman really had no contact with the White House on the issue of Sally Yates' testimony, saying they're willing to hear from her sometime later although a date has not yet been scheduled. This coming as democrats are demanding a public hearing while Nunes saying he'll have private briefings with James Comey, the FBI director, and Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency.

But the question is whether or not any of this will happen because democrats say before they agree to those private hearings, something needs to be public, and in the meantime all of these meetings on Capitol Hill on the house side have been canceled, putting the focus more squarely on the senate's own investigation, which plans to move forward with two top members briefing the public later Wednesday to discuss how their investigation is going. Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


FOSTER: The investigation into President Trump's alleged ties to Russia was a major topic at Tuesday's White House press briefing. Spokesman Sean Spicer seemed to lose his cool a bit while fielding questions on that matter.


APRIL RYAN, JOURNALIST AND WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT FOR THE URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: How does this administration try to revamp its image? Two and a half months in you've got this Yates story. You've got other things going on, you got Russia, you got wiretapping, you got...

SPICER: You know, we don't have that.

RYAN: Allegations on Capitol Hill...

SPICER: I get it. But I've said it from the day that I got here until whatever that there is no connection. You've got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection. But every single person -- no. Well, no. I appreciate your agenda here, but the reality is -- oh, no, no. Hold on. No. At some point report the facts.

The facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion. Republican, democrat, so I'm sorry that that disgusts you. You're shaking your head. I appreciate it, but -- okay. But understand this. At some point the facts are what they are. At some point, April, you're going to have to take no for an answer.


FOSTER: Sean Spicer. Hillary Clinton has been relatively quiet since she lost in the U.S. Presidential election, but she spoke up on Tuesday to defend that reporter, April Ryan.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: April Ryan, a respected journalist with unrivaled integrity, was doing her job just this afternoon in the White House press room, when she was patronized and cut off trying to ask a question. Too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride. But why should we have to? And any woman who thinks this couldn't be directed at her is living in a dream world.



FOSTER: During that speech in San Francisco.

[03:50:00] Clinton also called the republican health care plan disastrous. Her new mantra which is resist, insist, persist, enlist. Now, the biggest storm to hit Australia in years is starting to (inaudible) but it seems Debbie still has plenty of punch. The latest forecast, next.


FOSTER: People in northeastern Australia are assessing the damage left by its most powerful storm in years. Cyclone Debbie slammed the Queensland coast, making landfall on Tuesday afternoon at the time torrential winds and rains tore off roofs and pulled up trees by their roots as well.

Thousands of homes and businesses are still, would you believe, without water. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now with what's left of Debbie, and there's also concern about the impact of the great barrier reef.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN WEATHER REPORTER: Absolutely. You know very well just like i do, Max, that the great barrier reef has already been in despair in recent years from the warm water temperatures in this region. But we'll touch on what's happening here. Here's what's left on Debbie on satellite imagery, beginning to fall apart but a lot of rainfall.

This storm will want to rain itself out over this region of the coastal communities, even near Sydney, some rainfall possible over the night's 24 or so hours, that the storm tapers off. But notice a quarter to almost a half a meter has already come down, so you bring an additional 100 to 200 millimeters and you know flooding is going to continue over this area for the next few hours.

But here's the other story developing out of this region. We know that the coral bleaching that's been in place for years now really taking its toll across parts of the great barrier reef. In fact, only one degree water temperature increase from normal is all it takes to trigger a bleaching event to take place. Essentially the vibrant colors from the coral actually come from algae that sits on top of the coral.

But if you have warmer water temperatures, that very minimal threshold is all it takes to kill off coral, and that's happened on a large scale across points to the north there where over 60 percent, approaching 70 percent of the reef across this region of the northern territories has begun really seeing significant impact. They're on the northern coast of Queensland.

But come to the south around Townsville, around Mackay, notice about 1 to 6 percent depletion. So This is the area that has largely staved off what has happened with the bleaching that's been in place. But of course we know the storm system

[03:55:00] made landfall just north of Mackay and I want to show you a 3-D perspective of the graphics here because it really does a good job. I will show you this storm system Debbie was a very slow-moving disturbance. It sets up shop, created tremendous wave energy as it set up across this region. We had wave heights, four, five meters across some of these regions and all of that began really taking off some of the top of the coral that was left in place.

So the area that again that did not have a significant impact in place initially from the bleaching that was taking place now has seen some damage associated with this from a slow-moving storm system that of course was a very large storm system as well. So that remains a major concern over this region, and again the landfall came in right there across the southern tier, Max. This is a developing story across this region that a lot of people are concerned about as well.

FOSTER: Okay. Pedram, thank you very much indeed. Meanwhile, in parts of Peru, they're dealing with the aftermath of torrential downpours in recent weeks as well. Officials say flooding has killed at least 91 people. But there was this incredible moment on Monday when the army helped rescue a family from flood waters, including an infant. The baby girl placed inside a bucket, safely passed under a fence, and then handed over to her grandmother. In all, five people were rescued.

An incredible video as well coming out of east China where firefighters caught a woman falling from a window as she was trying to escape a fire inside her apartment building and lost her grip on the window sill. Firefighters were there just a floor beneath her and were able to catch her and bring her to safety, would you believe. The woman's daughter was also rescued by firefighters from another window.

Now, we are just hours away from the official trigger of Britain's exit from the European Union. Much more on that when we come back. You're watching CNN.